by Christopher Harbin

This content is part of a series.

Creative History (4 of 52)
Series: Discipleship Part 2
Christopher B. Harbin
Luke 1:39-56

I grew up watching reruns of Dragnet, hearing Sergeant Friday tell people he was only interested in getting the facts. Those comments came out of an understanding that facts could be distilled and transmitted with no shadow of interpretation. The Enlightenment brought with it the concept that history could be told without interpretation. We could supply and report facts and know exactly what happened with no fear of spin, propaganda, or twisting a narrative for any particular purpose.

The academic community recognized the pitfalls in that understanding early on, but a generation or more never caught on. History writing is teeming with interpretation, as it ever has been. We select those stories we deem important to pass down. We select portions of dialogue to preserve. We determine what elements to skip over and which ones to emphasize. We report only those factors in a movement we find to be relevant, leaving out so much else.

On one hand, we might criticize the writers of history for their biases, but there is really no other way for us to record history. We cannot include all the themes and contributing elements to recording the stories of our lives. We must select and deselect material for inclusion. In the process, however, we find that we record certain themes and even skew our narratives according to the purposes and priorities in our storytelling. Sometimes we do that consciously, sometimes unconsciously. At times, we have seen people create stories out of whole cloth to transmit their understanding of the importance or meaning of a larger narrative.

The gospel writers did not write history per se; they wrote theology. They wrote extended sermons which included narratives about Jesus' life and ministry. These are much more than documents of history, though. They are messages which arose to address the early church's need to remember who Jesus was and w ...

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