Five “Fake News” Stories That People Believe about Early Christianity
by Michael J. Kruger
There’s been a lot of chatter about “fake news” in recent months. Some stories, even though they have no basis in fact, are told so often, and with such conviction, that large numbers of people end up believing them anyway.
And some of these fake news stories even dupe legitimate political figures who repeat the story without realizing it is false. And, of course, once a mainstream political figure repeats a story then it becomes even more entrenched in the national psyche.
While some of these fake news stories are rather harmless, others have become quite dangerous. Most famous perhaps is the “Pizza Gate” incident in 2016 where a man shot up a pizza place thinking it was host to a child sex trafficking ring (thankfully, no one was hurt).
Given this rash of “fake news,” I thought it might be interesting to observe that an analogous phenomenon can be seen in the study of early Christianity. There is quite a bit of “fake news” out there regarding the person of Jesus, the origins of the church, or the development of the Bible . Even though such “news” as no factual basis, it is believed by an uncomfortably large number of people.
So, here is a sampling of some of the leading stories:
1. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
Perhaps there is no conspiracy theory about early Christianity more sensational and more captivating than the claim that Jesus was married and had children. It is not only fodder for books like The Da Vinci Code, but seems to pop up again and again in the mainstream media (see recent example here).
The problem, of course, is that this belief is patently false. There is no evidence Jesus was married. For a fuller critique of this piece of fake news, see my article here.
2. The divinity of Jesus was not decided until the council of Nicea in the fourth century.
Another long-standing and widespread conviction is that Jesus was merely an ordinary human who was exalted to divine status much later in the history of early Christianity. In particular, it is claimed, the council of Nicea decided that Christianity needed a divine Jesus and suppressed (and oppressed) all who insisted Jesus was merely human.
Again, however, the evidence for an early belief in the divinity of Jesus is overwhelming. As early as…
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