Why Would They Write That? How Embarrassing Details Support the Bible

By Misty Callahan

British actress Miranda Hart once said, “Life is a series of embarrassing moments which leave you feeling alone in your confusion and shame.” Oftentimes, our embarrassing moments make us so ashamed that we tend to hide our feelings from the public.

That being the case, why would anyone deliberately publish writings that expose their most unflattering moments, particularly if they were making up a new religious movement? The criterion of embarrassment can help in determining the answer.

History Is Written By The Victors

Churchill once said that “history is written by the victors.” He’s not wrong. Think of ancient kings like Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder, which describes the conquest of Babylon. The Cylinder contains descriptions of: Cyrus as the “ruler of the world” (appointed by Marduk); the inhabitants of Babylon as elated that he was their new king; and details of many other positive exploits. In fact, many historians liken the Cyrus Cylinder to an ancient form of propaganda.

At church this past Saturday, my pastor was going over Isaiah 43:22-28 and particularly in verse 27, God says to the Israelites, “From the very beginning, your ancestors sinned against me – all your leaders broke my laws.” (NLT)

My pastor made an off-the-cuff remark about how, if he was going to make up a story, he certainly wouldn’t include information that would make him look bad. That got me thinking about what some in apologetic circles call the Criterion (or Principal) of Embarrassment

Why Would They Write That? How Embarrassing Details Support the Bible