Saturday, April 23, 2005

Eyewitness fallibility

In yesterday's intro to CSI:Psychology, Stephan L. talked about ways to reduce eyewitness testimony errors because people easily remember things that's not there if they or the police are not careful. Especially me. I think I bumped my head too many times on the double bunk bed above me when I was serving in the military in Taiwan. I can't remember much these days, short time memory stuff. I can't remember a name 5s after an introduction. I don't do much better with faces. So next time I don't recognise you, forgive me. I really have forgotten. But sometimes I can remember ancient stuff. I remember this one time in the forum when I was discussing The Passion of the Christ with another person. He was saying something about how Mel Gibson wasn't true to the original script and that he got some inspiration from another source. It's quite true, Mel based the imagery and the emotions from the visions of a Catholic nun, I think. Still, I argued that the essense of the story wasn't lost, and that's the most important thing. The person mentioned several 'inaccuracies' in the film like the fact that Mary Magdelene was under the cross when it's clearly mentioned in Mark 15:40 that she was far away looking at the horrific cruxification. Naturally I was intrigued by this, and so tried to find out more myself, emphasis mine.
There were also many women there, looking on from afar...among them Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. ~Matthew 27:56 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome... and also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem. ~Mark 15:40 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" ~John 19:25-27
The Gospel of Luke is neutral; he doesn't mention anything. So there's a clear discrepancy here. We have an eyewitness issue. For some reason, their accounts don't match. There is just no way both versions can be correct. Either one is correct, or none is correct. My guess is at least one is factually correct. Given the tremendous and unthinkable horror that happened, anyone would be forgiven to give a less-than-stellar account. The person never replied after I pointed the above out. For a while, I worried whether I had destroyed his/her faith, or at least brought about a crisis in faith, about the so-called 'infallibility' of the Bible. Especially fundamentalists who dissect each word and refuse to believe that human errors can creep into scriptural texts. There's nothing wrong with human errors. I'd be worried if there were no human errors, it means some editorial committee was trying to be funny, to edit the whole thing to be 100% clinically correct. So where do we go from here? One problem I have with conventional teachings is that they stress that they need to maintain this 'every word in the Bible is the word of God and every word is infallible' belief. I wish they'd stopped teaching that. It's very easily shown to be untrue. I'm not sure if anyone reading this has 'infallibility of individual words' as one of your pillars of faith. I'm sorry if that's the case. I think the pillars of the faith should consist primarily of two things. Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind. And love your neighbour as yourself. If we can even remotely get these two things right, inaccuracies in the Bible should be the least of our concerns... Back to your regular CSI:Miami... :)

No comments: