BIBLE SCHOLARS acknowledge the absence of original writings of the Bible or even of the early generations of copies, recopied copies, up through the next several hundred years.
Since the details of the history, words and activities of Jesus and his followers entirely depend on the accuracy and historicity of the Bible, I started thinking about a modern day parallel.
When Billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes died in 1976, the search was on for who might inherit his vast fortune and business holdings..A gas station attendant named Melvin Dummar stepped forward and told an amazing tale. Dummar claimed that while driving through rural Nevada one night in December of 1968, he pulled onto a dirt road to answer the call of nature.
He says he found a scraggly, bearded man lying injured in the desert. Dummar drove the stranger to Las Vegas and did not believe it when the man claimed to be Howard Hughes.
In 1976, when the real Howard Hughes died, he was the most famous billionaire in the world. The question of who would get his money became an international guessing game. When a handwritten will was discovered in Salt Lake City, it created a worldwide sensation.
The document became known as the “Mormon Will” because someone had mysteriously dropped it on a desk in the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The purported will divided the Hughes estate into 16 equal shares, with one share designated for the LDS Church itself and another sixteenth for “Melvin DuMar.”
When the world press corps beat a path to Dummar’s gas station in Willard, Box Elder County, he professed surprise at the existence of the will. He told reporters his story of the old man in the desert, but Dummar said he never knew if the stranger really was Howard Hughes.
“I thought he was a bum,” Dummar told reporters in 1976. “I lent him some money.”
The apostles and disciples who encountered a scraggly prophet in the desert (John the Baptist) and subsequently his successor, (Jesus) were made heirs to a vast Kingdom on the words of (perhaps a madman) a disputable account, which some believed and others scoffed at.
In the court of public opinion in that day, we know the outcome. Words crafted and written in the years to come are the sole evidence (if it be accepted as such) of this promise and heirship. How can the truth of it all be determined?
After a Las Vegas trial that lasted several months, a jury declared the will a hoax and branded Dummar a liar.
“I wouldn’t have had a chance even if God himself had delivered the will,” Dummar said last week. “So many people thought I was a con artist or a scammer. And they treated me like a criminal.”
I thought the parallel demonstrates how little it takes to create a dispute about people’s claims to heirship and greatness when dealing with opposing opinions and the reputation of men who are “nobody” special in their community.