Thursday, January 16, 2014

Was Khufu really an ogre? Can we place faith in oral tradition in ancient history?

History's greatest monster?
I heard retired US Bishop Spong the other day telling the media that the Gospels were written around 70 years after the death of Christ, so how can we possibly trust in the exact words written down? 

Would you remember what you did 70 years ago?

It's a compelling argument at first glance, until you consider the way in which memory has evolved in humankind.

In an age where we can’t even remember a dental appointment, let alone what somebody said a year ago, we find it hard to believe that in ancient times, the human memory was a far more highly tuned machine.

We’ve gone from relying on using our minds to remember information to relying on papyrus, tablets, paper, computers and yes, back to tablets again… (and we’ll probably go back yet again to our minds as we move into an age of brain implants and human synthesis with computers).

Yet even a few generations back people remembered differently.

Didn’t you have a grandmother or grandfather who could recite whole poems, stories, songs, word for word, spoken conversations of long ago?

The fact is, in ancient times, people trained their minds to hold information and they relayed this information carefully over vast periods of time.

So maybe Khufu, builder of the great pyramid, really was an ogre who crushed his people, as tradition tells.

And maybe Cleopatra really did die from an asp’s bite.