Luke on the Stand
A play in one act.
by: Karl Southward
© Karl Southward 2003
The Christmas season is upon us, and we are deluged with representations of the manger scene from Luke in the New Testament. These passages are so filled with questionable testimony that I could not resist putting Luke "on the stand". KS
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A fundamentalist Christian book entitled “Evidence That Requires a Verdict” by Josh McDowell, a Christian evangelist, is the inspiration for this one-act play. The book's concept is that the “Bible” should be treated as evidence. That is a great idea!
In today’s courts, only actual witnesses to acts or events can present evidence. Hearsay is not evidence. A witness cannot say, “I heard this from someone who told someone”, or “I heard it from John who heard it from James”. Items and documents can be evidence; however, those must be authenticated. The following discussion is not the direction Josh McDowell had in mind when he wrote his book. Please check for yourself the validity of the facts as presented in the play in encyclopedias or major theology books.
Let us now put Luke on trial for his rendition of the “Nativity”.
The author of “Luke” takes the stand. For this purpose let’s call the prosecutor “P” and the author “L”. The supposedly lost NT source document “Quelle” let us call “Q”.
P, “You are the purported author of the short book now called “Luke” in the “New Testament”?
P, “Please state your name.”
L, “I don’t really know. No one really knows”.
P, “What do you mean, no one knows?”
L, “You see, I didn’t sign anything. Any real information as to my identity got lost.”
P, “Why then is the anonymous book you wrote called “Luke”?”
L, “A group of men in about 185 AD assigned the name “Luke”. They thought “Luke” would be an authentic sounding name and give credence to my anonymous writings.”
P, “Just exactly when did you write “Luke”?”
L, “I am not real sure. It was sometime between 50 and 75 AD, most likely. You see, I didn’t date my writings either.”
P, “You wrote with great authority, but because of your age and your statements, it is highly improbable you witnessed the things of which you wrote. Where did you get your information, right down to actual conversations?”
L, “Some trusted people told me, and I had some fragments of a document called “Q”.”
P, “These trusted people would have had to have witnessed the actual events to be considered as having any evidence at all. Would you please give us their names and the dates these conversations took place?”
L, “I didn’t record those things.”
P, “Let me get this straight. You want the jury to believe these events occurred exactly as you wrote them right down to verbatim conversations. You didn’t witness the events, and we don’t have the names of the people who told you these things?”
L, “That’s correct.”
P, “You have an authenticated copy of “Q” with you that we can put into evidence?”
L, “No, that’s been lost. No one knows the author, and I never mentioned it anyway.”
P, “Let’s get to specifics in your writings. You start the life of Jesus with the nativity story. How about this word for word discussion between Mary and the angel which supposedly took place just prior to her conception? Were you there?”
P, “Which one of those two relayed this actual conversation to you?”
L, “Neither one. It must have been written in “Q”, or someone told me.”
P, “So, we don’t have the name of the reporter that was in Mary’s bedroom? Were you inspired by God to write these things?”
L, “I never claimed inspiration, and no one in the “Text” claimed it for me!”
P, “How, then, did this rumor get started that you were inspired when you wrote?”
L, “Those guys in 185 AD or someone later must have started it. It could have happened because Paul, in “Timothy II”, wrote that the “scriptures were inspired. You know, Paul wrote before any of the “Gospels” were written. He was referring to the “Old Testament”; he had to be. Unfortunately, his writings are physically placed in the “Book” after mine, and many think he was writing about me. Of course, he wrote years before I did. Or, it could be because inspiration was claimed at Pentecost; but, hey, I wasn’t there. That, too, was years before me. Or, it could just be 1,800 years of conditioning.”
P, “What about the angel’s explicit conversation with the shepherds? You could not possibly have been there? Did the shepherds write it down? Most of those guys could not scribe. Where did you get that?”
L, “Someone told me.”
P, “You described the manger scene. Were you there?”
L, “No, and I know where you are headed with this one. Someone told me, and they were not there either.”
P, “Only one or two more questions: Are you familiar with the author of the book called “Matthew”?”
L, “Never met him. He wrote anonymously, too; so I don’t know exactly who he is. But, I have by now heard of his writings.”
P, “How do you reconcile your differences regarding the Nativity? If we read only the account in Matthew, we would believe that Mary and Joseph resided in Bethlehem all along and did not have to travel there for the census. In other words, Jesus was born in Mary’s home in Bethlehem. In fact, that text says that they moved to Nazareth only after returning from Egypt. Please explain?”
L, “I think I may have written first. My version is much more poetic.”
P, “I can see that I would be wasting the court’s time to query you further about your substantial differences regarding Jesus’ lineage. Thank you. You may step down.”
P, “Your Honor, I respectfully submit that the entire testimony of this person be stricken. There is obviously no evidence here.”