Tag Archives: fairytale

How to write a biblical fairy tale

Fantastic Landscape With Mushrooms. Illustration To The Fairy Tale "Alice In Wonderland"

(image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

WriteShop gives this advice on how to write a fairy tale:[1] Kim, on this blog, states a fairy tale contains these elements:

The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all!

These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:

  • It usually begins with “Once upon a time,” “Long ago,” or “Once there was a …”
  • The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
  • It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
  • Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
  • Wishes are often granted.
  • A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
  • Good triumphs over evil.
  • The story has a happy ending.

In addition, a fairy tale will often include:

  • Royal characters such as kings and princesses
  • Talking animals
  • Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle

J.J. Sunset’s Blog gives these steps:[2]

Instructions

clip_image003 Step 1

Decide what lesson your fairy tale is going to teach before you write it. At their core, fairy tales are morality tales from the horror of stepmothers to not talking to strangers. They are generally teaching something and yours should do the same.

clip_image003[1]Step 2

Create a good character. A fairy tale needs someone to root for. They don’t have to be perfect. Just think Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk” or Red in “Little Red Riding Hood” but your readers should like them and want them to succeed.

clip_image003[2]Step 3

Devise an evil character. A fairy tale must have an evil character that works as an antagonist to the good character. The evil character usually has special powers of some sort and they must use those powers in a way to cause the good character pain.

clip_image003[3]Step 4

Design a magical character or object to write into the fairy tale. The magical character can be the evil character but many fairy tales have both good and evil magical characters that work to off-set the other’s influence.

clip_image003[4]Step 5

Identify what obstacles your good character is going to have to face. Whatever the obstacle, it should seem insurmountable and genuinely require a bit of creativity by your good character and a little magical assistance.

clip_image003[5]Step 6

Cute Cartoon Castle. FairyTale Cartoon Castle. Fantasy Fairy Tale Palace With Rainbow. Vector IllustrationWrite a happy ending. A fairytale isn’t a fairytale unless it has a happy ending. Your good character must succeed and your evil character must lose and lose in a big way so you can write your “happily ever after.”

I gave these two examples of how to create a fairy tale because sometimes scholars state the Bible is a fairy tale.

How to pick fiction from nonfiction

Matt Grant explained:

For writers and readers alike, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction. In general, fiction refers to plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination, while nonfiction refers to factual stories focused on actual events and people. However, the difference between these two genres is sometimes blurred, as the two often intersect.

He further made the assessment that nonfiction is factual, based on true events such as histories, biographies, journalism and essays. If fiction has “a few smatterings of fact” in it, that does not make the nonfiction true. However, “a few fabrications” in nonfictions “can force that story to lose all credibility.”

Here are a few indexes to use to determine the historical reliability of an historical writing.

Indexes (criteria) of historical trustworthiness[3]

These include:

1. Early Multiple Attestation

Multiple Attestation refers to a fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.

2. Dissimiliarity

The ‘criteria of dissimilarity’ . . . essentially contains two different criteria, that of the ‘criteria of distinction from Judaism’(CDJ ) and ‘Criteria of distinction from Christianity‘(CDC) [Swales 2008].

3. Embarrassment

A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.

For example, since the Jews had a low view of women, the women who were waiting for Jesus at the empty tomb, makes the account more credible.

4. Coherence

Coherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.

5. Semitisms

This criterion states that the historicity of a New Testament sentence p is more probable if it contains traces of an Aramaic or Hebraic origin. Since the New Testament was written in Greek and Jesus spoke Aramaic, traces of Aramaic in the Greek of the New Testament argue in favour of a primitive tradition that originates in Jesus. We see this, for example, in Paul’s quotation of a creedal tradition in Corinthians. “I delivered to you,” he reminds the Corinthians, “what I also received,” suggesting the transmission of an oral tradition. Paul then recites a list of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus which, as Habermas and Licona point out, contains numerous hints of an Aramaic origin that would seem to vouch for its authenticity—including the fourfold use of the Greek term for “that,” hoti, common in Aramaic narration, and the use of the name Cephas (“He appeared to Cephas”) which is the Aramaic for Peter (Miles 2018).

Conclusion

I’ve shown how to write fairy tales in that genre. We are being absolutely unreasonable with language and research if we want to turn biblical research into making fairy tales. The Gospels are stoutly historical – based on the indices of authenticity applied to them.

Works consulted

Mines, Ben 2018. Thinking Matters, “The Criteria of Historical Authenticity,” 4 February, accessed 8 October 2021, https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/.

Swales, Jon 2008. Theological Ramblings, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus: Criteria of Dissimilarity,” 10 March, accessed 8 October 2021, https://ordinand.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/the-quest-for-the-historical-jesus-criteria-of-dissimilarity/.

Notes


[1] Available at: https://writeshop.com/genres-how-to-write-a-fairy-tale/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[2] Available at: https://jjsunset.wordpress.com/sunsets-factory/writing-a-fairy-tale-step-by-step-instructions/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[3] These are based on: Ben Mines 2018. The criteria of historical authenticity, Thinking Matters (online), 4 February. Available at: https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/ (Accessed 5 August 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 October 2021.

The Gospels as history, fairytale, or hogwash?

Fairy Tale Illustration Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

By Spencer D Gear PhD

See the background of fairytales in Claire Fallon’s article, “The Shocking, Twisted Stories Behind Your Favorite Nursery Rhymes” (The Huffington Post, 21 November, 2014).

It is not unusual to hear through the media, in university classrooms, or on secular forums some disparaging statements about the New Testament records of the life of Jesus.

How do we decide what is reliable ancient history? Many accept something as historical without asking further questions. That’s not how historians work, whether investigating the Pharaoh dynasty in Egypt, Benjamin Franklin, Captain James Cook, what happened in World War I, or the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Those who pursue ancient history as a discipline are rarely able to conclude with absolute certainty what happened historically because of the considerable distance from now to way back then. That is because we were not there and often are too far removed from the events recorded. We rely on others to record the events and have assessed if those records are accurate.

The nature of history is such that we cannot usually conclude with more than probability about any historical event. This applies to the life of Socrates, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the landing of the first fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.
Please understand that I’m not dealing here with the place of verbal inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV).

See J P Moreland, The historicity of the New Testament, http://www.bethinking.org/is-the-bible-reliable/the-historicity-of-the-new-testament

Criteria used by historians

Which criteria do historians use to determine if something is historical? John P Meier in A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (1991 Doubleday) has an informative chapter (ch 6, Criteria: How do we decide what comes from Jesus?) in which he discussed some of the criteria for historicity used in examining the life of Jesus.

He investigates five primary criteria and some secondary criteria used by historians. The primary criteria are: (1) Embarrassment, (2) Discontinuity, (3) Multiple attestation, (4) Coherence, and (5) Rejection and execution (Meier 1991:168-177). These are not infallible ways of assessment, but they are among the best we have to determine the reliability of data from history. Let’s examine these criteria briefly and apply them to the New Testament Gospels.

1.  Emarrassment

Who witnessed the empty tomb of Jesus? Two women! Women were unreliable witnesses in Jewish culture. See: Josephus: Women unacceptable witnesses. Matt 25:46 states: ‘And they [unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life’. ‘Eternal punishment (damnation)’ would be an embarrassment to the Jews.

Australian ancient historian and former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, Dr Paul Barnett, who taught ancient history at Macquarie University, Sydney, wrote:

Provided that we accept the limitations in the Gospel of Mark, in its brevity and single focus, we have good reason to believe it provides a historically credible account of Jesus’ activities in Galilee, the regions of Tyre and Sidon, Ituraea-Trachonitis, and the Decapolis. The words of Jesus, which are weighty and wise, are singularly applicable to the pericopes in which they occur. The parables in Mark as well as in Matthew and Luke are arguably authentic, based (in particular) on the cogent double criteria of similarity and dissimilarity. In any case, we argue that the gospel writers would neither invent nor omit a word of the Lord, though they felt free to adapt a word appropriately.
The narrative of Mark and the synoptics is set within the complex jurisdictions of the thirties, but not those as they would be altered in the decades following. As the narratives unfold we note the inconspicuous ways in which Jesus’ movements cohere with the political realities of those times. Furthermore, Jesus’ own path crossed the paths of the notables of that time, whether John the Baptist, the tetrarch Antipas, the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, or the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. In the course of the narratives we encounter those who were eschatologically excited (‘the men of violence’) as well as the ‘sinners’ with whom Jesus aligned himself as a lawbreaker. Furthermore, we see Jesus as the worker of mighty deeds, including in those towns where most of his mighty works were done.
In brief, we have in Mark a gospel that is a useful source of information about Jesus’ words and actions in Galilee and adjacent regions in the north (Barnett 2009:247).

2. Discontinuity

This refers to a fact or event that does not appear to have had any basis in earlier tradition is less likely to have been invented by the gospel authors than an event that may have been predicated in an earlier tradition.

This a test that depends on knowing details of Judaism and the early church after Jesus in the first century. Our information is limited so it must be applied with caution. However, 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NLT) states our preaching is useless unless Jesus is raised and if there is no resurrection of the dead. Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus where, after death, Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom [heaven] while the rich, ungodly man was in torment in Hades (Luke 16:22-23).

3. Multiple attestation

A fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.

4. Coherence

Coherence refers to a fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.

What is the coherence or consistency of Matt 25:46 with John 14:1-4 and 1 Cor 15:53? The John passage confirms that for believers Jesus has prepared a place of ‘many mansions.’ For believers, our mortal bodies will be transformed to be immortal at his Second Coming  (1 Cor 15:53). For unbelievers, what will happen after death and at Christ’s return? Revelation 20 explains the Great White Throne judgement of unbelievers. Rev 20:12-13 (NLT) states: ‘I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds’. No unbeliever can run and hide from God’s judgement. There is an afterlife for the godly and ungodly – with two different destinies.

5. Rejection and execution

A fact or event that looks as though it might provide a realistic explanation for the rejection or execution of Jesus is more likely to be true than the more tendentious explanations offered consciously by the gospel authors (e.g. divine providence, the Jews being in league with the devil etc.). (This criterion is less strong as it presumes historicity of the execution to begin with, but given that the execution of Jesus appears to satisfy each of the four previous criteria, it’s based on a fairly solid foundation so far as second-order criteria go.) [the above indices are courtesy of Gary, Eschaton Now, 2010].

Meier gave this warning:

Our survey indicates that five suggested criteria of historicity or authenticity are really valuable and deserve to be ranked as primary criteria. . . .

The use of the valid criteria is more an art than a science, requiring sensitivity to the individual case rather than mechanical implementation. It can never be said too many times that such an art usually yields only varying degrees of probability and not absolute certitude. But . . . such judgments of probability are common in any investigation of ancient history, and the quest for the historical Jesus cannot apply for a special exemption (Meier 1991:184).

Using the normal tests of historicity, the Gospels can be shown to be reliable and not hogwash.

Works consulted

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge U.K. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Meier, J P 1991. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 1. New York: Doubleday.

 

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2021.

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