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In genealogy, the Source document is everything. We identify sources of information. We study them to assess their accuracy. Sometimes we can compare and correlate different sources to get a bigger picture. Then we apply what we’ve learnt to our understanding of the whole.
George Goldsmith is an interesting guy. I have a fairly continuous chain of source records which link him to my wife as her great-great-great grandfather. There’s a chain of birth, death and marriage records from her to George. There are a few contemporary documents like his military record and local paper clippings. There’s not much more I can say about him that would not be common to many other pioneers of the period. One reason I can’t say anymore is that I haven’t been able to find anything in particular that he wrote or said. You could say that I know “about” the man, but I don’t know him.
It’s interesting that we have so much documentary evidence on a guy who lived two thousand years ago. Some of it’s in the Bible but that’s not all. Many of the events have been correlated independently by archeology. They’ve dug up a pool with five colonnades. A fragment of fresco with an angel stirring the water is probably the setting for the events of John 5:1-9.
But the purpose of the writers of the scriptures was not that we’d just know “about” the man Jesus. The record of events has a historical setting in which we may hear about the supernatural events - Jesus birth, the wedding at Cannae where he changed water into wine, walking on water, and others. The historical documents which capture these events have as good a provenance, if not better, than any other documented event from the ancient world. Copies of some of the New Testament letters have been dated back as early as the 80 AD – well within the lifetime of eye witnesses. The authorities of the day attempted to suppress this movement by spreading misinformation about Jesus and what he did. However, the events were common knowledge – ordinary people inside and outside the movement had heard of Jesus. They knew the gossip of the day. They knew people who’d been healed. They’d seen the crucifixion. They knew what really happened.
And unlike George Goldsmith, several of the Source documents capture Jesus’ words. Some of this is public teaching, but there is also dialogue with friends and enemies. We get to hear directly what Jesus had to say. Words like “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
George makes no claims on my life today. Unlike George, Jesus says things which, if true, have serious implication on my life. There’s too much Source evidence to ignore him altogether. Go check out the evidence for yourself. Read the Gospels (if you’re new, start with Mark). Read it once like it was a Source document. Get the sense of time and place – feel the history as you might when you get another Birth Certificate or turn up an old newspaper clipping with that “brick wall” person you’ve been researching.
Then read it again – but this time read it like a letter from a friend – a real person who is concerned for you and has important news to share with you. Good news, not just documentary evidence.