The Mysterious Case of Count St Germain, Chinese Whispers and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
RecentlyI have been enjoying listening to a podcast called Thinking Sideways. The show features three Americans who deal with a different unexplained mystery each week. Apart from one of the hosts annoying tendency of raising his voice at the end of every sentence so that you think every sentence is a question, even when its not? The show is actually quite enjoyable. They deal with people who disappeared, thefts, deaths, sightings of strange creatures and all manner of weird and wonderful happenings that are unaccounted for.
One of the older shows deals with a historical figure called Count St Germain. The Count lived in the 18th Century and was a known composer and philosopher. However, he also had an incredible mythology around himself that continued long after he died. He was very sketchy about where he was born and how old he was. And, unlike most modern celebrities, he did not claim to be younger than he was but actually led some to believe that he was an old man when he appeared to only be in his twenties or thirties. He told some people that he was ‘very, very old’.
This led to all sorts of stories going around that he was ancient, or immortal. He was claimed to have been present and influential at the French Revolution, the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America and in helping out in a coup in Russia. Not a bad CV. He also was said to have been seen by different people for years after his death. Up until as recently as the 1960’s.
What I enjoy about the podcast is that they talk you through the details of the mystery and then they talk theories. They tell you the most popular explanations for what could have happened and then tell you what they think themselves.
When it came to Count St Germain they explained the mystery as being a massive case of Chinese whispers. Some stories were told about him, possibly by himself or someone else, these were then retold and exaggerated and over time it just got blew up and some people have ended up believing it.
This struck me as similar to how some people view the resurrection of Jesus. That this was a story told by His disciples that got bigger in the telling. Maybe Mary thought she saw Jesus and told the disciples and they told others that she did see Jesus and it grew.
However, for this to happen you need time. Count St Germain has had almost 300 years for his mythology to grow and be speculated over.
What about Jesus? Two facts about the first letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians are helpful here.
a) 1 Corinthians is clear about the resurrection. Paul says it happened. He also goes as far as to say that if it didn’t happen, then this whole Christianity thing is a hoax, and a bad one at that, since he would have be suffering for nothing.
b) 1 Corinthians is one of the the earliest books of the New Testament. It was written around 55 AD. This means that Jesus died about 20(ish) years previous. 20 years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. In fact some of the people who saw the resurrected Jesus were still alive. He says 500 people were eye witnesses to the resurrection, ‘most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.’
Therefore, the account of the resurrection did not grow over hundreds of years. Less than 20 years after the event Paul was saying what the early Christians had put into practice since Pentecost - the Resurrection happened and Jesus is alive. The story did not snowball. It stayed the same and people believed.
So Count St Germain is an interesting case of the story getting bigger in the telling. The Resurrection is not. The empty tomb is no Chinese whisper.
(Note, in an earlier version of this article I had stated that the gap between the resurrection and the writing of 1 Corinthians was 60 years. I later realised my sums were wrong, the gap was actually about 20 years. I did English at university, no Maths.)