Elisa Granato, one of the first people to be tested for a Covid-19 vaccine, died. The news rolled in the virtual media six times faster than other news. Keep this number in mind. This is important because, as we learn from a study published in Science, fake news spreads on average six times faster than genuine news. And not only faster, but also much further.
And, yes, this is also fake news. Dr. Elisa Granato is alive and well.
But this news will reach far fewer people than the original fake news. Because that’s just the way it is with fake news. Do you realize how many of us, once exposed to false news that is not identified as such, risk remaining its victims for a long time or maybe forever?
Take a second to imagine the consequence. From the unjust and untrue words that others say about us — or we say about others — to the unjust and untrue accusations that many make against God, the lie is able to spread faster and further than the truth.
False news claim lives
William Duranty knew this and took full advantage of it. Duranty was the heir to a wealthy British family. He studied at Cambridge, then moved to Paris, where he developed an appetite for the worst of vices. But there he also began to practice his journalistic talent, thanks to which he obtained the position of correspondent in Moscow for The New York Times.
After a series of laudatory articles on the economy of the Stalinist Soviet Union, Duranty achieved the impossible: the status of favorite correspondent of the Soviet oligarchy, at the same time as the most coveted prize in the world of journalism – the Pulitzer Prize – in 1932. Duranty was the first journalist to manage getting an interview with Stalin for an American publication.
As William Duranty reached the pinnacle of success by writing pro-Stalinist chronicles, millions of people were starving in Ukraine. The Ukrainians had come to eat grass, tree bark, worms and anything else at hand. The most desperate resorted to shocking acts of cannibalism. Some estimates speak of 25,000 people starving to death on any given day.
While other journalists traveled to Ukraine, despite enormous risks, and reported on the scale of the genocide that took place there, Duranty published remarks in which he attacked them and denied their records.
The historical evidence we have today shows that Duranty always knew the truth. However, his false news was considered more reliable than the authentic news of his colleagues. Western states lost interest in rumors of famine in Ukraine and Russia, and no one intervened.
False news claim lives. Could there be any more serious consequences than this? The following story is about one of the most persistent false information in human history.
1,500-year-old fake news
For centuries, church leaders had prevented people from accessing the Bible. Only the clergy, they said, received the divine authority to interpret the Word of God, in the name of Jesus Christ.
The conclusion was implicit. If ordinary people were allowed to interpret the message of the Bible, then only a huge snowball of heresies would result, which, in its rolling, would have destroyed both the church and the chance for salvation of all its believers.
Gradually, some Christians realized that ignoring the truth, as well as intellectual and spiritual darkness, or ignorance of the Bible and of God were greater risks than the risk of misinterpreting a passage in Scripture.
After centuries of conformity, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, people began to feel that clerical abuses had multiplied unbearably in the church. People needed to be able to see for themselves whether church scholars were inspired by the Bible in their discourses or if they spoke their own mind and for their own benefit.
Leaders willing to risk everything to give people the Bible in their own language gradually rose. The Englishman William Tyndale, a contemporary of Martin Luther, was one of those who lost his life for daring to translate the Bible into English. Hanging from the pillar on which he was strangled and burned, Tyndale cried out before he died, “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England!”
Three years after killing Tyndale, King Henry VIII approved the translation of the Great Bible begun by Tyndale and used his teachings to justify his break with the Catholic Church.
More than 500 years after these events, one can still meet sincere Christians who are afraid to read the Bible. These believers inherited the idea that only the church and the clergy have the ability to interpret it correctly. As such, they do not read the Bible and remain firmly convinced that they would do more harm by reading it.
But one can also meet another category of Christians, who reached almost the same conclusion, but in a completely different way. They are not afraid that something bad would happen to them if they read the Scriptures. Instead, by thinking according to the scientific paradigm, they came to believe that in order to understand the Bible, they necessarily needed experts, that is, theologians, historians, specialists in ancient biblical languages. Such Christians have come to believe they will never understand Scripture more than superficially without the in-depth knowledge of experts.
Consequently, one way or another, a majority of Christians have once again come to depend, for the understanding of God’s Word, on the opinion of the priest, the bishop, the preacher, the theologian, or the teacher. Everyone follows the expert who convinced him.
With our eyes fixed on the experts, however, we lost sight of the source. It is as if God has sent us a letter so difficult to read and understand that others must always explain it to us.
We thus continue to spread one of the oldest and most persistent false news reports in history, which deprives us of the personal knowledge of God, and this claims people’s lives. We know it even from the words of Jesus: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).
But doesn’t the Bible say that God has given some people the gift of teaching and being shepherds of His flock? Yes, but like any skilled teacher, the Bible teacher too has a duty to provide their students with the tools they need for study. They also have the privilege of developing their students’ skills that are necessary for them to study the Word of God themselves. The ultimate goal of any Bible teacher is to whet people’s appetite for the Bible, to nurture their love for the Word and for their only source of inspiration — God.
The Bible teacher has no teaching of his own to pass on. He does not seek to make disciples, but introduces to the aspirants to this status the only Master they will ever need.
The Bible teacher has no authority over Scripture. Scripture has authority over them, and anyone can verify their teaching by comparing it directly with the source, with the Bible.
The man who never doubted the Bible was a simple man
I have kept for the end of this piece the history of the man who never doubted the Bible. A simple man, without formal education, but who studied Scripture insatiably (John 7:15) and learned from it all that it took to be “perfect” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17). We know that he often prayed in retreat (Matthew 14:23) to understand God’s will for himself. And the one who grew up in the same house with him, his brother Jacob, shares a secret with all of us:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
Jesus, for He is the hero of this last story, had full confidence in the Scriptures. This led him to say that Scripture is a stronger testimony to God than miracles (Luke 16:31). Jesus was constantly preoccupied with turning people to God’s Word. He constantly pointed out that people’s teachings have weaknesses, and experts were not at all pleased with this prospect. To these, Jesus addresses the following words: “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24).
And there is another truly moving detail in the life of Christ. He never ever had any doubts or hesitations about any Bible passage, however small or insignificant. He was not once confused by any of the questions inspired by the apparent contradictions of Scripture. For Him, Scripture was perfect. Jesus was nourished by His Father’s Word.
In fact, His whole life became an illustration, a living example of the total living of God’s Word. Jesus breathed the word of Scripture. Even in the last moments of his life, he found His most appropriate words in the pages of Scripture. Jesus’ last words were quoted from Scripture.
Instead of conclusions
The life of this simple man who never doubted the Bible, the life of Jesus, is the strongest proof that when they translated the Bible into the language of the people, Tyndale and Luther did a good thing.
We are not in danger when we approach the Bible alone, because in reality we are never alone in those moments. Jesus promised, and His words were never uttered in vain: “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (…) He will guide you into all truth ”(John 15:16,17; John 16:13). The Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead, has personally committed himself to stand by our side as we open the Scriptures, to prepare our minds to understand, and our hearts to accept what we are about to discover about our amazing God.
The reality is that, paradoxically, some religious experts and secular experts, agnostics or atheists, strive to persuade us not to read the Bible ourselves, not to try to understand it personally. Both categories, for different reasons and with different arguments of course, actually tell us the same thing: You will not find God by reading the Bible! God, however, has a different opinion:
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29: 13-14)
Between the two options above, the life of Jesus and His reference to the Bible are probably the strongest arguments for choosing to believe in God.
Norel Iacob is Editor in Chief of ST Network and Semnele timpului.