A couple of years ago I posted a link to an article about a supposed discovery of a first-century eyewitness to one of Jesus’ miracles. At the time I did some due diligence, checking on the alleged first-century source and determining that he was indeed an actual historian.
But today I stumbled on this blog indicating that the story I originally linked to is false. However the author doesn’t explain why they reached this conclusion. The only evidence is that the site contains other articles with questionable topics or titles. But that’s hardly in and of itself enough to discredit a source. And certainly, the photo in the original article is not a Greek document, but there could be human-error reasons why the wrong photo was linked to the article.
So I dug a bit further and found this article at Snopes.com. Interestingly enough, Snopes’ main reason to disbelieve the article is the nature of the other article titles on the web site. They only mention secondarily what I find to be the smoking gun in terms of the original story being false. Buried in the About Us section, in the Disclaimer subsection, is a sentence that immediately discredits everything hosted at the site.
All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.
In other words the story was completely fabricated, even though it involved a real person. A great example of fake news. Perhaps a more esoteric form of it than most people think of in today’s discussions of the topic. But it reinforces the importance of verifying sources, of not simply assuming that because Great-Uncle Hubert posted the link on Facebook, it must be true.
But this highlights the greater issue. Not all news sites will have a disclaimer like the above one does. And if people are only just now realizing that the media has biases, then we should begin to worry that fake news may not just come from a disreputable source, but could also be pushed by a reputable source. Someplace without fantastical headlines in other areas to tip us off that we might be getting fooled. And given the impressive abilities of technology these days, it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to avoid being roped in or fooled at some point or another.
Be careful what you assume is true. Look for multiple sources. Watch to see who else picks up on the story and runs with it. Or who doesn’t. Don’t believe something just because it’s something that you want to believe. The Truth is out there – but we have to be careful that we don’t mistake it for something false, and that we don’t give up searching for it just because of all the false stuff out there.