7. 15 March 1985


My dear Nancy,

    Luke leaves me cold. Thus what you call portraying a historical sweep (with a broad brush?) and what Houlden calls accentuating the scriptual validity of the narrative are what I call plain fraudulance. I mean, Luke must have known perfectly well that (for example) the words he attributes to Mary are just his own invention or rather plagiarism from Samuel. Gives an entirely new slant on the Bethlehem crib. Admittedly Ave Hannah doesn't sound so good. But what foxes me is – why does anyone bother with people who perpetuate such practices? Why study the gospel according to St. Fake?

   Of course someone like Drury would find this a pretty profound phenomenon, linking the O. and N.T., so that the two can be exactly the same as well as (in a mystery) utterly different, as the preconceived beliefs require.

   And what, if not Hebrew for eyewash, is midrash? It sounds like a symptom of prickly heat. Isn't it what less learned or committed people call forgery? But perhaps this is what you're (very daringly) asking. Is it all nothing but mad trash? Well, I suppose it must be a bit better than that, or at least more seemingly reputable: but to me its mapped coastline looks amazingly congruent with the wilder shores of Shakespeare scholarship. And after all if people couldn't persuade themselves of absolutely anything no matter how unevidenced or implausible there wouldn't ever have been any Christian or other religion in the first place. I seem to recall, as a small boy, seeing a banner headline in the News of the World that ran: WAS IT THE VIRGIN MARY THAT MRS. O'REILLY SAW FROM THE SCULLERY WINDOW? and thinking to myself that the answer was very probably 'no'.

With love as ever,