By Charles Duke Yonge; Henry Drisler

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A former adviser of Jim Jones, Jeannie Mills, told me in 1980 how they had once contrived for Jones to appear to stride the waves. The congregation went to the beach for a retreat and slept out on the sand. In the first moments of dawn, Jones positioned himself as if walking back to the shore from the sea, but all he was doing was walking a couple of feet out into and back from the spreading surf. On cue, someone called out to wake the sleepers, "Look! " All blearily beheld what they supposed was the conclusion of a miracle.

How can his colleagues in Jerusalem have called him on the carpet, questioning his orthodoxy? If the parting words of the Risen Christ were a command to preach to Gentiles, whence the dispute? Notice, too, that Peter is not simply stubborn: he is readily convinced by the vision of the animals and the sail-cloth (Acts 10:9-16) that he ought to heed Cornelius's invitation. But why did it take even this, if Jesus had not long before made it clear that the chief business of the apostles was to convert the heathen nations?

And mustn't there have been some degree of continuity between Jesus and the religious community he founded? Of course, but no one is suggesting that the historical Jesus must have been an alien intruder with nothing in common with his environment or legacy. It is just that, for reasons already mentioned, it is no less apparent that sayings and stories were fabricated by his followers and borrowed from his contemporaries. Just because Jesus might have said something (echoing Judaism or early Christianity) does not give one the right to assume that he did in any given case.

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