Were the biblical prophets also con-men?

Sunday November 3 2019

Alan Tacca

Alan Tacca 

By Alan Tacca

As regular readers know, I thrive between two concepts of God without paying any tithes.

The first version is a male God who literally created everything in the universe; a God whose strange pleasure even determines that Baby X will have severe Down’s syndrome and beg on the street, while Baby Y will be healthy and become a rich prophet. When God fails, he has Satan, His dark scapegoat in the spirit world.

I sometimes refer to this God as if He really exists.
The alternative God symbolises our undamaged conscience. He invented nothing. He has no power beyond human power. When we are many, perhaps a nation, he symbolises our highest values and noblest actions.

You freely associate your positive power with Him, or ignore Him. He does not need to be worshipped. He has no Heaven for you after you have become biologically untenable. And His humans must take full responsibility for their evil.

I can live with this second God. But I find the first God both unlovable and highly improbable. He may be larger than your Lubaales or the Indian gods, but he is too petty for the scale of the universe. Only a petty God would deal in something like Samson’s hair. Or Egyptian magic snakes. Or send all these rogues in our midst as prophets.
Don’t tremble. Be brave. Indeed, we can ask: Were the biblical prophets also con-men?

I have an idea. You see, to our biblical fundamentalists, scriptural prophetic wisdom was not human wisdom, but God’s. And they cannot see today’s human drama except as an affirmation of the biblical narrative.
So, since the biblical prophets are dead, but our stories reflect those in the Bible, we can flip the mirror and say the ancient prophets were probably like ours.


Are you depressed? Did the ancient prophets look much larger than yours? Had it never occurred to you, for instance, that Elijah slaughtered hundreds of his rivals (Baal’s priests) because he was both a brilliant wizard or illusionist and a barbarian?
Once we remove the old mist and put the biblical prophets on the human scale, we can ask whether their miracles were true.

Just think: Folk advertisement before their exhibitions. Exaggerated rumours after the deeds.
Now, if the ancient prophets resembled ours, they probably had a con-man’s streak in their craft.
The usual suspects, the neo-pagan Christian prophets, always advertise their mass-trapping ‘crusades’ as occasions where the crippled, the deaf and the blind would be restored to full bodily function. Divine power on a grand scale. When the events actually come round, the men of God parade and suggestively cajole semi-literate subjects to testify that they had been cured of small things; elusive headaches, intermittent joint pains, and so on; pains which sometimes have their source in troubled minds.

This week, a cunning ‘apostle’ fed his radio listeners on an intriguing biblical interpretation to justify the money pastors manipulate their followers to give:
Jesus sometimes told rich men with fantasies of Heavenly life to sell their property and give the money to the poor. But since Jesus had rejected the pursuit of wealth, he was among the poor. Therefore, Jesus was instructing the rich to give the money to him (Jesus) to spread the word of God!

Today’s tycoons should do the same, the ‘apostle’ argued, if they wanted to go to Heaven.
When the mist of time is removed, most of the ancient prophets probably had a touch of the con-man, just like our prophets.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.