The Fourth Wall

Do you know how when you’re watching a movie, we look at one character talking to another character over the shoulder of the first? Then we see the reverse where the second character is talking to the first, also looking over the shoulder? They talk back and forth, and we see back and forth, but do you know what we never are surprised we don’t see? CAMERAS! Yes, we don’t see cameras, and yet the back and forth views should CLEARLY reveal the camera looking over the shoulders of the two characters. But we don’t see cameras. Why don’t we see cameras? Because it is a story. A movie. An accepted suspension of reality so that we, the viewer, are able to partake in the action without being IN the action. This suspension of reality is called “the fourth wall”.

The fourth wall gets it’s name because on a typical studio TV show, the back wall and side walls are visible to the viewer, but the “fourth wall”, or the one that should be blocking our ability to see into the living room or shop is conveniently missing, yet the characters act as if it is still there. They are pretending there is a fourth wall in their living room so that we can peer in on the action without being in the action. It is make-believe.

Not an eyewitness account

The bible is not an eyewitness account any more than I rode in the cockpit of an F-14 while watching “Top Gun.” I was not an eyewitness to an actual account, I was a viewer of a story, told by a storyteller. I was artificially placed in the position of the fourth wall, and was allowed to see what was presented to me. Yes, Tom Cruise actually saw a camera staring him in the face. He pretended it wasn’t there. He’s an actor. And let’s not forget, the difference between a story told on film and a story written down is that the written story doesn’t even require actors. The author only has to scribble their name down and *poof*!, they exist. They say the lines the author wants. They weave the story thread the way they want it to flow. They write us in as the witnesses via the fourth wall, so we can see what the author wants us to see.

Nearly the entire bible is written from the position of the fourth wall. From “the beginning”, to Adam and Eve, to Moses, Abraham, various kings and judges, prophets, disciples, a healthy cast of characters, to Jesus himself, we are privy to their private conversations and thoughts. All told from the fourth wall perspective.

No single person would be able to witness Jesus and Satan having a private conversation on a mountaintop, let alone ALSO be there before he was born to see an angel talk to his mom the moment she got knocked up, AND was there in Herod’s inner circle when he got upset and ordered the murder of all the children.

No single person except us! We are in the story. We are the theoretical witness. We are the fourth wall, and in the story without being IN the story. This is not reality, this is a story, plain and simple. But while we can know this is a story from the writing perspective, it is much worse than a mere decision on how to present the facts. In fact, the combination of impossible witnesses and the use of the fourth wall challenges the very facts themselves.

Not even true

Any one bible author necessarily wrote the things they saw as important, or noteworthy, or useful, or whatever motivation they had. They never wrote about what Jesus looked like, for example. So there is no doubt whatsoever that someone selected information and edited the bible to say the things they wanted to say. Even if, and lets pretend here, even if the author actually knew a religious leader named Jesus, he would have had to source a lot of his information from somewhere else. And despite sourcing information from dozens or hundreds of sources, still decided to tell the entire story as a fourth wall witness. And by the way, testimonies and historical records were kept all the time in those days. This was a specific choice by the author to write AS IF we were reading a perfect play-by-play of the action.

It is virtually impossible to recreate a perfect play-by-play of a conversation without recording devices, and completely impossible to do so through second or third or fourth hand accounts. The bible writers, by writing these conversations from the fourth wall, are therefore making them up. Dwell on that for a minute. At best, they heard an account of something that happened, so at best they literally made up a conversation to account for the thing that happened. That is the BEST case scenario. Worse is if they heard bad information, and made up a conversation to account for it. Worse still, they heard bad information and decided to blame someone, or make someone else the hero. But under no circumstances are any of these conversations faithful recreations of any real conversation. They were written to account for what the author believed had happened, or what he wanted you to believe happened.

Even if there was once a real religious leader named Jesus, here are just some of the things about the story that the writer had to specifically decided to include, invent, change, or leave out:
1) The exact words spoken
2) The substance of the conversation
3) Other parts of the conversation the author found irrelevant
4) Words or opinions spoken that were contrary to what the writer wanted you, the reader, to take away
5) Who had an idea or thought first
6) The tone or emotions of the participants
7) Other people present or absent
8) The order of events
9) Misunderstanding between the participants
10) Motivations of the characters
11) Body language or subtle cues
12) Confidence or caution in proclamations made
13) Decision making processes
14) Degree of agreement or dissent among participants
15) Effectiveness of communication
16) Time took by participants to consider propositions, suggestions, or ideas
17) If there was actually a conversation at all, or just a way to explain events taking place
18) If the events actually took place

Christians, when an atheist points out that the gospel accounts are NOT eyewitness accounts, this is not a surface-level problem. It can’t be merely figured out by “he told someone later”. It is a problem of the wholesale invention of conversations to tell a story. It is a problem of complete fraud. The problem is, your religion is fundamentally a fraud.

The Spartan Atheist

5 thoughts on “The Fourth Wall

  1. good article and it does show how the bible is fiction. I’m always bemused by the whole gethsemane nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ANOTHER excellent post!! You’re on a roll!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. chris schilling June 19, 2021 — 7:12 pm

    Jesus was never a good actor, even when He was playing Himself. (Just like Tom Cruise!)

    Who’s to say He wasn’t played by some anonymous extra hanging around the Jerusalem backlot, hired to appear in crowd scenes, who ended getting crucified by mistake, a la Brian Cohen in the Python film?

    Meanwhile, real Jesus ended up retiring young and living out the rest of his days as a Garbo-like recluse: “I want to be alone.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol! Love your hypothesis, and I love Life of Brian!

      Like

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