Here's a real-world illustration of how stories about historical events can mutate in the retelling, and why:
To begin with, there was no Schindler's List.
"Schindler had almost nothing to do with the list," said David M. Crowe, a Holocaust historian and professor at Elon University in North Carolina, whose book, "Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities and the True Story Behind the List," was published this fall by Westview Press.
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Mr. Crowe said the legend of "the list" arose partly from Schindler himself, to embellish his heroism. He was trying to win reparations for his wartime losses, and Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial organization in Jerusalem, was considering naming him a "righteous gentile," an honor given to someone who risked death to save Jews.
Those he saved further enhanced the legend because "they adored him," Mr. Crowe said, "and they protected him."
No one doubts that Schindler, an ethnic German born in what was then Austria-Hungary, was a moral hero, but the revelations add deeper texture to his story.
(From Dinitia Smith, A Scholar's Book Adds Layers of Complexity to the Schindler Legend, NY Times, Nov. 24, 2004.)
It seems to me we need to keep this sort of thing in mind when reading, oh, let's say, the Gospel of John.