Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Really Happened with Atahualpa and the Bible?

Atahualpa was the last Inca king.  He was very popular among his army, but he didn’t rule for long.  In class the questions we were asked were "What really happened when Atahualpa was presented with the Bible by the Spanish?"  "And why do sources tell different versions of the story?" In class, to prepare for the findings of these questions, we read passages from a textbook and two different documents, all written by different authors.  In groups, we then acted out three scenes, and then we had a discussion about the similarities and differences between the scenes.  The textbook source had a different take on what happened with Atahualpa and the Bible. but the two documents were both alike.
The textbook source said that Atahualpa was presented with the Bible from a Spanish friar and when he received it, not knowing what to do, held it to his ear. He was given the book to learn Christianity so he could accept the religion, but when he heard nothing from the book when it was put to his ear, he threw it to the ground.  It says, “Atahualpa held the book to his ear and listened to it. When the book didn’t speak, he threw it on the ground.”  The Spaniards, seeing this act of throwing the Bible to the ground, used this to attack Atahualpa.  The two documents, by Francisco de Xeres and Pedro Pizarro in the mid 1500’s are very similar.  They both state how a Spanish friar, Father Friar Vicente, came to Atahualpa and persuaded him to learn the teachings of Christianity and convert to Christianity.  In document A, it says, “Atahualpa did not know how to open it (the book)” and in document B, it says, “When he had it in his hands he did not know how to open it, and he threw it upon the ground.”  After he threw it on the ground, document A says, “The priest told Francisco Pizarro what had passed between for storing
him and Atahualpa, and that he had thrown the Scriptures to the ground.” and document B says, “The priest returned and related all to Pizarro”.  The priest told Pizarro who then signaled to Spanish troops to attack.  The Indians were taken off guard by this and were killed by the Spanish.  Sources tell different versions of the stories depending on whether they witnessed it or whether they read before they wrote the story or if they have different beliefs.  For example, the author of the textbook might have been on the side of the Spanish, and wanting to make Atahualpa look weak, wrote that he held the Bible up to his ear to listen to it.  Also, the authors of the documents were a Spanish conquistador and a cousin of a Spanish conquistador so they wrote the story based on their beliefs of being Spanish.

I learned about about the importance of knowing the perspective and bias of each source in history.  I learned that depending on who’s writing the story, there will be different views on what really happened.  In this event, there are two different takes on what really happened with Atahualpa and the Bible because there are three different authors with three different perspectives on the event.  The most trustworthiness documents you can read are from authors with no opinion towards events, and if their religion doesn’t interfere with the topic, they can’t be biased towards someone or some event when writing about it.  So, when reading a document from a historical event, make sure you know who the author is and what his background is before you use it as a source.

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