Daily Archives: 2010-12-16 21:19:55 UTC

How the Faithful Destroy Biblical Stories to Stay Faithful (or the Ecumenical Method of Biblical Historiography)

Some call it “harmonization of the Gospels”, but it might also be described as a unique brand of theological historical method. That is, something that theological students do and call “history” so they can sound more like historians (a relatively relevant profession) instead of mere students of theology (a decidedly irrelevant one).

Here’s how it works.

One gospel describes a scene in order to illustrate a certain doctrinal teaching.

Another gospel, with a different doctrinal interest, describes a contrary scene to reflect another doctrine.

The historian (sorry, the theology student) enters and says: Ah, here the historical evidence appears to be contradictory. (Only “appears” contradictory, mind you. Aspiring theologians know that whatever can be seen is not of faith, and it is faith that is all important.)

So the (irrelevant) “theologian” who thinks he/she is a (relatively relevant) “historian” draws on their ecumenical leanings and finds a way to unify the two contradictory (oops, “apparently” contradictory) narratives.

This process is not a mere intellectual conceit. It is a necessary activity for those who need something consistent to believe in.

Here’s a case study to illustrate. It is from Tom Powers’ discussion of the ‘Alexander son of Simon’ ossuary. read more »