Daily Archives: 2010-07-12 21:39:39 GMT+0000

Gospels and Genesis as historical documents

I believe that few “serious scholars” (as they say) see any reason to attribute the first couple of chapters of the Book of Genesis to historical reality. Few actually see any reason to attribute its claims that God fashioned the world in 6 days and created Adam from dust and Eve from his baculum.

But I do observe that many “serious biblical scholars” do attribute historical reality to a New Testament book that claims the heavens split apart and that both God and Satan spoke to a man who was baptized by John in the Jordan River.

Both books reference geographical and human facts on the ground. There really is a sky above, land below and a sea teeming with fish. Human males really do exist, lack a baculum, and generally enjoy the companionship of womenfolk, especially when they serve as dutiful helpmates. There really is a Jordan River, an ancient Jerusalem and Judea, and if we can believe that the received text of Josephus is an honest indicator of what he originally wrote, a John the Baptist.

So why do biblical historians reject the historicity of one yet embrace the historicity of the other?

We don’t want to open ourselves as sceptical inquirers who reject miracles on principle.

(I am amazed at the lengths to which quite a few scholars seem to go to prove they are not somehow biased against the supernatural or the miraculous. They do have very logical arguments — analogy etc — but hell, let’s just cut the crap and say “No way! Miracles are an absurd notion and are not allowed into the discussion!” Anti-supernatural bias? Sure! Why not? I’m also biased against the notion that pixies live under toadstools or that teacups orbit Saturn.)

Okay, so maybe we don’t care about opening ourselves to accusations of such bias. But let’s play the game anyway. read more »

Having interacted with historians who do not agree with me, as advised . . .

Associate Professor of Religion, James McGrath, helpfully offered me the following advice:

Perhaps your time would be better spent interacting with those historians and philosophers of history who don’t agree with your presuppositions, and seeking to understand why and address those issues, rather than insulting those who have understandably not written a full-fledged monograph in response to your blog-only self-published proclamations on history.

Well I have spent quite a bit of time reading historians who do not agree with me, and I have responded to quite a few of them. James McGrath himself is one of them. I have responded to aspects of his own little volume in which he sets out for the lay reader exactly how biblical historians work. I have demonstrated that his analogies with prosecuting attorneys or detectives are false, and actually make a mockery of how those professions really work.

McGrath also challenged me to read the discussions of historical method by historians such as E.P. Sanders. So I did. And I wrote some detailed responses demonstrating that the methodology was nothing other than another example of “biblical exceptionalism”. I was a little disappointed that James failed to respond to my efforts that I had undertaken at his request, but he did eventually say he simply disagreed with me when I finally pushed him for a comment. read more »