The Role of Faith in Historical Research

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by Neil Godfrey

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...
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In a 2005 review article of Jens Bruun Kofoed’s Text and History: Historiography and the Study of the Biblical Text Thomas L. Thompson observes (my emphasis):

The conclusions themselves of an historian’s research and their accord with belief, rather than argument or method, are perceived as indicative of legitimacy. Adjectives, on the other hand, judging them as “extreme” or “radical” have been thought sufficient for dismissal . . . . Such faith-supported scholarship typically expresses itself in the form of protests to what is perceived as “excessive” scepticism or unspecified, “ideologically motivated distortion” engaged by any who might be thought to distinguish too sharply between arguments of faith and history.

One reads the same criticisms made by New Testament scholars against those who argue against the historicity of Jesus. To question the reliability of a narrative as a historical source is to find one being viewed as “hyper-skeptical” and even driven by an “anti-Christian vendetta”.

The faith of New Testament scholars in their sources is justified on the grounds that it is “not impossible” that any particular narrative in the Gospels, say, was taken from oral tradition going back to a real event.

The slippery slope justification Continue reading “The Role of Faith in Historical Research”