2012-02-11

Ouch! My own beliefs undermined by my own historical principles!

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by Neil Godfrey

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Well this is really quite embarrassing. I have never read more than snippets by a notorious right-wing Australian historian, Keith Windschuttle, and those I have read have been mostly quotations found in the works of his critics, but I know I have been strongly opposed to whatever Windschuttle has written about the history of the clashes between white settlers in Australia and the land’s aboriginal peoples. Politically I have long been a bit of a lefty because it is my conviction that the left is on the side of humanity. Human rights and social justice causes — including of course those of Australian aboriginals — have as a rule been very close to my heart and my energies.

Historian Keith Windschuttle has long been publicly associated with that epitome of all that is opposed to anything leftish and against any idea that white Australians owe Australian aboriginals anything (least of all an apology), former Prime Minister John Howard.

So what am I to do when, in expanding my knowledge of the principles historians use with respect to oral history, I discover that all for which I have been arguing vis a vis the methods of historical Jesus scholars, is on the side of my political arch-nemesis Keith Windschuttle?

This smarts.

I have had to concede that historians who have buttressed my political views may very well have been lacking when it comes to specific details of the history of white and black relations in Australia. I am not conceding that the picture is, well, black and white (apologies for the unintended pun) since the historical evidence is multifaceted and there are still details of Windschuttle’s arguments that I do question. But as far as his point about historical methodology and the use of oral history is concerned, I have to concede, ouch! that in this instance the politically right is methodologically right, too. Even my own beloved left can be wrong once or twice.

This experience serves to remind me how difficult it must be for nationalistic or ethnically-oriented Jews and any Christian with religiously grounded sympathies for Israel to accept the findings of modern archaeology and the “minimalists” that question the very historical existence of biblical Israel. Not to mention how hard it clearly is for believing Christians and committed historical Jesus scholars to accept the basic norms of historiography even when quoted and placed right beneath their noses.

Reading the debate about methodology is like reading a debate between myself and a historical Jesus scholar. If nothing else it reminds us that history is one of the most ideological of disciplines, and if so, surely biblical studies is the most ideological. No wonder postmodernist notions so easily white-ant both fields.

When oral history lacks any independent external corroboration

From “Doctored evidence and invented incidents in Aboriginal historiography” by Keith Windschuttle (Ouch! quoting KW really does hurt!! But I cannot deny that the criticism of KW’s words such as these do side-step entirely the supporting evidence he supplies for his arguments. And no, I am by no means saying I have now been converted to the Right, but facts is facts and valid argument is valid argument.) (My own emphases etc as always.)

Unfortunately, the fictions and fabrications of our academic historians are more than matched by those created by the Aborigines themselves. Because Aborigines in the colonial period were illiterate and kept no written records, we are urged today to accept the oral history of their descendants as an authentic account of what happened in the past. My view is that Aboriginal oral history, when uncorroborated by original documents, is completely unreliable, just like the oral history of white people. Let me illustrate this with an account of the infamous Mistake Creek Massacre in the Kimberley district.

There are at least four versions of Aboriginal oral history about this incident that have made their way into either print or television, and all of them are different. The former Governor-General, Sir William Deane, used his last days in office to apologise to the Kija people for this incident and for all those that Aborigines had suffered at the hands of white settlers. Deane said:

What is clear is there was a considerable killing of Aboriginal women and children … It’s essential that we hear, listen to and acknowledge the facts of what happened in the past, the facts of terrible events such as what happened here at Mistake Creek in the 1930s, which is in my lifetime.

However, what actually is clear is that by relying upon Aboriginal oral history, Deane got the facts of the case completely wrong. According to the Western Australian police records, the incident took place in 1915, not the 1930s. It was not a massacre of Aborigines by white settlers at all, but a killing of Aborigines by Aborigines in a dispute over a woman who had left one Aboriginal man to live with another. The jilted lover and an accomplice rode into the Aboriginal camp of his rival and shot eight of the people there.

Aboriginal oral history later implicated the white overseer of the station concerned, a man named Mick Rhatigan. This is the same oral history that Deane relied upon to say the event took place in the 1930s. However, it would have been difficult for Mick Rhatigan to have been one of the killers at this time. According to both his family and the headstone on his grave at Wyndham, he died in 1920, ten years before the date the Aborigines claim the event occurred.

Another version of this same oral history was provided on ABC Television’s 7.30 Report. A woman named Peggy Patrick said her mother and father and brothers and sisters had all been massacred in this incident. The program’s presenter, Kerry O’Brien, said she was 70 years of age. This means she was born in 1930 or 1931. But the killings took place in 1915, which means she was born fifteen years after the death of her parents, which must be a world record for a posthumous birth.

By relying on Aboriginal oral history, and by failing to do the most elementary research into this matter, Deane made a fool of himself in what was supposed to be the final, grand reconciliatory gesture of his term of office. I would suggest that anyone else who relies upon uncorroborated oral history of Aborigines — or indeed the oral history of anyone else — is likely to embarrass themselves in exactly the same way. Stories passed down orally over three or four generations are more likely than not to get some of their facts wrong, whatever the ethnic background of the story tellers. Once the facts have gone awry, so will the interpretations.

By pretending to Aborigines that their oral histories have some kind of historical authenticity, academic historians do them no favours. It is in nobody’s interest, and certainly not those of Aboriginal people, for completely false stories like the one about Mistake Creek to continue to be taken seriously, generating an unwarranted bitterness on one side and a sanctimonious sense of blame allocation on the other.

No, I am not suggesting that there were no massacres of aboriginals by whites. Of course there were and there is much evidence for this. But critics of Winschuttle do not do our cause any good when we walk away from the specific supporting evidence he uses in support of arguments for specific incidents.

But look at Deane’s own response to KW’s uncovering of the methodological shoddiness of his work. This is from the review of another abhorrent extreme right-winger — what a painful way for me to start my day! — Paul Sheehan (it hurts to even type the name):

Deane has qualified his accusations by stating, as he did in his book, Directions: A Vision For Australia (2002): “It matters not whether this particular story is accurate in all its details, for the elements undoubtedly occurred in many parts of our nation in the 211 years of European settlement.

Now how like Dale C. Allison this sounds when he writes, as paraphrased by Dr McGrath:

Even fabricated material may provide a true sense of the gist of what Jesus was about, however inauthentic it may be as far as the specific details are concerned. (Review of Dale Allison, Constructing Jesus)

Or more directly from Allison himself in Constructing Jesus: memory, imagination and history

All this is why fictions may convey facts; an accurate impression can take any number of forms. Even a work of make-believe as the Alexander Romance sometimes catches the character of the historical Alexander of Macedon. Similarly, tales about an absentminded professor may be apocryphal and yet spot-on because they capture the teacher’s personality. The letter can be false, the spirit true. One student of human memory has justifiably asserted that “the gospels are more likely to be deeply true than superficially exact. (pp. 13-14)

KW responds in turn:

But, of course, it does matter greatly whether stories about crimes of this magnitude are accurate in their details, and it is most surprising to find a former judge of the High Court thinking otherwise. If the factual details are not taken seriously, then people can invent any atrocity and believe anything they like. Truth becomes a lost cause.

Yes, history is surely the most ideological of disciplines. I am sure the same laxity and violation of basic principles as I have quoted from such basic handbooks as those of Howell and Prevenier and Vansina in recent posts would not be overlooked for a minute by these historians if the subject were not so ideologically close to their hearts.

In the same article Keith Windschuttle savages postmodernist views of historiography but I won’t repeat any of those arguments here.

He gives other examples of the poverty of reliance upon oral history without external controls:

In 1995, David Roberts published the results of his research into the Bells Falls Gorge Massacre, which legends in the Bathurst district of New South Wales say took place in the 1820s. He found there was no contemporary documentary evidence for it. Roberts nonetheless argued that, because there were other recorded conflicts in the region around that time and because legends about the Bells Falls Gorge event could still be found among the local white community, this should be taken as evidence that something like a massacre did take place, at least somewhere in the district at the time. He has more recently written:

They [local residents] maintain a solemn understanding that Aborigines were once rounded up at the local landmark and were forced to jump to their deaths under fire. (Countless rural communities across Australia will recognise the story in different forms.)

The problem with this argument is precisely the fact that countless rural communities do, indeed, tell similar stories about spectacular local landmarks. In fact, landmarks like this, especially those with very high waterfalls, seem to almost irresistibly conjure up myths that have an uncanny similarity wherever they are found.

There is a comparable tale still told in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where legend has it that the place called Govett’s Leap was named after a bushranger named Govett who was pursued under gunfire from troopers to the edge of the waterfall there. Rather than be shot or captured, he spurred his horse over the precipice to his doom. When I was a child, my parents told me this piece of oral history in all seriousness. The local Chamber of Commerce has since erected on the main road a statue of Govett on his horse to capitalise on the location as a tourist attraction.

However, this particular legend has no connection with historic events of any kind. The real Govett was not a bushranger but the government surveyor who named the site, and ‘leap’ is an old Scottish term for a cataract or waterfall.

How many times do we need to learn the same lesson? Old legends and oral history, unless they are corroborated by original documents, are worthless as historical evidence, whether told by blacks or whites. Historians who go down this road leave the search for truth behind.

Now is a good time to point out that Keith Windschuttle (Ouch!! I never imagined I would ever be quoting this name favourably!! I really still do hate his politics!) does not dismiss oral reports out of hand.

Contrary to Manne’s assertion, I do 
not confine the evidence of Aboriginal
 deaths to official documents, nor do I 
exclude Aboriginal oral, testimony.
 Fabrication contains a large volume of Aboriginal testimony, not only about
 killings but many other aspects of 
black and white relations. In Tasmania,
 there is probably more direct
 Aboriginal testimony available than
 anywhere else in Australia at the same 
time. This was all recorded by white
 observers, of course, but usually by
 people sympathetic to the Aboriginal
 plight such as George Augustus
 Robinson.

Note that we are speaking here of “oral testimony” — reports of eyewitnesses. Here is another quotation that demonstrates when oral testimony is found to be valid. It is from “The Myths of Frontier Massacres In Australian History, Part I: The Invention of Massacre Stories” by KW in the October 2000 edition of the right-wing Quadrant magazine that I despise ideologically with all my being (and I’m suffering like hell as I find myself bloody well quoting from it!!!) . . . .

40 to 50 years is too, too late

Some of the evidence Cribbin uses to reconstruct his account of the second expedition comes from Aboriginal oral history recorded forty to fifty years later by him and other; unconnected, researchers. Normally, events recalled at this distance would be highly suspect, no matter whether the informant was Aboriginal or European, and would be too unreliable for the historic record. At Forrest River, for instance, Rod Moran shows that some historians have accepted the most incredible tales from recent oral testimony given by alleged eyewitnesses and descendants of the locals. However there were five sets of interviews about Coniston made in 1971, 1977, 1980, 1981 and 1983. Each of them questioned different members of the remaining Aboriginal clans, as well as one of the half-caste Aborigines who accompanied Murray and Morton. In each case, the interviewees, some of whom were children who witnessed their fathers being shot, reported the names, locations and sequence of the major events accurately. Since the interviews confirm each other and are also consistent with the published evidence, there is no reason, in this case, to doubt they are true. This means that, in addition to the thirty-one Aborigines Murray admitted shooting, Cribbin’s evidence establishes that at least another twenty-one should be added to those killed during his two expeditions. Hence at least fifty-two Aboriginal people were massacred at Coniston station in 1928.

There was only one positive result of this affair. Because of the publicity initiated by Athol McGregor men like Murray and Morton knew that in future their actions would be under public surveillance. Since 1928, there have been no reports of whites killing bush Aborigines under the kind of pretence used at Coniston station.

Note above not only the need for external controls but also the understanding that accounts 40 to 50 years after an event are normally to be considered “highly suspect”. Yet the earliest supposedly independent control for the life of Jesus advanced by HJ scholars is Josephus, some 60 years after the supposed events. And some professors like Dr McGrath insist that Josephus is as good as any other “contemporary record” and at the same time insist they do history like other historians. Not so.

Critics and Holocaust Deniers

So what have my beloved left-wing critics had to say about our political enemy?

I am embarrassed and ashamed. One even resorted to comparing Windschuttle to being a Holocaust denier. Here is a passage from a critical review of KW’s controversial book:

Perhaps the weakest point in Whitewash is A. Dirk Moses’s concluding chapter, in which he compares Windschuttle to the Holocaust denier David Irving. This is neither helpful nor relevant. (Rebe Taylor, Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle’s Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Oct 25, 2003 — from the Sydney Morning Herald)

But no matter, I have been with lefties long enough to know we are a motley bunch of good and bad, competent and incompetent, and all the rest.

Denialism

How often has one heard that word uttered by the anti-mythicist brigade. Here it is again used in another ideological war where, really, in the end valid methodology is going to have to trump ideology:

This is not an exercise in denialism. As Windschuttle argues: “If Australians of Aboriginal and European descent are to look one another straight in the eye, they have to face the truth about their mutual history, not rely upon mythologies designed to create an edifice of black victimhood and white guilt.” The strength of Windschuttle’s book is in the mass of details. The three volumes of Fabrication will not be the last word on genocide, far from it, but will provide what has been lacking for so long – a devil’s advocate view unintimidated by the prevailing ideological orthodoxies inside the academy and the media. Windschuttle follows paper trails, checks original sources and supplies names.

And the most ironic cut of all!

So what does a politically ideological historian do when he is caught out breaking the basic rules of applying external controls to oral testimonies and traditions? Why, he turns around and says “everyone is doing it” — Everyone?? He has to find some accomplices quick — Ah, there they are, over there in the New Testament Studies Department!!!

Stuart Macintyre has all the right (that is, left) political credentials, but I have to suffer the fact that he is misrepresenting, grossly distorting, Keith Windschuttle’s methodological argument when he writes:

When Windschuttle accuses them of ‘white vanity’ and presuming them to ‘play God’, he dismisses the significance of Aboriginal memory. His view is that ‘Aboriginal oral history, when uncorroborated by original documents, is completely unreliable, just like the oral history of white people’. (Macintyre blatantly confuses the simple fact of everyday memory, even that of eyewitnesses, with ‘oral traditions’ and completely sidesteps the independent and external controls at Thucydides’ disposal.

Just like the oral history of white people? Historians have relied on memory ever since Thucydides drew on his own recollection and the recollection of others to relate the history of the Peloponnesian war. No-one recorded the speeches given by the Athenian leader Pericles on the values and aspirations of his city-state, and the version given to us by Thucydides is an early example of oral history. Would Windschuttle have us set this oratory aside as uncorroborated by original documents? If so, he would leave a gaping hole in western tradition of civic patriotism. The same is true of the New Testament gospels: all of them are products of oral history. (pp. 45-46 of The History Wars by Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark, 2003.)

Note in the above quotation the same logical fallacies one has so regularly heard from the anti-mythicist HJ scholars. Appeal to the consequences to justify an argument; appeal to ignorance and lack of imagination by reliance upon rhetorical questions as a substitute for an argument.

So the methodological miscreants and ideologically committed — the left-wing view of Aboriginal history in Australia and the New Testament scholars of the historical Jesus — hold hands in mutual support as they seek to defend themselves with every ad hoc argument and logical fallacy they can muster.

.

(Here’s hoping my politically-minded friends won’t kick me out next time I catch up with them in the Irish club.)

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16 Comments

  • 2012-02-11 13:15:33 GMT+0000 - 13:15 | Permalink

    This is some what off topic, but I feel it is directly related to the underlying point of your post, and that being the historical truth. For example, I could understand two groups or even two individuals having heated debates about the truth concerning the Mistake Creek Massacre. Why? Because the truth reveals the actions of the people involved. Who committed this terrible crime? The guilty party will be identified by revealing the historical accuracy of the actions. Only after learning this, will the innocent be vindicated and the guilty be disgraced.

    What I do not understand are the heated debates between people like yourself who believe Jesus was fictional, and historical scholars who believe Jesus was an actual person. The problem is that you are technically both on the same side as far as Jesus’ actions are concerned. Neither of you believe Jesus was a supernatural savior who was resurrected from the dead. Which appears to me to be the central importance of whether Jesus really existed or not. To me that would be the same as if two people who both believed the Mistake Creek Massacre never really happened, but they still have heated debates about how the untrue story came about. Which I think misses the whole point of the story. Is your argument with HJ scholars merely for academic interest? Just out of curiosity, if it is true that the story of Jesus is a complete fabrication, what difference does it make if the story was based on some run of the mill man from the first century or not? It is the story that is important, a story about the son of God, and the things he did, his actions. Just wondering…

    • 2012-02-11 14:03:32 GMT+0000 - 14:03 | Permalink

      Simply historical interest. My interest is not just in the origin of Christianity itself but the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage — epitomized by the place of the Bible in our society. That means understanding the origins of the Bible, both Old Testament literature and that of the New, especially the Gospels.

      I have always had a fascination with history both in formal studies and as a general interest. I pick up books on history of every region I travel to or live in, including in Australia of local aboriginal histories as you might have suspected from the above post.

      If Jesus turns out to be historical and I am proved wrong about my mythicist leanings then I will accept that. It bothered me not in the least as an atheist for many years who had left Christianity that Jesus was a historical person and I can’t imagine it posing any problems for me again if it turns out that that was the correct view after all.

      But of course the history of Christian origins is not a neutral topic without personal implications for many of us — especially for Christians.

      I would never take the argument for mythicism to a devout Christian. It is not part of my game to go out of my way to offend people. I have been a devout believer myself and a believer of many things that now embarrass me, so I am not in a position to attack others in the same boat. But that does not preclude me from expressing my views in a public forurm to share with anyone on either side of the question who is interested.

      History is, unfortunately or otherwise, not an ideologically neutral discourse. So its debates will inevitably engender some heat from time to time.

      The important thing is to recognize and make allowances for one’s ideological commitments. It is pretty clear from recent attempts here to avow that NT scholars do not let their personal beliefs impact their studies that some people still fail to acknowledge that faith or ideology in HJ studies does trump valid historical methodology.

      (I do not like to describe myself as “a mythicist” because I think it implies one is driven by a belief Jesus was a myth to find supporting arguments for this and win debates etc. That’s not where I believe I am coming from. I try to be aware of the extent to which I might be deceiving myself, but my intention and effort is to study historical origins of the Bible and Christianity. It just so happens that the methodology and the evidence is, as far as I can see, all squarely on the side that draws the mythicist conclusion. The irrational and ad hominem or flippant and cliched responses of the “historicists” do not encourage me to think they are right.)

      Not sure if I have addressed your questions completely, though . . . .

      • 2012-02-12 00:20:54 GMT+0000 - 00:20 | Permalink

        Thanks, I think I understand a little better now.

        • 2012-02-12 08:19:49 GMT+0000 - 08:19 | Permalink

          Thinking more about the question, I realize there is another dimension to the debate that concerns me, too. I cannot deny I am offended by the way public intellectuals fail the public in the way they manipulate their discipline for self-interested ends that are in fact a betrayal of the public interest. At least with scientists we are dealing with less ideological questions and findings and the promotion of scientific knowledge in the public arena is to everyone’s benefit. But biblical studies as an academic enterprise appears to have had little impact upon those who stand to gain the most from it — the general public. Gosh, if more people were aware of the scholarship in this area — or even how the scholarship they agree with actually works — some of them might begin to ask questions they’ve never asked before. But most findings about Christian origins are couched in terms of new myths or more palatable myths for the 21st century. Many of the scholars in this field are either ignorant of the fallacies at the foundations of their work or make excuses for them. Historiography, most of it, pushed out by HJ scholars is entirely circular and thus invalid. When this is pointed out to some of them they don’t respond with an explanation of where I am mistaken, but they get indignant, angry, even insulting.

          This is a discipline that would seem to assume an authoritative status for millions of believers or public interested in Christianity. If the discipline is riddled with logical fallacies and contradictory arguments and really is not like historical studies in other areas, then it deserves to be exposed for what it is. Of course not everyone is going to like that effort. But the best way they could put an end to my trying to point out that the emperor really is not wearing any clothes would be to actually point out directly and unequivocally why my perception is mistaken and why their methods are valid after all. Just insulting me and trying to shut me out of the debate won’t work.

          • 2012-02-12 09:34:11 GMT+0000 - 09:34 | Permalink

            Even though we are on opposite ends of the spectrum concerning the existence of Jesus, I happen to agree with most of what you have said. You mention how “public intellectuals fail the public,” I don’t think the general public has a clue as to what these critical Bible scholars and historians are even saying. I have had countless debates and arguments with other “Christians” over the years and none of these critical scholars were ever mentioned. I never even heard of Mythicism until I went on James McGrath’s blog. You should thank him by the way for helping spread that message. Anyway, most professing Christians would be appalled at what these critical scholars and historians are saying about Jesus and the Bible. McGrath is one of the worst, even though claiming to be a Christian, he disrespects the Bible, Jesus, God, and all believing Christians with his disgraceful jokes and illustrations. That is far from being a professional in the field. At least there are other scholars like Larry Hurtado who does not have outbursts full of personal attacks, he just deletes your comment if he doesn’t like it. But your point is well taken, what these scholars are saying rarely leaves the academic field. If their claims are so enlightened and important, why are they not trying to help the general public? Why are their ideas only found in publications for other academics? Is it the purpose of this enlightenment to sit at their blogs and insult anyone who does not agree with them? That sure sounds like the same old crap that has been going on for thousands of years. I would have to say I have more respect for the older biblical scholars, the ones who produced Hebrew and Greek dictionaries and the like. These modern scholars have tried to explain the Bible in every way imaginable, except the way it was intended. I know we do not agree on these things, but we do agree that these scholars are really no better than the next guy when it comes to speculating on things that have little or no evidence. So I do agree that a lot of these scholars conclusions are based on other considerations than just seeking the truth.

            • 2012-02-12 09:56:00 GMT+0000 - 09:56 | Permalink

              I agree that I think Dr McGrath is one of mythicism’s best assets — at least for anyone who is sitting on the fence or genuinely interested in arguments both sides. There are many biblical scholars whose works I do highly respect, and some I find myself fully agreeing with. Most of these relate to literary analysis of the texts, though. That is, studying the documents for what they are and not making all sorts of unfounded assumptions about the historicity behind their narrative content. It sometimes seems the two sets of scholars do not even talk to each other, or if they do, they shut out the one side whenever they do their “historical” work.

              My original intent in starting this blog — and it still is my major focus — was to share the ideas with anyone interested that are normally only found in specialist publications. My life would have no doubt been very different had I been aware of a fraction of any of these scholarly investigations when I was a teenager. The public does have a right to know — to have access to this knowledge. Ultimately it’s their money supporting the academics in most cases, I imagine. Sciences are busy publicizing their research. But the only ones doing it in this field seem to be those with confessional interests. Ehrman I suppose is one exception, but I do find it ironical that he apparently accuses mythicists of writing popular books to make money. (Has any serious publication of a mythicist made money as no doubt Bart’s books have?)

              • 2012-02-12 10:55:29 GMT+0000 - 10:55 | Permalink

                Yes, I agree about Ehrman, as far as I’m concerned, he is merely capitalizing on what many people think already, that the NT is nothing more then a forgery. All summed up under the guise of textual criticism. It is interesting that many other scholars in the field of textual criticism come to a completely different conclusion. I can’t understand how some people, especially scholars can be so close minded and dogmatic. It seems like they think that the Bible either has to make perfect sense according to their expectations or it simply is not factual. We are talking about documents written in an ancient time and place far removed from the way we live and think today. Even more so if you believe God is the author. So there are many reasons to keep exploring apparent problems to see if they can be explained. I think one of the biggest problems is that people are being mislead. Let me explain with an analogy.

                Lets say you had a repair manual for a Ford truck and it simply said Repair Manual on the cover. You give it to someone and tell them that it is the repair manual for a BMW. They would have no reason to doubt that until they examined the manual and the BMW more closely. They would soon realize that there were major discrepancies, and that they were mislead as to the fact that this was a BMW manual. And in this case, the book is of no use and can be tossed out because the guy is not going to trade in his BMW for a Ford truck. The same with the Bible, when major discrepancies are encountered, you can either toss out the Bible, or trade in the interpretation you own for one that works. I think one reason it is so hard for people to recognize the proper understanding of the Bible is because they believe it was meant to benefit their lives and make a better world to live in. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you are not suffering as a Christian for Christ sake, you’re not doing it right. And the benefits come much later.

              • 2012-02-13 00:52:20 GMT+0000 - 00:52 | Permalink

                Neil,
                You would do me a special favor if you would identify even one or two or more of these many biblical scholars, more particularly New Testament scholars, whose works you highly respect.

              • 2012-02-13 09:07:02 GMT+0000 - 09:07 | Permalink

                This is like asking me how high is up. It’s an awkward question because names mean little without associating them with specific works I have found to be of interest and value. While I have little time for lots of what N. T. Wright has published, there are nonetheless some sections of his works that I do highly respect. So names that I have got much from in relation to New Testament studies include the following:

                Jeffrey Siker
                Margaret Barker
                Hans Campenhausen
                Steve Mason
                Michael Goulder
                Abraham Malherbe
                John Weaver
                Frank Kermode
                Charles Talbert
                Norman Petersen
                Werner Kelber
                Jacob Neusner
                John Kloppenborg
                Robert Tannehill
                Marianne Bonz
                Troels Engberg-Pedersen
                Randal Argall
                Dennis MacDonald
                Birger Pearson
                Richard Pervo
                Evan Powell
                Ronald Hock
                Whitney Shiner
                John Drury
                Jo-Ann Brant
                Loveday Alexander
                N.T. Wright – yes, there are some sections of his work I do like
                Vernon Robbins
                Herbert Schneidau
                Thomas Brodie
                Udo Schnelle
                Edwin Blackman
                John Knox
                Raymond Brown
                Burton Mack
                Alfred Loisy
                John Spong
                Charles Talbert
                Joseph Tyson
                F. J. Foakes-Jackson
                J. C. O’Neill
                Robert Tannehill
                Stanley Porter
                Henry Cadbury
                Ernst Haenchen
                D. Moody Smith
                Lawrence Wills
                Gerd Ludemann
                Rudolf Bultmann
                Robert Price
                Richard Horsley
                Paul Achtemeier
                Dale Allison
                Albert Schweitzer
                Robert Funk
                E. P. Sanders
                William Wrede
                Jon Levenson
                John Ashton
                April DeConick
                Larry Hurtado
                M. J. J. Menken
                Lawrence Wills
                Joseph Tyson
                Michael Vines
                Howard Clarke Kee
                Jerry Camery –Hoggatt
                Ched Myers
                Robin Scroggs
                T. E. Schmidt
                Michael Patella
                Robert Fowler
                Mary Ann Tolbert
                Theodore Weeden
                Alan Segal
                Eric Franklin
                Adolf von Harnack
                William O. Walker
                Stanley Porter
                Winsome Munro
                Hermann Detering
                Mark Goodacre
                And lots lots more . . . . Most of them are listed in my library page: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/neilgodfrey

  • 2012-02-11 22:40:09 GMT+0000 - 22:40 | Permalink

    Careful Neil, if you get into the habit of showing fidelity to the facts, your days on the Left are numbered.

    John Dawson

    • RoHa
      2012-02-13 14:09:49 GMT+0000 - 14:09 | Permalink

      And the right won’t have you, either.

  • Jock Lenehan
    2012-02-13 11:06:34 GMT+0000 - 11:06 | Permalink

    Congratulations on backing the truth, and proper methods, despite being left inclined, and initially, unwittingly, backing romantic storytelling.

    Fact deficient history should be assigned to the scrap heap, and KW has effected this very efficiently, and singlehandedly.

    The attacks on him, like the “histories” he exposed, were also fact deficient. They questioned his qualifications and his ability, while putting forward no basis.

    Windschuttle is a highly qualified scholar, meticulous in his work, and has been denied the universal accolade which his work deserves.

    • Sam
      2012-02-22 12:30:11 GMT+0000 - 12:30 | Permalink

      Didnt know windschuttle was a qualified historian?

      Napoleon once said – history is lies apon lies agreed to

      Churchill once said – history is writen by the victors

      Even they are honest enough to say writen history does not make it true, records are one aspect to the story, not the whole story, since the hanging of the settlers responsable for the massacre there was a un spoken rule not to keep records, the record keeping in early Australia was very sub standard, by using records alone discredits any account writen, in the wellington shire we still have settlers that refuse to release their family journals for historical reasons because of their involvement in terrible acts of inhumanity, to base any research on physical documents alone is not only themself a discredit but also fails whole of Australian society, I think its the lazy mans way to just use records to avoid any real leg work, what are the standards for information collection for historical research? To much sub standard practices in Australia, its obvious education is the key, especialy when you realise Australian history in not taught in schools at any level, there is now a site where people from the stolen generations can tell their story, the name escapes me but im sure soon we will hear from thousands to tell their side without other claiming they know what happen

      • 2012-02-22 14:07:13 GMT+0000 - 14:07 | Permalink

        Primary evidence is not necessarily limited to physical records. We still have oral testimonies and with certain checks on how we handle those we can arrive at varying degrees of probability.

        As with the question of historical methods as I apply them to Christian origins, the absence of physical evidence or written records does not “discredit” any hypothesis or possibility or what happened. It may make it unverifiable, however. That’s the point. We can’t just make up the evidence we believe should be there.

        The conditions you describe, including the “refusal” of some to release journals, is itself part of the evidence or background to any of the discussion of the written history. Often historians simply do have to wait before records — personal and official — are released. That’s just the nature of the task. But we can’t jump the gun and create from our suspicions or even convictions without some verification.

        The historian does not have to embrace the narrative view of the ‘victors’ when writing such a history from the verifiable evidence, either. The historian can still “tell it how it was” (von Rankean style) and make clear the constraints and the questions lingering in his/her mind.

        You speak of “real leg work”. Agreed. But that leg-work needs to be about collecting verifications for one’s narrative.

        Accepting the methods used by Windschuttle does not mean one has to accept his politics or narrative point of view. But if the methods are valid they cannot be dismissed and replaced with methods that will give us what we want but are not empirically valid.

  • 2016-07-31 21:17:36 GMT+0000 - 21:17 | Permalink

    Why are documents trusted ?
    Documents do not interpret themselves and how can documents be fully validated ?

    Someone could sit down and write an account on the same day as the events and “colour” them to
    fit the views that he wishes to be accepted.

    If you study the “Duke Lacrosse” Rape Incident – the investigating detective wrote down what he wanted
    to hear from witnesses because he wanted the Duke players to be convicted, likewise the District Attorney
    ignored evidence, hid documents and mis-represented the simple facts.

    The Media was convinced the Duke players were guilty.
    Only a Private Investigator, who was able to show that the accusing women was mentally deranged,
    was able to pull the initial threads that unraveled all the lies.

    If atheistic archeologists found, buried in Jerusalem- the Trial Accounts of Pontius Pilate where the trial of Jesus followed the Gospel Accounts –

    – would that convince you that Jesus lived and died ?

    Perhaps.

    But you could argue that early Christians created “The Trial Accounts of Pontius Pilate”
    and some would agree with you – no matter the evidence –
    because they do not want to believe
    that Jesus lived and died.

    If you wish to doubt all oral histories then almost all of history is lost to you.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-07-31 22:28:51 GMT+0000 - 22:28 | Permalink

      Good question, but your proposal is not good. Scholars do not — I certainly do not — blindly “trust documents”. I have posted often on how historians work and one of the most important steps is to first test and assess the sources for reliability and authenticity.

      It sounds as if you believe we should just trust documents that support your beliefs. Why do you trust them?

      Let me know if you are genuinely interested in how sources are tested for authenticity and reliability. I am happy to discuss and outline the processes.

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