How Historians Do History — Vridar Posts and Pages Catchup

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by Neil Godfrey

I have begun to sift through my many, many posts on historical methodology with special reference to its application to the question of Christian origins (or as some would prefer, to the question of the “historical Jesus”). They are not at all necessarily the same question.

Over the coming weeks, or probably coming months, I hope to sift through and add to the new Vridar Page,  Historical Methods (with reference to the study of Christian Origins/Historicity of Jesus)

You can see it listed under ARCHIVES by TOPIC, Annotated in the margin on the right side of this blog.


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6 thoughts on “How Historians Do History — Vridar Posts and Pages Catchup”

    1. Licona talks about ‘horizons’ (from 8.26), firstly as ‘how we interpret our world’ (huh?) and then as composing of a grab-bag of ‘factors’ such as race, political affiliations, etc etc, (huh?, again), and then says ‘horizons are like eyeglasses that we all wear … whose lenses give a somewhat distorted picture of our world, which is why we can all look at the same data and come at different conclusions’ (ha!). At 9.15-18, he then says “well, that happens with historians as well” as he touches his nose – a clear body-language give-away he’s uncomfortable with what he is saying.

      1. I was interested in Crossan’s presentation, particularly with his identification with Thomas Aquinas and his “horizons” or presumption of the validity of both revelation and reason together. That explains much, including why he could mention that other “scholars” question the existence of Jesus and sweep that point aside.

        He seems to confuse two different applications of “metaphor” so that his discussion of the relationship between metaphor and literal meanings becomes confused, fallacious even.

        I could never have noticed those central points in his work years back. I think I must be learning over time.

  1. Around the 21st minute Mike Licona says that we can only know that Jesus was crucified by means of the “criteria of authenticity”. That, to me, underlines the faith nature of the criteria. The crucifixion is presented to us as a theological truth, not a historical one. Normative historical methods do not allow us to say it really happened. As a theological truth it was the dramatic highlight (alongside the resurrection) of Jesus and something that Paul boasted about. In other words, no embarrassment. No historicity by means of normative standards of historians. Faith through and through.

  2. About 48 mins Crossan says (as far as I could understand his words) that bedrock basic for knowing the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus (and that Jesus was crucified for nonviolent resistance) are Tacitus and Josephus.

  3. I am sure I also heard Crossan actually say that if we only had the Gospel of Luke and no other gospels then he (we) would be obliged to believe it. After all, he explained, I am sure, someone must have seen what happened and it was then written down. Because we have the other gospels, Crossan explained, he can see what the authors are doing and that they are writing “metaphors” rather than literal historical events.

    In other words, if I understood all the above correctly, not even Crossan is a “serious historian” but first and foremost a serious theologian who sees himself following in the footsteps of Thomas Aquinas: reason and revelation go together, but if I understand correctly, revelation will always necessarily guide reason.

    I sympathized with the audience choosing to favour the apologist Licona over the “critical historian” Crossan: Licona’s apologist arguments were surely more true to what we read in the New Testament. Crossan seems to have found a philosophy he believes in and is interpreting Jesus and Paul in a way to support his ideal of nonviolent activism in causes of justice and peace.

    I was reminded of Earl Doherty’s explanation for how Mark’s symbolic tale was soon enough interpreted literally: when it comes to life and death then philosophy and metaphor be damned, we want to know if we really can come back from the dead. That’s how some of the audience explained their preference for Licona against Crossan. I can imagine that’s how it kind of began 2000 years ago, too.

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