Historical Methods (with reference to the study of Christian Origins/Historicity of Jesus)

In progress . . . . (begun 18th Dec 2018)

“Early” certainly tells us much about the person or events, but “what” it actually tells us may be the very opposite from the “true” person or events.

Illustrating how the methods of renowned historian G. R. Elton contrast with the typical “proof-texting” debates over the question of James, the Brother of the Lord.

The titles of the above three posts are self-explanatory

The hermeneutic of charity is what some New Testament scholars (e.g. Richard Bauckham) have termed the goodness, the rightness, of believing a testimony by default — unless and until we are given a reason to doubt it. It is usually opposed rhetorically to the idea of the hermeneutic of suspicion.

It is refreshing to come out of the mire of historical Jesus studies and dogmatism and see how historical questions and handling of evidence, when done validly and comprehensively, can lead to something far more interesting than a stubborn X did or said, or did not do or say, Y. There is certainly a place for knowing basic facts, obviously. But before we can ever validly tackle a past that we must necessarily reconstruct, it is absolutely necessary first and foremost to tackle the literary evidence before our eyes.

Davies points out that what is uncontroversial in any other field of ancient history runs into trouble when suggested in the field of New Testament studies:

[S]urely the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear, or even to work out what kind of historical research might be appropriate. Such a normal exercise should hardly generate controversy in most fields of ancient history, but of course New Testament studies is not a normal case and the highly emotive and dismissive language of, say, Bart Ehrman’s response to Thompson’s The Mythic Past (recte: The Messiah Myth) shows (if it needed to be shown), not that the matter is beyond dispute, but that the whole idea of raising this question needs to be attacked, ad hominem, as something outrageous. This is precisely the tactic anti-minimalists tried twenty years ago: their targets were ‘amateurs’, ‘incompetent’, and could be ignored.

 

 

 


To be vetted:

2012-03-26 The Democratization of Knowledge and the Reaction of Reactionary Scholars

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Neil Godfrey

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