Thursday, July 11, 2019

AN INTERESTING QUESTION FROM THE LIONS' DEN

   Today, we came across a good article from our Blogroll at the site The Lions' Den. An Atheist had asked the author that's been around for a long time, to wit:

   "Question: Can a biblical historian be thoroughly objective as a Christian and retain their integrity?"

   The first thing that I would note is that I haven't seen much objectivity of any kind, on any subject, from historians in a long time. But that aside, the question was specifically about Biblical History: and that has been among the least objective subjects in modern historical research. The two main reasons for this is that (1) ever since the 18th Century or so, there have been a cadre of 'progressives' in Academia who desire a complete split between Biblical morality and Academic research; and (2) in more recent time, Christian controversies are one of the few literary genres which it's still profitable to produce. As proof of this, consider how many 'lost books of the Bible' are supposedly discovered, it seems, every other year. In contrast, there hasn't been a lost writing of a contemporary Graeco-Roman writer discovered in well over a century.

  In most cases, historians are simply repeating what others before them have said, and are playing to audiences who already want to hear what's being said. 

  The Bible itself is a mixture of history, literature, philosophy, and theology; and most historians are so tunnel-visioned that they miss the bigger picture by focusing on minor details. 'Oh come on, now' someone may say, 'You don't really believe that a whale swallowed Jonah and that his preaching converted Nineveh. There's no historical record of that!' To which we'd point out that 150 years ago, it was the consensus of the Academic Elite that no such place as Nineveh ever existed.


     Or, conversely, the story of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still during a battle. That couldn't possibly have happened, right?

    "The silver sun … was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and the people fell on their knees on the muddy ground. … The light turned a beautiful blue as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. … People wept and prayed with uncovered heads in the presence of the miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they."---reported by the Portuguese newspaper O Dia on the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, 1917. This newspaper previously had been deriding the Fatima Apparitions as mass hysteria.

  Prior to WW2, there were many in Academia who argued and wrote books 'proving' that Christ Himself never existed, but was based on various pagan solar myths. Any professor  today who denied an Historical Jesus would get laughed off the podium, even by his fellow-Atheists. 

   The only actual historical inaccuracies I have ever noticed with Biblical History from the traditional side are not with the Bible itself, but with erroneous times and places assigned to these events by fallible men. 

   If a person is connected to a university today and travels to the Levantine Countries, there's no shortage of people with Biblical-Era 'artifacts' for sale. The uniqueness of these artifacts correspond both with the amount of cash and gullibility that the historian can come up with. This is common in most of these kinds of places. During the Mayan Calendar Hoax of 2012, there were old 'shamans' popping up all over Central America who---for a price---would reveal the deep secrets of Mayan Prophecy to foreign researchers. The same is also true in Central Africa. Around Lake Victoria, scientists can buy 'fossils' of all sorts of hitherto-undiscovered specimens of prehistoric man. 

   In other words, Christians shouldn't get too distracted by these kinds of issues. There are many unexplained phenomena in the world---and the Bible which sees the whole scope of human history has many parts that people understood in the past which we cannot fully comprehend today. It works the other way, too. Many of the enigmas in the Revelation of St. John are incomprehensible to us, but Christians of the future times to which they refer will understand their import. Research is always necessary; but Faith and Humility must always play a part. 
    

   
   

23 comments:

  1. Atheists. Ugh. I've noticed one thing they have in common. Whatever science they support is an absolute right. If you look objectively at science - the fact is - science is always wrong. It is man's effort to make a crude approximation of God's splendor.

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    1. About a decade ago, DNA research estimated that all human life today is descended from a single pair of humans who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. But if you look at any Evolutionist writings from about 25 years ago and before, they will insist that it is categorically impossible for human life to have descended from a single couple---and certainly not within the scope of 250,000 years. Scientists keep debunking themselves on a regular basis.

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  2. Which parts of the bible do you consider to be historical fact and which not? Adam and Eve perhaps, or Jonah and the Whale ( to use your example)

    And how do you discern fact from myth?

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    1. The Bible itself doesn't really contain myths (as we commonly understand that term). Christ admitted that He taught in parables---the underlying story may not be historically true, but the fact that Christ taught them and the principles that He elucidated, are. As far as the Old Testament is concerned, the same concept generally applies. It has to be understood in the context of how Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek literature etc, was expressed. Certain parts of the OT are clearly poetic, but are bringing across eternal truths.

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    2. Adam and Eve, Noah's Flood Exodus are all foundation myths.
      This is acknowledged by pretty much all biblical scholars and genuine historians - except innerantist and YEC- and based on evidence.

      If they are not true then they are fiction.

      So once again,which tales in the bible do you consider to be historical fact and which not?
      And how do you specifically discern fact form fiction?



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    3. I would argue that we don't know that these are 'foundation myths'. 'DNA Adam' is not a myth; but we know nothing (scientifically) about his origin. As for Noah's Flood, we've had several similar ones right here on the West Coast:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods

      The Exodus was well-known in Ancient History. Tacitus, the Roman historian, gave several contemporary accounts and theories about it. As for your other question about which parts of the Bible are historical: it's too broad a question to be answered specifically. Some parts are parables, some are prophecies yet unfulfilled. As for discerning which is which, the Church has published thousands of essays on questionable portions of Scripture. As a layman, though, I generally accept narratives which are clearly parable or poetic as 'fictional' though meant to convey a point. However, I'd be careful about using the term 'fictional' since the truths they contain are greater than whether or not the narrated story matches with history.

      Another important consideration is the context, especially in the OT relating to numeric figures in history. Ancient and Mediaeval writers commonly used large numbers simply to signify large numbers, since Mathematics wasn't widely studied then. Though I don't follow his theology, Baron Swedenborg suggested that great ages ascribed to Patriarchs in Genesis referred to Dynastic Periods.

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    5. The HGP has refuted any notion of an original breeding pair as per the biblical tale.
      There is no evidence for the Exodus ( nor Captivity or Conquest)as portrayed in the bible.

      I am referring to specific claims regarded as historical events.
      Adam and Eve,Flood, Captivity, Exodus, Conquest,Empty tomb Resurrection.
      There is no evidence for any of these.
      Myth, or if you prefer a slightly softer answer, Historical Fiction.

      July 14, 2019 at 12:24 PM

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    6. I think that all of those things that you mentioned are historically true. That being said, though, I do believe that some interpreters---both Christian and otherwise---have drawn some incorrect historical conclusions from time to time. For example, what I know of Roman history implies that the Crucifixion and Resurrection took place at a later year than either tradition (33 AD) or secular history (29-30 AD) believes. The events described make logical and historical sense if the dates were actually around 36-37 AD.

      And the HGP would have no way of knowing how God created a soul.

      But all of this brings up the question of objectivity that you raised initially. Biblical History today seems obsessed with either 'debunking' tradition or upholding it---and no one is thinking outside the box anymore. A good example is the 'Q Document' Theory. There's no evidence whatsoever that such a thing ever existed, yet it's taught as historical fact. No one would ever concoct a theory like that to 'explain away' the similarities in Tacitus' and Livy's and Suetonius' extant writings. They'd miss all the truths about Roman History doing that; just like they miss the import of the Bible.

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    7. ''I think that all of those things that you mentioned are historically true.''
      Except that what you think is immaterial to what the evidence tells us, which is that they are all myth.
      As you are unable to produce a single scrap of evidence why on earth should we give your beliefs any credence whatsoever when the science has shown a completely different perspective?
      ''And the HGP would have no way of knowing how God created a soul.''
      Can you not understand the blatant assumptions in this sentence?
      God and soul with absolutely no evidence to support them.

      I also don't accept Q. The Quelle source was postulated to try to explain all the loose ends. I suspect no one was willing to risk their academic credibility by stating the obvious - they are simply tales of historical fiction - no source needed. Period.

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  3. Well said. People seemed to forget (or never knew) that the "academic consensus" about historical things were not infallible and have been wrong many many times. Of course, things pertaining to the Bible tend to be the most well-known when it comes to examples but there are others too.

    There was a time when the academic consensus was that the city of Troy (of the Trojan War fame) did not exist and was simply a Greek myth...until the archaeological site of the city was discovered in 1870.

    Many scholars around the 20th century believed that the Carthaginian practice of infant sacrifice was a malicious myth made by the Romans to justify their conquest of them during the Punic Wars. Of course, then we discovered archaeological evidence to the contrary.

    Even Chinese history isn't free from them as many scholars contended that the Xia Dynasty, the Chinese dynasty was a myth before archaeologists managed to discover sites that seemed to confirm the oral and traditional historical stories.

    It's as if the ancients know more than our arrogant scholars give them credit for.

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    1. Thank you---I agree totally. Most of these scholars forget that an estimated 90% of ancient literature was lost when the Alexandrian Library burned. I don't think that these ancient writers were just making up these stories as they went along.

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    2. There is still no firm agreement regarding Schliemann's discovery.

      Irrespective, this still does not detract from the fact that, much of the bible is simply geopolitical myth and historical fiction.
      Evidence is all that should count and no evidence has been produced to confirm the stories that form the foundational tenets of Christianity, from Adam and Eve through to the narratives of the Gospel in the New Testament

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    3. "There is still no firm agreement regarding Schliemann's discovery."

      There are skeptics and detractors to be sure, but that doesn't change the fact that the general consensus is that Schilemann had discovered the historic Troy.

      "Irrespective, this still does not detract from the fact that, much of the bible is simply geopolitical myth and historical fiction."

      So you have asserted.

      "Evidence is all that should count and no evidence has been produced to confirm the stories that form the foundational tenets of Christianity, from Adam and Eve through to the narratives of the Gospel in the New Testament"

      Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But regardless, just because you assert it does not make it so. You say that these events had no evidence, there are others who begged to differ. So who should we believe? And don't give me that nonsense about "biblical scholars and genuine historians." The reason I posted my initial comment was to establish that the academic consensus was not infallible and prone to errors.

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    4. Feel free to offer evidence for any of the foundational tenets of Christianity.

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    5. Sorry, but I will not be roped into threadjacking this blog. A quick Google search will easily land you thousands (if not more) hits of the sort of articles you desire. If you do so, you will have the evidence you supposedly wanted. As long as you have the open mind for it, that is.

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    6. I am being specific in asking for evidence for any of the foundational tenets of Christianity.
      There is no thread jacking. You either can offer examples of evidence or you cannot.
      Personally, I am unaware of any evidence to support the foundational claims Christians make,but then, I am not a Christian.
      However, as you are a believer, evidence should be easy for you to present.

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    7. Like I said a quick Google search would really help you if you truly are sincerely looking for such a thing.

      Here's some links, I get them through just such a thing:

      https://kenboa.org/apologetics/how-accurate-is-the-bible/

      https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/how-a-29-year-old-g-k-chesterton-flipped-4-arguments-against-christianity-upside-down/

      https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/is-there-any-evidence-for-jesus-outside-the-bible/

      https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2016/march/incredible-proof-for-why-you-should-have-faith-in-the-bible

      https://www.afa.net/the-stand/faith/2018/11/adam-and-eve-genetic-science-confirms-bible-again/

      Now I don't necessarily 100% agree with all of them but I posted them simply to prove my earlier point. There are way more you could find.

      If you want to say that there is no "smoking gun" sort of evidence for Christianity and its "foundational tenets" than you are probably correct. Christianity (like most religions) also asks its believers to have faith and not only that, it also encourages mystery. It's not a hyper-rationalistic religion in which everything can be explained in a single paragraph.

      The First Vatican Council even pronounced: "If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called (vera et proprie dicta mysteria), but that through reason rightly developed (per rationem rite excultam) all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema."

      Does that mean that Christians believe everything without reason? No, otherwise Christian apologetics wouldn't be a thing. However, you could not reasonably expect everything to remain the way they are after about 2000 years. Back then, people could probably ascertain for themselves the empty tomb or relics such as the True Cross. However, the ravages of time (and war) means that we couldn't do this anymore.

      Don't take it personally, but I have other things to do than getting engulfed in an argument on the internet. The reason I post this is to show that such evidence can be easily found in the age of the Internet.

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    8. Except all of these are apologetics and none offer evidence.
      It seems you don't actually understand what evidence is and referencing sites that include McDowell and Wallace would seem to confirm this.

      If I asked you to offer evidence that Harry Potter was real and was able to perform all the magical things we read in the JK Rowling novels you would probably laugh at me.
      Don't take it personally, but perhaps now you will appreciate a little better what I mean when I ask for evidence.
      Oh, and for goodness sake, please don't next reference Strobel.


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    9. It all sounds like you simply dismiss people who disagree with you out of hand. You keep using the word "evidence" but I don't think you know what that word actually means.

      After all, you made a rather bold assertion about how much of the Bible is "geopolitical myth" and "historical fiction" without much "evidence" to back up said assertion.

      Also, I'm not sure what the Harry Potter reference is meant to do other than a simple cheap shot at Christians (like me).

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  4. I know what evidence is otherwise I would not have stated the bible is largely geopolitical myth.
    I dismiss apologists because their views are entirely faith based.
    There is no evidence for Exodus (including Captivity and Conquest)
    And there is no evidence for the Resurrection or the empty tomb.

    Mentioning Harry Potter is , in fact an excellent comparison.
    I could also have used James Bond.
    If you understand the term historical fiction then you will understand the comparison of these characters to the characters Moses and Jesus of Nazareth as portrayed in the bible.

    To spell it out. There is no evidence for any of these characters.

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    1. If you dismiss apologists because of their biases then you should also dismiss every scholar out there (religious or otherwise) because their views are also biased. Like I said, you're just dismissing people who disagree with you.

      I do understand what "historial fiction" is. The fact that you unironically thought that the Bible is one tells me that you don't know what the term means.

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  5. I dismiss apologists because they have never produced evidence for their claims, not because of any bias.
    The historical fiction of the bible represents a ficticious narrative overlaid upon a recognised geopolitical background.

    Acts is a very good example.

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