Monday, February 27, 2012

Anything More Than Legend?

'Cause for me, there's a difference between proving the historical and geographical record...
...and declaring belief in something that I have yet to find the evidence to support the existence of.
Was there a Jesus? Yes. Are his deeds anything more than legend? Can't say.
You know me...I've got to see the proof!
- Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth #1
by Robert James Luedke

In his book New Testament History: A Narrative Account, Ben Witherington III makes a clear distinction between what he personally believes and what he historically can conclude.
Something needs to be said at this juncture about the limits of historical inquiry. The most that a historian can establish about events in the past is a good probability one way or another that this or that event did or did not happen. There is no such thing as absolute certainty about such matters, if we are talking about the kind of certainty intellectual inquiry of historical sources can deliver. Thus, the reader needs to be aware that when in this study I say, for instance, "The historical evidence favors the probability that Jesus had an inner circle of twelve disciples," I have put the matter in this way, not because I have any serious personal doubts about this matter, but because a historian must not allow his or her piety to outrun the evidence as it can be marshaled on a particular historical matter. To put the matter another way, I as the author of this monograph believe a good deal more than I can prove. [Emphasis Added]
"I believe a good deal more than I can prove." I think all members of ministry - preachers, speakers, writers - need to remember this line. Too often Christians present their faith as empirical, demonstrable fact. But this is misleading to others as well as ourselves. We simply do not have the historical evidence to backup all that we believe. That's why it is belief. I've rambled about this issue before.

I just really like Witherington's quote.

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