Inconsistency in Historiography

Does the NT get treated differently than other works? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ancient history can be difficult. For that matter, so can modern history. We can have a hard time piecing together events that happened yesterday if we try to remember them. For ancient history, there are definitely no memory accounts today that are oral. Instead, we rely largely on archaeology and written documents.

Yet when it comes to Jesus, we find that while these methods generally serve us well, the rules change when He shows up.

We are often told about how important it is to have eyewitness testimony. Now by and large, that’s always great, but what about someone like Alexander the Great? What about someone like Hannibal? We do not have contemporary accounts of the existence of these people, and these people both did remarkable things. Alexander conquered the world around the age of 30! Isn’t that something worth mentioning? Hannibal was a general that nearly conquered the Roman Empire. Isn’t that something worth mentioning?

And yet, contemporaries are silent.

Now someone could say that we have archaeological evidence such as coins of Alexander the Great. Wonderful. We also have coins of Zeus. Now I’m not saying the coins of Alex are useless. I do affirm he existed and did indeed conquer the world. I’m just pointing out the differences in methodology.

But now what we will be told is “Yeah, but none of these others are claimed to have risen from the dead and have a religion based on them. For that kind of claim, we need to have some sort of extraordinary evidence!”

Because we all know conquering the world and nearly conquering the Roman Empire are not extraordinary claims to make about someone in the ancient world at all.

The more important point to realize is that the standards have indeed changed. Yet if we are to have a consistent methodology, how can it be that we have one if we change the standards based on the kind of claim that we see? Why not use the same standards? If you don’t have to have eyewitness testimony for Alexander and Hannibal, why is it a necessity for Jesus? (To which we do have eyewitness testimony. I don’t encounter people with a refutation of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Bauckham.)

Now I’m not saying don’t be skeptical. Skepticism is fine. In fact, I’d say every apologist in the world can understand someone being skeptical of the claim. What I have a problem with is unreasonable skepticism, the kind that says that I will only believe in the resurrection if God Himself appeared to me. (To which, I think most of these people would still disbelieve even then and chalk it up to a hallucination.)

The only statement I wish to make here is let’s simply be consistent. If we are not, then the skeptic is proving the Christian right in that the Bible is treated by a different standard than every other work out there in ancient history. Could it be the skeptic might be frightened what he will come across if he uses the same standard?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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