How would one learn the truth about a person from history? Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington…anyone we wanted to learn about who preceded our arrival on planet earth. A fair questioner could ask if we have a high level of certainty that the aforementioned individuals actually lived. The same questioner could then go about using the Historical Method to determine the legitimacy of the claims made about these people. He may then weigh the forensic evidence that these people lived their lives in particular ways. In order to learn about these leaders from the past, or any other person from the past, requires that we first search for literature, archaeological evidence, and other clues that allude to their existence.
The Historical Method is a means for collecting data to discover what has transpired in the past. When investigating purported events, whether alleged to have occurred a month ago or a millennium ago, all evidence must be examined to determine the accuracy of reports. When reviewing historical writings (often referred to as textual criticism) there are numerous factors that historians consider.
1. Authorship—was the person an eyewitness to the events they are reporting, a primary source. Or, was the person a secondary source, that is, did they get their information directly from a primary source.
a.Motivation of the writer. Was there a motive for the writer to communicate falsehood or truth?
2. Dating—how much time has passed since the events occurred and when the author wrote his/her account.
3. Manuscripts—Original or a copy? If a copy?
a.Accuracy compared to the original. Deduced through comparing multiple copies looking for textual variants.
i.How early are the copies? How many do we have? These factors help assure the veracity of the copies.
There are many other criteria that may be considered when researching history, but these are some of the important ones. I will not begin to examine the New Testament accounts of Jesus, or even go into the Old Testament documents in today’s blog entry. I am only wanting to establish that there is a means for discovering historical fact or at least a means for determining whether there is good evidence for purported events. I also want to establish that it is IMPOSSIBLE to discover historical truth through the scientific method. Scientific inquiry is of great value in determining scientific truth. It is useless with unrepeatable events such as births. You and I have a birthdate. Science will not reveal that to us. Historical documents such as our Birth Certificates, Passports, newspaper articles about us, biographies written about us, etc. are how one would learn about us.
Later in this series we will assess historical documents in reference to the God of the Bible, including the Bible itself, as well as other Christian and non-Christian references. Next however, we will examine the evidence for a Creator/God from nature including life on earth as well as the apparent design of the universe. This, “argument from design” is often referred to as the Teleological Argument.
Until next time.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.