Monday, 24 May 2010

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels III

The old canard that drives a wedge between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, and that places the Gospels firmly in the latter category, still seems to me a methodological error. Faith in Christ does not mean that Christians can't write history without fabricating it. The Gospels have a great deal more credibility than the sceptics (both believing and non-believing) allow. Richard Bauckham in his Eyewitnesses, and NT Wright's trilogy on the historical Jesus and the resurrection are persuasive in advocating a less sceptical view of the Gospels, and demonstrate the Gospels' historical value.

Indeed, it is because of the history of Jesus (not despite it) that there is any faith at all; history has always been central in Christianity. However, the Gospels weren't written merely as history, for the history they narrate invites us to do more than look into the past. Jesus, his history and history-like resurrection appearances, beckons for more. A faith response is that more. But this faith, which is more than corroborated historical claims, always includes in some way historical or history-like claims. This doesn't mean that we can't be critical of historical claims made in the Gospels. Of course we can, but to drive a wedge between history and faith is methodological prejudice. There is no need to assume the Gospel writers were indulging their appetite for fantasy when they wrote the Gospels. One has to show this to be the case, as can be shown with the spurious non-canonical Gospels.

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