Monday, April 23, 2007

Bob: Ehrman on history and the bible

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?
A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
March 28, 2006

This is not directly related to evolution or Darwin.

However, I have several reasons for posting it.

1) It has a interesting discussion by Dr. Ehrman of how history is studied. To give you some idea, I have posted an extended quote below. This part does apply to our study of Darwin.

2) It illustrates the clash between academia and religion and possibly even the pointlessness of such debates. Thoughts on this??? It is clear that if you want to be an effective debater, you had better be an expert on your opponent's subject.

3) Dr. Ehrman will be on campus this week. Unfortunately, his talk is during our class.


"Let me begin by explaining in simple terms what it is that historians do. Historians try to establish to the best of their ability what probably happened in the past. We can’t really know the past because the past is done with. We think we know that past in some instances because we have such good evidence for what happened in the past, but in other cases we don’t know, and in some cases we just have to throw up our hands in despair.

It is relatively certain that Bill Clinton won the election in 1996. It may be somewhat less clear who won the election next time. It’s pretty clear that Shakespeare wrote his plays, but there’s considerable debate. Why? It was hundreds of years ago, and scholars come up with alternative opinions. It’s probable that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, but we don’t have a lot of eyewitness testimony. Historians try to establish levels of probability of what happened in the past. Some things are absolutely certain, some are probable, some are possible, some are “maybe,” some are “probably not.”

What kinds of evidence do scholars look for when trying to establish probabilities in the past? Well, the best kind of evidence, of course, consists of contemporary accounts; people who were close to the time of the events themselves. Ultimately, if you don’t have a source that goes back to the time period itself, then you don’t have a reliable source. There are only two sources of information for past events: either stories that actually happened based on, ultimately, eyewitness accounts or stories that have been made up. Those are the only two kinds of stories you have from the past – either things that happened or things that were made up. To determine which things are the things that happened, you want contemporary accounts, things that are close to the time of the events themselves, and it helps if you have a lot of these accounts. The more the merrier! You want lots of contemporary accounts, and you want these accounts to be independent of one another. You don’t want different accounts to have collaborated with one another; you want accounts that are independently attesting the results. Moreover, even though you want accounts that are independent of one another, that are not collaborated, you want accounts that corroborate one another; accounts that are consistent in what they have to say about the subject. Moreover, finally, you want sources that are not biased toward the subject matter. You want accounts that are disinterested. You want lots of them, you want them independent from one another, yet you want them to be consistent with one another."

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman

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