Biblical Studies and Classics

I enjoy listening to podcasts in different subjects.  I am currently listening to a classics podcast on Greek history from an Ivy League university and a New Testament podcast from a liberal/secular perspective.  There is something interesting that I have noticed.  In the area of biblical studies there is an extreme skepticism.  There has to be at least multiple attestation for an event or saying to be even considered a candidate for being historical.  We are reminded over and over that because of the nature of our sources, we really can know almost nothing about Jesus.  When we switch to the area of classics, the methodology is much different.  While classical scholars hope for multiple attestation, they do not reject something that appears only once.  They readily use sources that are just as biased, if not more, than the Gospels.  They will put together history with what they can piece together, often reading between the lines.  There seems to be much less skepticism.  The classical scholar I have been listening to speaks of having a “higher naivete” by which he means unless something is contradicted by other sources or archaeology, he assumes a text recording history is innocent until proven guilty.  If only, biblical scholars could learn from the openness of classical scholars.

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2 thoughts on “Biblical Studies and Classics”

  1. At most, I think this “openness” would get you the sayings of Jesus. When a scholar reads a description of a Temple of Athena defending itself with magic, they do not consider it historical until proven otherwise – quite the opposite. It’s not just archaeology and other historical sources that can disconfirm something – we have to understand it against scientific knowledge too. Following that, virgin births, miracles, and resurrections are not known to happen. In short, some of the most important things you want to take from the stories do not fall under even this very open (in my opinion, too open) attitude.

  2. Fair enough. I don’t expect this attitude to get me all of the miracles and resurrection. However, what I find is people look at the Gospels and reject sayings, events, places, times and even the existence of Jesus. The skepticism in biblical studies is far beyond what is found in areas of historical scholarship.

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