Ehrman, Evans, Stewart - Can We Trust

Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, Robert B. Stewart - Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?
History is necessarily an interpretive task. One cannot separate history from hermeneutics. Before one can make a historical judgment related to a text, one must first engage in a hermeneutical quest for meaning. The first step in reading any text is to ask what it means, what it intends to communicate to its readers. Even after the initial hermeneutical work is done, more hermeneutical work may be required. John Dominic Crossan helpfully distinguishes between the mode of the resurrection and the meaning of the resurrection. “Mode” has to do with whether language is to be taken literally or historically (Jesus was a peasant from Nazareth) or metaphorically (Jesus is the Lamb of God). “Meaning” has to do with the implications of a text (whether taken literally/historically or metaphorically).
History is also the interpretation of human actions, in particular the interpretation of the motivations of significant figures for choosing to act as they did, and what they hoped to achieve through such actions. Though some history involves the retelling of things like natural disasters—such as tornados and earthquakes, which can at one level be explained scien-tifically—most history focuses upon the individual persons whose choices or opinions were decisive at crucial moments in wars, politics, the economy, social movements, or scientific breakthroughs (though obviously historians also write on more mundane subjects like entertainment or sports). For this reason historians sometimes write anthropomorphically, such as “Hitler invaded Poland” or “Lincoln ended slavery.” On the other hand, sometimes individual choices are institutionalized such that historians speak in metonymy, as in “the White House announced today that the meeting is off.”
History proceeds on the basis of inferences. Actions are public, but thoughts are private. Therefore historians must infer what motivates a person to act and what the person was attempting to achieve through the act being studied. Sometimes historical figures, or earlier historians writing about them, will state their reasons for acting, but even then historians must infer whether to believe those persons or not. Even when historical figures are truthful, there may still be more to the story than they admit (or sometimes even realize themselves). Simply put, the figures about whom historians write have their own agendas; thus historians need to recognize such agendas and critically interpret what those persons say.

Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, Robert B. Stewart - Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?

Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, - 2020. - 112 pp.
ISBN 9780664265854 (paperback) 
ISBN 9781646980017 (ebook)

Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, Robert B. Stewart - Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus? - Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction: History, Historians, and Trusting 
  • Robert B. Stewart - Historical Texts
  • History and Historians
  • Trusting Historical Texts
  • What’s at Stake?
  • Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus? - A Dialogue between Bart D. Ehrman and Craig A. Evans
  • Bart Ehrman: Opening Statement
  • Craig Evans: Opening Statement
  • Bart Ehrman: Response
  • Craig Evans: Response
  • Bart Ehrman: Conclusion
  • Craig Evans: Conclusion
  • Questions and Answers
  • Robert B. Stewart - The State of the Quest for the Historical Jesus
  • Robert B. Stewart - Further Reading


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