Alice Fulton (Alice-fulton@uiowa.edu)
Mon, 8 Apr 1996 11:59:52 -0500

Glenn -

Since you brought up propositional logic, I want to say that I think you
see a conflict between taking scripture seriously and science seriously
because you are using the word "historical" as if it had one meaning, when
in fact it has three.

Events are historical (sense 1) by definition (that which occurs in time;
let's leave aside the idea of "eternal events" for now).

Truths (statements that describe relations that are the case) can be either
historical (sense 2) (ie describe events truthfully: "Caesar fought in
Gaul") or ahistorical (ie describe relations that obtain independent of
time: "2 + 2 = 4").

Reports are more or less historical (sense 3) depending upon the
relationship between what is reported and the reporter (closeness in time,
eyewitness or second hand status, etc). Note that this definition involves
no theology and a bare minimum of metaphysics. (this doesn't mean that a
"Life of Caesar" written in the twentieth century is less historical than
"Caesar's Gallic Wars"; such a biography is an analysis of reports, not a
report itself).

Here is a criterion independent of theology and literary criticism that
allows a reader to distinguish among the different parts of scripture.
According to it, we could make the following scale:

reporter most distant from events
reporter closest to events
Genesis Flood Exodus Kings
life of Jesus

This offers a rational, non-theological reason to treat the accounts of
Genesis and the flood differently than the accounts of King David and
Jesus. Note that all these accounts might include truths that are
ahistorical; those have to be judged by other, non-historical criteria.

I'll add at this point that the evidence convinces me that all four gospels
were almost certainly written before 70 A.D. and that the authors of
Matthew and John were eyewitnesses. My belief in this is based on
historical, philological and literary grounds and does not depend upon
shared theological premises. The new book by Carsten Thiede, "Eyewitness to
Jesus" describes the evidence that the Magdalen fragments of Matthew were
written mid-first century (probably c. 62); it includes citations to most
of this evidence and is fascinating in its own right.