RE: Ramm's flood

Peter Vibert (
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 13:19:55 -0400

Terry wrote (in response to Glenn...)

>... the historical reliability of the gospel
>manuscripts and the gospel accounts is very important. They reliably
>communicate to me who Jesus was and what he did...The
>reliability of the Genesis accounts are much less central to my acceptance
>of the authority of the Bible for several reasons: 1) the difficulty of
>the genre--I'm not sure that any Biblical accounts are straightforward
>didactic history; they all have some theological agenda that colors the

Terry is surely right that in some sense the Gospels are more historically
"reliable" than Genesis (relative ease of finding external corroboration,
amount of detail provided etc. - by virtue of time elapsed, as Alice has
emphasized), but the "difficulty of the genre" and the "theological agenda
that colors history" are major issues in interpreting the Gospels, as well
as Genesis.

The problem is to know which passages are 'historical' and which are not,
and perhaps just as important,to know what standards of 'historicity'
apply. If I come to the Gospels expecting a linear chronology of The Life
of Jesus, I quickly run into big problems over "historical reliability".
But if I come to understand something of what genre "a gospel" is, I will
then recognize the extent to which materials have been grouped by each
Gospel writer to make his point. And in the process, I will learn that what
*appears* to us to be "historical narrative" can be more of a literary
device to tie thematically related material together - and that *by the
historical standards of the day* there was nothing wrong with this.

Does this sound like 'giving away the store' on the historical reliability
of even the New Testament? Many people in the pew would think so. Yet this
is what your pastor was taught in seminary, what the commentaries say, and
what the academic biblical community believes. If we scientists are to
avoid being naive about the "historicity" of Scripture, we need to learn
some biblical scholarship and stop applying to Scripture overly simple
ideas about 'fact' and 'proof' that we would not think of applying
elsewhere (see Mark Noll's "The Scandal of The Evangelical Mind").


Peter J. Vibert
Senior Scientist Interim Pastor
Rosenstiel Basic Medical The Congregational Church
Sciences Research Center in North Chelmsford
Brandeis University 15 Princeton Street
PO Box 9110, Waltham, MA 02254 N. Chelmsford, MA 01863

tel: (617) 736-4947 tel: (508) 251-1261
fax: (617) 736-2419