RE: Ramm's flood

jeffery lynn mullins (
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 09:29:23 -0400 (EDT)


This is something that needs to be pointed out. It needs to be made
clear that historicity does not depend upon reporting in time-ordered
sequence. The events of the gospel of Matthew all happened whether all
of the material included in the "Sermon on the Mount" occurred at the
same time or not, for example. The key is that it all happened, the
words are of Jesus, and the events and words were not made up by others
after the life of Christ.

There is an analogy in the case of interpreting "literally". The
layperson (and critics of Christianity, or those ignorant of Christian
theology) often do not understand that to have a literal hermeneutic is
to take poetry as literally poetry, metaphor as literally metaphor, etc.
It is authorial intent that counts.

One final thought: we must determine which part of Scripture is of which
genre, but we dare not determine which is true and which is not, or what
portion of the record of Christ's words and deeds are historical and
which are not.

Jeff Mullins

On Tue, 9 Apr 1996, Peter Vibert wrote:

> 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
> >history...
> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
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