Re: NTSE Report #1 (fwd)

Murphy (
Sat, 01 Mar 1997 07:40:33 -0500

Glenn Morton wrote:

> Sure my reconstruction is unproven, but it allows for the incorporation of
> large regions of science with the Scripture.

You _a priori_ assumption seems to be that this text must
somehow be historical narrative. If so, your speculation may be a way
of making that work. What I'm questioning is your basic assumption.

> >> > But perhaps an equally pressing question: Why do people, as you
> >> >say, "Want to hear" that Methuselah was a real human being who lived 969
> >> >years &c? Is the problem perhaps that no one has called their attention
> >> >to the fact - obvious once it is pointed out - that there are different
> >> >ways of being true besides being chronicle-like narrative?

Since you are going to point out what I didn't respond to in my
last post, let me point out that you don't seem to want to address my
last question here concerning the assumption about the character of

> >> Do you believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave after 4 days?
> >>
> >> If so, why would you want to believe that particular oddity?
> >>
> >> If not, why do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?
> >>
> >> My point is that if God could raise a man from the grave after his brain had
> >> been without oxygen for 96 hours, then why is it so difficult to believe
> >> that God could have initially created a long-lived human?
> >
> > The Bible contains historical writing & expresses the
> >fundamental belief that God has acted in the real history of the world.
> >Not everything in the Bible is historical narrative. & that all holds
> >true for the gospel accounts of Jesus. The gospel is the message about
> >the real human being Jesus of Nazareth who lived ~2000 years ago and was
> >crucified under Pontius Pilate. But not all the gospel accounts are
> >accurate historical reports about him.
> I notice that you failed to tell me whether you think Jesus raised Lazarus
> after his brain had been without oxygen for 96 hours. If you think many
> accounts are not historically accurate, then I would say that you are like
> the emporor, who believed that he was fully clothed in spite of all
> observational evidence that he was naked as a jaybird. You want to say that
> Jesus is the son of God but the accounts re so inaccurate that we might not
> really know what happened.

I think that Jesus raised Lazarus, but will not say that "with
the certainty of faith": I don't think the historical character of this
particular event is essential to Christian faith. What is central is
what is emphasized over & over in the New Testament, & in particular in
the missionary sermons in Acts & the tradition Paul "hands on" in I
Cor.15, & is contained in the creeds - that Jesus died on the cross
"under Pontius Pilate" & was raised from the dead.
I have no intention of giving up the historical character of the
life of Jesus, but that doesn't mean that everything in the gospels is
historical narrative. Your suggestion that this leaves everything up
for grabs because accounts are "inaccurate" shows that you are not
taking seriously the possibility that _some_ (N.B.) are "accurate" but
in another way than historical narrative. (I'm going to have to make up
an acronym for this!)
I recognize that one can go too far in this direction & abandon
concern about history entirely. I don't. OTOH, one can go to the other
extreme & think that the historical accuracy of every bit of the gospels
is essential for salvation - & then lie awake at night worrying about
whether Jesus restored the sight of 1 or 2 blind men at Jericho &
whether they were entering the city or leaving it. (& the fact that
some "harmonizations" answer triumphantly "all of the above" is a

>This is strange logic for a former physicist.

Maybe, but it isn't my logic. (& I'm not former.)

> This epistemology means that you are free to pick and choose what you want
> to believe about Jesus.

Of course not. Jesus didn't go around beating up people &
telling them to look out for #1.


> > Simply insisting that all the
> >biblical accounts _can_ (sometimes in a very forced or speculative way)
> >be treated as historical narrative is no answer at all.
> Neither is it a solution to yell 'historically inaccurate' everytime a
> harmonization difficulty is encountered.

>Under that rule, I would long ago
> have become the atheist I very nearly became. Why believe a book of
> historically inaccurate accounts about Jesus can lead me to God?

Again the assumption, "if not accurate chronicle-like history,
then _in_ accurate chronicle-like history. You are unwilling to
entertain the possibility of texts not being chronicle-like history at