Re: Living and dying with Inaccurate History (was:NTSE Report #1 (fwd))

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 02 Mar 1997 14:38:12 -0600

At 01:42 PM 3/2/97 -0500, Murphy wrote:
>I said in my last post "You can have the last word", but since
>your response continues in a mode of ongoing debate rather than summary,
>allow me to renege - once.

Renege as often as you want. You have forced me to think harder about this
issue and I appreciate this. I have learned and come up with some new
arguments in dealing with this issue.

>> Let us assume for the sake of argument that Genesis 6:1-4 is not
>> journalistic (although one could also interpret this as being
>> inter-religious marriages without much speculation at all.)
> IMO this gets to a crucial assumption which you haven't examined
>sufficiently - that the biblical narratives are, if at all conceivable,
>historical chronicle (or "journalistic" if you wish). Gen.6:1-4 may
>tell of mating between homo sapiens and another species, it may tell of
>inter-religious marriage, it may (I assume) tell of matings between
>human women and real angelic beings - but all as "real history". I.e.,
>"I don't know what this refers to, but it is, _a priori_, historical
>narrative." The very _possibility_ that it is, e.g., "broken myth"
>(Brevard Childs' term) is ruled out from the start.
> (En passant, your method has some similarity with that of
>critics who say that accounts of miraculous events cannot, _a priori_,
>be accurate historical narrative.)
> It seems that the only exceptions you make are
> a. uses of language so obviously figurative that no one in
>their right mind would treat them as real history, &
> b. texts that have the explicit label "parable".

This morning the preacher raised Deut 18 and mentioned how the Israelites
were to tell a prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (NIV) You may say to yourselves, "How can
we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what
a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place
or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That
prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

If this applies to future events, that a prophet whose prophcies do not come
true is not speaking for God, then why does this not apply to the events of
the past? It seems to me that a prophet who claims to be speaking for God
should be able to get it correct in both directions of time.

Because of verses like this, the Bible sets a HIGH standard for itself. I
didn't write Deuteronomy, nor did I choose the standard Luke and John set
for their own texts:

John 21:24 (NIV) This is the disciple who testifies to these
things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV) Many have undertaken to draw up an account of
the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were
handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses
and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have
carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed
good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most
excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the
things you have been taught.

1 John 1:1-2 (NIV) That which was from the beginning, which we
have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have
looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning
the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify
to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with
the Father and has appeared to us.

These guys are saying they told me the truth about what actually happened.
I want to check that out and see if they ARE telling me the truth. You know,
some religious people actually lie and say they talked to God when they
didn't. I do not wish to be fooled by that sort of situation.

> But this (b) is not the way people speak or write. When Jesus
>answers the question "who is my neighbor", he doesn't start by saying
>"Here is a fictional story to answer your question". He just tells
>about the Good Samaritan. By your rules we are we therefore required to
>consider that account, which is completely "journalistic", as accurate
>historical narrative.

No. One treats it as journalistic until one finds no interpretation which
will match such a view. At that point you know it isn't journalistic and
must then ask the question of intent which Rodney has been asking. Was the
guy lying? Was the guy mistaken? Is this a hoax? Is it a myth? etc. At
that point also one must then make a decision whether to find some kind of
"theological truth" and still believe these tales, or do what I nearly did,
become an atheist because of a refusal to believe non-factual events.

Enjoyed it.


Foundation, Fall and Flood