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Christian Tractatus

(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)

Since Christianity is a historically-based religion, it is essential that the historical events that undergird it can find a place within the historical framework constructed from other sources.

  1. In what follows, I have pursued a (perhaps tedious & tendentious) analysis of the Biblical history, by epoch. Throughout, it must be remembered that the Bible has as much right to a hearing as any other ancient source, which are themselves to be expected to show bias and selectivity in the events they record.
  2. With regard to primaeval1 history, there is obviously a major discrepancy between the Bible (as literally interpreted) & modern theories of Palaeontology.
  3. The patriarchal2 stories are difficult to confirm from secular history, which is not surprising given the nomadic lifestyle of the patriarchs.
  4. The complete silence in Egyptian3 records with respect to the Exodus requires explanation.
  5. The history of Israel under the judges4 appears to contain legendary elements (eg. much of the Samson narratives), but the history of the struggles against the Philistines seems to be based on fact. The theological interpretation of events in the Book of Judges (ie. the association of ill-fortune with a "turning away from the Lord") may be seen either as a simple fact or as a naive system of rewards morality that elements of the later prophetic tradition sought to correct.
  6. Similar remarks apply to the history of Israel under the Kings. There may be some embellishments (eg. the greatness of Solomon's kingdom may be exaggerated, some of Elijah's and Elisha's escapades appear to be legendary, etc.) and there are notorious problems with datings, but the over-all tenor does not seen unreasonable. In the later history, there are some cross-connections with secular records: eg. Jehu's submission to the Assyrian Shalmaneser III.
  7. The history of the fall of Israel and Judah seems to fit well into the contemporary scene, though Daniel is contentious as an historical figure.
  8. The historical narratives of the New Testament, where they impinge on secular history, are generally precise and reliable, particularly in Luke/Acts (though there is some controversy about this: eg. the governorship of Quirinius and Augustus's census). However, there do appear to be legendary episodes here as well (as in the stories of the Magi, Herod Agrippa's death [though the romanticisation of the latter's demise is shared with Josephus] etc).
  9. So far, we have placed the emphasis on the relationship of the Biblical accounts of historical episodes to those recorded in secular history, rather than on whether the narrative material in the Bible that cannot be cross-checked5 can properly be called history.
  10. In summary, we note that, in general and despite some legendary material, the historical records of the Bible seem to be consistent with secular history. Discrepancies have been much exaggerated by those reacting against a strict fundamentalism.

Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
12/08/2007 10:17:46 402 (Problems - Christianity Historical) Problems

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Problems - Checking History Problems - Egypt Problems - Judges Problems - Patriarchs Problems - Primaeval History

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Summary of Note Links to this Page


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