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Christian Tractatus

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

The availability of historical experiences for contemporary analysis is dependent on reliable records of them being preserved.

  1. Where the preserved account is written, it is important that the primitive inscripturation should have been a faithful record of what took place. In general, this will mean that the records were written by independent witnesses close to the time when the events are alleged to have taken place. Also, where the primitive record was made on a medium now lost or decayed, it is important that numerous early independent copies of the document were made and that some have been preserved.
  2. In certain societies, oral tradition may supplement or replace a written one. However, such traditions are likely to change over time with the society itself, as the society reworks its history in the light of its present state or to justify its aspirations. Hence, oral traditions are usually only reliable in a static society.
  3. If a transient medium (whether oral or written) was used to record historical experiences, the transmission of these experiences in their original form depends on the reverence with which these traditions were held and on the conservatism of the society preserving the traditions.
  4. If the society was both creative and conservative, a custom of pseudonymous writings may have developed, in which new ideas were projected back into the normative past. Such was the case during the inter-testamental period in Israel and in the sub-apostolic period in Christianity, though whether this pseudonymity applied to any of the canonical Scriptures (eg. to Daniel) is a question much debated.
  5. Apart from evaluating the written & oral testimonies to past experience, it is also essential to take into account the copious evidence of the workings of former societies supplied by archaeological research (eg. artifacts, buildings etc.).
  6. Finally, we can obtain evidence of the non-social past from the sciences of geology & palaeontology and by the extrapolation back in time of presently active processes.
  7. The precis of the historical method given in this section is restricted to the methods applicable to Biblical research & to investigations into other ancient societies. The methods & means applicable to modern history, such as the use & evaluation of pictorial & aural records by way of film & soundtrack, are ignored.

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12/08/2007 10:17:46 457 (Historical Knowledge - Experience) Historical Knowledge 2

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