Why should we worry about whether a particular passage is historical?

The question was asked  of me “[C]an you offer any time in the New Testament where the debate was more about the historical event than what it mean to the Church?”

My answer is no, I can not. I can not because the historicity of the events in the BIble were assumed.

But in today’s world, EVERYTHING about God and the Bible is questioned. For this reason, realizing the historicity of the text can strengthen the faith of people, as well as teach us about God. I am NOT saying we should ignore any theological truths or applications that are found in the text. I am simply saying we should not ignore the historicity of the text either.

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5 Responses

  1. W,
    In the modern (so-called) history of man, the issue is not really the question of history itself, we are here in Creation. But as we see with the whole “historical Jesus” movement. Which in reality does not give us the “biblical Christ”. To quote Martin Kahler, “The Christ who is effective in history is he who is proclaimed by the apostles as the crucified and resurrected one, and not a ‘historical’ Jesus who must first be painstakingly discovered anew behind the documents by our scientific technique.”

    Thus seeking to press the literal with the historical, really can lose the real history of faith. No we must let the Scripture speak on its own terms. It is here that people like Rudolf Bultmann has helped us with his work, ‘History and Eshatology.’ (Though this does not make everthing Bultman said correct.) Historicity [concludes Bultmann] now gains the meaning of responsibility over against the future, which is, at the same time, responsibility over against the heritage of the past in the face of the future. Every moment is “now” of resposibility, of decision.

    This whole can of “worms” has been the heart of the momentous distinction between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of history”. This was a German theological probelm. We have seen this on the blogs even now, with people like Steph Fisher, and the whole Dunedin group.

    • The Jesus “who is proclaimed by the apostles as the crucified and resurrected one” IS the one found in the Bible – the one written about as if it was fact. Its not some spiritual idea that someone made up and wrote fiction about (ala L. Ron Hubbard). Its not some mythology to ignore. Its fact which forms the basis for our belief system, not merely man’s ideas.

      See, history IS fact. History is literal. We must not forget that or ignore that. It DOES matter, otherwise we are merely founding our faith on the ideas of someone. Our faith is built on truth – not mythology. This is both apologetics and evangelism 101.

      The German theological problem as I see it has been the willingness to deny the authenticity and reliability of scripture – to deny the literalness (and I am not speaking of hyper-literalness). By the Germans being able to say that scripture “becomes” the word of God, by being able to deny any particular part of it was truth all the time and trustworthy and important, by being able to “spiritualize” any and all of it, they have led much of the Church in the western world down a pernicious path to hell and/or error.

  2. W,
    I would in general agree with you. But where the Incarnation is kept, and one also stays with the Ecumenical Creeds, there one always stays on course also. In the end, the “historical” Church does matter, for the church catholic has always put the Word of God as “Holy” and “Sacred”.

    The are some good German theolog’s, as Martin Kahler, Reinhold Niebuhr, etc. Not prefect certainly, but they loved the Word of God I believe.

    • I was not meaning to say all Germans had/have that problem. I was meaning the ones who actually did/do not trust the word of God to be truth all the time – they have influenced much of the church in the west for the worse.

  3. Yes, much of the liberal ideas go back to the German theology of those liberals like Ritschl and F.C. Baur and the Tubingen School. The Lord’s Divinity was to be understood not as an historical statement of fact but as an expression of the ‘revelational-value’ (Offenbarungswert). Sounds okay, but this “revelational-value” was certainly not mystical or personal, and thus certainly not Pauline or Johannine. Both Barth’s theology and the Scot P.T. Forsyth’s was a reaction against it.

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