In this final post (for now) on the historian and miracles, I want to emphasize one point that I raise of my own volition, and answer one question that has been asked by a reader.
First, a point to emphasize (I borrow this from my forthcoming book on How Jesus Became God), on whether my stand on miracles just means that I’m a crazy secularist….
The reason that historians cannot prove or disprove whether God has performed a miracle in the past – such as by raising Jesus from the dead – is not because historians are required to be secular humanists with an anti-supernaturalist bias. I want to stress this point because conservative Christian apologists, in order to score debating points, often claim that this is the case. In their view, if historians did not have anti-supernaturalist biases or assumptions, they would be able to affirm the historical “evidence” that Jesus was raised from the dead. I should point out that these Christian apologists almost never consider the “evidence” for other miracles from the past that have comparable – or even better – evidence to support them: there were dozens of senators who claimed that the first Roman king Romulus was snatched up into heaven from their midst, for example; and there are many thousands of commited Roman Catholics who can attest that the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to them, alive – a claim that fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christians roundly discount, even though the “evidence” of it is very extensive indeed. It’s always easy to scream “Anti-Supernatural Bias” when someone does not think that the miracles of your own tradition can be historically established; it’s much harder to admit that miracles of other traditions are just as readily demonstrated. In any event, my view is that none of these divine miracles, or any others, can be established historically.
Second: a response to a good question. One reader asked if this doesn’t meant that we cannot talk about the resurrection event at *all* if we are being historians. I think the answer is that we can indeed talk about various aspects of the resurrection, even if we cannot address the question of whether it really happened (historically).
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