Can Historians Be Neutral?

I received a number of responses to my post this past week on whether Jesus would have received a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion.   One of the most interesting responses was not so much about what I said or thought, but about a much broader question: how can one evaluate arguments over such controversial subjects without being entirely biased and subjective at the outset?   It’s worth talking about.  Here’s the question:

 

QUESTION:

Re: the burial of Jesus or not:  ...

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How Biblical Discrepancies Can Be Theologically Liberating for a Christian

I have been trying to show that the portrayal of Jesus going to his death in Mark’s Gospel is radically different from the portrayal in Luke’s Gospel.  I’ve been making this comparison for a purpose, in order to show as clearly as I can that reading the Bible historically – seeing its discrepancies – does not compromise its value.  On the contrary, as I came to see as a committed Christian who was no longer a conservative evangelical, this way ...

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A New Way of Reading the Bible

I have been discussing how I experienced a radical change in my Christian faith, from being a conservative evangelical to being a more open-minded and better informed Christian.  I can now begin to talk about how my new way of understanding the faith intersected with the scholarship I was involved with in pursuing the academic study of the Bible.

As a budding biblical scholar, I had come to see that the Bible was filled with problems.  As a believer with a ...

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Can Myths Be True and Meaningful?

Yesterday I received this interesting comment on my most recent post.  It embodies a view that a lot of other members of the Blog have, and so I thought I should respond to it.  It is about whether there can be meaningful myths in the Bible.  Here is what the reader says.

Imaginative stories by definition are false. To say something is myth and by extension imaginative, is asserting that it is false. For us to say something is ...

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Appreciating the Myths of the Bible

When I came to see that there are mistakes in the Bible, I did not jettison it all as a waste of time.  Not at all.  On the contrary, I continued to value and cherish it, as a book that could reveal truths about God.  Yes it had discrepancies, contradictions, historical errors, glaring scientific mistakes, and so on.  Of course it did.  But that for me was not the ultimate point.  The Bible It was a product of its own ...

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Teaching the Bible as a Historical Book

Ever since I first put foot in a university classroom as a professor of religious studies, I have been firmly committed to the constitutional separation of church and state.  I have never seen it to be my mission either to convert someone to a new religious point of view or to deconvert them from their old one.  My goals have been to teach about the history and literature of the New Testament from a non-confessional point of view and to ...

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How Do We Know When the Gospels Were Written: A Mailbag Blast from the Past

I occasionally get asked how we know when the Gospels were written.  Why do scholars date them when they do?  I answered that question here on the blog over four years ago now.  Most of you weren’t on the blog then.  And if you were, and you’re like me, you’ll have no recollection at all about what was said four years ago!  So here is the post I made back in May 2012.

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QUESTION:

How are the dates that the ...

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How Do We Know What “Most Scholars” Think?

I have received a particularly interesting question that has led to a bit of back and forth between me and a person on the blog.  This person pointed out that in my writings I often indicate that a view that I have (e.g., that the Gospel of John was not written by John the son of Zebedee; that the book of Ephesians was not really written by Paul even though the author claims to be Paul; or that the Gospels ...

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Being Consistently Critical (in the good sense)

I know that by now I’m supposed to  be citing Craig Evans’s best arguments that Jesus was probably given a decent  burial on the day of his crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea, rather than being left hanging on the cross for a few days in accordance with standard Roman practice.  But I’ve realized that before I get to the first of these arguments, I have to say something about how historians need to use their ancient sources.  The short answer ...

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More Literary-Historical Perspectives on John

Here I continue showing how a literary-historical method can be applied to the Gospel of John, before (in later posts) showing how it can be studied following the other methods as well.

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Since ancient biographies typically established the character traits of the protagonist at the outset of the narrative, it is perhaps best to assume that an ancient reader, once he or she realized that this book is a biography of Jesus, would be inclined to read the rest of ...

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