Sunday, December 25, 2011

A short vid: History and the Nativity

John Ankerberg has a brief video on the historicity of the Nativity, worth watching here:

A good short overview that emphasises the significance of the criterion of embarrassment. 

Noted NT Scholar Gary Habermas gives a summary here:

This gives a more detailed overview, emphasising reasons to accept that we are dealing with record of credible, eyewitness testimony:

(This vid addresses the claims of Dr Bart Ehrman, which are often used to try to overturn confidence in the NT; by looking at patterns of incidental details such as statistics of names, geographical references etc, which show an easy familiarity only reasonably explained by the Gospels being based on eyewitnesses.  Licona takes up a string of Ehrman's purported "contradictions, here. [Onlookers may want to look at my notes on an exchange with a regional person who made similar claims, here; especially my note on how stringent "contradictions" are, and how a logically possible harmonisation can take them off the table on strict logic, never mind the rhetorical promotions of radical dis-harmonies that are ever so common.] If you are in the mind for a debate that reveals the sort of tone that so often happens when these matters are debated, cf. here, and the draft course unit here on discusses the wider context of the historically anchored foundations of the Christian faith. Wider worldview issues are addressed here.) 

Going yet wider, we should note from founding father of the modern anglophone theory of evidence, Simon Greenleaf, in his preliminary observations on Evidence, Vol I Ch 1 on the nature of moral evidence and related warrant for forensic/historical knowledge. 

Let's put in modern paragraphing to make it easier for us to follow: 
The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved.
This term, and the word "proofs" are often used indifferently, as synonymous with each other; but the latter is applied by the most accurate logicians, to the effect of evidence, and not to the medium by which truth is established.
None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error, and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.
Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.
In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.
By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.
The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest . . .  [Evidence, vol 1, Ch 1, Preliminary observations, emphases and modern style paragraphing added.]
We have here a classic summary of the reasonable criteria by which matters of history or of events and affairs among men can be warranted to high enough confidence that one would be properly seen as irresponsible to in the teeth of relevant evidence, insist on acting as though these things were not so.

This is of course the problem of selective hyperskepticism, which may be followed up in more details here on. Unfortunately, it is all too commonly seen on this subject, and typically reflects  the eagerness or even desperation that all too many have to find or persuade themselves that these things are not so. (Cf here.)

But, the unfortunate irresponsibility involved in such tactics should be patent.

The bottom-line is obvious: we here credibly deal with the pivot of history, a pivot that challenges us all. 

So, what will we do, today, with this same Jesus the Messiah, God's holy anointed Deliverer and Saviour, called Christ in Greek translation? END

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