Friday, June 10, 2011

Gospel and history

This lecture was given as part of a series, "New Evidence the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts." The lecturer, Dr. Peter Williams, was formerly Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and is now the Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge, England. The argument he makes is that the gospels have credibility as historical documents - that is to say, what they describe happened. It is an interesting argument, made well. He is a very good speaker. My guess is that if you make it through the first ten minutes you are very likely to watch it all. The lecture:

Historical judgements are based on evidence that is inevitably ambiguous, incomplete, affected by human fallibility — so historical conclusions are, to a greater or lesser extent, credible or plausible because of their probability or improbability. After demonstrating that the gospel writers were very good at getting the things that can be checked right, Williams concludes that, with respect to those documents, he:
  • Can't prove everything to be historical
  • But if the gospels result from conspiracy or incompetence this is not what you would expect
  • If the gospels were produced on the basis of stories several steps removed from eyewitnesses this is not what you would expect.
Paraphrasing Dr. Williams: The gospel writers were neither incompetent nor conspiratorial - just ordinary guys describing what happened.

Thanks to Justin Taylor and Joe Carter for the reference.