November 7, 2009

Somebody help me here - seriously

Upon much further review, I still find Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels to be long on defensive apologetics and extremely short on historical sensibility. The word "historical" could basically be dropped from the title. Better yet, it ought to be renamed, "Why we have the right to believe the Gospels and keep using them the way we want to for preaching and teaching."

If you've read the book and didn't get that impression, read it again. The apologetic is consistent. The interest in History appears only when convenient. Believe me, I'm probably more upset about that being true than you might be upset at me for saying so.

Since THROTG is clearly intended as apologetics, I ordered Blomberg's book Jesus and the Gospels. It's definitely aimed primarily at believers, and so I was dearly hoping to find more here. Not so much. Siiiiigh.

It's so frustratingly typical. Ecclesiastical scholars spend hundreds of pages building and defending their philosophical arguments for metaphysical theologies, and yet in just a few sentences they cast complete doubt on all hope of reconstructing the chronological logistics of physical events. It never ceases to depress me, perhaps because I keep getting my hopes up each time, in advance. Their Theological goals mesh so well with their historical minimalism - it's just far too convenient to be credible.

With books like these, I often have an incredibly hard time trying to extract historical analysis or arguments from all the dogmatic assertions and hastily justified logical leaps. I just can't quite figure out what points they make that I should argue against! It's all swish, woosh, whajushappa? Then _I_ feel like the doofus. At other times, I'm convinced it's just two different mentalities.

One example: Blomberg squeezes the Lord's ministry into 24 months so that he can leave three years between Pentecost and Stephen's stoning. (At least he admits it!) Then he concludes, "Fortunately, little of great exegetical significance rests on these exact dates." (JATG p.226) Translation: the facts don't matter. Any way you slice it, it'll preach.

Two questions: 1. How is this viable or respectable as historicism? 2. How is it even worth arguing with?


Chris Jefferies said...

You are so not the doofus here.

Q - How is this viable or respectable as historicism?
A - It isn't. The author is not primarily focused on history (which is fine) but is throwing some in to add 'substance' (which is not fine at all).

Q - How is it even worth arguing with?
A - It isn't!

I reiterate, you are not the doofus.

My recommendation, non-doofus Bill, is to stop buying and reading these books and continue with your very valuable historical research.

Bill Heroman said...

Thanks, Chris. I hope you're right.

Still, there are probably hundreds of thousands of Christians whose leaders rely on Blomberg's and similar arguments for their understanding of the Gospels' historicity. If I don't understand these people, or learn how to interact with their approach to factual details in the Gospel, how will my work be any good for them?

All the same, your affirmation is very encouraging. I deeply appreciate it. Stay tuned...

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