From that summary, here's one great quote, of very many:
Significantly, modern scholars now focus heavily on extracting evidence from the testimony of witnesses in spite of themselves, which is an important insight (c.f. M. Bloch and especially R.G. Collingwood). 'But', Bauckham proceeds, 'we should also note that nothing about modern historical method prohibits us from reading the explicit testimonies of the past for the sake of what they were intended to recount and reveal' even if some deny that the 'past voluntarily "gives" the historian anything'. This is all the more true as this denial tends to lead to the unsustainable assertion that 'whereas in everyday life we treat testimony as reliable unless or until we find reason to doubt it, in scientific history testimony is suspicious from the outset and can only be believed when it is independenly verified'. But at this point 'it ceases to be testimony'. Testimony, despite the attitudes of much modern Gospel scholarship, invites to be trusted; comprehensive doubt is impossible. (p.30)One might add that the modern "science" of Psychology also depends often on subject testimonials. Good psychologists qualify and disclaim their data, of course, but they also go forward and build towards conclusions based on that data. In many areas of that particular field, they can hardly do otherwise.
I don't mean the scare quotes around "science" like you might think. It's just that some fields of study can be more scientific than others. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology and History - each in it's own right - can be no more restrained by controlled testing than their own nature allows. And no less, certainly.
I think that the key to understanding early Christianity is learning about and understanding Irenaeus. Irenaeus is one of the first of the figures in Christian history that we can be very confident is historical, and he create a great deal of what we identify with as being part of the Christian religion. While his _Against Heresies_ is very rambling, and is a very hard read for the modern reader, I think that there may be no other early Christian document to study to attempt to learn about the various early christian groups, and how Christianity developed into the religion of the Roman empire.
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