January 11, 2021

Passion for Histories

 I just came across this gem of a quotation, while re-reading Tessa Rajak's essential classic, Josephus (p.77, n.16). Accordign to Rajak, the following personal reflection originally appeared in Peter Gay, Style in History (1974), p.198:

I am not prepared to deny--how could I?--that the historian's mental set or secret emotions often cause partial blindness or involuntary distortions, but I would argue that they can also provide a historian with a clear view of past actions that other historians have been too ill-prepared to understand, too indifferent even to see . . . Passion, notorious as the historian's most crippling liability, may become his most valuable asset.

Indeed. Sometimes.

Many others have noted this type of thing over the years, with varying qualifications. Gay says it well here but there are several occasions when I have also blogged sentiments to this effect. 

Most obviously, nearly everything I've done here has been largely driven by my strong personal inclination towards reconstructing timelines and storylines in the first place. When I imagine the past, I like to do so in four dimensions.

More specifically, a few of the major areas where I feel like my personal bent has helped me to reconstruct uniquely (either while interpreting narrative scenarios in historical context or) while hypothesizing events of the actual past can be glimpsed in my blogging about Jesus in Nazareth, The Approachable Jesus, and Paul's Developing Ecclesiology

Whether each particular insight holds up under scrutiny is up to those who scrutinize, and the struggle to convince others, apparently, is academia. 


Back to work, then...

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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton