A Critique Of Certain Uncritical Assumptions In Modern Historiography -- By: John Warwick Montgomery
A Critique Of Certain Uncritical Assumptions
In Modern Historiography
M. Phil. In Law (Essex), Ph.D.(Chicago), Th.D. (Strasbourg)
Of the Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister-At-Law;
Member of the CA, WA,VA, DC and US Supreme Court Bars;
Emeritus Professor of Law & HumanitiesUniversity of Luton, ENGLAND;
Professor Apologetics and Vice-President for Academic Affairs-UK & Europe, Trinity College and Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana
Presented at the biennial Conference on Faith and History sessions,
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 10–12 October 1996.
Among professional historians it is frequently asserted that (1) “Miracles” are not a proper subject for historical investigation, (though belief in miracles can of course be studied), and (2) the so-called historical-critical method for analysing biblical texts is a necessary and legitimate component of historical methodology. This paper takes issue with both of these assumptions.
In the editor’s introduction to the recent Selden Society publication of the second volume of F. W. Maitland’s letters, we are given insight into the great legal and constitutional historian’s religious opinions by way of his “enthusiastic response” to a letter to The Times in which the following viewpoint was set forth:
We teach all this [the Creation, the Fall, the Deluge, the story of Abraham and Moses, and Joshua etc.] at the expense of the taxpayers, not only as history, but as history of Divine inspiration, although most thinking men (including not a few dignitaries of the Church) have long ago come to the conclusion that these old legends are not to be taken as historical at all; that they are, in fact, mythology. .. . The late Sir Leslie Stephen, as good a man as ever lived, used to say that he no more objected to his children being told the story of Goliath than to their being told the story of Blunderbore; he was well content that they should read fairy stories, but he did object to their being taught fairy stories as history of Divine truth, and that belief in them as such was essential to morality!1
Maitland’s assumption — or agreement with the assumption — that biblical materials should be regarded essentially as faith-documents and not as veridical, historical sources, is by no means unique to him. At a conjoint session with the 79th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, I analysed William H. McNeill’s treatment of the church and of Christian origins in his then just-published Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community: I emphasised that he gave no weight to the historical...
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