A Critique Of Certain Uncritical Assumptions In Modern Historiography -- By: John Warwick Montgomery

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:4 (Dec 1997)
Article: A Critique Of Certain Uncritical Assumptions In Modern Historiography
Author: John Warwick Montgomery


A Critique Of Certain Uncritical Assumptions
In Modern Historiography

John Warwick Montgomery*

* John Warwick Montgomery is professor of apologetics and law and vice president for United Kingdom and European operations, Trinity College and Theological Seminary, Newburgh, IN, and lives at Church Lane Cottage, 3–5, High Street, Lidlington, Beds MK43 ORN, England.

In the editor’s introduction to a recent publication we are given insight into F. W. Maitland’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 stories of Abraham, Moses, 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, myth-ology… 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. William H. McNeill gives no weight to the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in his attempt to explain the success of early Christianity. 2 He asserts that the historian cannot deal with miracle questions: They are religious, not historical, in character.

And both secularists and liberal Biblical scholars agree that one of the most powerful reasons for not teaching “fairy stories as history of Divine truth” is the so-called “assured results” of the higher criticism of Scriptural materials. The Biblical documents for the most part—the critics tell us—are not firsthand, eyewitness accounts of the events they describe but the product of later editing and redaction, such that they are no more and no less than reflections of the faith stance of their editors. 3

In this brief essay we wish to take issue with these critical assumptions. It is our contention that (1) mira...

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