The failure of western biblical scholarship to come to certain results in the quest for the historical Jesus

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(Bo Winegard is a Professor of Psychology in Ohio)

Categories: Bible, New Testament scholarship, Scholars

48 replies

  1. Rigorous scientific scrutiny. Pop goes the Muslim Jesus myth.

  2. One certain result critical NT scholars agree on the historical Jesus was crucified and killed by the Romans.

    • That’s according to secular western premises. We have God’s word.

    • @ Harris

      Ahh for giggles:

      1. That’s not true
      2. Prove it

    • @Harris+Ford

      You may have a point. Ehrman says:

      “I’m completely happy for my work to be used by Muslims… or anyone else. But I have to say that I do not see my scholarship as advancing the agenda of any of these groups. I’m simply engaged in historical scholarship. I do not think that the Qur’an has any particular insights about the historical Jesus that are to be taken as independent reports by historical scholars. Neither does any other historical scholar that I know (or anyone who works seriously on the historical Jesus).
      And I doubt very much that my views coincide with 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus. For one thing, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was physically crucified and died on the cross. That is rock-bottom certain in my books. And it stands completely odds with standard Islamic beliefs”.

      Generally speaking, no historical Jesus scholar working on the problem considers the Quran a valid sources for getting at the historical Jesus. It may be a good source for traditions floating around in various communities at the time and how the Quran coped with such traditions, though not a firsthand source of the historical Jesus:

      “With respect to Jesus, they would have had no independent information – only what they had learned from earlier Christians and Christian sources. (He/They were writing over 450 years after the Gospels of the New Testament!)”

      • @Aldridge

        ‘Generally speaking, no historical Jesus scholar working on the problem considers the Quran a valid sources for getting at the historical Jesus.’

        There are reasons why that are left unstated by Ehrman. Do you know what they are?

      • Because nobody believes there is evidence that the Quran preserves historical material of Jesus?

        Ehrman says:

        I do not think that the Qur’an has any particular insights about the historical Jesus that are to be taken as independent reports by historical scholars. Neither does any other historical scholar that I know (or anyone who works seriously on the historical Jesus).

      • historical Jesus scholars work on the philosophical assumption that miracles and the supernatural do not happen. That God for all intents and purposes does not exist.

        So from this starting point they rule out Revelation from God which contains information about historical events.

        I call it post-Enlightenment historiography.

      • Williams, listen to the scholars.

      • I do. But I examine the philosophical premises that underpin western historiography. These premises have nothing to do with scholarship as such. They create an epistemological bias.

  3. One certain result critical NT scholars agree on the historical Jesus did not bring clay birds to life.

  4. One certain result critical NT scholars agree Jesus’ historical mother was not raised in the Jerusalem temple and fed by angels.

    • I have already explained the philosophical bias inherent in the western historical method when it comes to supernatural events.

      Therefore your latest comment is somewhat besides the point.

      • Your refuge to anti-supernatural bias “argument” is exactly what you criticize and ridicule about Ken Temple. The irony.

      • that’s an ad hominem claim that does not affect my argument.

      • It’s about consistency and credibility.

      • Do you agree that western historiography has an epistemological bias? Or not.

      • The Quranic Jesus myths fail the historical Jesus test I’m afraid. I refer you to your favorite Historian posterboy Bart Ehrman.

      • Sigh. Now you are just being childish and refusing to engage any of the substantive points I make. End of conversation.

      • So is there any part of the Quranic Jesus material, historical Jesus scholars or any historian for that matter deem as preserving genuine historical material from the time of Jesus that could not have been known at the time the Quran was revealed?

      • Western historians operate within certain materialist constraints which originate from the secular rationalism of the European Enlightenment.

        So such historians reject a priori information about historical events from Revelation. Muslim historians reject such an unwarranted bias. See the work of M. Kamel Hussein on the gospels.

        The Quran is the actual speech of God Almighty. It was not created in the 6th century (or at any other moment). God knows all of history timelessly and perfectly. He is therefore a more reliable source of historical information about any subject than any mere human could ever be.

      • That’s exactly the point I’m making. Apart from the miraculous, there could still be historical Jesus material in the Quran a historian might analyse or that could be confirmed or rejected on the basis of source criticism or by historical records or archaeoligical evidence of said era. If all you have is something already known or something that is unfalsifiable, the method of Ehrman and historical scholars is preferable to get to the historical Jesus.

      • That’s fine if you wish. But my epistemology is not materialist and I see no logical requirement that it must be so.

      • Right. But by now there is no epistemology left, solely belief, trust in a source. Anyways, thanks for the conversation.

      • That’s your view as a skeptic and atheist. Islamic epistemology is rooted in metaphysical reality for which there is much evidence.

      • There is much evidence for metaphysical reality?! And I suppose such evidence “coincidentally” agrees only with what is in the Quran or at least is consistent/not contradicted by it? Wouldn’t that prove my point about the lack of epistemology in addition to the circularity of this view?

      • The Qur’an (and all other revelations from the Creator) calls on mankind observe the wondrous design of the universe. Given the overwhelming appearance of design on what grounds do you deny a Divine Intelligence/Creator? Here is a stunning example of a complex biological machine:

      • “The Qur’an (and all other revelations from the Creator) calls on mankind observe the wondrous design of the universe. Given the overwhelming appearance of design on what grounds do you deny a Divine Intelligence/Creator?

        That just shows the circularity of the argument. All revelations from the revelator reveal it is so, It must be so then or it cannot be included in all revalations from the Creator. But it s exactly the metaphysical reality of this Creator you seek to establish.

        I am not really a science person, but on this very blog this video was explained to you by a reader and you too admitted that you are not a scientist with the knowledge to evaluate it, just like me. In addition it seems from the discussion there is no conflict btwn Islam and evolution. Friends who know about science tell me that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory and is not in general accepted by the scientific community and that many papers have been written about this in scientific journals.

      • I have not yet heard of a conventional (ie materialist) scientific explanation of these complex biological machines. I have seen a lot of atheist handwaving and denunciations.

        Intelligent design is gaining increasing support from distinguished scientists. A recent work by a biochemist and supporter of ID is recommended by no less than THREE Nobel prize winners in science.

        So your comments are out of date.

      • Right. So I consulted a few people who know about science and they were basically very leery about it. Appearantly the publisher is a press that does ID, the editor was involved in an ID peer review scandal some yesrs ago. The author himself has appearently not published his ID ideas in peer reviewed journals and a search for reviews of the book in respected journals by scientists yielded nothing.
        So There are good reasons we should be sceptical about this one and await the vetdict of the scientific community I for one seriously doubt this is seen as a serious contribution.

        But they also said that ID never was regarded as valid science by the scientific community and the book had not changed thus fact. So this is still the current view of the scientific community.

        In the meantime I call on people who know about these things and who perhaps have read the book to contribute on this blog. Dr. Collins – I assume you have an opinion on this?

        i will try to see if I can contact a few scientists.

      • “i will try to see if I can contact a few scientists.” Cool.

        In the meantime let’s hear from some real scientists with Nobel Prizes and others:

        I am happy to recommend this to those interested in the chemistry of life. The author is well established in the field of chemistry and presents the current interest in biology in the context of chemistry.”—Sir John B. Gurdon, PhD, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2012)

        “An interesting study of the part played by foresight in biology.”—Brian David Josephson, Nobel Prize in Physics (1973)

        “Despite the immense increase of knowledge during the past few centuries, there still exist important aspects of nature for which our scientific understanding reaches its limits. Eberlin describes in a concise manner a large number of such phenomena, ranging from life to astrophysics. Whenever in the past such a limit was reached, faith came into play. Eberlin calls this principle ‘foresight.’ Regardless of whether one shares Eberlin’s approach, it is definitely becoming clear that nature is still full of secrets which are beyond our rational understanding and force us to humility.”—Gerhard Ertl, PhD, Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2007)

        “Foresight provides refreshing new evidence, primarily from biology, that science needs to open its perspective on the origin of living things to account for the possibility that purely natural, materialistic evolution cannot account for these facts. The book is written in an easy-to-read style that will be appreciated by scientists and non-scientists alike and encourages the reader to follow the truth wherever it leads, as Socrates advised long ago.”—Michael T. Bowers, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California Santa Barbara

        “In his newest book, Foresight, award-winning and prominent researcher Prof. Marcos Eberlin cogently responds to crucial questions about life’s origin, using an arsenal of current scientific data. Eberlin illustrates his points with varied examples that reveal incredible foresight in planning for biochemical systems. From cellular membranes, the genetic code, and human reproduction, to the chemistry of the atmosphere, birds, sensory organs, and carnivorous plants, the book is a light of scientific good sense amid the darkness of naturalistic ideology.”—Kelson Mota, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, Amazon Federal University, Manaus, Brazil

        “Eberlin brilliantly makes use of his expertise, achieved in more than twenty-five years applying mass spectrometry in assorted areas such as biochemistry, biology, and fundamental chemistry to outline a convincing case that will captivate even the more skeptical readers.”—Rodinei Augusti, PhD, Full Professor of Chemistry, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

        “Marcos Eberlin, one of the best chemists in the world today, has written a must-read, superb book for anyone considering what indeed science says of the universe and life.”—Dr. Maurício Simões Abrão, Professor at the University of São Paulo Medical School, São Paulo, Brazil,

      • I seriously doubt that any of the nobel prize laureates, note the non-specific language used, believe in ID. But regardless. iD is not seen ad a valid scientific theory so it doesn’t help you. And while there might be a few that believe in ID the scientific community at large says ID is not even valiid as a scientific theory. Here is what the scientific communiy says:

        Those who oppose the teaching of evolution in public schools sometimes ask that teachers present evidence against evolution. However, there is no debate within the scientific community over whether evolution occurred, and there is no evidence that evolution has not occurred. Some of the details of how evolution occurs are still being investigated. But scientists continue to debate only the particular mechanisms that result in evolution, not the overall accuracy of evolution as the explanation of life’s history.

        American Association of University Professors
        “The theory of evolution is all but universally accepted in the community of scholars and has contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the natural world. […] The American Association of University Professors deplores efforts in local communities and by some state legislators to require teachers in public schools to treat evolution as merely a hypothesis or speculation, untested and unsubstantiated by the methods of science, and to require them to make students aware of an “intelligent-design hypothesis” to account for the origins of life. These initiatives not only violate the academic freedom of public school teachers, but can deny students an understanding of the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution.”

        American Association for the Advancement of Science
        The [intelligent design] movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution… the lack of scientific warrant for so-called intelligent design theory’ makes it improper to include as a part of science education.

        American Anthropological Association
        The Association respects the right of people to hold diverse religious beliefs, including those who reject evolution as matters of theology or faith. Such beliefs should not be presented as science, however.Science describes and explains the natural world: it does not prove or disprove beliefs about the supernatural.

        American Astronomical Society
        Science is not based on faith, nor does it preclude faith. Whatever personal beliefs teachers, students, parents or administrators may hold, the teaching of important scientific concepts, such as the formation and aging of planets, stars, galaxies and the Universe, should not be altered or constrained in response to demands external to the scientific disciplines.

        National Association of Biology Teachers
        Scientists have firmly established evolution as an important natural process. Experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision are procedures that clearly differentiate and separate science from other ways of knowing. Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke non-naturalistic or supernatural events or beings, whether called creation science,’ scientific creationism,’ intelligent design theory,’ young earth theory,’ or similar designations, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid science curriculum.

        Geological Society of America
        In recent years, certain individuals motivated by religious views have mounted an attack on evolution. This group favors what it calls creation science,’ which is not really science at all because it invokes supernatural phenomena. Science, in contrast, is based on observations of the natural world. All beliefs that entail supernatural creation, including the idea known as intelligent design, fall within the domain of religion rather than science. For this reason, they must be excluded from science courses in our public schools.

        The American Chemical Society
        Evolution cannot be dismissed or diminished by characterizing it as mere conjecture or speculation.The inclusion of non-scientific explanations in science curricula misrepresents the nature and processes of science and compromises a central purpose of public educationthe preparation of a scientifically literate workforce.

        American Institute of Biological Sciences
        The theory of evolution is the only scientifically defensible explanation for the origin of life and development of species. A theory in science, such as the atomic theory in chemistry and the Newtonian and relativity theories in physics, is not a speculative hypothesis, but a coherent body of explanatory statements supported by evidence. The theory of evolution has this status. Explanations for the origin of life and the development of species that are not supportable on scientific grounds should not be taught as science.

        The Paleontological Society
        Because evolution is fundamental to understanding both living and extinct organisms, it must be taught in public school science classes. In contrast, creationism is religion rather than science, as ruled in recent court cases, because it invokes supernatural explanations that cannot be tested. Consequently, creationism in any form (including scientific creationism, creation science, and intelligent design) must be excluded from public school science classes. Because science involves testing hypotheses, scientific explanations are restricted to natural causes.

        Botanical Society of America
        Science as a way of knowing has been extremely successful, although people may not like all the changes science and its handmaiden, technology, have wrought. But people who oppose evolution, and seek to have creationism or intelligent design included in science curricula, seek to dismiss and change the most successful way of knowing ever discovered. They wish to substitute opinion and belief for evidence and testing. The proponents of creationism/intelligent design promote scientific ignorance in the guise of learning.

        Many other scientific organizations are opposed to teaching intelligent design as a science-based alternative to evolution, including:
        New Orleans Geological Society
        New York Academy of Sciences
        Ohio Academy of Science
        Ohio Math and Science Coalition
        Oklahoma Academy of Sciences
        Sigma Xi, Louisiana State University Chapter, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
        Society for Amateur Scientists
        Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
        Society for Neuroscience
        Society for Organic Petrology
        Society for the Study of Evolution
        Society of Physics Students
        Society of Systematic Biologists
        Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
        Southern Anthropological Society
        Virginia Academy of Science
        West Virginia Academy of Science
        American Association of Physical Anthropologists
        American Geophysical Union
        American Society of Biological Chemists
        American Psychological Association
        American Physical Society
        American Society of Parasitologists
        Association for Women Geoscientists
        Australian Academy of Science
        California Academy of Sciences
        Ecological Society of America
        Genetics Society of America
        Geological Society of America
        Georgia Academy of Science
        History of Science Society
        Iowa Academy of Science
        Kentucky Paleontological Society
        Louisiana Academy of Sciences
        National Academy of Sciences
        North American Benthological Society
        North Carolina Academy of Science

      • Literally thousands of scientists publically dissent from Darwinian evolution. They all say:

        “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

  5. Even so, that doesn’t mean ID is a valid scientific theory or that they believe in it ias they say here;

    5) By signing the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, are signatories endorsing alternative theories such as self-organization, structuralism, or intelligent design?

    No. By signing the statement, scientists are simply agreeing with the statement as written. Signing the statement does not indicate agreement or disagreement with any other scientific theory. It does indicate skepticism about modern Darwinian theory’s central claim that natural selection acting on random mutations is the driving force behind the complexity of life. Signing the statement also indicates support for the careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory.

    • of course. But i’ve just blown a big hole in your naive claim ‘there is no debate within the scientific community over whether evolution occurred, and there is no evidence that evolution has not occurred.’

      1000s of scientists signed Scientific Dissent From Darwinism:

      “indicating skepticism about modern Darwinian theory’s central claim that natural selection acting on random mutations is the driving force behind the complexity of life.”

      • Those are not my words, or the scientists’ words but the words of the journalist, by way of introduction. The words of the scientific organisations are quoted below the name of the organisation. Whatever issues there might be with the dominant view of evolution. ID is not even believed to be a valid scientific theory to begin with.

      • Follow the link. It is a valid scientific theory.

    • Go read book. I dare say you are unfamiliar with the evidence it produces for intelligent design.

      • What link to the book and where does it say ID is a valid scientific theory? People of the discovery group believe in ID but not the scientific community at large, not even those who believe more research should be done on evolution. Could you at least agree that ID is fringe at best?

      • Like Galileo once was, yes.


  1. The limitations of Western historiography and the Quranic revelation: a question of epistemology – Blogging Theology

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