Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Testament a Stumbling Block to Christian History?

In a post titled, 'Beyond the New Testament Canon' Professor of Biblical Studies from Rice University April DeConick set out her hypothesis:

"the major obstacle to any historical study of early Christianity is the New Testament canon."
But she doesn't state it as a hypothesis, rather an objective truth which she is fully confident of.
I do not have to justify my conclusions to believers
Its a good thing because I'm sure you wouldn't be able to do it.
nor do I judge the texts I study in terms of our modern perspectives of "orthodoxy" or "heresy."
Modern perspective? From here on out it will be difficult to gauge her level of integrity since she's already blatantly misrepresented known historical fact; Christianity has thought in terms of orthodoxy / heresy since it's conception. We at least know by provable means that our current notion of it was widely adhered to by the second century. See Irenaeus - Against.. ahem Heresies.
I consider myself a "humanist," relying on ways of knowing developed since the Enlightenment in the discipline of the humanities and liberal arts
In other words, you're a liberal adverse to every known form of goodness or truth. Ok but seriously, this flawed line of reasoning is the same old song and dance - before the Enlightenment, men were concerned only with superstition and feelings but somehow since we've overcome those prehistoric tendencies, we are now interested in facts alone. Hence we have boldly ventured into the brave new worlds allowed by Freudian psycho-analysis, Darwinian evolution and the complete rejection of all Christian ideas. Give me a break; you may be a college professor and this stuff may very well work on college-age kids still hung over from their frat parties I dont know, but it doesn't fly with me.
Their personal religious belief in the authority of the New Testament scripture has led them to a common (and erroneous) assumption, that the New Testament texts are the only documents that tell us about the history of early Christianity.
Namely who? Tell me which New Testament Scholar believes this?
This leads to another common (and erroneous) assumption, that these canonical texts are accurate and reliable documents for the study of early Christianity.
I'm going to stop there. I didn't originally intend to pick apart this post just make a counter point on her over all premise.

First, lets remember a few points. Most New Testament scholars (not all) place the entirety of the NT Canon chronologically before virtually any other Christian writing. There are some (Crossan for example) who place other writings here and there in between the canonical NT chronologically speaking but their findings are not widely agreed upon.

Why is it then, that these liberal scholars are so intent on painting known forgeries of second century origin (or later) as more reliable sources than the NT canon? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see through the transparency here. It's like Dan Brown all over again.

She keeps talking about looking at things in a 'historical-critical perspective'. First, Christians have always done so. A passing glance at the early Church fathers (Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Eusebius) will quickly put to rest all fantasies which say otherwise. The early Christians were especially concerned with the validity of the bold (and sometimes offensive) claims of Christianity because their lives were literally on the line. Their writings spell out the logical and 'historical-critical' methods which were used from the beginning to determine authenticity of epistles and their canonicity. See especially Eusebius - Church History (which I will be posting more on shortly).

Eusebius even claimed that the authenticity of some writings (which are now in the canon) were suspect; 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, James and Hebrews to name a few.

It all boils down to this: the earliest and most authoritative writings available are those in the NT canon and for that very reason they were included. Christianity has argued this point from the very beginning using 'historical-critical' methods.

Nothing has changed since the Enlightenment.

Great minds will still continue to look back to a 1st century Jew who claimed to be a prophet. Some will look back to try in vain to disprove His claims. Some will with great effort try and assert that He never made the claims to begin with.

Most however, will continue to preach the Truth. And those who live by it will find their eternal reward as promised.

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