Saturday, April 25, 2009

More than Dating Techniques (Historical Apologetics)

Contrary to what certain misguided Biblical scholars would have us believe, history and doctrine are inextricably linked to each other, because the core beliefs of Christian faith are solidly rooted in history. As we will see, history and doctrine support each other - they stand or fall together.

If Adam, Eve, Eden, the Flood, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, Pentecost, and the Apostles are eliminated from the Bible, our doctrines are essentially worthless. These Biblical historical narratives have become favorite targets of attack for theological heresy and secular humanists. Thus, historical apologetics can help us provide strong answers against objections, doubts and attacks.

Since the enlightenment, critics have attempted to use historical and archaeological developments to spread propaganda to attack and discredit the Bible. Historical and archaeological attacks reached a peak in the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. However, since the historical sciences have provided a vast amount of evidence in support of the Bible and the Christian faith, we now witness and experience new attacks include diminishing of teaching the conventional historical sciences in public schools and colleges. Today, young people are virtually ignorant of the vast studies that link and support the Bible and history, archeology, prophecies, and linguistics,

Archaeological developments have a direct bearing on the Bible, because the historical narratives in the Bible are all two thousand years old or older. Archeological studies began without distinction between Biblical and secular categories, but as the immense growth and importance of archeological discoveries grew in lands where history took place, two schools of study developed. Along with the separate studies, secular studies and heretical theologians increasingly sought to attack the reliability of the historical accounts in the Bible.

One chief area within the field of Biblical archeology has developed societies, journals, and schools committed to the investigating and correlating secular and biblical archeology, Often, the correlation is not all that complicated, and merely requires realistic and fair scholarship. One example is with the chronologies given in the books of Kings and Chronicles. Rationalists have tried to point to apparent contractions in their attacks, but have been refuted since the middle of the twentieth century by the simple understanding that Israel and Judah used at least five different kinds of calendar dating, which would produce different values in different cultures. Powerful computers and algorithms have enabled researchers to solve “the riddle” and eliminate the calendar conflict in Kings and Chronicles. Historical apologists would have knowledge of topics like this and are able to help remove doubts or barriers in understanding the scriptures.

Dating Techniques:
Accurate dating techniques help discover the age of an archeological find and helps in reconstructing history. One possible way this is accomplished is by associating artifacts with a known kingdom or historical timeframe. Another method, known as comparative dating, finds the approximate date by comparing things such as pottery, metals, building materials, etc, with similar items of a known date. The third type is Scientific Dating, which includes radiocarbon dating, which can accurately work to identify many artifacts.

The ways in which chronologies are constructed vary from culture to culture. Archeology therefore provides meaningful insights into the culture, customs, and manners of various peoples in various times. Understanding the presuppositions and methodologies of the people and the culture is pivotal to our conclusions about historical and chronology archeology. Our studies are aided greatly by work in other areas, such as legal, historical apologetics.

Legal apologetics:
Legal apologetics deals with the investigation of whether or not a certain thing has taken place, much like a court case, where a large portion of time is dedicated to reconstructing a coherent story from all the witness testimonies and cross-examinations. This method of legal and historical reconstruction applies to the Bible, especially with the historical narratives, which bear witness to one another. This type of proof also highlights an important and often overlooked factor in the field of investigating the truth. Truth is much broader than physical or scientific proof and in the legal sense, proof demonstrates that an even has probably taken place beyond a doubt and that the reconstructed event is the best explanation of the data available.

Linguist Studies:
Linguist study and investigation of the Bible also fall within the historical apologetics domain, as the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic in which the scriptures were transmitted are no longer spoken today. While the groundwork for the revival Biblical language studies was done in the 18th and 19th centuries, an overwhelming flood of literary material from the ancient world surfaced in the 20th century. Some of the particular finds included: The Code of Hammurabi, hundreds of written clay tablets, thousands of Nuzi Tablets, 20,000 tablets at Mari, hundreds of Old Testament scrolls near the Dead Sea, 22,000 tablets and fragments near modern Syria, hundreds of scrolls in Egypt, and hundreds more examples from other Biblical lands. While many are not canonical tablets, they are written in the Biblical languages and allow scholars to study even more deeply and broadly.

Overall, linguistic studies help us on several levels including: to better understand the meaning of ancient texts and word meanings that are not in use from earlier periods; to evaluate the accuracy and authenticity of the manuscripts (textual criticism); and to correct errors made in the process of hand-copying over thousands of years. With the help of tens of thousands of manuscripts today, the originals can be reconstructed with significant confidence. Today there are more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts, over 10,000 Latin manuscripts, 9.300 other early manuscripts, more than 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament (portions of which were produced within 20 years of Pentecost), and tens of thousands of Old Testament manuscripts produced before the time of Malachi. No other ancient book in the world has produced anything even close to this witness of reliability.

In addition, there are other important values found in this type of study of historical apologetics. In depth study of the transmission of Biblical texts sheds light on the accuracy of the Bible by showing the elaborate means by which the Canon has been produced, preserved, and transmitted. The proven consistency of the Hebrew and Greek texts remains a powerful proof for better appreciation of the reliability of the scriptures. Finally, since most of the prophecies recorded in the Bible have already taken place, historical studies help demonstrate how incredible it was for those who gave and received the original prophecy.

The life of Jesus and history:
The amount of material available to provide historical proof of the existence of Jesus Christ surpasses that of Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great and many other undisputed figures.

First and foremost, we find the detailed historical narratives found in the four gospels of the New Testament, especially within the synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, as numerous questions continue to be raised against the historical record contained in the Bible, other sources can be called out to substantiate the historicity if Christ. Some of the authors and writings that have validated the work and life of Christ, both inside and outside Christian-friendly circles are: Flavius Josephus, Corenelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Suetonius, Plinius Secundus, Tertullian, Thallus, the Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, Justin Martyr, the Jewish Talmuds

While these are only a small selection of the extra-biblical sources available that provide evidence, even from sources that were extremely hostile to Christianity, it seems that only those completely ignorant of history can continue to question the historicity of Jesus Christ.

In sum, history has turned out to be a great friend of the Bible and Legal and Historical apologetics have turned out to be very strong answers against all objections and attacks against the truth of the Bible’s historical narratives.

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