Historical Inquiry

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Historical Inquiry

Postby scorby22 » Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:23 am

Sometimes when I question the truth of the Bible, pointing out that it's not contemporary to Jesus and we don't know who wrote it, the theist will retort with something like: "there's hardly signed copies of anything from antiquity; are you scrutinizing what you consider accurate historical accounts with equal gusto as you do the Bible?"

Which made me curious- what are the methods of historical inquiry that allow us to be sure that something like Livy was really written by Livy? Or that Caesar really authored "Gallic War" and "Civil War"?
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Postby hencethus » Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:51 am

Wikipedia has an article on historical method.

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Postby anthonyvh » Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:58 am

While it may be true that we have little to no evidence that Socrates existed, we can still appreciate the Socratic method. Validation of his ideas (or whoever came up with them) is not contingent on his existence. Second, nobody tells you that you'll be tortured for eternity if you don't believe Socrates is historical.

Ideas stand on their merit, not on the existence of the person who devised them.
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Postby DonJulioBlanco2002 » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:30 am

We can't prove that somebody named Aristotle wrote a book called "Ethics."
A 2000+ year old tradition has handed it down that this book can be ascribed to this famous philosopher, but there's no hard "proof" and certainly no autograph copies, so that's no better than the case for the Bible. What the theist who argues these points can apparently never understand is that because books of antiquity like these make no claims to the supernatural, we have no need to devote the endless, torturous arguments/defenses to its authenticity the way we have to do with the Bible. Our default position is to accept tradition and ascribe authorship to Aristotle -- and if it were written by one of his students, or tampered with over the centuries, it just isn't that important because nobody is worshipping Aristotle as a God. Nobody is making the "faith claim" that if "Ethics" wasn't written by Aristotle, it would destroy their whole little doctrine-centered universe. It's the ideas that matter -- who wrote it is unimportant.
The Holy Books can't make such a claim -- their entire value is bound up in the supposed "divine revelation" that "prophets" received.
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