History

I like history, I really do. Actually, it can’t be helped. Call it subliminal messages. It seems that even from my youngest days everyone around me seemed to connect me to history too. From the bully at school I’d hear “Your history kid!” “Um, no I’m Israel” Maybe that’s why I changed my name to David for my adolescence. Perhaps Israel was history, but David was not. To engrain the connection to history into my skull a little more I came across a book entitled Israel’s History once. I was dumbfounded. I scanned for the author to see if it was written by A. Bully. It wasn’t.  That was close. I almost contacted the closest ACLU to get a restraining order.

My brother would say “You’re dead” when I was young. Without any concept of history that pretty much translates into what the bully also said. All I heard was “you’re history.” My mom would say “That’s it. You’re done.” My mind heard “done…dead…history; I’m history.” Now echoing in my head are an endless stream of ex-girlfriends also declaring their love for the past – and me to go with it. Ah, history. How good you have been to me.

Being a Christian doesn’t distance you from history, it draws you closer. We all can remember the blue haired lady asking to hear our testimony only for her to interrupt  your well rehearsed monologue to say in a squeal, “Oh, no deary, I want to hear about Jesus in your life after all it is HIStory.” (wink, wink).

Ah, HIStory, I mean, ahem, history – that very interesting and highly debated aspect of biblical studies that carries tremendous implications into our personal approach to Sola Scriptura. Wait, I’m wrong. After all history is history. Right?

It reminds me of a story a prof told me once. They were looking to fill a slot for a history professor. They had interviewed over 20 candidates. To each candidate this prof would start of the meeting by saying “Can you tell me what history is.” Each candidate would give a startled look and responded with basically the same response which was “history is history.”

Wow! History is history.  Just like cancer is cancer. “What is it doc?” “What’s it matter, cancer is cancer.” Amazing! or perhaps this is similar to “Science is Science.” Hmmm. I guess that is why the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of Casuality are so easily dismissed in so much scientific rhetoric today, because what is there really to define? Okay, okay, its another blog, but see my point?

History: Is it the events as they actually occurred in the past? Is it the methodological approach to ascertain what happened in the past and why it happened? Or is it something else? In general in an age of creative historiography this question is certainly relevant, but it’s relevance runs deeper for Christians. After all, our history is HIStory and it is grounded in actual history. Right?

It might be a surprising development that Protestants have slowly but surely turned Sola Scriptura on its head and in large part it is because of how we have viewed history. Specifically, what has happened is we have stopped turning to history as a way to aid us in grasping the biblical picture God gave us to having history inform us of what the biblical picture should be. One accepts the idea that the Bible is put together focusing on certain historical facts and events intentionally to deliver a theocentric message while the other approach pursues possible information that should be used to usurp the intended meaning of the author for a “better and more well-rounded picture.” And of course, both investigations (from a conservative view) are similar in what historical information is discovered, but different in how this information is applied.

All this to say, I think there are two books that do an exemplary job of dealing with this issue when read together. Each book deals with the issue of history in the first part of the book. The first book is N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and The People of God and the second is John H. Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch.  For me, answering the question “What is history” is of prime importance to all Christians and so we should all be invested. Of course, the realist in me recognizes that not every Christian is willing to deal with this question and even less are willing to investigate it to any degree. But for the 1% of us that remain here are two current books that when put together are pretty comprehensive as an introduction to the discussion.

Of course both works fall short in their own ways and that’s okay as neither claims to be a comprehensive tome on the subject. Rather they discuss what they need to in order to have confidence in where they are trying to go.  Remember read with a critical eye, sit in a corner as you read (so you can see the bully coming…err..spouse), and enjoy!

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