I didn't dismiss the Christian opinions. I dismissed the appeal to authority or to “consensus” in the special case of New Testament studies.

Consensus of experts matters in the sciences, because they have mechanisms to circumvent natural human biases. In a science, the hard evidence is supposed to speak for itself. The same can happen in history if we have archeological evidence or straightforward documents. We have documents in the case of Christianity, but unfortunately they’re not historical but are theological and propagandistic works. The documents of the New Testament were themselves written by Christians not to give any sort of objective history of what happened, but to please fellow Christians and convert people to their religious points of view.

Now in New Testament studies we have mostly Christian scholars interpreting ancient Christian documents. It’s possible these scholars are sometimes objective in doing so, but it’s just as possible they come to the documents with their religious faith already fully in place (the vast majority of religious people accept the religion they’re born into). In the latter case, the scholars are only pretending to be doing critical, scientific history; they’re posing as historians but they’re really evangelists, defending their religious faith by not being remotely skeptical enough and giving the problems with the evidence a free pass.

The critical question is this: What methodology or institutional mechanism is there in history as a discipline and in NT studies in particular to let us know whether some scholarly interpretation is objective or faith-based and bogus? None whatsoever. There are no scientific experiments to perform on the NT to let the facts speak for themselves. There are hermeneutic criteria historians use such as the criterion of embarrassment, but they’re all loaded, value-laden, and problematic. The criteria rig the game to yield a certain portrait of Jesus, as Albert Schweitzer pointed out long ago.

Non-Christians likely have biases too, so we should examine the arguments on a case-by-case basis. The mistake is when we appeal to scholarly consensus about Christian history as though New Testament studies were as objective a science as physics or chemistry. It’s not remotely so, so that rhetorical gambit is only misleading, however frequently the tactic may be used against criticism of Christian dogmas.

I don’t know if that link came through, so here it is again:


Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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