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The Gospels, Historians, and Presuppositions

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Michael G Strauss

Jan. 16 2021

A number of times I have been asked if I would be willing to accept the consensus of the "majority of historians" when it comes to various conclusions about the biblical gospels, including the time of their writing and their claims about the miracles of Jesus. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable request. After all, aren't historians the experts when it comes to understanding history? Shouldn't we accept their conclusions?

When it comes to most subjects of science, I accept the consensus of the majority of scientists. As a scientist myself, I am well aware that the scientific method provides a reliable method for determining the truth about nature. For instance, it is clear from the evidence that the climate on the earth is changing and becoming overall warmer. There are disagreements about the extent to which this is occurring and the role that human activity has contributed to climate change, but the evidence that the climate is changing and warming is strong, accepted by the majority of climate scientists, and accepted by me as a scientist.


Suppose in science, I had a ground rule that subatomic particles could not pass through an energy barrier higher than the energy of the particle. This ground rule makes sense in the macroscopic world that we live in. If I can throw a ball 20 feet up into the air, then it will never go over a wall that is 25 feet high. But in the world of particles that are the size of atoms or smaller, such an occurrence can happen. We have observed particles that can pass through barriers which have a higher energy threshold than the particle itself. It's as if the ball only went 20 feet high but is found on the other side of a 25 foot high wall. We call this "tunneling" because the particle seems to have tunneled through the barrier. Now, if my presupposition in science was that such a thing was always the least probable explanation, then regardless of how strong the evidence for that phenomena was, I would come to some other conclusion. The physical process of tunneling would have never been discovered simply because my presupposition precluded such a conclusion.

There are a number of problems with regarding miracles as the least probable explanation and, thus, eliminating them as a reasonable historical conclusion.


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