The Bible’s historic truth

Published 8:44 pm Monday, February 4, 2019

We’ve talked about science being observable and repeatable. Now we’re talking about history being neither observable nor repeatable. So, how do we investigate historical truth? Just as there is a scientific method, there is also an historical method including higher, lower and internal criticism.

Higher criticism asks, “When was it written, where was it written, who wrote it and what sources were used to write it.” 

Lower criticism asks about its original form, and internal criticism asks if it’s credible. All of these together are called “source criticism.”

My grandson Brady went to the state historical competition last year, and there was quite a bit of emphasis on “original sources.” He and a friend wrote a paper on the USS Kirk, the last ship to leave Vietnam after rescuing 32,000 Vietnam refugees and American diplomats in 1975. They used first person reports by members of the crew. 

Operation Eagle Pull evacuated people from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Operation Frequent Wind evacuated people from Saigon. In September 2017, each crew member was given a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

This is the fifth session in our “Absolute Basics of the Christian Faith” series asking, “Who is Jesus Christ?” 

And the answer is, “The eternally begotten son of God and the son of Mary. Fully divine. Fully human.” From John 1: “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.”

The story of Jesus is a historical event and started me wondering, “Why do I believe in Jesus?” We Methodists use what we call a “quadrilateral” to evaluate history. First, the Bible is a primary source written in large part by eyewitnesses. Second, there are over 2,000 years of Christian history based on that primary source. Third, reason tells us that these are not unreasonable stories. They have the ring of truth and not the foolishness of fantasy. Finally, my personal experiences confirm all of the above.

My background is in science and the scientific method, and that background determines how I approach history — by using the historical method. The goal of both is to find the truth, and I realize that in both science and history there are people who will change the truth to support some personal agenda. So as a scientist, I ask questions to find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then I remember Jesus saying, “I am… the truth.”