Mark Day bases the following "rules" on
Day writes that‘historiographical manuals’ - those books written for the student of history, and in particular postgraduate or PhD students of departments of history 4. . . .
- Arthur Marwick' The Nature of History (1970)
- John Tosh's The Pursuit of History (1991/1984)
- Howell and Prevenier's From Reliable Sources (2001)
The first rule:....All historiographical claims should be based on the source.... What follows are five points concerning the use of sources, each of which is consistently emphasized by pedagogical material of the above kind.
Primary sources are those which(1) ..... the historian should prioritize primary sources, though should nonetheless be critical of these sources.
It follows that we have no primary sources for persons or events in Galilee in the 20s/early 30s.transport the historian directly back to the past that the documents describe and of which they were a part, permitting the historian knowledge of that past without the accretion of subsequent interpretation and tradition.
The historian of Christian origins who wishes to start in Galilee in the 20s is behind the eight-ball at the start. None of the above basic criticism can be applied to primary sources because there are no primary sources.(2) Criticism of sources is two-fold; not only with regard to the claims of those sources concerning their intended topic, but with regard to the implicit claims of those sources concerning themselves. The second sort of criticism is the investigation into the document’s authenticity, established by asking whether the author could have written it, whether they could have been where they claimed to be, whether the paper, authorial style and handwriting permit the truth of the self-proclamation of the author. ...
So we move to secondary sources: we still cannot apply the above rules to our gospels because we don't know who their authors were or claimed to be, and we have in the case of the epistles only a name, Paul, with no independent means of assessing any of the internal claims.
Again, fundamental questions that historians normally apply to primary sources cannot be asked by anyone wanting to address events in Galilee in the 20s. If we apply this rule to secondary sources we still find ourselves in something of a circular trap given that we do not know the authors apart from the self-testimony of one of them. But still, we can make some tentative assessments of the internal features of the sources.(3) Source criticism is extended beyond the establishment of the identity of the author, to so-called ‘internal’ features of the source: the author’s aim, their ideological background and their intended audience. It is assumed that knowledge of these facts will aid the historian’s use of the source. (Exemplification of this point has already been suggested, in the case where the historian would be wise to find out whether the author had reason to lie, and why they might have done so.)
Definitely.(4) Source criticism should also trace the path connecting the source with the historian, asking why it has survived and in the form that it has. ...
Again the historian who wishes to explore persons in Galilee in the 20s is greatly disadvantaged since not only do we have no primary sources at all, but even the secondary sources all derive from a common ideological bucket. The first gospel written was in dialogue, it seems, with Paul, and the other three gospels were in dialogue with that first gospel. We do not have a "wide range of evidence". It is all very incestuous.(5) The historian is warned not to depend too much on a single document, but rather to utilize a wide range of evidence. This warning is to some extent implicit in the demand for source criticism, since it is obvious that no serious source criticism can proceed without employing knowledge gained from other sources.
Yet some historians claim to be able to do better without any of the above rules and that they can even go right back to the gist of words spoken between X and Y etc by means of going "beneath" the secondary (not even primary) sources by means of criteria and memory theories. One does have to wonder at why other historians bother with any of the above rules when biblical scholars can bypass all of that and get more detailed information from late secondary sources by means of totally different methods.