Rules of Historical Reasoning

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Neil
No, his use of photographs as means of "proving someone existed" was logically fallacious.
Bart's an American, and he may have in good faith meant the verb to prove in the sense that American trial lawyers typically use the term: to offer evidence favoring some conclusion. Lawyers are practical people: they know they aren't doing mathematics, and they know they cannot control whether their evidence persuades. Nevertheless "proof" has a nice sound to it, and that's what they say, whenever possible.
You sound flippant.
Golly, I wish my browser had this "read aloud" feature that yours does.

Now, that's flippant. Hear how different that is from using the characteristic legacy speech of my nation?
I'd be interested if you could point to any historians who don't use them.
Depends on what a historian is, I reckon. If you define historian as someone who abides by the proposed rules, then there are none who don't. (Possibly because nobody at all strictly adheres to those "rules," as you have already discussed with another poster).

If you define historian as, say, a person employed full-time by a post-secondary educational institution whose duties include writing and teaching about research into aspects of the human past, then you've already mentioned some.

Personally, I don't have any problem with the heuristics as generally good ideas to keep in mind when it is possible to apply them. But that's what heuristic means, isn't it?
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by neilgodfrey »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:06 am Neil
No, his use of photographs as means of "proving someone existed" was logically fallacious.
Bart's an American, and he may have in good faith meant the verb to prove in the sense that American trial lawyers typically use the term: to offer evidence favoring some conclusion. Lawyers are practical people: they know they aren't doing mathematics, and they know they cannot control whether their evidence persuades. Nevertheless "proof" has a nice sound to it, and that's what they say, whenever possible.
Bart's claim and argument was logically fallacious. It was nonsense. An embarrassment.
Paul the Uncertain wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:06 am
You sound flippant.
Golly, I wish my browser had this "read aloud" feature that yours does.
"ain't no such critter" sounds flippant. How can anyone who knows anything about how history is conducted by historians say anything like that? Of course historians have methods that they all agree on, that they are all taught to follow at the outset. I have a list of books written for them and by them setting out all of their methods. They are no secret.
Paul the Uncertain wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:06 am
I'd be interested if you could point to any historians who don't use them.
Depends on what a historian is, I reckon. If you define historian as someone who abides by the proposed rules, then there are none who don't. (Possibly because nobody at all strictly adheres to those "rules," as you have already discussed with another poster).

If you define historian as, say, a person employed full-time by a post-secondary educational institution whose duties include writing and teaching about research into aspects of the human past, then you've already mentioned some.

Personally, I don't have any problem with the heuristics as generally good ideas to keep in mind when it is possible to apply them. But that's what heuristic means, isn't it?
Just name one of the historians (from anywhere) who does not follow those five rules. Just name one. From anywhere. The closer your name comes to a professional historian (the more weighty your point will be).

If you have your own idea of what a historian is and it does not conform to that of the mainstream, that's fine -- even better -- just name one of them so we can see who you do think of as "historians".
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:18 am, edited 3 times in total.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by neilgodfrey »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:06 am(Possibly because nobody at all strictly adheres to those "rules," as you have already discussed with another poster).
Nobody follows all those rules strictly???? You may have missed Mark Day's justification for them:
Before describing the rules of historical reasoning in more detail, a brief note on my methodology. By examining what is recommended, praised and criticized, we can arrive at an approximation of the rules which govern the production of historical writing. For while one can’t infer a norm simply from observing what is and is not done - since people get things wrong ignorantly, negligently, and deliberately - the inference of a norm from others’ recommendations and responses to what is and is not done is more plausible. I have used ‘historiographical manuals’ - those books written for the student of history, and in particular postgraduate or PhD students of departments of history - to elucidate the method of source criticism. I have used peer review of professional historiographical monographs to investigate wider rules governing the practice.

From historiographical manuals we gain the appreciation that the historical practice has, at its heart, the Rankean method of source criticism. All historiographical claims should be based on the sources. . . . . What follows are five points concerning the use of sources, each of which is consistently emphasized by pedagogical material of the above kind. (p. 20)
Paul, you cannot seriously suggest that historians (professional historians who write for academic peers in accredited universities among them) don't all apply the five rules they were taught from their undergraduate or early graduate days. The rules are their craft, they are what makes them professional; when they find they have slipped somewhere, they usually correct it; if they find a peer has slipped, they often either politely or savagely correct him.

Perhaps you could tell me what historians and historical works you have actually seriously read. I really am doubting you have read any professional historian's work.

Have you read a single serious history work by a professional historian? What was it? Who was the author?
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MrMacSon
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by MrMacSon »

MrMacSon wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:29 pm
2 ..if a secondary source is not based on a primary source, it ought to be [has to be] based on at least two or more other secondary sources that, in turn, are based on two or more very reliable primary sources.
  • Otherwise it'd just be dealing in hearsay or 'telephone' [gossip; 'Chinese whispers']
neilgodfrey wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:42 pm
We can define any word to mean what we want it to mean. The only important thing is that all involved in a discussion agree on a common usage.
Yes, it's important all involved agree on usage, but we're more talking about application; and,

we're not discussing a word: we're discussing a term, & a relational one at that -
  • ie.'secondary sources' depends on descriptions & definitions of other suitable sources.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by MrMacSon »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:47 am
"Taking Paul at his word.."
    • oh oh ...
      • "..a literally logical answer.."
        • oh oh ...
          • "..while he was a persecutor.."
            • oh eee, oh eee, oh Oh ....
Bernard Muller
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by Bernard Muller »

to Neil,
Not all historians followed methods as strict as you described them.
Which ones don't? Name them.
Many historians just rehash tertiary evidence in order to present history in a modern format for a contemporary targeted audience. They are prone to quote other earlier (or even contemporary) historians as their evidence.
Please be specific. Which historians are you talking about?
Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius ... I do not think they went to university in order to get a PHD in history. Some of them had a day job while writing their histories. Josephus was an ex-temple priest and then a general, not exactly an education on how to become a historian.

Cordially, Bernard
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Bernard Muller
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by Bernard Muller »

to Paul the Uncertain,
Paul claims in the same letter that he was preaching his gospel for years before he says he met James.
No, Paul did not say that in Galatians 1. Actually, prior of seeing James when he was with Peter/Cephas, Paul did not say he preached. See Gal 1:17-18.
He might have heard the word before then, while he was a persecutor; ... If he had a reason for being a persecutor, then this might be part of it, and anybody in the group might have told him or told an intermediate.
That's very likely he learned the essentials of the proto-Christians beliefs and Jesus the man when (or even before) he was persecuting them.
In what ways do you hold that a "cold case" investigator's methods differ from any other "case" investigator's?
That will not differ much. Just for a cold case, the witnesses might be gone (dead or "disappeared"), the initial evidence corrupted, new evidence impossible to obtain. Essentially, a cold case is more difficult to solve than one right after a crime.

Cordially, Bernard
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by neilgodfrey »

Bernard Muller wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:21 am to Neil,
Not all historians followed methods as strict as you described them.
Which ones don't? Name them.
Many historians just rehash tertiary evidence in order to present history in a modern format for a contemporary targeted audience. They are prone to quote other earlier (or even contemporary) historians as their evidence.
Please be specific. Which historians are you talking about?
Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius ... I do not think they went to university in order to get a PHD in history. Some of them had a day job while writing their histories. Josephus was an ex-temple priest and then a general, not exactly an education on how to become a historian.

Cordially, Bernard
So you have not read any modern professional historians' works that don't write according to the "rules" set out by Day. None. And you have not read even a professional historian's definition of secondary sources in this thread that you present as knowing so much about.

And you claim to "know" how historians work and don't work, the methods they use and don't use!

You're a time-waster, Bernard. Your only interest is in yapping at my heels.
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Bernard Muller
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by Bernard Muller »

to Neil,
My "plan A" of attack is based on the model used by a number of "Copenhagen School" names who posit that much of the Pentateuch narrative was inspired by (created to meet a need for) new settlers in the land of Canaan at the time of the Persian conquest. The new inhabitants were brought by Persians to Canaan from Mesopotamia, and others came up from Egypt, to form the colony of Jehud. As was done elsewhere with mass migrations (forced) new ideologies and/or gods were created to justify the move and give the new inhabitants a new identity in their new land and (often) among native inhabitants with different language and customs.

I sometimes have wondered what would happen if we apply a similar type of model to the gospels. Would it work? Of course the above model is a thesis that derives from applying the standard techniques of historical inquiry I have set out at the beginning, at the OP here. So my interest is to work within those "rules" for the gospels, too.
The model used by some members of "Copenhagen School" is certainly not primary, or even secondary evidence, nor something widely accepted by critical scholars or historians investigating the same topic. I do not think these scholars of the "Copenhagen School" used evidence for their conclusions (as you described them) which was primary. And then they do not agree with each other and their works were deemed controversial.
And if you got inspired by that model in order to study the gospels, I think it is a bad start. Also, I do not see how this model is a thesis that derives from applying the standard techniques of historical inquiry you have set out at the beginning, at the OP here. I do not see any connection.
Condition 1

One suggestion (not mine) is that the Passion Narrative in Mark, with its ironic (anti-)imperial themes and focus on crucifixion as a potential fate of all steadfast followers of Jesus, addresses the situation of the masses of crucifixions outside Jerusalem in 70 CE. A related suggestion (again not mine) is that the midrash of the empty tomb points to the Isaianic prophecy of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.
Oh, your perceived irony becomes a criteria.
"focus on crucifixion as a potential fate of all steadfast followers of Jesus," is a wild speculation.
"addresses the situation of the masses of crucifixions outside Jerusalem in 70 CE." ditto, that's even worse.
"the midrash of the empty tomb points to the Isaianic prophecy of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple."
Oh, what's that?
Condition 2

But the gospel is about more than the crucifixion. One other theme is that of persecution of the followers of Jesus, and it is difficult to find evidence for that situation around 70 CE. Some have pointed to the 90s as the earliest evidence we have of persecution of Christians. I think the evidence for that is slight, however. It is based on the Jewish synagogue curse against heretics but the evidence that these heretics were Christians is not strong, iiuc.
The evidence for persecution before 70 CE is in Tacitus & Suetonius' works, and Paul's Galatians 1. And also in Acts. Why look further? But of course you reject all that evidence.
Return to Paul's letters: he speaks of being a persecutor and being persecuted. Perhaps we need to be interpreting "persecution" in Mark through the somewhat "relatively mild" form persecution took in the case of Paul.
Not so mild: look at Mark 13:12 "Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death."
(I ignore the late fiction of Acts, of course.)
Assumption again: Acts is all fiction!
What is the Gospel of Mark?

What do some of the stronger literary analyses of the gospel say about it? One that I think is a recurring observation is that the gospel's narrative is nested in themes of the Second Exodus (i.e. Isaiah especially).
Another wild speculation, and far-fetched at that.

Cordially, Bernard
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Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Rules of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Neil

I'm still waiting for your definition of historian. In the meantime, if we can agree that the definition I offered,
a person employed full-time by a post-secondary educational institution whose duties include writing and teaching about research into aspects of the human past
covers only a proper subset of historians (there is no necessity that a historian must work for a college or university, any more than a chemist or engineer must, although I suspect different proportions for different professions), then I am happy to proceed with it.

Following that definition, you have already named historians who don't follow the "rules," at least not to your satisfaction, in the course of criticizing some NT scholars. For the other question, I. Bernard Cohen qualifies as a historian (I have first-hand knowledge of his qualification) under the definition, and I read his book, Revolution in Science.

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php? ... 0674767782


MrMacSon
Bernard's constraint was to stay within the letters of Paul, and he also introduced the notion of a logical interpretation. I complied and followed suit. I was unable to decipher your comment.

Bernard
Quite so, Paul didn't say whether or not he preached. Paul said that preaching to Gentiles was God's purpose in revealing the son of God to Paul (1:16), and then Paul says he went to Arabia and Damascus (1:17).

I estimate that it is more likely than not that Paul wished his reader to infer that he promptly complied with his understanding of what God intended for him. You are obviously entitled to disagree, and I erred to say that Paul said something when I should have said that I interpret him to have said that.

We seem to be closer in agreement than I had thought about the possibility of Paul learning things during his persecutor phase. Thank you also for clarifying the significance of "cold case" for your argument.
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