“I deny your reality, and substitute my own”

Thanks to my brother, I have once again become engaged in a discussion of what can be “proven” and “dis-proven.” Or more to the point for this discussion, whether one can “prove” a negative.

Apparently, there is an on-going debate amongst biblical scholars (minimalists, and maximalists) concerning whether one can accept the historicity of biblical texts. As I understand it, the maximalists argue that barring evidence to the contrary the historicity of biblical texts should be accepted as fact. The minimalists instead argue that without additional evidence those texts are to be viewed as “not true” and thus not trusted.

That’s all well and good.  Except for one thing. According to my brother, they then proceed to tell you what they think “really” happened.  So maximalists (according to the minimalists) make the fatal error of believing documents contemporary  to the time under study, while the minimalists are able to, through some other means, discover the “real truth” with testimony.


Of course, as part of the on-going discourse Dr Jim West decides to critique the “contemporary text” which my brother wrote, and create his own (mis) interpretation of what was written. He then goes on to address the error of my brother’s interpretation of my brother’s own writing.  Interesting.

So, let me ask you, dear Reader, how do you (knowing my brother writes, on his own blog) interpret my brother’s line:

Dr. Jim West (I am a doctor as well, just not a “real” doctor, as my grandmother will tell you) calls this an “impossible impossibility” and says that you cannot prove a negative.

So, in this case, what struck me as interesting, is that we have a microcosm of exactly what the debate is about.  The text seemed, clear, and we were even provided the author’s own statement of intent.  And yet, a minimalist chooses to tell us what “it really meant.”

At the end of the day, I found myself wondering how we are able to communicate at all, if such a simple sentence is so easily misunderstood.


One thought on ““I deny your reality, and substitute my own”

  1. Interesting issue- and not just in terms of biblical scholarship, but scholarship in general.

    In qualitative research, generally, contemporaneous reports are given pretty heavy weight, particularly if they constitute primary data.

    For example, the handwritten notes of eye witnesses to the flight of the Wright Flyer at Kill Devil Hill would be considered “primary” data; while the published account in a newspaper written by a journalist who interviewed someone claiming to be there would be considered “secondary” data.

    The newspaper account of a journalist who claimed to have read an eyewitness account would be considered, well, a “tertiary” source (commonly referred to as BS; except by other journalists, who would consider it “proof.”).

    So back to the matter at hand, eh?

    What biblical data represents:
    1) eyewitness acounts written in the hand of the eyewitness,
    2) and what constitutes third-party interprefication of an account of what someone else believed to be a credible account of what someone else said was a good interpretation of a probably second hand report of what was reputed to be an eyewitness account?

    Inquiring minds want to know . . .

    Scorch aka the other steve

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