Dialogue with Tim O’Neill on Quora About the Historical Reliability of the Bible

This dialogue began with Tim O’Neill’s answer to the Quora question:  “What evidence is there that the Bible a reliable historical document?”

At the dialogue’s most recent point, I wrote to Tim:

As a collection of writings, the Bible is essentially making a major historical claim.  You never even addressed this in your article.  Whether one accepts or rejects the claim, it is certain that this historical claim is being made.  That claim is that Jesus of Nazareth is the figure promised in many and various ways throughout the Old Testament writings, and that this Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead in fulfillment of those promises.

How can you propose to have dealt approroriately with the question about historical reliability when you did not acknowledge such a fundamental characteristic of the collection?

You wrote, “If we just focus on the texts within the Bible that make or seem to make historical claims, things still remain tricky,” but then focused on peripheral issues without even mentioning the central one.

I consider the Bible’s central historical claim as reliable.  You, on the other hand, are skeptical.  Fine.  The problem only arises when you try to come off as offering objective scholarship when in fact you are simply being selective about which scholars you heed.  If you had truly been objective, you would have offered both sides of the issue, referenced scholars on both sides of the issue, and left readers to make their own choices.  Instead, you chose to build a case against the Bible’s historical reliability and yet present it as scholarly consensus.  There is no scholarly consensus about the central historial claim of the Bible because it’s an issue that, while informed by scholarship, transcends it.  From the beginning until now, Jesus Christ is the most polarizing human being ever to have lived.  It is thus not surprising that He would create a spectrum of varying reactions among scholars.  Your article reflected the skeptical portion of them as if they were the whole.  That’s unfair to your readers.

You are well-educated and skilled at writing.  There’s no reason you can’t be more fair-minded.

2 Replies to “Dialogue with Tim O’Neill on Quora About the Historical Reliability of the Bible”

  1. Excellent point Mike! OT history and prophecy, which can be shown to have been written before the 1st century, reliably and consistently called for a Messiah to come through Israel. That Jesus fulfilled the OT requirements is testified in the NT documents. That numerous people believed this (and were willing to die) to be true in the first century is also a well testified fact in history.

    I only read the 1st answer as I am not a Quora user, but also noticed that Tim writes “So, not surprisingly, we have no mention of Jesus outside of the gospels until well after his lifetime – the first coming in the works of Josephus and the second in Tacitus.”, which fails to take into account the rest of the NT collection including the epistles of Paul or the research done into 1 Cor 15 passage and the likelihood that is represents a earlier creed.

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