How do historians work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
If you want to see where ignorance of history dwells, just go on the internet. Look for people who want to say that Jesus never existed. There is where you see the problem the most. Never mind that this is a position that 99.99999% of scholars in the field who have Ph.D.s and have passed peer-review, including non-Christian scholars, have rejected. The interwebs has brought to life an idea that died long ago. Even many of the strongest critics of Christianity that were more liberal than the strongest liberal today would not go this far. Sure, Bruno Bauer did, but even he wasn’t accepted by his own colleagues.
Today, one of the claims you’ll hear is about contemporary witness. Unless these people were contemporary with Jesus, we can’t trust their accounts. Of course, the writers of the Gospels and Paul are written off immediately because these are in “the Bible.” It’s an ironic twist. People who think this way treat the Bible just like a fundamentalist does. The fundamentalist says it’s a book that is beyond historical inspection and we should not use it that way. The skeptic can often say the same thing. The only difference is one believes everything in it. The other one is hyper-skeptical of everything in it. Both are not treating the book according to rules of history.
Let’s suppose Jesus died in 30 A.D. Does that mean that if Josephus was born in 29 A.D. he’d suddenly be valid, but if he was born in 31 A.D., he doesn’t qualify? This is part of the problem of what happens. Where do you draw the line?
Never mind that you’d throw out much of ancient history with that. You would not know about Hannibal, Queen Boudica, or Arminius. If you wanted the real accounts of Alexander the Great, those come 400 years later. Most of the writings of Plutarch are about people who were dead before he lived.
One of my favorites is how when presented with a comparison between the resurrection and the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar, that Richard Carrier, the prominent internet blogger, has argued at one part that every historian of the age wrote about Caesar’s crossing. What he doesn’t mention is that none of those historians were alive at the time.
Now of course, contemporaries are wonderful to have and I would contend we have them in the Gospels and the epistles, but they are not a requirement. In fact, the earliest material that we have on Jesus is incredible compared to other ancient figures and that’s the creed in 1 Cor. 15. Even the skeptic James Crossley on the Unbelievable? show referred to it as a gold mine.
When we’re confronted with this rule we have to ask who views this rule as authoritative? Is it qualified historians in the field or is it people on the interwebs who don’t study history? Something highly ironic about all of this is that these skeptics would likely consider YEC a joke, and yet they too follow the Ken Ham rule. “You weren’t there!”
If someone comes to you with the idea that you have to have a contemporary, while I do think we have them in the Gospels and in Paul, it’s best to just ask “Who set this rule?” If we want to know the rules of establishing evolution, do we go to Ph.D.’s in the field or do we go to people on the interwebs? The same thing with how to do history in answering mythicists.