What follows is a part of an ongoing discussion I am having with Andrew Preslar, who is linked down below. I think it is vitally important to define our terms, and what follows is my attempt to define what “divine revelation” is. Of course this definition will not be accepted on both sides, but the definitions given here will help a lot of people understand what actually is being discussed during these discussions. Part 1 of my response is here.
Andrew – I’m aware of the CTC “paradigm” – Succinctly stated, it is this: “The Catholic ‘interpretive paradigm’ is preferable to the Protestant ‘interpretive paradigm’ because the former, unlike the latter, supplies a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinions.”
There are a lot of things wrong with this. One of the components of defining what “divine revelation” “is”, is also excluding that which may be termed “divine revelation”. For example, I think you would agree with me that false statements can in no way constitute “divine revelation”.
And when talking about the relationship of “historical criticism” and “divine revelation”, I’d say firmly that “historical criticism” won’t and can’t say what is “divine revelation”, but it can work to exclude it. It can find true and false things in history. I would agree with you that the true things don’t necessarily prove anything. Although they provide support for biblical accounts, for example, as in this recent Biblical Archaeology article that lists 50 Old Testament persons whose existence has been confirmed by archaeology – including, famously, King David:
According to the Bible, David ruled in the tenth century B.C.E., using the traditional chronology. Until 1993, however, the personal name David had never appeared in the archaeological record, let alone a reference to King David. That led some scholars to doubt his very existence. According to this speculation David was either a shadowy, perhaps mythical, ancestor or a literary creation of later Biblical authors and editors. In 1993, however, the now-famous Tel Dan inscription was found in an excavation led by Avraham Biran… Written in ninth-century B.C.E. Aramaic, it was part of a victory stele commissioned by a non-Israelite king mentioning his victory over “the king of Israel” and the “House of David.” Whether or not the foreign king’s claim to victory was true, it is clear that a century after he had died, David was still remembered as the founder of a dynasty.
Now, while a lack of mention of King David did not “disprove” his existence, this archaeological find certainly provides strong confirmation for the truth of the accounts given in the Bible. (I would consider archaeology to be a component of “historical criticism”. In the same way that “grammar” and “other historical sources” lend credibility to an account and help us to understand “what the text actually says” and “what it meant for the writer and the original audience”, so too does this kind of archaeological confirmation provide key information for us as we seek to understand how “divine revelation” works).
But on the other hand, “historical critical” methods can work to oppose an account as well. I’ve written in several places about both sides of this coin. While “historical criticism” as a methodology over the last 200 years has failed to exclude the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but have only strengthened the veracity of the New Testament accounts.
These same kinds of methods, however, have not only worked to exclude things like an “early papacy” (especially the kind of “early papacy” that I grew up believing in, and which was prevalent in Roman Catholicism for hundreds and hundreds of years), but it is also enabling us to reconstruct what the actual early church was like in its beliefs, worship, leadership structure, and more. That is the whole point behind Brandon Addison’s excellent article outlining Peter Lampe’s work.
While this phenomenon does not in and of itself confirm or deny “divine revelation”, it certainly comports with how most normal people, with a good understanding of how the world around them works, would tend to view things.
I admit, that in itself is not enough. But there is more.
END OF PART II