Jesus Dynasty, the supernatural and history
In response to reviews of the Jesus Dynasty, James Tabor writes:
More than one evangelical Christian reviewer or reader of my book The Jesus Dynasty has objected to the exclusion of the so-called “miraculous” as a part of an investigation of the “historical” Jesus. As Christianity Today’s Darrell Bock put it: “James Tabor’s historical assumptions that reject God’s activity on Earth force him into odd arguments to explain the birth of Christianity.” Bock is referring particularly to my observation that historians assume that all humans have two biological parents and that dead bodies don’t rise to life. Ironically, to most historians the “odd arguments” are characteristic of those who take the assertions that Jesus had no human father or that he walked out of his tomb and ascended into heaven as literal scientific statements of fact. Whether I personally reject “God’s activity on Earth” is another matter entirely that I don’t address directly in my book.
This has been an issue which has turned up on this blog more than once and sometimes lead to some entertaining hate (e)mail. It is an old and well worn issue but it hasn't gone away. As ever don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people who want to argue that the miraculous explains Christian origins no matter how misguided I think that is but who is really odd? I find it difficult to imagine that a historian in a history department would explain the emergence of a new religion or movement in terms of supernatural and the divine in history. It may not be odd in theology and biblical studies but in 'secular' discipline it would be, right?
The historian EH Carr was not always on the side of the angels in many ways (to put it mildly) but his stress that resorting to God is the joker in the pack of cards that a historian is not allowed to use seems to me to be completely mainstream among historians in history departments.