Reflection pt. 3 – Borg and the ancients

14 Feb

This is my last post reflecting on the Marcus Borg conversation at Rollins. Links two the first two are
Here, and here. (In other news, sorry this has nothing to do with Valentine’s day.
Since the heart of this blog is about conversation, specifically about the most common objections rather than fringe complaints I want to focus on the question I asked during the Q and A, as well as Borg’s answer.
I asked Borg to clarify whether or not he believes ALL miraculous events recorded in the Bible should be read as parables, and he affirmed this. I then asked why Luke’s Gospel is specifically introduced with the author explaining that he had put together a “full account” by interviewing eyewitnesses. It seems to read “parable” where the author intended “full eyewitness account” is to intentionally misinterpret the work.
Borg dismissed the question by proposing that ancient authors do not equate truth and factuality the way modern readers might expect. He explained that ancient authors felt free to make up speeches and attribute actions to historical figures if they communicated the gist of the truth about the situations at hand. I grant that this is true, but Luke seems to be able to tell the difference between parable (introducing them as such!) and historical event. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask Borg this follow up question, but I think it is a valid one.

Indiana Jones trusted the eyewitness testimony of the grail knight, even though he was old!

Indiana Jones trusted the eyewitness testimony of the grail knight, even though he was old!

The bigger issue that stands out for me is how often people impugn our beliefs because they have not happened recently. “Ancient” authors can’t be trusted because some ancient authors wrote history that wasn’t 100% factual. Another example of this crops up when people are slamming some aspect of the Bible and they throw out “Bronze-age….(morals, people, philosophy, etc.)” The Bronze-age comment is a red herring meant to distract from the issue at hand: is it true? The implication is that because something is old, it must be false or incomplete. However, anything that is foundationally true will remain so regardless of when the truth was discovered. 2+2 has always equaled four, even though it was discovered without using an electron microscope. So if some Bronze-age Palestinians witnessed a man who claimed to be God perform miracles and then resurrect from the dead, I’m only going to dismiss their claim if I believe it to be false – not because they are ancient.

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