History-based Faith is Scientific

                                                History is ‘Scientific’
Richard Dawkins attacks ‘faith’ as it is not evidence based science and thus irrelevant and dangerous.  But the practice of history is ‘scientific’ because it is evidence based.

The New Testament makes a distinction between ‘the faith’ and ‘faith’.  The latter is an expression of trust, but it is directed to the former, which is ‘evidence based’.
Faith  -> the Faith

This can be illustrated by two texts embedded in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians  written from Ephesus early in 55, dating as determined by history-based analysis:
•Inscription in Delphi determines Proconsul Gallio’s arrival in Corinth: 51-52
•This establishes Paul’s arrival in Corinth in 50, and his time there 50-52
•The Book of Acts states that Paul then stayed in Ephesus 3 years, 52-55
•Claudius Caesar died October 54 making at last possible Paul’s visit to Rome
•Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus most probably early in 55

Each Corinthian text is pre-formatted and not composed by Paul but ‘received’ by him.  He, in turn, ‘delivered’ these texts to the new Corinthian church in the year 50.

‘Delivered’ and ‘received’ are technical terminology for a judgment formally ‘delivered’ by master rabbi a student rabbi to ‘receive’ (and then to ‘deliver’).

Paul re-quotes each ‘tradition’ in response to a pastoral issue in the church in Corinth, which he was addressing in this letter.  Neither citation is ‘contrived’ but is gratuitous.

1 Corinthians 11
The Pastoral Issue: Selfishness at the Lord’s Supper meal (vv. 17-22)
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?

The ‘Received’ Tradition (vv. 23-26)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
(he) took bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it,
and              said,
‘This is my body which is [given] for (Greek: hyper) you.
Do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me’.
In the same way also
he took the cup, after supper, saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance (anamnesis) of me’.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

33                                     33                      37[1]                50
Jesus                          -> the disciples        -> Paul        - >the church
(at the Last Supper,                                                            in Corinth
on the night he was

1 Corinthians 15
Pastoral Issue: Resurrection denial in Corinth (v.12)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead,
how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?[2]

The Tradition (vv. 3-7)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
that      Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
that      he was buried,
that      he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and
that      he appeared to Cephas,
then                         to the twelve.
Then    he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,
most of whom are still alive
though some have fallen asleep.
Then    he appeared to James,
then                          to all the apostles.

1. Paul’s fourfold ‘that’ (Greek: hoti) refers to specifically quoted information.
2. The repeated ‘then’ points to a precise sequence:
The resurrected Jesus ‘appeared’ to   Cephas
the twelve
the 500 +
All the apostles (‘missionaries’)
3. Cephas and James are specifically named and ‘the twelve’ are able to be identified.

These two ‘traditions’ would have been ‘formulated’
in Jerusalem
in the earliest Christian community
led by Cephas (Peter) and James, brother of the Lord
Three-four years after Jesus Cephas and James ‘delivered’ these ‘traditions’ to Paul

•A.D. Nock eminent scholar of ancient religions observed that ‘myths’ take generations to develop but that this ‘tradition’ was formulated within 3 years.

•Paul, an eminent junior rabbi, would have quoted these ‘traditions’ carefully.[3]

•Paul’s ‘traditions’ are evidence-based and therefore a fitting basis for faith (trust).


[1]Paul: ‘Then after 3 years (i.e., 37) I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days…I saw…James the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:18-19).

[2]Aeschylus (d. 456): ‘When the dust has drained the blood of a man…there is no resurrection’.

[3]The noun ‘tradition’ (paradosis) is from the verb ‘deliver’ (paradid?mi).  A ‘tradition’ is ‘that which has been delivered’.  This is different from its meaning today, which is something old and venerable.