[A]ny historical study of religion has its bounds: there are data, at times very important ones for a religion, which historians must leave untouched. Christianity is based upon one such datum: the perceived resurrection of Jesus, without which the movement would certainly have disappeared along with the movements following other charismatic figures in first-century Judaism. But resurrection is not susceptible to historical verification, analysis or explanation. Similarly, calls from heaven, such as that to Paul on the way to Damascus, are not susceptible to historical verification, analysis or explanation. Resurrection, calls from heaven and the like can figure in historical studies only as perceptions which, as such, functioned and entered into chains of causation. The sincerity of these perceptions needs no more proof than the numerous martyrdoms which literally testified to them.- Daniel R. Schwartz, "Introduction: On the Jewish Background of Christianity," in Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1992), 2.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The limits of historical study of religion
I find the comments of Israeli scholar, Daniel R. Schwartz, on the limits of a historical study of religion an interesting contrast with the secular approach I described last month (here):