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January 03, 2006



The historicity of the New Testament is greater than nearly all other writings of antiquity; the scholarship is there for any to check. Dr. Timothy O'Donnell, president of Christendom College, presents a lucid explication of their historicity, for example, but the judge's ax isn't about facts, is it?

The case of modernity against the Church can simplistically be compared to the usurping king of Narnia, Miraz in C. S. Lewis' PRINCE CASPIAN. It is about abuse of and will to power, false transcendence and a lack of faith.

The scapegoating of the Church is only beginning. "But be of good cheer," Jesus reminds us, "I have overcome the world."


I think it was the late historian Will Durant, an agnostic, who pointed out this out :

If we demand strict and stringent proof of Christ's historicity, the same exacting criteria of "proof" would cause historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to fade into the realm of myth and fable, yet NO ONE EVER DOUBTS THAT THEY EXISTED !

Human nature never changes. The same mindset prompts one person to ask "What is truth ?" and a score of centuries later another can ask "How many divisions does the pope have ?" Set against these cynical remarks, we have the most confident words ever spoken that "heaven and earth will pass away. My words will not pass away." This judge doesn't stand a chance.


An extraneous "out" crept into my 1st sentence. Gotta proofread these things better ...

Susan Peterson

My husband has a book called "Historical doubts concerning the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte."
It makes the same point as Will Durant is cited above as making, but at great length, by using the methods used at the time of its writing to cast doubt on the existance of Napoleon.

Maybe I can find a reference to this book on the web.

Susan Peterson

Richard Whitely, Historical Doubts concerning the Existence of Napoleon Bonaparte in Famous Pamphlets,2nd ed. ed.byHenry Morally (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1880)

This source is wrong, the author's name is Whately, not Whitely.

(Is this the same Whately who was Newman's accuser "What then does Dr. Newman mean?" in the controversy which spawned the Apologia?)

Susan Peterson

Susan Peterson


Richard Whately made fun of Hume’s ideas in a pamphlet called Historical Doubts Concerning the Existence of Napoleon Bonaparte . He traced all of the amazing exploits of Napoleon’s career and showed that they are so fantastic and so unprecedented that no intelligent person should believe that such a man ever existed. We should put him in the same category as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. His point is to show that if the skeptic does not deny the existence of Napoleon, he “must at least acknowledge that they do not apply to that question the same plan of reasoning which they have made use of in others.”

Sorry to be presenting my research piecemeal, but if I don't I seem to lose what I have put in the post window when I go to find out more.

Susan Peterson


Largely under Hume's influence, many writers of the next few decades professed sweeping doubts concerning the teachings of Christianity, and the events narrated in the Gospels. A popular book of the early 1800's was called HISTORIC DOUBTS RELATIVE TO JESUS OF NAZARETH, and the author concluded that the evidence that such a person had ever lived was very weak.

In 1819 (while Napoleon was a prisoner on St. Helena, and two years before Napoleon's death), Richard Whately, then teaching at Oxford, published a short work called HISTORIC DOUBTS RELATIVE TO NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE. In it, he applied the methods of Hume and others to show that Hume's arguments undermined considerably more than just the case for miracles and other aspects of Christian belief.

Whately (1787-1863) was the author of standard texts on logic and rhetoric. From 1831 on he was Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, where he conferred with the Roman Catholic Archbishop on devising a religion curriculum acceptable to all Christian churches for use in the Irish school system. The two of them did in fact manage to agree on such a curriculum, but popular suspicions and political tensions prevented its implementation.


Susan Peterson

No, it was Charles Kingsley who had the controversy with Newman. I am not sure why I thought it was this Whately.

Susan Peterson

Newman on Whately, in the Apologia

"And now as to Dr. Whately. I owe him a great deal. He was a man of generous and warm heart. He was particularly loyal to his friends, and to use the common phrase, " all his geese were swans." While I was still awkward and timid in 1822, he took me by the hand, and acted the part to me of a gentle and encouraging instructor. He, emphatically, opened my mind, and taught me to think and to use my reason. After being first noticed by him in 1822, I became very intimate with him in 1825, when I was his Vice-Principal at Alban Hall. I gave up that office in 1826, when I became Tutor of my College, and his hold upon me gradually relaxed. He had done his work towards me or nearly so, when he had taught me to see with my own eyes and to walk with my own feet. Not that I had not a good deal to learn from others still, but I influenced them as well as they me, and co-operated rather than merely concurred, with them. As to Dr. Whately, his mind was too different from mine for us to remain long on one line. I recollect how dissatisfied he was with an Article of mine in the London Review, which Blanco White, good humouredly, only called Platonic. When I was diverging from him (which he did not like), I thought of dedicating my first book to him, in words to the effect that he had not only taught me to think, but to think for myself. He left Oxford in 1831; after that, as far as I can recollect, I never saw him but twice, - when he visited the University; once in the street, once in a room. From the time that he left, I have always felt a real affection for what I must call his memory; for thenceforward he made himself dead to me. My reason told me that it was impossible that we could have got on together longer; yet I loved him too much to bid him farewell without pain. After a few years had passed, I began to believe that his influence on me in a higher respect than intellectual advance, (I will not say through his fault,) had not been satisfactory. I believe that he has inserted sharp things in his later works about me. They have never come in my way, and I have not thought it necessary to seek out what would pain me so much in the reading. "

It is always a pleasure to read Newman, but now I have digressed too far from the blog subject and will desist.

phil swain

Except for fear of being brought up on charges of "abusing popular credulity", I'd suggest that the retired agronomist doesn't exist.


From Scrappleface:
004-10-10) — French President Jacques Chirac announced today that Jacques Derrida, the father of the intellectual movement called deconstructionism, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, “if indeed ‘death’ can be said to mean anything beyond the biases of culture, language, religion and philosophy.”

“Of course, we can’t assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida’s recent failure to exist,” said Mr. Chirac, “We can’t even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything–Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?”

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