Historical versus Historicity

Historical versus Historicity February 18, 2015

There’s been some question as of late on the use of terms such as “historical” and “historicity” in some of my recent blog posts. I’m going to try and provide some clarity.

“Historicity” means the act of producing a work that attempts to depict an accurate representation of the real past. “Historical” is closely related, and yet distinct. It refers to something or even someone from the past.

So in other words, Jesus was a “historical” person, but the NT lacks “historicity.” Therefore, we have to employ the skills of critical scholarship to uncover the “historical” Jesus due to the lack of “historicity” in the Gospels.

As I have explained in my posts, this fact need not trouble religious readers. Biblical authors used depictions of the past to serve the needs of the present. Religious readers can use scripture in the same way. On this point, I’ll quote the perspective of Dr. Peter Enns who states:

“What makes the Bible God’s Word isn’t its uncanny historical accuracy, as some insist, but the sacred experiences these stories point to, beyond the words themselves. Watching these ancient pilgrims work through their faith, even wrestling with how they did that, models for us our own journeys of seeking to know God better and commune with him more deeply.” Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (p. 77).

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