The Modern Interpretation of History
By what authority have historians left God and the Bible out of history?
This question may come as a surprise. Many are unaware that a radically new interpretation of history is being taught in schools and colleges today. It is a history of the world in which God and the supernatural are rejected.
It is impossible to believe BOTH this history AND the Bible. Both cannot be right.
The modern interpretation of world history stands in open conflict with Scripture. How did this conflict arise? When did history forget God and become confused? Why are historians so sharply divided into opposing schools over the chronological events of the ancient world?
A Radical New ViewWhat many do not realize is that the modern world-view of history without God is a radically new interpretation of human experience. Almost no one today, it seems, has ever questioned whether this new interpretation is right. It is merely assumed to be right.
Students in particular — and the public in general — have been led to believe that archaeologists, historians, scientists and theologians live with full assurance and in absolute conviction that this new interpretation of HISTORY WITHOUT GOD is correct. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
One would be shocked to hear the candid admissions and private confessions of learned scholars. These men appear to write and speak with confidence. They are assumed to know the answers to history's greatest questions: how did man originate? why is man here? where is man going?
But they do not know. They have no scientific way of discovering the answers. They are only guessing! One famous historian — Hendrik Van Loon — dared to confess this in his book "Story of Mankind". Here are his candid words: "We live under the shadow of a gigantic question mark. What are we? Where did we come from? Whither are we bound?"
And his answer: "We still know very little but we have reached the point where (with a fair degree of accuracy) we can guess at many things."
Astounding — but true! Yet these guesses are masquerading today as authoritative interpretations of history!
How History Is WrittenCasual readers would be shocked to learn how history books are prepared. It is usually assumed that history is solely a matter of collecting factual material, judiciously evaluating it, and recording it for posterity. "Nothing could be farther from the truth," warns C. W. Ceram in "Secret of the Hittites," p. 119.
A historian is not a scribe, but a JUDGE of the evidence that is brought before him. He is his own final authority. He is not judged by, but sits in judgment of, history. Whatever evidence does not conform to the commonly accepted beliefs of the age or community in which he lives he summarily rejects!
History, in other words, is based only on that part of evidence which agrees with the prevailing opinions of the society in which a historian lives. These may be shocking evaluations, but they are true. World-history texts prove it. Historians admit it!
"The SELECTION of sources still rests upon the discretion of the individual historian. What he chooses as relevant depends upon his conception of the period he is studying. In this the historian is limited by his own temperament and guided by the spirit of his age." So writes C. W. Ceram in the previously mentioned volume, on page 119.
Is there any wonder that different nations and peoples have divergent histories of the same events?
Not Without BiasTake as an example the history of the Second World War. Communist historians write only those facts about the war that can be shaped to suit the aims of the Communist Party. Japanese historians view the episode at Pearl Harbor quite differently from Americans. Even in America there are two or more versions about the responsibility for the Pearl Harbor incident — depending upon the political party with which one is affiliated!
Today many German historians are united in a conspiracy to hide the truth about the Hitler regime from the younger generation. The Nazi period is glossed over almost as if it did not exist!
And how did historians handle the events of the First World War? In the same manner. The French historians' account of the Versailles Treaty at the end of the war was diametrically opposed to the German version. Each nation chose to accept only those facts which would lend historical support to its selfish motives.
The reconstruction and interpretation of history to suit political, social, economic, religious or race prejudices is a practice of scientific historians of all nations. Much of this prejudice the writers themselves are unaware of. It is so natural to human nature that they are often convinced that their prejudices do not exist! This suppression of part of the truth is the primary reason the world has never learned the lessons of history. The secondary reason, of course, is that most individuals do not want to believe the truth of history even when it is told them.
A Case HistoryA remarkable episode occurred in America in 1954 when the highest court of the land was confronted with a major social issue. A noted historian had become involved in the legal aspects of the case. Here is what happened, in his own words, told to fellow historians:
"The problem we faced was not the historian's discovery of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; the problem instead was the formulation of an adequate gloss ....
"It was not that we were engaged in formulating lies; there was nothing as crude and naive as that. But we were using facts, emphasizing facts, bearing down on facts, sliding off facts, quietly ignoring facts and, above all, interpreting facts in a way to ... 'get by ...."'
This candid admission strikes at the heart of the problem! Many times educators and ministers and writers of textbooks are confronted with the conflict between truth and the beliefs and ideas of the society around them. If they are to be accepted by the people, they must conform — by altering or rejecting part of the truth!
Of course they use facts — but how they use those facts, which facts they use, which facts they ignore or reject and the interpretation they place on the facts — that is the crux of the problem!
Trapped in the vicious whirl of intellectual pressures like so many others, the historian admitted he was forced unwittingly to face the question of whether he would compromise his conscience. He reported to fellow historians in Washington, D. C., on December 28, 1961, that he was asked to produce "a plausible historical argument that will justify ..." a certain particular decision affecting public schools. "I was facing," he continued, "the deadly opposition between my professional integrity as a historian and" — notice it — "a contemporary question of values, of ideals, of policy, or partisanship and of political objectives. I suppose if a man is without scruple," he noted as a concluding thought, "this matter will not bother him, but I am frank to say that it bothered me terribly ...."
What an intellectual tragedy! Forced to make a decision between historical truth and the whims, the false ideas, the political partisanship of society!
"Anything but Historical Truth"After days and nights of hard labor, a lengthy document was presented to the highest court of the land. "I am convinced now that this interpretation, which we hammered out with anything but historical truth as our objective, nonetheless contains an essential measure of historical truth," he concluded.
He was now convinced by his own arguments. This is exactly how every human mind works.
It is this same attitude of mind that has precipitated the conflict between the Bible and the new interpretation of history.
Altering history is not new to the twentieth century. It has been occurring ever since men began to write history.
In the United States, for example, there are two unharmonious versions of causes of the American Civil War. Yet these different versions are officially approved as texts in schools — depending, of course, on the geographical area! The British account of the American Revolution of 1776 differs materially from the American version. A traitor in British eyes becomes a patriot in American histories.
One cannot peruse any major historical subject such as the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, or Church History without discovering Catholic, Protestant or agnostic bias. No Biblical subject can be read in any encyclopedia without noting the author's liberal, conservative or orthodox views. Or consider the life of Jesus. Could we think for a moment that Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu or Muslim would view alike the place of Jesus in history? Or the apostle Peter? Would the Anglican version agree with the Greek Orthodox or the Roman Catholic version? Yet every historian has access to the same evidence.
History Involves InterpretationHistory is not mere recording of facts. Contrary to the common idea, it is essentially interpretative. "The reconstruction of ancient history is an abstracting from the facts by means of hypothesis ...", wrote G. Ernest Wright in "The Biblical Archaeologist Reader," page 19. What occurs when the hypothesis is in error? The reconstruction of history will be in error!
This is one of the chief sources of confusion among historians. Each historian interprets the facts in accordance with his own hypothesis. He ignores those facts that do not fit the hypothesis. "This is inevitable for any hypothesis," admits George E. Mendenhall; for a hypothesis "is not intended as a presentation of eternal truth" (page 38 of "Biblical History in Transition," "The Bible and the Ancient Near East"). Yet many of these hypotheses ARE passing for truth in history textbooks.
One of the clearest summaries of this modern method of historical study was presented by Dr. Alfred H, Kelly at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association on December 28, 1961. He declared: "History is art as well as fact: everyone in this room knows that the facts do not automatically arrange themselves without the historian's creative leap, which occurs in our craft as well as in the exact sciences ...."
It is time historians took a GENUINELY creative leap and called into question the whole basic assumption of modern historical interpretation.
The Truth about the "Historical Method"The foundation of modern historical research is the "historical method" of study. Few laymen are aware of what it is. Even many historians are not aware of its limitations and its fallacies. The "historical method" of study is essentially a new approach to history. It is called SCIENTIFIC because it limits itself to the tools of scientific research and reasoning. It is not based on demonstrable fact. It rests on only one fundamental — and unprovable — hypothesis: THAT GOD HAS NEVER AND DOES NOT NOW INTERVENE IN, OR DETERMINE, THE COURSE OF HISTORY.
Let a modern exponent of this new world-view explain it: "In any case, modern science does not believe that the course of nature can be interrupted or, so to speak, perforated by supernatural powers.
"The same is true of the modern study of history, which does not take into account any intervention of God or of the devil or of demons in the course of history .... Modern men take it for granted that the course of nature and of history, like their own inner life and their practical life, is nowhere interrupted by intervention of supernatural powers." ("Jesus Christ and Mythology", by Rudolf Bultmann, pgs. 16-17.)
This assumption has not been and can never be proved. There are no physical tools of science by which it may be demonstrated. It remains only a hypothesis. Yet scientists and historians take it for granted as if it were true.
The modern scientific historian blindly follows the "historical method." If he did not do so, he would be cast out by his fellows. He is taught to reject everything supernatural from history texts — EVEN WHEN EVIDENCE OF THE INTERVENTION OF GOD IS RECORDED BY EYE-WITNESSES IN ANCIENT SECULAR RECORDS. He simply refuses to believe lt. This is not true history or science. It is half truth and intellectual folly.
This unscientific approach is the universally required method of modern historical study in institutions of higher learning. One will find it explained, for example, in the well-known text "The Critical Method in Historical Research and Writing". The author, Homer Carey Hockett, warns his students against God and the supernatural in history. He writes: "Moreover there are some kinds of statements which are rejected even without being subjected to the usual tests. The historian must reject them when the tests he usually makes are not applicable. Such treatment is due statements reporting happenings which do not conform to the laws of nature as established by scientific methods."
Since God cannot be scientifically tested He is rejected as myth. "It requires no justification where myths ... are involved. Their summary rejection is implied in the rule that no statement can be accepted unless it can be shown to rest upon trustworthy observation." Any who recognize God does intervene in nature is automatically assumed to be untrustworthy. "If any one asserts them he must be regarded as ignorant, superstitious, the victim of hallucination, or some other form of mental aberration" (p. 62).
What does all this mean? Just this: no one wants to be accused of "ignorance," "superstition" or "mental aberration." To avoid this stigma, the student or the historian finds himself compelled to reject God and any supernatural event recorded in history. He is forced to accept ,whatever passes under the vogue of science and reject whatever is presently called "myth." No observation is accepted as trustworthy if it disagrees with the present view of the natural world in which God and the supernatural are deliberately excluded. ALL RECORDS AND EVENTS ARE REINTERPRETED to fit the fallacious and unprovable assumption that God is not in history.
The "historical method" is nothing more than a new myth — a new superstition. Its basic assumption is not only unverified, but absolutely and irrevocably refuted by the evidence of past records and of human experience WHICH HISTORIANS KNOW THEY HAVE REJECTED OR IGNORED.
Evidence of God Rejected as "Myth"To justify the use of the "historical method" historians have had to discard or gloss over literally thousands of ancient records which corroborate the history of the Bible. These secular records include not only carefully preserved annals and references to the patriarchs, but also accounts of every major Biblical event, including the deluge, the building of the Tower of Babel and the Exodus! They are all summarily discarded — as is the Bible — under the name of "myth." Many of these records and annals will be re-examined in this compendium and properly placed in their historical milieu.
But how does a historian or a theologian prove whether the Bible or a secular record is a "myth" or a "fact." The answer is, he does not prove anything. He ASSUMES.
"The beginning of Thy word is truth," declares Psalm 119:160 (trans. of Jewish Publication Society). But modern scholarship would have us assume the beginning of Scripture — Genesis — is untrue or "myth."
Let Rudolf Bultmann explain it. "The whole conception of the world which is presupposed in the preaching of Jesus ... is mythological i.e., ... the conception of the intervention of supernatural powers in the course of events .... This conception of the world we call mythological because it is different from the conception of the world which has been formed and developed by science since its inception in ancient Greece ..." (p. 15).
It is called "myth" ONLY because it differs from pagan Greek science and its modern derivative! What modern science refuses to believe is arbitrarily and without proof designated "myth."
It is the very same hypothesis that atheistic, communistic materialists accept. Yet it is called "Christian scholarship." There is no essential difference between this Western God-rejecting skeptical scholarship and Communistic scholarship. Both reject the God who has intervened in the course of history. The former rejects Him in the name of humanistics and science; the latter in the name of atheistic materialism!
This similarity should surprise no one. For Karl Marx, the founder of atheistic Communism, was trained in the same German universities of Bonn, Berlin and Jena and by the same men who influenced Western scholars to accept the God-rejecting "historical method."
History Cut from Its MooringsScholarship today is in confusion — usually dignified by the expression "learned controversy." The disagreement over the meaning of practically everything is so wide ranging, so acute, that archaeologist George E. Mendenhall wrote that it "may with perhaps less courtesy but more accuracy be called chaos"! (From "Biblical History in Transition," "The Bible and the Ancient Near East", edited by G. Ernest Wright. pp. 38, 33.)
The cause of this chaos is that historical conclusions are based not so much on authorities as on theories. There has been no true respect for the history of the Bible and for accurate secular annals. The Bible has been discounted simply because it has not been understood. Scripture has often been compared to a heap of winnowed chaff.
There is a reason the learned intellects have not understood the Bible. It is this: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" — or, as the margin reads: "a mind void of judgment" (Romans 1:28). And again, as Dr. Lamsa renders the Aramaic of I Corinthians 2:14: "For the material man rejects spiritual things, for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
The modern interpretation of history is devoid of judgment. It is based on ignoring or disregarding the very documents and the evidence that disprove it.
Scholars and theologians therefore have read their own interpretations of secular records into the Bible. If necessary, they altered the text to accomodate a hypothesis. Even so conservative a scholar as A. T. Olmstead admitted when explaining the relationship of the Bible to history:
"This is only to say in other words that the Bible cannot be understood by itself .... It has become obvious that before we may claim to KNOW the Bible, we must first investigate all these varied sources and arrange their data in a general narrative. Then and only then we are ready at long last to fit the Biblical stories into ancient history." ("History, Ancient World, and the Bible — Problems of Attitude and Method", "Journal of Near Eastern Studies", Vol. II, No. 1, January 1943.)
THERE is the root of the conflict that permeates theology, history, archaeology and related sciences. Men have rejected — without examining the proof — God as the source of truth. "Thy Word," declared Jesus, "is truth" (John 17:17). They have read their own interpretations into history and into the Bible. Each one follows his own human reasoning, apart from, and in opposition to, the revealed truth of God. Chaos is the result.
"But when you have the truth, everything fits"! (E. R. Punshon, "Information Received", Penguin Books, 1955.)