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How Do We Overcome Our Horizons (Biases)? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 1 of the post series, we looked at three guidelines for historians who are attempting to limit the undue influence of their horizons. These guidelines are taken from Mike Licona’s book The Resurrection of Jesus. In part 2, we will review Licona’s next three guidelines.

4. Submitting ideas to unsympathetic experts may assist in minimizing the negative impact of horizon. This is taking peer pressure to the next step by submitting our interpretation of data and historical descriptions to those who are certain to have a different opinion and a motivation to locate weaknesses in competing hypotheses. While historians are inclined to catch comments that support the view they embrace and to skim quickly through comments that oppose it, their critics are not so inclined and will labor diligently to identify and expose weaknesses.

5. Account for the relevant historical bedrock. Some facts are so evidenced that they are virtually indisputable. These facts are referred to as “historical bedrock” since any legitimate hypothesis should be built on it. If a hypothesis fails to explain all of the historical bedrock, it is time to drag that hypothesis back to the drawing board or to relegate it to the trash bin. Historical bedrock includes those facts that meet two criteria. First, they are so strongly evidenced that the historian can fairly regard them as historical facts. Second, the majority of contemporary scholars regard them as historical facts.

6. Detachment from bias is non-negotiable. . . . Roy Hoover articulates this principle well: “To cultivate the virtue of veracity, you have to be willing to part with the way tradition and conventional wisdom say things are, or with the way you would prefer things to be, and be ready to accept the way things really are. Veracity has to be the principal moral and intellectual commitment of any science or scholarship worthy of the name. That means, as I see it, that as a critical biblical scholar you have to be concerned first of all not with how your research turns out, not with whether it will confirm or disconfirm the beliefs or opinions or theories you had when you began the inquiry. You have to care only about finding out how things really are—with finding evidence sufficient to enable you to discover that and with finding also whether or not what you think you have discovered is sustainable when it is tested by the critical scrutiny of others.”

Licona observes that for a historian to be completely objective, or better said, completely unaffected by his horizon, is impossible.  However, if these guidelines are followed, biases can be kept in check enough so that objective scholarship results.


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