Bauckham responds II
Prof Richard Bauckham has been reading your comments in my series on his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses again, and he has this to say in response to a strand of criticism that has surfaced a number of times from a certain Mr Carr (cf. e.g. the comments in part 7):
“Stephen Carr makes the same point over and over. He accuses me of making mere assertions without proof. He does not understand the nature of my arguments. I am offering historical hypotheses to account for the data. This is a normal part of historical method. Historians do it all the time. We have certain data (in this case some aspects of the text of the Gospels) and we must try to find a hypothesis that adequately explains them (as well as being consistent with all our other relevant historical knowledge). So, for example, why is that, whereas most recipients of Jesus’ healings are unnamed in the Gospels, a few are named. I offer a hypothesis that explains this. I know of no other hypothesis that does. Or why do the names of the women vary at different points in a Gospel or between the Gospels? I offer a hypothesis that explains this.Cf. Bauckham’s first response here.
To ‘prove’ such a hypothesis is a judgment of probability based on how adequately a hypothesis accounts for the data. The way to engage critically with this form of historical argument is (a) negatively, to show that the hypothesis does not account adequately for the data or that it is inconsistent with other known data, (b) positively, to offer another hypothesis that accounts better for the data (or, at least, equally well).
This is the kind of discussion - often at a very sophisticated, nuanced and detailed level - that goes on all the time in NT scholarship, as well as in other fields. NT scholarship differs only in that in many cases the discussion is more intensive and extensive, so that in fact all the possibilities are weighed more rigorously than in some other fields of ancient history where far fewer scholars are at work”.