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In my view, the demand for certainty has likely caused more pain and suffering, more confusion and disillusion, than any other single assumption in the study of the Scriptures.
The opposite of certainty is subjectivity. Those who fear the loss of total certainty, must not allow themselves to conclude that if the accounts of the events in Scripture are not absolutely certain, they must be a total fabrication. A total fabrication of events is not what we are reading in the Scriptures. It is a limited, value-based, and biased personal understanding of the events that took place.
While I do not agree the events were fabricated, I also disagree with those who approach biblical studies with the attitude that in them they will find pure objectivity. In the New Testament, we learn of the actual events as they most probably occurred through the perspective of “insiders” whose concern for precision will vary from our own.
The notion that certainty and complete objectivity may be obtained in any study, including biblical studies, is a modern myth. Yes, Paul wrote to Timothy with these words: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2Ti 3:16) It’s important for us to acknowledge however, that Paul was referring to Old Testament texts. He did not boast of his own letters, even if succeeding generations of believers have properly understood them to be “God-breathed.”
I welcome the evaluative process, measuring the probability that the events occurred as they are presented to us in the New Testament. The value of a thorough historical study, making use of extra-biblical materials, helps us fill out the story with details of the social and religious setting, which is not necessarily found in the Bible alone.
We should approach the Scriptures with humility, recognizing that they are not what we want them to be. Instead, they are what they are and they point us to Jesus Christ.