Author: Michael R. Licona
Paperback: 718 pages
Publisher: InterVarsity press
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while, but because of its size, decided to work through some other books first. The size of this book does create an issue with regards to reviewing it. The only way I feel that I can truly do justice to this books is to review it in parts. There are five major chapters to this book, so this will be a four part review (Chapters 2 and 3 are relatively short compared to the rest).
1. Important Considerations on Historical Inquiry Pertaining to the Truth in Ancient Texts
I found this chapter to be absolutely fascinating and incredibly helpful. I am not a trained historian, so I appreciate Licona’s starting point: the Theory and Method of historical inquiry. I’m not a trained historian by any stretch, this section was extremely helpful as I got a crash course in the theory and method of historical inquiry.
This chapter is broken down further into two sub-sections: Theory and Method, but not before Licona defines some terms: history, historiography and philosophy of history. Licona defines history as “past events that are the object of history” (30) and historiography as “matters in the philosophy of history and historical method.” (31)
I found the discussions on horizons and postmodernist history to be especially fascinating and thought that they really stuck out. It was not enough to merely discuss horizons. Licona takes the discussion a step further, in my opinion, by discussing how to overcome one’s horizon. Licona defines a horizon as “one’s ‘preunderstanding.’ It is how historians view things as a result of their knowledge, experience, beliefs, education, cultural conditioning, preferences, presuppositions and worldview.” (38) This is important because, according to Licona,
[H]istorians are influence by their culture, race, nationality, gender and ethics; their political, philosophical and religions convictions; their life experiences, the academic institutions they attended and the particular community of scholars from which they covet respect and acceptance. They cannot look at the data devoid of biases, hopes or inclinations. No historian is exempt. Horizions are of great interest to historians since they are responsible more than anything else for the embarrassing diversity among the conflicting portraits of the past. (39)
Licona then move on to discuss how historians can overcome their horizon by offering six tools to aid in objectivity.
The same was true in the discussion on postmodernist history. He moves from giving his definition of postmodern history to giving us three examples using three postmodern historians. Licona takes the discussion a step further by critiquing this particular vein of historical inquiry.
What I appreciate about Licona is his willingness to state what other historians believe before stating his own belief on a matter. Take, for example, the brief discussion on what history is. Licona offers the definition of seven historians before stating what, for the purpose of this work, history is.
I also appreciate that Licona is open and upfront concerning his own horizon, even to the point of concluding the first chapter by stating it (see 1.3.7, 130) By naming his own horizon, Licona is being transparent about it, which will provide a vital check to see if his bias plays a major role.
I received this book free from InterVarsity Press. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”