Work on a recent section of my up and coming book led me to doing some research on the methods historians use for verifying accuracy. This was important in my research because so many “traditions” roam abroad with unsupported claims of ancient roots. I’m sharing this with you fine folks because it may help you decide which systems are worth working in and which are not. After all if the system is based in lies, you can only expect any claims of potential gain are also based in lies. Given the short lifespan we have and the fact that most of us were not born into this pursuit, time is precious.
Time brings us to our first point of measure when dealing in authenticating a system as ancient. Olden-Jørgensen and Thurén state that the closer the evidence examined is to the event it claims to describe, the more likely it is that we can trust the evidence given.
In the case of physical evidence (i.e. a plate, stone, or any other tangible item) this is more than obvious. As an example let us just pretend someone has found a spear which they claim was used by early Mesopotamian hunters. After undergoing the process of carbon dating it is revealed that this spear could not be any older than the end of the Roman Empire. We can confidently conclude that it is highly unlikely that this spear existed in it’s “claimed” time period.
What about narrative evidence? Can the same type of measure be given? It certainly can! However a greater degree of difficulty is presented in this type of verification and so a number of procedures have been proposed. Bernheim and Langlois & Seignobos proposed a 7 step system and Garraghan gives 6 steps. It would seem there are many options available to establishing a method of verification. In this light I’ve sought a common field of variables and comprised my own list.
* Proximity of Origin
* Greater Value of Testimony
* Tendency of Bias
* Detail vs General Analysis
* Reference Verification
* Plausibility Verification
* Linear Relativity
* Statisical Relativity
* Analogical Function
As to not entirely bore you fine folks with exasperating detailed descriptions, I will sum each up with a brief sentence or two.
Proximity of Origin – The length of time between the actual occurrence and it’s testimony. It is completely different when dealing with a narrative account from someone who was present during the occurrence versus someone who is trying to reconstruct it a hundred years later.
Greater Value of Testimony – Are there a large number of separate accounts from separate individuals? Do they all agree on ALL the points in consideration?
Tendency of Bias – Is there a set of circumstances which would cause the petitioner of the testimony to be biased to the occurrence? If so, what is the likelihood of the petitioner maintaining a neutral presentation?
Detail Vs General Analysis – Are ALL accounts detailed? If not is there a larger percentage that are detailed or general?
Reference Verification – Can the data presented be verified by sources of authority? How much empirical evidence can be gathered to support the reference.
Plausibility Verification – Is it reasonable to have occurred? Are the existing external conditions for its plausibility present?
Linear Relativity – Does the sequence of events leading up to and continuing afterward present its situation as relative? For instance the claim that Jesus was born between the time of Washington’s Presidency and Adam’s Presidency is clearly retarded.
Statistical Relativity – This deals more with gray areas (situations in which there is conflicting data) and can be utilized by comparison of higher statistical probability. This is obviously using hard science to measure the likelihood of the occurrence.
Analogical Function – When dealing with things of metaphor, one must measure the application of the metaphor during it’s historical period. Obviously the Xtian’s metaphor for “Feeding the Five Thousand” has nothing to do with biological cloning of fish and bread.
As it stands now this is my method. In contrast prior to my committal of this to my book, I’d like you folks to examine it or try it out and help me refine this.