It is laughably specious to contend that all of history is hearsay, especially with reference to the use of term that Mills has made. Many written records--official documents, correspondence, journals, etc.--are contemporaneous to the events which they purport to describe. The careful historian examines these documents as an invesigator examines the corpus delicti in a criminal investigation. Weight is given or withheld from testimony based upon the plausible or putative motives of the witness.
Momentarily, and only for the sake of argument, assuming that the "testaments" were written contemporaneously to the events which they purportedly describe, several problems arise. These documents contradict one another. They contain egregious errors of historical fact: for example, contending that all of the people in the Roman world were called to return to their birthplace for a census--the Romans took a census to count the number of citizens, a figure which rarely exceeded ten percent of the population of the Empire, and they didn't give a damn about anyone else; the disruption of commerce and military operations which would have been attendant upon more than seven million people in the Roman world of Augustus attempting to return to their places of birth alone beggars that bit of foolishness. They contain egregious errors of geography: the Gaderene swine were obliged to run more than thirty miles if they were to have precipitated themselves into Lake Tiberius, beggering a contention that anyone present therefore saw them do it.
But there is no good reason to believe that they were contemporaneous. Even the earliest church scholars refer to texts dating to more than a century after the death of the putative Christ. Origen, writing at the end of the second century, was the individual most responsible for the intellectual acceptance of the dogmatic canon. Eusebius, building upon the work of Origen and using the resources of his patron, Pamphilus, is responsible for the official acceptance of the dogmatic canon in (more or less) its present form early in the fourth century. Furthermore, someone writing late in the first or early in the second century might well have made the errors mentioned above. By the end of the first century, there was a village called Gederes near Lake Tiberius, which could easily have been confused with Gaderes. By the beginning of the second century, citizenship had been so widely extended throughout the Empire, that the bit of silliness attributed to the Augustan age might have seemed plausible to a writer. At the time of Augustus, the only Roman citizens born outside of Italy were those children whose parents were Roman citizens, and Roman citizens went elsewhere in the Empire very rarely for reasons other than official business. It was not until the reign of the Emperor Claudius (regnit 41-54 CE) that citizenship was extended to any population not native to Italy (with the exception of the Narbonensii), when he extended citizenship to the Gauls.
Historical research involves the same methods and tests for credibility as are used in criminal investigations. An important question is who benefits from particular testimony. Were the "testaments" written contemporaneously to the events they purport to describe, there is nevertheless good reason to suggest that they would later be edited to conform to the orthodoxy which church scholars were beginning to promote. Origen and Eusebius both report that they have edited the dogmatic canon. That means it ain't lookin' good for the hometown team. Therefore, it is very germane to take note of the passage of 2000 years. Were it two hundred years, there would be some possibility to verify the sources. Were it twenty years, the probability of eyewitnesses being available would be high. The point that the putative Christ is alleged to have lived two thousand years ago is a very strong point, whether you like to admit it or not.
Hey Boss? did you get any of that from Adolf Harnack?
Never heard of him.
I "got it" by reading history all of my life, including biographies of the "church fathers," which includes Origen, Pamphilus and Eusebius. Anyone with detailed knowledge of the Roman Empire knows that citizenship was restricted until Claudius, and even then the impetus to create new citizenships was slow to develop. Prior to Claudius, the only grant of citizenship outside the Italian peninsula was to Narbonensis, which in the modern world would be an area about the size of a large county around the city of Marseilles in southern France. That was because they allied themselves to the Romans very early in republican history, when the Romans were still punks in the imperial sense--and they remained true to the alliance. Apart from them, no one outside Italy were graned citizenship before Claudius, who did not mount the throne until almost a decade after the putative Christ was alleged to have been executed. Certainly no one called for all the people in the Roman empire to return to the places of their birth at any time in the reign of Augustus, and i frankly wouldn't believe anyone who claimed that happened at any other time.
The geographical errors in the old and new testaments was the subject of an assignment in my ancient history requirement as a history major in college--it was one of several areas, including Greek and Persian ancient accounts, for which i was to find the evidence of geographical errors. Such errors are good reason to doubt the knowledge of the source. Herodatus gets a lot of sneers from historians, especially academic historians, but his geography and his accounts of governments and personalities stand up to scrutiny, so that i consider him a good historian.
Just so you'll know Husker, i don't "get" things from other, single sources. If i read something which is new to me, i look for corroboration. One of the reasons the entire "new testament" story is so unreliable, apart from the gross errors and contradictions, is the lack of outside corroboration.
Just googled your boy von Harnack. I haven't made any study of theologians, Protestant or otherwise, and haven't much interest.
Harnack was the leading historian of the (German) evangelical church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Besides of that, Harnack is still remembered as co-founder of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (nowadays: Max Planck Society)
more Harnack House