Butterfield on the process of sifting through garbage

2014/11/06 § Leave a comment

I must confess that, as a modern historian, when I consider the terrible effects of criticism even on the most respectable of contemporary memoirs—those of Sir Edward Grey, for example—or remember the suppressions of which both good Protestants and good Catholics have been so often guilty, with the most pious of intentions, in their writing of history; when I think that the future student of the 1930’s and the 1940’s is going to have to pick his way even amongst faked diaries and narratives of pretended eye-witnesses; and when I recall how much more easy it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the most excellent trained historian to repeat a piece of gossip or an anecdote at the dinner-table without adding a little varnish—putting all these things together I have wondered sometimes how such a thing as ancient history, whether secular or sacred, could be taken seriously at all. It was not surprising that sooner or later somebody should raise the question whether Jesus Christ Himself were not perhaps a myth, possibly even a syndicate.1

1 Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History (United States of America: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1950), 16-7.


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