The metaphysics of historical Jesus research: an argument for increasing the plurality of metaphysical frameworks within historical Jesus research

Rowlands, Jonathan (2020) The metaphysics of historical Jesus research: an argument for increasing the plurality of metaphysical frameworks within historical Jesus research. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In this thesis I examine the metaphysical presuppositions that influence modern academic historical Jesus research. I observe within the discipline a tendency to operate with the secular metaphysical presupposition to refuse to allow religious metaphysical presuppositions the opportunity to contribute to academic historiography, a tendency conceptualised in relation to the category of worldview (or Weltanschauung) as developed in the western philosophical tradition.

The thesis is divided into two sections. In the first half of this thesis I lay a technical foundation by which I address the chosen topic. This involves careful and practical definition of the terms ‘metaphysics’ and ‘worldview’, whereby I define the latter in relation to the former. I define a worldview as a set of metaphysical presuppositions taken for granted when evaluating new information pertaining to the external world. I apply this category to the question of historical decision making, observing that historiography requires the historian adopt a worldview to make historical judgements. Thus, I distinguish between an historian’s worldview per se and the worldview they may adopt to undertake academic research, labelled an historiographical worldview. I then examine the phenomenon of secularism through the lens of three theories of secularization, concluding one might describe historical scholarship as secular if its historiographical worldview contains a metaphysical predisposition to refusing to allow religious metaphysical presuppositions to contribute to the historical task.

In the second half of the thesis, having laid this technical foundation, I turn to modern academic historical Jesus research, understood as attempts undertaken within a higher education setting to apprehend the historical person of Jesus, beginning with Reimarus, until the present day. I examine the historiographical worldviews operative within the discipline by evaluating the extent to which its participants operate with the secular metaphysical presupposition that religious frameworks ought not to contribute to historiography. The first half of this task is taken up with a broad overview of this phenomenon within the quest, while the second half takes the critical realist approach of N. T. Wright as a specific test case and examines the extent to which this presupposition is manifest in Wright’s work. Between this overview of the quest and the detailed engagement with Wright, I claim secular metaphysical presuppositions significantly influence the quest for the historical Jesus, where its participants have refused to allow religious perspectives to contribute to the historical task.

I conclude by outlining the implications of this argument for modern academic historical Jesus research: I invite the discipline to expand its notion of academic acceptability to include methods constructed within other (i.e., non-secular) metaphysical frameworks. I also offer suggestions regarding the shape Christian historiography might take as the result of further study on the matter, outlining a series of criteria such an historiography must fulfil to be both rigorously critical in its application and genuinely Christian in its metaphysical foundation.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Deines, Roland
Cunningham, Conor
Keywords: History, Historical Jesus, Metaphysics, Method, Theology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal theology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 60109
Depositing User: Rowlands, Jonathan
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2020 04:40
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2020 04:40

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