Monday, Nov 25, 2019. How important is history for my life? Is it really important what happened 150 years ago? Is it important for me what happened 140 years ago? What about things which took place much longer ago, about 1000 AD, or perhaps 1900 AD?
Let us have a look at the meaning of history to us today. History is important for several reasons. Of course, not everyone needs to have his or her main focus on history. Still, it is good to see how the things which we use today on a daily basis came into being.
Events which bear Meaning …
There are events which still have a meaning today, since they are the origin of things which are important to us. For example, in about 1870 the German engineer Siegfried Marcus built the first gasoline powered combustion engine, and after similar inventions by Nicolaus August Otto and Rudolf Diesel, in 1885, Karl Benz developed a petrol or gasoline powered automobile and created several copies. The beginning of the automobile industry, which is covering the whole globe today. When you see a car, the question of how this car was invented - and perhaps also why it is as it is, is quite natural.
We all use mobile phones today. The electromagnetic waves, which are the basis of the whole communication, have been discovered 1886 by Heinrich Hertz in Karlsruhe, Germany. After their mathematical prediction by the Scottish Mathematician James-Clerk Maxwell about 20 years before. When I plan my own action, it is good to know how things have developed.
About 1000 AD is the start of the reign of king David in ancient Israel. About 1900 was the time when Abraham traveled from Ur in Mesopotamia to Canaan, the country where today you find Palestine and modern Israel. These dates are also important to us, since David is one of the most popular figures of history, and Abraham is known as father of three big world religions.
“Where do I come from” is one of the key human questions. We are trying to make sense of our life, we try to understand the patterns and lines of development of our world and ourselves. Thus, history is one of the core lines of exploration of mankind. It is our curiosity which makes us ask the question: where does this come from? How did it evolve? History and its exploration is one of the core human needs!
Bible and History …
The historical questions are also important when it comes to the biblical texts. The bible, this old book, also asks questions of history. It wants to know where the world came from. It tries to understand the development of mankind. And it asks where Jesus came from - this special human, who is the center and focus of the whole New Testament. The New Testament starts with a historical line of reasoning:
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1,1)
Jesus is the Messiah. This refers to the prophetic books of the Old Testament, which talk about the coming of a special human, who is filled with God's holy spirit. But before there is more about this Jesus, the gospel of Matthew starts with history.
Jesus is the son of David. He is the son of Abraham. When you read on, you will find the natural line from Abraham to David, and from David to Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was the mother of Jesus. We are taken into a real historical line, with real historical people. The New Testament starts with history, with reality, with human birth, sons and daugthers.
We need to remark here, that “son of David” is more than a term with respect to the line of descendants. It is also a title, the title of this special man the prophets talk about - the title of him who is the center of human history. Also “son of Abraham” bears a lot of meaning. It is about him who lives in the spirit of Abraham, the spirit of faith and trust.
It is worth to note that history is important for the biblical writers. They aimed to be historically correct. History is a core subject of the bible - with all its historical books and historical parts in basically each and every book. History is also the framework of the biblical books. They do not want to be separated from history. When they talk about spiritual things, they see the spirit in the middle of history.
Of course, since the beginning of the 18th century, a large flood of investigations and texts have been published basically questioning each and every statement of the biblical texts. This criticism is part of the enlightenment and the development of criticism and science in all parts of human life. This needs careful treatment, since clearly something is not wrong just because it is investigated or criticised. It can be wrong, but it can also be right. Just an accusation does not mean that someone is guilty.
So it is good to be critical in the original sense, which means to distinguish. We should be critical to the topic itself, but also to the critics who claim this and that, which might be right or wrong as well. Here, criticism starts to be good and full of fun. Something which went through a careful investigation can be the stronger, after being challenged, when it survived the heat. (Roland Potthast)
This is part of the trilogy project “Faith of a Scientist”.