The Mystery of History

by Wade Stanley

In his book, The Nature of Historical Explanation, Patrick Gardiner asked a worthwhile question:

“In what sense can I be said to know an event which is in principle unobservable, having vanished behind the mysterious frontier which divides the present from the past?  And how can we be sure that anything really happened in the past at all, that the whole story is not an elaborate fabrication, as untrustworthy as a dream or a work of fiction?”

Like many modern historians, Patrick Gardiner doubts whether we can know what actually took place in the past since we cannot directly observe the events or people in question.

If the sentiments of Patrick Gardiner and others who share his view are true, then we cannot truly know anything about anyone from any time.  Take, for example, Alexander the Great.  As far as we know, no eyewitness accounts of his life exist.   The earliest biographies we have of the great Macedonian conqueror were written approximately four hundred years after his death by Arrian and Plutarch.   Under these circumstances, how can we know with certainty anything about the life of this significant historical figure?

As I noted in a previous post, the Bible is an unusual religious book insofar as it claims connection with real events that happened in real places that involved real people. This is especially true of the first five books of the New Testament which are presented as historical narratives…


The Mystery of History | Let’s Reason Together