The past and ways of talking about it

  1. What is history? In the first place, it is the subject matter of historiography, which is what historians write. What does historiography talk about? The human past. In other words, there is a distinction to be made between ‘the past’ and ways of talking about this past.
  2. If this distinction (between ‘the past’ and ‘ways of talking about it’) is accepted, then we can answer the question about what history is thus: it is a way of talking about the past–a ‘scientific’ way. That is, the truths of historiography are established using the methods and techniques widely accepted in that domain.
  3. The past can be talked about not only by using historiographical methods, but also in different ways: the way stories, legends, drama, poetry, etc do. These are also ways of talking of the past but they lay no claims to being histories (or they do not claim to be ‘historiographies’).
  4. What is the status of the Bible? According to the Semitic religions, not only is it the word of God, but it also aspires to being ‘historiography’. Events like the revelation of the Biblical god, the covenant this god made with the people of Israel, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, his claims to being the Christ, and such like are claimed to be not just events in the human past but, above all, as true events. That is, they claim to be historical events.

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