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No. 126 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program November 2006


by John F. McCarthy

1. The past is our heritage, whether we realize this or not. The past of the Church is our heritage, which can be ignored or disdained only to our own loss, especially because the substance of what we are as Catholics comes to us from the past. Yet, there are many who are striving to bury from memory most of what Catholics have received from the past in the belief that the Church began anew with the Second Vatican Council. A reason for this unfortunate situation is the deficient notion of the meaning of history and of historical method in the minds of many scholars. It is, in fact, the very appeal to "history" and "historical method" that inspires so many to declare as obsolete much of the living heritage of the Church. What is history, anyway, and what is the meaning of history? It might be surprising to learn how vague and deficient these common words are in the minds of most scholars, including most historians, because historians in general are averse to theoretical speculation about their subject, preferring to keep their focus of attention on the "meat and potatoes" of historical facts, while other scholars tend to follow suit.

2. Father Martin C. D’Arcy years ago published an interesting book entitled The Meaning and Matter of History ((New York: Meridian Books, 1961), in which he sought to present what the most significant writers of the past have written on this largely ignored subject. (The following page indications are to D’Arcy’s book unless otherwise indicated.) For instance, H.-J. Marrou thinks along the lines of Immanuel Kant and Benedetto Croce as he points out that history is about the past as past, in the sense that the historian cannot bring the past back to life, he simply presents it in a transformed way, so that there is no historical truth which is incontestably true. D’Arcy disagrees by distinguishing historical certainty from the mathematical certainty of empirical science, but still allowing that history does present "some real knowledge of the past" (pp. 58-62). The truth of history falls under the category of "moral certainty," and not of logical or scientific certainty (p. 46). In fact, he notes, "well-tried methods of historical criticism" make it possible for the historian to ascertain a vast number of important facts (p. 50). But on what grounds can history be accepted as a science at all (p. 14)? If the methods of the physical sciences are the standard for determining certified truth, then history does not seem to qualify, but W.B. Gallie sees its strength in the fact that history recognizes genetic continuity between prior conditions and subsequent events (p. 20). M.C. Blake speaks of working canons of history that are accepted by all bona fide historians for determining the accuracy and reliability of sources and evidence as being objectively true (p. 21). And then there is the "deductive umbrella" of a well-established historical theory (p. 22). Thus, as P.H. Nowell-Smith puts it, history is a pattern of particular facts or events, while science is a pattern of concepts (p. 23). According to Wilhelm Dilthey, what sets historical science apart from the physical sciences is that it expresses the power of living through the experiences of the past and of sharing in the experiences of others (p. 31). And history is, as Giovanni Battista Vico argues, about man (p. 22) and human action (p. 47), about human deeds and works, and what man has made himself (p. 232). G.M. Trevelyan and others suggest that history is more an art than a science (p. 51), but for D’Arcy art is the helpmate of historical writing, not the principal agent (p. 67). John Henry Newman speaks of historical certainty based on "converging probabilities," while D’Arcy maintains that no number of probabilities can add up to certainty (pp. 52-53), nor does mere interpretation give mathematical certainty, but it may give "practical certainty" ((p. 61). D’Arcy sums up these ideas by saying: "Since by history we mean in general the record of man upon earth so far as it is sufficiently known, discussion of it has perforce had to combine many problems which should be kept distinct" (p. 183). And it is precisely with necessary distinctions in the discussion of history that we have to deal in this essay.

3. I think that we need to distinguish more carefully what is meant by "the past as past," before we begin to say that there is no historical truth that is incontestably true (Marrou). And before we can effectively ask whether history is a science, we need to define more clearly what science is and what history is. Do all bona fide historians agree on the same set of working canons of history (Blake)? How do particular facts enter into the knowledge of history, and is there really no "pattern of concepts" in historical thinking (Nowell-Smith)? In characterizing history as the power of sharing with others the experience of the past (Dilthey), are we not excluding or minimizing the objective element in history and falling into the subjectivist philosophy of Kant and Croce? Finally, in limiting history to man and what man has done (Vico), are we not setting arbitrary limits that may cause unnecessary problems regarding what is known about the past acts of God?

4. What is science? Most books and articles written by empirical scientists on the subject of "science" avoid attempting a definition and simply declare that science is what results from the "scientific method." In general, we may say that science is certified knowledge, and its certification comes from the use of a method that is guaranteed to produce proven results. More precisely, according to philosopher W.H. Walsh, a science is "a body of knowledge acquired as the result of an attempt to study a certain subject-matter in a methodical way, following a determinate set of guiding principles."1 This definition of science adds the element of a mental framework, to which we shall have to return later, but even this definition is not specific enough, because it fits pseudoscience as well as true science, seeing that pseudo-scientists also work in a methodical way and usually follow a determinate set, however false, of guiding principles. A further element is needed, and this is the element of "reality," which is the characteristic of all true science. Hence, a simple but complete definition of science is "the knowledge of reality as such." By "reality as such" is meant "reality as reality," and this feature requires that the possessor of science is somehow focused on the notion of reality and subjecting the objects of his knowledge to his awareness of reality. For the scientific thinker as such, the notion of reality is the distinguishing concept in the mental framework that he uses in order to pursue his method. Thus all science requires the awareness of a mental framework in which adherence to the concept of reality is the specific controlling element.2

5. Science exists primarily in the mind of a knowing subject, and what the scientist studies are mental objects situated between the scientist as a knowing subject and the realities about which he is thinking. Thus, science is mediate knowledge of realities that exist outside of the mind, and science is knowledge of things in their reality. This definition proceeds from the viewpoint known as "moderate realism." The classic Scholastic definition of science, which is "the knowledge of things in their causes," presumes that the things it knows are real things, and it views these things under the concept of reality. There are two kinds of real things that are the object of science: things outside of the mind that are perceived by the senses, and concepts in the mind that have been logically demonstrated, such as mathematical principles and conclusions. Science deals with extramental realities through an organized framework in the mind.

6. A glance at any large dictionary will reveal at least eight definitions of "history": Consider the following definitions of the word "history" from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: a)the definition, "a narrative of events connected with a real or imaginary object, person, or career," does not distinguish real history from imaginary stories; b)the definition, "a systematic written account comprising a chronological record of events . . . and usually including a philosophical explanation of the cause and origin of such events," includes two levels of historical writing: chronology and historical explanation; c)the definition, "the branch of knowledge that records and explains past events as the sequence of human activities; the study of the character and significance of events," applies only to historical interpretation, and it is also limited to human events; d)the definition, "a treatise presenting systematically related natural phenomena" is limited to natural history and excludes human events as such; e)the definition, "a drama based on real events," pertains only to historical fiction; f)the definition, "the events which form the subject matter of a history," limits history to its prescientific subject matter; g)the definition, "a series of events clustering about some center of interest . . . upon the character and significance of which these events cast light," is limited to the character and significance of some center of interest, such as a nation, a natural epoch or a social development; h)the definition, "past events, especially those events involving or concerned with mankind," is limited to events inasmuch as they are the potential subject-matter of history.

7. With reference to the above eight definitions of the word "history," only those pertaining to the study and narration of real events concerns historical science, although a fictional account can be examined in the light of reality, and this is what historical critics claim to do when they examine what they consider to be fictional accounts in the Bible. The determination of exactly what took place in an historical event often requires considerable skill, and this skill pertains to historical method. Historical interpretation and historical explanation are dependent upon a sufficient framework of principles in the mind of the historian. An adequate treatment of human history and natural history requires in part that the historian know how these two branches of history coincide and how they differ. And an adequate handling of past events requires an understanding of the relationship of past to present in the mind of the historian and in the events that he studies. The use of vague notions of the nature of historical science has tended to divide all modern historians into two schools of thought: the "positivist" school, which stresses the massive accumulation of facts with the greatest possible precision, while striving (somewhat naively) to exclude all philosophical interpretation of these facts; and the "idealist" school, which takes for granted that past human activities are a matter of human intuition and not of scientific measurement. Less known, unfortunately, is the "moderate realist" school, which combines the precise observation of facts with the employment of a recognized mental frame of reference.3 In the moderate realist view, the sensory phenomena from which come the reconstructed events of the past constitute the material object of historical science, while the formal object, containing the meaning, or intelligibility, of history, resides in the mind of the historian.4 All honest historians, in order to construct a meaningful narrative, implicitly admit the use of some set of presuppositions giving unity to their results, but there is at present no consciously accepted set of principles agreed upon by all bona fide historians which would permit all of them to draw the same conclusions from the same pieces of evidence.5

8. D’Arcy notes that, while Arnold Toynbee accepts with qualifications the Aristotelian distinction between the techniques of history, science, and fiction, nevertheless, history selects facts, has recourse to fictions, and makes use of laws (p. 109). Here some sorting-out is needed. Real history, just as much as empirical science, deals with facts, that is, with real objects. By "fictions," D’Arcy here seems to mean objects like France, the American economy, the Christian Democratic Party, and many other things of this sort. But these are "fictions" in a different sense from the persons and events of imaginary stories. And the historian must make use of laws of various kinds, because they are part of his mental framework. Even the laws of empirical science are a peripheral part of the mental framework of the historian. But it is important to note that there is no opposition between history and science; the true opposition is between historical science and empirical science, as they are distinguished from fiction. With regard to mental frameworks, all science must have a dynamic and a static aspect. All science is dynamic, because it lives in the consciousness of living human beings and comes into being in graduated stages as the mind itself develops. And it has its own interpersonal history. But science must also be static, for there could be no knowledge of the real as such, if there were not something stable and abiding as a criterion giving the idea of this reality a certain consistency and identity in itself. Furthermore, a science could have no interpersonal development, if there were not something essential and unchanging which would make the changing aspect of the science a function of the same identical thing. In fact, the conclusions of any science constitute a doctrine that can be communicated to others.6

9. Science begins in a thinker when he first decides to think in terms of the real, as distinguished from the fictional, the illusory, and the deceptive. Concentration of the mind upon the "flat field" of sensory presentations should lead, especially under instruction, to a perception of depth made visible through the intellectual operation of the mind. The component that gives to science its depth and proper character is the developed recognition of the intellectual dimension of reality. Science is mediate knowledge of the real. What we call an "insight" is an act by which a thinker sees in the relevant data a new comprehensive meaning, and this meaning comes about through the reference of the significant data to something else already known by the thinker. We give to this perception of meaning the name "understanding." 7 We distinguish between common science, usually referred to as common sense, and the specialized sciences. What makes common sense a science (although at the lower level) is its reference of sensory data to the notion of reality. A specialized science is "a system of demonstrated conclusions" (Wernz-Vidal), which appear as teaching in textbooks and can simply be memorized to constitute knowledge about science. Two species of specialized science are empirical science and historical science. Also to be included among the specialized sciences are philosophical science and theological science, as can be demonstrated for those who do not recognize them to be sciences.

10. Empirical science arises from the admission of mathematical deduction as the formal medium of a viewpoint that would otherwise be technically limited to the inductive method. This admission of mathematical reasoning allows the intellectual development of empirical science, since with mathematics are implicitly admitted the self-evident principles of reason. "To deny the presence, indeed, the necessary presence, of metaphysical elements in any successful science is to be blind to the obvious, although to foster such blindness has become a highly sophisticated endeavor in our time."8 The relationship of scientific disciplines to one another and to science as a whole is studied in that branch of advanced science known as theory of science, or metaphysics.

11. The historical past is the remembered absent as extended in time, and it is essentially related to the present of the historian, relatively as related to the present of an earlier historian, and absolutely as related to the present of a contemporary historian. The past is by definition not present, but any insight into the meaning of the past is necessarily present. While the historian makes general use of all of his mental equipment, his special medium is the historical present. While the term "historical present" is used in grammar to designate the use of the present tense where the past tense is more literally intended, such as in saying "the horse crosses the river," when the actual meaning is that the horse crossed the river. But in historical science the term "historical present" applies to that area of mental objects that are strictly historical in character. It is concrete, mobile, and tied to a vision of the past: it is concrete, because present objects like timeless truths are excluded from its purview; it is mobile, because its ultimate meaning can be recognized only in terms of the contemporary situation of the viewer; and it is tied to a vision of the past, because it is the point of reference in time from which the retrospective vision of the past springs. The past as past is only a being of the mind having a fundament in reality, but the past as present is the reality of the meaning of past events which abides in the mind even though the temporal things in which it remotely inheres are gone.9

12. It is important to distinguish between the science of history and the philosophy of history, in the sense that a valid philosophy of history would be only the culmination of the science of history, consisting in a gathering of all of the major events of history into one meaningful whole, while the science of history is largely concerned with proper methods of historical investigation and interpretation. D’Arcy refers to the philosophy of history as "historicism" (which is not the conventional meaning of the term), and his purpose in writing this book is to inquire into the possibility of any valid philosophy of history (pp. 8-9). Not surprisingly, Kantian idealist thinkers like H.-J Marrou maintain that philosophies of history which try to find organic meaning in the whole course of history should not even be attempted (p. 60), and positivists tend to say the same (pp. 161-162), but D’Arcy is less skeptical about this, and he goes on to say that, if a valid philosophy of history is to include supernatural events as well, then the Scholastic distinction between knowledge based upon reason and knowledge given by divine revelation would have to be ignored (p. 64). D’Arcy observes that a simple philosophy of history makes its appearance as soon as one adds the belief that God’s justice will work itself out (p. 81), or even allows moral judgment to enter the picture (p. 162). Yet he is also of the opinion that the explanation of history in terms of Divine Providence "has long been abandoned" (p. 96). By whom? It is only secularist historians, and they are many, in trying to exchange the vision of Heaven and hope in the life after death for a vain hope in secular progress, who have closed their eyes to the fact of Divine Providence. Thus, in order to give some underlying reason for the fall of powerful civilizations, if Vico uses the fact of Original Sin and Toynbee uses the struggle for existence and the function of challenge and response (p. 116-120), while the two explanations are not mutually exclusive, still Vico stands on more solid ground. In my estimation, since supernatural events are part of the history of the world, the only valid philosophy of history rather has to be a theology of history in which the data of human events are fitted into the larger picture of revelation and grace. And since true revelation and verified supernatural happenings are part of the history of the world, it is not the artist, the poet, and the myth-spinner that make the philosopher/theologian of history, but the man of deep historical insight and erudition.

13. But how can the providential and the supernatural fit into history, if, as D’Arcy avers, there are rules of interpretation, but "the supernatural and the providential are not measurable by this yardstick" (p. 134)? The answer is that history deals with concrete events that are measured only by the proof that they have occurred and not by statistics, as in empirical science. Thus, real supernatural happenings are concrete events that become part of the thread of history, while providential acts need to be recognized as such if their purpose has been confirmed by God through divine revelation or divine inspiration. Hence, the Christian historian uses all of the valid criteria of historical enquiry, while at the same time he recognizes the role of Providence, especially in the word of Sacred Scripture, whose credentials, as D’Arcy adds, "are not inferior to those of the confirmed rationalist""(p. 135). In fact, they are superior. Certainly, those who try to substitute the unfolding of the "Absolute," of the "Unconscious," or of the "mysterious forces of Evolution" for the role of God are not solid interpreters of history (cf. p. 139). D’Arcy concludes that "it is, indeed, vain, as Lewis said, to try to formulate any theory which could explain satisfactorily in wider terms what the historian examines methodically and empirically" (p. 215). But is it vain, after all? The big picture is already given in divine revelation, and all accessory theories are subordinate to that. And the philosopher of history is already an historian working with a wider mental framework than that of the merely empirical. D’Arcy notes that, even though the interconnection between the Old and the New Testaments and the rise of Christianity would appear to present the philosophy of history on an open dish, the fact is that the history of Israel is only "a small rivulet in the great stream of history" (p. 229). But here, in my estimation, the appearance is the reality, for, in its essentials, all history, and not just the history of Israel, is embraced in the inspired writ of Sacred Scripture, as Joseph Pieper maintains (p. 238). Thus, St. Augustine and Bishop J.B. Bossuet took the Church as the foundation and center of their theories of history, and "this must be the correct method" for a Christian philosopher of history (p. 241). In fact, it was St. Augustine who "initiated the idea that history is constituted by the great creative decisions of God" (p. 247), while St. Paul the Apostle earlier expressed the view that "the Headship of Christ is the governing idea in the divine act of creation" (p. 269). But in this regard, concludes D’Arcy, the philosopher of history must leave to Christian apologists the work of bringing out the unique character and function of the Church, while it is of the world outside of the Church that he himself seeks to make sense, and with this conclusion I cannot agree.

14. I began by saying that science and history are words that are only vaguely defined by most scholars. The variety of conflicting opinions about historical method and historical understanding compiled in Martin C. D’Arcy’s book is a significant witness of this. And people talk about historical criticism as a scientific approach without adequately determining what makes historical criticism scientific. The expression "historical criticism" refers in the most general sense to the work of all historians who carefully examine and appraise the sources of their historical knowledge, but it applies in religious discussion especially to a particular scholarly tradition known as the "historical-critical school." And this is an unfortunate confusion, because, while many secular historians study their data with a high degree of accuracy and produce credible accounts, the historical method of the historical-critical school of biblical scholars is highly questionable. For instance, historical-critical biblical scholars, while they should as scientists profess a clear concept of reality, have constantly equivocated on the notion of reality in their approach to the text of the Bible. It is true that many of the more frankly rationalist historical critics have plainly declared that most of the so-called "historical accounts" in the Bible are for them pure fiction and fantasy. Thus, Hermann Gunkel and Rudolf Bultmann, the principal founders of the form-critical method of historical criticism, plainly concluded to the fictional character of the biblical texts that they studied, but others use euphemisms to cover their belief or resort to an equivocal use of the word "reality." And even Bultmann resorted to an equivocal definition of the word "reality." Catholic historical critics usually do not bring up the question of reality at all in analyzing passages of the Bible, so that their readers are left to wonder whether they are or are not describing real biblical events, but, as the years go on, they are coming more and more to agree explicitly with their rationalist colleagues that they are dealing with fiction, pure and simple. At any rate, inasmuch as science is "the knowledge of reality as such," this obscuring of the notion of reality on the part of many scholars of the "historical critical school" is not characteristic of scientific work.

15. With regard to historical science and the question of biblical truth, in this article we are focused on the question of historical truth only in those biblical accounts which present themselves as historical and not as poetry, parables or some other such kind of writing. Included among these accounts, for our purposes here, are the Book of Genesis and the four canonical Gospels. Historical critics subject these accounts to the same methodical criticism as one would subject any other historical narrative, without making provision for the character of inerrancy which Catholic faith accords to them. In the neo-patristic approach, the inerrancy of the divinely inspired Scriptures is taken for granted, and the exegete, therefore, seeks to defend their historical truth from attacks on the part of historical critics and others. But how can anyone assume the inerrancy of biblical accounts such as the Book of Genesis and the four Gospels after they have been "shown" by historical critics to be bristling with errors from beginning to end? The answer lies in the nature of proof. The errors and contradictions in the Scriptures which historical critics like to point out are not, as a rule, proven but only plausible to a mind that has been pre-conditioned to see them as such. They all proceed from questionable presuppositions of the method, especially of the form-critical method which characterizes the historical-critical school today. Among those biases lying at the base of the form-critical method which have not been completely eliminated even by Catholic form-critics, and which do influence its reasoning, are remnants of the false philosophies of naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, subjectivism, evolutionism, and modernism. In the presence of these biases, even where they are not recognized or dominant, there can be no truly impartial historical reasoning and research.

16. One of the facts not recognized in the historical-critical tradition is that the true objects of faith are in the same continuum of reality as are the objects of empirical science and secular history. The founders and great promoters of the historical-critical school were under the impression that the objects of faith are merely images of the creative religious imagination, forming a species of creative literature. Hence, every "discovery" of non-reality in the biblical accounts was seen as an advance for their method, and they were not inclined to try very hard to retain any real historicity. Form-critics are known for the ease with which they conclude that a passage is unhistorical and for their lack of great effort to refute their own reasonings. This method is traceable in part to the total separation of faith and reason begun by Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers. Such non-scientific zeal to identify suspected cracks in the biblical accounts is, therefore, understandable in liberal Protestant researchers, but not in Catholic scholars. To be scientific, biblical exegesis must begin from a focus of the interpreter upon the reality of his own mental frame of reference as he searches for reality in the object of his search. This scientific process is obscured by recourse to a so-called "subject-object relationship" in which the intervening mental framework is ignored, as often happens in theological reflection on accepted results of historical-critical reasoning which, in fact, negate the reality of objects of Christian faith. Such reflection leaves the believer with no real object of faith except the awareness of his own consciousness as such.

17. It was stated above (no. 7) that those Christian form-critics who frankly admit that they have found the seemingly historical accounts in the Bible to be mostly historical fiction do consider that their recognition of the fictitious character of the accounts shows the reality in their method, even though they are also implicitly admitting that their Christian faith in the Scriptures has been greatly impoverished. If their form-critical method really proved the fictional character of biblical areas such as Genesis and the four Gospels, the discovery would be invigorating, but, as William Foxwell Albright pointed out many years ago, the merely internal ruminations of the form-critical method do not constitute proof.10 In fact, it is in the critical study of form-critical reasonings that the real discoveries come. Form-critics try to evade their lack of proof by saying that the burden of proof is on those who defend the historicity of the biblical accounts, but this is not so. The Bible presents itself to Christian faith as a moral miracle in the sense that its history is believed to be historically true from beginning to end. The serious historian will begin from this premise and admit that the burden of proof is on those who deny the historicity of the historical books of the Bible, which proof has not been forthcoming. Historians who deny the possibility of nature miracles and of all miracles as a matter of principle are not true historians, for the true historian will accept whatever has taken place as the material of his study and will not exclude an event in advance simply because it has been witnessed as exceeding the laws of physical nature.

18. Just as historical research proceeds from present to past, so historical understanding consists in understanding an event because one knows how it turned out. The Christian understands the history of the Old Testament because he knows how the Old Testament turned out, to the extent that the New Testament embodies a relative present in which the past of the Old Testament is understood. As regards technical historical science, the relative present of the New Testament can be visualized in the mental framework of a contemporary historical scientist and thus become part of his absolute present. But the absolute present of the contemporary historian must be based on truth and reality in order to afford historical understanding. Take, for instance, the first three chapters of Genesis. On 30 June 1909 the Pontifical Biblical Commission declared that those "pseudoscientific exegetical systems" elaborated for the purpose of "excluding the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis" are not based upon solid arguments (EB 324; DS 3512). What the Commission meant is that the presuppositions and reasoning being used in the method of certain form-critical scholars to refute the historical truth of these three chapters were not based on reality. Thus the Commission went on to say that these three chapters contain "a narrative which corresponds to objective reality and historical truth" and not "legends partly historical and partly fictitious" (EB 325; DS 3513). It is for this reason that the neo-patristic method undertakes critically to examine how true and factual are the presuppositions from which form-critics draw their conclusions about such areas of the Bible as the Book of Genesis and the four canonical Gospels.

19. Similarly, the neo-patristic method carefully distinguishes the historical development of dogmas and beliefs from their alleged evolution. While the founders of form-criticism took for granted the evolution of the biblical accounts either from originally fictitious stories or from events having some basis in historical fact, neo-patristic researchers admit only development in the biblical narratives while maintaining that they did not evolve from essentially different beginnings. Thus, for instance, neo-patristic scholars would require proof, and not just self-flattering plausibility derived from internally based conjecture, that elements in the narratives of the first three chapters of Genesis evolved from myths of the surrounding pagan cultures or that in the following chapters of Genesis fictitious stories were invented to explain or enhance some historical or non-historical facts or events. An exegetical method can be called scientific only to the extent that its principles, or presuppositions, are true and its reasoning is correct. The conclusions of the form-critical method tend not to meet these scientific criteria.

20. Conclusion. In The Meaning and Matter of History Father Martin C. D’Arcy reviews many typical ideas of the nature of history and many attempts to construct a philosophy of history, which he with reason finds in general to be unsatisfactory, but he does not relate them to any synthesis or theory of his own. Hence, the work of constructing a satisfactory theory of history still remains to be done. It is my belief that this work should consist in the construction of a proper science of history, based upon an exact definition of history as the knowledge of the past as such and of historical science as the knowledge of the real past as such. The science of history should result from a growing awareness and differentiation of the medium of historical science which exists as a carefully analyzed framework in the mind of the historian. As the mental framework of historical science is carefully worked out, it becomes possible for all historical scientists to agree on the fundamental principles, just as empirical scientists tend to agree on the fundamental principles of their sciences. This agreement would eliminate the tangle of contrasting opinions about the nature of history reviewed in Father D’Arcy’s book. Furthermore, the true philosopher of history is an historical scientist working within a more comprehensive mental framework that tries to fit all significant historical events into an organic unity understood in terms of the fundamental unity of all sciences, including not only empirical science and historical science but also philosophical and theological science. A beginning of this work has been made by writers like St. Augustine of Hippo, but much work remains to be done. Neither St. Augustine nor the great Medieval theologians endeavored to construct a theory of history that would embody an explicit historical science, even though they implicitly followed the rules of historiography, but the tools for constructing historical science are available today through the employment of new findings and techniques and through the use of a theory of knowledge that includes an understanding of genetic causality. The moderate realism of St. Thomas Aquinas and others provides a base for the further development of the science of history, and his explanation of the Four Senses of Sacred Scripture offers a framework for the developing of a more comprehensive philosophy of history and a more lucid exegesis of the inspired historical accounts.


1. W.H. Walsh, An Introduction to the Philosophy of History, 3rd rev. ed. (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1970), p. 35.

2. See J.F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (2nd printing, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers), pp. 34-42.

3. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, ibid.

4. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, p. 63, no. 3.2:10.

5. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, pp. 57-58, no. 3.1:2.

6. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, pp. 46-47.

7. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, pp. 48-50.

8. C.F. Margenau, The Nature of Physical Reality (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950), p. 12.

9. Cf. McCarthy, The Science, pp. 64-72.

10. "From the standpoint of the objective historian data cannot be disproved by criticism of the accidental literary framework, unless there are solid independent reasons for rejecting the historicity of an appreciable number of other data found in the same framework," W.F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (2nd ed., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), p. 382.

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