Science in Christian Perspective



Another View: The Battle for the Bible
Durham Community Church 
Durham, New Hampshire 03824


From: JASA 31 (June 1979): 74-79.

Using Harold Lindsell's book, The Battle for the Bible, as a springboard, this article asks if there is such a position as unqualified inerrancy. Almost all defenders of inerrancy have relied upon some kind of qualification to clarify their position: the demand for the original autographs, the use of secondary sources and personal observations, the utilization of certain literary forms, the distinction between direct and indirect revelation, cultural and incidental references, harmonization to explain inconsistencies, and finally the limited employment of the critical-historical method. What is the consequence of a qualified doctrine of inerrancy? Lindsell's position is one approach. Another, my own, is that the discussion on inerrancy must ask what is the essential character of Scripture: dogmatic or kerygmatic.

In the foreword to Harold Lindsell's controversial new hook, The Battle for the Bible, Ockenga states, "As evangelicalism grows, it becomes more and more threatened with incipient division. The perplexing question of the inspiration of Scripture is endangering the unity of the evangelical movement." Ockenga continues by delineating two opposing stances. The first view considers all of Scripture to be infallible, including the historical, geographical, and scientific teachings.

The second view, labeled as "limited inerrancy," holds the Bible to be incrrant only when it speaks on matters of faith and practice (i.e., those truths necessary for our salvation).

I could not agree more with these two distinguished mentors that a division is growing within the evangelical movement. However, I cannot concur that the division is merely or simply between full and limited inerrancy. In the limited space of this paper, I attempt to demonstrate that the defense of biblical inerrancy requires the admission of certain qualifications and that these qualifications do not endanger the orthodox position concerning inerrancy.

Fundamentalism vs Evangelism

It may be instructive to ask whether fundamentalism and evangelicalism reflect similar positions concerning inerrancy. Before the rise of neo-evangelicalism as a separate movement, the two were identical in their defense of inerrancy against the modern critics. In the minds of many it may still he assumed that there are few or no basic differences. It is clear, on the one hand, that evangelicals are more ironic in spirit. Lindsell's book is a good example. As much as Lindsell is hurt and disturbed by the breaking of ranks over biblical inerraucy, he still does not deny them Christian fellowship and still wishes to engage them in public debate (24, 25). Fundamentalism, on the other hand, is still characterized by meeting intellectual difficulties with appeals to obedience and faith rather than reason and evidence. But apart from an attitude is there a substantive difference? I ask the question because it goes a long way toward unpacking the complexities behind the issue. Since biblical infallibility is becoming the watershed issue, one would like to know if there is one standard orthodox position.

There appears to he a consensus among prominent evangelical scholars that the point of no return is over the word "intends." Is Scripture inerrant in all that it communicates or only inerrant in what it intends to teach as essential? Lindsell and others argue that any form of qualification, any restriction of incrrancy, leads to additional qualifications until Scripture is no longer the authoritative word for Christians. In his own phraseology, a qualification like "intends" is the beginning of an infection that spreads. Yet, if we permit no qualifications whatsoever, we become the defenders of a static literalism that isolates the individual text (i.e., proof texting)

Qualifications on Inerrancy

All reasonable defenders of biblical inerrancy allow certain qualifications. Warfield and Hodge, for example, limited inerrancy to the original autographs. This in itself is nothing less than a Catch 22. In fairness, though, it must be added that this qualification has not been overly abused. In addition Warfield and Hodge imposed two further limitations. We must be shown, they declared, that an error is the professed intent of the author, and that an error is indisputable and not open to further resolution.1 We must ask ourselves immediately if these qualifications do not make the debate over inerrancy meaningless. To prove that an error is intentional involves the interpreter in a game of mind reading.

Pseudonymity is the extreme extension of this interpreter's dilemma. It would become necessary to show that if someone other than Peter composed or rewrote II Peter, he did so with the conscious knowledge of deceit. Deceit, of course, may have had a different meaning before the days of copyright laws. It would not necessarily have been fraud if the unknown author was trying to capitalize upon Peter's authority, since rabbinic tradition was based upon reference to previous

All reasonable defenders of biblical inerrancy allow certain qualifications.

authorities. If, however, the author used Peter's name to legitimatize a heretical interpretation of the kerygma of Jesus, then he was guilty of deceit. But obviously the early Church did not find the material of II Peter to he heretical regardless of the name attached.

The interpreter most contend not only with determining which alleged errors were intended and original, but original in what sense. Very early in the debate, Warfield and Henry P. Smith disagreed whether inerrancy extended to the use of secondary sources and personal observations (e.g., I Cor. 7:6, "I say this by way of concession, not of command"). A fundamentalist might deny or reduce to minimal the use of secondary sources by the biblical authors, but most evangelicals willingly accept their vital role in the history of biblical authorship. It was none other than E. J. Carnell who declared that the Old Testament contains "infallible" accounts of historical errors that were lifted without correction from the public registers and genealogical lists.2 The difficulties are compounded when we realize the great variety in the synoptic gospel materials. Many of the sayings and actions of Jesus are cast into different contexts, chronological order, and receive different emphases.3 There are a number of ways to account for this wide variation. One way is to cast it into an error vs. no error category, but not even the liberal critic feels that approach accurately describes the original process. It is more a question of adapting written or oral traditions to a new setting, or rewriting sections of a previously received Gospel, or recasting the same event from a different viewpoint. In any case the interpreter must decide, if the author is utilizing secondary material (written or oral) or adapting secondary material for his own theological purposes, whether it was conscious or unconscious and whether the differences in the written accounts were "original" or secondary in the sense of belonging to the biblical writer himself. This is a formidable task indeed for the exegete, but necessary if we are going to play the game of finding an "original" error.

Fundamentalists and evangelicals also agree that it is not fair to count as a proven error the various literary forms of symbols, figures of speech, hyperboles, etc. While this qualification seems slight, it is open to wide interpretation. There is sharp disagreement about what aspects of Genesis 1-2 are poetic and which are historical. Are references to the structure of the universe meant to be understood figuratively or literally, and how are we to understand woman's creation from the rib of man? We must know the intention of the author before we can answer. We must not only know his primary theological purpose, but determine if he (not the contemporary interpreter) assumed that the inner historical core was inexorably wedded to the literary (cosmic, anthropic) form. Warfield and Hodge, of course, believed it was always the intention of the biblical writers to teach truth (who would argue otherwise?), but it remains a matter of subjective judgment on our part to determine which figures of speech were poetic and which were historical.

Is All Scripture of Equal Value?

The staunch apologist for inerrancy grants another qualification: but here evangelicals and fundamentalists would probably part ways. Lindsell states that certain portions of Scripture were received by direct revelation (as in the Book of Revelation), while other sections reflect a process of reporting, researching, rewriting, or setting into written form oral traditions (30,38). This is not to deny the inspiration of Scripture in toto, only to point out that not all Scripture is of equal value. 4 All of Scripture is profitable but some truths are central (Gospels) and some are peripheral (details of the history of the kings). This is a pragmatic observation to he sure, but the door is thus opened to make human verdicts about which truths are essential and which are not. Since the Bible is scarcely a book of formal doctrines and confessions, it is by no means obvious which truths are directly revealed. More than a few individuals have been denied Christian fellowship because they did not believe in the "right" form of millenialism. This qualification becomes a real thorn because there is not even unanimity whether the Bible teaches a fonnal doctrine about its own infallibility. The biblical writers themselves seemed to have no difficulty, when called upon, in making a distinction between what was authoritative because it came from God and what was authoritative when it came from a human source. Unfortunately it is not very often that they call attention to this distinction, and we the twentieth century interpreters are left to discern the revelatory from the semi-revelatory.5

It is freely recognized, due to historical criticism, that the biblical writers shared the cultural world view of their particular age. This is a seemingless harmless qualification filled with all sorts of implications. An accepted defender of inerrancy, Clark Pinnoek, writes, "infallibility does not update the writers' view of the physical cosmos where this is unnecessary."6 Yet if the Bible is infallible on all matters, as Lindell argues, the Holy Spirit must have inspired the authors with supernatural knowledge on such matters as biology and astronomy in the creation account(s). Pinnock, however, qualifies himself by declaring the obligation to distinguish between what was incidental to the teaching intended. "We need to ask what is being asserted in this passage" (72). We are thus led back to where this discussion started. It is legitimate and necessary for the exegete to decide by some criteria what timeconditioned concepts were essential and thus corrected by the Holy Spirit and which were incidental to the author's intention arid left untouched.

If one judges Paul's admonition for women to remain silent in church and to cover their heads (1 Cor. 14:34; 11:4-13) to he time-conditioned and relative, then by similar logic another interpreter may judge Paul's views on homosexuality to be illustrative of his contemporary situation. The difficulty is not really solved by reference to a broader biblical base (say the Old Testament), because the same time-conditioned attitudes are encountered. Certainly the Christian interpreter does not judge Scripture based upon his own cultural milieu, but he likewise should not feel hound by a particular historical condition of another age. The exegete is forced then to evaluate a specific passage in light of broader biblical principles, i.e., to peel away a time-conditioned illustration from the fundamental theological intention of the author. No matter who does the evaluating, it is a subjective process repugnant to the idea of inerrancy.

In order to defend an unqualified inerrancy, a sufficient case must be made that Scripture teaches absolute truth in contrast to essential truth.

Plenary Inspiration

Integral to the consideration of Weitbild is that of plenary inspiration. Evangelicals do not believe in verbal dictation, but do believe the Holy Spirit so guided each biblical writer that he wrote what God willed. The Holy Spirit superintended their writing but not to the extent of obliterating their particular personalities, style, or language. So Warfield and Hodge conceded that

Inspiration does not suppose that the words and phrases written under its influence are the best possible to express the truth, only that they are an adequate expression of the truth. Other words and phrases . . . might furnish a clearer, more exact, and therefore better expressions . . . .7

The implication seems clear. If the words and phrases are only adequate as compared to unequaled, then the concepts and propositions can be only adequate as compared to perfect. The total and final result then is a Bible that is fully adequate for man's salvation but not inerrant in the sense of expressing the exact truth for all times.

Jacob Preus of the Missouri Synod seems to know intuitively that if Scripture is infallible then it must be verbally inspired, and if verbally inspired then it must give such verbal and conceptual expression that transcend historical and human limitations. Preus accordingly rejects the possibility that the biblical authors could have accommodated themselves to any erroneous ideas of their time, that the use of literary forms might have a hearing on the historicity of the content, that a text might have more than one meaning depending upon its various stages of precanonical history, or that the interpreter must take into account the intent of the passage when evaluating its truth.8 In order to defend an unqualified inerrancy, therefore, a sufficient ease must be made that Scripture teaches absolute truth in contrast to essential truth.9 The latter tolerates a degree of development, but the former requires the author to have written in such a way that his vocabulary, grammar, style, and conceptualization transcended his own cultural milieu. In the one instance it can be said that Scripture in no way falsifies or misrepresents Gods revelation of himself, while the other requires that Scripture presents the fullest expression of truth possible (i.e., one that can never he improved upon). The unqualified explanation of inerrancy leads us back to a fundamentalistic literalism. The other choice is to struggle with the implications of a qualified inerraney.

The Natural Sense of Scripture

It is axiomatic among evangelicals that Scripture is to be interpreted according to its natural sense, unless the context of the passage dictates otherwise. Lindsell writes that "evangelicals have always agreed that the writers of Scripture penned straight history" (205). This Reformation principle acts as another qualification to inerrancy, because without it inerrancy would be reduced to either an absurd literalism or a form of spiritual allegory.10 But it is the literal sense of a text that causes the case for an unqualified inerrancy heartburn, because many of the frequently cited "problem texts" can he gotten around only by ignoring the plain sense. Lindsell undertakes to find solutions to a number of specific errors and what happens is that rather than reading the text as "straight history," he is forced to harmonize or contort the plain meaning of the author. Lindsell's handling of such problems as the measurement of the molten sea as described in II Chronicles 4:2, or the parallel conflict between Numbers 25:9 and I Corinthians 10:8 illustrates what Warfield and Ilodge meant when they said that other words would have furnished a clearer, more exact meaning.

John W. Montgomery presents as one of his six principles of biblical interpretation: "Harmonization of scriptural difficulties should be pursued within reasonable limits, and when harmonization would pass beyond such bounds, the exegete must leave the problem open. 11 Harmonization is obviously another qualification since it detours around those passages where a straightforward reading raises many difficulties.12 If we assume that the resurrection accounts are straight history, an infallible description, then the interpreter has no choice but to harmonize. It is then an open question whether Lindsell's citation of J. M. Cheney's elaborate harmonization of the different accounts of Peter's denial of Jesus is within reasonable limits. I suspect the answer depends upon one's philosophical and theological persuasions: a subjective matter to be sure.

Clark Pinnock finally resorts to a kind of Catch 22 qualification: Where the straightforward reading of a text does not support inerrancy, let the difficulty stand until it can be explained at some future date. Now, there is nothing illegitimate in asking for a little patience and leaving the door open for further evidence. Liberal critics are doing it all the time.'3 Nevertheless, it is a necessary qualification to biblical inerrancy; and what is more, a qualification that can be just as easily abused as any other hermeneutical principle.

The issue becomes not whether we can harmonize or find a plausible solution to certain difficulties, but whether such a method is in accord with the purpose of the author.

The Critical-Historical Method

Finally, there is the qualification of the critical-historical method itself. In recent years a new breed of
evangelicals (a la Richard Quebedeaux) have made it evident that defenders of inerrancy have various degrees of commitment to biblical criticism. At the one end of the spectrum are the extreme fundamentalists who see the critical-historical method as entirely negative except for an occasional quip that it has provided helpful background information. At the other end are respected scholars such as Daniel Fuller, George E. Ladd, F. F. Bruce, and E. Earle Ellis who are wary about some of the rationalistic presuppositions behind the method.14 but have an open mind to some of the results of historical criticism. The Ladds' of evangelicalism do not propose any new qualifications; they only take more seriously the ones already mentioned, Furthermore, they realize that the exegetical process is not possible without hermeneutical principles. Evangelicals are rapidly being categorized as either proponents or opponents of full inerrancy. Not only is this division an oversimplification, it overlooks the other division between evangelicals who believe inerrancy can be defended only as "unqualified," and evangelicals who believe certain qualifications are necessary and desirable. In either case one group views the critical-historical method with mistrust (it has led us to disregard the divine nature of Scripture), while the other group sees the historical method as a key to understanding the true character of the biblical witness.

A More Flexible View of Biblical Infallibility

It was not my purpose to show that inerrancy has died by a thousand qualification. 15 The limitations I have cited are ones traditionally cited by all reasonable defenders of inerrancy, because they are necessary if the concept of incrraocy, is to maintain its integrity. I supported Lindsell in his contention that one limitation leads to another, but I disagree with him that "once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been wirtteo" (203). Even the most innocent qualification illustrates the kind of interpreter's quandary that results. The logical conclusion, as I see it, is an alternative. Either we return to a non-qualified obscurantism of nineteenth century fundamentalism, or we accept a more open, flexible concept of biblical infallibility. I am aware that Lindsell and I are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. He fears the danger from the left, namely, an unscriptural humanism that ignores the divine authorship of the Bible; while I fear the danger from the right, namely, an unbiblical literalism that stands upon the Bible rather than under it. Lindsell's defense, however, assumes that by limiting the qualifications, biblical inerrancy can be protected from the left without falling prey to the right. The assumption is naive, more like hopeful wishing than realistic expectations, and is indicative of trying to return to an era before historical criticism.

Dogma vs Kerygma

In addition it is unfortunate that once again Lindsell has chosen to make inerrancy a black and white issue of errors vs. no errors. The fence is much broader than this, as many evangelical scholars are poignantly conscious. The liberal critic who searches for that "one fatal error" is just as much a myth as the conservative who argues for verbal dictation. The heart of the matter, if the discussion concerning inerrancy is going to progress,16 is not about errors but about the basic character of the biblical writings. If the essential character of Scripture is dogmatic, and if absolute truth is required to achieve this purpose, then inerrancy will he defended in one way. If the fundamental character of Scripture is kerygmatic, and if essential truth is necessary to achieve this purpose, then inerraney will he defended in another way.

The polemicist asks, "Would God lie?" He attempts to harmonize the resurrection accounts, designs elaborate explanations for the measurement of the molten sea, and justifies the Chronicler's amending of II Samuel 24:1 (cf. I Chr. 21:1). This kind of debate has gone on for centuries and has changed the minds of very few people about Scripture's infallibility. Form criticism and redaction history, however, have been asking a different kind of question. They ask whether the Deuteronomist was more a theologian than an objective reporter, whether the author of Genesis 1 was a poet first and an astronomer last, whether the Gospels are historical biographies or post-Easter proclamations, or whether the book of Revelation is to he read as forensic predictions of the future or as warning and encouragement to Christians under distress. These are of course not either-or type questions,17 but they do reflect a different kind of probing. The biblical interpreter knows full well that the kind of question asked of the Bible will largely determine the kind of answer received. The issue becomes not whether we can harmonize or find a plausible solution to certain difficulties, but whether such a method is in accord with the purpose of the author. God, of course, does not lie; but that may he the proper kind of question to ask in order to discover the basic character of Scripture."18

Some years ago James Smart posed the problem as it needs to he discussed: Does Scripture embody a concept of inspiration that is dynamic or static?19 There has been so much attention paid to the doctrinal verses that nothing is said about the remarkable freedom with which the biblical writers reinterpreted and reshaped the "saving history" to each new context. James Smart points out the obvious:

The NT at a whole, however, is dominated by the OT attitude to sacred documents. The church was plainly untroubled by differences of detail in parallel traditions. The author of John's Gospel claimed for himself a very high degree of freedom in reinterpreting the traditions concerning Jesus in order to bring out clearly what he knew to he the truth of the gospel. A church in bondage to literalism could never have admitted John's Gospel alongside the three earlier ones that tell their story so differently. The lateness of its general recognition was must likely a consequence of the difficulties its character provided for those in she church who could not endure contradictions in sacred Scripture.20

What is the basic character of Scripture? Is it dogmatic or kerygmatic? As the critic carefully compares the thousands of parallel accounts in Scripture, he does not conclude that they are the result of plagiarism or deceit. To be sure there are details that resist harmonization, but for the most part the differences are best interpreted as tensions resulting from a pattern of development. Various lines of research converge on the conclusion that the pattern of precanonical Christianity appeared in a multiplicity of forms rather than a single
primitive cast.21 If we accept the consensus of biblical scholarship that the Gospels were not written primarily as reportage but as kerygma,22 the issue of inerrancy is cast into a different light. Yet in the abundance (and redundancy) of words written about biblical inerrancy, it doesn't seem to matter what the critical-historical tells us about the fundamental character of the biblical witness.

Some readers of this article may conclude that I do not believe in biblical inerrancy. I would not agree with them. Their concept of inerrancy, however, is probably different from mine. I find the defense of an unqualified inerraney strained and thin. On the other hand, a concept of qualified inerrancy does not mean a restriction of inspirations to certain kinds of subject matter. Infallibility is limited only by the intention of the author and the kerygmatic nature of the biblical message. As a Christian I trust Scripture as it faithfully presents the good news of God's grace and judgment. As a Christian historian, I see the Bible as the remarkable account of the historical acting out of God's love and man's response. The tensions, difficulties, and possible contradictions we encounter are not the blemishes of a system of doctrine and practice, but the natural result of writers who were compelled to preach the Gospel in the language and forms of their contemporaries.


1Archibald A. Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield, "Inspiration," Presbyterian Review, H (1881j, pp. 242ff. Actually there were two more qualifications: an error cannot be attributed to a difference in form as long as the same basic truth is conveyed; an alleged error must be shown to be incapable of being harmonized with other statements.
2E. J. Carnell, The Case for Orthodox Theology (Westminster, 1959), pp. 102-11. Carnell in this ease was following another widely quoted scholar, James Orr, Revelation and Inspiration (Eerdmans, 1951), pp. 179, 216.
3For some of the best illustrations see Joaehim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (Seribner's, 1963) or his Unknown Sayings of Jesus.
4W. A. Criswell in Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True (Broadman, 1969) believes every line and word of Scripture is revealed and cannot he counted as secondary.
5There are those occasions when the prophet ("Thus says Yahweh") or Paul (Gal. 1:llff.j, for example, wish to demark God's authority as opposed to theirs. We have no right, however, to assume that those statements are more revealed than others. The history of biblical studies is one of the painful discovery of how difficult it is to separate the essential from the incidental.
6Clark H. Pinnoek, Biblical Revelation (Moody, 1971), p. 72.
7Hodge and Warfield, ibid., 256. Another supporter of inerrancy at the time, professor Samuel C. Bartlett, wrote what has become a standard statement of verbal inspiration: "While there was not a universal dictation, there was such guidance as would prevent the use of wrong forms of statement, and in all passages of importance, wheresoever the natural powers would not have supplied the befitting word of expression, there it was supplied by the real though probably unperceived influence of the Holy Spirit" (Princeton Review, Jan. 1880, 35-36.) The hermeneutical question is still unanswered. How does one decide where
the Holy Spirit took charge?
8See the Report of the Synodical President to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (1972), pp. 154-55.
9Writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (June, 1972) its editor, Richard H. Bube, draws our attention to two types of errors. Type 1 is judged by the criterion of absolute truth, such as those derived from natural or scientific law. For example, the statement that "the son rises." Type 2 is a false statement with respect to the criterion intrinsic to the Bible itself (e.g., a statement that misrepresents God). While the standards for absolute truth are "relatively" fixed, they are by no means unchanging. Bube thus argues we do not need to defend in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. Scripture against type 1 errors, because the biblical authors man, wrote under different standards for absolute truth than we often assume. 
10Some would see as a new form of spiritual allegory Bultmann's program of demythologizing. C. C. Berkouwer certainly makes a valid observation that the Reformation doctrine of perspicuity was aimed at the message of Scripture and not at the words themselves. See Studies in  Dogmatics: Holy Scripture (Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 274ff. The danger is in tact twofold: literalism and allegory.
11John W. Montgomery, ed., God's Inerrant Word (Bethany, 974), p. 278.
12At what point does a difficulty become an outright contradiction? A conflict in detail becomes a contradiction only when we know both authors are writing as eye witnesses or acting as historians in passing on the report of an eye witness. If, however, the author in question deals with the detail from a literacy or theological viewpoint, as redacation history often claims to be the ease, then it becomes very difficult to decide when a difference in detail is an error. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke illustrate the problem, not to mention the Gospel of John.
13 Ernst Kasemann comments in the opening chapter of his The Testament of Jesus According to John 17 (Fortress, 1968): "Not without irony, one could point to the history of exegesis as offering the proof that only occasionally has exegesis achieved lasting results. If true understanding had actually been realized, then the great problems of NT interprtation would not need to become the object of  diligent research in each new generation" (p. 1).
 l4Namely, the a priori exclusion of miracles based upon a closed  system, a humanistic philosophy that teaches the truths of Scripture are the result of a natural development of ideas,  and the assumption that ancient man was not able to write  accurate, objective history. Certainly one of the important  changes since the nineteenth century is a reexamination of  these presumptions by the modern critic himself.
15The phraseology belongs to the philosopher-linguist R. M. Hare as quoted by John W. Montgomery, ibid., p.275.
16 I have outlined elsewhere other issues that must be considered in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. Richard J. Coleman, "Biblical Inaccuracy: Are we going anywhere?," Theology Today (January 1975), 295-303.
A moment of decision comes when the interpreter is faced with a text that is both literary and historical. As in the  case of Genesis 1 or John 6, there is both a primary and  a secondary purpose, and only careful exegesis, and then only tentatively, will tell us if the theological-literary put pose so dominates as to influence and share the historical. The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11:10-32, namely the  life spans of the pro-flood ancestors, presents a typical  interpreter's dilemma. 
18In no way do I mean to imply the Christian interpreter is not concerned with the historical accuracy of Scripture. We are  simply narrowing the hermeneutieal question to what is the  root idea of biblical truth. Is it the philosophical truth of  subject-object correspondence or the Bible's faithfulness  in presenting the saving God and His word to the people  of Israel and then to the world? If the latter is more  curate, then errors in the observation of physical phenomena or the reporting of chronological events constitute no  major difficulty for the believer, though they may for the  historian. So much is admitted by the great evangelical scholars of the past when faced with a "minor" historical  discrepancy. 
James D, Smart, The Interpretation of Scripture (Westminster, 1961), pp. 166-67.
lbid., p. 189. 
For example, James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity (Fortress, 1971); and William G. Doty, Contemporary New Testament Interpretation (Prentice-Hall, 1972).
0r as Ernst Kiisemann puts it: "History is only accessible to us through tradition and only comprehensible to us through interpretation." He balances his statement with the comment that the Gospel writers did not abstract their faith from history. See E. Kasemann, "The Problem of the Historical Jesus," and "Is the Gospel Objective," in  Essays in NT Themes (SCM Press, 1964).