How to gain truth from a document 1; A document is proof that the document exists. From there we analyze.
What appears one way is often another
Some proof is hidden from normal view
Discrepancies often create a more authentic work that do perfect consistencies. Evidence of the truth of a matter derived from writings require us to intrinsically review the material. What I mean is that we look to the document itself to verify the authenticity of it’s writing. This is made more complicated when we do not have the original. Jurisprudence refers to this as the “best evidence” rule. In other words it is best to have the original but if all we can get is the best copy, so be it.
And so it is that many of us trained and degreed in both philosophy and law and indeed the philosophy of law come to read the Bible in a fashion that requires more than faith. We look for matters that tend to prove the authenticity and truth telling of the writing, without looking at external factors. Some of these methods seem quite contrary to the normal way of looking at something.
But do not engage in the fallacy of scientific proof for matters of our being.
The failing of many is that they see inconsistency as proof of innaccuracy.
Consistency. Consistency has the opposite value of what most would think. Too consistent makes the document less authentic. People are not robots and indeed most of us are quite happy with some inconsistency in our life. We do not always fact check or reflect if this is consistent with that. Especially with long writings it is extremely difficult to be consistent. So if you read a long document that has no inconsistencies you know the document was extremely well proofed, rewritten and edited and changed between the original and the final copy. Making it suspect. The document will have changes and additions that were not part of the original. Inconsistencies suggest a writing and straight to publishing.
Mistakes or dialect. People generally speak in a manner reflecting where they are from or where they were educated. (rcrumple’s news aside) Most people do not slip back and forth between idioms of dialect, or if they do it tells us much about the author. Sometimes mistakes made and not corrected lend an authenticity to the work. Ancillary facts such as geography, math and proper names are quite normal to see mistakes within them. If the author is expert on some matter, it is unlikely he is expert on others or even expert on writing.
The presence of a Buddah in the home of a Christian is not proof of lack of faith, but proof of tolerance and love.
Timing can create a doubt
Timing. We do not speak so much of the time the document was written, that would be extrinsic. What we are more concerned with are tenses and first person usage. Are they used consistently with the author’s writing ability, regional factors and are they appropriate for the account being put forth. Sometimes it is just a mistake in grammar, but often it is a result of storytelling claimed to be first person but tends toward a tense we would use in repeating a story from another.
My whole point here is that many folks demanding proof of one thing or another are naïve as to forms and methods of proof. Scientific proof is not a proof that works with the nature of human affairs. Science can prove many things such as carbon dating, the existence of an ancient fact. It as of yet cannot prove such matters as the heart/love, motivation, luck, faith, belief, sadness or hunger. Of course it can prove underlying facts that are consistent with the above, but cannot prove the existence thereof.
There are many writings in some way attributed to Buddha, Confucius, Mohamed, Plato, and Paul. None of which had contemporary significance nearly as great as they do now. It would be fair to say that the individuals who did such writings are far less relevant than the words and concepts they conveyed. It is the thoughts that have driven millions to reflect and contemplate higher matters. So as to evidence or proof of an underlying fact, of authorship, arguments can abound. But as to matters and truths asserted within the writings there is no doubt as to their authenticity. While we can debate the identity of Buddha we cannot deny the truths of the writings attributed to his teaching. The scriptures of all philosophy and religions stand on their own merit, not the details of geography and math or names and events, but the truths that they imbue upon the reader.
And so it is with faith. It cannot be proven extrinsically but it can be proven intrinsically. Perhaps only to the author of the faith, but it is proven nevertheless.