“Part of the challenge of history comes from allowing suspicion a proper role. Suspicion, that is, of the texts themselves, of one’s colleagues’ readings, and particularly of one’s own. However, a caution is necessary. The guild of New Testament studies has become so used to operating with a hermaneutic of suspicion that we find ourselves trapped in our own subtleties. If two ancient writers agree about something, that proves one got it from the other. If they seem to disagree, that proves that one or both are wrong. If they say an event fulfills biblical prophesy, they made it up to look like that. If an event of saying fits a writer’s theological scheme, that writer invented it. If there are two accounts of similar events, they are a ‘doublet’ (there was only one event); but if a single event has anything odd about it, there must have been two events, which are now conflated. And so on. Anything to show how clever we are, how subtle, to have smoked out the reality behind the text.

“But, as any author who has watched her or his books being reviewed will know, such reconstructions again and again miss the point, often wildly. If we cannot get it right when we share a culture, a period, and a language, it is highly likely that many of our subtle reconstructions of ancient texts and histories are our own unhistorical fantasies, unrecognized only because the writers are long since dead and cannot answer back.

“Suspicion is all very well; there is also such a thing as a hermeneutic of paranoia. Somebody says something, they must have a motive; therefore they must have made it up. Just because we are rightly determined to avoid a hermeneutic of credulity, that does not mean there is no such thing as appropriate trust, or even readiness to suspend disbelief for awhile, and see where it gets us.” (>>)