"The Benedictine Rule had called for manual labor, as well as prayer and reading, and it was always assumed that this labor could include writing. The early founders of monastic orders did not regard copying manuscripts as an exalted activity; on the contrary, as they were highly aware, most of the copying in the ancient world had been done by educated slaves. The task was therefore inherently humiliating as well as tedious, a perfect combination for the ascetic project of disciplining the spirit."
— Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began
"It is precisely the complex interrelationship between human beings and their environment that makes it necessary to reduce the scale; only in this way can we avoid the temptation to simplify the relations among people, phenomena and events. Thus we can continue in our research to assume a structure to society, but must take pains to treat it like any other social phenomenon, constantly changing and indeterminable, while also, above all, insulating it from any links to predetermined conclusions imposed by the metanarratives."
— Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon,”The Singularization of History” p722
"I am not suggesting in any way that we should ignore the information contained in documents… We should focus more than we have done on the fact that documents are not neutral epistles, that they are not disinterested bearers of information about the past. Like other products of human creativity, they were, in fact, active in the production, negotiation and transformation of social relations. More particularly, they contributed to the creation and reproduction of technologies of oppression—as well as providing new opportunities for resistance."
— John Moreland, Archaeology and Text, p31
"The contents of Zen texts should not be evaluated using a simple-minded criterion of journalist accuracy, that is, “did it really happen?” For any event or saying to have occurred would be a trivial reality involving a mere handful of people at one imagined point in time, which would be overwhelmed by the thousands of people over the centuries who were involved in the creation of Zen legends. The mythopoeic creation of Zen literature implies the religious imagination of the Chinese people, a phenomenon of vast scale and deep significance."
John McRae, Seeing Through Zen
I take this as axiomatic for all religious history.
"In the nonphilosophical sense, to ask a witness if she has accurately represented a situation is to ask about her truthfulness or her carefulness. When we say that good historians accurately represent what they find in the archives, we mean that they look hard for relevant documents, do not discard documents tending to discredit the historical thesis they are propounding, do not misleadingly quote passages out of context, tell the same historical story among themselves that they tell us, and so on. To assume that a historian accurately represents the facts as she knows them is to assume that she behaves in the way in which good, honest historians behave. It is not to assume anything about the reality of past events, or about the truth conditions of statements concerning such events, or about the necessarily hermeneutical character of the Geisteswissenschaften, or about any other philosophical topic."
— Richard Rorty, “John Searle on Realism and Relativism” p73