2014-12-19

The Jesus Myth Question Comes to The Washington Post

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by Neil Godfrey

Raphael Lataster

Raphael Lataster

Mythicism — the term widely assigned to the modern-day claim that there was no historical Jesus at the start of what became Christianity — has made its presence felt in The Washington Post today. At this moment Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up has attracted over 5000 comments. Be sure you read them all before you add your own: you don’t want to repeat what someone has already said.

The author is fellow Aussie Raphael Lataster and his article is a reprint of the one he originally posted in the academic blog The Conversation. There it was titled Weighing up the evidence for the ‘Historical Jesus’. He is a PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Sydney.

He is also the author of There was no Jesus, there is no God: A Scholarly Examination of the Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Evidence & Arguments for Monotheism.

Among his articles published in the scholarly literature is one titled “Bayesian Reasoning: Criticising the ‘Criteria of Authenticity’ and Calling for a Review of Biblical Criticism” in the Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences (2012) Volume 5 No2, 271-293. Anyone who knows of Richard Carrier’s addition to Bayesian reasoning in historical studies by applying it to the question of the historicity of Jesus will understand what this article is addressing.

Predictably one theologian well known for his frenzied vendetta against mythicism has already protested Raphael’s “superficial”, “incomprehensible”, “ridiculousness”. (The most vocal critics don’t care what the arguments are; all that matters is finding some angle to attack and mix with a very large dose of ad hominem.) I imagine our crusading theologian will become apoplectic when he wakes up to find the same article has since reached The Washington Post.

That’s the trouble with mythicism. It’s not behaving itself. It was supposed to disappear into oblivion after a few sharp attacks on the motives and credentials of some of its exponents not too many years ago.

Trouble is, the charge that mythicists are merely motivated by some anti-religion crusade has been disproven with at least three of the more prominent mythicist authors (Tom Harpur, Robert M. Price, Thomas Brodie) clearly being on record as very favourable to Christianity.

And the charge that no mythicist had bothered or even could get anything past peer-review has also been disproven now with peer-reviewed publication by Richard Carrier and Raphael Lataster.

And the charge that no serious or qualified academic would ever give mythicism the time of day has also been proven false with several respectable scholarly names contributing to Thompson and Verenna’s ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’, along with others already mentioned in my Who’s Who Among Mythicists and Mythicist Sympathizers.

And the claim that anyone is a fool if they dare doubt the general views of “the academy” is being made to look rather hollow as we see prominent scholars from other academic disciplines (geology, biology, palaeontology) and other names of clearly well educated persons (see Who’s Who) coming out and expressing interest in the possibility that the theologians have been mistaken all along.

(I did post some of these corrective facts to our favourite theologian in response to some of his erroneous claims but he chose to quietly redirect my comments to spam and later announce that he was “moderating” them. One must not question the authorities or radically examine their foundational assumptions and methods.)

We can expect to see even more shrill and apoplectic responses from those who have built their careers (not to mention their personal faith and identities) on a rarely questioned assumption in response to the widening public discussion — and questioning of tradition and authority.

 

 

3 Comments

  • Blood
    2014-12-19 13:38:02 UTC - 13:38 | Permalink

    5000+ comments is the most I’ve ever heard of for any online newspaper article. Clearly there is a lot of interest in this idea. It isn’t going away. Theologians won’t be able to sweep it under the rug and pretend they’ve “discredited” it, as they did so successfully back in the ’20s and ’30s.

    Recall that “historical Jesus” studies were only advanced when people outside of the Christian seminary nexus, such as Geza Vermes, began to seriously examine the issue. More and more people in other fields are starting to study the Bible every year, resulting in more sharply critical views than ever before. Perhaps the empire built of sand will collapse at some not-too-distant future point.

  • Sili
    2014-12-20 16:27:42 UTC - 16:27 | Permalink

    “superficial”, “incomprehensible”, “ridiculousness”

    Unlike most popular, mainstream articles about theology and/or Christmas?

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