“Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists” by Raphael Lataster w/ Richard Carrier

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by Neil Godfrey

doubtBy Richard Carrier in his Introduction to a new book, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists:

In early 2014 I published On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. It passed professional peer review. It was published by a major, well-respected academic press that specialized in Biblical Studies, Sheffield-Phoenix, the publishing arm of the University of Sheffield. And it is the first book of such tested merit to argue that Jesus probably did not exist. It argues instead that Jesus began life as a revelatory archangel, and was transferred to human history decades later through the writing of myths for educational, missionary, and propagandistic purposes. This would have proceeded, in both cause and procedure, much like the invention of the life and teachings and miracles of Moses, whom the mainstream Academy now concedes probably did not exist.

Now late in 2015, the book you hold in your hand, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists by Raphael Lataster, contains the first thorough and expert treatment of my argument in print. In fact his chapter summarizing my book is the best brief summary I have read anywhere. . . . 

And his book as a whole is the first analysis of its argument from anyone of graduate status or above in a relevant field that does not ignore or lie about its contents. Its motivation is evident from its author’s argument: Biblical studies is inhabited by experts too close to the material to approach so controversial a question critically. Someone who hasn’t settled their careers and access to grants and conference invites on there being a historical Jesus is indeed needed, to look objectively at what’s going on.

That there is a problem is widely acknowledged within the field itself. It has been remarked on by numerous observers, from John Crossan, who would write the famous line describing most historical work on Jesus “a disguise for doing theology and calling it history, doing autobiography and calling it biography, doing Christian apologetics and calling it academic scholarship”, and who then ironically did pretty much the very same thing himself, to James Crossley, who has argued that historians keep constructing a historical Jesus that conveniently agrees with who they want Jesus to have been, even writing two whole books on the point: Jesus in an Age of Terror and Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism.[ 2] That the problem is even more extensive than this is demonstrated by Hector Avalos in The End of Biblical Studies. These are all leading insiders, well qualified in the subject.

Lataster, Raphael (2015-11-12). Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists (Kindle Locations 37-59). . Kindle Edition.

First heard via John Loftus of Debunking Christianity: New Book by Raphael Lataster and Richard Carrier: “Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists”

I’ll no doubt be writing more about this book.


  • Lowen Gartner
    2015-11-19 21:44:11 UTC - 21:44 | Permalink

    This book is included in Kindle Unlimited.

  • George Hall
    2015-11-19 23:13:01 UTC - 23:13 | Permalink

    Just out of curiosity, is there a similar book on the same topic, but with the debate being among believers?

    It’s almost a given with atheists, but what studies have been done regarding Christians who realize they may have to ask the same question? Did Jesus exist?

    It’s interesting to be of Christian background, spend almost all your life in belief of his existence, then come to terms the evidence might point to the fact he did not.

  • 2015-11-19 23:57:44 UTC - 23:57 | Permalink

    “Biblical Studies is inhabited by experts [who are] too close to the material to approach so controversial a question critically.”

    Ditto the subject of Roman crucifixion. It appears that all scholars with Ph. D. degrees in relevant fields who study it have some vested emotional interest in a certain cruci-fiction and a certain type of cross the Romans would never fabricate to hang a criminal from it, with nails. Although Gunnar Samuelsson at least did a competent study, whereas, from what I’ve seen of his work (including quite a few mistranslations from Latin ), John Granger Cook appears very wedded to “The Cross” when evidence tells him otherwise.

    Maybe Richard Carrier or another qualified unbelieving scholar can do a disinterested study on it; I remember Richard called the device a stick, shaped like a tee.

  • John MacDonald
    2015-11-20 20:27:07 UTC - 20:27 | Permalink

    Can anyone recommend the book? Is it worth picking up?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-20 21:29:42 UTC - 21:29 | Permalink

      I have begun reading it, but am doing so slowly and am still in the preliminary pages before the first chapter. I’ll probably post ideas arising from it from time to time.

      • John MacDonald
        2015-11-20 21:41:56 UTC - 21:41 | Permalink

        Thanks. I’ll wait to hear your thoughts on it before I pick it up.

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