Search Results for: myth


The Jesus Myth Question Comes to The Washington Post

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. read more »


Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction

by Neil Godfrey

An English language version of Minas Papageorgiou’s book is due out in March 2015. (It has only been available in Greek until now.) You can find details on a dedicated Facebook page.


The range of names interviewed and types of mythicism represented in the book is very wide indeed. Here is the back cover blurb with some of the details: read more »


Turning Remembrance Day into a New Myth to Justify War

by Neil Godfrey

last_postI recall as a little boy at school grown men leading solemn ceremonies pleading with us in prayerful tones never to forget the sufferings and horrors of war — Never again. Futility was a word I learned the meaning of. It was a moment for tears. The message was clear. Hate war. The idea of following the “example” of those who suffered (both those dead and living) was the very antithesis of what the day was all about.

Today Remembrance Day falls at a time our government is eager to send more soldiers to war, to be part of the fight, to show our loyalty to the cause. Volunteers in the services are sent with good pay.

How the message has changed today.

The Great War which we remember today . . . was also the crucible in which our nation was formed.

Of a population of under 5 million; more than 400,000 volunteered, more than 300,000 served overseas, more than 150,000 were wounded and more than 60,000 never came home.

It was sacrifice on a stupendous scale. . . . 

As well as suffering, there is another legacy; a legacy of comradeship under fire, of service and sacrifice, of duty in a good cause.

Of the original ANZACs the official war historian Charles Bean said, “their example rises, as it will always rise, above the mists of ages; a memorial to great hearted-men and for their nation, a possession forever.”

And so today we remember all of them, we remember all who have worn our country’s uniform – we remember them – and dedicate ourselves to be worthy of their example.

Lest we forget.

Now the suffering is presented as not an obscene horror never to be repeated but a noble nation-making, character-building experience.

It was not a horrific waste; it was all for a good cause. It was a duty.

The voices of those who led services when I was a little boy are lost. They are replaced by the words of the leading propagandist historian of the day, the one whose accounts were carefully censored so as to encourage more volunteers to go and kill and die, Charles Bean. read more »


Dispelling the Jesus Mythicist Myth

by Neil Godfrey

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 6.57.16 pmJames McGrath directs readers interested in learning more about mythicism to read Dispelling the Jesus Myth, a blogpost by Simon J. Joseph. So I did. Simon’s post introduces nothing new into the discussion. It is the same litany of objections to mythicism one has run across countless times before so I was about to move on and forget about it when it occurred to me that the reason we keep reading these same weary objections may to some extent be because it is too easy to simply ignore them. So for what it’s worth this time I’m taking the time to respond to Simon’s post.

(“For what it’s worth” . . . . One does wonder, especially given the all too commonly observed failure of scholars who protest the loudest against mythicism to bother even to find out what the arguments of mythicists actually are.)

Discrediting and debunking?

Simon Joseph’s first criticism is that

For many, Jesus-Mythicism serves as an effective tool in discrediting the Cornerstone of . . . “Christianity”. Most mythicists are not interested in participating in Jesus Research; they want to debunk it.

From the outset we have here a criticism that is going to shut down any serious thought of genuinely looking into mythicist arguments. No doubt one will find many people among those declaring Jesus never to have existed who want to debunk Christianity. I posted about one such author only a few days ago. I also pointed out that polemics are not what seriously argued mythicism is about.

I have posted here at length on the views of Thomas L. Brodie whose mythicist views have served only to enhance his appreciation of Christianity.

Tom Harpur similarly speaks very positively about Christianity as a direct result, not in spite of, his mythicist view of Jesus Christ.

Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy likewise object only to fundamentalist or literal interpretations of the Gospels — a criticism shared by a significant number of non-mythicist liberal Christians such as John Shelby Spong.)

Robert M. Price has also spoken positively of Christianity since coming to his conclusion that Jesus had no historical existence.

A little while ago I presented in detail the views of an earlier mythicist, Paul-Louis Couchoud whose adoration of Christianity led him to write panegyrics to the faith. See, for example, his conclusion to The Creation of Christ.

Herman Detering remains a church pastor, I believe. I don’t believe anyone ever read a single “debunking” word on Christianity in anything published by Alvar Ellegård and G. A. Wells.

And I suspect names like Kurt Noll, Philip Davies and Arthur Droge who are not mythicists but have expressed an interest in seeing mythicist views addressed more seriously are not motivated by any wish to debunk anything. Thomas L. Thompson appears to hold views that I have also come to embrace with respect to the mythicist question. Debunking and discrediting Christianity are nowhere on the radar in any of his publications.

Very likely those who are the most seriously interested in mythicism are primarily interested in the historical question per se and are not likely to risk such a serious enquiry with polemical distractions. There are some exceptions, of course, but such names have certainly not featured often or always positively on this blog.

Yet the myth persists that “most mythicists” or “many” of them are motivated by a desire to debunk. “Most” and “many” are relative terms. I think I have demonstrated from the above that a good many mythicist authors are actually positive towards Christianity. Most mythicist authors, I would suggest (and see the Who’s Who tables to get some rough idea of the relative numbers), avoid any anti-Christian polemic in their publications.

So why do we regularly read this little bit of ad hominem? read more »


Bible Scholars’ Inability to Handle Mythicism: No Meek Messiah by Michael Paulkovich

by Neil Godfrey

nomeekmessiahRecently we have seen on the web more instances of otherwise reputable New Testament scholars demonstrating their apparent inability to actually read with any serious attempt at comprehension or publicly discuss radical views that originate from unwashed outsiders.  (The second case I will discuss here involves a quite unexpected and unexplained banning of comments from me on a certain blog.)

  • We have seen the way Professor James McGrath boldly wrote that Doherty said or did not say certain things in his “review” of his book and the way I could demonstrate word for word, page for page, that McGrath clearly had not read as much of Doherty’s book as he claimed he had.
  • Then we saw Bart Ehrman making so many gaffes in his self-proclaimed first-ever scholarly “sustained argument that Jesus must have lived”: among the very many howlers were attributing to G. A. Wells an argument he flatly opposes (that Jesus was crucified in the heavenly realm my demons) and attributing to Doherty as “one of the arguments he makes in his book” the actual central thesis of his book!
  • Next appeared an anti-mythicist book by Maurice Casey that erroneously accused several non-mythicists of being his hated targets and that again accused others of sustaining arguments they in fact do not hold.
  • Most recently I have experienced James Crossley ignoring titles, sub-headings and opening words of my sentences in order to lift part sentences out of context to sarcastically accuse me of writing the very opposite of the point I was making.

Why do scholars, professors, seem to be incapable of reading with minimal comprehension certain types of works they seek to refute or that they presumably merely fear they might find offensive?

Is there a certain measure of fear there? Fear that others might see that their research careers have been built on sand? Or is it just plain old intellectual arrogance?

For whatever reason it seems to me that such scholars approach certain types of works so emotively that they are incapable of reading the words on the page with any normal faculty of calm comprehension. Sometimes I’ve opened a letter or email I’ve expected to be outrageous in some manner and I’ve read it with that presumption and reacted just as I expected to react after glancing over it. Only later after calming down have I been able to see that I read my initial expectations into the words and that it was not nearly so bad as I had originally thought. Is that how scholars read works by mythicists (or even from me in some cases?) — except that they never return later for the second reading in a calmer frame of mind?

Earlier this month Candida Moss (noted recently for her Myth of Persecution) and Joel Baden (The Historical David), both reputable professors, combined to produce a bit of sarcastic “comedy” for The Daily Beast– ostensibly a review of a crazy mythicist publication. James McGrath couldn’t resist a good guffaw and immediately invited all of his readers to take a look and get a good belly laugh, too. Aren’t those mythicists such incompetent ignoramuses! That was the message and presumably the entire intent of posting the review and notice of it.

Maybe I’ve been around this business for too long now but I sensed something was not quite right. None of these professors actually explained what the book was about but only mocked a particular claim giving us all the distinct impression (but without actually explicitly saying so!) that this risible point was the central thesis of the book. So I bought a copy of the book to read for myself.

(Meanwhile I came across another criticism of the book,The Wrong Monkey, this time by a fellow atheist. This review was also critical, but again of just the one point magnified by Moss and Baden.)

The article I’m referring to was in the Real Deal section and given the title So-Called ‘Biblical Scholar’ Says Jesus A Made-Up Myth. In the article Moss and Baden (and subsequently the others) mock a list of 126 ancient names apparently presented as authors from whom we “should” have some evidence about Jesus had he existed. The book being targeted was No Meek Messiah by Michael Paulkovich.

Did anyone who wrote about No Meek Messiah ever read it?

I don’t think so. Or if they did they hid their guilt well from the public.  read more »


Who’s Who among Mythicists . . . : Completed (for now)

by Neil Godfrey

I’ve more or less “finally” completed the page WHO’s WHO: Mythicists and Mythicist

Newly added:

  • annotated lists to identify the viewpoint and methods of each of the authors,
  • a second table to illustrate the different schools of mythicist thought,
  • and several more names of prominent public sympathizers with mythicist arguments, along with links to their public declarations. 

Of course the table showing the religious/philosophical background of each mythicist and mythicist agnostic or sympathizer is maintained.

I’m sure the page will be an ongoing editorial maintenance project.

After seeing the extent to which the list is growing I am beginning to understand the consternation among devout scholar-theologians that public confidence in their authority might be being increasingly undermined.

Any assistance by way of information of new names in any of the categories or updates on existing names will be greatly appreciated. 

(The page will alway be found listed in the right-hand column of this blog.)





New Page Added — a who’s who of contemporary mythicists and others open to the question

by Neil Godfrey

I have added a new page in the side bar for ready reference: WHO’s WHO: Mythicists and Mythicist Agnostics

Do add comments where you can see a need for any corrections or additions. Or email: see the Contact Info page for details.

WHO’s WHO: Mythicists and Mythicist Agnostics (Updated 16 Nov 2014)

by Neil Godfrey

Table 1: Mythicists, Mythicist Sympathizers & Agnostics (and their Religious Backgrounds)

The following updated table was originally posted at

and again at

Further background to what led to this table can be found in those posts.

Only names of those who are or have been alive in this century are included.

The table was originally compiled to test claims by a number of critics that “mythicists” are generally reacting against fundamentalist Christian backgrounds.

Asterisked names appear more than once. They had different religious influences in their earlier life.

Names in the pink shading have not (to my knowledge) published in print or online arguments against the historicity of Jesus but are either open-minded towards the Christ Myth theory (e.g. Hector Avalos) or agnostic. I include myself here because I have not argued a case for mythicism even though I do believe Christianity and the New Testament writings can be explained without any reference to a historical Jesus.

Names in bold black hold doctoral qualifications in either biblical studies, religion or ancient history.

Names in bold maroon are prominent names in other areas.

Ellegård and Wells are professors of English and German respectively who have been recognized for their contributions in peer-review New Testament journals and/or achieved positive criticism among at least some NT scholars.

All names are linked to an identification with more detail about their views or background. All names of those listed as “mythicists” (in the bluish cells) are more fully annotated with their particular mythicist views below.

Fundamentalist Background

Roman Catholic Background

(Note N. American/Australian Catholicism is a notoriously liberal form of Catholicism)

Liberal or No Church Background


David Fitzgerald Joe Atwill
(Source: Caesar’s Messiah)
Richard Carrier
(“Freethinking Methodist”)
Lena Einhorn
(Physician and biomedical researcher, documentary film maker, author of “The Jesus Mystery” and “Jesus and the ‘Egyptian Prophet’“)
Tom Harpur
(very positive towards Christianity)
Thomas Brodie
(Irish Catholic. Very positive towards Christianity)
Herman Detering
(very positive towards Christianity) Writes about Paul- also denies HJ
Alvar Ellegård
Raphael Lataster* Francesco Carotta
(very positive towards Christianity)
Timothy Freke
(Source: ch.3 Mystery Experience)
Peter Gandy
Robert M. Price
(very positive towards Christianity)
Earl Doherty Stephan Huller Michael B. Paulkovich
Aerospace engineer and humanist-rationalist writer. Author of ”The Fable of the Christ” in Free Inquiry and No Meek Messiah
Charles O. Wilson
(Southern Baptist)
Raphael Lataster* Kenneth Humphreys 
(no church background)
Jay Raskin
Frank R. Zindler Roger Parvus
Raphael Lataster*
George Albert Wells
For many years published mythicist books but in recent years has come to argue Jesus existed at some time as a teacher of the Q community and was not crucified
Hector Avalos
(Mexican Pentecostal: HJ agnostic) In The End of Biblical Studies writes “Robert M. Price … provides a devastating critique of historical Jesus studies in his Deconstructing Jesus — and we share many of his conclusions. Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle outlines a plausible theory for a completely mythical Jesus.” p. 197
René Salm (now Buddhist and atheist) Harold Leidner Nigel Barber
Evolutionary psychologist and author of “If Jesus Never Existed, Religion May Be Fiction in Huffington Post.
Neil Godfrey* R. Joseph Hoffmann
Up to 2006 published positively of Christ Myth ideas among scholars in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (“the basic premises were sound” and works by G.A. Wells were “tightly argued” and “worth noting”, pp 20, 39 of Introduction to Goguel). Virulently anti-mythicist since Carrier and Doherty emerged as leading voices.
Sid Martin
(source online email)
Steven Carr
Tm Widowfield Roberto Perez-Franco*
(Nominal Catholic until age 15) Mendeley profile. See his review of Doherty’s Jesus Neither God Nor Man and his review of Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?
D. M. Murdock (Acharya S)
[liberal Congregationalist]
Philip R. Davies
Authored Did Jesus Exist? in which he is “inclined to accept” historicity of Jesus but argues that less certainty as to his existence would “nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability.”
Thomas L. Thompson
(Danish/European) Author of The Messiah Mythreviewed by Robert M. Price. See also Thompson’s response to Ehrman.
Derek Murphy
Arthur Droge
See outline of his paper “Jesus and Ned Ludd” presented at the Jesus Project conference at Amherst

Thomas S. Verenna
Co-edited with Thompson ‘Is This Not the Carpenter’ and contributed chapter on intertextuality and the question of Jesus’ historicity.
Michel Onfray
(The Invention of Jesus)
Kurt Noll
Author of “Investigating Earliest Christianity without Jesus” in ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’
R. G. Price Clarke W. Owens
Author of Son of Yahweh: The Gospels as Novels.
Pier Tulip Minas Papageorgiou
Author of The Problem of the Historicity of Jesus. See also “The Mythikismos and the historicity of Jesus
Raoul Vaneigem Loren Rosen III
See Mythicism: Two Theories
Roger Viklund
(Source: comment)
Michael Turton
Noted for his historical commentary on Gospel of Mark
Christina, Greta
Strongly promotes David Fitzgerald’s book Nailed!

Jerry Coyne
See guest post by Ben Goren, “The Jesus Challenge”. In Once again: Was there a historical Jesus? writes: 
“I have to say that I’m coming down on the “mythicist” side”.
Richard Dawkins
It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all, as has been done by, among others, Professor G. A. Wells of the University of London in a number of books, including Did Jesus Exist?.” The God Delusion, p. 97
Neil Godfrey*
Christopher Hitchens
Speaks of “the highly questionable existence of Jesus” in God Is Not Great, p. 114
Burton Mack 
Laments scholarly failure of scholars to take note of G. A. Wells’s views. Article in Christian and Judaic Invention of Christianity
PZ Myers
See Carrier cold-cocks Ehrman
Roberto Perez-Franco*
(Remained a Christian for some years but became an atheist about 2008. Found Price’s and Doherty’s works persuasive.) Mendeley profile. See his review of Doherty’s Jesus Neither God Nor Man and his review of Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?
David Oliver Smith
(Episcopalian) In his book on the influence of Paul on the gospels he expresses agreement with Earl Doherty’s mythicist case.

I hope to update this list as I am notified of corrections and additions that need to be made. Feel free to notify me or add comments of anything you see that needs fixing.


Table 2: Contemporary Mythicist Authors

Names in the last column do not argue a case for the non-existence of Jesus but do argue that the Christ myth or Christianity can be adequately explained without any need to introduce a historical Jesus for whom there is no clear evidence. I suspect more scholars could be listed here.

All others present a case that there was no historical Jesus.

Listed below are further details of the thesis each name represents and the extent of their influence and reputation.

All names are hyperlinked to further biographical information.

Did not exist

Originated as a heavenly Christ

(rather than

Gnostic arguments

or pagan cult
origins of Christianity

The Jesus figure lived in a remote past

The Gospel Jesus figure was based on someone else

The historical Jesus is not necessary to explain Christianity or
the Christ Myth

Thomas L. Brodie Richard Carrier Derek Murphy Timothy Freke D. M. Murdock
(a.k.a. Acharya S)
Alvar Ellegård Joe Atwill
(Emperor Titus)
Kurt Noll
(Does not argue for non-existence of Jesus)
David Fitzgerald Earl Doherty Jay Raskin Peter Gandy Tom Harpur George Albert Wells
(from 2009)
Francesco Carotta
(Julius Caesar)
Thomas L. Thompson
(Does not argue for non-existence of Jesus)
Ken Humphreys Pier Tulip Lena Einhorn (‘The Egyptian’)
Raphael Lataster Stephan Huller
(Herod Agrippa I)
Harold Leidner Roger Parvus
(Simon Magus/Paul)
Sid Martin Daniel Unterbrink,
(Judas the Galilean)
Michel Onfray Charles O. Wilson
(Alexander Jannaeus)
Michael Paulkovich
R. G. Price
Robert M. Price
Raoul Vaneigem
Roger Viklund
George Albert Wells
Frank R. Zindler


Who’s Who . . . What they say about Jesus

Atwill, Joe

A Roman imperial family, the Flavians, had created Christianity, and, placed a literary satire within the Gospels and War of the Jews to inform posterity of this fact. Author of Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent JesusReview by Robert M. Price

Brodie, Thomas

A highly respected New Testament scholar, at least until he publicly affirmed that much of his research led to the conclusion that the Gospels and epistles knew of no historical Jesus. (See the Wikipedia link from his name above.) The New Testament account of Jesus is essentially a rewriting of the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, or, in some cases, of earlier New Testament texts. Author of Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. Reviewed and covered in depth on Vridar

Carotta, Francesco

Julius Caesar was the historical Jesus, the Gospel is a rewriting of Roman historical sources, and Christianity developed from the cult of the deified Caesar. Author of Jesus was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity. Unable to find major reviews. I have not read it right through because unable to accept its methods of argument.

Carrier, Richard

“I believe this will be the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review. . . .  I think this will be the first pro-Jesus myth book of any kind published by a university press in the last fifty years.” Source: Author of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Reviews and Carrier’s replies listed on Carrier’s blog. My posts on Carrier’s preceding book discussing his method.

Detering, Herman

German pastor in the Dutch radical tradition. Runs Radikalkritik website. Identifies Paul with Simon Magus. Author of The Falsified Paul (or Fabricated Paul). Argues for a second century provenance of the epistles and gospels. His work on Paul implies the nonexistence of the historical Jesus.

Doherty, Earl

Christianity began with belief in a spiritual heavenly Son of God; the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction; and no “historical Jesus” worthy of the name existed. Owner of The Jesus Puzzle website and author of The Jesus Puzzle, a work expanded in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Pioneered the current popular interest in the Christ Myth theory and influenced Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier. My review of The Jesus Puzzle.

Einhorn, Lena

See review by Robert M. Price of The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul, and her article presented at 2012 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Jesus and the “Egyptian Prophet“.

Ellegård, Alvar

Swedish Professor of English. Influenced by G. A. Wells.Paul thought Jesus had been a real person though one who had lived in the remote past; Ellegard identifies Paul’s idea of Jesus (who had appeared to the apostles in ecstatic visions) with the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls. So the Jesus of the Gospels is essentially a myth; the Gospels are largely fiction. Author of Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ. Review by Doherty.

Fitzgerald, David

Author of Nailed!, “possibly the best ‘capsule summary’ of the mythicist case I’ve ever encountered . .  with an interesting and accessible approach” — Doherty. I have defended Nailed! against certain criticisms on this blog.

Freke, Timothy and Gandy, Peter

Co-authors of The Jesus Mysteries and The Lost Goddess. Robert M. Price’s review of Lost Goddess. Peter Kirby’s outline of the argument in Jesus Mysteries. “Whilst our ideas clearly rewrite history, we do not see ourselves as undermining Christianity.  On the contrary we are suggesting that Christianity is in fact richer than we previously imagined.  According to the original Gnostic Christians, the Jesus story is a perennial myth with the power to impart the mystical experience of Gnosis, which can transform each one of us into a Christ . . .” Source:

Harpur, Tom

Anglican priest. Christian doctrines — the coming messiah, virgin birth, madonna and child, incarnation of spirit in the flesh — were borrowed from ancient Egypt originally as allegories of spiritual truths. Author of The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Influenced by Alvin Boyd Kuhn. Review by Robert M. Price

Huller, Stephan

Marcus Agrippa believed himself to be the true Messiah with a divine mission and Jesus, until his crucifxion, proclaimed him as such. Marcus Agrippa was the author of the Gospel of Mark. Author of The Real Messiah: The Throne of St Mark and the True Origins of Christianity. Huller responds to a positive review.

Humphreys, Kenneth

Author of the website, Jesus Never Existed, a compendium of a wide variety of material supporting arguments that Jesus never existed. Author of the book Jesus Never Existed.

Lataster, Raphael

A PhD researcher (Studies in Religion) at the University of Sydney. The sources for the Biblical Jesus are so poor they cannot constitute good evidence for his existence and even give us reason to doubt he existed at all. Many methods used by Biblical scholars are spurious and Bayesian reasoning is used to justify scepticism. Author of There was no Jesus, there is no God: A Scholarly Examination of the Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Evidence & Arguments for Monotheism.

Leidner, Harold

Patent lawyer. The gospels abound with anachronisms and geographical errors, because the gospel writers used the Septuagint as the basis for their historical fiction. New Testament scholarship “creates scenarios and takes over material from the social sciences to give the impression that Christianity has an authentic historical origin. The pose of objective research is used to prop up the gospel story but no hard evidence can be found to support that story” Author of The Fabrication of the Christ Myth.

Martin, Michael

Philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Boston University. Author of The Case Against Christianity. “Wells’s argument against the historicity of Jesus is sound, and recent criticisms against his argument can be met. So on the basis of Wells’s argument there is good reason to reject not only Orthodox Christianity but even those versions of Liberal Christianity that assume that although Jesus was not the Son of God he was an ethical teacher who lived in the first century.” (p. 67)

Martin, Sid

A Master of Theological Studies. Jesus is identified with a series of savior figures from Joshua to David to the Teacher of Righteousness—who founded the Essenes, the ancient Jewish sect who wrote the Dead Sea Scroll—to Rabbi Johanan Ben Zakkai, the founder of Rabbinic Judaism, and many others. The Gospel of Mark is ultimately an ingenious myth about the history of salvation in Israel. Author of Secret of the Savior.

Murdock, D. M. (Acharya S)

Author of Truth Be Known website and several books on the Christ Myth theory through Stellar Publishing. Argues that Christianity began as an encapsulation of the ancient wisdom of astrotheology mediated through Egyptian beliefs. Catholic priests subsequently suppressed this truth. My reviews of the early chapters of Christ Conspiracy.

Murphy, Derek

Completing a PhD in comparative literature. Author of Jesus Potter Harry Christ: The Surprising Parallels that Expose the Truth about the Historical Jesus, the Christ Myth, and the Secret Origins of Christianity. “Our question then is not whether Jesus Christ existed, but whether the literary character recorded in the New Testament was primarily inspired by a historical figure or previous literary traditions and characters.” My review and coverage of Jesus Potter Harry Christ.

Onfray, Michel

French philosopher. Author of Atheist Manifesto. “Jesus was thus a concept. His whole reality resides in that definition. Certainly he existed, but not as a historical figure — unless it was in such an improbable manner that whether he existed or not is of little importance.”

Parvus, Roger

Former Catholic priest. Vridar is serialising his series arguing that the original versions of Paul’s letters were penned by the one otherwise known as Simon Magus and that the Gospel of Mark is a reworked Simonian allegory.

Paulkovich, Michael B.

I placed Paulkovich in the “agnostic” group in the table but have since learned he has been more decisive with an earlier book, No Meek Messiah (reviewed here). He writes: “The “Jesus mythicist” position is regarded by Christians as a fringe group. But after my research I tend to side with Remsburg—and Frank Zindler, John M. Allegro, Thomas Paine, Godfrey Higgins, Robert M. Price, Charles Bradlaugh, Gerald Massey, Joseph McCabe, Abner Kneeland, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Harold Leidner, Peter Jensen, Salomon Reinach, Samuel Lublinski, Charles-François Dupuis, Rudolf Steck, Arthur Drews, Prosper Alfaric, Georges Ory, Tom Harpur, Michael Martin, John Mackinnon Robertson, Alvar Ellegård, David Fitzgerald, Richard Carrier, René Salm, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Barbara Walker, Thomas Brodie, Earl Doherty, Bruno Bauer and others—heretics and iconoclasts and freethinking dunces all, according to “mainstream” Bible scholars.” (See also Open Letter)

Price, R. G.

Creator of rationalrevolution webpage and author of several books. In Jesus – A Very Jewish Myth he argues the case for the Jesus story having developed out of existing Jewish messianic and apocalyptic literature and beliefs, with no historical person at the core of the story. In The Gospel of Mark as Reaction and Allegory he takes an in-depth look at the symbolism and scriptural references in the Gospel of Mark in order to explain how and why it was written.

Price, Robert M.

See the Wikipedia article and his MindVendor webpage for his background and scholarly qualifications and affiliations. His earliest contributions to the Christ Myth debate were The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man and Deconstructing Jesus. He has since published The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. He defends and applies the principles of higher criticism that were the basis of much radical scholarship in the nineteenth century.

Raskin, Jay

A PhD in philosophy, adapted his thesis for publication as The Evolution of Christs and Christianities, which analyzes the gospels through the lens of his background in film studies. He writes: “I am doing narratological archaeology…. I use the jumps, contradictions and unusual constructions in sections of the [gospel] narrative to reconstruct the earlier layers of that narrative.” My review on Amazon.

Salm, René

I posted an interview with René Salm on this blog and have regularly addressed his best known book, The Myth of Nazareth. Salm has studied the archaeological reports related to Nazareth in depth and had his own response published in the peer-reviewed Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society. Among his websites are Mythicist Papers: Resources for the Study of Christian Origins and The Myth of Nazareth. Other writings listed at Author website.

Tulip, Pier

Author of KRST: Jesus a Solar Myth. (English is not Pier’s first language and the work contains infelicities.) Concedes the lack of evidence prevents him from “completely proving” his case. “But one result seems to me certain: Christianity of the origins was a solar religion and thus pagan like all those that preceded it, including Judaism.” Lacks the dogmatism and New-Age ideology found in Murdock’s astrotheological case.

Vaneigem, Raoul

Belgian writer and philosopher. Author of Resistance to Christianity: A Chronological Encyclopedia of the Heresies from the Beginning to the Eighteenth Century. Influenced Michel Onfray.

Viklund, Roger

Swedish. Has some interesting articles linked at The Jesus Character Critically Examined. Published in Vigiliae Christianae an argument disputing Carlson’s claim that Secret Mark).  is a forgery. Also preceded Carrier’s and Doherty’s argument for the James passage in Josephus. Author of The Jesus That Never Was. See also Bibelkritikern Roger Viklund kritisk granskad.

Wells, George Albert

Emeritus Professor of German at University of London. Published the first of many books on mythicism in 1971 (The Jesus of the Early Christians). The most well-known Christ Myth advocate until Earl Doherty. In his most recent book, Cutting Jesus Down to Size (2009), Wells moved slightly away from his earlier position that Jesus had never existed and concluded that the person given the name Jesus was an obscure teacher whose sayings were recorded in the now-lost document (Q) that many scholars believe was a source for the Synoptic Gospels, but whose death had no redemptive significance for his followers.

Wison, Charles O.

Author of New Testament Origins: The Passover Slaughter of 4 BCE. Influenced by Joe Atwill’s argument that Christianity was an invention of the Flavian Roman emperors. Believes the Gospel of Mark is a coded rewriting of Josephus’s account of events surrounding Jannaeus.

Zindler, Frank R.

Prominent American atheist and professor of biology and geology. See the Wikipedia article for his many roles and publications. Sets out several witty arguments against the historicity of the gospel narratives and characters in the first volume of his Through Atheist Eyes series. Authored The Jesus the Jews Never Knew disputing that Jesus is referenced in the Talmud even through ciphers. With Robert M. Price was responsible for Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth, a collection of responses by Carrier, Doherty, Fitzgerald, Murdock, Price, Salm, Zindler to Ehrman’s attempt to refute mythicism.

Other lists

Rene Salm has an annotated list of contemporary and past Christ Myth theorists: see Basic Mythicist Bibliography.

Kenneth Humphreys also has webpate listing many Christ Myth scholars with brief descriptions of each one – past and present.

For lists of historical Christ Myth theorists on this blog see


The names of scholars covered in those lists (but see the posts linked here for some account of the particular views of many of them):

  1. Bauer
  2. Bohtlingk
  3. Bolland
  4. Bossi
  5. Brandes
  6. E. Carpenter
  7. Couchoud
  8. Dupuis
  9. Drews
  10. Dujardin
  11. Frank
  12. Hannay
  13. Heulhard
  14. Jensen
  15. Kalthoff
  16. Kulischer
  17. Lindsay
  18. Loman
  19. Lublinski
  20. Matthas
  21. Mead
  22. Naber
  23. Niemojewski
  24. Pierson
  25. Robertson
  26. Rylands
  27. G. Smith
  28. W. B. Smith
  29. Stahl
  30. Van Eysinga
  31. Virolleaud
  32. Volney
  33. Whittacker

Comparable contemporaries

If we add from the list of contemporary names those scholars (from all branches of scholarship as in the above list) who have made clear claims for mythicism:

  1. Brodie
  2. Carotta
  3. Carrier
  4. Ellegård
  5. Harpur
  6. Lataster
  7. Onfray
  8. Price
  9. Raskin
  10. Vaneigem
  11. Wells
  12. Zindler


Do advise me of any errors or omissions.



Under the Grip of Christianity: New Testament Scholars and the Myth of Transparent Fiction

by Tim Widowfield
Engineer's Bench Vise

Engineer’s Bench Vise Source: Wikipedia

Under the Grip

I just noticed over on the Cakemix that Dr. McGrath is once again comparing Jesus mythicism to creationism. He writes:

Mythicism says: universities are so much under the grip of Christianity that mythicism cannot get a fair hearing.

As you know, the good doctor finds this idea laughable. Implicit in his short post is the notion that evolutionary biologists and biblical scholars are serious, trustworthy, trained professionals. Thus, to insist that NT scholars unfairly reject mythicism is to engage in conspiracy mongering. One of his fans (a guy named Jim) chimes in:

Yeah, great point. That’s why I disagree with the current value of the speed of light. It was arrived at by physicists, who are naturally biased because they had … well … advanced degrees in physics. The speed of light should have been determined by a group who is not biased towards physics, like say zoologists. :) Isn’t it weird how science departments are full of faculty that have science backgrounds, and departments focusing on Christian history attract an interest group like people with Christian backgrounds. … (just being a bit of a jerk here :) )

But Dr. Jimmy tells Mr. Jim:

I don’t think you’re being a jerk. I think such snarcasm is called for.

When considering NT scholars, McGrath, of course, isn’t talking about those teaching at universities with a confessional bias.

There certainly are scholars at religiously-affiliated institutions, and I could certainly understand atheists viewing such figures with suspicion and ignoring what they have to say. But people like Ehrman and myself who teach at secular universities do not need to be placed in the same category, do we? And as for having Christian backgrounds, how many professional scientists are from Christian backgrounds, and how many are at least nominally Christians? I am confident that, if such a background does not invalidate the conclusions of mainstream biology, neither does it invalidate the conclusions of mainstream history.

He’s got one thing right: I would never put Ehrman and McGrath in the same category.
read more »


Why Historicist/Mythicist Arguments Often Fail — & a Test Case for a Better Way

by Neil Godfrey
Ananus [the high priest] . . . thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. (Antiquities, Book 20 [9,1])

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about a recent comment by a reader taking an opposing position to a statement of mine:

I don’t think Carrier is non-falsifiable (in the looser sense we have to consider non-falsifiability in the social sciences) — in fact, I happen to think it is pretty much falsified by the James passage in Josephus (not, of course, simply taking the passage’s authenticity for granted but considering all the evidence for and against it). I realize my viewing the James passage in Josephus as authentic is not a popular opinion around here, but it isn’t a stupid or ill-considered opinion; I’ve read Carrier and Doherty on the matter and don’t find them convincing at all. (my bolding)

I’ve addressed this sort of response before. One finds such grounds for rejecting opposing views all too frequently in the scholarly literature of biblical scholars. In response to a point made by Emeritus Professor Larry Hurtado I wrote

Of course we are all aware that the passages are found to be of interest in the pre-Christian Jewish tradition, but Hurtado dismisses those inconveniences on the grounds that they are “not necessarily persuasive” and amount to “only a couple” of instances. So we are allowed to dismiss evidence to the contrary of our theories if we only see it “a couple of times” and can dismiss it as “not necessarily persuasive”. True believers are apparently permitted to accord themselves little perks like this in debates.

Then when Professor Hoffmann offered a bizarre argument that Paul was fighting against a rumour that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary I refused to play the same game:

It is easy to dismiss his explanation as “not persuasive” or “speculative” but it is also important, I think, to be able to put one’s finger on precisely why a proposition is “not persuasive” or insubstantial. The effort of thinking it through may even lead one to appreciate that perhaps there is more to the argument than first appears on the surface. But even if one finds nothing of value in it, the exercise of examining it methodically can only be a good thing. Scoffing, saying something is bunk or absurd, relying on a vague feeling that something is “not persuasive”, are cheap substitutes for argument.

If a professor can’t explain to you how we know evolution is true or how we know ancient claims that Alexander the Great really conquered the Persian empire are true or the reasons we should be suspicious of paranormal claims you would be right to think there is a problem somewhere.

Another form of proof-texting

Back to the statement about “the brother of Jesus, called Christ, whose name was James” that is found in the writings of Josephus. So often we find defenders of the historicity of Jesus using these words in Josephus the same way different religious sects use proof texts to prove they are right and others are wrong. One professor frequently uses this approach in an attempt to refute young-earth creationists. The professor adheres to an old-earth form of creationism (via evolution — an oxymoron to anyone who correctly understands that the scientific theory of evolution has no room for a divinity at all) and posts regular “proof texts” from the Bible as an “argument” that “proves” his rival religionists are wrong. (The most recent instance of this: Psalm 148:4 Disproves Young-Earth Creationism. It does? Not to a young earth creationist.) He uses the same basic technique to argue against mythicists. Among other arguments he proof-texts from the Bible references such as Paul’s claim to have met the “brother of the Lord” or that we read somewhere else that Jesus was “born of a woman”.

Proof-texting doesn’t work because different people have different ways of interpreting such “proof-texts”. read more »


The Challenge for Pliny the Elder Mythicists

by Neil Godfrey
Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th Century p...

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th Century portrait. No contemporary depiction of Pliny has survived. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Professor of Religion, the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, has given his online students a hearty guffaw with the following:

It would be an interesting thought experiment to see whether there is any epistolary reference by Pliny the younger to his uncle that a determined “Pliny the elder mythicist” could not interpret as referring to events that transpired in the celestial rather than terrestrial realm. (August 29 2014)

Apparently to assist his online class with this exercise Professor McGrath linked to the following reference in Pliny’s letter collection:

5. VIII. — To Titinius Capito

Again, there is a precedent in my own family which impels me towards writing history. My uncle, who was also my father by adoption, was a historian  

I guess such a brief reference, and one that spoke of adoption rather than a “natural” paternity, might really be compared with some references by Paul to Jesus.

For the benefit of those who would like to undertake the same exercise at a more advanced level, however, here are the remaining references Pliny the Younger made to his uncle in his surviving letters.

(I’m sure the Professor was pedagogically sound in not complicating the exercise for his typical online audience with such mass of detail.) read more »


“It is absurd to suggest. . . . ” (A rare bird among the anti-mythicists)

by Neil Godfrey

3D Book cover_aGood old reliable Professor James McGrath and a few of his peers*, blissfully unaware of some of the highly respected names both within and outside New Testament scholarship who have happened to be bold enough to declare their maverick suspicions that there was no historical Jesus, make it clear that if you come out as seriously pondering such a view in their presence they will shut you up immediately scornfully mocking and insulting you. If you dare to ask why they insist the view is such a stupid one they will often enough declare that the arguments have been dealt with and laid to rest long ago.

In our previous post we introduced another early author who tackled mythicism, A. D. Howell Smith. We covered his overview of the various mythicist authors and ideas extant, along with their contemporary critics, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This post continues a little series responding to the assertion that the Christ myth notion has long ago been dealt with and demolished. Rather, we will conclude that it has been more generally ignored. The most recent attempts to have dealt with it (McGrath, Casey) are more about character-assassination of those who post anything sympathetic to the idea and about ridiculing caricatures of the arguments. (Ehrman, as has by now been well demonstrated, appears not to have even read, or at least read incredibly superficially, the arguments he set out to refute.) I myself have never posted an argument for the Christ myth theory, but along with a good many others I can see some gaping logical holes in the arguments used to defend the assumption that Jesus did exist. In addition to rationalisations of this assumption we often encounter even liberal scholars resorting to rhetorical questions that essentially appeal to the expected ignorance or lack of imagination of their lay audience.

Of the names carelessly assumed to have long ago accomplished the intellectual demolition of mythicism we have seen that our first two, Goguel and Wood, explicitly stated at the outset of their works that they were NOT going to seriously address the arguments of the mythicists.

In our previous post we introduced another early author who tackled mythicism, A. D. Howell Smith. We covered his overview of the various mythicist authors and ideas extant, along with their contemporary critics, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Howell Smith was not a professional scholar so perhaps that is why his book arguing against the mythicists of his day is not so well known. His book, Jesus Not a Myth, however, is well informed by the scholarship of his day. As we saw in the previous post Howell Smith in 1942 noted how very few scholars in the English speaking world had taken up the case against mythicism and those who had were flawed by their conservative religious bias. It was for that reason he wrote the book I am discussing in this post, Christ Not a Myth.

Howell Smith’s work stands out for its occasional acknowledgement of strengths in some of the mythicist argument. I am not sure I have encountered any contemporary scholar who is prepared to concede any ground whatever to mythicist arguments, a trait that smells like polemics born of insecurity and fear rather than genuine engagement with the arguments. Here are some of my earlier posts covering Howell Smith’s refreshingly honest arguments.

James the Brother of The Lord

Yes, it really is possible to question that famous passage in Galatians where Paul speaks of the “James, the brother of the Lord” — a phrase that is most commonly misquoted as “brother of Jesus” by those using it to rhetorically hammer mythicists. Howell Smith, however, is confident enough to openly concede that scholarly arguments are not uniformly and utterly watertight:

read more »


“It is absurd to suggest. . . “: The Overlooked Critic of Mythicism (+ A Catalog of Early Mythicists and Their Critics)

by Neil Godfrey

3D Book cover_aThis continues the little “It’s absurd to suggest that most historians have not considered the strongest case for mythicism” series inspired by the unbearable lightness of the wisdom of Professor James McGrath. The previous post saw how Professor Larry Hurtado’s source for the comprehensive rebuttal to all arguments mythicist, H.G. Wood’s Did Christ Really Live?, in reality explicitly points out to the reader that it is not a comprehensive rebuttal to all arguments mythicist. The next candidate for a publication having considered “the strongest case for mythicism” that I consider is A. D. Howell Smith’s Jesus Not a Myth (1942).

Curiously I have not seen this book mentioned by any modern scholars who emphatically declare that mythicist arguments have long since been addressed and decisively demolished. This is curious because Howell Smith really does address the major mythicist arguments of his day. Similarly surprisingly few anti-mythicists today cite Schweitzer as having delivered the death-knell to mythicism. We will see an interesting similarity between ways S and H-S each argue their case for Jesus’s historicity.

I will save some of the details of Howell Smith’s arguments for my next post. Here I want only to introduce A. D. Howell Smith to those of us who only dimly recall my post on his Preface three years ago. I have reformatted it and added subheadings and bolding. Jesus Not a Myth was published in 1942, not long after the appearance of H. G. Wood’s title with the same purpose.

I conclude with a summary of the various Christ-myth views widely known at the time.

Something was sometimes different back then

Notice the way our author actually has some positive things to say about the mythicists he is about to debate. It sounds surreal to read such things given our familiarity with the demonization and gratuitous insults we routinely expect from the McGraths, the Hurtados, the Caseys, the Hoffmanns etc. McGrath, Hurtado and Casey would have readers think mythicism is no more rational or informed than are flat-earthers or moon-landing hoaxers. Seventy years ago Howell Smith (along with Goguel and Wood and Schweitzer and other critics) actually acknowledged the rational spirit infusing mythicism and the names of several prominent and esteemed scholars and others who at the very least toyed with the plausibility of the Christ myth idea. Today’s critics — are there any exceptions? — are far more universally savage in their personal attacks and far more dogged in their refusal to allow any mythicist proposition to be accorded the faintest touch of rationality. Is this a sign of some desperation that the idea just won’t ever seem to go away? Or is it a symptom of the crudeness of an American-Christian dominated scholarship by contrast with the kind of religious ambience of Europe in an earlier generation?

Within perhaps the last twenty years the denial that Jesus ever existed has been changed from a paradox to almost a platitude for an increasing number of Rationalists, and occasionally a Christian of strong modernist leanings shows himself more or less sympathetic to it.  read more »


“It is absurd to suggest . . . . “: Professor Hurtado’s stock anti-mythicist

by Neil Godfrey

This post continues on from It is absurd to suggest. . . . It’s about a much lesser known anti-mythicist than Goguel but I will excuse myself for that anomaly on the grounds that Goguel’s book is freely available on the web and many would have read it already. Maurice Goguel is evidently R. Joseph Hoffmann’s favourite anti-mythicist; this time we look at the man in Larry Hurtado’s corner.

3D Book cover 2Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the University of Edinburgh, turns to Herbert George Wood as the author of the once-and-for-all answer to mythicism.

But another reason for feeling it less than necessary to spend a lot of time on the matter is that all the skeptical arguments have been made and effectively engaged many decades ago. Before posting this, I spent a bit of time perusing my copy of H. G. Wood, Did Christ Really Live?, which was published in 1938. In it, Wood cites various figures of the early 20th century who had claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was a fiction, and patiently and cordially engages the specifics of evidence and argument, showing that the attacks fail.

So in one sense I think I’m not alone in feeling that to show the ill-informed and illogical nature of the current wave of “mythicist” proponents is a bit like having to demonstrate that the earth isn’t flat, or that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, or that the moon-landings weren’t done on a movie lot. It’s a bit wearying to contemplate! (My emphasis)

Hurtado can no more imagine Jesus being non-historical than he can imagine believing the earth is flat. He would even find the very prospect of trying to demonstrate “the obvious” “a bit wearying”. Once again we see a theologian equate his discipline with complexities and certainties found in the hard sciences like astronomy. Anyone who disputes the claims of either is a kook. (We addressed this fallacy in the first post of this series.)

Evidently Hurtado has never felt any need to update himself with mythicist arguments of today, nor even does it appear he has ever acquainted himself with any of them at any time. He read a book published in 1938 and that clearly put the whole question at rest as far as he is concerned. That book, he informs us, “engages the specifics of evidence and argument”, so what else can possibly be said?

Herbert George Wood, 1938

The dedication of Wood’s book reads:

in the hope that both
may open their eyes

In his Preface Wood worries about young people being led astray by the Christ Myth theory of his day:

More young people than we often realize are troubled or misled by the suggestion that Jesus never lived. We cannot rightly ignore the subject. And revivals of interest in the Christ-myth are not unlikely.

In Chicago Wood visited a Russian Workers’ Club and observed the equation of the Christ-Myth idea with “any Marxist anti-God campaign” . . . .

and this book may serve as a kind of spiritual air raid precaution — a preservative against poison gas.

I have thought it best not to traverse the stock arguments of Christ-myth theorists

Recall that Goguel made it clear in his preface that he had no intention of actually engaging with the Christ myth arguments themselves. Wood begins the same way: read more »