David Fitzgerald and Neil Godfrey discuss the Christ Myth Theory with Phil Robinson of Nuskeptix.
Filed under: Christ Myth Hypothesis
David Fitzgerald and Neil Godfrey discuss the Christ Myth Theory with Phil Robinson of Nuskeptix.
Filed under: Casey: Evidence and Argument
James McGrath’s review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? has appeared in RBL. Casey’s work is a diatribe against persons who have been associated with the Christ Myth arguments (even though some of them do not argue a mythicist case themselves), and against a selection of what he asserts (often inaccurately) are their arguments. Casey also takes bitter swipes at others with whom he has had academic disagreements (in particular Paul L. Owen) or who hold other positions with which he disapproves (e.g. Emanuel Pfoh, Niels Peter Lemche).
According to McGrath’s review Casey has given a “highly commendable” presentation of the character of mythicists (who “maliciously malign mainstream scholars”) and the absurdity of their arguments (that “do not deserve to be taken seriously”). I set out below what those characteristics are according to Casey/McGrath.
I suppose the litany of sins is meant to turn anyone unfamiliar with mythicist arguments off the very thought of ever reading them and poisoning the very thoughts of the names of their exponents. Of course anyone who does read the works of Doherty, Price, Carrier, Wells, — or even articles here that often only indirectly may support mythicist views even though they are generally presentations of contemporary work by biblical scholars — will make up their own mind about the honesty of McGrath’s and Casey’s claims.
McGrath approves of Casey’s personal attacks.
Mythicists and those addressed as such by Casey are “without relevant scholarly expertise”
Mythicists “typically” engage in “name-calling and other kinds of rudeness” when speaking of scholars; they have “insulted Casey” and “this reviewer (McGrath)”. Mythicists “maliciously malign mainstream scholars”. At the same time McGrath does concede that Casey’s own work is itself “acerbic” and “sarcastic” — though Casey’s tone is of course justified.
McGrath refers to all mythicists as “Internet cranks” read more »
Minas Papageorgiou, freelance journalist, managing director of a Greek publishing group and a founding member of the Hellenic Society of Metaphysics (metafysiko.gr), has made his Greek language survey of a wide range of contemporary Jesus mythicist views available in English as an ebook on Amazon. And it’s not exorbitantly priced, either.
Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction was originally written for readers in the religiously conservative nation of Greece where the very existence of the mythicist debate has scarcely registered, both historically and today. The book is an attempt to introduce Greeks to a wide range of Jesus mythicist ideas currently being published and discussed in the English speaking world and now that it is available in English it is also an interesting introduction for English speakers.
Before the main interviews Papageorgiou covers some of the more general or foundational arguments of mythicists such as those addressing the earliest references to Christianity in the non-Christian sources. He segues from this discussion into details of René Salm‘s arguments about the archaeological evidence for the inhabitation of Nazareth in the early first century, Raglan’s list of “hero archetypes” found among mythological figures, and material such as supposed ancient correspondence about Jesus that has been long understood to be forgeries. Some of this was new to me.
The first interview is with Gerd Lüdemann, the scholar who suffered professionally for publishing a work calling into question the authenticity of many of the sayings of Jesus. Lüdermann also expresses his views on the Christ Myth hypothesis, too. (Hint: I’ve updated the Who’s Who list of mythicists and mythicist agnostics/sympathizers.)
While I have been interested in a few Jesus myth arguments (in particular Brodie’s, Carrier’s, Doherty’s) and have known something of a tiny handful of others (e.g. Atwill’s, Murdock’s), there are others I knew about only vaguely or not at all.
Minas Papageorgiou from the start seeks to reassure readers that mythicism is not opposed to spirituality or faith but that it even has the potential to “enhance the essential messages of faith” by separating myth from historical truth. He points out that the first “Jesus mythicists” appeared with the emergence of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century but that this intellectual movement largely bypassed Greece. Only two groups, he writes, have anything to fear from mythicism: members of organized clergy and some of the academic guild who have made their reputations and livings through supporting the traditional Christian narrative.
This publication is not a critical evaluation of the various mythicist ideas but leaves the reader to judge and follow up what he or she personally prefers. The result is that some readers with a more serious scholarly interest may be dismayed to see the views of Carrier and Atwill given much the same billing. Carrier has criticized Atwill’s approach as decidedly unscholarly and fallacious and the two are scarcely comparable in terms of intellectual rigour. However, it is good to see Papageorgiou has given his interview with Richard Carrier priority.
In his introduction to Richard Carrier he writes: read more »
I’ve been trying to think of something worthy of posting on this Easter Sunday, 2015. All I can come up with at the moment is a subject I’ve had on the back burner for some time, namely the handful of references in the Fourth Gospel (FG) that remind us of Asclepius. Longtime readers may recall Neil’s description from his review of Jesus Potter Harry Christ.
Asclepius the gentle and personally accessible deity, lover of children, gentle, exorcist and healer, and one whose cult was considered at certain times the greatest threat to Christianity.
Several scholars have remarked upon the parallels in terminology and legends that surround both Jesus and Asclepius. Of course, the most obvious things that come to mind would include the designations of savior (sōtēr | σωτήρ) and healer or physician (iatros | ἰατρός). But I’m more interested for now in the specific events or ideas presented in the Gospel of John.
I’ll start with the most obvious connections and proceed to the more tenuous. The most prominent correlation between Asclepius and the FG has to be the brazen serpent.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. (John 3:14-15, KJV)
In the United States, especially, we tend to confuse the caduceus and the Rod of Asclepius. We should associate the caduceus with the god Hermes; hence, it’s a symbol for traders, heralds, or ambassadors. The Rod (or Staff) of Asclepius, on the other hand, is a symbol of healing.
The bronze serpent or Nehushtan in the Hebrew Bible also had specific healing properties.
And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:9, NASB)
Oddly enough, we read that during Hezekiah’s reign, the bronze serpent was destroyed as a part of his reform movement. read more »
Filed under: Uncategorized
I recently posted the following on the Biblical Criticism and History Forum. I post it here to explain the main reason I am very cautious about the works of one group of Christ Myth advocates and hopefully to encourage them to a more constructive and critical approach to the debate. I do hope that the supporters of this perspective will try to understand that my failure to take their views on board is not motivated by any sort of hostility towards the author or their proposed thesis itself but is based upon their failure to appreciate the fundamentals of sound argument and critical thinking.
Let’s start with the positive. In defence of D. M. Murdock’s (aka Acharya S’s) discussion in Christ in Egypt about “crucified” Egyptian gods I think she does an interesting job of detailing the evidence for the various deities, especially with respect to Osiris, including the function of the djied cross or pillar, and early Christian interpretations of these — pages 336 to 352.
I think this is interesting background information that should rightly be factored into any historical and literary analyses that considers the origins of the Gospel of John’s miracle of the raising of Lazarus (as addressed in detail by Randel Helms in Gospel Fictions), Secret Mark (with its patent links to the raising of Lazarus story in John’s gospel) and the stories of Alexandrian provenance for certain early Christian authors.
But then on pages 353 to 356 it seems Murdock crashes into a brick wall by trying to overstate her case.
Or am I missing something that she has explained elsewhere to justify her argument?
We come to the heading “Divine Man” Crucified in Space. Referring to Massey’s discussion of the phrase “crucifixion in space” Murdock writes: read more »
Herman Detering posted on Facebook a link to the latest news of the Dutch pastor who has “come out” claiming that Jesus never existed. The news is an update on the fate of pastor Edward van der Kaaij who made the news a month ago in the NLTimes:
That February NLTimes article said van der Kaaij was cointinuing to preach; I think the update alert from Herman Detering is telling us that that has changed. He is no longer able to preach.
Here are a few excerpts from the earlier February article:
“When someone reads Genesis 1 as a scientific explanation of how the world came into being, and concludes that the beginning was not about 13 billion years ago (as we know now) because the Bible states that it was about 70,000 years ago, then you do not properly understand the Bible,” explained van der Kaaij.
“The gospel is telling us a deeper truth, that goes far beyond the facts of life. That’s why I say: it did not happen like this and it is a fact that Jesus did not exist (I give a lot of proofs in my book to underline this).”
His book is De ongemakkelijke waarheid van het christendom (=The uncomfortable truth of Christianity). That link is to a Dutch bookseller. I copy here the Google machine translation of that site’s blurb (my own bolding throughout):
Jesus is a mythical, archetypal figure in a historical context. The uncomfortable truth gives a fresh perspective on faith and solves puzzles. So is the riddle of the three years of birth of Jesus addressed. You can find the answer to the question why nothing is known about the life of Jesus from his twelfth to his thirtieth year. How come the resurrection of Lazarus was not in the newspaper? What makes Jesus greater than the greats? At first glance, this book lays the ax to the roots of the faith, but on closer inspection the faith is richer.
Returning to the NLTimes February article:
“I am a Protestant and an important aspect of our belief is that the Bible is God’s Word (although written by men) and the starting point of our belief,” said van der Kaaij to NL Times. “So it is important to explain the Bible properly.”. . .
“The gospel gets more value when you read it according to what it is: a myth. Note that the word ‘myth’ does not have a negative meaning, on the contrary it is positive!” read more »
Filed under: Uncategorized
Richard Carrier continues his response to James McGrath’s criticism of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: McGrath on the Rank-Raglan Mythotype. He begins:
Yesterday I addressed McGrath’s confused critique of portions of On the Historicity of Jesus (in McGrath on OHJ: A Failure of Logic and Accuracy). He has also published a second entry in what promises to be a series about OHJ, this one titled “Rankled by Wrangling over Rank-Raglan Rankings: Jesus and the Mythic Hero Archetype” . . . . This entry is even less useful than the first. Here are my thoughts on that.
Once again Neil Godfrey already tackles the failures of logic and accuracy in the very first comment that posted after the above article. Which he has reproduced, with an introduction, in better formatting on his own blog: Once More: Professor Stumbles Over the Point of Rank-Raglan Mythotypes and Jesus.
I could leave it at that, really.
TL;DR: McGrath doesn’t understand the difference between a prior probability and a posterior probability; he uses definitions inconsistently to get fake results that he wants (instead of being rigorously consistent in order to see what actually results); and he shows no sign of having read my chapter on this (ch. 6 of OHJ) and never once rebuts anything in it, even though it extensively rebuts his whole article (because I was psychic…or rather, I had already heard all of these arguments before, so I wrote a whole damned chapter to address them…which McGrath then duly and completely ignores, and offers zero response to).
That’s pretty much it.
But now for the long of it…
Filed under: Evolution, Science
12th February is Darwin Day.
There is an International Darwin Day website that is currently making a special pitch at Americans for recognition. For good reason, no doubt, given that today’s newsletter from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science contains the following (with my emphasis):
As a universal figure of such profound importance, his birthday should be a national celebration — a day to honor the advances brought about by reason and science.
But a resolution to this effect, introduced in the U.S. Congress, has little support outside a handful of Democrats. Frighteningly, Darwin is still considered a controversial figure, especially among conservative Republicans.
For anyone who does not yet know, just about everything we have that Darwin produced is available in digitized format at Darwin Online.
But here’s the highlight of this post, brought to us by Freethought Blog The Ace of Glades:
Filed under: Uncategorized
Time to catch up here with blog posts that have appeared in recent weeks addressing mythicism.
There’s now a blog devoted to mythicism: The Mythicism Files. A good many of its articles look like good future reference material. I was worried at first by the the apparently large space that appeared to be devoted to Acharya S (D. Murdock) but relieved to see Quixie’s very fair discussion of her contribution and criticisms it faces. The Otagosh blog addresses questions a number of us will have about the anonymity of the blog’s provenance. If Quixie is a regular contributor, however, that’s certainly a positive attribute. I’ve seen him write good stuff around various discussion groups and blogs (and in comments on Vridar iirc).
Speaking of Otagosh, he also tells us about the current leader of my old cult wading into the mythicist debate. Predictably a pabulum effort from the great apostle or whatever he’s called now.
Peter Kirby has endeavoured to bring some serious balance into the discussion by posting a detailed case, or rather “best case”, for the historicity of Jesus that he thinks can be made. The Best Case for Jesus. This is good to see. So few anti-mythicists [not that Peter himself falls into that “anti” camp — see his comment below] appear willing or able to argue their case with any real awareness of what mythicists actually say. They also seem to fall back on ad hoc responses too often. Comments are welcome in Peter’s blog, of course, but there is also a discussion on the same at the Biblical Criticism & History Forum. read more »
Filed under: Uncategorized
After opting to respond to Raphael Lataster in a less than fully civil or professional manner for daring to publicly raise legitimate questions about the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus, Christian gentleman and scholar Michael Bird has followed up with a two minute video-clip of Bart Ehrman addressing a mythicist’s question. Needless to say Bart Ehrman is once again vague and lost in his reply, doing nothing more than appealing to authority, incredulity, disinformation and false analogies to “make his case”.
If you have been wondering how Bart Ehrman has been able to avoid engagement with mythicist questions since his book Did Jesus Exist? so emphatically demonstrated that he had not even read with any seriousness the mythicist books he claimed to be addressing you can find his explanation for this disengagement in his most recent post, Defending Myself.
Ehrman simply keeps himself shielded from any serious critique that does not come through channels he modulates himself. His blog is set up to ensure mostly sympathetic readers only will engage with it and he chooses to avoid public engagement with critics as a rule. Curiously he can say that though he by and large avoids any serious communication with mythicists (he apparently will read the odd email from one, it seems) he can nonetheless affirm that:
And I know that the attacks by these conservative Christians pale in comparison with the attacks by the mythicists
Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.
Christian evangelist scholar John Dickson saw red and responded:
No student – let alone an aspiring scholar – could get away with suggesting that Christians “ought not to get involved” in the study of the historical Jesus. This is intellectual bigotry and has no place in academia, or journalism.
I read Raphael’s words as a bit of common-sense advice. How can anyone whose faith commits them to believing in the divine Jesus who walked on water possibly approach the question with a truly open mind? One would expect from such people little more than hostility and insults. And that’s exactly how two believers have responded in print to Raphael’s article.
John Dickson has very little to say (at least honestly or accurately) in response to Raphael Lataster’s alerts to various problems with both the evidence for the historical Jesus and the methods Bible scholars have generally used to study him but he does have a lot of good old Christian and scholarly invective to vent:
“Mythicists” are the historical equivalent of the anti-vaccination crowd in medical science. They are controversial enough to get media attention. They have just enough doctors, or doctors in training, among them to establish a kind of “plausible deniability.” But anyone who dips into the thousands of secular monographs and journal articles on the historical Jesus will quickly discover that mythicists are regarded by 99.9% of the scholarly community as complete “outliers,” the fringe of the fringe. And when mainstream scholars attempt to call their bluff, the mythicists, just like the anti-vaccinationists, cry “Conspiracy!” This is precisely what Raphael does . . . . It is as if he thinks he wins the game by declaring all its rules stupid and inventing his own path.
And later we read this:
[Lataster’s article] underlines the impropriety of a student in religious philosophy, whatever his faith perspective, assuming the mantle of academic historian.
Of course Raphael nowhere even hints the word “conspiracy” nor does he “assume the mantle of an academic historian”. In fact what he does is bring to the public attention what every critical scholar knows about the state of evidence and problems with traditional methodologies in relation to the historical Jesus.
John Dickson is a Christian evangelist who attempts to argue in his various publications that sound historical methods leave the objective inquirer in no doubt about the fundamentals of the Gospel narratives about Jesus. I suppose he therefore has good reason to fear a publicizing of the the simple facts about the problems with the evidence and methods that critical scholars know only too well. As a believer he can hardly be expected to seek to argue against Latater’s article solely on a rational level.
Raphael has in fact sought to publicly debate John Dickson without success:
John Dickson surprisingly (we have always been very friendly) defriended me after he wrote a (grossly inaccurate) reply article to my own on Jesus’ possible ahistoricity, and continues to refuse to debate with me on Jesus’ resurrection (i.e. the Jesus he actually believes in). I would think that believers would relish the chance to show their courage and defend their faith. I’m not that scary… If anyone would like to see this debate happen, do let John and I know. John’s contact:
Meanwhile a colleague of John’s, Michael Bird, (editor and co-author of How God Became Jesus, a response to Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God), joined the fray on Euangelion with Taking on the Jesus Mythicists. I didn’t think anyone could surpass JD for ad hominem, distortions and blatant inaccuracies in a response but Michael Bird certainly did. read more »
Filed under: Valerie Tarico
Raphael Lataster has been making his mark recently on The Conversation and The Washington Post along with the predictable response by James McGrath. Yours truly has also put in a cameo appearance now alongside these two rivals in The Humanist and on Valerie Tarico’s blog.
The longer version of the interview on Valerie’s website:
(* As everyone who knows me knows I am not a “professional scholar” but my request to change this moniker was politely declined for mainly editorial reasons and the option to use the term in its most generic sense. My status is nonetheless clarified in the article anyway.)
Filed under: Carrier:On the Historicity of Jesus
Part two of a scholar’s review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus has appeared on the Bible and Interpretation site and once again the reviewer has deftly avoided any mention of Richard Carrier’s argument. More positively, however, he has managed to insinuate the possibility that Carrier is “deliberately misleading” (character smear is de rigueur for some anti-mythicists) and incompetently demonstrated his own ignorance of the nature and origin of twenty-two elements commonly listed in the “Rank-Raglan” hero archetypes. But he is a renowned “credible scholar” and is called upon to deliver papers against mythicism at conferences, so no doubt among his peers will be those who read exactly what they want to read in his review.
Filed under: Christ Myth Hypothesis
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.
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 »
Neil Godfrey and Tim Widowfield, who both write at Vridar . . . happen to be some of the most astute and well-read amateurs you can read on the internet on the subject of biblical historicity. I call them amateurs only for the reason that they don’t have, so far as I know, advanced degrees in the subject. But I have often been impressed with their grasp of logic and analysis of scholarship. I don’t always agree with them, but I respect their work.