Category Archives: Casey: Jesus


Casey’s Calumny Continued: Response Concluded

by Neil Godfrey

Maurice Casey continues:

A number of Godfrey’s comments on himself when he was a member of the Worldwide Church of God are sufficiently similar to his comments on scholars as to give the impression that not only has he no clue about critical scholars, which is obvious from his many comments, but that he is basically expressing rejection of his former self. For example, he comments:

‘Only by lazy assumptions about their sources can biblical “historians” declare Jesus’ crucifixion a “fact of history”…” [Link is to the original source for this quotation]

Godfrey, however, comments on his previous self:

‘As a fundamentalist WCG believer I believed I had all the big answers to the big questions of life. I simply shut my mind to any idea that questioned those answers. In a little more detail, he comments on his movement out of the Worldwide Church of God in the 1980s, ‘So I seriously studied the origins and nature of the Bible for the first time in my life. Strange (or just lazy or cowardly or both?) that I had spent my whole life studying its content . . . but all that time I never before thought to study in any real depth, and with true open-minded honesty, the origins of that content.’

I do not doubt that these are fair comments on Blogger Godfrey, but that is no excuse for him to attribute similar habits to critical scholars. (p. 31)

(Well I’ve never accused biblical scholars of being cowardly but it would strengthen Casey’s argument if I had.)

When Casey originally posted this criticism on Hoffmann’s blog I pointed out — see the subsection Did Not Give Proper References in Concluding Response of Blogger Neil Godfrey to Blogger Maurice Casey of TJP®©™ — how he had so badly mangled the citation that he was in fact misrepresenting my words. In his book he has corrected the error but in so doing he has self-servingly removed all context entirely from my words.

Whether it’s laziness or something else I cannot say, but Casey does not address the context of the words he has quoted from my post. My laziness remark was a direct quotation from a biblical historian — one of Casey’s own academic peers.

I was actually quoting two of Casey’s peers making the “laziness” charge. One of them had been working at a university quite near to Casey’s.

Laziness is common among historians. When they find a continuous account of events for a certain period in an ‘ancient’ source, one that is not necessarily contemporaneous with the events , they readily adopt it. They limit their work to paraphrasing the source, or, if needed, to rationalisation.” — Liverani, Myth and politics in ancient Near Eastern historiography, p.28. From my post:  Lazy historians and their ancient sources

There has been a very strong tendency to take the Biblical writing at its face value and a disinclination to entertain a hermeneutic of suspicion such as is a prerequisite for serious historical investigation. It is shocking to see how the narrative of the Nehemiah Memoir has in fact been lazily adopted as a historiographical structure in the writing of modern scholars, and how rarely the question of the probability of the statements of the Nehemiah Memoir have been raised.(Clines, What Does Eve Do to Help, p. 164) From my post: Naivety and laziness in biblical historiography (Nehemiah case study 5)

The “laziness” of building a case upon “unquestioned assumptions” is a point regularly surfacing in the scholarly debates on research into the history behind the biblical narratives.

One thing my cult experience taught me: Never assume what you read or hear is true. Always check the sources for yourself. If scholars assume what they read is true (such as assuming what Casey writes is true) despite their training to know better then they deserve to be faulted.

Am I imputing my own past habits to critical scholars? There is no way anyone can compare the process by which I embraced the teachings of the WCG and the scholarly processes of critical scholars.

Casey could have read my little biographical statements on this blog where I happily admit that I have brought some positives with me out of my negative religious past. One of these is an acute awareness of just how easy it is for me to be wrong despite my best intentions otherwise. Another was a resolve to always strive to double check my assumptions and learn how to validly evaluate everything. If I see a failure to question assumptions in some historians’ works I am reassured to find others who are similarly aware and who avoid those pitfalls. Would Casey accuse scholars like Liverani and Childs of likewise expressing rejections of their former selves?

Always the anti-semitic innuendo
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Maurice Casey’s Calumny: My Reply

by Neil Godfrey

jesuscaseyWhen I first read Maurice Casey’s descriptions of me and this blog I couldn’t take them seriously. Anyone who knows me — even if only online — knows what absurd nonsense his accusations are. They are nothing but the malicious payback over my temerity to address critically what I believe are the unfounded assumptions and fallacious reasoning behind some of his and his friends’ arguments. Perhaps my biggest sin of all was that I sometimes resorted to “entertaining and somewhat naughty comments”, a bit of gentle satire, to drive home my points when they seemed to elicit nothing but abusive insults in response. “Entertaining satire”, I thought, was more appropriate than repaying insult with insult. “Entertaining and somewhat naughty comments” is Maurice Casey’s way of describing a colleague’s words. He has a different description for mine.

A few scholars, among them Jim West, James Crossley, Joseph Hoffmann and James McGrath, have indicated that they seriously believe Casey’s “research” (sic) into the biographical details of various “mythicists” is “valuable” and “informative”. This post tests their evaluation against the evidence relating to one case-study in Casey’s book, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myth?

Casey accused this Vridar blog of being

ignorant, opinionated, rude and malicious. (p. 27)

Anyone can make up their own mind on that one just by reading a few posts.

Of me he has said that I

do not understand scholarship. . . love to misrepresent scholars, especially by portraying [them] as ignorant (p. 27)

And if you’re not just a lurker but sometimes comment on Vridar Casey says “most of” you are no different.

On this blog’s right hand column there is drop down box from which readers can select an archive on any specific topic I have posted about. Listed there are posts to 156 books by various authors, 223 posts in all. Anyone curious enough can select any one of those posts see how often I have “loved to misrepresent” the work discussed and how many times I loved to portray the authors as ignorant.

I hardly have to defend myself where anyone interested can see for themselves the facts of the matter. read more »


Maurice Casey’s Failure to Research Mythicists — More Evidence

by Neil Godfrey

We know Maurice Casey has claimed to have researched the backgrounds of mythicists and claimed that the evidence is clear that most of them are reacting against fundamentalist or similarly strict and closed-minded religious backgrounds. Other scholars such as James McGrath, Jim West and James Crossley have picked up Casey’s claims and repeated them in their online and print publications. They were only too keen to believe Casey’s declarations, of course, and did not even bother to check the evidence Casey presented in his own book, Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths?

So I took note of all the evidence Casey himself cited and drew it up in table format. Lo and behold, it turned out that contrary to Casey’s own claim the evidence he cited demonstrated that the least likely predictor of a person who has published a mythicist argument is a fundamentalist or strict/conservative religious background. Quite the opposite, in fact. The most likely predictor is one who has a liberal (including liberal Catholic) or no church background at all.

I have since been alerted to another published mythicist I overlooked in my earlier table and have now added Ken Humphreys to the list. Ken is neither an American (a species of human for whom Casey seems to have a special loathing — see my earlier posts, especially those dated 8th and 10th of March) and is reputed to have been an atheist all his life. So I guess that evangelical angry lying Jimmy West will have to start blaming the “angry atheists” for this mythicism business now.

Who’s Who Among Mythicists and Mythicist Sympathizers/Agnostics

(Heading above links to the original post)

Fundamentalist Background

Roman Catholic Background

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

Liberal or No Church Background


Tom Harpur (very positive towards Christianity) Earl Doherty Richard Carrier [“Freethinking Methodist”] 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)
Robert M. Price (very positive towards Christianity) Thomas Brodie (Irish Catholic. Very positive towards Christianity) Roger Viklund (Den Jesus som aldrig funnits = The Jesus Who Never Was) [Source: comment] Peter Gandy
Frank R. Zindler Roger Parvus (Paul) Derek Murphy (Jesus Potter Harry Christ) [Episcopalian]
Jay Raskin (The Evolution of Christs and Christianities)
David Fitzgerald (Nailed) Joe Atwill (Source: Caesar’s Messiah) Dorothy Murdock [liberal Congregationalist]
Stephan Huller (?)
Hector Avalos (Mexican Pentecostal: HJ agnostic) René Salm (now Buddhist and atheist) Timothy Freke [Source: ch.3 Mystery Experience] Charles O. Wilson
Tm Widowfield (HJ agnostic) Francesco Carotta (very positive towards Christianity) Herman Detering (Paul — also denies HJ) (very positive towards Christianity) Kurt Noll
Neil Godfrey Thomas L. Thompson (Danish/European) Sid Martin (Secret of the Savior: source online email) Arthur Droge
Raphael Lataster Thomas S. Verenna Ken Humphreys ( [no church background] Philip R. Davies
Raphael Lataster Neil Godfrey Steven Carr
R. Joseph Hoffmann (Probably a bit rude to include Hoffmann here now since he has become virulently anti-mythicist since Carrier joined the ranks; he used to publish sympathetically towards mythicist ideas of G. A. Wells.) Robert Eisenman (?)
R. G. Price
Raphael Lataster


Maurice Casey Once More (A personal defence)

by Neil Godfrey

jesuscaseyFrom time to time I have half a mind to continue with more of Maurice Casey’s responses to those he sees opponents of himself and his friend Stephanie Fisher in Jesus: Evidence, and Argument or Mythicist Myths, but each time I pick it up I am reminded of how every page drips with such depressing malice.

I should undertake at a future time to show how flat wrong he is about his accounts of several others like Earl Doherty and even D.M. Murdock. (Murdock has certainly expressed some colourful views about me over my differences with some of her works, but Casey has not even been able to get some of the basics of her arguments right.)

But for now to fill in with a short post while I’m preparing several other longer ones for later let me address just one little choice detail Casey leveled at me.

Given Godfrey’s outspoken views, it was almost inevitable that some scholar, despite always being polite to decent colleagues, would reciprocate. Godfrey commented on him, ‘So these are the “honeys” adored by the likes of Maurice Casey’s fans. Charming.’80 There is no excuse for this description, and his removal from Godfrey’s blog, like the removal of Stephanie, is totally hypocritical.

Casey helpfully supplies a footnote to the evidence for my dastardly deed. Presumably it is routine for Casey and those he knows to ignore footnotes since this is the only reason I can imagine he would have added it. The link to which the footnote leads, I think, demonstrates just how hypocritical Casey is for such an accusation.

I invite readers to read the page Casey links to. The post is titled: Highly Esteemed Friends and Supporters of Steph and Maurice Casey.

In particular I would draw any interested reader’s attention to the comments following that post where more context is given.

The comments of the “scholar” that I removed were filled with f***k words. I left one of those comments standing in order to make it clear why I was placing that person’s further comments on moderation. (Nor did I ever “remove” Stephanie Fisher from the blog but I did from time to time place her comments on moderation. She has since commented here quite a few times in order to discuss points with Earl Doherty and to comment on my posts related to Muslims and the Middle East.)

Maurice Casey says this scholar was reacting to my “outspokenness”. Here is the first encounter I ever had with that “scholar”: Two misunderstandings in biblical studies: the nature of “scepticism” and “evidence”. It was from this point on that I was in this person’s line of sight. I was never allowed to post any feedback on his own blog when I thought he had misconstrued anything I had argued or had failed to read my mind and motives correctly.

Here is the post of mine that Casey says provoked this person who is always polite to “decent” people: A serious take on Maurice Casey’s “Jesus of Nazareth”.

And here is the good scholar’s comment that Casey apparently felt was entirely justified and to which I was oh so hypocritical in my response. As you can see from my response it never occurred to me that I was dealing with anything other than another hot-headed, foul-mouthed fundamentalist loony. I have since learned that Jim West has listed him (his name is Deane Galbraith if you’ve been too lazy to look up the links so far 🙂 ) as an up and coming scholar to watch.

Let’s finish off here with a comment I once attempted to post somewhere in yet one more effort to attempt to restore some sane and courteous discussion with Stephanie Fisher, the good friend of Maurice Casey who has in many ways claimed significant responsibility for much of the content of Casey’s book. read more »


Maurice Casey’s Mind “Boggles” Reading Thomas L. Thompson’s Messiah Myth

by Neil Godfrey
Cover of "The Messiah Myth: The Near East...

Cover via Amazon

Maurice Casey (Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths?) critiques Thomas L. Thompson’s The Messiah Myth without giving his readers any idea of its stated purpose or overall argument. I suspect Casey himself did not know what it was about and could not explain its argument if he tried since he had made up his mind before reading it that it was an attempt to prove there was no historical Jesus.

Casey is already on record as being quite perplexed when he encounters new perspectives on old problems and he remains true to form when confronted with Thomas L. Thompson’s work.

I will explain what Thompson’s was attempting to achieve with the book in a moment but notice that Casey from the start faults it for not being about what he thought it should be about:

A supposedly scholarly attempt to cast doubt on the historicity of the teaching of Jesus is an extraordinary book by the Old Testament ‘scholar’ Thomas L. Thompson, The Messiah Myth, published in 2005. It demonstrates lack of knowledge of first-century Judaism and of New Testament scholarship, and has remarkably little to say about Jesus. (Jesus: Evidence and Argument, p. 221)

Casey cannot even bring himself to fully acknowledge Thompson’s credentials as an Old Testament scholar of high international standing. What Casey means by The Messiah Myth‘s “demonstration of lack of knowledge of first-century Judaism and NT scholarship” and its paucity of information about Jesus is that the book is not about Casey’s assumptions of what first-century Judaism looked like, nor is it about NT scholarship or Jesus as these are traditionally addressed in studies on the historical Jesus. Casey might as well have added that the work “demonstrates a lack of knowledge of” knitting and abseiling.

Thompson’s book is about the messiah myth as it is found throughout ancient Middle Eastern literature. It is an attempt to offer a new perspective for how scholars might approach the Bible as historians. Too rarely biblical scholars have stopped to ask if the authors of the historical books of the Bible had the same sense of past history as we do. The first task of historians should be to fully grasp the literary and theological nature of the works they are studying. Full justice to that enquiry can only be accomplished if the historian first and foremost has a thorough grasp of comparable literary and theological sources throughout that region’s cultural history. Before we assume that the narratives in the biblical works are windows to historical events it is better first to acquaint oneself with other literature of that cultural region and what it often meant to convey when speaking of the past.

The assumption that the narratives of the Bible are accounts of the past asserts a function for our texts that needs to be demonstrated as it competes with other more apparent functions.

. . . . Are archaeologists and historians dealing with the same kind of past as the Bible does? This, I think, is the central question of the current debate about history and the Bible, rather than the questions that have dominated. Can biblical stories be used to write a modern history of the ancient past — whether of the individuals or of the events in which they participate? . . . The Bible uses . . . historical information for other purposes, in the way that literature has always used what was known of the past. (The Messiah Myth, p. x)

At this point I think I can justly point to some recent posts I have written about the nature of ancient historiography. Ancient historians were quite capable of fabricating stories about the past when it suited their ideological or pedagogical purposes. Those fabrications could well be considered “true” if they were written “true to life”, that is, realistically. read more »


“Maurice Casey, Meet Thomas L. Thompson”

by Neil Godfrey

Thomas L. Thompson

I am sure Maurice Casey will appreciate notification of a few oversights in his most recent book, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths. This post will alert him to a couple of minor errors in his treatment of Thomas L. Thompson’s background and scholarly standing. A future post will look at Casey’s criticisms of some of Thompson’s publications, although we have already seen how Casey wrongly classified Thompson’s recent publications as attempts to argue that there was no historical Jesus.

Thomas L. Thompson first came to notoriety with The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives arguing that the biblical patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) were not historical persons. This was first published by de Gruyter in Berlin in 1974. It was written in Tuebingen where Thompson was a student of Herbert Haag (Catholic) and Kurt Galling (Protestant). Controversial at the time this view is now probably mainstream. Even more controversial was his 1992 publication, The Early History of the Israelite People, which found no room for the united monarchy nor even Kings David and Solomon. The main work by Thompson that Casey addresses is The Messiah Myth, a work that Casey misinterprets as an attempt to argue there was no historical Jesus.

This post shows where Maurice Casey is seriously misguided in what he writes about Thompson the person.

Casey introduces Professor Thomas L. Thompson as one who “claims to be a ‘scholar'” but whose competence and qualifications Casey considers “questionable” (p. 10).

Yes, Casey puts the word scholar in scare quotes. Further, Casey will grant nothing more than that Thompson “claims” to be a ‘scholar’. In fact Thompson is a scholar of international repute who has made groundbreaking contributions to the study of the Old Testament as indicated above. His qualifications and professional associations can be found on his Wikipedia article.

An American or European scholar?

Here is the biographical description Casey offers:

Thomas L. Thompson was an American Catholic born in 1939 in Detroit. He was awarded a B.A. at Duquesne University, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1962, and a Ph.D. at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976. After several appointments, mostly in the USA, including the post of associate professor at Marquette University, a Jesuit, Roman Catholic university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1989-93), he was Professor of Theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1993-2009.

Casey focuses his readers’ attention on Thompson’s Roman Catholic, Jesuit and American associations. There is only one hint of Thompson’s status as a European scholar — a significant oversight given Casey’s patent loathing for most things American. Casey quotes his PhD student Stephanie Fisher’s comparison of “decent European scholars” with “second-rate semi-learned American ‘scholars’ (sic)” with approval – p.43.

The fact that Thompson is also a Dane and has lived and worked in Denmark since 1993 where as Professor of Old Testament he was the only Catholic in the Theology faculty is overlooked entirely. Thompson in fact spent eight months at Temple University in Philadelphia and has done his graduate studies in Europe: in Oxford and Tuebingen from 1962-1971 and as a research scholar in Tuebingen from 1969-1977.

Tuebingen University

Tuebingen University

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Casey’s Instruments of Demonization

by Neil Godfrey

Having seen the ratio of ex-fundamentalists to mythicists with liberal church backgrounds it is amusing to review Maurice Casey’s mythic theme. Watch how the old Red Scare themes are echoed here. One poor scholar, Owen, who dared to criticize the work that was built on Casey’s thesis is compared with a mythicist at every point of his dispute and Casey even raises his “unhappy childhood”! But a pummeling also lies in store for that spawn of all evil, the “American” (spit the word) Jesus Seminar!

The first chapter: From fundamentalism to mythicism. (p. 1)

[Mythicism] has three major features. One is rebellion against traditional Christianity, especially in the form of American fundamentalism . . . The majority of people who write books claiming Jesus did not exist, and who give their past history, are effectively former American fundamentalists. . . (p. 2)

Rebellion! Is that not as bad as the sin of witchcraft? You rebellious mythicists, you!

That’s interesting, actually, given that elsewhere Casey laments the “uncontrolled” and “unregulated” nature of mythicism and mythicists (see below). Rebellious, out of control . . .  One wonders what he would really like to do about it all if he had the power.

Here he gets stuck into that poor scholar who had the audacity to disagree and argue against Casey’s thesis:

As a fundamentalist Christian . . . Owen already has the most important faults of mythicists (p. 8)

And what are these “mythicist-like” faults? Casey lists them:

First, he has misrepresented me, accusing me of omitting scholarship which I discussed elsewhere . . .

Second, he has preferred scholarship which is out of date . . .

Third, he has done so because scholarship which is out of date supports the tradition to which he has intellectually arbitrary adherence.

Fourth, he is just one short step away from accusing me of ‘suppressing’ old scholarship that I did not see fit to reproduce. . . .

All these points are central to the mythicist case. Owen had a very difficult childhood. . . .

There are two reasons why this is of real importance . . . Firstly, Owen . . . already has the most important faults of mythicists. (pp. 5-8)

(Actually I thought Owen’s initial review was a very polite and gentlemanly expression of disagreement. Perhaps his logic and evidence did not need any invective to drive his points home.)

It’s quite amusing to read on and find so much of Casey’s book is devoted to attempts to rebut comments from Steven Carr, Tim Widowfield and myself pointing out the logical fallacies of his Aramaic arguments. Mythicists are bad and ignorant because they don’t agree with Casey’s arguments and argue so many points just like mainstream scholars who are also ignorant because they don’t read the language Jesus spoke!

We can now put Doherty’s comments on scholars into their cultural context of American fundamentalism. (p. 9)

[N.T. Wrong], also a proper scholar of a decent cricketing nation, said of another atheist, ‘Once a fundie always a fundie. He’s just batting for the other side now.’ (p. 13)

Mythicists . . . are by and large former fundamentalist Christians. (p. 59)

It is at such points that this mythicist, once a very conservative American Catholic, argues like a fundamentalist. (p. 112)


In a profound sense, the Westar Jesus seminar [yes, the lower case ‘s’ is original] was the predecessor of mythicists. Its most important members were to a large extent former American fundamentalists, or at least very conservative American Christians, as were most of the mythicists. (p. 118)

Mythicists . . . are just like the fundamentalists they used to be. (p. 170)

[Mythicists’] ideas of what is supposed to have happened during Jesus’ life are based on their previous lives as fundamentalists. (p. 203)

These regrettable mistakes appear to have two basic causes. One is the fundamentalism from which mythicists have emerged. . . . They do not believe in evidence and argument any more now than they did when they had fundamentalist Christian convictions. (p. 220)

The most important result of this book is that the whole idea that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as a historical figure . . . belongs in the fantasy lives of people who used to be fundamentalist Christians. (p. 243)

I therefore conclude that the mythicist arguments . . . have been mainly put forward by . . . former fundamentalist Christians who were not properly aware of critical scholarship then, and after conversion to atheism, are not properly aware of critical scholarship now. They frequently confuse any New Testament scholarship with Christian fundamentalism. (p. 245)

So what follows will not surprise you. In a future post I’ll demonstrate how narrow Casey’s coverage of mythicist arguments really is. He is too preoccupied with propagating his own Aramaic thesis and he gets hung up on pedantic quibbles and confusing humour for serious points of argument to keep readers with him. I can’t imagine a single reader being convinced Jesus existed by this work. His vitriol is too unabashedly puerile for any intelligent reader to take seriously. Though Jim West, James McGrath, Larry Hurtado and Rabbi Joe Hoffmann all love it. But that’s no surprise, is it. They praised it before they even read it.

Now I’ll list here a set of words and phrases that will give you a pretty good idea of the tone of the book. These stand out as some of Casey’s favourite descriptors.

Mythicists never have a single honest argument. Every point of view they express or argue falls under one of these categories below, according to Casey.

The following list is meant to highlight the tone of the book. Thus Casey might not say all mythicists are filled with outpourings of scorn, but such phrases are used of mythicists to contrast them with the purity of decent scholars. This list demonstrates the way Casey demonizes mythicists personally (and by implication mythicism, I suppose.)

Totally unable, incapable, unwilling

Mythicists are invariably “unable”, “incapable” or “unwilling” to learn or understand, do not read major works of secondary literature. Very often the word “unable” is complemented with “totally”:

See pages 6, 24, 27, 30, 33, 34, 52, 54, 118, 127, 135, 140, 147, 153, 178, 179, 200, 209, 244, 248, 257. (Sometimes more than once on the same page.)

Or they are uncomprehending: pages 144, 164.

Unlearned and anti-scholarly

Mythicists are “unlearned” and “anti-scholarly”.

See pp. 2, 4, 10, 15, 22, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 41, 59, 64, 76, 105, 127, 128, 169, 176, 182, 201, 204, 206, 208, 221-226 (Thomas L. Thompson is a ‘scholar’ — yes, in scare quotes), 236, 237, 241, 243, 244, 248, 259.

Confusing and confused

Mythicists arguments are confusing. My favourite is one that Casey has pulled at least twice now. When he encounters an argument he has never heard of before then it is wrong by definition. It is confusing. Mythicists are confused because they don’t agree with mainstream views.

See pages 14, 28, 91 (x2), 125, 144, 171, 175, 241, 245 (x2)

They really have “no clue” at all! 31, 211

Ignorant and do not understand

Mythicists never disagree with argument or a different perspective on the evidence. They are always ignorant or simply do not understand. See the Preface and pages 27, 29, 30, 33, 44, 51, 52, 53 (“appallingly ignorant”), 59, 127, 134, 140, 144, 172, 197, 201, 238, 243.

This is fortunate. It saves Casey the trouble of having to rebut them and allows him time to concentrate on peddling his own Aramaic thesis.

Hopelessly inaccurate

Mythicists are wholly or hopelessly inaccurate, or else just inaccurate all the time. See pages 3, 13, 18, 19, 22, 33, 44, 45, 127, (even something by a mythicist that is not inaccurate is said to be “not very inaccurate”!) 147, 159, 209, 215, 220, 236.

(Keep in mind he’s including here several highly respected scholars.)

Mythicists mislead you! read more »


Who’s Who Among Mythicists and Mythicist Sympathizers/Agnostics

by Neil Godfrey

This is a followup to my previous post, Casey’s Mythicist Myth Busted, where I set out Casey’s list of

the most influential mythicists who claim to be ‘scholars’ today (p. 10)

Casey’s list counted seventeen names. Of those seventeen we saw that six were not mythicists at all (e.g. Bart Ehrman) and one was deceased some years before Casey even began to write his draft for his book.

For easy reference I set out here in two tables the names of

  • genuine contemporary mythicists along with their religious backgrounds,
  • others who raise the question of mythicism or examine Christian origins without reference to assumptions of a historical Jesus.

Three possible conclusions to be drawn from these tables (updated 10th March):

  1. Liberal religious backgrounds are twice as likely as American Fundamentalism to breed future mythicist or mythicist sympathizers (15 to 7);
  2. Ex-fundamentalists who are mythicists are more as likely to be favourably disposed towards Christianity as disinterested in or opposed to it;
  3. Pending further investigation, it appears that American Fundamentalists are the least likely to gravitate towards mythicism or mythicist sympathies than those with liberal or no religious backgrounds.

I’m tongue-in-cheek, of course. But the tables do demonstrate that claims that mythicism is a symptom of psychological derangement among ex-fundamentalists is as ignorant and bigoted as stereotyping Jews with hook-noses and greedy.

Since Casey proposes what he calls the “striking fact” that . . .

the majority of people who write books claiming that Jesus did not exist, and who give their past history, are effectively former American fundamentalists, though not all are ethnically American (p. 2)

. . . I list the names according to their past religious affiliations using Casey’s own accounts as my primary source. (Casey’s point about “claiming to be ‘scholars'” is a bit of puerile churlishness that I ignore. Earl Doherty does not claim to be a professional scholar and other names are well known to have recognized academic credentials in related or other fields.)

I have added seven names to Casey’s list. Two of those have not published arguments that Jesus did not exist but they are of interest in this context because they have written (in print and/or online) radical hypotheses on the identity of Paul. The names of those whose methods of argument are controversial among mythicists and/or who appear to be promoting a belief system that approximates to a contemporary version of gnosticism (Freke and Gandy) or pantheism (Murdock) are in italics.

Let me know if I have overlooked any significant names. (HJ = Historical Jesus)


Fundamentalist Background

Roman Catholic Background

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

Liberal or No Church Background


Tom Harpur (very positive towards Christianity) Earl Doherty Richard Carrier [“Freethinking Methodist”] George Albert Wells
Robert M. Price (very positive towards Christianity) Thomas Brodie (Irish Catholic. Very positive towards Christianity) Roger Viklund (Den Jesus som aldrig funnits = The Jesus Who Never Was) [Source: comment] Peter Gandy
Frank R. Zindler Roger Parvus (Paul) Derek Murphy (Jesus Potter Harry Christ) [Episcopalian]
Jay Raskin (The Evolution of Christs and Christianities)
David Fitzgerald (Nailed) Joe Atwill (Source: Caesar’s Messiah) Dorothy Murdock [liberal Congregationalist]
Stephan Huller
Raphael Lataster* René Salm (now Buddhist and atheist) Timothy Freke [Source: ch.3 Mystery Experience]
Francesco Carotta (very positive towards Christianity) Herman Detering (Paul — also denies HJ) (very positive towards Christianity)
Raphael Lataster* Sid Martin (Secret of the Savior: source online email)
Ken Humphreys ( [no church background]
Raphael Lataster*
R. G. Price [See comment below]

* Raphael Lataster, author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God, had has quite a spiritual journey. Unfortunately Casey does not have a category for  ambiguity. read more »


Maurice Casey’s Mythicist Myth Busted

by Neil Godfrey

devil_450If Maurice Casey’s book Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths? were about Jews or Gays or Blacks or the Disabled he and his publisher may well be charged with inciting hatred against “the other”. Mythicists are portrayed as all alike, they are all psychologically twisted and motivated by evil intent, their faults are never innocent but always wilful, and they are a baleful influence on society generally. This book demonizes “mythicists”.

And like racist or homophobic literature it peddles its own myths and falsehoods.

There is never a lighter moment of human understanding and toleration or acceptance that the different views of “mythicists” might be honestly informed and sincere. Casey hammers into readers the message that mythicists are flat wrong about everything and that’s because they are incorrigibly unlearned and without exception despise genuine scholarship. If their evil motive is not the consequence of the way they have been psychologically and permanently ruined by their past association with a fundamentalist form of Christianity it is because they are, well, “bizarre”.

This book is the equivalent of a McCarthyist or anti-semitic tract. We need a new term to describe this demonization of mythicists. In the wider community now we even have the equivalent of racist and homophobic epithets that convey the contempt and loathing of “the other”. Myther and mythtic join the ranks of wog and fag.

A major theme of Maurice Casey (and one persistently expressed by his student and carer, Stephanie Fisher, in her almost 300 comments left on this blog two to four years ago) is that most mythicists are psychologically bent. The reason is simple. They (most of them) were once fundamentalists. Reading Casey’s book is a tiresome déjà vu experience: I find myself reading the same phrases, the same accusations, the same projections, the same misunderstandings as Stephanie continually unleashed between 2010 and 2012 on Vridar. At the time Stephanie petulantly repeated her threat to “go and tell” her “big brother surrogate”, Maurice Casey, all the complaints she had against me and to persuade him to write a book exposing me and all mythicists. So here it is. Steph’s revenge!

Sorry, Steph, but I cannot take it seriously. Anyone who does take it seriously despite the obvious vindictiveness that pervades it is not worth worrying about. It is a joke. My greatest amazement is that a publisher accepted it in the first place. Surely there’s a story to be told there one day.

Steph used to repeat the nonsense over and over that anyone who was a mythicist was motivated by a hatred of religion. And here we see the same old myth: when those who are now mythicists left their former religions they switched to being just as fundamentalist in their hatred of all forms of Christianity. They hate God and Jesus so much that they are determined to believe neither exists. The exceptions to the rule are, as we just noted, “bizarre”.

This crudely bigoted portrayal of mythicism was apparently picked up by Casey from Stephanie Fisher. In his Preface he writes:

Stephanie Fisher persuaded me to write this as she was concerned with a growing phenomenon, enhanced by amateur blogs on the internet and inspired partly by publications by Price and Doherty, that there was no historical Jesus. . . . She felt this mythicist element was fuelled by atheism and anti-religion which attacked scholarship as religiously motivated. . . . She therefore persuaded me to write this book.

Something “bizarre” often happens whenever Casey quotes words by those who have crossed him or his carer Stephanie. He quite often demonstrates a distinct inability to detect nuance and humour. Tim Widowfield and Richard Carrier in other posts have pointed out his failure to recognize humour in works he believes to be by mythicists; the same applies to nuance.

So, for example, when Casey finds an author whom he wishes to compare with mythicists he quotes him saying that a particular period of the Roman history is “one of the most historically documented times in history”, Casey immediately assesses the claim through either/or categories: “This is not the case”, he jumps in emphatically — look, “a normal province in the British Empire in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries” is far more “well documented” than “first-century rural Galilee”!

Or when another writer speaks of Joseph and Mary taking the baby Jesus down to Egypt and later “returning” to Nazareth, Casey cannot accept that the author might be using the term “return” in a general or short-hand sense and that he does not literally mean to imply that Jesus was born in Nazareth. Everyone knows the birth took place in Bethlehem, but it seems Casey is a product of a low-context culture and needs to have every nuance explicitly spelled out for him.

The pity of this is that Casey (and Stephanie) have embraced a black-and-white, one could even say Manichaean, two-dimensional view of those with whom they find themselves in disagreement when it comes to what they see as certain fundamentals.

And their inability to understand others in any normal rounded sense is not restricted to those they believe are mythicists. Casey uses this book to kick hard and personally at a number of scholars who have nothing to do with mythicism — apparently for no reason other than that they have criticized his work in the past. Americans particularly come in for a sound hiding. Casey stereotypes “the others” and their views.

So, with the occasional exceptions, for Casey

  • Americans are regrettably deficient in every way — in scholarship, in social decency, and so forth;
  • To move from fundamentalism to atheism is a mark of improper extremism: Casey even remarks (surely with a touch of ASD?) that such people could not have been aware that there are many “decent and reasonable Christians” who are not fundamentalist!
  • Any argument that concludes that Hellenism more than Judaism is to be found in the earliest evidence for Christianity must by definition be anti-Jewish.

My next point may not really be related, but it comes to mind so I’ll leave it here in passing. Casey’s style is marked by starkly uniform, dogmatic, simple sentence expressions. He varies his style very little. His tenses are often bluntly simple with fewer subtleties (past perfects, third conditionals) one normally associates with educated expression. Grammatically complex sentences that manage to carry multiple thoughts related to each other with any degree of complexity — the sorts of expressions one expects to find in scholarly literature especially — are noticeably absent from Casey’s writing. The overall effect is that one feels one is being bludgeoned page after page with dogmatisms. Casey lacks any ability to engage the reader in a vicarious dialogue.

Dominant message

It is very striking that the majority of people who write books claiming that Jesus did not exist, and who give their past history, are effectively former American fundamentalists, though not all are ethnically American. (p. 2)

This was a major theme introduced in the Preface and on page two it is launched. But an irony is soon to follow. read more »


Maurice the Pedant Learns Five More Lessons — Tuesday

by Neil Godfrey

jesuscaseyMaurice has handed in a problematic essay assignment. Continuing from after school Monday . . . .


Come in Maurice. Sit down here and we’ll continue to go through your essay and hopefully you’ll understand what you need to do for your next effort. Show me the work I set you to complete last night.

So this is Godfrey’s argument about historical methods that you’ve written here. Let’s see . . . .

. . . . yesss . . . .

but where is the rest? Is that all? It looks like you only looked at one post where he discusses independent controls. You’re not very thorough, are you. Genre and provenance are also very important points to his argument and you haven’t touched those. I’ll give you a list of readings before you leave this afternoon.

Have you had more time to think about the lies you told in your essay

Now what did you find out about Godfrey’s use of those historians?

Leopold von Ranke?

Leopold von Ranke

Yes, you are correct, Godfrey used von Ranke as a starting point to explain the way he uses the terms “primary” and “secondary” with respect to historical sources. When he speaks of primary data or primary historical sources he means those that are physically a part of the time and place the historian is investigating; and he uses the term “secondary sources” for later sources that refer back to that time and place. Can you give me an example of what such an explanation would call a “primary source”? No, Maurice, wrong. The gospels would not be called primary sources according to von Ranke’s definitions.

Keep in mind that we are only talking about definitions of terms here. Different people might use different words to describe the various types of evidence historians use and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that in any conversation all parties are clear about the terms that are being used. So for Godfrey’s argument a primary source for a Roman emperor would be a coin minted by the emperor, or a monument erected by him.

A secondary source would be a manuscript found much later, possibly centuries later, that appears to be a writing about that earlier time and place. So a Tacitus manuscript would be a secondary source for the emperor Tiberius according to this use of terms because his evidence was produced after the reign of Tiberius.

No, Maurice, Godfrey is not saying that Tacitus wrote in the ninth century in Germany. Yes, that is the date of our earliest manuscript of Tacitus but not even Godfrey says Tacitus wrote in the ninth century. read more »


Maurice Casey Fails His Historical Method Essay – Monday

by Neil Godfrey
Caprichos, No. 23

Caprichos, No. 23 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maurice, Maurice, Maurice, what are we going to do with you!

You have written an 8000 word essay that you titled Historical Method. You included it in your portfolio titled Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?

Can I ask how much research you did in preparation for this? Ah, so you say you used all the notes supplied you by Stephanie Fisher. Did you do any checking of source material for yourself? Oh, I see, mostly what Stephanie supplied you. Well, Maurice, I’m afraid that’s no excuse. This was your assignment and you are responsible for what goes into it.

No, Maurice, you didn’t pass. I gave you an F. You’re going to have to do it all again. . . .

Yes, Maurice, an F. If you carry on like that I’ll make it an F minus.

That’s better.

And for your next effort I insist you throw away everything Stephanie fed you and do your own fact-finding and make it your own work for which you alone are responsible.

No, Maurice, it’s not because I don’t like you. Come up and sit down here and I’ll go through it with you and show you why you need to do the whole lot again.

Look. You’ve titled it “Historical Method”. Now show me where in the essay you explained what “historical method” is. . . . No, it’s no good just gazing at the paper. You didn’t explain it anywhere. You didn’t even say what any mythicist thinks historical method is. From reading your paper I’m none the wiser on what New Testament scholars think is their historical method and I have no idea what any mythicist thinks it is or what it should be either. read more »


Richard Carrier’s Review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus

by Neil Godfrey

jesuscaseyRichard Carrier has written a critical review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? See Critical Review of Maurice Casey’s Defense of the Historicity of Jesus.

It’s in depth. Over 20,000 words. So most of us will want to schedule more than one sitting to complete it. Carrier begins with an overall summary and some common themes of the book before getting into details.

His summary paragraphs begin:

Casey’s Jesus has no structure or organization capable of being analyzed. It is basically just a random jump from digression to digression, very loosely grouped into eight topical chapters, as he randomly picks some item or other from mythicist literature . . .

There is also an extraordinary amount of dishonesty and misrepresentation (although I suspect in many cases this is actually a cognitive defect: Casey literally doesn’t understand what his opponents are saying quite a lot of the time . . . .

This book is also characterized by an awe-inspiringly near-total reliance on a single argument for historicity that is monumentally illogical (the Criterion of Aramaicism). . . .

Most frustrating is the fact that even when he tackles a genuinely faulty mythicist argument he still often resorts to misrepresentations, red herrings, and straw men. . . . .

You won’t ever know if Casey is honestly representing his opponents or even correctly describing what they’ve said . . . . You often won’t know if something he is claiming is actually the mainstream consensus or a fringe view . . . .

That about sums it up pretty accurately.

As for the “extraordinary amount of dishonesty and misrepresentation”, we are also now seeing that from some of the ardent publicists for this book. Jim West has been posting fulsome praise for the book but when he noticed at least one error in it he warned his readers not to be misled about the work of Emanuel Pfoh. Casey got it wrong about Pfoh, West says. Casey inferred Pfoh was a mythicist and a closed minded bigot on the strength of a “playful” comment he once made. But West himself falsely claimed that that playful throwaway line was made in a book to which West himself contributed. I emailed West to advise him that if he could see Casey made an error about Pfoh, then maybe it was possible Casey made an error about others, too. I also suggested that West himself had not read the book carefully since Casey quite clearly points out that Pfoh’s remark was made on Vridar and not in West’s book. I ensured West had my email address so that he could discuss the matter further offline if he wished. He failed to respond so I sent him a link to Tim Widowfield’s post on academic professionalism (or lack of it). West responded with an outright lie about the nature of my correspondence.

In actual fact, Casey wrongly indicates several other names are mythicists, too. It’s not just Pfoh. Casey even lumps Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas L. Thompson in his cluster of mythicists! Of course NPL has in the past made it very clear in comments here that he is not a mythicist and TLT has never argued against the historical existence of Jesus. There are at least three other names Casey also mis-labels as mythicists in his book. He even zeroes in on them at length throughout his eight chapters completely oblivious to the fact that not one of these three has ever argued against the historical existence of Jesus.

James McGrath curiously writes of Casey’s book:

Casey’s book offers both the scholarly detail needed to deal with the subject seriously, and the sarcastic wit appropriate to the character of the phenomenon. The result is not only informative but also entertaining. Casey’s book provides a clear and sufficiently detailed explanation of what mainstream scholarly conclusions are . . .

I invite James McG to cite from Casey’s book read more »