The Real Battle in debates over the bible among non-believers

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by Neil Godfrey

updated . . . .

Recently I quoted René Salm’s summary of the deeper psychological issues that believers of the bible often bring to the fore when engaging sceptical arguments — in the Real Battle in debates over the bible with believers.

What I am still trying to understand is why the same “group think”, the same “circling of the wagons”, the same intestinal reactions bedevil the responses of so many nonbelievers, scholars included, when “engaging” arguments and critiques of Jesus mythicists. “Engaging” in quotation marks because 99% of the time the responses of the “historicists” are red-herrings, ad-hominems, straw-men, whatever — anything but what the central arguments of those mythicists so often are.

Strange. I have never been able to bring myself to read a whole page of anything written by the fatuous reasoningsof the likes of Acharya S, but I do know that the best and well-known mythicist arguments are grounded in cultural and exegetical biblical studies, and are far more cogent, devoid of fatuous circularity and inconsistencies, than just about anything I have read by historicists about “the historical Jesus”.

A little while ago I wrote a detailed critique of Bauckham’s betrayal of true scholarship and logical and historical enquiry, and did so because of the astonishing popularity such a book was winning. I could have written as damning a critique of almost any other book on the historical Jesus. I have so many marginal notes of points to make in quite a number of prominent scholars — I may yet do this, when retired maybe.

It is easy to understand the knee jerk nonsense of committed apologists. I like to think I avoid going out of my way to debate them. They feel a need for their faith. That’s their business. Live and let live.

Maybe the irrational but nonetheless deeply meaningful needs of nonbelieving scholars who ridicule and scarcely hide their contempt for those they like to call “mythers”,  as if their position is not even deserving of a proper noun, have something to do with self-actualization, ego-needs from a certain academic circle, I don’t know. Strange.

For the curious, the above musings were prompted by a depressing series of exchanges among academic ‘historicists’ and those they contemptuously denigrate as mythers – even though it is patently obvious to anyone who has read the better “mythicist” arguments that such historicists have never bothered to apprise themselves of the basis of mythicist arguments in the first place. I can imagine if some of them tried, they’d find the books they hold as repulsive as a socialist tract might be in the hands of a Rockefeller. Got carried away in there with long winded sentences — the occasion of the above musings are the exchanges found in The Forbidden Gospels Blog posts, My decision about the Jesus project, and The Jesus Seminar Jesus project is bankrupt, part 4. Steven Carr’s basic questions that went to the core of the sham behind the historicists’ arguments were simply ridiculed or ignored — not once engaged seriously.

When confronted with the mythicist position, it seems erudite scholars and untrained fundamentalists respond as one.


But maybe not really. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, especially when one’s livelihood and professional reputation depends on a certain base acceptance by one’s professional peers.


Not least because not so long ago I encountered historicists declaring as absolute fact that there is as much evidence for the existence of Jesus as for Julius Caesar or such. Now — and maybe it is a sign of some progress — scholars actually admit there is no real “evidence” to “prove” the existence of Jesus. Or even more depressing, when the flimsiest threads (a verse in Galatians open to several meanings and a debated passage in Josephus) serve as “bedrock” evidence for historicity.

I’m reminded of the intellectual dishonesty of the Catholic Church and its hired scholars to proclaim “proof” for the historical existence of Nazareth. I think I need to start hitting harder again so much of the nonsense that passes for “scholarship” in biblical studies – and not just the Bauckham fringe.