Three Pillars of the Traditional Christ Myth Theory

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by Neil Godfrey

A few posts back I listed 3 reasons scholars have embraced the Christ Myth theory, 6 “sound premises” of the early Christ Myth arguments, and the weaknesses of 6 traditional arguments against the Christ Myth idea (all archived here), as published by Hoffmann in his introduction to Goguel’s book.

So why not complement those posts with Price’s 3 pillars of the traditional Christ Myth theory? These are from his Jesus at the Vanishing Point chapter in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.

Pillar #1 Why no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources?

Pillar #2 The Epistles, earlier than the Gospels, do not evidence a recent historical Jesus.

Pillar #3 The Jesus as attested in the Epistles shows strong parallels to Middle Eastern religions based on the myths of dying-and-rising gods.

On the latter, it is worth drawing attention to the word “epistles”, and to the fact (as per pillar 2) that these preceded the Gospels. Some critics of the Christ Myth appear to fail to notice these details and launch off into non sequiturs by way of rebuttal.

Price summarizes in broad strokes here the relationship between these myths and Christianity. Population relocations and a kind of urban cosmopolitanism from Hellenistic times and throughout the Roman Empire coincided with a revised function of ancient myths.

The myths now came to symbolize the rebirth of the individual initiate as a personal rite of passage, namely new birth. (p.75)

Price outlines the evidence that these myths definitely did predate Christianity, as affirmed by both archaeology and the testimony of the Churh Father apologists themselves. Price once again addresses the pedantry of the attempts of J.Z. Smith to claim minor differences invalidate any attempt to compare any ancient myths with any of the Christian ones.

One book I have not yet read, but that Price tempts to me to read, is Gilbert Murray’s Five Stages of Greek Religion. The link is to the full text on Project Gutenberg. It is probably also on Googlebooks. Rich — has this one been added to Webulite, yet?

Price invites me to read it with these comments:

I must admit that when I first read of these mythic parallels in Gilbert Murray’s Five Stages of Greek Religion, it hit me like a ton of bricks. No assurances I received from any Christian scholar I read ever sounded like anything other than specious special pleading to me, and believe me I was disappointed. This was before I had ever read of the principle of analogy, but when I did learn about that axiom, I was able to give a name to what was so powerful in Murray’s presentation.

Reviewing McGrath’s review of Robert Price on mythicism (2)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

“When early Christians gave the Easter shout, “The Lord is risen!” they were only repeating the ancient acclamation, “Yahweh lives!” (Ps 18:46), and they meant the same thing by it.” (Price)

This continues my previous post in which I began discussing McGrath’s “review” of Price’s arguments for mythicism, although as I pointed out there, “review” must remain in quotation marks because McGrath simply writes a lot without actually addressing Price’s arguments!

In my previous post I remarked on the ignorance of the oft-repeated claim that there is as much evidence for Jesus as for any other ancient historical figure. This, as I said, is complete nonsense and only reveals the ignorance of those making such a claim. I did not elaborate in that post, but I have discussed this more fully in other posts such as Comparing the sources and Comparing the evidence.

Failing to understand Price’s argument

My last post finished with McGrath’s complaint that Price is making something of a “creationist” like argument. Reading McGrath’s accusations an uninformed reader would think that Price is arguing that just as God made the world ex nihilo in all its complexity in one sitting, so someone sat down and created a fictional Messiah and Jesus ex nihilo in one sitting.

Yet when Price does clearly demonstrate that he is making no such argument, as when he writes

Some god or savior was henceforth known as “Jesus”, “Savior,” and Christianity was off and running. The savior would eventually be supplied sayings borrowed from Christian sages, Jewish rabbis and Cynics, and clothed in a biography drawn from the Old Testament. It is futile to object that monotheistic Jews would never have held truck with pagan godlings. We know that they did in the Old Testament, though Ezekiel didn’t like it much. And we know that first century Judaism was not the same as Yavneh-era [post 70] Judaim. There was no normative mainstream Judaism before Yavneh. And, as Margaret Barker has argued, there is every reason to believe that ancient Israelite beliefs, including polytheism, continued to survive despite official interdiction . . . . Barker suggests that the first Jesus worshipers understood Jesus to be the Old Testament Yahweh, the Son of God Most High, or El Elyon, head of the Israelite pantheon from time immemorial. . . .(p.82)

McGrath quaintly represents such an argument by Price as follows:

Price . . . . seems to think that the fact that Judaean religion was not yet monotheistic in Ezekiel’s time means that an affirmed monotheist like Paul would have happily borrowed from myths about Tammuz.

McGrath is clearly intent on oversimplifying mythicist arguments. Shadow boxing is always much easier than getting into the ring with a real opponent.

Ignoring the elephant in the room Continue reading “Reviewing McGrath’s review of Robert Price on mythicism (2)”