Daily Archives: 2010-08-09 19:02:59 GMT+0000

Historical methods postcript: Where criteriology leaves us

Just to add here what I left assumed in my previous post . . . .

Enough has been written on the contradictory and inconsistent issues arising from the attempts to establish “bedrock evidence” for the life of Jesus from “criteriology”. (I am not addressing the use of criteria in other historical studies where it has a different function.)

Criteriology leaves the debate open whether Jesus was a political revolutionary, an apocalyptic prophet, a rabbi, a mystic, a teacher, a healer, a magician, a timberman (see #4 by Lemche at http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/sack357908.shtml).

In other words, criteriology leaves us not knowing where to even start a definitive exploration of who this Jesus was.

But in addition to failing to establish who or what Jesus was historically, it leads to the greater sin of avoiding the historical question of Christian origins. Christianity was a faith movement, and its origin and spread needs to be explained as such. The Christ that was spread through the Mediterranean and Middle East was a Christ of faith, after all. A mythical construct, in other words.

Historical method worth its salt will work with the evidence as it exists, as faith literature, and through analysis of both it and its relationships with other ideas of the time, seek to understand its origin and appeal.

Historical methods: how historical Jesus studies fall over before they start

Although a certain professor of religion regularly insists that his historical methods are the same as those of other historians who deal in nonbiblical subjects, he has failed to demonstrate the similarity. Rather, his attempt to establish this particular point is a classic in obfuscation, misrepresentation of the issues and avoidance of the challenges of mythicist arguments.

One thing cannot be reasonably denied. Mainstream historical Jesus scholarship . . . uses the same methods as mainstream historical study. Those who study early Christianity, those who study Jewish history, those who study Hellenistic and Roman history, those who study any of these overlapping areas or some subset thereof, all interact regularly at conferences, in scholarly volumes and publications, and in numerous other ways. While scholars certainly disagree regularly with one another’s conclusions, if we did not share some common scholarly methodological ground rules, such fruitful interaction would not be possible.

Reflecting on this, it struck me that mythicism is very much like intelligent design in at least one important regard. It wishes to redefine the methods of a scholarly discipline in order to accomplish an ideological agenda.

(Mythicism, Intelligent Design, Courts and Sports)

Of course there are many grounds for fruitful interaction among scholars of “early Christianity”, “Jewish history” and those who study “Hellenistic and Roman history” — and more — I would add especially with those who study ancient classical literature. Of course these scholars do indeed “share some common scholarly methodological ground rules”.

But the author uses this statement of the bleeding obvious as a cover to hide the fact he is sweeping under the carpet the key points made about historical Jesus studies in particular. I will explain below.

The mythical claims of a NT historian read more »

Gospel myth – Atlantis myth: Two “Noble Lies”

Lloyd K. Townsend illustrates Atlantis
Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I’m sure there will be a few differences if I stop to think seriously about it, but I have just read the introduction in Benjamin Jowett’s Critias by Plato in which are cited the reasons Plato’s lies have managed to convince so many people of the historical truth of the myth of Atlantis. And hoo boy, how can anyone fail to notice certain echoes of the arguments used — even by professional scholars! — to argue for the historicity, and even the contemporary sophistication, of the gospels?

He begins:

No one knew better than Plato how to invent ‘a noble lie’.

I skip here the earlier discussion found in the companion treatise, Timaeus, in which Plato’s character Socrates explains the necessity for a myth or lie such as that of Atlantis. So here are the ten reasons Jowett cites for why so many generations have fallen into the trap of thinking the tale of Atlantis was based on something historical. I add a few remarks to draw attention here and there to their similarity to arguments even biblical scholars (not only fundamentalist lay people) have advanced to justify acceptance of the Gospels themselves as reflecting some genuine historical reality. read more »