Even scholars who are attempting to find an “independent” and “socio-economic” explanation for Christian origins (such as James Crossley) are, like virtually all scholars involved in this quest, “driven by the Christian imagination” itself. Burton L. Mack explains the nature of this bias in his introduction to A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins.
The reader who dares to enter this discourse [of Christian origins] from the humanities or from the social sciences, cannot avoid coming to a certain conclusion. The events that center the massive amounts of scholarly learning are exactly those that haunt the average Christian imagination as well. They are exactly those suggested by the Christian gospel, the gospel that sets them forth as inaugural and foundational for Christian history and faith. (p. 8)
Christians well know that the claims in the Gospel that offer them personal conversion or a new life in Christ are very same ones that also explain the origin of the Church. These are:
This is another common charge against arguments that Jesus was mythical, and it likewise seems to be circulated among those who show little evidence of having read much in the way of mythicist publications.
(I am responding here to remarks made in a comment to McGrath’s post, Why I find mythicism disturbing, since the remarks are repeated often enough to be addressed separately.)
I look firstly at where the argument from silence really does stand within mythicism, and then at a comparison of historicist and mythicist a priori assumptions.
Arguments from silence
I do not recall if I have ever read a mythicist argument that relies on silence.
An argument from silence is used to compare one hypothesis against another. It can be useful to show that there is no real warrant (there is too much silence) for accepting the disputed hypothesis.
But the arguments FOR the earliest Christian record speaking of a nonhistorical Christ (at least the ones I have read) all focus on reading what the documents DO say. What they don’t say (the silence) is only the corollary.