I decided to go to the source to ask the reason for the $50 entry fee for the Historicist Prize (The Jesus Challenge).
I was well aware I was only speculating when commenting on it recently, and others were speculating on it quite vacuously and even maliciously. So why not see what I could learn by checking the source for myself? I like doing stuff like that. I recommend the same for associate professors of religion.
Well, Rene Salm kindly responded, and explained:
- the sequence of events that led to the presentation,
- the reason for the $50 fee,
- and the whole point of the ironical situation of committed mythicists even offering a “historicist prize”
His email response, which I have reformatted, follows.
Dear Neil, [8/15/10]
The sequence of events that led to the presentation is roughly as follows:
(a) Bart Ehrman’s certainty (as that of so many others) regarding the existence of Jesus led to my gut reaction, “PROVE IT!”
(b) That, in turn, led to the idea of the Historicist Prize, aka, The Jesus Challenge, a mechanism for believers to demonstrate their case.
(c) I immediately realized that I, personally, have absolutely no investment in the historicity of Jesus, nor does anyone in the Mythicists’ Forum. Our mandate is to promote the facts which, in our considered opinion, point to mythicism. Nota bene: we have never claimed to be neutral in this regard!
To read essays promoting a historical Jesus can be unpleasant for us and is usually redundant. For these reasons we have imposed the $50 fee. After all, we are taking on a task outside our normal duties in order, basically, to humor Jesus-petitioners who, in our a priori opinion, are wrong. (Remember- – our minds are already made up in this regard.)
This having been said, we are not simply pocketing the money and leaving it at that! All submissions will be read. Though I cannot promise it, serious submissions for *either* prize will in all likelihood receive a written comment from one or more judges– perhaps even an extensive comment.
According to a recent communication of Frank Zindler, “We might even establish an on-going dialogue with some of the more serious [historicist] scholars.”
This is similar to what took place with the first Mythicist Prize last year.
Thus, should a historicist wish to ‘test’ his argument against several well-known and convinced mythicists, this is a rare opportunity for him or her to do so.
Nevertheless, because the judges are all convinced mythicists, the Jesus Challenge is essentially academic.
It exists to help bring home to believers the vacuity of their position– namely, their inability to substantiate their case on scientific grounds. To show this is one of the goals of the Mythicists’ Forum.
I am satisfied with the $50 fee, an onus placed on the tradition for refusing to look at the facts. IMO, this is entirely as it should be and long past due.
Of course, the welcome reversal of roles is ironic.
. . . . . .
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