Explaining the $50 fee & “The Real Jesus Challenge”

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by Neil Godfrey

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:

  1. the sequence of events that led to the presentation,
  2. the reason for the $50 fee,
  3. 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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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “Explaining the $50 fee & “The Real Jesus Challenge””

  1. In my earlier comment (before Rene’s explanation) I suggested the $50 fee should be taken as an indicator of the irony of the whole thing, and that those who were going seriously ballistic over it were losing all sense of this quality, much the way Bush managed to become the butt of certain jokes.

  2. Reading through some of Bart Ehrman’s interview comments with John Snider on Rene Salm’s website, Ehrman opines that those scholar’s who doubts Jesus’ existence are as bad as the likes of Lee Strobel, but on the other end of the religious spectrum. One cannot help but get the impression that Bart sees himself as occupying the sensible middle ground, acting as the voice of sweet reason whilst surrounded by fanatical ignoramuses.

    This canard is most annoying. Like those who believe that Richard Dawkins is as bad as Pat Robertson. No he’s not. Whatever you think of Dawkins, he is not remotely like Robertson. Likewise, one can’t compare Strobel with someone like Doherty. It’s simply dishonest to do so.

    1. Interesting you should make this comment at this time. I have a draft post I have been working on in which address Craig Evans making the very same complaint. He sees himself as in the sane middle ground between extreme biblical inerrantists and “hypersceptics” who doubt the historical reliability of the Gospels.

      So how are we to make sense of anything when Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans put themselves in the same camp!!

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