2010-09-23

Mythicism and the HJ scholarly guild: the same old, the same old

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by Neil Godfrey

German philosopher Arthur Drews (1865-1935)
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“Whoever, though not a specialist, invades the province of any science, and ventures to express an opinion opposed to its official representatives, must be prepared to be rejected by them with anger, to be accused of a lack of scholarship, “dilettantism,” or “want of method,” and to be treated as a complete ignoramus. This has been the experience of all up to now who, while not theologians, have expressed themselves on the subject of the historical Jesus. The like experience was not spared the author of the present work after the appearance of its first edition. He has been accused of “lack of historical training,” “bias,” “incapacity for any real historical way of thinking,” &c., and it has been held up against him that in his investigations the result was settled beforehand . . . . .

“The author of this book has been reproached with following in it tendencies merely destructive. Indeed, one guardian of Zion, particularly inflamed with rage, has even expressed himself to this effect, that the author’s researches to not originate in a serious desire for knowledge, but only in a wish to deny.”

Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth, from preface to second edition, 1910, and reprinted in the 3rd ed.

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0 thoughts on “Mythicism and the HJ scholarly guild: the same old, the same old”

  1. “Whoever, though not a specialist, invades the province of any science, and ventures to express an opinion opposed to its official representatives, must be prepared to be rejected by them with anger”

    I think you are promoting any historical study there…Demoting science as a consensus position rather demeans what you are trying to say.

    Taking that thought one step further fills the world with pseudoscience such as chiropracty, naturopathy and acupuncture. Hardly worth while to any one but its practitioners and states that would like to avoid health costs like the plague (Ie attract malingerers and hypochondriacs to the private sector).

    Pseudohistory? well that is the basis of world view as practised during current events. Its perfectly fair to make any argument in such cases. It may even be profitable to argue these cases as the apocalyptics do.

    After all, based on one statement the entire revelation had to be written. Please accept my cynicism with regard to any prechristian and early christian authors who clearly do not test there cases leaving it to be tested by hobbyists like thee and me!

  2. Mythicist scholarship is not to be compared with real scholarship such as Dale Allison’s who concludes that Paul alludes to Gethsemane when Paul says that Christians cry out ‘Abba, Father’, because ‘cry out’ is such a striking phrase, well suited to descriptions of Jesus being distressed and agitated.

  3. I do note that the quotes do come from the period where humbug “medicine” raised its ugly head and the scientific method was in its infancy.

    I am glad that the quote was posted by Neil. The world was full of speculative buffoonery in 1910 and we still pay for its political climate today.

    Lets face it, the quality of research today was driven by industry. The quality of historical review has improved (albeit at a slower pace).

  4. In the problems with Wikipedia department, the link to Arthur Drews on Wikipedia comes complete with a big swastika and a note describing his contributions to the Nazi’s. Is that accurate?

    1. I don’t know any more than you do. When I read something I want to follow up I try to find the source. In Wikipedia there is a footnote to the source for that information, but do note that the statement is not to “Nazis” but to the German Faith Movement and the philosophy of Nazism. You can also check the history and the edits of the Wikipedia articles to see who has added this and that, and reasons are sometimes given, and problems with the information is also sometimes offered. That’s one of its superiorities to Encyclopedia Britannica.

      If he was a Nazi sympathizer then that’s a pity, but (does this really follow?) his work on mythicism predates World War 1. Nazism did not emerge as a significant presence till the 1930s when Drews was approaching 70. He died in 1935.

      I have read some scholarship attacking early mythicism and also certain liberal theology for promoting anti-semitism (a non-Jewish Jesus). Such social factors need to be in the back or one’s mind when judging material, just as they do today. The arguments need to be weighed in their own right, as well as tested to see how much of them stand apart from the social context of the time.

      Drews would not be the only academic of some significance to have been caught up with Nazism. The criminal politics and racism — even murderous — of a number of people who have made significant contributions to our intellectual progress in other ways is not restricted to the Nazi era of Germany. (One liberal theologian academic today seems so caught up in Southern Baptist politcal ambience that he even resorts to calling internet spammers “terrorists” and cannot even see the logic of a simple comment known to everyone else simply because he sees it is also quoted with the pen of a Marxist historian!)

      Having said that, and just to add rambling thoughts: I don’t know how far Drew’s Faith Movement involvement might have extended to the political party. I grew up beside Dutch neighbours (refugees from the War) who used to tell my parents that despite the atrocities, Hitler also did much good for the youth and social programs in Holland. I only say this to open the possibility that the the Pavlov-dog associations that buzz words like Nazi provoke in us may be oversimplifications. But don’t get me wrong. I loathe the racism and intolerance and mind-control tactics that are at the heart of Nazism. But I also think it is important to never forget that people are complex and people are people. They are not black and white goodies and baddies. (I am all for current movies and arts that seek to humanize Hitler. How else are we to ever acknowledge that he is one of us, a fellow human, and as such a warning to us all? We need to see him in us, and not project all our bads on to him.)

      I was fascinated with one documentary recently interviewing quite a number of Germans who had been in the Hitler Youth and various Nazi programs. The experiences they described struck me as so very like my own experience of becoming a member of a religious cult. The same emphasis and tactics of mind-control and right attitudes were all important. In hindsight they shared the same regrets at how they had been so misled.

      I live in South East Asia and so many places I walk around and visit I see swastikas blazoned on schools and charity organizations and various temples. It represents compassionate values for many in this part of the world, though admittedly it was a bit of a culture shock for me when I first arrived.

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