Updated an hour after initial posting.
There is no historical inquiry comparable to: “Did Julius Caesar exist?” That ought to tell us something about the nature of mainstream historical investigations — and also something about the evidence for a historical figure of Jesus as an originator of the Christian religion.
I have posted far more in depth articles and discussions from mainstream scholarly publications on this blog than anything by or about “mythicists”, and I have never posted what aspires to be a comprehensive argument for mythicism. I used to say I rejected the label “mythicist” because such a label implied that I was somehow dedicated to presenting arguments for the idea that Jesus was not a historical person. (How, then, to explain that I have posted very little on mythicism per se or on publications by mythicist authors, opting overwhelmingly for non-mythicist publications? I have actually read very little on mythicism. One can get some idea of my reading range and interests on my librarything page.)
I certainly do think those arguments that claim Christianity originating with a historical person of Jesus and a few followers after his death are implausible, romantic and circular. And I do believe that many mainstream biblical scholars are in denial over the circularity of their methods, and have opted to bypass and denigrate rather than address serious challenges to their culturally sanctioned historicist paradigms.
So I finally realized it is less confusing if I do not attempt to disown the label “mythicist”. But my interest is not with arguing a case for a mythical Jesus per se. If I do argue for this, it is always as part of a wider argument that is attempting to address a key question about the evidence we have for Christian origins.
That is why this blog does not generally post arguments for mythicism. I do, however, post on arguments about methods, the nature of the evidence, and on scholarly publications that do address what I consider relevant aspects of the evidence, and are in touch with key problems with general methodological assumptions that seem to prevail among many of their peers.
I have often posted over the years on literary criticism and analysis. It is one of my favourite areas of reading and investigation. I think it is absolutely vital for any historical investigation to grapple with this area in order to engage meaningfully with the documentary evidence. I don’t think I have read a single scholarly work on literary analysis by anyone who has suggested that Jesus was not historical, or that their literary analysis is an argument for “mythicism”.
The arguments I present stand apart from mythicism per se. At the same time I do believe that some of these arguments can be used in support of a mythicist case. But what is more important is what they potentially contribute to an understanding of Christian origins, specifically to the nature of the evidence for early Christianity.
That is the real quest. I have said before that my interest is historical. For me it is meaningless for a historian to seek whether this or that person existed in the past. I cannot see the point of that as an historical inquiry.
For me is the really meaningful question is “how to explain Christian origins”.
Whether there was a Jesus or Peter or Paul or none of the above at the start of it as far as historical explanation goes is not something that can be decided in advance. Attempts to discover a “historical Jesus” strike me as answering a cultural curiosity, and I suppose to that extent have a place. But that is surely a secondary question. It certainly is for me. Historical inquiry is about explanations of happenings and movements. Not about “Did Mrs Socrates really exist or not?”
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