A mythical Jesus, or a “nobody” Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

A mythical Jesus, or a “nobody” Jesus.

I would like to know why the second would be so much preferable and acceptable to so many here than the first. I would like to have someone who so prefers to present us with the actual evidence for the second which is so much superior to the actual evidence for the first.

I would like to know just how one defines a “nobody” Jesus. Obviously, such a Jesus can be assigned virtually nothing that is portrayed of him in the Gospels, not just because it is now recognized that there is no history remembered in the Gospels, but if he were assigned anything remotely like we find in the Gospels, he wouldn’t be a “nobody.” If he is a “nobody” then he does not constitute the Jesus of Christianity, and would serve no purpose for it.

So why does everyone seem to get all warm and fuzzy for a “nobody” Jesus (at least, that’s what they convey), and foaming at the mouth against those who would postulate a mythical Jesus?

Or is this all a smokescreen? Will James McGrath tells us openly whether he subscribes to and finds acceptable the idea of a “nobody” Jesus? Will Mike Wilson? Tim O’Neill? Anyone else who regularly craps all over mythicism?

Earl Doherty

And by way of rejoinder to McGrath who wrote:

@Earl, what do you mean by a “nobody” Jesus?

Why, if the Gospel authors were not of the same caliber as professional historians, do you assume that they therefore couldn’t manage to do a poor job of writing history rather than assume that they must therefore have been writers of pure fiction?

Why do you accept Christian apologists’ claims about Jesus being prefigured in Isaiah 53, rather than the arguments of critical scholars as well as Jews in general pointing out that the alleged prefigurement is not as evident as Christians claim when they read their beliefs about the atonement and about Jesus back into that text?

Ask those who speak about a “nobody” Jesus (or with that implication) what they mean. I did, and am awaiting an answer. Generally speaking, though, I would define it as a figure who did some preaching (no one knows exactly what), talked about the end of the world, got himself killed (no one knows in what circumstances), performed no miracles, did not attract large crowds (therefore couldn’t have troubled the authorities overly much), did not have any great number of followers either before he died or afterwards, and certainly stayed dead. Nor do we even know his name. (Gee, and I wonder what led to the almost immediate conviction and preaching of him as the very Son of God, creator and sustainer of the universe, redeemer of mankind by walking out of his grave, and the abandonment of all interest in the earthly life of such a cosmic paragon. But I’m sure there must be some explanation lurking somewhere. Maybe Kris has one.)

So now, given that the Gospels contain no identifiable history, you fall back on the suggestion that, oh well, they tried, but the dummies were just too poor at it??? (I’m too floored to have anything I can say about that.)

I’m not accepting Christian apologists’ claims about anything, including Isaiah 53. But even I can read that passage and find a crucified Messiah in it, given the proper influences in the time of the earliest Christ cult and a disposition to want to come up with some kind of dying and rising salvation figure for my own circles. No one is saying that the earliest Christ-ers were justified in doing so, or that modern 21st century critical scholars would themselves to do so. Like I said, just because WE would not believe in something doesn’t mean the ancients wouldn’t.

Earl Doherty

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  • 2011-05-31 16:24:52 GMT+0000 - 16:24 | Permalink

    I think the fact of the matter is that a nobody Jesus is still a historical Jesus and is still a flesh and blood human being who walked the earth in first century Palestine. As a result, the possibility of a nobody Jesus which cannot be eliminated will always be sufficient to undermine mythicists who claim that their Jesus is the more probable than any other. A nobody Jesus may not be theologically satisfying, but he isn’t being used to do theology.

    • Geoff
      2011-06-01 03:56:37 GMT+0000 - 03:56 | Permalink

      That Jesus is an invented character is true. Why was he invented? Well I suppose that is what this blog is all about.

      So why do I say that Jesus was invented? It is because I believe that there was an original story behind the NT. The story has been chopped and changed. With no Jesus, the story takes-on a completely different meaning. It is a consistent story in the context of the first century Jewish priests and prophets, the Scrolls and ‘Josephus’. There are mythical added elements, but they appear to be fairly randomly arrived at.

    • 2011-06-01 06:41:59 GMT+0000 - 06:41 | Permalink

      I think a “nobody” Jesus could still be theologically satisfying. Like you said, this Jesus would still be a flesh and blood human being, and it only makes sense (for modern Christians as inheriters of the proto-Orthodox anti-docetism dogma) for a flesh and blood human being to die and rise again.

      So to cut to what’s really underlying this entire debate: A flesh and blood Jesus — no matter who or what he did or didn’t do — can still mean that Christianity is “true” in some sense. A mythical Jesus — again, for modern Christians — is the ultimate refutation of modern Christianity. Paul sums it up perfectly in 1 Corinthians 15:

      14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
      15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.
      17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
      18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
      19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    • rey
      2011-06-02 10:39:35 GMT+0000 - 10:39 | Permalink

      And it would be enough to explain why there’s this pesky trio of Peter, James, and John whom Paul is forced to admit were “apostles before me” whom he yet hates and says “they seem to be something” and “whatever they are makes no difference to me.” That Paul is not the first apostle destroys mythicism, because those who were apostles before him were not mythicists like him, they were not Gnostics, they were (in Paul’s language) Judaizers. So, a Judaizing “nobody” Jesus is more honest to the evidence (specifically Galatians) than a mythical Jesus. Schweitzer was right: We have two Jesuses, the historical Jesus (the Jesus of Peter, James, John, a ‘Judaizing’ teacher) and the Christ of faith (the Jesus of Paul, and the gospels, a Metatron gone wild cosmic being pretending to be a man).

  • Steven Carr
    2011-05-31 16:58:08 GMT+0000 - 16:58 | Permalink

    I think the idea is that there was a totally obscure Jesus who attracted little attention and had only a handful of followers.

    And that the Gospel writers were compelled to include all sorts of embarrassing information about this nobody (baptism, betrayal etc etc), because opponents already knew all this information about this obscure figure and so it had to be mentioned.

    To quote McGrath ‘That is why the criterion of embarrassment carries some weight. The things it recalls are presumably ones well-known enough that they could not, at least within the lifetime of the first generation, be ignored.’

    That’s the trouble with nobodies. They tend to be so well-known that even their supporters have to repeat all sorts of embarrassing gossip about them.

    But nobody really expects historicists to be consistent. The criterion of embarrassment is , I quote , ‘… why New Testament scholars set themselves such very hard tests like meeting the criterion of embarrassment.’

    Wow! Such rigour these NT scholars set themselves. Such ‘very hard tests’ for the data to meet…

    Of course a certain James McGrath is perfectly well aware that embarrassing material could easily be invented ‘And so that’s a good example of why someone might invent something embarrassing – to cover up something more embarrassing…’

    McGrath even craps over his own criterion of authenticity. Whenever he wants to talk out of that corner of his mouth….

    In one instant, the criterion of embarrassment is a ‘very hard test’. In the next, McGrath explains why embarrassing material might well be invented, rendering it useless.

    In one instant, Jesus is an obscure nobody. In the next, detailed information about his life is so well known that it is an elephant in the room that cannot be ignored.

    • 2011-05-31 18:46:15 GMT+0000 - 18:46 | Permalink

      Steven, do you have the links or references to those quotes by McGrath? I would like to do a post some time on the glandular methodologies of, and frenetic attacks by, the likes of the J McG and Tim O’N and these quotes might prove useful.

    • KevinC
      2011-06-01 00:10:50 GMT+0000 - 00:10 | Permalink

      In one instant, Jesus is an obscure nobody. In the next, detailed information about his life is so well known that it is an elephant in the room that cannot be ignored.

      My guess is that a historicist would answer that the “embarrassing details” would have been known to HJ’s opponents (who, by definition, would have heard of him), and to the little in-group of his followers. Retconned explanations would be necessary in writings addressed to those audiences even if the wider Judean and Roman societies were blissfully unaware of the teapot-tempest swirling around “Nobody Jesus.”

      Perhaps this could also be why, for people operating outside of the local Judean Jesus communities, like Paul and the other Epistle writers, rarely mention any life details apart from those that fit into their dying-rising god-man theology (born with the proper Messianic genetic pedigree, established the Sacred Meal, killed by the forces of evil, resurrected, and ascended to the heavens). Apart from those details, which they might have viewed as earthly shadows of the Christ’s action in the heavenly realms (as the Tabernacle on Earth was a copy of the Heavenly Sanctuary for the author of Hebrews), the rest of Nobody Jesus’ life was either too prosaic or too embarrassing to bother to report.

      The difference here being, that for their audiences in the Diaspora, the “embarrassing details” were not already known, and emphasis on the earthly life of HJ/NJ would only lend further credibility to those who knew him personally, whom Paul (not necessarily the other Epistle writers though) had an interest in de-emphasizing. Plus, (as I understand the historicist position) the people who knew HJ were also Nobodies, mostly ignorant, illiterate yokels that educated and cosmopolitan Diaspora Jews (not to mention Gentiles) would prefer to avoid deferring to.

      This is the opposite of the historicist argument given by McGrath (Paul’s audience knew the HJ tradition so well he never needed to make any reference to it), but I don’t consider that argument to be credible. For one thing, Paul and the other Epistle writers make frequent reference to well-known characters from the Hebrew Scriptures (Adam, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Moses, David, etc.) and their stories. It seems likely to me that these, being the classic tales passed down for centuries among Jews and “God-fearing” Gentiles, would be even more well-known than an HJ tradition. The same “disincentive to mention” (why waste precious ink and parchment?) would apply even more strongly in their case.

    • 2011-06-02 00:42:04 GMT+0000 - 00:42 | Permalink

      So why does everyone seem to get all warm and fuzzy for a “nobody” Jesus (at least, that’s what they convey), and foaming at the mouth against those who would postulate a mythical Jesus?

      I have been thinking about this question for awhile and I cannot help but think that it reflects some hostility to the “warm and fuzzy feelings” that people get from religion.

  • Steven Carr
    2011-05-31 18:04:55 GMT+0000 - 18:04 | Permalink

    Why, if the Gospel authors were not of the same caliber as professional historians, do you assume that they therefore couldn’t manage to do a poor job of writing history rather than assume that they must therefore have been writers of pure fiction?

    Does McGrath think the Gospel writers just did a poor job of writing the history of the birth narratives, and that these narratives are not ‘pure fiction’?

    How does McGrath know which bits are ‘pure fiction’ and which are not simply the results of ‘a poor job of writing history’?

    We know that the Gospel writers were capable of writing ‘pure fiction’, unless McGrath is keen on the idea of Jesus talking to Satan in the desert.

    So how does McGrath know that the bits that even he cannot sell to himself as history are the only bits which are ‘pure fiction, and that some of the rest contains history?

    • KevinC
      2011-06-01 00:16:39 GMT+0000 - 00:16 | Permalink

      We know that the Gospel writers were capable of writing ‘pure fiction’, unless McGrath is keen on the idea of Jesus talking to Satan in the desert.

      LOL! But Paul never mentions it because everybody knew about it even though no one was there to see it. 😉

      • KevinC
        2011-06-01 00:37:15 GMT+0000 - 00:37 | Permalink

        This brings to mind Galatians 3:1 (RSV):

        You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!

        In what sense would a historical crucifixion outside of Jerusalem have taken place “before the eyes” of people living in Asia Minor? This sounds like some kind of re-enactment or Passion play. Paul seems to be treating this “exhibition” (of whatever sort) to be an ultimate clobber-fact for his argument, as if the Galatians were “eyewitnesses” of the Crucifixion. Does this passage provide an argument that Paul did not think of the Crucifixion as a historic event that happened in a specific place and time, but as something his audience in Galatia had, in some sense, “seen” themselves (mystically or otherwise, as in a Passion play or Initiation ceremony)?

        • John
          2011-06-01 02:22:14 GMT+0000 - 02:22 | Permalink

          The key word here is “exhibited,” which is elsewhere translated as “portrayed,” with the Greek having the sense of being something written about beforehand:
          I take this to mean that the Galatians had been taught about the crucifixion in Paul’s usual manner, through interpretation of the OT. This is why he goes on to say, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? … Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (3:2-5).

          • 2011-06-01 13:21:14 GMT+0000 - 13:21 | Permalink

            Yeah, I made a post about this word in my own blog. Paul uses the same word (προεγραφη/proegraphe) in Romans 15:4 but the translators obviously don’t translate that instance as “portrayed” or “exhibited”:

            “For everything that was written (proegraphe) in the past was written (egraphe) to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

            • John
              2011-06-01 22:05:19 GMT+0000 - 22:05 | Permalink

              Alright. Regardless of the translation (and I didn’t mean to imply that
              “portrayed” was more accurate, only that I don’t usually see it as “exhibited”), then you know that the Greek has the sense of something written beforehand.

              I think I understand how you’re approaching this now, as your question was:

              “In what sense would a historical crucifixion outside of Jerusalem have taken place “before the eyes” of people living in Asia Minor?”

              So you’re only wondering about the “before your eyes” part. Now I get it.

              I still have the same answer, though:

              “I take this to mean that the Galatians had been taught about the crucifixion in Paul’s usual manner, through interpretation of the OT. This is why he goes on to say, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? … Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (3:2-5).”

              So I’m thinking that this “hearing with faith” of Paul’s interpretation of the OT would have happened “before [their] eyes,” but maybe there is something more to it than that.

              • rey
                2011-06-02 10:53:53 GMT+0000 - 10:53 | Permalink

                Could be visual experience induced by a hallucinogen like the pagan mystery cults used in their mysteries. Paul does constantly use the word ‘mystery.’ The eucharist is known (thanks to Ireneaus) as having been used by a certain Gnostic leader “Markus the Magician” as a means by which to transmit hallucinogens that would induce speaking in tongues and “prophecy.” Howbeit, Ireneaus thinks Markus does this through magic that he possesses due to demon possession, but it is clear on reading the account that he is using hallucinogens. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xiv.html (The account in Ireneaus)

              • John
                2011-06-02 23:01:48 GMT+0000 - 23:01 | Permalink

                This sounds like a great pick up line:

                “I am eager to make thee a partaker of my Charis…”

        • rey
          2011-06-02 10:42:20 GMT+0000 - 10:42 | Permalink

          It could provide some teeth to Stephan Huller’s suggestion that the term ‘Galatian’ as Paul is using it is a religious order not a place.

          • rey
            2011-06-02 10:44:28 GMT+0000 - 10:44 | Permalink

            But the real question is, even if the ‘Galatians’ had been in Jerusalem and seen Jesus get crucified….how would that convince them that Paul’s idiotic doctrine of justification by faith alone is correct and that the ‘Judaizing’ apostles, Peter, James, and John, who Paul admits were apostles before him, are wrong? Paul is just so prone to really dumb arguments.

  • vader
    2011-05-31 18:44:11 GMT+0000 - 18:44 | Permalink

    Assuming a HJ existed, then it is possible he was a significant person but in no way resembles the Jesus of the gospels or influenced Christianity. IMHO the most likely such Jesus would be Jewish, Nationalistic and Apocalyptic. His ministry was carried on by his family. Any organization that was influenced by such a Jesus would have been destroyed by the Romans or the orthodox and any writings destroyed or suffered terminal neglect.

    A third possibility exists. Mythical, nobody and nothing like that Jesus recorded by the orthodox.

    • 2011-07-26 03:30:05 GMT+0000 - 03:30 | Permalink

      Few seem to add the destruction not just of the Temple (the center of Jesus spiritul life) but virtually all of the city of Jerusalem and more than half the population. The Messiah of the OT was to come to be triumphant over the enemies of the Jews. Out of such total choas comes over 70 gospels mostly written afterwards. Not Paul though a huge difference very little theology before the fall of the temple. Its easy to write about a prediction having come true after the event.

      Also why so many magic numbers. Harpur starts a list. the Moon is out of the sky for 3 days a month, 3 nights in the grave, 3 denials, 3 cock crowsm3 forms of god, 3 crucified, 3 judgements, 3 wise men, 3 days with Mary and Joseph, and so many more 3’s and other magic numbers. History or a signal to thoughtful readers?

      Nobody? Like a Billy Graham was a nobody. If he was accepted at his 12th birthday as an acceptional person at the Temple the very heart of Judaism much like a Dalai Lama of his time and then performed miracles unlike any human before or since. Yet the only 3rd party records in existence are extremely ambiguous to say the least.

      • 2011-07-26 08:12:27 GMT+0000 - 08:12 | Permalink

        A likely scenario in my mind is that Christianity as we understand it emerged as a response to the destruction of 70 c.e. (Another response was rabbinic Judaism and we seen anachronistic evidence of rivalry between this and Christianity in the gospels.) Jesus/Joshua is the spiritual successor to the Mosaic cult, he is the metaphor of the Temple or spiritual replacement of the temple, the burial in the tomb was itself an image built on Isaiah’s depiction of the destruction of the Temple (http://vridar.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/the-post-70-construction-of-jesus-tomb/ ). The teachings and values expressed are those of a dispossessed and shattered people looking for salvation through a renewed identity out of the destruction of the old.

        It is an old story, repeated throughout the Old Testament. New Israel is always looking back to learn from the sins of the old. Mark’s gospel was not a revolutionary break but a continuation of the way Jewish scriptures and experiences had always been interpreted. Okay, it was a revolutionary break, but it did not come out of the left field.

  • KevinC
    2011-06-01 01:19:19 GMT+0000 - 01:19 | Permalink

    So why does everyone seem to get all warm and fuzzy for a “nobody” Jesus (at least, that’s what they convey), and foaming at the mouth against those who would postulate a mythical Jesus?

    I’m sure a historicist would say something like, “It has nothing to do with being ‘warm and fuzzy’ for a ‘nobody’ Jesus, it’s just that the evidence for a relatively obscure HJ (James, the brother of the Lord/Jesus called Christ in Paul and Josephus, multiple attestation of details like crucifixion and burial in a tomb, etc.) is compelling enough to treat his historicity as a fact. We froth at the mouth at you guys because you persistently deny all this ironclad evidence.”

    Liberal Christian: “Nobody Jesus is appealing because, here we have this person who was insignificant by all ordinary standards, yet his message of Big Huggy Bunches of Love is just so powerful that he’s the most influential person in all of history! That’s the real miracle of Christ. Also, this.

    Fundamentalist Christian: “Actually, a ‘Nobody Jesus’ is almost as blasphemous to us as your ‘Mythical Jesus,’ but at least with NJ William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas can invoke mainstream scholarship’s acceptance of the Four Minimal Facts (or is it Five? Three, sir!) about Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial, empty tomb, and resurrection appearances as proof that a miraculous resurrection must have happened.

    Other side of the coin: To my knowledge, most mythicists are staunch atheists (plus some neo-Gnostics like Freke and Gandy). Why would Jesus mythicism be more appealing to an atheist than Nobody Jesus? If mythicism is true, then a wholly-spiritual “channeled entity Jesus” would not be incompatible with Christianity; it would be the original, authentic version! But a wholly spiritual Jesus is not debunkable. Christians could just go on saying “Jesus lives in my heart! Warm fuzzies! Mmmmm!” and atheists would lose all the historical counter-arguments, like “Why didn’t anybody notice this miracle-working superhero, the Sun shutting off when he died, the zombie invasion of Jerusalem and all that stuff?”

    Could it be argued that a historical NJ ought to be more appealing to atheists* than a mythical (or as Christians returning to the authentic original would say, “spiritual”) Christ?

    *Not that “appeal” actually matters in a question of truth.

  • Robert
    2011-06-01 01:31:38 GMT+0000 - 01:31 | Permalink

    Kevin, if appeal actually mattered in this instance, you might have a point. Personally, I could care less what anyone believes. What is interesting, is what actually happened.

  • John
    2011-06-01 01:36:56 GMT+0000 - 01:36 | Permalink

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I feel like jumping in just to see how my thinking might fit into the discussion.

    My guess is that if Jesus did exist, then he was a “hidden” Jesus, a result of what may have been the practice of James’ group to keep their doctrines secret, like the Dead Sea Scrolls sect, the Essenes and James’ group in the Clementine literature, as I’ve been suggesting here recently.

    But whoever Jesus “was” or whatever “he” may have meant to James’ group, if he was a real person then I wouldn’t think that he was a “nobody,” only that the details of his life were unknown to people outside the group. This need for secrecy may have been to prevent corruption of their teachings, as it says in the Clementine literature, but it is also understandable because of the evidence of the persecution of early
    “Christians” by authorities, something that is arguable even if we only use the letters of Paul and James, though there is also a later tradition of persecution of “the Lord’s family” in Hegesippus, who was said to have known the Gospel of the Hebrews and “other matters as coming from Jewish oral tradition” (EH 4.22), and also seems to have known ideas found in the letter of James and regarded them as pertaining to “the Lord’s brother.”

    And since the story of Jesus (mythically or not) involves crucifixion, if this actually took place on earth it would further indicate the climate of persecution that the early “Jesus” movement lived in and their need for secrecy. I think this threat also explains why the Dead Sea Scrolls sect, who were also messianic, practiced secrecy and used code names, and yet, even though they did this, they were still destroyed (or severely disrupted) by Rome, as were the “Zealots,” whose main motivation for starting the war with Rome, according to Josephus, was “an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth” (War 6.312).

    These kinds of things illustrate how “uncool” it was to have messianic beliefs in this time period (as early “Christians” did), and the lengths that Rome would go to destroy anyone who held them.

    Consider also that we don’t have any details about the “life” of whoever was important enough to the Dead Sea Scrolls sect to write: “[Now hear me, all my sons, and I will speak] about that Wisdom which God gave me … [For He gave me the Kn]owledge of Wisdom and instruc[tion] to teach [all the sons of Truth] … [Blessed is he who walks] with a pure heart and who doesn’t slander with his Tongue. Blessed are they who hold fast to her Laws and do not hold to the ways of Evil. Bless[ed] are they who rejoice in her and do not overflow with the ways of folly. Blessed are they who ask for her with clean hands and do not seek her with a deceitful [heart]. Blessed is the man who grasps hold of Wisdom and walks in the torah of the Most High [etc.] … Now my sons, he[ar my voice and do] not turn aside [from the words of my mouth …]” (4Q525 Eisenman and Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered p. 175), and others like this. When was this guy born? What was his childhood like? What did he do for a living? What color was his hair? Wouldn’t they be interested in this stuff?

  • vader
    2011-06-01 02:03:18 GMT+0000 - 02:03 | Permalink

    The reason for a lot of the heat and light of the HJ is the lack of tangible or primary historical evidence and crappy secondary evidence. This leads to analysis of bits and pieces and bias can color that analysis.

    I think most Christians are disconnected from history anyway except marginally at Easter and Christmas. The gap between iron age society and modern society is too great for the average pew setter to really appreciate. The problem is that without tangible or primary historical evidence to prove the mythical hypothesis, then any apologist can attack it with impunity especially if that hypothesis needs a large book to explain it and is politicized by being advocated by vocal atheists.

    The question of a historical Jesus is really a mote issue, the real question is how did Christianity develop and how did the orthodox flavor acquire sufficient resources to be attractive to a rebel claimant to emperor.

  • Mike Wilson
    2011-06-01 17:14:37 GMT+0000 - 17:14 | Permalink

    Earl, first and with no sarcasm (a poor cousin to humor I have heard), I would like to thank you for listing me with McGrath and O’Neill, both of whom are far above me in terms of knowledge on this subject (Bernard though is peeved you left him out even though he also craps on mythicism. I attribute this to the fact that my self McGrath and O’Neill all have Celtic names thus relegates anti-mythicism to some weird Scotch-Irish thing).

    Now regarding your questions, to the first, “A mythical Jesus, or a “nobody” Jesus.
    I would like to know why the second would be so much preferable and acceptable to so many here than the first.”

    On preference and acceptability, as a personal note, as in why I emotionally like it, that is a mixed bag. While i suppose one would like to think there was really a person as nobler as the one described, and that is doubtless what drives people like Crosaan, and probably McGrath, i find it has a dark flip side, in that many of the people like him in history have been scoundrels. A real Jesus has a very real chance, I think, in being a scumbag who manipulated people with noble sentiments to live off them like a parasite. I think, also, I’m attracted to myths having a reality behind them, always have. Part of me likes to think that so and so from some myth was based on a real person or event, it has a romantic tinge for me. However, i am not above setting aside beloved ideas of historical veracity to find a myth underneath. For instance, I did a paper a couple of semester ago arguing that Griffins were not based on dinosaur bones but on earlier myths of bird-lions. I loved the the dinosaur theory when I first saw it, I love dinosaurs, but evidence said otherwise. You have to keep an open mind about everything.

    On the impersonal side, I try to keep blog post short, and I’m sure someone else has mentioned their evidences for Jesus before, and if not, I first direct you to http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/thirty-theses-plausible-propositions-for-the-existence-of-a-historical-jesus/

    The “actual evidence” of course is locked in a Vatican vault with the original Ten Commandments and a box of old “Mad” magazines.

    Question two, “I would like to know just how one defines a “nobody” Jesus.”
    Personally, I think if Jesus did everything attributed to him in the gospels, we still wouldn’t have much expectation of having a contemporary account. I know what about the dead saints wandering the streets of Jerusalem in Matthew? well, Jesus was dead, and so he can’t be blamed for that. But seriously, what did he do? Had 5,000 people listen to him on a couple of occasions? “healed” people, raise the “dead”, cast out “demons”? How many people would have seen him walk on water or knew a storm stopped on his command? Often I read something in some back woods Nigerian or Indian paper about a witch doctor or Guru doing something miraculous, and I don’t rush out to investigate, I doubt many intelligent people do. Even my grandfather, superstitious as he was, assumed faith healers were frauds. People in Jesus time were probably a bit more gullible, but I doubt that the people with the resources to publish in that age would have devoted a lot of space to all the magicians and prophets that doubtless roamed all over the empire. It might be mysterious that he went unnoticed had he destroyed Jericho or snapped Pilate’s neck during the trial, or if he healed every one in Judea and raised all the dead of Galilee, but I have nothing that would suggest that I should expect that of a historic Jesus. Personally, I am not that concerned what the church does with nobody Jesus, but if you want to pitch Jesus Myth as a theological solution to replace the churches current Jesus myth, go ahead, but I think it makes bad history.

    On warm and fuzzy, I think I answered that above. As for foaming at the mouth, generally I think the consensus is it is a dumb idea from the past, and one gets the impression that not many have really thought about it much recently. Of course internet fans have brought it back to some prominence, but since it hasn’t received any(Carrier and Price are statistical insignificant) scholarly support there has been the urge on the part of some mythacist to claim the scholarly community is corrupt as the only way to explain why something they think is obvious hasn’t been accepted. So it isn’t surprising Jesus myth isn’t as well received on the emotional level as gay Jesus, Buddhist Jesus, or any other ideas that haven’t caught on, they dont have Evans and Neils.

    In brief, “So now, given that the Gospels contain no identifiable history” is that a given?
    “But even I can read that passage and find a crucified Messiah in it”, but your familiar with the Gospels, so it is easy for you to read it into other things.

    “just because WE would not believe in something doesn’t’t mean the ancients wouldn’t.” Sure, its possible that someone thought of the passion after reading Isaiah, but we don’t have any evidence outside of your theory Christianity that anyone did, and given how little it matches with the passion story, it is simpler to imagine someone applying the passion to Isaiah than to imagine someone getting the passion out of Isaiah.

    • Steven Carr
      2011-06-01 17:34:42 GMT+0000 - 17:34 | Permalink

      ‘Often I read something in some back woods Nigerian or Indian paper about a witch doctor or Guru doing something miraculous, and I don’t rush out to investigate, I doubt many intelligent people do’

      Of course, the standard historicist claim is that details of the life of Jesus were so well known that the Gospel writers had to include all sorts of embarrassing stuff.

      Jesus was so totally unnoticed during his time that the Romans had to crucify him. That’s the trouble with being a nobody. It brings you to the attention of the state.

      But nobody expects historicists to be able to explain the origin of Christianity. So far, we have that there was this obscure guy, crucified for some reason nobody can fathom as he went unnoticed in his lifetime, and then something weird happened and his followers started saying he was exalted to God’s right hand, and they persuaded people a thousand miles away to follow this nobody, who apparently knew he was going to be betrayed and told his followers how to conjure up his body in a ritual meal ( as Jewish preachers are famous for doing….)

      • vader
        2011-06-02 00:04:58 GMT+0000 - 00:04 | Permalink

        I fear that the evidence is such that when sifted we get just a name and a probability of existence that is more dependent on bias than empirical evidence.

        • 2011-06-02 07:37:29 GMT+0000 - 07:37 | Permalink

          You are very optimistic.

          “Just a name”? If we can identify literary (OT) sources for many of the miracles and other acts of Jesus, and we can see puns in the names of so many characters and scenes (e.g. Peter, Jairus, Capernaum, Bethsaida . . .), is it not reasonable to think that Jesus/Joshua himself is a name chosen for it significance as the successor to the Mosaic cult (c.f. the Book of Hebrews). Note also the power of its gematria, not unimportant in those days, and for which we do have evidence in several of the Gospels.

          “A probability of existence”? Albert Schweitzer was not so optimistic when he wrote:

          “Moreover, in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater because all the reports about him go back to the one source of tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls. Thus the degree of certainty cannot even be raised so high as positive probability.”

  • 2011-07-26 08:34:33 GMT+0000 - 08:34 | Permalink


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