What mythicists need is a competent, knowledgeable and intelligent historicist to challenge them. One who doesn’t resort to ad hominem or outright insult. One who doesn’t see “mythicism” in every nook and cranny — whether in creationism or the Piltdown man or even Shakespeare! — wherever he or she even half way suspects he/she just might possibly find it.
Recently I responded to one scholar who has picked up the anti-mythicist cause when he wrote:
There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.
I disagreed. I had referred to statements by historical Jesus scholars who have had the intellectual honesty to concede the circularity of their enterprise. (I have posted on these several times now — quotations by Albert Schweitzer, Stevan Davies and Dale C. Allison.)
I had pointed out that the evidence for the historicity of Socrates is not circular and referred to my earlier posts demonstrating this simple fact. We have multiple independent contemporary sources for the existence of Socrates — at least one from a devoted pupil and another from a scoffing playwright, one from a friend and one from a(n apparent) foe — and so the probability for the historical existence of Socrates is at least positive. Schweitzer lamented the fact that we have no comparable evidence for the historicity of Jesus since all the sources for Jesus are traced 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. (p. 402, 2001 edition of Quest) Continue reading “What mythicists need”