A Profession of Faith — The Historical Jesus Creed

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by Tim Widowfield

Dr. Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

Presumably as a lead-up to the publishing of Is This Not the Carpenter? Thomas L. Thompson (as we mentioned earlier on Vridar) has published a rebuttal to Ehrman’s misleading statements in Did Jesus Exist? You’ve probably already read Thompson’s piece, “Is This Not the Carpenter’s Son? — A Response to Bart Ehrman,” but you may have missed the hilarious follow-up dialog that appeared later on.

A challenger appears

Our favorite anti-mythicist crusader, the Battling Bantam from Butler, James F. McGrath writes:

In referring to the existence of a historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth as an “assumption” rather than a historical conclusion, Thompson is either siding with the mythicists, or trying to have his cake and eat it too, or ignoring what Ehrman wrote, or some combination of the above

Thompson, says McGrath, can’t have it both ways. He’s either fer us or he’s agin’ us.

N.B.: Any discussion of the historical Jesus must be presented as a historical conclusion. You have been warned.

McGrath continues:

In writing about this topic, Thompson had a wonderful opportunity to clarify his own position and distance himself from those internet crackpots sometimes referred to as “mythicist” [sic] who comment on matters of history about which they are inadequately informed, engage in extremes of parallelomania which seem like a parody of the worst examples of scholarship from a bygone era, and in other ways do something that would be helpful in relation to this subject. That opportunity seems to me to have been squandered.

For Dr. Jimmy the thought of missing the chance to slam mythicists is a tragedy, a waste, a squandered opportunity.

Thompson replies:

Dear James McGrath,

In an article (‘The Historiography of the Pentateuch: 25 Years after Historicity’ Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 13, 1999, 258-283) I have discussed why I think it is very difficult to establish the historicity of figures in biblical narrative, as the issue rather relates to the quality of texts one is dealing with. I work further on this issue in my Messiah Myth of 2005. Here I argue that the synoptic gospels can hardly be used to establish the historicity of the figure of Jesus; for both the episodes and sayings with which the figure of Jesus is presented are stereotypical and have a history that reaches centuries earlier. I have hardly shown that Jesus did not exist and did not claim to. Rather, I compared our knowledge about Jesus to our knowledge of figures like Homer. As soon as we try to identify such an historical figure, we find ourselves talking about the thematic elements of stories.

I do not distance myself from ‘mythicists’ as I do not see this term as referring to any scholars I know.

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

That’s a pretty straightforward answer from Thompson. But it isn’t good enough for James, who (as we have seen before) has trouble with reading comprehension.

Jimmy read a book!


McGrath responds:

Thomas, I am happy to hear that you do not place any scholarly views, including your own, into the category of the internet-based and self-published mythicists, and likewise do not consider the views of the latter scholarship.

You can’t accuse Jimmy of squandering an opportunity. He continues with a lot of the same blah-blah boilerplate, and finally concludes with this:

The point I took away from your book is that Jesus is presented through the lens of and in stereotypes derived from the already-existing mythology related to the Davidic anointed one. No mainstream historian should deny that, and to my knowledge none of them do. But this point seems to me relevant to the present discussion precisely because one of the major reasons that for thinking that there was a historical Jesus, other than those I’ve already mentioned, is the fact that those sources which narrate stories about him contain things which it is hard to imagine anyone concocting if their aim was to tell a story of someone who fit the expectations about precisely such a Davidic anointed one.

Here we see the dire effects brought on by the Anxiety of Historicity. Lacking an explicit denial, James is uncertain and unhappy. I encourage you go and read the subsequent responses from Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche — especially the one from Thompson that begins: “You misuse my remarks . . .

James has an excellent point. How can we tell whether somebody is properly anti-mythicist if they aren’t clear about it up front? How do we know whether to disregard books we haven’t read yet? How can we be sure that heretical information doesn’t pollute our minds?



That’s the key — confession! We must require that scholars (and any “serious” amateur on the web) sign on to a confession of faith, before they speak or write. And just mumbling something about Jesus being probable won’t do. As we know, the confession of HJ Truth entails much, much more. We “know” certain “facts” (i.e., articles of faith) that must be presented as undeniable truths.  As McGrath puts it, we need to start with the “historical conclusion.”

Well, as they say, if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. I therefore humbly present my first draft of The Fossils’ Creed.

We believe in one historical Jesus,
Born in Nazareth, sometime before Christ;
That he was baptized by John,
Called twelve disciples,
And preached in parables.
He went to Jerusalem and caused a disturbance —
Just bad enough to get him arrested,
But not all that bad, so his disciples were let go —

And the Roman authority had him crucified.
Later, for reasons we haven’t quite yet worked out,
His disciples thought he was resurrected,

We also believe that Paul knew Jesus’ disicples
And learned from them, no matter what he said.
Finally, the gospels, while written decades later,
Contain authentic material from the rich oral tradition.
Because, why would anybody make it up?

I can’t imagine why anyone would have any objection to reciting this creed at least once daily, and signing his or her name to a notarized copy, which will be kept on file for later reference.

For brownie points, I know McGrath will also want to sign onto The Anti-Mythicist Pledge:

I pledge to oppose mythicists at every opportunity,
To impugn their integrity,
To doubt their honesty,
To question their sanity,
To belittle their ability,
To sneer at their credentials,
To ignore them if possible,
To shout them down if necessary,
And if they fight back,
To act surpised and withdraw petulantly.
So help me God.

Of course, the pledge should be encouraged, but remain voluntary. But the creed is a no-brainer. It’s the only way to ensure conformity to orthodoxy. Otherwise, it appears as if they’re condoning independent thought.

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Tim Widowfield

Tim is a retired vagabond who lives with his wife and multiple cats in a 20-year-old motor home. To read more about Tim, see our About page.

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74 thoughts on “A Profession of Faith — The Historical Jesus Creed”

  1. Tim:

    The pledge is superb. Straight from Hoffmann’s mouth.
    It should be recited upfront before any conversation with any apologist. As a magic formula to guard against vain hopes.

    The creed is a good try, but can be perfected with a Wiki input from everybody around.
    It does not yet reach the punch and tone of the real McCoy from Nicaea.

    It’s so depressing to read always the same boilerplate blah-blah-blah from McGrath. At least Hoffmann forced you to wonder what on earth he was trying to say. With McGrath the pedestrian rant from anti-mythicism 101 is too stultifying for words.
    I’ve always thought that people like Doherty or Thompson who deign engaging with him are giving him too much honor and credit. Probably the reason he tries to provoke them.
    Well, good sparring partners are hard to find int this field.

    I was recently rereading this remarkable book by Arthur Drews, the Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus (1912), with a chapter on “The “Uniqueness” and “Uninventibility” of the Gospel Portrait of Jesus”. Drews reviews all the arguments from the leading scholars of the time on the same subject, and each one is more fun and interesting to read than McGrath.

    Contrary to what many modern scholars so smugly think, the quality of scholarship 100 years ago was on average far superior to what we are now reading. Yes, the quantity of material on which modern scholars practice their unending hairsplitting has increased considerably, and the sheer number of scholars has also increased tremendously.

    But in terms of quality of thinking, sharpness of vision and vividness and directness of expression, the old scholars were far superior. I simply take Hoffmann, Ehrman and McGrath as comparisons. None writes as well, to the point and cogently as Couchoud, Drews, or Schweitzer, for instance.

    Anyway that’s my personal opinion. I feel that standards have degraded, not increased. Mencken is another good example. And McGrath another. Only the mass of information to ingest and digest has increased exponentially. One of the main complaints is: “But you haven’t even read my books!” This should deserve a line in the pledge.

    Funnily enough, if you follow opera, the same thing happened with opera singers. The quality of singing has not improved, and, similarly, the quality of analysis and writing of today’s biblical scholars has not improved either.

    1. I’ve always thought the best writers make things easy on their readers. Have you ever read something written so clearly and so brilliantly that it’s almost as if you aren’t even aware of the fact that you’re reading? — as if the writer’s thoughts are entering your brain like Philip K. Dick’s pink laser beam? That’s the (probably unattainable) goal.

      Unfortunately, academics in many fields are encouraged to write badly, with long, twisting sentences, weighed down with big words that they barely understand themselves. I’m reminded once again of Paul Krugman’s apt observation: “Newt Gingrich is what stupid people think smart people sound like.”

    2. “But in terms of quality of thinking, sharpness of vision and vividness and directness of expression, the old scholars were far superior.”

      I agree, but the field back then was not so insanely stratified as it is now. Every educated man had a good grasp of the Greek and Latin classics and easily worked those ideas into Biblical history and criticism. My impression reading today’s Bible scholars is that most of them have only a superficial knowledge of, or interest in, the classics. They don’t have time, because biblical scholarship is too immense. You could spend four to eight years on the Dead Sea Scrolls alone!

  2. You forgot to work in the most important verse in The Fossils’ Creed:

    Paul said Jesus was born of a woman,
    and he met James the brother of the Lord

    Thus to paraphrase Ehrman (and now Hoffmann), “Paul wrote it, I believe it, that settles it!”

      1. The student don has a very low tonal intelligence, regularly reading the wrong tone into posts arguing a point he is opposed to. I believe he even interpreted my “fight club” post as loving or encouraging mudslinging!

      1. Tim,
        Using “Donny” may also be “jocular”, but I have less respect for posts that resort to put-downs, even if they might be deserved. It just leaves a bad taste for me.

      2. Tim, no I didn’t understand that. Maybe the fault is mine, but your post comes across as more putdown than jocular. How is repeated use of “Jimmy” jocular? It lends support to Hoffman’s comment on his blog: http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/a-farewell-to-vridar-and-the-gang-of-four/#comments

        “Serious discussion on the Vridar site is always drowned in (flubbed) point-scoring come-backs as though scholarship was an endless slanging match. Attempts to correct, explain, amplify or inform are slapped down by a cult so hysterically self-righteous that they must spend the time they don’t use making mistakes (limited, to be sure) high-fiving each other for insult. It is less like a meeting place for serious debate than an animal house food fight. No wonder the site is relegated–not that it matters–to the “Fringe dwellers and conspiracy theorists” locker in Biblioblogs, which I hasten to add is not a serious measure of anything.”

        1. That’s interesting. You know when Hoffmann came in swaggering, knocking over chairs and a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’, I just knew this wouldn’t end well.

          Check his comments from the 10 July, with lines like “a morphological lexicon that you couldn’t use even if you had it” and “I suspect that if you are only working with interlinear translations and dictionaries you don’t know much about morphology, do you?”

          And understand my point of view: I don’t mind the rough talk. Hell, I spent four years in the Strategic Air Command. But I assumed he was setting the tone. He wanted to talk smack? OK. Let’s go. Let’s see if he can take it.

          As late as the 11th he was throwing his weight around, slapping his thigh and saying, “And what is ‘the literaure’ — some sort of scholarly magisterium you have access to as a neophyte?” Yee-haw!

          So what happened? Hoffmann got mad, picked up his toys, and went home to Mommy because reyjacobs noticed something totally obvious that the rest of us had missed:

          If ‘under the law’ means ‘not a bastard’ then we would have: Jesus was born ‘not a bastard’ so that he could save those who also were ‘not bastards.’ Based on your translation, then, Jesus doesn’t save bastards. Is that what Paul means?

          I had just finished an excruciatingly long comment about causal verbs, but when I looked at reyjacobs’ post, I said to myself, “Oh. Duh.”

          Up until that point, we had been sniping at each other, with Hoffmann calling us incompetent buffoons. But from then on he started backpedaling. Even his insults seemed off the mark: “. . .he [Paul] knew Englsh–and verse numbers did he?” He even accidentally called me by name. A disturbing sign to be sure.

          And then he left. Go back and see if I ever complained about his abusive behavior. I didn’t, because I don’t care. But when we refused to bow down and worship the great man, and when we finally clearly showed his “Bastard Theory of Galatians 4” simply doesn’t hold water, he got upset and left.

          Hoffy writes: “. . . as though scholarship was an endless slanging match.” Seriously? He never once treated this exercise as an exchange of scholarly ideas. He came in looking for a brawl. He got one.

          Hoffy writes: “Attempts to correct, explain, amplify or inform are slapped down . . .” He did not correct; he ridiculed. He did not explain; he pontificated. He did not amplify; he screamed. He did not inform; he dictated.

          And finally, one last time. That’s OK! I’m not complaining. R Joseph Hoffmann can come back any time, and maybe this time he’ll really try to correct, explain, amplify, and inform. I’d love that.

          The only thing I would ask is that he explain what he meant by writing yimakh shemo — as if Hebrew were some secret code that only scholars know. Maybe there’s a joke there that I don’t understand.

    1. Anal-retentiveness. Have you heard of it? It’s a myth in fact, but an applicable concept for some finicky habits?
      Have you heard of comic relief? That after reading McGrath we need to reconnect with good healthy common sense and need an outlet to vent out our frustrations at the obtuseness still reigning in this world?
      Have you read Shxpr and some of his jokes?
      And what about Mozart and his famous canons, for instance K. 231 “Leck mich im Arsch
      Or the even more entertaining K. 233 “Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber”

      What’s good for Mozart and Shxpr is good enough for us.

      Reading the Pledge works wonders for the mind. It’s reading McGrath which is a sad downer.

  3. It’s fascinating to watch the people who presumably condemn past church atrocities like the Index Librorum Prohibitorum now so eagerly compile their own Lists, in which the Wrath of God is replaced with the Wrath of the Bible Scholar, and with Internet blogs instead of printed books.

  4. McGrath has not given up yet and continues to bash away at mythicism: no-one is allowed to opine that it is “more likely that Jesus did not exist” though he will tolerate a “principled” stand that “there is little if anything we can be certain about” comparable historical figures:

    For what it’s worth I sent the following comment to that same thread:

    It is heartening to see in the discussion above Thomas L Thompson getting to what is surely the core of the historical enterprise itself — i.e. understanding and explaining the evidence as we have it rather than trying to argue for or against the historicity of a person behind a literary figure within that evidence.

    First understand the nature of what we are reading, and how this evidence we have helps us understand Christian origins.

    The question of whether Jesus is an historical figure or not is surely a secondary one and can only be validly approached after we fully grasp the nature of our evidence.

    But so much historical Jesus scholarship appears to have plunged into the question of Jesus with untested assumptions that the evidence must necessarily be a gateway to such a figure. To an outsider like myself it appears that NT scholars are not always talking to one another. Those that are specializing in explaining the sorts of documents the gospels are so often appear to get only half a nod among those who are confidently using them as source material for constructs external to their narratives.

    1. Neil, looks like your post is now on Thompson’s blog.

      Neil: “McGrath has not given up yet and continues to bash away at mythicism: no-one is allowed to opine that it is “more likely that Jesus did not exist””

      How do you get this from what McGrath wrote? He posted:

      “… mythicists who are the focus of Bart Ehrman’s book… who make claims that simply do not fit the evidence, such as that Paul believed that Jesus had been born of a woman, crucified and buried in a celestial realm.”

      McGrath isn’t opining against those saying Jesus did not exist, but rather those making claims that don’t fit the evidence. You may argue with him on that, but it seems a fairly straight-forward point to me. Why try to make it sound like McGrath is claiming something he did not claim?

        1. I see that G. Don never answers where Paul locates this ‘Jerusalem above us’ except in an indirect way by continually scoffing at any claim that Paul believed there was a celestial realm above us….

      1. Er, Gdon, why don’t you quote McG in full and include the words to which I was referring. Why play with the quote to make it sound like he did not say what he in fact does! You do have a habit of doctoring quotations, don’t you. You should try to break it.

        Next thing you’ll be trying to tell us that McG really does think it’s okay for anyone to conclude that Jesus did not exist.

          1. I did. They fit in the bit where you put dots. You know damn well that McGrath will not tolerate any doubt about the existence of Jesus except for a fleeting moment among those who have never heard of Jesus or any of the evidence.

            1. Neil, you said: “McGrath has not given up yet and continues to bash away at mythicism: no-one is allowed to opine that it is “more likely that Jesus did not exist””

              But he never wrote that “no-one is allowed to opine that it is “more likely that Jesus did not exist”.

              Here is his full comment on Thompson’s blog:

              “I think it is important to note that a principled historical agnosticism – saying that given the evidence, there is little if anything that we can be certain about, rather like other comparable figures such as Socrates or John the Baptist or Hillel – is something that most historians can understand, even if they consider it likely that there was a historical Jesus. This is a very different stance than the mythicists who are the focus of Bart Ehrman’s book, and who consider that it is more likely that Jesus did not exist, and who make claims that simply do not fit the evidence, such as that Paul believed that Jesus had been born of a woman, crucified and buried in a celestial realm.”

              Where does McGrath imply that “no-one is allowed”?

              1. I’m sorry, Master Don, but you seem to have a problem understanding the function of quotation marks. But you are right. McGrath does not say anyone is not allowed to be an idiot or a crackpot. But I can point you to where he has clearly said anyone who does ask the question about Jesus’s existence, is given the answers by him or any other scholar, and still doubts, is a crank.

              2. Fascinating. So McGrath thinks Thompson is convinced by the evidence that there was a historical Jesus. I wonder if that is true. Can we ask him?

                By the way, as Paul didn’t believe in a celestial realm, or different levels of Heaven occupied by different things, where was the ‘Jerusalem above us’ that he mentions in Galatians 4, or the third Heaven that he claimed to have visited?

  5. McGrath’s ongoing pushing of the point is the sort of thing I was addressing in my previous post. What difference does it make to him or anyone if a bunch of people decide they don’t think Jesus existed? I can understand the need to address creationism. A rejection of science has potentially serious consequences for social policy and action. And we can leave it to the Randi’s to expose of the spoon benders and the faith-healers. But why is belief in the existence of Jesus so important to scholars who I thought would be too busy writing papers and teaching to bother with anything they consider “rot”. There’s enough really serious and deadly things in this world to be heated and activist about — but that a few people don’t believe in Jesus is one of them??

    1. That’s easy to answer, at least for me. It is because it is all the crap claims that come out of mythicism, i.e. virgin-born and crucified [insert name of god here]”; “pagans thought their myths occurred in a celestial realm”. It is disrespectful to twist ancient thought like this, and mythicists are their own worst enemy in allowing this crap to propagate throughout the Internet.

      As Richard Carrier put it: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/294

      “Bad mythicists (e.g. Atwill, to pick an example of someone who is very much arguing a thesis Murdock must reject) are doing good mythicists no favors. In fact, they are making it worse for us, by communicating to the scholarly community that “mythicism” is based on sloppy methodology, dubious speculations, and ignorance of the arguments and evidence discussed by the actual experts in these matters. So when I try to present at a conference or publish a paper, I have to explain at length how my methodology is valid and that I do not endorse all the nonsense that people like Atwill argue, and even then academics are suspicious, because all they have seen is Freke & Gandy crap. Mythicists can’t even agree on what happened (is it Murdock’s explanation? Or Atwill’s? One of them is wrong…which one? What method do they have to answer that question with?). There is therefore no benefit in “not criticizing” each other. Because, by all disagreeing with each other, most mythicists must be wrong. And the cornerstone of valid, professional methodology is pursuing and rooting out error and determining who of any collection of disagreeing parties is wrong. We therefore must do that. To say we shouldn’t do that, in some sort of political solidarity to the abstract “idea” of mythicism is precisely the kind of dogmatic, political, emotional bullshit that is screwing over serious myth research. That behavior is the surest way to never be taken seriously by anyone who matters.”

      And also: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/580

      “I have also had mythers’ unfriendly paranoia cited at me by professors in the field, forcing me to also prove I don’t act like that–I had dismissed that claim about Murdock in the past, but now seeing it flung at me, evidently the scholars who mentioned it to me were correct about it; this is not doing her or mythicism any good, it makes them both look like tinfoil hat.”

      So, it isn’t that the person is pushing for “Jesus did not exist”, which I think is a perfectly fine line of inquiry. It is all the crap that comes with it. And mythicists — with probably the sole exception of Richard Carrier — don’t seem to mind, as long as the crap supports “Jesus did not exist”.

      Neil, what about a series on mistaken mythicist views?

        1. The question I was answering is “What difference does it make to him or anyone if a bunch of people decide they don’t think Jesus existed?” My answer: For me, it’s not the “Jesus didn’t exist” claim that I object to (there are plenty of mythicist arguments that don’t interest me, like Christianity was created in toto in the 4th C); it is people distorting how pagans and others thought in ancient times that is (to me) the problem.

          1. That’s what bemuses me. There are all sorts of whacky ideas about what ancients thought and what even unknown moderns think. So what? Why is it that when any of this relates to Jesus you get so bothered?

            1. Actually very few of my criticisms relate directly to the question of historicity of Jesus. My first criticism of Doherty was around his views of the Second Century apologists: http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/Doherty2ndC_Review.htm
              And on Acharya S’s “Ancient Advanced Pygmy Civilisation” ideas: http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/advanced_pygmies.html
              And on “Diabolical Mimicry”: http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/Diabolical_Mimicry.htm

              Even if my articles above are correct, it doesn’t mean Jesus was historical. I think there is very little we can determine about the historical Jesus, so, even if he existed, from what we can verify with any certainty he may as well not have. I very rarely argue directly for a historical Jesus, since there doesn’t seem to be much point. Most of my comments are directed towards misreadings of ancient texts.

              In my review of Doherty’s “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man” http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/JNGNM_Review1.html, part of my conclusion reads:

              “Ideas in popular books promoting a controversial new theory tend to reverberate around the Internet for years. Forums on early Christianity are only now starting to recover from the “virgin born and crucified gods were a dime-a-dozen” nonsense that used to be posted everywhere, and only because proponents were asked to back up their views with evidence from primary sources.

              I fear that JNGNM will unleash another round of similar nonsense about Middle Platonism and mystery cult beliefs.”

              It’s worth fighting nonsense, regardless of its source.

              1. What other “nonsense” do you fight in this world? Why so obsessed with what you consider to be Doherty’s “nonsense” in particular? Why not get just as heated and active over astrology? Or clairvoyants? Or homeopaths? Or those who don’t believe in blood transfusions? Or global warming deniers? Surely there are real issues where “nonsense” is affecting far more people and doing very real damage to people’s lives. Would you be just as upset about Doherty’s “nonsense” if he were discussing Zoroastrianism and not Christianity?

              2. I’m neither interested nor knowledgeable about astrology or clairvoyants or homeopaths or those who don’t believe in blood transfusions or global warming deniers. I agree that some of these do more damage than Christ mythicism. Not really knowledgeable about Zoroastrianism either. My main interest is in early pagan and Christian thinking, especially Second Century writings. I don’t have any knowledge of the original languages nor any training in the relevant fields. I just find it fascinating.

              3. You once again typically miss the point. You don’t have to be knowledgable about Zoroastrianism to reflect on what your reaction might be if Doherty were writing “nonsense” about early pagan thinking in a work on Zoroastrianism — I suggest that your dedication over years to addressing Doherty on these points is of significance to you because it does indeed relate to Jesus. That is the point.

              4. Okay, your point is that if this relates to Jesus, I would react to it. Since I wouldn’t know he was writing nonsense about Zoroastrianism if I didn’t know about Zoroastrianism, I don’t think this is true. But if you suspect that’s the case, that’s fine. It doesn’t make my points any less or more true, though it gives you a reason to walk away from them.

                When you were a fundamentalist Christian, did you think that people’s comments against fundamentalism were motivated due to an irrational reaction to fundamentalism?

              5. No, GDon, that’s not my point. You again misread me. Your specialty is in pagan thinking. What if Doherty were writing about Z and in that book you heard he was including a lot of nonsense about “pagan thinking” — your specialty. Now you don’t know about Z but you do know about “pagan thinking”. So would you really care and spend years trying to expose what you consider the flaws in such a book because when it addressed what you do know about it is, in your view, “nonsense”?

              6. Acharya S/Murdoch has even addressed GakuseiDon’s pygmy smear article, which, of course, he refuses to provide a link in his article because it proves him wrong and makes him look like an obsessed idiot.

                Pygmies in ‘The Christ Conspiracy’

                I used to believe all these lies across the net about Acharya S until I actually read her work and her sources. She makes the strongest case for mythicist I’ve ever seen. That’s probably why Carrier and others are so jealous of her.

              7. Karl, can you tell me how your link “proves me wrong and makes me look like an obsessed idiot”? I wrote my article on Acharya S’s views on her Pygmy suggestion, quoting her from “The Christ Conspiracy”. She then pretty much quotes the same passages I quoted. Can you quote from my article and then from hers to show me where I am wrong, please?

              8. And what about astrotheology? What great fun to deal with that! The marvels of walking down the ecliptic and see the sun always rising in a different spot!

      1. GakuseiDon has been maliciously smearing Acharya S at every opportunity for like 8 years now. I used to see his obsessions with her at the IIDB. He’s been proven wrong or dishonest repeatedly but, he never makes any adjustments proving he has no interest in being honest or being objective. Acharya has responded to Carrier in the links below.

        Richard Carrier is in no position to decide who is or who is not a good or bad mythicist – how utterly arrogant and conceited! I saw Carrier recently in a lecture admit he stopped reading ‘The Jesus Mysteries’ after 5 pages – Carrier has read even less of Acharya’s work and it shows. After having read both of their works Acharya S is much better at this than Carrier is in my opinion.

        “However, in “skimming” Brunner’s text, as he puts it, Carrier has mistakenly dealt with the substantially different Hatshepsut text (Brunner’s “IV D”), demonstrating an egregious error in garbling the cycles, when in fact we are specifically interested in the Luxor narrative (IV L).”

        Parallelophobia, personal attacks and professional jealousy: A response to Richard Carrier’s ‘That Luxor Thing’

        Is Jesus’s nativity an Egyptian myth?

        What Egyptologists (and other scholars) say about Egypt’s role in Christian origins

        Myopia is not expertise

        1. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote in their famous opera: “Apology! Apology!” They also wrote a lot about “Jealousy, oh Green-Eyed Jealousy!”

          There are apologies galore owed from all those jealous so-called “scholars” around: Ehrman, Hoffmann, Carrier, GakuseiDon, etc…

          In case of their petulant avoidance of redressing wrongs, and truthfully confessing their iniquities, the penalty is entombment in the deepest vault of the Temple of Vulcan, along with Aida and Ramares, to the tune of “La fatal pietra sovra noi si chiuse.”

        2. Karl can rattle off all those Weblinks so easily.
          And note all those telltale expressions: “obsessed,” “dishonest,” “Acharya is so much better,” “egregious error,” “the Luxor thing all over again,” “personal attacks,” “professional jealousy” (an indictment severely delivered initially by judge Barbara Walker), “myopia,” etc…
          Can’t somebody who has spent time falling asleep with the “Christ Conspiracy” or “Christ in Egypt” not recognize a familiar style?

          Question: Is “Karl” by any chance just another name for priestess Dorothy Murdock? Who loves advancing incognito and sing her own hymns of praise?
          GakuseiDon as an expert at reading minuscule details of style, could offer his expert opinion.

          Forget about Jesus! More than the Pygmies (friendly little creatures though they are), who can resist the fun of reading about the Druids, the Masons (who built the Pyramids, didn’t you know?), the Black Buddha, the Festival of the Ancestors in Peru and the Pacific Islands. And my astonishment at discovering that the Hebrew names of their gods, Yahweh and Baal, had their cousins among the Aztecs, left me with a gaping mouth. Barbara Walker can’t be false, that’s a Euclidian given. Her research is beyond compare.

          If your head gets spinning so hard, run to the library to get James Churchward’s books to verify if all this is really “Truth to Be Known”. And who can ignore the discoveries of the Maps of the Sea Kings?
          No wonder, Ehrman, Doherty, Carrier, and Hoffman, with the dull and unimaginative prose of their dreary books, are left behind in the dust. They’ll never be able to procure such levels of excitement, and even ecstasy.

          1. Karl may well be Freethinkaluva, who posts everywhere under various nom de plumes, often pretending he has just come across Acharya S’s work for the first time. Freethinkaluva usually ends his posts with a swag of links to Acharya S’s works. Not that it matters who it is. Acharya S herself seems to use her own name (either Acharya S or D. Murdock), so I doubt it is her.

            1. Thanks, GakuseiDon. Good guess.
              I have read many or your articles, including all those on our favorite mythologist, and no doubt, you have a very idiosyncratic way of looking at things, but you have your good points, and I am pretty sure I am not the only one to acknowledge it. There is a need for mavericks in any group, even if they have to endure some flak. Remember Socrates as a gadfly (in the Apology, if I recall). Of course the end was rough. But we are a bit more civilized, aren’t we?
              I am glad that Neil Godfrey has shown enough tolerance to recognize your special contribution to the conversation.

      2. GDon, are you similarly critical of bad historicist arguments? Can you identify any? What did you think of Hoffmann’s assertion that Galatians 4:4 was response to Christian critics claiming that Jesus was a bastard? Did you find that persuasive? Is that a piece of evidence that can’t fit into a mythicist theory of origins?

        1. 1. Yes. 2. “Apostles wouldn’t die for a lie” is a nonsense argument. 3. It’s interesting but seems to be a bit of a stretch. 4. No. 5. Depends on which mythicist theory of origins.

  6. Neil,
    This post is really funny.

    “But this point seems to me relevant to the present discussion precisely because one of the major reasons that for thinking that there was a historical Jesus, other than those I’ve already mentioned, is the fact that those sources which narrate stories about him contain things which **it is hard to imagine** anyone concocting if their aim was to tell a story of someone who fit the expectations about precisely such a Davidic anointed one.
    #6 – James F. McGrath – 07/10/2012 – 11:19”

    “Your last argument only says that you cannot imagine something. Don’t make biblical authors your hostages.”
    #7 – Niels Peter Lemche – 07/10/2012 – 12:34

    “Dear James McGrath,
    You misuse my remarks about your presentation of mysticism. I do not deal with it–and am neither negative nor positive about it. …….
    …..**Now you suggest that there may be other things. Please give me references and the publication references for your discussion**.

    #9 – Thomas L. Thompson – 07/10/2012 – 15:01

    Let it duly be noted that James McGrath has not produced these references and the publication references for his discussion above though he replies after with the following:

    “I think it is important to note that a principled historical agnosticism – saying that given the evidence, there is little if anything that we can be certain about, rather like other comparable figures such as Socrates or John the Baptist or Hillel – is something that most historians can understand, even if they consider it likely that there was a historical Jesus.” .
    #15 – James F. McGrath – 07/13/2012 – 00:01

    Note: The “little if anything that we can be certain about” …….what little is that?[McGrath still has not provided the references etc] How can a “principled historical agnosticism” allow one to “consider it likely that there was a historical Jesus”? Agnosticism means essentially “a denial of knowledge about whether there is or is not” some proposition being true or false.
    or not affirming knowledge of any position

    In the final analysis James McGrath *must* have his baby Jesus[h/t Professor Ceiling Cat Jerry Coyne ] regardless of any stinking evidence. He cannot bluff his way with Prof Thomas L. Thompson and his colleagues, based on the comments they see through is pretense at an attempt of being objective.

    Neil, your comments did go through, so you can modify your comments accordingly.

    1. Yeh — It’s classic McGrath all over again over there — the same games of avoiding answering direct questions and playing his silly word-games as if no-one is as smart as he is to notice and the same illogic.

      (I happily learned it was only an oversight that led to a delay in my BibleInterp post and have modified my remark accordingly.)

  7. GakuseiDon,

    Mythicism did not start with Richard Carrier! It has a very long tradition that extends way before him or you.
    Red flags go up when a “scholar” and “expert” is shouting that people not read the books of others! That their minds will become polluted[paraphrase]! Anyone suggesting that is being a bit more than condescending. The attitude should be to read the books for yourselves.

    It seems that you and others are fanatically obsessed with D.M Murdoch. You criticize [more like fits of rage] her yet “totally not” providing a link to her responses to her critics[haters]. Why? There are websites that are claiming to debunk some aspect of her work but do not have a single link to the very works they are suppose o be debunking.



    “Who is Acharya S/Dorothy Murdoch? – Wikipedia Entry on D.M. Murdoch

    Bio on her Site – This link does not point to bio specifically

    Conspiracy Science’s Page on Acharya S”

    There is not a single link that points to her discussion about this matter. However much you disagree with her the least could be done is to provide her original arguments and subsequent responses.

    To the above example


    That is all it would have taken.

    or http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/zeitgeistsourcebook.pdf

    These responses of hers are never linked to by her critics:

    “As I say, in my book I will provide a list of all these Bacchic attributes, with notation of where they can be found in the primary sources. I will also include a significant amount of the original sources themselves, mainly in Greek. Let us just say that this besmirched older generation of scholars was substantially correct – because they actually READ GREEK, Latin and Hebrew, whereas their critics today more often than not do not possess this important knowledge. In other words, this “outdated” scholarship is factually CORRECT, and these scholars have been maligned unfairly, because of the modern critic’s ignorance and lack of necessary skills. “I can’t find it,” complains the modern critic, referring to a particular attribute. Yes, that’s because you can’t read the original Greek in which it appears! If you want this information neatly presented to you in your own modern English vernacular, you will need to read my books, for one. That’s why I am writing them, because I can and do find these correlations, in their original languages, providing them for you, along with translation(s).”

    “The Comparative-Religion Work of Gerardus Vossius

    More evidence that the post-1950-scholarship cultic view holds no water. Below is the opinion of a professional scholar concerning the massive works of Gerardus Vossius (1577-1649), published in the 17th century and containing much information on comparative religion, including parallels between Moses and other (mythological) figures. As we can see, Vossius was convinced of the link between pagan mythology and biblical stories, although he attempted like so many in his era to point to the latter as the source of the former.

    Nevertheless, Vossius’s work De theologia gentili is of tremendous interest to scholars and students of comparative religion and mythicism. Unfortunately, this massive opus has never been translated into English.

    As we can see, this work of comparative religion was massive, and is now difficult and forbidding for scholars to study. One of the major reasons for the ignorance of this text is because it is written in Latin, and many fewer scholars today read Latin well enough to undertake such an endeavor. Latin, it should be recalled, was the scholarly language of Vossius’s era, and no European scholar could be considered erudite without fluency in it. Hence, we today are greatly impoverished by not being able to access these types of works.

    Posted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:30 pm


    Her worst and virulent naysayers even parrot things she has said above. They tell of the glory of scholarship a hundred or so year ago but she is ridiculed for saying the same thing. They tell how adept scholars of the early 20th and 19th were at reading Greek, Hebrew and other classical languages only echoing what she had said and passing it off as their own observation.

    In conclusion:

    1. The least is to provide links to her discussion and responses to her critics.
    2. Do not let anyone [no scholar, no expert] to not read a book but welcome any recommended books for reading from t them.
    3. Stop obsessing over the lady.
    4. She does not hide behind an anonymous Internet name, thumbs up for her courage. The same cannot be said of her irrational “critics”.
    5. Many genuine critics of certain of her contentions have engaged her ideas with sincere questions and should be an example of how to conduct discourse
    see Neils and Robert Tulips exchanges in the “Christ among the Messiahs” thread here at http://vridar.wordpress.com/
    [do not remember the exact series]

    1. Thank you Reader. It is fascinating how Dr Hoffmann psychologically projects his own irrational attitudes on to people he ridicules. Frightening really. At least I am way below his radar, beneath contempt.

      The diversity within mythicism is typical of an emerging paradigm where a new positive narrative has not yet settled or been articulated. My view, largely in agreement with Ms Murdock, is that Christianity is anthropomorphised sun worship. Conventional Christians, and many scientifically minded people for that matter, find this hypothesis so unsettling that they find it difficult to discuss calmly.

      I would welcome if scholars could investigate the Christ-KRST etymology in more depth. But I fear it will just be more of the Black Athena controversy, with holders of classical commitments finding the evidence points in directions they find profoundly uncomfortable.

      1. It is certainly a stunning display of projection. What surprised me was that he deigned to come here at all given that he made it clear he had no interest in engaging mythicist arguments or mythicists themselves. — Read his original TJP post.

        I suspect he only jumped up when I pointed out as part of my response some very embarrassing undergraduate errors of his. He was quite content to respond to my first post from afar without addressing the arguments themselves, but in that new response he committed the humiliating blunders. That’s when he came over here firing away and looking like he was hoping he could mystify with jargon and save face.

        Now he goes back and tries to have us think he is the reasonable one who really wanted a dialogue . . . . despite his initial claims to the contrary. He blew his cover over a silly mistake and could never bring himself to admit it.

        The petulance is comical when one reads his translation of Galatians — he perversely reverses the meanings of the two words under discussion so that Isaac is no longer “born” but somehow mysteriously “comes forth” from Sarah!! 😉

        1. Neil, Your reply to one of my comments to On Not Explaining “Born of a Woman” you replied with a re-joiner indicating your furtherinterest in evidence for the Sermon on the Mount. saying “do respond”. My partiaal response is comment 13. below. I have experienced some computer glitch, unable to recover this exchange. I am quite pleased to offer more evidence if you wish.

          1. Hi Ed, We have had exchanges and I am sure you agree that we can do little more than agree to disagree. I do not allow other commenters to post the same point repeatedly in nearly every post that appears on this blog. Your posts are making the same basic point over and over and not dealing directly with the topic of the posts. I understand that you think our posts are completely missing the point about how to research the historical Jesus. But we are not interested in researching the historical Jesus. We are interested in discussing new and old ideas in biblical scholarship and the way it is done. I am sorry Ed, but to be fair I cannot allow more comments of yours go through unless they directly address the topics of the posts themselves.

            Let’s agree to disagree, okay?

            But for this one time, if you do have further evidence relating to the sermon on the mount, and since I did ask for that, you are welcome to post it as a reply to my comment at: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/reply-to-hoffmanns-on-not-explaining-born-of-a-woman/#comment-32458

  8. Addendum

    In concluding:
    2. Do not let anyone [no scholar, no expert] tell you not to read any book merely on their say so but welcome any recommended books for reading from them.

  9. Now and then I will use either Mythicists or Historical arguments. But overall, I currently favor Mythicist ideas. And am heavily involved in the defense of Mythicism.

    And in the course of defending aginst Historicists? I’ve foudn that the best way of dealing with adamant Historicists, is turning the tables; and noting huge problems in their OWN argument. Problems with proving that Jesus existed historically.

    That in fact is what I’m trying to do with my (by now extended) critique of problems with the various HJ criteria; especially the infamous “Criterion of Embarrassment. ” I’m noting problems with this criterion in conversations with McGrath, especially. While significantly – Thompson also now confirms problems with this, the main pillar of Historical Jesus studies.

    What is the embarrassing criterion? It is a highly unreliable, even laughable “historical” method, that is the heart of the Historical Jesus argument. In essence, it asserts that if a given historical fact or legend, seems to be quite anomalous, quite out of keeping with contemporary, especially religious expectations? Then that tradition, it claims, must have been real; since it was inserted in spite of being “embarrassing” to conventional expectations and theologies.

    So for example? The crucifixion of God, of the Messiah, is said to be totally against – or an “embarrassment to” – the traditional expectation: of a god or messiah that would not die, but that would free Jerusalem from all enemies; and then live with us here, on this material earth (Isa.l 65-6?), “himself.” Here it is claimed by Historicists, that the death of the messiah is so totally unexpected, so embarrassing to believers, that the crucifixion at least must have been obdurately, insistently real; or else it would have been edited out of the churches’ accounts, due do its highly embarrassing nature.

    That’s the Criterion of Embarrassment. And it’s no small thing; it’s the mainstay of Historicism. But it is also Historicism’s most vulnerable point too. As I noted at length; most recently and extensively, in responses to 1) McGrath’s recent post on “Denial.” And 2) the post on Mythicism as “Bunk.” In fact, 3) Mark Goodacre briefly notes problems with the Criterion in his podcasts. While my responses to McGrath on “Denial,” note 4) other scholarly criticism: mainly, who is to say what is “unexpected” or “embarrassing” for ancients, for that matter? I’ve raised the issue of the unreliablity of the Criterion of Embarrasment with Thompson too … and 5) Thompson in the above-cited comments, seems to agree!

    So the main problem with the Criterion of Embarrassment: 6) what after all, is “embarrassing” to ancient writers? Maybe after all, they were totally comfortable with a “hero” who say, dies for his country, as a “martyr.” So that the crucixion of Jesus is not as incongruous as many would have thought. Or as “embarrassing.”

    Significantly though, that’s not the only problem by far with the Criterion; Thompson confirms another problem I have also noted with it; as Thompson confirms when he 7) called attention to McGrath with asserting that he “cannot see how” something could be logical; then Mcgrath concluding that therefore, it must have been an historical fact. Thompson here in effect, joining the growing chorus of criticism of this kind of expression of the Criterion of Embarrassment; Thompson noting that if we say someting must be historically true if it seems totally inexplicable, and embarrassing to normal expectation? If we say that if we “cannot see” how something makes sense, then it must be an historical fact? In effect, we are… deifying our ignorance. All we have to do is fail to see how something makes sense … and our ignorance is taken to prove that it must therefore be historically, obdurately real. (Cf. the appropriate Logical fallicy?).

    Or especially, what if finally, something does not make sense … simply because it is ridiculous and absurd and illogical and false? What if the embarrassing illogicality and selfcontradiction of many things in religion, finally is not proof that they are historically grounded; but is proof that they simply embrace absurdity and contradiction?

    So as it turns out, I’m find that the best argument for Mythicism, is the argument against Historicism; counter-attack. And the best avenue to do that at this time, is to attack one or two of Historicism’s key methodological principles; especially the Criterion of Embarrassment.

    If elements of the BIble seem embarrassingly contradictory and illogical? If we “just can’t see” how they are consistent? That is not proof they are true; it is pretty good proof that they are NOT true.

    1. This silly criterion, a real con game, for mathematical/scientific thinking-deprived Biblical scholars, is nothing more than a new formulation of the “First Pillar” of Paul W. Schmiedel. He had NINE such famous pillars, and the scholars community was grateful that he gave them something to chew on for fifty years. Now the same discussion is reappearing with new names, but it’s the same old chew, just for new customers.
      Read a good critique by Arthur Drews in his Ch. 5 of “Witnesses to the historicity of Jesus” (1912)

      Also some sharp comments in his “Christ Myth” (from the Archive.org online)


      “So the theologian Schmiedel set up first five
      and then nine passages as ” clearly credible,” and pro-
      nounced these to be the basis of a really scientific know-
      ledge of Jesus. The passages are Mark x. 17 sqci. (Why
      callest thou me good?). Matt. xii. 31 sgg. (The sin
      against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven), Mark iii. 21
      (He is beside himself), Mark xiii. 32 (But the day and
      the hour is known to no man), Mark xv. 24 (My God,
      why has thou forsaken me?), Mark vi. 5 (And he could
      there do no mighty work), Mark viii. 12 (There shall no
      sign be given unto this generation), Mark viii. 14-21
      (Reproaching the disciples on the occasion of the lack of
      bread), Matt. xi. 5 (The blind see, the lame walk). All
      these ” bases ” evidently have a firm support only on the
      supposition that the Gospels are meant to paint a stainless
      ideal, a God, that they are at most but a conception, such,
      perhaps, as has been set up by Bruno Bauer. But they
      are useless from the point of view intended, as portraying
      a man.

      If, however, the Evangelists’ intention was to
      paint the celestial Christ of the Apostle Paul, the God-
      man, the abstract spirit-being, as a completely real man
      for the eyes of the faithful, to place him on the ground of
      historical reality, and so to treat seriously Paul’s “idea”
      of humanity, they were obliged to give him also human
      characteristics. And these could be either invented afresh

      * Cf. H. Jordan, ” Jesus und die modernen Jesusbilder, Bibl. Zeit-u.
      Streitfragen,” 1909, 38.
      t Mark vi. 1 sg. J Mark xiii. 32. § Mark iii. 20.


      or taken from the actual life of honoured teachers, in
      which the fact is acknowledged that, even for the noblest
      and best of men, there are hours of despair and grief,
      that the prophet is worth nothing in his own fatherland,
      or is even unknown to his nearest relatives. Even the
      prophet Elijah, the Old Testament precursor of the
      Messiah, who has in many ways determined the picture
      of Jesus, is said to have had moments of despair in which
      he wanted to die, till God strengthened him anew to the
      fulfilment of his vocation.*

      etc…the whole thing a delight to read for the clarity of thinking and the art of communication.

  10. I presently see four or five main criticisms of Historicism. Some of which relate to Dr. Thom Thompson’s ideas.

    1) Historical Jesus defenders tend to be PROVINCIAL and biased in what scholarship and historical traditions they read and acknowledge: they tend to be too ignorant and neglectful of Classics, Greco-Roman history, Greco-Roman Platonic/Hellenistic influences on Christianity. And they neglect other “ANE” – Ancient Near East” influences; from Egypt and Persia.

    2) Historical Jesus defenders use an absurdly loose and inaccurate METHODOLOGY; including “Criteria” like the “Criterion of EMBARRASSMENT.” Whose flaws are well known in academia. As described above. While HJ’ers criticism of “parallelomania” neglects classic principles of Mytholography, and its Structural method; after the Structural Anthropolgy of Vladimir Propp, Claude Levi Strauss, and Roland Bathes.

    3) Historicists overlook just how WEAK the “INDEPENDENT” VERIFICATION is for the existence of Jesus; including a) lack of much (any?) 1st century noting of Christianity by anyone outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. And b) the fact that the gospels are not valid verification. They are highly partial documents of a religious cult; that are moreover not “independent,” but seem to borrow from each other, or in-common sources.

    4) HJ defenders forget just how much of Christian tradition THEY themselves already typically REJECT. Even most religious scholars for example reject a) the Old Testament, the story of the Jews and their “law”; as having been replaced or “fulfilled” by the New Testament and its “new covenant.” Thus rejecting about 3/4 of the Bible. Then b) many also acknowledge that physical miracles are disproved by Science, and/or the concentration not on physical things, but spiritual things; thus rejecting another 1/2 of even the New Testament. Then Historicists often c) reject the non-synoptic gospel of John; and d) much of Paul and so forth; and then e) even many Christian scholars reject much of anything, but Mark.

    So that? “Historicists” already reject as myth, essentially, about 98% of the Bible. They are already 98% mythicists

    All Historicists and Mythicists are really arguing about, is the last 2%: did Jesus exist at all.

    5) Historicists also fail to see how emotional pressure from religious zealots, is responsible for pressuring even scholars. Pressure is responsible for many apparent acknowledgedments among Historians, of lack of evidence for more than a “legendary” or “eponymous” or even “mythic” Jesus.

    So finally? If Historical Jesus were actually good, responsible, broadly-aware scholars and Historians? If they really know the wider swath of History, and its method? If they knew more about the field of Mythography? They would convert instantly to Mythicism.

  11. strange to follow the debate within NT studies. Maybe the so-called important scholars stay within the confines of the SNTS, a closed circle, and tell each other what they already know? It seems correct, as I have written to Bible and Interpretation today that NT has never had a real maximalist-minimalist like OT especially in the 1990s and the beginning of tne 2000s.

    I simply do not understand the fuss about the historical Jesus. As far as I know there were hundreds at the time believed to be the one of JC. A most common name. The issue is not that were historical Jesuses around but what writers made of their chosen one. That was also the subject of my thing in “Is this not the carpenter” about the great inquisitor: what use has the Church of a historical Jesus? But because of the mania of tracking him doen–as I said not a problem there are so many–people may have used up their energy which should be about the image of JC in the Gospels and in other sections of Antique literature. Tom tried to trace some themes going far back in the Middle East. Other lines has to do with Hellenistic themes, even Greek ones from the classical period, and with Roman story making. I know that plenty has been done but how often from the conviction that the historical JC has little to say here?

    I confess that I am a happy protestant who never visit holy places if I can escape it. The historical Jesuses are around in plenty but they not very interesting except if you make a case for the historical background of the NT story. Now we are in history and will have to include historical mythmaking in Antiquity, and it will soon be a mess again.

    Niels Peter Lemche

    1. their energy . . . should be about the image of JC in the Gospels and in other sections of Antique literature

      It is this literary and theological (mythical) Jesus that I have attempted to explore over recent years in many posts here. My rationale for this focus has been that the nature of the evidence permits us to explore no other Jesus. And as it turns out, the origin and nature of that literary Jesus can be economically explained as a pastiche of ideas and images from the wider philosophical, religious and other creative literatues. Without any external controls to lend supporting historicity to the narratives in the Gospels, and given the completeness of the literary and ideological explanation for the origin of Jesus, the whole question of Jesus’ historicity becomes moot.

      The fascinating question becomes: How to explain the emergence of this early Christian (or proto-Christian) literature?

      A number of “mythicists” have as much to contribute to that question as do scholars who specialize in wider literary and mythical-philosophical views and the cultural anthropology of the period.

      I look forward to discussing chapters in “Is This Not the Carpenter?”, including yours, in future posts on this blog.

      1. “The fascinating question becomes: How to explain the emergence of this early Christian (or proto-Christian) literature?”

        And that, Neil, is the only relevant question. We have what we have, the NT story. That story can be argued, interpreted and analysed and put under a literary microscope, until kingdom come. While fascinating as a literary work – that is all it every will be – a literary work. Why it was written and why it was dated to a specific historical time period are the primary questions to be answered. Of course, if one is a JC historicist, then such questions are answered easily – JC happened to be alive at that time. But for the ahistoricist/mythicists who deny the historicity of JC – these questions need answers. They need historical answers. Yes, I know, I keep bring this up. But you know something – talking to a lot of ahistoricists/mythicists about history seems to be about as difficult as talking to a JC historicist about the ahistoricist/mythicist position. Both positions are stuck in a grove of their own assumptions. Doherty, unfortunately, has driven the ahistoricist/mythicist position into a cul-de-sac…(Yep, my opinion on that…for what it’s worth…)

    2. “The historical Jesuses are around in plenty but they not very interesting except if you make a case for the historical background of the NT story. Now we are in history and will have to include historical mythmaking in Antiquity,…”

      And that is where this JC historicist/ahistoricist debate has to go – Hasmonean and Herodian history. The historical background has to be part of the debate. Historical figure are as much a part of the building blocks that created the ahistorical, symbolic, JC figure as are OT midrash and mythological elements. Yes, indeed, mythmaking from history – or perhaps in more Jewish terms, ‘salvation’ history from the blood and the tears of history. Hope springs eternal. Optimism – that things as they are don’t have to be.

      “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.: T.E.Lawrence

      If the JC story contains anything of value at all – then that value can only be about the “dreamers of the day” – those who see the blood and the tears but know that such don’t have to be. I suppose one could say that the gospel JC story is, in one sense, the very Jewish up yours to Gnostic ideas…Spiritualizing everything is a very hard sell to a Jewish mindset that always strives for a foothold on terra-firma.

      1. MaryHelena:

        Then, leave aside for a while current discussions about the origins of Christianity, which are the distant residues or offshoots of the original discoveries of those very ideas.

        Go back for a while to the originators of all the concepts used by modern debaters who have buried the traces of their origins and presented them as if they “floated in the air” where anybody can pick them from an imaginary shelf.

        Try to reread a bit about David Strauss, Bruno Bauer, Van Manen, van Eysinga, Bolland, Wrede, W.B. Smith, J.M. Robertson, Arthur Drews, Couchoud, George Albert Wells. German, English, American and Dutch scholarship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had first encountered most of the problems with a fresh, uncluttered view. Then you will be able to put current discussions in historical perspective and get back to their roots.

        Historicists are not the absolute adversaries of Jesus deniers. It looks like this only in the current context of scholars arguing for preeminence and status. Historically, historicists were the parents of the non-historicity proponents. Hegel would have been delighted about this demonstration of the thesis/antithesis dialectic. Dupuis and Volney came after Baron d’Holbach and Reimarus. Bruno Bauer came after David Strauss. Arthur Drews came after the whole liberal theology school of Germany and Albert Schweitzer, etc…The deniers of historical Jesus alwasy came after the propagandists of historical Jesus. The owl of Athena takes her flight only after the day has ended (Hegel’s comment).

        And if you are sensitive to historical influences (as all 19th and early 20th century scholars were), follow what Richard Carrier or even Robert Price have to say. They’re not the final word, but they are much more knowledgeable and sensitive about the historical environment of emergence of ideas and theories. Every idea automatically lights up many wikilinks to past dates and past discoverers.

        The kind of presentation you mention, abstract, bland, neutral, bare of any historical roots, without any wikilinks, is due to the current market for such prose: essentially young students who have no knowledge of history and history of thoughts, and believe in the spontaneous generation of ideas.
        They have not yet discovered the dimension of history, as the 19th century did. What happened before their time seems to have no relevance or even existence. It seems they have to reinvent the wheel every time. What do they know of Leibniz and Newton, and do they fully understand his famous statement: ”If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (1676) What giant? do they ask. Who cares about giants?

        I did look at your two charts. Interesting, to say the least.

        1. ROO

          Quite frankly I fail to see, in connection with my posts, what is the point you are making? “Standing on the shoulders of giants”? That, surely, is where we all stand and hardly needs to be spelt out. Intellectual evolution has helped us to where we are today. It is up to us to take that intellectual evolution forward. Yes, a study of ideas is a beneficial endeavour. However, the time is now and what we do with the intellectual legacy of the past. Do we just sit and admire it? Of course not. We have to push the boundaries of that legacy. That’s my focus – pushing the boundaries. And, as often with intellectual evolution, the boundaries often require not just lots of pushing and stretching – sometimes those boundaries have to be stretched to breaking point. Physical evolution has its mutations; it’s ‘jumps’ that take the fast track to new developments. Intellectual evolution is no different. Things can run smoothly for years – and then the big bang, heresy, new insights, appear as if out of nowhere. “There is no such thing”, said Karl Popper, “as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. Every great discovery contains an irrational element or a creative intuition”. (Objective Knowledge)

          Thanks for having a look at my charts. The chart dealing with Hasmonean and Herodian history and it’s reflection within the gospel storyboard, is basic. The purpose is simply to demonstrate that the JC storyboard is reflecting Jewish history. Indeed, from that basic position a 101 questions can, and should, be generated. Questions that have the ability to push this JC debate in a very different direction. And that, I would suggest, is something that needs desperately to be done. The current debate is in a stalemate position. No new movement is possible, no boundaries are being pushed. The JC historicists will continue on their merry way – and the ahistoricist/mythicists will stay trapped in a cul-de-sac of their own making. Frustrated beyond measure – and all they need to do is backtrack out of it and take the road that leads to Hasmonean and Herodian history.

          ROO, As to your suggestion – “… leave aside for a while current discussions about the origins of Christianity” – I’ve been too long playing this ‘game’ to get side-tracked now…..too too long.. Actually, the longer I ‘play’ the more exciting the ‘game’ becomes….happy days…;-)

  12. Maryhelena:

    You’re much more of an expert than I am. You have been at this game much longer.
    Being just a student, I find that current discussions are often producing mist rather than clarity, and, for a student like me, it is refreshingly illuminating to reconnect with the original discoverers or creators of the many ideas taken for granted by the established scholars. I simply value the wikilinks to the past more than others do.
    I quoted Newton not as an allusion about you, but for the sake of young readers who believe that we’re now starting from scratch.

    So for the sake of us following your thought, could you clearly explain what is so well defined in your mind: that “ahistoricist/mythicists will stay trapped in a cul-de-sac of their own making.”
    * What is this “cul-de-sac”?
    * Why are historicity deniers trapped in it?
    * And who are they anyway? “Mythicism” as such does not exist anywhere, it is a fiction, only actual historicity deniers exist. So who are you talking about? Is it anybody who denies the historicity of Jesus, or only some examples. The whole species, or only some specimens?

    Not only have I looked at your two charts, but I have saved them.

    1. OK, ROO…

      1) Any ahistoricist/mythicist argument that refuses to consider a historical core, a historical relevance, to the gospel JC story, has placed itself in a cul-de-sac. A dead end road that leads nowhere.

      2) An ahistoricist/mythicist argument based upon ‘Paul’s vision has derailed any investigation into early Christian history.

      3) Who are these ahistoricist/mythicists? Anyone and everyone who holds to the two positions I’ve just presented.

      If you do have any arguments to present re ahistoricist/mythicist writers who have presented a case for a historical core, a historical relevance, to the gospel story – out with them!

      Sure, Wells has backtracked a bit from a completely spiritualizing of the gospel JC story – and has now proposed a Galilean preacher figure – who was not crucified. However, Wells has no history to support his new position. (I wrote to Wells 25 years ago – proposing a historical relevant figure in connection with the gospel JC storyboard – but the time for his backtrack from an entirely spiritualizing approach had not yet materialized…)

      Doherty and I are unable to communicate. That is a long running situation in which we both continue to do our own thing – and try our best to avoid any unpleasant confrontation…;-)

      Oh, well, let’s end with a quote from Doherty. I’ve tried, over the years – this quote goes back over 10 years – to get Earl to name names – but no luck I’m afraid…..Naming names requires historical evidence – not picking names out of the Josephan drum…The Josephan writer is as able to write pseudo-history as well as any gospel writer…

      “I can well acknowledge that elements of several representative, historical figures fed into the myth of the Gospel Jesus, since even mythical characters can only be portrayed in terms of human personalities, especially ones from their own time that are familiar and pertinent to the writers of the myths.”


      1. To Maryhelena:

        Thanks for the quick answer.
        Now, that is much clearer.

        You wrote to Wells 25 years ago! That’s enough to make us feel very humble, like freshmen in college.

        What you say about Josephus is so true: He could outwrite any Gospel writer.
        What I found amazing about Josephus, is how, writing in Rome, years later (say 20 years, 25 years), and describing such extraordinary precise relationships between people, all major actors spread all over the ANE, and involved in extremely confused and intricate relationships, was he able to reconstitute all those events with such details? The numbers he likes to mention are too amazing.

        Was he relying on pure memory, or, if he had saved documents, how did he get them, brought them with him to Rome, and transcribed them?

        Very often he writes as if he was the all-seeing eye of a super-witness of history. Mark does write in the same style. Gibbon did too, but Gibbon was compiling all the real documentation he was using. A lot of Josephus must have been invented or surmised.

        I’m going to check if the Search Vridar function allows the retrieval of your comments. I am interested in reading them more closely.

        If Wells modified his position, he must have had some reasons good enough to convince him. The value and reality of Q? From a distance, I don’t see it as a radical change rather than an expansion, but again, I’m just guessing.
        Rereading Wells’s key books should be exciting, especially the early ones. The more so that he is still alive, and would be able and willing to communicate. Vridar has many posts on him, Gott sei Dank!

        1. ROO

          Have a look at this FRDB thread:

          FRDB thread: G.A. Wells distinguishes himself from Doherty


          from post #24

          Can we trust the New Testament?: thoughts on the reliability of Early Christian Testimony. (2003)

          By George Albert Wells

          Page 49 and 50

          “In my first books on Jesus, I argued that the gospel Jesus is an entirely mythical expansion of the Jesus of the early epistles. The summary of the argument of The Jesus Legend (1996) and The Jesus Myth (1999a) given in this section of the present work makes it clear that I no longer maintain this position (although the change is perhaps not as evident from the titles of those two books as it might be). The weakness of my earlier position was pressed upon me by J.D.G. Dunn, who objected that we really cannot plausibly assume that such a complex of traditions as we have in the gospels and their source could have developed within such a short time from the early epistles without a historical basis (Dunn 1985,p.29). My present standpoint is: this complex is not all post-Pauline (Q, or at any rate parts of it, may well be as early as ca. A.D. 50); and – if I am right, against Doherty and Price – it is not all mythical. The essential point, as I see it, is that the Q material, whether or not it suffices as evidence of Jesus’s historicity, refers to a personage who is not to be identified with the dying and rising Christ of the early epistles.”


          PS – I see in one of my posts on that thread that I mention writing to Wells in 1990 – so a little short of 25 years ago….Actually, it was not the writing of Wells, (never read his books actually, only some online writings – same with Doherty)…. that set me on the ahistoricist/mythicist trail. It was a little book called, ‘The Myth of God Incarnate”, edited by John Hick. I wrote to one of the contributors to that book, Michael Goulder – in 1983. So, yes, a long time playing this game….

          1. Thanks for the thread.
            Highly interesting.
            Too bad Wells does not jump in.
            Your jousting with Doherty is a very enjoyable show.
            Thanks to you, I intend to join that forum.
            I like the erudition the members display.

            They say you can’t teach new tricks to old dogs.
            And you can’t change the minds of aging scholars.
            That Wells could consider such a modification of his views late in life, when his reputation is made, is a remarkable tribute to this man anyway. It’s really worth going into more closely.

            Cape Town, what a beautiful place.
            I was once offered a chance to teach at the University there, but I had to commit for 6 months. Like a fool, I turned it down, thinking it was too long a visit. Perhaps I was also scared by the news of social unrest I now regret my foolish decision.

            1. Nice – welcome to FRDB…

              Yes, well done to Wells for being open to changing his thinking…

              Cape Town? Like everywhere it has it’s ups and downs – social unrest, as in politically related unrest, is not an issue any longer. However, the legacy of the past is yet to be satisfactorily addressed – on both sides of the racial divide. The present is still tainted by the past in ways that are not just material, economical or social. A relationship that has been damaged is one that has to live with the scars…

        2. Maryand Roo: Mythicists think there are really about three major sources for legends of Jesus. And? Many scholars once agreed that among them, are especially … your concern here: historical events and elements of the biographies of several persons in Israel around the time of Jesus. Many historical findings orrelated often quite closely to one or more of the alleged biographical facts of Jesus.

          Until about 1980 or so, countless scholars once suggested that the whole legend of Jesus the Son of the Lord or God, was in effect a confused compilation of the stories of many Jewish “lords,” and “lord Gods,” and their “sons.” The Legend of Jesus was in effect said to borrow bits of details of the lives of many Jewish kings and sons; from any time from 167 BC, to 4BC, to 100 AD or so. Especially, scholarship suggested that much of our “biographical
          details about “Jesus,” borrowed information on Herod the Great, and his sons. Including many details from the lives of those of Herod’s sons who became leaders of the four major regions ruled by Jews: the ruling “tetrarches.”

          So your own speculations on possible semi-historical sources for the “biography” of Jesus, sounds quite interesting. And a look at your chart suggests that at least some details of the (tetrarch) of your concentration, do sound quite parallel to aspects of Jesus’ life; like the biting off of a priest’s ear and so forth.

          You definitely have some useful insights in your comparison chart. But would you also consider say, as a few more additional contributing sources of the Jesus legend the Jesus “biography,” say 1) one or more of the 2,000 Jews crucified by Archelaous, in 4BC? Or especially consider 2) Herod the Great, the Lord God of the Jews, marrying among others, a “Mary” or “Mariamne”; and then executing some of their “sons.” Because of the rumor that they were trying to usurp this God. (Was Jesus in fact the illegitimate son of the Lord God … .Herod, some scholars have suggested).

          There have been many speculations as to possible, garbled historical sources to the Jesus legend. And in fact it is my belief that the legend of “Jesus,” the “son of the Lord God,” was in very large part a conflation/compilation not just of 1) various ANE myths, and 2) especially Platonistic ideas; but the “biography” of Jesus was also made of of parts of dozens of rumors, about dozens of Jewish “lords,” and their “sons.” Though many scholars have agreed that particularly the sons of Herod – including I would say the murdered sons of Mary, but also the tetrarches as you mention – would have been central sources for the “biography” of the “Son of the Lord.”

          Thanks for your contribution, which mentions a major element of traditional Mythicism at last: the “historical” sources for the myth.

          Would you also consider … another chart factoring in ten or so MORE possible contributing historical events/ perrsons? I’m particularly interested in the “sons” of the “lord” God Herod, by Mary/Mariamne. But also tetraches like Philip. Or even say, Josephus; a heroic savior who was from – and then governor of – Galilee.

          I think these are the main parts of the foundation of “Jesus”: 1) dozens of details, borrowed from about a dozen figures and events like this, were confusedly circulated around Israel, as tales of “the” lord; and were confusedly collected and conflated by early collectors of “sayings of the Lord.” These tales were combined with 2) allegories of the OT, and 3) Greco-Roman ideas, and other ANE, Egyptian ideas. To create the background, the legend, the sayings, of “Christ,” the christened Lord or son of the Lord.

          Though our theory uses historical information by the way, it is still considered “mythicist,” and mythicists often refer to these elemets . Since they depend on Historical facts; though we see how those facts have been twisted, into a new – and mythic – story of Jesus.

          [By the way, there is a trend to doubt even what “fact”s we have from specifically Josephus; who is said to appear to know more thanks that by rights, some claim, he should know. Though to be sure, Josephus is talking about cultures he knows intimately; the Jewish and Roman cultures both, are HIS culture.]

          1. brettongarcia

            Thanks for your detailed reply. Great to find someone not giving up on history as being relevant to the gospel JC figure and his storyboard..

            Of course, I’m open to any additional historical information that could be relevant to the creation of the gospel JC character. My criteria for inclusion in my chart is basic – historical evidence for the existence of any figure.That means coins or archaeological evidence. If one does not have that – then one would simply be adding yet more unfounded speculation to the JC debate.

            Secondly, although details of the lives of historical figures might well be embellished, such details would need to have a corresponding reference within the gospel story about the JC character.

            Yes, of course, the gospel writers could take stories about historical figures and use these stories in creating their JC literary image. ‘So what?’ some people might reply (as does Doherty to any argument in this connection….)But it’s not a case of ‘so what?. It is a case of trying to discern those historical models so that we can gain some insight into what historical figures were important to those early Christian writers. With those historical figures identified – then we can try and discover why they were important. That’s if we are wanting to ever get to an understanding of early christian origins. We have to ask why these figures were important to the gospel writers. We have to get specific – generalizing will not move the JC debate forward.

            As for the Josephan writer – that’s where the JC debate has to go. Yes, that writing is a minefield – but a minefield through which the JC debate has to venture…

  13. In uncovering possible historical or cultural events, underlying the Jesus Legend, I have some considerable relevant graduate training (MA; PhD).

    Ideally as you suggest, we would be using lots of say, hard archeological evidence. But often in History, and Anthropology, and Literary Analysis, we don’t really have hard information or data; from archeology and so forth. And yet we DO have surviving literary evidence. And though literary remains are not quite as good as hard evidence, mythography has done a great deal with it; in tracing possibly links between various myths, legends. Such evidence is not rejected by History.

    In investigating possible links between the various sons of herod the Great, and the jesus Legend, I use the method that is standard in Mythography; which is just analytic comparisons of the elements of two candidate stories. Roughly, relating to Structuralism; after Max Muller, we see structuralist linguistics, then Vladimir Propp. And on the more imaginative side: Claude Levi- Strauss; Roland Barthes.

    That’s the standard method; misunderstood by current critics as “bead on a string,” or “parallelomania,” it is standard in the field of which Biblical scholars know practically nothing: Mythography. Comparitive myth systems.

    Here we can see remarkable correspondence, between “Jesus,” and … the two sons of Herod, by “Mary,” or Mariamne. They 1) each a “son” of the “lord” god; 2) by a mother Mary; who 3) were killed by the Lord, 3) c. 6BC; 4) or alegedly conspiring to replace/be the “lord” God themselves (that is, heirs overthrowing their “father”). While 5) they wer found innocent. Just as Jesus was a son of a Lord God; with a mother Mary; killed for daring to supplant our Lord God; in about this timetrame; though it was asserted he was innocent, (being the legitimate heir).

    So the analytial details are there. Suggesting this particular historical situation, was at least a major part of the Jesus myth. As for why people would use this? In a way, “why” is less important that you might think. It would have been regarded as important – because it was regarded as recent, important history. though in addition, there would be sentimental appeal, drama, to the story of unjustly-accused young lords, being unjustly killed; even though they would perhaps saved their nation, as good leaders.

    Are these accounts of the two sons of the lord God, real history? We’d have to look at the source; while in facct few sources from this era are entirely certain. But whether it is historical or not does not matter so much here: in either case, it was likely an accepted ‘story.” Which effected people, their dreams and hopes, in this era. Whether the stories were true, or mythic.

    Ideally, we would have very solid archeological verification. Though even there: mythic figures appeared on coins, after all.

    So I suggest that we in some cases, suspend the judgement of “historical” or “ahistorical” on some of the problematic historical information; and treat them as in any case, “stories,” tales. That would have infuenced still more stories; though the legend-building process of accretion, among others.

    Thanks for your help here! I hope I’ve made a helpful argument for expanding the metholdology; to show how to deal with strictly literary remains. Ideally though, these literary ideas, can be eventually confirmed or not, by guided digs, and so forth. Using the literary ideas, as hypotheses.

    I hope that you will consider particularly, the example of the two “sons” of the Lord god Herod, by “mary”: mentioned in standard scholarly accounts of the “Herod”s: the two sons being especially Aristobulus, and Alexander. Both killed c. 6 BC. For daring to (allegedly) present themselves as heirs to the lord god.

    Perhaps you could produce a second chart that would incorporate the use of SOME literary evidence? Or perhaps there IS some solid evidence of their existence; which is acknowledged in all the standard historical accounts at present.

    1. brettongarcia

      You are dealing, with the Josephan writer, with a minefield. In other words; the Josephan writer has written pseudo-history alongside his historical writings. How to tell the difference? The only sure way is historical evidence re coins or archaeological finds. Why has the Josephan writer mixed these two different methods? The latest scholarship on Josephus is that he was a prophetic historian. What that means is that prophetic interests, re Hasmonean and Herodian history, have been allowed to colour the historical reconstructions.

      Two studies: – google books does have preview pages:

      Dreams and Dream Reports in the Writing of Josephus, A Traditio-Historical Analysis by Robert Karl Gnuse.

      Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: The Evidence from Josephus: by Rebecca Gray.

      The Josephan story re Aristobulus and Alexander, sons of Herod the Great and his Hasmonean wife, Mariamne, killed around 6.b.c., is, because we don’t have any historical evidence for the killings, something that one would have to keep an open mind on. For myself, I doubt he had these two sons executed. Herod, more likely, to my thinking, probably disinherited them. Why? Big question that requires much more than a blog comment to even get near to answering….

      brettongarcia – if you look at my chart re the historical background to the gospel JC story – you will see that I have used literary evidence from the historical account. i.e. Josephan stories, and from Philo, have been utilized within the gospel JC storyboard.

      If you think that the Josephan account of Aristobulus and Alexander has some relevance for the creation of the gospel JC figure – then you need to demonstrate that. I don’t see a connection.

      1. I haven’t read the Josephus account (and any others?), recently. But typically, in my own Structural/Post Structural methodology, the important thing is not to find countless exact parallels; but key parallels between essential structures. (Or distinguishing details). Enough that an uneducated community of oral-culture learners, could have transmuted elements, from one story, to the next.

        Is our essentially literary/analytic interpretation a science? Of course it is not. And yet however over the last century, Mythographers are becoming more and more confident regarding their ability to recognize significant structural (and detail) analogies, cultural “borrowing”s, from one similar story to the next.

        To be sure this takes some imagination; a literary sensibility. But many think that the Bible after all, IS “literature.” And if so, then such methods become appropriate.

        In this case the essential similarily would be this: 1) a “son” 2) of a Jewish Lord, or “god”; 3) by a “Mary”; in 4) roughly the time Jesus is said to have lived; 5) is accused of trying to usurp the lord god, by claiming to be the new, Christened “heir” or lord. This 6) accusation (as in the Josepus or other account?) might be true or false; just as Jesus rarely made this claim explicitly, but only asked others “who do you say I am.” But 7) in any case, opinion turns against this (perhaps legitimate) son of a lord; and 8) he is executed. 9) Leaving followers heartbroken. And no doubt many asserting that the best, the real heir to their lord god, had been unjustly killed. (While some even said that the LORD god killed him; even Jesus on the cross assuming he had been “abandoned” by God).

        Is the story of Aristobulus and /or Alex, the sons of Mary, EXACTLY like the story of “Jesus”? It is not. But if you look at existing theories of Structural mythography and anthropology, this much in-common structure is enough to consider a likely historical correlation; cultural diffusion.

        To be sure, to make this case more formally, and publish it to be sure, I would have to sit down a do a few HUNDRED hours of research and writing. While then too in any case, I see this story as just one of several DOZEN tales that feed in, to create the Jesus Legend. But? Just to a casual inspection, this particular tale deserves very long, slow, detailed consideration. As a likely cultural antecent to the Jesus Legend.

        To be sure, the argument is predicated on a structural analogue methodology. Though such arguments are considered extremely useful, even central, among professional Mythographers. Indeed, I think it is time for Mythicists, need to begin developing very, very strong knowledge of the most closely-related field: Mythography. Which is where they will find their most support.

        To be sure we should always prefer hard, scientific evidence. But since that is not presently available? This is about as much as we have today. While this method of structural paralleling, has been developed quite a bit over the last two centuries or so; and is today far more rationally-based than early notations in the religious world, of analogues, of biblical paralleling, in the comparison of the NT, to OT parallels.

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