Frank Zindler’s response to Bart Ehrman is now online, Clarice O’Callighan of the JesusMysteries Forum alerts us. See his online article Bart Ehrman and the Cheshire Cat of Nazareth
When all that is left of a Cheshire cat is its grin, how can we be sure it is in fact the grin of a cat? To be sure, if we have watched a grinning cat disappear progressively until all we see is its grin, we can have some confidence that the aerial grin we perceive to remain is in fact that of a cat. As the grin further dissolves into the fog and mist of a perplexing day, however, it becomes harder and harder to determine if the motes that float before our eyes are still the remnants of the grin or just the random rubbish of polluted air. At some point, however, we will have to admit that the cat is gone—completely gone.
This all seems obvious enough and uncontroversial. But what if someone else were to walk by as you were standing at the wayside peering into the low branches of a tree and fixing your gaze on the fading remnants of the grin?
Then there’s this gem:
If Q was a true listing of the wise sayings of Jesus, then Ehrman could probably argue that Jesus had been well educated in Greek literature—including Aesop’s Fables! In fact, Jesus had had such a good Hellenisic education that he even quoted Aesop in one of his sayings that is reported in Q and adapted as Matthew 11:17 and Luke 7:32.
And what must historicists try to do?
Having no authority more credible than the fabled witness of the disembodied grin of a Cheshire cat, historicists must look to see if there are any dots or spots or splotches in the blurred and broken image of the past that they can connect in such a way that it can produce a convincing and unambiguous picture of even a character they might call Jesus of Nazareth. Then, the picture must be sharp enough to convince not just themselves but skeptics as well that the character was an actual man—not just a description of a character in a work of fiction. And most importantly: they must take care to insure that the picture at which they gaze is not their own image in a mirror.
And on the brothers of Jesus?
If James be accepted on flimsy evidence to be a brother of Jesus, what reason might we give for rejecting Thomas as his twin brother?
And of method?
The sentence ‘The Jesus of the gospels once lived somewhere or other,’ however, is meaningless. There is no conceivable way to falsify it.
And the end of the matter
We have come now to a point where the Historical Jesus is not yet completely gone, even though Ehrman himself has helped to cause the disappearance of his arms and legs and most of his torso. Nevertheless, soon all that will be left will not be the face of the Historical Jesus; it will be the grin of a cat that can’t be traced to Cheshire.
Like Alice in Wonderland, the reader of this essay has just witnessed the progressive dismantling and dissolution of a fascinating creation of the human mind. Like the Cheshire cat, Jesus of Nazareth was never a real, living organism. Like the Cheshire cat, who could not be beheaded because he had already lost his body, Jesus of Nazareth could not be ‘beheaded’ by the loss of his Nazareth identity. New Testament critics including Bart Ehrman had already hacked away most of his body by the time that empty excavations at Nazareth had erased the testimony of the empty tomb at Jerusalem. All that now remains is the fictive face on the Shroud of Turin—the laser display-like death mask of the Cheshire cat of Nazareth. Sometime soon, everyone including Bart Ehrman will have to admit that the cat is gone—completely gone.
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