A Wonderful Idea from Dr McGrath for Mythicists

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by Neil Godfrey

Dr McGrath has proposed a wonderful idea that will be sure to clear the air of much misunderstanding and misinformation about what proponents of the Christ myth “claim”. He has suggested setting up a TalkHistoricity site where all the mythicist claims can be set out and people who know better can respond to them, — so it’s all there in the open, in one central place, a wonderful resource for all interested in the debate, no doubt from both sides.

So to help Dr McGrath get this started, I’d thought I’d take the initiative and invite any mythicist to send Dr McGrath a “claim”. I am sure he will find this most useful. I know he does not want to prejudice the site by having himself or other opponents of mythicism put words into the mouths of the likes of Doherty, Price, Wells, Carrier, etc. I know he wants this to be an authoritative resource. So if all the mythicists send him claims then all he has to do is find people to respond to each one.

Of course, some of us might be thinking “claim” is a pretty strong word. If so, why not present a statement and explain whatever it is: a proposition, a hypothesis, a reasoned argument, an scholarly-based interpretation (cite the sources, of course), a conclusion from X and Y, or whatever.

That will help the good doctor to categorize the different “claims” and enable a more fruitful and enlightening information source.

Or maybe we can all save up the “claims” and send them all together once he announces how he plans to set up his new authoritative resource to educate the likes of Jerry Coyne and others.

I’m looking forward to it. I was thinking of collating his old reviews of Earl Doherty’s JNGNM and forwarding his claims about what Doherty says in that book. I’d then add and send McGrath the full quotation of what Doherty really did say so this time he can get it right. I’m sure he’ll find it helpful and a great public service to the advancement of nonsectarian historical knowledge.



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0 thoughts on “A Wonderful Idea from Dr McGrath for Mythicists”

  1. Posting a “claim” would have to be accompanied by some arguments for that claim, otherwise all we will get is the same old ‘response’ to mythicist elements, or simply denial and ridicule. It’s like my “Twelve Pieces of the Jesus Puzzle” which prefaced both books. These are summary statements about the origins of Christianity and about the documentary record, which often require pages to lay out and argue. More than one apologist has devoted time and effort simply to making a counter-statement to each one, with no counter-argumentation coming into play on either side. Even with accompanying arguments, there is no guarantee that those arguments would actually be addressed. McGrath’s never-completed “review” of JNGNM usually made no effort to engage with my argumentation but only appealed to authority or empty retorts like “Doherty ignores other evidence that would disprove his claims.”

    And if we stated a “claim” which McGrath’s chosen expert would offer some arguments against, would we have the option of engaging with those arguments and offering counter-arguments in turn? I doubt it.

    Example: I state a “claim” that Paul derived his crucified Christ entirely from scripture. (After all, that is all that McGrath really wants, a bare claim by mythicism that he can dump on and ridicule.) His chosen responder might say, “Nobody would invent a crucified Messiah!”, letting the inherent ridicule serve as an alleged disproving of the mythicist claim. If I wanted to accompany that claim with some evidence/argument, I could quote a couple of passages which indicate Paul’s (and others’) reliance on scripture for what is said about Jesus, including, for example, Romans 1:2-4. In all the years that I have pointed out that verse 2 in that passage virtually states that the data in verses 3 and 4 come from scripture, no one has ever actually grappled with that observation. It gets ignored or dismissed, overridden by “seed of David can only signify human descent. Case closed!” So if a thoroughly inadequate counter is offered to that observation, while McGrath’s peanut gallery simply nods their heads and agrees with it, what then? Without extended back and forth, and prodding to get McGrath’s side to actually engage with a mythicist argument (lotsa luck there!), nothing is really accomplished, and the historicist audience walks away convinced they’ve won the day.

    Maybe I’m being overly negative (it sure WOULD be nice to be able to engage in proper debate with someone like McGrath and his cronies), but our experience with him does not make a positive outlook too justified. At first blush it sounds like an intriguing idea, but when one gets down to it (especially with someone like McGrath involved), I doubt that it would really work.

    1. I agree. McGrath has prejudiced the exercise from the start by saying it will be about myticist “claims”. We see even Mark Goodacre lists “mythicist claims” that are really only his own interpretation of implications of mythicists arguments and not “claims” at all.

      That’s why I suggest mythicists make the “claims” and categorize them or explain their rationale or explain exactly what they are, “conclusions based on X and Y”, etc .

      Of course this is not what McG wants. I have no doubt he will not let mythicists have their say at all, not even in the “making of their claims”. My post hoped to bring to the fore that this is all McG’s nonsense is really all about. The next step will be for someone like myself to write rejoinders, and then he will say, “Now mythicists are just like Creationists (Jerry Coyne defines McGrath as a Creationist, by the way) because they deny they say what we say they say.” But all we need to do is actually quote and reference the mythicist “claims” and his charade will be exposed. So it’s a good idea, yes? 🙂

  2. My step one of a multi-step processwould be to point out that it is not up to mythicists to ‘prove’ mythicism but for historicists to prove historicity.


    The burden of proof is the historicist team’s responsibility, they are saying HJ exists[ed] therefore they must, repeat must, provide evidence and argument to support that statement.
    Lack of evidence for a position does not entitle us to presume that position.

    So let us consider the various bits of ‘evidence’ that are claimed for an HJ and see if they are credible.
    If not then alternate viewsm whatever they may be, are warranted.

    1. > it is not up to mythicists to ‘prove’ mythicism but for historicists to prove historicity.

      In an ideal world, yes. In the real world, however, you have a situation where historicists use credentials to “prove” HJ.

      > therefore they must, repeat must, provide evidence and argument

      But what if they simply provide _something_, call it evidence, and again misuse their credentials to gain authority to interpret that provided evidence? How do you force them to provide sufficient evidence and valid arguments and not simply yet another intentional fallacy?

      When, for example, Bart Ehrman claims that Galatians 1:19 alone is enough to be sure Jesus existed, and Earl Doherty claims that it is not because Paul uses the key word all the time, Ehrman can in the eyes of an audience simply win the argument by asking “Who’s the credentialed, tenured university professor here, me or you?” and denigrate Earl an internet crook, atheist fanatic, etc.

      How exactly do you win against an debate opponent when he knowingly abuses his privileged position and flat out refuses to play fair?

  3. James McGrath and Paul Regnier are defending to the hilt their right to use ‘fabricated material’ as evidence of the historicity of Jesus.

    It would be funny, if it wasn’t so…

    Actually, it is funny. We get to laugh at McGrath and Regnier, without any feelings of guilt.

    McGrath wants to set up a site to refute mythicists, the way evolutionists refute creationists, and he proclaims loudly that he intends to use fabricated material to do so….

    1. I don’t usually comment here, but since Steve has for some reason mentioned me… If anybody would like to know what I actually said, or respond to my actual point, they can do so via the comment section of the post Neil links to above.

      1. Paul has indeed been cruelly maligned. The fact is he only unwittingly found himself fighting on the same side as McGrath who says fabricated material is a legitimate source for the historian wanting to understand the historical Jesus and that HJ scholars are doing history no differently from any other historians.

        It was not Paul’s fault that he found himself in this particular trench. Paul only guessed what Dale Allison meant by the value of fabricated material for HJ studies and McGrath did not correct him. Worse, McGrath even deepened Paul’s misunderstanding by giving a false description of what Allison meant. McGrath has clearly forgotten what Allison’s argument actually is.

        McGrath mistakenly informed his readers that Allison’s point is that where we have lots of material testifying to something about Jesus and some of that material is fabricated, and it’s all saying the same thing, then that fabricated material . . . . No, that makes no sense. You’ll have to read McGrath for yourself.

        So I did point out to McG and his readers that his fabricated reconstruction makes no sense and that in his scenario it would be irrelevant to the historian. Allison’s point is, in fact, that if we only have lots of “fabricated” material in the gospels and it’s all more or less saying the same thing about Jesus, then it’s probably safe for the historian to take it as a legit source for what the real HJ was like. (I’ve discussed this before when addressing Allison’s book “Constructing Jesus” — links are in the “Categories” bar in the right hand margin here.)

    1. Can you give us the link to this, please? (It sounds like he has as much staying power with the wiki as he had with his review of Earl Doherty’s book that he averred he would complete.)

      I might be able to help out the site with a few historicist arguments of my own.

        1. Ha! What a joke. It’s not hard to see what has happened there. After they drew up McGrath’s list of what he claims are “claims of mythicists” (along with one or two from other darkened lights) they are left with a choice of either paraphrasing their own versions of what they claim mythicists claim or locating sources from among the mythicists themselves to verify their assertions.

          The former course would, of course, prove to be a laughing stock, an embarrassment that backfires on them; the latter would undermine the whole point of their exercise.

          All they have are what they have so far published: a list of what they (mainly McG) claim mythicists claim. No consideration is allowed that mythicists might have arguments rather than mere claims. And of course by positioning themselves where they must, for the first time ever I suspect, actually attempt to express the real arguments of mythicists, they find themselves stymied.

          I might help them a little and post under their own headings what mythicists actually “claim” (or argue).

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