Nicholas Covington has posted a worth-reading article on Skepticink: The Dying Messiah: A Problem for Jesus Myth Theory? Nicholas is responding to a regular argument of Professor McGrath’s for the existence of a historical Jesus. McGrath, as many of us know, and as Nicholas sums up, argues as follows:
(1) There is no evidence of a belief in a dying messiah prior to Christianity, therefore
(2) Before Christianity emerged, no one believed in a dying messiah.
(3) Out of all the possible explanations we might offer for this apparent innovation of the early Christians, the best explanation is that Christians came up with the idea as a response to the unexpected pre-mature death of Jesus, because a belief in a dying messiah looks like an ad-hoc rationalization (no one had expected a dying messiah previously and it otherwise seems precluded by Jewish beliefs).
Therefore, Jesus existed.
Nicholas Covington’s response:
In this post, I will demonstrate that there are credible, recent, non-mythicist scholars who believe McGrath’s first premise is false. I will follow this with some other considerations that render McGrath’s argument doubtful in other respects.
Of special value in the blogpost is the bibliography that includes online links to various sources. I won’t steal his thunder by repeating them here. To me the work of Hengel and the Septuagint version of Isaiah 53 are especially telling. I have some reservations about the reference to Israel Knohl, however. I have read so much for an against his hypothesis and am no longer confident the extant evidence supports his interpretation. I am open to further reviews, though.
Meanwhile, on a somewhat related topic, Professor McGrath appears to have caught up with the case for many Jews (pre-Christian) believing in a sacrificed and resurrected Isaac and he wonders how such an idea might have weaved itself into Christianity in some form. I posted him links to my own reviews of scholarly works on this subject — Huizenga – 4 posts and for Levenson 10 posts — that I hope he finds useful.
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