Peter Enns (Rethinking Biblical Christianity) has posted a “brief thought about scholarship, scepticism and apologetics” in relation to this question. It is a quotation from Gerd Thiessen and Annette Merz’s The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, and makes a refreshing and welcome read given its avoidance of the hostile tone too often encountered on both sides of the discussion.
My own comments:
Peter’s opening quotation frames those who reject the historicity of Jesus as “radical skeptics”. As I have posted before, I don’t quite understand what is meant by a radical sceptic as opposed to any other type of sceptic, and surely scepticism is a valid and sound approach to any scholarly or scientific inquiry. I sometimes wonder if the term “radical scepticism” is meant to convey the notion of unreasonable and wilful dismissal of “common sense”. But the examples Peter offers of historicity doubters — Bruno Bauer, Albert Kalthoff, Arthur Drews — could scarcely be accused of that in their methods of argument whatever we think of their conclusions.
An interesting point follows:
Here historical skepticism appears within or outside theology, often with a great ethical solemnity, and foists on its critics the ungrateful role of apologists driven by their wishes. This is quite wrong. In discussion of the historical Jesus nothing is free from wishes and interests, not even skepticism.
It is absolutely true that in any discussion (not just of the historical Jesus) “nothing is free from wishes and interests, not even skepticism”. However, if it comes to discussions on the historicity of Jesus the last people I would ever be interested in engaging are “apologists”. Apologists ever since the second century have a bad name for lacing their arguments with personal vitriol. No thanks. I’d rather engage with people I can respect as open to scholarly methods and reasonable discussion wherever that may lead.
There is another assumption, then, that may be true of some deniers of the historicity of Jesus but is certainly not true of all: Continue reading “Did Jesus even live? A brief response”