A number of biblical scholars appear to be afflicted with something akin to the Red Scare or the Yellow Menace of the old Cold War days. They don’t need to know much about communism to know that it’s bad and evil and a threat to everything decent and that it appeals mostly to benighted minds in undeveloped nations. Similarly with rumours they hear about those who suggest there are valid reasons to question the historicity of Jesus: they don’t need to know much about it, only that it is a threat that supposedly only appeals to godless amateurs.
Now Jonathan Bernier is a very intelligent man but he sometimes writes about things of which he is evidently poorly informed. Indeed, he offers no evidence of having ever read any work of Price or Doherty or Brodie or Carrier or Wells yet claims to offer insights into mythicist motivations and reasoning that he suggests they themselves may not have considered.
I am referring to a blog post he published on 22nd April (Eastern Standard Time, Australia) titled Mythicism as Christian Mythology. (His blog is Critical Realism and the New Testament. I have had this post in draft for some time but see that now I am about to post about his article JB has removed it. C’est la vie.)
Without offering any citation of, or reference to, any mythicist author Bernier begins his criticism thus:
the standard mythicist appeal to comparative mythology. . . .
The mythicist argument is that the accounts about Jesus are just like those of all sorts of other gods or heroes in the ancient world. . . .
The mythicist argument that the accounts about Jesus are just like those of all sorts of other gods or heroes posits a process that we don’t tend to find elsewhere.
“Accounts of Jesus are just like those of all sorts of other gods?” Where did he get this idea from? Scoffing gossip and rumours repeated in staff wine and cheese parties?
Several of the works I have read by Christ Myth authors inform me that they draw upon mainstream critical biblical scholarship to explain the origins of many of the gospel narratives. Well recognized common literary practices (mimesis, intertextuality) among Greek, Roman and Jewish authors of the day are the primary explanations for the accounts of Jesus among authors like Price, Doherty, Carrier, Wells, Fitzgerald and others.
Next comes the sinister atheism association. Mythicists are equated with atheists, and of course we know by contrast that most good biblical scholars are in their own way exploring and defending their godly faith, don’t we. (Tongue in cheek.)
I think it well and good to describe it [mythicism] as a peculiar form of atheist Christology. . . . .
if they indeed do not think that God exists in the first place. . . .
If that is the case, given that their attested interests in this matter tend to relate to their atheism. . . .
Something fundamental about their apprehension of the world and themselves is at stake. . . .
Price calls himself a Christian atheist . . . . And the more I think about it, the more that I wonder if that term should not be applied to all mythicists.
Thomas Brodie, Tom Harpur, you are both hereby excluded from those who argue for a Christ Myth foundation for Christianity. Your problem is that you are not atheists like Robert Price and you remain stubbornly Christian, so your Christ Myth arguments do not count.
Moreover, prominent mythicist authors who have expressed the highest respect and even admiration for Christianity, even though some of them no longer call themselves Christian, have no place in Jonathan Bernier’s very narrow, most ill-informed, state of the literature. I’m thinking of names not only like Price, Brodie and Harpur above, but also Couchoud, Brandes, Rylands, Detering, Carotta, Freke and Gandy, van der Kaaij among others. To assume that mythicism can only be spawned by god-hating atheists who seek to wipe Christianity from the face of the earth only points to an ivory tower removal from all awareness of the real world.
Then there is the motivation. Mind-reading once again leads the way.