On Larry Hurtado’s Response

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by Neil Godfrey

Professor Hurtado has followed up with another post (“Mythical Jesus”: The Fatal Flaws) that was prompted by my earlier criticism of what I considered his flawed, even unprofessional, treatment of Carrier’s arguments in particular and the arguments of the Christ Myth hypothesis more generally.

In his reply Hurtado accused me of “dismissing” and “impugning” a huge body of scholarship as “gullible or prejudiced”. That is simply false. I have never “dismissed” any critical scholarship that I am aware of. I have learned much from — and greatly appreciate — that “huge body of scholarship” as the many, many posts on this blog amply testify. He further implied that I think there is some “conspiracy” involved and that scholars are “gullible and lazy”. What rot. Authors like Carrier and Doherty and Price and Brodie, in fact, engage critically with the “huge body of scholarship” and by no means suggest it is “gullible” or “conspiratorial”. That’s a farcical accusation.

Larry Hurtado, please indicate a few scholars that you believe I or Christ myth advocates have “impugned” or “dismissed” as “gullible or prejudiced”.

I can only surmise that Hurtado superficially skimmed my post with hostile intent and read into what is simply not there.

I have criticized certain arguments of certain scholars, and my recent post was to criticize Hurtado’s treatment of a view that he finds “tedious” to engage with and that he appears not to have bothered to investigate beyond a very sketchy glance at a few web articles. His treatment of those articles, and even of my own post, indicates that he has read them impatiently to the point of misconstruing or failing to grasp critical details that belied several of his claims. (For example, with respect to my own post, in another comment Hurtado said I misrepresented his post by failing to recognize that he was addressing only scholars in certain relevant fields. In fact I explicitly addressed his very words and claim about scholars in those said relevant fields. And if he seriously read my post he could never have claimed that I was “impugning” or “dismissing” scholarship, etc.)

Hurtado in his new post simply underscores his earlier claims and insists everything he wrote was fair and accurate — including his “three strikes” against Carrier’s argument.

In doing so he has failed to defend his remarks against specific criticisms. He refuses to even read the arguments of mythicists apart from summary short articles online. In other words, he refuses to take the argument seriously (which is fair enough, since he hasn’t read it and clearly remains uninformed of its main substance) and has no desire to even attempt to do so. The very thought appears to be tedious to him. That’s fine. I don’t bother to look into things that don’t interest me, either. But I don’t claim to know all I need to know about those things or bother writing criticisms of them. That would indeed be tedious and worse.

Recently I thought I read that Hurtado boasts that he regularly presents both sides of an argument on his blog. That claim is true, I think, of only a handful of viewpoints that he addresses. My early encounters with Hurtado were actually to challenge him to present alternative views to the one he argued in a post (and no, the topic had nothing to do with “mythicism) and that was published by his scholarly peers.

I don’t understand why Hurtado wrote his second post with reference to me since he does not engage with my primary concerns and criticisms. He simply repeats his unprofessional personal accusations and the same criticisms that I attempted to demonstrate were ill-informed and adds a few more remarks that fall somewhat short of total accuracy.

Hurtado concludes:

So, ignoring the various red-herrings and distortions of the “mythicist” advocates, the claims proffered as “corroborating” their view have been shown to be erroneous. And this is why the view has no traction among scholars. There’s no conspiracy. It’s not because scholars are gullible or lazy. The view just doesn’t stand up to critical scrutiny.

And that about sums it up. Hurtado has very little knowledge of the mythicist arguments, refuses to read the books, contents himself to skim reading (if not skim reading then reading with hostile intent) and distorting what is found on a couple of websites, and then claiming that the arguments have been subjected to “critical scrutiny” and “shown to be erroneous” and that’s why “the view has no traction among scholars”.

Hurtado’s recent posts have demonstrated in fact that that’s not the reason the view has no traction among scholars. There is evidently something else involved and the hostile, less than professional attitudes and accusations from Hurtado surely are the symptoms of that “something else”.




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Neil Godfrey

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19 thoughts on “On Larry Hurtado’s Response”

  1. I wunce had an email chat with Hurtado. I ventur’d to point out that modern xtians hav popularly defolt marcionite attitudes ie OT god is difrunt tu the Jesus NT god. He agreed. This means Jesus is the wun whu makes mums and dads eat their own childrin etc eg Jer 19.9 or Jesus thretns t ‘lift up a wuman’s skirt and ixpose the jenitals…’ Isa 47.3 etc. Dearie me!

  2. People don’t like competitors. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, (net worth $94 Billion) owns Amazon and the Washington Post. Besides its website, Amazon is a direct competitor of streaming giant Netflix. For the last five years, the number one show on Netflix was “House of Cards” produced by Kevin Spacey. Is it any wonder that the Washingon Post started the witch-hunt against Kevin Spacey?
    If you had been hailed as a great expect and authority on exorcism and had distinguished exactly which demons caused which diseases, Wouldn’t you be justifiably proud of yourself? If some people came along and said that exorcism wasn’t real and demons did not cause disease, but invisible germs did, wouldn’t you wave your magic wand and dismiss them?

  3. I just posted the following the Hurtado’s blog, and it is now awaiting moderation. Let’s see what he does with it.


    I am, as they used to say, getting along in years. For most of my life, I’ve been an atheist, and for most of those years, I believed that only crackpots could entertain the notion that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. I changed my mind about that after reading Earl Doherty’s book.

    That was almost 20 years ago. Doherty did not convince me that Jesus certainly never existed. He convinced me that it was reasonable to doubt that he existed. And the more I have researched the claims on both sides of the historicist-mythicist debate, the more convinced I have become that such doubt is reasonable.

    I have never entertained the notion that all historicists are gullible or lazy, or that they are engaged in any conspiracy. What I have seen, in the rare instances when they have presented real arguments in defense of historicity, is a begging of the question. Every such argument, without any exception that I have noticed so far, depends for its validity on the assumption that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth whose followers were responsible for the founding of the religion that evolved into what we now know as Christianity.

    1. Took me 2 or 3 careful readings to find it. The mind works in funny ways. It can see what’s not there or not see what it presumes is there but is not.
      Nice post BTW.

        1. Tim is the techie, not me. He has a lot on his plate at the moment but I’ll pass this on to him and see if he can do anything when he has the opportunity.

  4. Christians on Christian Veracity

    “There never was any period of time in all ecclesiastical history in which so many rank heresies were publicly professed nor in which so many spurious books were forged and published by the Christians, under the names of Christ and the Apostles, and the Apostolic writers, as in those primitive ages: several of which forged books are frequently cited and applied to the defense of Christianity by the most eminent Fathers of the same ages as true and genuine pieces, and of equal authority with the Scriptures themselves.”

    Conyers Middleton
    Free Inquiry
    Introductory Discourses

    “No fable could be too gross, no invention too transparent, for their unsuspicious acceptance, if it assumed a pious form or tended to edification. No period in the history of the world ever produced so many spurious works as the first two or three centuries of our era.The name of every Apostle, or Christian teacher not excepting that of the great master himself, was freely attached to every description of religious forgery.”

    Supernatural Religion, Vol. II. (of III
    Walter Richard Cassels
    An Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation

    “But a graver accusation than that of inaccuracy or deficient authority lies against the writings which have come down to us from the second century. There can be no doubt that greater number of books were then written with no other view than to deceive the simple-minded multitude who at that time forged the great bulk of the Christian community.”

    Giles, Hebrew and Christian Records
    Vol ii, Pg. 19

    {Christians} “quieted their consciences respecting the forgery with the idea of their good intention, for the purpose of giving greater impressiveness to their doctrines and admonitions by the permutation of respectable names, of animating their suffering brethren to steadfastness, and of gaining over their opponents to Christianity.”

    Dr. Gieseler
    Ecclesiastical History
    Vol. 1, Pg.158

    “But credulity is not the only charge with which those early ages must sustain they certainly cannot be pronounced free from the influence of pious frauds… it was an age of literary frauds. Deceit, if it had good intention, frequently passed unchallenged… However unwilling we may be to admit it, history forces upon us the recognition of pious fraud as a principle which was by no means inoperative in the earliest stages of Christianity.”

    Bishop Ellicott
    Cambridge Essays Pp. 175-176

    “The very large past of that must be assigned to deliberate forgeries in the early apologetic literature of the Church we have already seen; and no impartial reader can, I think, investigate the innumerable grotesque and lying legends that, during the whole course of the Middle Ages were deliberately palmed upon mankind as undoubted facts, can follow the history of the false decretals, and the discussions that were connected with them, or can observe the complete and absolute incapacity most Catholic historians have displayed, of conceiving any good thing in the ranks of their opponents, or of stating with common fairness and consideration that can tell against their cause, without acknowledging how serious and how inveterate has been the evil. It is this which makes it so unspeakably repulsive to all independent and impartial thinkers, and has led a great German historian (Herder) to declare, with much bitterness, that the phrase ‘Christian veracity’ deserves to rank with the phrase ‘Punic Faith’.

    History of European Morals From Augustus to Charlemagne
    Lecky, William Edward Hartpole (Vol. 2 of 2)
    Vol. ii Pg.212

    “Everything that has been recorded of the Jesus of history was recorded for us by men to whom he was Christ the Lord, and we cannot expunge their faith from the records without making the records themselves virtually worthless. There is no Jesus known to history except him who is depicted by his followers as the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the World.

    The Earliest Records of Jesus
    Francis Beare p. 19

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