Another summary of discussions with McGrath and Hurtado

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by Neil Godfrey

Nicholas Covington of Hume’s Apprentice has collated lowlights of his discussions about Jesus mythicism with James McGrath and Larry Hurtado. He includes references to posts on the same topic by Jonathan Bernier, too.

Nicholas identifies the same circularities of argument and the same logical fallacies that characterize their points as I have also found in the past.

His conclusion:

It’s funny how anti-mythicists nowadays spend more of their time wading into personal attacks on mythicists, extensive psychological speculations about why they hold the beliefs they do, non-stop reminders that all the “real scholars” believe it, but ancient evidence and its interpretation is practically an afterthought. Moreover, this whole accusation is largely false, I personally do not use this as an argument against Christianity: I have debated the resurrection without suggesting Jesus was mythical and written a chapter in my book Atheism and Naturalism refuting common apologetical arguments without once mentioning the Christ myth theory except to make clear that my arguments did not assume it was true. neither do any of the more prominent scholarly mythicists. Thomas Brodie sure doesn’t, neither does Robert M. Price (“There could be a god but no Jesus or a Jesus but no God” and sees his own views on the mythological origins of Christianity as a “working hypothesis” or a “speculation,” with the qualification that “it’s all speculation,” in other words: he’s saying his thesis is at worst no more speculative than anyone else’s). Carrier himself routinely assumes Jesus was a historical figure when debating Christian apologists.


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Neil Godfrey

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7 thoughts on “Another summary of discussions with McGrath and Hurtado”

  1. Psychological speculation is an act of projection. These men blatantly depend for their livelihood on perpetuating the myths they almost certainly see as false. I know people like this in real life but more often than not they will keep their mouths shut, these men on the other hand probably don’t have an option to be tight lipped about mythicism.

    1. One of the stupidest things that hostile folk like Hurtado and McGrath say is that mythicism is an attempt to undermine Christianity. The worst possible way anyone could attempt to argue against Christianity with believers is to tell them Jesus did not exist. That would shut the discussion down immediately. It’s a crazy accusation to make.

      1. That is true, and other reasons not to use the Christ myth theory as a weapon include the following:
        (1) It’s a complex topic. Explaining what it is and what reasons there are to take it seriously can take a LOT of time, time that could be better spent on other things (see 3).
        (2) It’s an easy-to-attack thesis. Anyone who knows Josephus, Tacitus, Galatians 4:4, Romans 1:3, Galatians 1:19 etc can whip out these proof texts, and they are not all easy or simple to account for off the top of your head (not to mention that the other person will feel like you’re making a strained argument if you have to ‘explain away’ multiple pieces of evidence.
        (3) The apocalypticism in the New Testament is pervasive and hard to get out of (like in 1 Corinthians 7:27-31, where Paul tells the Corinthians not to get married because the world “in its present form is passing away…” And I would suggest this is much better ‘ammunition’ to use in a conversation, because you can easily put the believer on the defensive.

        1. Regarding your number (3), my favorite apocalyptic passage is when Paul calls the resurrected Jesus the “firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the general resurrection of souls at the end of days – which would seem to imply the rest of the “harvest” was imminent. Kephas and Paul never seem to be in disagreement about this major point, so it is probably what he taught too.

        2. This comes after he has told us he got his teaching from hallucinations and scouring the OT. He has already told us he is talking bollocks. I see no reason not to point this out to these loonies.

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