“Nothing in what [mythicists] write is authoritative or trustworthy”

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by Neil Godfrey

Quite some years ago I sat listening to a sabbath sermon by a Worldwide Church of God minister in which he made some very misleading assertions about the history of U.S. foreign policy. I approached him afterwards to point out what I had learned in an undergraduate course on the history of the United States. The minister had been trained at one of “God’s colleges” and told me that “the authority for” the point in question was one particular author and title I can no longer remember. What shocked me was that he claimed to have the equivalent of a B.A. in history yet spoke of one book being “the authority” on a historical question. My own education had led me to think of historical studies as an enquiry into the sources to attempt to evaluate the various points of view expressed in the literature on historical questions. There was no such thing as “the authority”. Perhaps the minister viewed my education as inspired by Satan.

Since someone drew my attention to James McGrath’s following comment I have been thinking back on that experience:

[T]here is nothing in what they [Christ mythicists] write that is inherently or obviously authoritative or trustworthy.

I can’t read McGrath’s mind so I don’t know what he means by “authoritative and trustworthy” studies. The most I can suggest is that he is setting mythicist works in contrast with mainstream scholarly works on the historical Jesus and in the process somehow implying that the bulk of mainstream scholarly historical Jesus books are in some sense “authoritative and trustworthy”.

What is an “authoritative and trustworthy” book of historical explanation?

To me, an authoritative work is a trustworthy work. Authority implies trust, confidence, in whatever it is that the authority proclaims. I am sure McGrath does not believe that any particular historical Jesus study is “authoritative” in the sense that it replaces the need for any other study.

If I were to point out what I consider to be trustworthy books on any subject here are the markers of trustworthiness that I would identify:

  1. the work never makes an assertion without providing evidence for that assertion;
  2. that evidence will be discussed in the context of other evidence;
  3. and a representative range of views or interpretations about that evidence will be shared with readers;
  4. and citations will be given to enable readers to follow up those different interpretations for themselves;
  5. especially, I will look for a fair presentation of opposing views to the one the author favours;
  6. and a fair and complete discussion of those opposing views — again with citations to enable readers to check details for themselves and make their own assessments;
  7. I will look for evidence of a wide knowledge of the field in which the discussion is taking place so that the author can demonstrate he or she is not approaching a question with some sort of limited tunnel vision.

That’s seven points. The perfect or authoritative number, yes? What else should be added to complete an explanation of what makes a work “trustworthy”?

Note that according to the above a work can be called trustworthy (some might even say “authoritative” in one sense of the word) but it would not be “the final answer or the ‘true’ opinion. It would be authoritative in the sense that it presents fairly and accurately the relevant evidence and enables readers to form their own judgments based on relatively complete information and understanding of the debates in the field; it will be a model of good scholarship.

It is possible, often likely, that one will find a scholarly work ‘trustworthy’ in the above sense yet still find room to disagree with its overall thesis. An alternative viewpoint and conclusion can be expressed through another ‘trustworthy’ work of scholarship, whether the author is a professional or amateur scholar.

Yes, there has been much poor work published by mythicists, but there has also been some exemplary scholarship, trustworthy and authoritative in the best sense as per above. In that sense, mythicist publications are no different from publications by those who write about “the historical Jesus”. There are some exemplary works in that field, too, as mythicists like Doherty, Price, Carrier have well noted. I would love to read an “authoritative and trustworthy” work that challenges certain mythicist views, so if anyone knows of one that meets the above understanding of what makes a work trustworthy do inform me.

This post is an extension of the earlier Answering James McGrath’s Questions for Mythicists

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22 thoughts on ““Nothing in what [mythicists] write is authoritative or trustworthy””

  1. My training is in the sciences, so I may be a bit biased here. I have seen a number of fields take on the trappings of science in an attempt to acquire the “authority,” if you will, that sciences have. Economics, for example, has wrapped itself in complicated mathematics when it used to be a field that used little mathematics. This was an attempt to make economics more like a science. History has also made some efforts in this regard. But there are problems in this as the natural sciences have a final arbiter of what is and is not useful and that is nature itself. No matter how clever an intellectual construction a scientific theory is, science can still say “no.” Einstein’s general theory is still being tested today, even though it has “passed” all previous tests. That does not make Einstein an authority, even though he has a reputation of being right in very creative ways.

    Anyone who mentions an “authoritative” text in science would be laughed at as science does not recognize an “authority” as a reliable source of anything. Too many persons labeled so have been dead wrong. I am suspicious of the use of the term via my training, but also because it is a de facto claim that their opinions (and they are just opinions) are better than mine and given all of the evidence, I can come up with an opinion, too. If their opinion is a better one, they (as you state with your list above) should be able to demonstrate it. It is the opinion that should have merit, not the person making it. This is an important distinction and I feel that people who claim otherwise are just looking to win an argument by playing “the authority card” (my sources opinions are better than your sources opinions, therefore I win).

  2. I would expand #2, or perhaps make another point:
    – the writer shares their assessment of the quality of the evidence they and other scholars on the topic are using.

    Especially in biblical studies.

    1. Indeed. And I’d also add from Greg Doudna’s comment that I’ve copied below — an acknowledgement of both the strengths and weaknesses of the method or approach undertaken.

  3. I really need to come up with an abbreviation for “Insert standing ovation here” – then again, for Vridar, it would be a standing Standing Ovation…

  4. In light of some of the comments here it is apropos to copy one by Greg Doudna from another discussion:

    In response to McGrath saying: “If you think the mainstream scholarly view in any area is weak and unjustified, I think it is always safe to say that you haven’t understood it.” . . . .

    Doudna writes:

    Completely untrue that mainstream scholarly views are always strong and justified. It is a rare INSIDER in any discipline who does not know very well some weaknesses of their own discipline’s assumptions. At least every “A” league scholar in any disciple does. “B” league scholars follow leaders, but “A” league scholars have the expertise to know for themselves where strengths and weaknesses are. The problem is that OUTSIDERS often do not understand, and then mock what they do not understand.

    Outsiders–whether outsiders to biological sciences who condemn evolution or non-climate scientists who are certain that global warming is a hoax, or whatever–typically are unable to accurately represent the reasoning and analysis that goes into WHY a given mainstream view became regnant and why expert opinion in a field is convinced it is justifiably so, prior to criticizing it and presenting arguments for a proposed better theory.

    Insiders to a discipline understand and can explain the reasons why regnant beliefs x,y,z came to be held and why they remain believed by their colleagues. Insiders are able to characterize and describe those reasons in a way that another insider who believes x,y,z would recognize and agree is fair description. It is more difficult, but not impossible, for an outsider, to do this. Minimally it requires effort, to read and dig and follow up footnotes and seek out informed sources holding opposing views, to get up to speed on internal discussions within a discipline.

    There is a paradox: everyone knows their own field is screwed up in x,y,z ways. (Really!–what insider in a given field does not know certain ways in which their own field is screwed up, or could do better–no matter what field it is?) But when we go outside our field of expertise we tend to trust mainstream experts and we lack insider knowledge of where the weak points are–rather than trust non-mainstream arguments or lone contrarians, in most cases–and very rationally and rightly so, in terms of game theory and maximizing odds of acting on the best information, in cases in which we do not have personal expertise to know better.

    After I completed my post-grad degree in educational studies I felt that I knew less about educational studies than when I began. The more I learned, the more I learned how much we don’t know and how so much of what we do know is so tentative, provisional.

  5. I would take issue with some of the criteria you use, Neal, to establish what is authoritative and reliable in specifically the historical Jesus field.

    1.) It is essential to establish the agenda of the author for writing a particular work. As I have seen and heard, many of the scholars involved in the field come from emotional places of disillusionment and rejection with their early exposure to Christianity or Christian schools. These are ‘experts’ who have suffered some emotional crisis and found either their faith or their Christian teachings wanting. Can an author be truly objective while being influenced by previous disillusionment in a religion handed down to them by their parents, teachers, professors, etc.? How much of that rejection of a previous Christian world view might impact their research and alternative theories and explanations? Scholars are human and are subject to the same influences of subconscious drives we all are.

    2.) How difficult is it to refute a given theory? If it is easy to refute an historical Jesus theory, then by definition, such a work is less than authoritative.

    3.) Confirmation bias. Does the expert succumb to confirmation bias while establishing their theory? This is the most difficult aspect for lay readers to determine. Without a broad knowledge of a particular subject, it would be extremely difficult for a non-expert to recognize the confirmation bias inherent in an expert’s theory. Such bias would preclude any claim of authoritative work.

    4.) Does the authoritative work best suit the available data? In order to be authoritative, a work must best suit the available historical data above other similar works. In a sense, this means that the author (and his biases, education, and agenda) is less important as an authority than is the data, which should speak for itself and stand up to critical analysis. It must stand above any refutations unambiguously.

    5.) Dependence upon Christian memes. Many works on the historical Jesus and/or the mythical Jesus that I have read continue to parrot Christian memes without further critical analysis. Such sub-conscious reliance on previous historical Jesus works is less than authoritative and shows a laziness on the part of the scholars to fully examine every detail of the historical record. For example, both historicists and mythicists still assume that the names associated with the Synoptic Gospel writers refer to their authors. However, upon examination, those names; Mark, Luke, and Matthew are actually titles drawn from Latin Gods and Greek base words: Mark= the Latin Marcus from Mars the god of war; Luke is from the Latin Lucifer, the bringer of light, and Matthew oddly, comes from the Greek from a base word indicating strife or conflict. These names are titles not authors. A thoroughly critical scholar must at least ask why Jewish writings would carry Latin and Greek names as their authors.

    To be truly authoritative, a work must pass these criteria.

    1. You appear to be working with a different understanding of “authoritative” from the one I explained in my post. The points I listed are designed to lessen the undue influence of bias. Everyone has a bias and the author who fails to recognize their bias or where it potentially invalidates their work will do so by failing to meet the points listed in the post and falling into all sorts of informal logical fallacies — as Ehrman does in his book about mythicism, as McGrath regularly does in his tirades against mythicism.

      By writing ad hominem (as you do) against scholars you are going to have to demonstrate both the evidence to prove your descriptions and how their bias invalidates the logic and worth of their thesis. Simply saying they are biased and have screwed up posts doesn’t cut it. On the other hand, sometimes a scholar can be guilty of informal fallacies such as ad homina but still produce a sound case — by following the points listed in the post. It just means they are a good scholar and a bit of a jerk at the same time.

      If a theory is “easy to refute” then it must be refuted in accordance with the points listed in the post.

      As for refutations, one does not refute the sources unless one is demonstrating that they are forgeries. The data, the sources, are the raw materials that exist and await interpretation in order to be used to make a case. No one can dispute that the name Mark is related to Mars. But to make an argument as you do from that datum you are going to have to do more than make a mere assertion backed up by a rhetorical question in an authoritative tone.

      That’s not what “authoritative” means in a scholarly work and it is not the way to produce a valid argument, let alone a “trustworthy” one. You seem to think of “authoritative” in a sense that means a “final, true” argument that puts an end to all further discussion because it is “The Ultimate Right Answer”. No such thing exists in genuine scholarship, as a look at other comments here should make clear.

  6. Yes, I agree, we seem to be working with a different understanding of the term “authoritative” from the one you prefer.

    To me, authoritative means that a work is the authority on a given subject, a work that is seen by others as a reliable, trustworthy and complete source for exact knowledge on its subject above all others. Barring any new information, an authoritative work stands alone as the source for information on its subject. As such, it does not need to include opposition works because it has already dealt with their arguments within its text; authoritative means it has already refuted opposition works. To be considered authoritative, its arguments and theories must rise above opposition points of view. Otherwise, it is just another theory.

    There isn’t room (or time) under this comments section to elaborate on how scholars’ biases might or might not impact their views on a particular subject. Suffice it to say that many of the scholars involved in the historical Jesus field have indicated that they came from a personal disillusionment with their faith in Christianity or that they were searching for some form of spiritual connection in their life. This is not a secret. They have spoken of it openly. This would add to the idea that many of these scholars, and others besides, have agendas while researching the historical data, as I’m sure we all do. These biases can lead to a lack of critical analysis when confronted by evidence that does not match their theories. They either fail to recognize these things or they ignore them. I could give you a list of some of the evidence that scholars have chosen to ignore (not to be confused with confirmation bias), but I gave you one: the names attached to the Synoptic Gospels are not the names of authors but are more than likely titles. If you know of any scholars who have examined this idea, please let me know. For other examples; I have written to two well know scholars about errors in their works that they chose to ignore because those errors did not suit their agendas: I wrote to Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson that they had failed to understand the etymology of the name Aseneth in their book The Lost Gospel before it was published and which completely refuted their theory, but they published anyway, (you can read my review of their work on Amazon). I also wrote to Gary Habermas who is currently writing a tome on the historical Jesus to explain to him from my own medical experience that pericardial effusion does not work the way he was using it in the book. So far, I have had no response, I assume because that knowledge does not square with his agenda. In each case, their biases (Wilson and Jacobovici as anti Christian tradition and Habermas as pro Christian tradition) affected their abilities to critically examine the historical and medical data.

    As for needing your seven points as the measure to be met for establishing authoritative works, let me point out that the seven points are not necessary for easily refuting the mythicist theory. One of the main pillars of that theory seems to be the absence of any biographical data about Jesus, primarily in Paul, and in other ancient works as well.There is a dearth of biographical data. This should not be surprising since we have no idea exactly how much ancient data we have available to us. We have no way of knowing if what we have is a greater or lesser amount of the ancient writings that may have existed. So to use the possibly scant data we have to formulate a theory about an absence of evidence regarding Jesus is wildly optimistic at best and extremely biased at worst. You can only claim an absence of evidence when and if you have some idea of how much data was available contemporaneously to Jesus and how much of that data we now have. There may have been a great deal of biographical data written about Jesus before the two Jewish revolts encouraged the Romans to wipe out that society.

    But beyond the fact that we cannot know how much data has been lost, there is the matter of damnatio memoriae, which was current in the Roman Empire at the time. I suspect Josephus was guilty of this and so it is possible that he and other writers wiped the existence of Jesus from their works, even as they wrote them. They may have seen Jesus as the catalyst for the destruction of their culture and society and their way of life. Without first or second hand works pertaining to Jesus, which may have been wiped out by the Romans, we just don’t know if there was any biographical data written about him. My own personal view is that since the Gospels were propaganda, not biographical history, and since I believe Paul was an agent of Rome and was not interested in the biography of Jesus, I see no reason why we should expect any biographical details of Jesus at all.

    So the idea that absence of evidence of Jesus’ biographic life should be a contributing factor for the mythicist theory seems very weak to me and it doesn’t take your seven points to refute it. And to further refute the mythicist theory, there are other actual references to the historical Jesus in ancient works if scholars could get beyond their biases and critically examine them. When you present these ideas to well known scholars, they either ignore them or consider them “too much of a stretch” (Habermas).

    If the goal of scholars is to ultimately produce authoritative works (the “Ultimate Right Answer”, until more information is found, yes) on the historical Jesus, mythicists should do a much better job of understanding the dearth of ancient sources that are available to them and should also critically examine what ancient records are available for possible references to Jesus, and Christian scholars should do a much better job of being open to conflicting theories about the historical Jesus.

    By the way, where did you come up with your seven points and your definition for ‘authoritative?’ Is that a personal opinion or did you draw them from another source?

    Almost all historical reconstructions, especially ancient ones, are subjective and dependent upon the view and bias of the historian. As such, they are dependent on their ‘authority’ from those who read their works and how well those works best suit the available data. Because such works are subjective, and because both historians and readers carry their own biases, no list, neither yours or mine can grant ‘authoritative’ to any work of history. It’s a pointless proposition.

    1. By the way, where did you come up with your seven points and your definition for ‘authoritative?’ Is that a personal opinion or did you draw them from another source?

      I drew them from my experience of exploring scholarly interests, beginning with my history teachers in senior high school who taught me the first rudiments of historical inquiry. They pioneered a new type of teaching history in Queensland and then Australian high schools, exploring and debating historical theses. We cut our teeth on Toynbee’s Challenge and Response thesis. Then as an undergraduate I learned to appreciate the challenges presented by E.H. Carr in What Is History? and his main opponent at the time, G. R. Elton in The Practice of History. My post grad educational studies and course in library and information science immersed me more deeply into that nature of knowledge, beliefs, theories and information. I have continued to keep up to some extent with the various schools and debates among historians and others about the nature of what they do and how they do it — in reading their books and articles and more recently in engaging with some of them in online forums or with personal correspondence.

      You and I have incompatible views of the what “authoritative” means or should mean in both the humanities and sciences. Without a clearer understanding of how open intellectual inquiry works you will continue to find rejection in your pursuit to have all agree with your point of view.

  7. I think that you are missing the point completely, Neal.

    While I respect and appreciate your educational background, you make a very common mistake: as you state above, you confuse my need for a “clearer understanding of how open intellectual inquiry works” with the historical data I present. This is a mistake many scholars make.

    It doesn’t matter whether or not I understand how intellectual inquiry works, or whether or not you and I agree on the meaning of “authoritative”, or really any personal thing about me, what matters is the data, the facts that I present.

    If there is an ossuary that states that Caiaphas had a son named Jesus, or if Josephus wrote about a Jesus ben Anananias (the Greek long version of Annas), or if the Greek ‘tekton’ was associated with specially trained Temple priests, or if the Gospels say that as a boy, Jesus went to “his father’s house” the Temple, those are historical facts that need to be re-examined. And if they connect the dots to an historical Jesus being a priest rather than a poor carpenter, then the historical Jesus narrative must change. If those historical facts can be refuted logically and convincingly, then so be it.

    The bottom line is that those historical facts have nothing to do with me as an historian. They exist on their own and independently of anything you or anyone else can say about me. I could be the dumbest person on the planet, but if I raise those factual points about an historical Jesus, then you and others should take it seriously because the data exists independently of me and the data has existed for two thousand years, surely enough time for scholars free of personal agendas to study them.

    Historians should study the data and determine what is factual. Scholars and critics could have the greatest educations on earth, but if they can’t separate historical facts from their personal judgements of the historians uncovering those facts, then what’s the point of their educations? Refute the facts first, then tell me I don’t understand how something works. Perhaps you don’t understand how studying historical data works. If the above facts are easy to refute, then do so. If you can’t, then take them seriously and ask yourself what they do to the Jesus narrative.

    Also, I don’t care whether or not “all agree with [my] point of view.” There will always be naysayers, just as there will always be those who refuse to critically examine the data. But if enough people carefully examine what I am saying and are objective and open minded, that should suffice.

    1. Facts are facts. But the problem comes when you connect dots. You are connecting dots to create an image you find attractive and demand we all should connect the dots the same way. But there are rules and controls on how dots must be connected. If not, anyone could prove anything one wanted to in a detective inquiry or court of law. All the facts are the same. But how does one justify connecting them in one way and not another. Or what if one sees many more dots than you do and sees your facts having stronger connections with other facts that you don’t even consider.

      I fear you are projecting when you say others cannot separate facts from personal judgments.

    2. DOT 1: If there is an ossuary that states that Caiaphas had a son named Jesus,

      DOT 2: or if Josephus wrote about a Jesus ben Anananias (the Greek long version of Annas),

      DOT 3: or if the Greek ‘tekton’ was associated with specially trained Temple priests,

      DOT 4: or if the Gospels say that as a boy, Jesus went to “his father’s house” the Temple,

      YOUR CONNECTION: . . . connect the dots to an historical Jesus being a priest rather than a poor carpenter

      Re DOT 1: — Jesus was a common name so there it is a huge stretch to assume that the ossuary has anything to do with the Jesus of the gospels. It is just as valid to say it referred to another Jesus entirely. Josephus mentions many Jesuses, for example.

      Re DOT 2: — Josephus gives us no evidence to think that this Jesus was a priest. None. It is possible that he was, but the rules of logic do not allow us to say something is probable just because it is possible.

      Re DOT 3: — “tekton” was also associated with scribes, and it could also mean a literal craftsman. Why pick one association and ignore the other meanings?

      Re DOT 4: — The story of Jesus in the temple as a boy makes sense entirely on its own. Occam’s razor says the basic rule is to keep things simple. If one explanation is satisfactory then don’t make it more complicated than necessary. Making something complicated by connecting dots to it that make sense on their own and for which we have no reason to make connections is not logically valid. Doing that is a logical fallacy. It is how conspiracy theories are made. It is how people come to believe in visitations to earth by space aliens. History, like science, needs to look for the simplest explanation for each DOT.

      If we imagine that dots CAN be connected in a certain way with a lot of imagination then we are not doing history or science.

      1. You and Mr. Horse are missing the point. Our understanding of history, especially ancient history is based largely on historical reconstructions of the best available evidence. There were no videos back then, no journalists, or what we today would consider objective historians as eye witnesses to the events, only scattered, subjective accounts that historians today try to piece together. These historical reconstructions are hypothetical, based upon the best available evidence. The reconstruction that best accounts for the evidence should become history, until something more convincing comes along.

        So, Mr. Horse, when I use “If” as a precursor to a comment, it is with that in mind. I am trying to present a hypothetical view of scattered evidence, evidence which is factual. In other words, there factually exists an ossuary naming Jesus as the son of Caiaphas. There is a factual account in Josephus regarding a Jesus ben Anananias. Factually, tekton could refer to a priest and so on. I have made noting up.

        Now to respond to Neal’s dots:

        Dot 1: This is an old and very tired argument. It doesn’t refute anything. It merely states that ‘Jesus’ was a very common name during Jesus’ lifetime. Yup, it could refer to another Jesus, but it could just as easily refer to the Gospel Jesus. Other pieces of evidence are needed to determine if the ossuary Jesus is the Gospel Jesus. So no refutation there, just a statistical observation. And btw, it doesn’t require Jesus to be a very common name. Unless Jesus was a singularly unique name, any number of Jesuses could make a positive ID difficult. This is why I said, “If.”

        Dot 2: Wrong. Josephus wrote that tekton referred to the over two thousand specially trained priests who worked on the Temple during Joseph’s and Jesus’ lifetimes. That is evidence to suspect that the use of tekton in reference to Jesus and his father might carry that meaning and consequently should be studied by scholars. It is possible. I did not say “probable.” Again, I used “If” as a reference to a hypothetical.

        Dot 3: Tekton had several meanings, correct, but Jesus wasn’t referenced as a scribe or as a craftsman in any way, just as a tekton, so determining what he might have been requires further evidence. Given other evidence, like his knowledge of the Torah and his connection to the Temple and the Gospel fact that he was the presumed king of Judea (the titulus), ‘priest’ seems like a more likely candidate for tekton. You connect the dots and see what makes the most sense. Again, I used “If.”

        Dot 4: Which do you think is simpler; that the boy Jesus was referring to his father’s (God’s) house at the Temple or that he was referencing his father Joseph’s house at the Temple? Occam’s Razor would indicate that the reference was to Joseph (human) rather than to God (miraculous, son of God reference). Occam’s Razor is a good rule of thumb, but it does not account for everything, like the distinction between divine intervention and human agency. For some, miracles are easier to accept than human agency; for historians, not so much. So as an historian, my understanding of Jesus’ comment that he was at his father’s house refers to Joseph, his father because as an historian I have to rule out the miraculous if human agency is possible: humans first, miracles as a very last resort. That doesn’t require “a lot of imagination,” just good analytical thinking. So Jesus saw the Temple as Joseph’s place of work, possibly then as a priest.

        It doesn’t take “a lot of imagination” to look at the evidence and put it into historical, human terms. Objectivity, yes, a lot of imagination? No.

        I used just four dots to make connections, there are many more dots and once you let go of Christian tradition, other theories, and personal agendas, they stand out clearly and come together to make a much more historically believable picture.

        You and MrHorse need to understand how historical reconstruction works. If you have ever seen in the news how archaeologists report their findings, they often present them as hypotheticals. ” We discovered “X” and we think it means this, but further work will need to be done to verify our findings.” That’s what I’m doing, proposing a hypothetical view of the historical Jesus. It’s not “Weird. Illogical,” it’s based on known facts and human behavior, and it invites others to critically analyze the data. So far, I haven’t seen any well thought out refutations of what I am proposing. That’s doing “history.”

        The question you should be asking is: is all this humanly possible? And of course the answer to each of the dots is that of course these points are possible. It’s possible that Jesus was the son of Caiaphas, that Jesus was a priest, that tekton confirms that, and that as a boy, when deserted by his family, he went to his father’s place of work. These things are all quite possible. None of them are impossible, which is what is required to refute them. If they are all possible, then scholars should study them instead of dismissing them out of hand as you seem to do.

        The only reason you struggle with them is because they clash with your own beliefs. If you are objective, you have to say that the dots are all possible. The dots may show other possibilities as well, but you can’t say that the dots I have presented are not possible or that they require great imagination. Connecting these dots answers many questions about the historical Jesus, and, unless you use a lot of imagination, tends to refute the mythicist theory. If there was an historical Jesus, the mythicist theory becomes somewhat problematic; not impossible, but certainly problematic.

    3. David Mirsch wrote – “what matters is the data, the facts that I present.” But David doesn’t present any facts.

      In fact, he then has a sentence start “If …” Then make several other ‘if’ propositions. No factual premises or even statements.

      The claims those if prefixed propositions as “those historical facts”. Weird. Illogical.

    4. “Isn’t this Jesus a builder?”, “Isn’t this Jesus’ father a builder?”. Either God “built” the World, or he handed it of to Jesus to “build” the World. I think it is pretty obvious where the Markan usage in his parabolic/allegoric Gospel comes from.

      Many works on the historical Jesus and/or the mythical Jesus that I have read continue to parrot Christian memes without further critical analysis.

      . This. A view I’ve held for several years now. On the critical/agnostic/mythical end of things, folk have insufficiently taken into account how much has been undermined. We are left with not so much a house built on sand but a castle in the air above a beach and bereft of its’ lower storeys, foundation and footings.

      1. We are left with not so much a house built on sand but a castle in the air above a beach and bereft of its’ lower storeys, foundation and footings.

        • LOL 🙂

    1. Also their ‘bracketing’ of the gospel material.

      A good example is Cavin & Colombetti, who ignore any implication of the miraculous parts of the gospels on the reliability of the non-miraculous parts.

      • Cavin, Robert Greg; Colombetti, Carlos A. (2014). “Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus”. Faith and Philosophy 31 (2): 204–216. doi:10.5840/faithphil20146511.

      However “Bracketing” is more commonly known as used by apologists arguing for the resurrection by first establishing the truth of the non-miraculous parts, and then using these supposedly now “firmly established facts” as a platform from which to argue for the truth of the miraculous parts.

      • Lataster, Raphael (2019). “Defending Jesus Agnosticism”. Think 18 (51): 77–91. doi:10.1017/S1477175618000362.

      All too often I see philosophers comment on biblical claims with an inadequate knowledge of the Bible, Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general. This can lead to scenarios . . . where too much credence — more than some Christian scholars of the Bible in some cases — is given to the sources. And all too often, I see biblical scholars make logical claims without the vitally important critical framework of the analytic philosopher. I believe that both are needed to answer questions of this sort. We need the knowledge and nuance of the specialist scholar of religion and the logical acuity of the analytic philosopher.

      1. I added a link to this post at:


        • McGrath, James F. (20 January 2020). “Mythicism, Isnads, and Pseudepigrapha”. Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath.
        ‣ Godfrey, Neil (23 January 2020). “Answering James McGrath’s Questions for Mythicists”. Vridar.
        ‣ Godfrey, Neil (26 January 2020). “”Nothing in what [mythicists] write is authoritative or trustworthy””. Vridar.

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