Tag Archives: Historicity of Jesus

Questions for Professor McGrath re Those Proofs

I trust I have set out Professor McGrath’s proofs for the historical existence of Jesus fairly and accurately in my previous post. Since the Professor has declined to engage in discussion with me I wonder if any interested readers would like to raise the following questions with him and alert us here of his responses.

Paul says Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh — thus indicating he believed him to be historical. Here Paul is talking specifically about “the Davidic anointed one” and referring to a “kingly figure” and the “expectation that the kingship would be restored to the dynasty of David”. That expectation meant that the messiah would be made the king, not crucified. So crucifixion was almost automatic disqualification from being the Davidic messiah.

“So if you’re inventing a religion from scratch and trying to convince Jews that this figure is the Davidical anointed one, then you don’t invent that he was crucified.”

If Jesus was crucified then is it not equally unlikely that the early disciples would have come to interpret him as having been the Davidic Messiah? Yet they obviously did interpret Jesus this way despite his crucifixion. So how can we explain a historical crucified man being interpreted as having been the Davidic Messiah? Is not your argument invalidated by the very fact that the early Christians chose to interpret a crucified one as the Davidic Messiah? read more »

That Curious Criterion Guiding Historical Jesus Scholarship


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Sherlock Holmes
Image via Wikipedia

Let’s close 2010 with a wonderful New Yorker article from May this year. It is a cleverly written discussion of the state of Historical Jesus studies by Adam Gopnik, What Did Jesus Do? Reading and Unreading the Gospels. One might even suggest that Gopnik demonstrates the ability of complete outsiders to see how starkly naked is the emperor of historical Jesus studies. I quote the opening paragraph and highlight some key points.

When we meet Jesus of Nazareth at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, almost surely the oldest of the four, he’s a full-grown man. He comes down from Galilee, meets John, an ascetic desert hermit who lives on locusts and wild honey, and is baptized by him in the River Jordan. If one thing seems nearly certain to the people who read and study the Gospels for a living, it’s that this really happened: John the Baptizer—as some like to call him, to give a better sense of the original Greek’s flat-footed active form—baptized Jesus. They believe it because it seems so unlikely, so at odds with the idea that Jesus always played the star in his own show: why would anyone have said it if it weren’t true? This curious criterion governs historical criticism of Gospel texts: the more improbable or “difficult” an episode or remark is, the likelier it is to be a true record, on the assumption that you would edit out all the weird stuff if you could, and keep it in only because the tradition is so strong that it can’t plausibly be excluded. If Jesus says something nice, then someone is probably saying it for him; if he says something nasty, then probably he really did.

The article even proceeds to compare the scholarly search for the historical Jesus with an imaginary search for, — wait for it — the “historical” Sherlock Holmes or Superman! Now where have readers of this blog’s commenters ever heard such comparisons before, I wonder. read more »

Publications Against the Christ Myth: Scholarly Links and Reviews

Two publications critical of the Christ Myth idea have recently been brought to the general public’s attention by two mainstream biblical scholars. This post and the next compare the two books, and what each indicates about the nature of the mainstream scholarship’s responses to arguments that Jesus had no historical existence.

First is the newly linked book by Shirley Jackson Case, The Historicity of Jesus, published in 1912.

It is encouraging to see an associate professor whose area of expertise is Johannine Christology and not any form of history, and who has regularly expressed a serious personal concern about what he regards as the fallacious and creationist-like attitudes, ignorance and arguments by Christ-Myth proponents, catching up with some of the extant publications addressing this controversial issue.

The second book I address is Goguel’s Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History?, first published in 1926. This has been republished recently with a lengthy introduction by a historian of religion, R. Joseph Hoffmann.

These two posts are an attempt to illustrate the existence of a wide gulf in understanding of the Christ Myth idea and the divergent levels of serious academic acumen that is brought to bear upon the question.

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Scholarly attempts to “explain” historical methods for Jesus studies (1)

Scot McKnight of recent controversial article fame, devotes an entire chapter in his book Jesus and His Death to a discussion of the historiography of New Testament scholars, and writes:

In fact, the historiography of historical Jesus scholars is eclectic and often unconscious or uninformed of a specific historiography. (p.16)

Biblical scholarships’ ignorance of the significance of different types of evidence

This unfortunate state of much scholarship of Christian origins is aptly illustrated throughout many studies of the historical Jesus, but I focus in this post on statements by one such self-professing “historian” of the New Testament who makes a point of explaining what he understands by “the historical enterprise”:

I’ve long been perplexed by the frequent complaint from mythicists (i.e. those who claim that Jesus was a purely invented figure, not even based on a real historical human individual) that those working on the historical Jesus simply assume as a presupposition that Jesus existed, rather than addressing the question directly. read more »

Does McGrath think Hoffmann, Davies, Schweitzer, Thompson, Schwartz, et al are Creationist-like crackpots?

In my two latest posts attempting to epitomize a couple of aspects of R. Joseph Hoffmann’s thoughts as expressed in his introduction to Goguel’s Jesus the Nazarene, I could not help but be struck by Hoffmann’s remark that a reason for the scholarly debate over Jesus mythicism was largely a desperate response designed to salvage the basics of Christianity itself from the direction in which liberal theology was veering. It was one thing for scholars to jettison a miracle working Jesus, but they could not do without the ethical teacher. At least that latter had to be defended at all costs, and so the mythicist debate was left behind in the dust.

Hoffmann recently corrected me (rightly) when I ignorantly misrepresented the reason for his republication of Goguel’s book (I had not read his book at the time), but in doing so he opined that the reason the Jesus mythicist debate is less prominent than it perhaps deserves to be in academia has more “to do with academic appointments (as in security thereof) rather than common sense.”

On both counts, here, — the ideological reason for jettisoning serious continuation of the mythicist debate, and career threatening political correctness — one begins to understand why Jesus historicists who repeatedly shout that the mythicist question was “finally settled and fully rebutted” long ago never seem to accompany their war cries with evidence, citations, publications. Just shouting loud and long (with crude insults and misrepresentations as repeated refrains) that the debate was settled long ago and only looneys persist to ask questions about it seems to be sufficient assurance for some historicists. read more »