Three approaches to researching the mythical Jesus phenomenon

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by Neil Godfrey

Here are three methodologies used by mainstream biblical scholars for enquiring into the arguments for the historical Jesus with which I have had some direct contact.

The first is by an early twentieth century scholar of some repute even today; the second by an “reverent agnostic” scholar; and the third by a liberal Christian scholar (guess).

1. Albert Schweitzer’s method for researching and addressing the arguments for a mythical Jesus

  1. Read all the mythical Jesus publications that have been printed.
  2. Present an annotated bibliography of this mythical Jesus literature.
  3. Discuss in some detail the full mythical Jesus arguments of each author, and the development of each argument across an author’s career, and the relationship of the arguments to one another.
  4. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each of these arguments.
  5. Admit the logical premise on which all historical methodology is based, and go two steps further and admit that the study of Christian origins is doubly problematic since all its sources are themselves Christian: there are NO external controls in order to enable even a statement of “positive probability”.
  6. Argue that the Church ought to build its foundation on a metaphysic, and not on any historical datum. Seriously admit the theoretical possibility of having to abandon an historical Jesus.
  7. Lament the insulting tones in which the debate has been conducted.
  8. Appeal for civility and reason, and an acceptance at least of the legitimacy of the mythical Jesus arguments and questions.
  9. Concede that the evidence of Josephus and Tacitus is worthless for establishing the historicity of Jesus.
  10. Disagree with the mythical Jesus arguments in a civil and professional manner, and even advise what mythicists need to do to establish their case more persuasively. This advice is constructive in terms of type of argumentation needed, and not sideways putdowns such as “getcha self a peer review!”

That was in the early twentieth century. By the end of the century and at the turn of the new, Dr Jeffrey Gibson offered his research and rebuttal methodology.

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