How quickly a “historical” person can emerge from a myth: a case study

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by Neil Godfrey

Miguel Cabrera, Juan Diego
Image via Wikipedia

A week ago Evan posted a comment that piqued my curiosity. He raised a case study of a seventeenth-century “historical figure” whom historians have come to deem was completely fabricated. Those with a strong interest in arguing for his historicity pointed to oral traditions, the earliest written testimony, even a personal physical artefact, in support of their case. Scholars casting doubt on this person’s historical reality have in turn pointed to silences where one would expect outspoken witness, and to a few coincidences with motifs from tales that preceded the supposed historical events.

It is very hard to avoid comparing the kinds of evidence cited for the historical existence of Jesus, and to reflect upon the arguments  scholars will advance for questioning the existence of Juan Diego and how similar they are to those arguments advanced by some today to argue that Jesus, also, was not a true historical person.

A special thanks to Evan for taking the time to prepare the following when I explained to him that I had not investigated the case of Juan Diego myself but would be very interested if he could write something to bring me up to speed. I’m sure there are others who would be just as interested.

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