At some point in the not-too-distant future (we hope), you’ll be able to buy a new book, an anthology of papers related to Jesus mythicism. In it, you’ll find essays from the usual suspects, including Neil and me.
While neither of us would characterize himself as a mythicist (I still think of myself as an agnostic on the matter), we still hold that it’s a viable option that needs more research. Further, we’ve both been fairly outspoken on the poor scholarship and bad faith continually demonstrated by many anti-mythicists. Good theologians often make poor historians.
My paper is entitled: “‘Everything Is Wrong with This’: The Legacy of Maurice Casey.” Just to whet your appetite, here’s a small excerpt.
I would call your attention to perhaps the most common error in NT studies: confirmation bias. Our minds are wired to seek data that proves our arguments, which helps explain why Casey and many other scholars have discovered concepts like high-context culture, but have not followed through with due diligence.
If they had, they would have discovered that modern scholars have called Hall’s framework into question, and for good reason. It turns out that despite widespread approval from armchair sociologists, business gurus, and human resource directors, we lack the sort of research that definitively shows Hall was correct. A closer examination shows that he often relied on intuition and anecdotal evidence. In his writings, he neither described nor mentioned his methodology. Peter Cardon writes: Continue reading “Cultural Context and Confirmation Bias: Why We Loved Edward T. Hall”
Not as a rule. Look at the Who’s Who Page in the right-hand column here and you will see that only a minority of mythicist authors or sympathizers come from a fundamentalist background.
If you want to put fundamentalist Christians on some sort of ideological continuum then their polar opposite would be liberal Christian.
In a misinformed effort to tarnish the very idea that Jesus might not have existed some “historicists” have attempted to suggest that “mythicism” has been found an attractive refuge from disillusionment with extremist “fundamentalist” forms of Christianity. Maurice Casey dwelt heavily upon that misinformed assertion in his book Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths? Others have followed in his wake assuming he knew what he was talking about.
I myself have been placed in that category: the fundamentalist who reacted against his fanaticism by going to the “opposite” extreme of atheism and even mythicism. The latest instance is in Christopher Hansen’s book available in draft form on academia.edu: THE QUEST OF THE MYTHICAL JESUS: A History of Jesus Skepticism, ca. 1574 to the Present. There Hansen writes:
The website Vridar hosts a very useful table (though rather outdated now) of Jesus Skeptics and their backgrounds in the church. Of these, Robert M. Price, Raphael Lataster, Frank Zindler, Charles O. Wilson, Valerie Tarico, John Loftus (who is releasing a volume on the varieties of Jesus Mythicism), Hector Avalos, Neil Godfrey, and Tim Widowfield come from fundamentalist Christian backgrounds, and since then many of these figures are now active in atheist communities arguing against Christianity.
That characterization is not uncommon yet it presents a common bias. It conveys the image of a reaction from extreme to extreme. A more complete picture would point out that several of the names in the same list are sympathetic or in some way positive towards Christianity and are in no way attempting to “argue against” or undermine people’s faith. More, it would point out that other names in that same list had other experiences of Christianity apart from the fundamentalist one, thus raising the question of whether they stepped from some other religious outlook to mythicism.
A little bio will hopefully go a little way to countering the misguided image presented by those who too facilely link mythicism and atheism with disillusionment with the fundamentalist experience. So here goes. Continue reading “Fundamentalists Don’t Become Mythicists”