The Evidence for a Historical Jesus/Against Mythicism in 400 Characters or Less

A commenter on a video of mine on YouTube is insisting that the evidence for Jesus be presented in YouTube comments, which limit you to a maximum of 400 characters. Having interacted with not only mythicists but also creationists and other detractors from mainstream scholarship on so many occasions, I know that the very reason why people with such viewpoints gravitate to YouTube for discussion is that the space constraints are bound to turn even the most well-documented scholarly theories into sound bites that are much easier to dismiss. And not surprisingly, when evidence has been explicitly mentioned there, the commenter has not addressed it.

But even if I don’t recommend using YouTube comments (much less Twitter!) as a forum for assessing the value of mainstream scholarship (or even fringe scholarly ideas or pseudoscholarly bunk, for that matter), it seemed as though this might be an interesting exercise to try out here (and if you are so inclined, feel free to also post your contributions on YouTube as well). How would you present the evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus in less than 400 characters? Or would you consider the attempt to do so a bad idea? The sound bite is one of the banes of scholarship, since scholarship at its best is about nuance and precision, which often resists one-sentence restatements. But trying to be clear and succinct is always a good thing. What would you write?

Feel free to offer examples from other areas too: climate change, evolution, etc. It will be interesting to compare how effectively the consensus in different fields – and the reasons for that consensus – can be expressed in the same small space.

  • http://www.didaskelion.org Erlend

    Have you seen that Samuel Byrskog has just released an article “The Historicity of Jesus. How Do We Know that Jesus Existed?” in the ‘The Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus.’ 

    Now if only I can persuade our library to get the set I might be able to see Byrskog’s arguments.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    It may turn out to be the decisive treatment of the subject, in which case that will presumably make the book worth its $1,329.00  price. 

    That still won’t make it a “handbook” though…  :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/MRCTM Chris Miller

      How many do they have to sell to make a “reasonable and fair” profit or does that matter?

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  • Anonymous

    It may well turn out that Byrskog went over the 400 character limit, too!  Perhaps he could just rewrite it as a limerick…

  • Derek Leman

    Mythicists should read Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It explores epistemology via the question: am I human or an android? Mythicists say about Jesus stories, “This sounds like Adonis, so it must be contrived from that myth.” Yet they sound like Socrates debunking polytheism. So, who is the android [fictive, non-existent person]: Jesus or the Mythicist?

    [that's 389 characters!]

    Derek Leman

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  • Stephen Snead

    I don’t think you can dismiss all the gospels as simply myth. Meaning that the writers were at least writing about a subject the intended audience would know something about. To put it another way, just because a Crimson Tide fan says Bear Bryant was a great coach doesn’t mean he didn’t really exist except in a football fan’s myth. God or man, debate. Real or not real? Settled. Real.

  • Brian Dyk

    If we apply the methodologies of most mythicists to determine
    the historicity of other characters in history, we’ll find that about 75% of
    the people we think existed prior to the 1500s will suddenly vanish as
    well. Why do we apply methods to Jesus
    that we would not to other persons in history?

  • Jeff Carter

    “Perhaps he could just rewrite it as a limerick”…

    Challenge accepted:

    http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot.com/2013/08/biblical-limericks-one-for-mythicists.html

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Wonderful!

  • http://vegantrav.tumblr.com/ Travis Voth

    Paul was clearly a believer in Jesus as an historical figure, and in Galations he makes clear that he personally knew men (James, Peter, and John) who knew the historical Jesus. The witness of Paul is the best evidence that Jesus existed.


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