Paul Mythicism?

There certainly are those Jesus mythicists who would also deny that there was a historical Paul. But for many mythicists, perhaps the majority, the historicity of Paul and the authenticity of Paul’s letters is in fact important to their argument, since their case for mythicism focuses much attention on what Paul allegedly did not say about Jesus.

There is an irony here. Some mythicists actually do use the same tricks to deny the historicity of Paul as are used to deny the historicity of Jesus. Yet on the other hand, many of the arguments used to deny the historicity of Jesus by mythicists who accept that there was a historical Paul could be used to argue against Paul having been a historical figure as well, if the degree of skepticism applied to Jesus were to be applied consistently across the board.

For instance, many mythicists claim that since there are (allegedly) no early non-Christian historians that mention Jesus, he probably did not exist. Yet none of these figures they typically point out (or in the case of Josephus, claim) failed to mention Jesus – from Philo and Josephus to Seneca the Younger – mentions Paul, even though Paul is supposed to have traveled more widely than Jesus, and to have spread the religion we today refer to as Christianity, even going to the very capitol, Rome itself.

In none of its forms does mythicism deal with evidence in the manner that historians do. But the fact that few mythicists deny that there was a historical Paul shows that even in their treatment of figures connected with Christianity, there is significant inconsistency in how most mythicists deal with evidence or apply their arguments.

  • Geoff Hudson

    There is a question that trumps a pure mythicist.  How did christianity arise within Judaism? 

    • Anonymous

      Your trump question is rather problematic. Are you saying that nothing mythical is possible in Judaism, or that all stories must have a historical counterpart? I think your phrasing is so imprecise that it is impossible to answer your question with any satisfaction. In fact, the question could be used against modern bible scholars: how can Jews believe in a killed Messiah unless Jesus actually rose from the dead?

      Your trump card is illegible; I can’t tell if it’s a bower or what.

  • Anonymous

    I once noted Josephus’ record of James being Jesus’ brother to a mythicist, for which they argued they wanted sources that could testify to Josephus’ existence, believing he too could have been made up…

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  • Anonymous

    But for many mythicists, perhaps the majority, the historicity of Paul and the authenticity of Paul’s letters is in fact important to their argument, since their case for mythicism focuses much attention on what Paul allegedly did not say about Jesus.

    That’s kind of an odd thing to say, isn’t it?  Surely the argument against the historicity of Jesus would only become stronger if a valid argument could be made against the historicity of Paul.  The historicists’ position depends much more on the historicity of Paul that the mythicists’ does.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      Vinny, if the argument is that Paul is an early witness to Christianity but he betrays no knowledge of an earthly Jesus, so Christianity at that time knew of no historic Jeusus, it is stronger if Paul is a historical person. If Paul is himself a later invention, then his lack of knowledge of an earthly Jesus isn’t as valuable. We would not be sure they proceed the Gospels and makes it possible that those letters assume the Jesus of the Gospels. Paul is good evidence for a mythic Jesus only if they are earlier than the gospels. If Paul’s letters reflect a seperate Jesus myth Christianity contemporary with the gospels, their is still the issue of why no  memory of such a group was recorded. Jesus myth works beter if it died out to early for the heresy hunters to have remembered. That the church would invent Paul or that all the letters from Paul are inauthentic is such an odd thing that it is easier i think to try and come up with ad hoc reasons for disregarding what seems to be evidence for a historical Jesus in Paul’s letters.

      • Anonymous

        [I]if the argument is that Paul is an early witness to Christianity but he betrays no knowledge of an earthly Jesus, so Christianity at that time knew of no historic Jesus, it is stronger if Paul is a historical person.

        That may be true.   However, if Paul is not a historical person, then he is not an early witness to Christianity and he doesn’t corroborate a lot of things that are important to historicist reconstructions such as the existence of an early group of believers in Jerusalem that included Peter and James.

        Moreover, if Paul is not a historical person, then I think we might well have to toss out the various reconstructions of earliest Christianity upon which the dating of the New Testament writings depends.   I think this would probably make second century dates for many of the writings much more plausible.

        If Paul is not a historical person, then specific mythicist reconstructions become even more speculative, however, I think we also have much less reason to believe that there is any possibility of recovering a historical Jesus from the gospels.

        • Gakuseidon

          Vinny, do you see Paul as a real historical figure? If so, what is your reasoning behind that? Otherwise, why is Paul not a historical figure, in your opinion?

          • Anonymous

            I accept the historicity of Paul based on the consensus of scholars.  I have not independently examined the evidence upon which that consensus is based.

            • Gakuseidon

              Vinny, have scholars investigated the historicity of Paul, or do they simply assume that there was a Paul? If the former, are you aware of any investigation of the historicity of Paul? If the later, aren’t you just assuming that there was a Paul?

              • Anonymous

                 Go fish.

            • Rey Jacobs

              LOL. Scholars are dumb enough to think that the Sanhedron and Roman courts operated as stupidly as Acts portrays them…and you’re stupid enough to agree with them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          Vinny, very true. Of course the goal of many Jesus mythers is not to say we can’t recover anything historical about Jesus, but to the contrary, that we can recover historically that Jesus was a myth. Anyhow, the point is not whether a historic Paul is needed for the best mythacist case, but that for some a historic Paul is needed for their particular theory. Doherty’s theory would have to be radically rethought if Paul were the product of later myth makers.

          • Anonymous

            Michael,

            Establishing that the mythicist case is more likely than not strikes me as overly optimistic.  It seems to me that the sources are every bit as problematic for the mythicist as the historicist.

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  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Vinny and Gilgamesh have identified the two central problems here: arguments that are self-contradictory and woolly. But Christian believers (especially those who believe in advancing the good name of their faith) need to find all the arguments they can to fend off mythicism — and most people I know who accept mythicism couldn’t care less if Jesus was historical or not. The threatened interests are all on the one side of the debate.

    There certainly are those Jesus mythicists who would also deny that there was a historical Paul. But for many mythicists, perhaps the majority, the historicity of Paul and the authenticity of Paul’s letters is in fact important to their argument, since their case for mythicism focuses much attention on what Paul allegedly did not say about Jesus.

    This makes no sense. Even mythicists who deny the existence of Paul do not deny the existence of the letters attributed to Paul, and I imagine they [whoever “they” are -- Dr McGrath is typically vague about his targets] use the same or similar arguments from those letters as any other mythicist.

    The identity of the person behind the letters is irrelevant to any mythicist case that I know of.

    Some attribute the letters of Paul to Marcion, but so what?

    Dr McGrath’s opening paragraph is just another woolly attempt to spray his favourite arm-chair speculative pellets wildly in the direction he thinks “mythicists” are to be found. His argument is as ignorant as it is illogical and meaningless for the reason stated above. His target of “mythicists” is equally vague since it covers anyone who has posted a blog about mythicism. Imagine arguing against everyone who believes in the historicity of Jesus and lumping together fundamentalists, liberals, conservatives, the lot.

    There is an irony here. Some mythicists actually do use the same tricks to deny the historicity of Paul as are used to deny the historicity of Jesus.

    The only trick I can see here is that the link is to a site that at no point denies the historicity of Paul and uses Paul’s letters to argue against the historicity of Jesus. So readers cannot assess the validity of Dr McGrath’s assertion.

    Yet on the other hand, many of the arguments used to deny the historicity of Jesus by mythicists who accept that there was a historical Paul could be used to argue against Paul having been a historical figure as well, if the degree of skepticism applied to Jesus were to be applied consistently across the board.

    Dr McGrath is attributing mythicist conclusions to a flexible degrees of scepticism. This is a convenient way to avoid actually engaging with any of the arguments. Just accuse those arguments one does not like of being “too sceptical” or “not sceptical enough”. How easy. This is somewhat similar to that lovely cop-out so often found among theologians: “I do not find So-and-So persuasive” or “Professor X does not find So-and-So persuasive so I can dismiss So-and-So’s arguments, too”.  What a rigid discipline! Of course, scepticism is scepticism is scepticism! This idea of there being “degrees” of it is invalid. It’s about consistency, not “degree” as I have pointed out at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/two-misunderstandings-in-biblical-studies-the-nature-of-scepticism-and-evidence/

    For instance, many mythicists claim that since there are (allegedly) no early non-Christian historians that mention Jesus, he probably did not exist. Yet none of these figures they typically point out (or in the case of Josephus, claim) failed to mention Jesus – from Philo and Josephus to Seneca the Younger – mentions Paul, even though Paul is supposed to have traveled more widely than Jesus, and to have spread the religion we today refer to as Christianity, even going to the very capitol, Rome itself.

    Again this is woolly and contradictory, probably because its premise is false. I don’t know of any mythicist argument that sweepingly drops a blanket argument from silence for anything. Yet that is the logic of Dr McGrath’s premise here.

    He is mischievously suggesting that the logic of the mythicists’ case is that if a person is not mentioned by independent contemporary historians then one can probably conclude that the person did not exist.

    But what Dr McGrath has forgotten is what he read by Earl Doherty about the argument of silence and when it is and is not valid (http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-argument-from-silence/) — an argument for which he (McGrath) did not find a word of fault in his review of that chapter of Doherty’s book: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/chapter-2-of-earl-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man.html

    For Dr McGrath’s criticism to hold he would need to demonstrate that the argument from silence would have equal validity for both Paul and Jesus. Just saying Paul traveled a lot according to late myths and a few hints in half a dozen letters does not quite cut it — especially when we know that Dr McGrath also knows that Paul even said he was competing against many other apostles doing the same sorts of things in an even more grandiose manner.

    In none of its forms does mythicism deal with evidence in the manner that historians do.

    Translation: In none of its forms does mythicism deal with evidence in the manner theologians do.

    (Howell and Prevenier in their discussion of the nature of historical source work do say historians are not detectives, contradicting what theologians say they are: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/how-historians-work-lessons-for-historical-jesus-scholars/ .)

    But the fact that few mythicists deny that there was a historical Paul shows that even in their treatment of figures connected with Christianity, there is significant inconsistency in how most mythicists deal with evidence or apply their arguments.

    Michael Shermer warns us that pointing to debates and different views among a particular field of inquiry and using those to conclude that the whole field is inconsistent and therefore invalid is the way creationists and holocaust deniers reason. But we wouldn’t want to make any comparisons along those lines here, would we?

    • Geoff Hudson

      “Even mythicists who deny the existence of Paul do not deny the existence of the letters attributed to Paul,”
      How daft can you get?  

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

         Geoff — you deny the massive volumes of classical literature that has come down to us under false attributions? or the vast scholarly warnings for readers to beware these false attributions? or the scholarly study that has even specialized in the ancient training of persons to produce epistles and other literature under false attributions??? I can understand a scholar focused on dr who and other sci fi and feverish blog activity to not have time to keep up with the professional literature, but zealous amateurs are surely as well informed as serious academics in the field.

        • Just Sayin’

          “you deny the massive volumes of classical literature”

          I buy my classical literature in Penguins — they’re not massive at all, just small little paperbacks.

  • http://twitter.com/goodacre Mark Goodacre

    Thanks for the interesting post, James.  The material difference, though, is the existence of Paul’s letters, isn’t it?  So a mythicist who denied the existence of Paul would still need to make sense of the letters, as others have pointed out.  I tend to think that the greater difficulty is the question of those figures like Peter and James who have not left any material deposit but without whom it is difficult to make sense of the emergence of Christianity.  

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

      Thanks for chiming in, Mark! My response is that we do indeed have the Pastoral epistles, attributed to Paul, and yet most are persuaded that they are not authentic. The reason historians and scholars conclude that we have some authentic letters of Paul is the same reason historians and scholars conclude that we have authentic material about Jesus in the Gospels: they have gone over them with a fine-tooth comb and have concluded that there is authentic historical material there. The cases are not identical, to be sure, but neither are they as radical as some mythicists might have people believe.

      Since Neil is pretending that the very first site I linked to does not question the existence of a historical Paul, I don’t see that there is any point in trying to have an honest conversation with him. For those who’ve followed the history of Neil’s posts and comments related to mythicism, there are perhaps no surprises there. But I always feel disappointed, even with internet trolls, when I see someone who is unwilling to get beyond apologetics and polemics, and engage in genuine critical thinking and conversation.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Since Neil is pretending that the very first site I linked to does not question the existence of a historical Paul, I don’t see that there is any point in trying to have an honest conversation with him.

        Facts, James, facts. Please address the facts.

        I was responding directly to your statement: “There is an irony here. Some mythicists actually do use the same tricks to deny the historicity of Paul as are used to deny the historicity of Jesus.”

        It is not correct to fault me for “pretending” to be ignoring another link in your post that does not support this claim. I see no way of comparing the arguments that are extant for the nonhistoricity of Paul — I myself in my post agreed with the obvious truism that there are such arguments — with the arguments for the nonhistoricity of Jesus. Just pointing to a link that does not address this comparative question does not establish your case.

        If the arguments for the nonhistoricity of each are indeed the same then can you first find one who does argue for the nonhistoricity of both and then demonstrate that their arguments are (1) the same and (2) invalid?

        I think it is rather disappointing that you would seize upon one point in my comment, and make a false ad hominem claim about it, in order to excuse yourself from engaging with my points that demonstrate the logical and factual flaws in your original post.

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

          I find it rather disappointing that you seem to think that ad hominem is a magical incantation that will somehow turn everyone blind to your dishonesty and attempts at distraction.

          You may therefore be surprised that I don’t respond by saying “expelliarmus.”

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            James, you’re not going to accept this so you are probably right when you accuse me of insanity, but here goes anyway:

            What you interpret as “attempts at distraction” are, I suggest, attempts to remove the discussion from the level of long-entrenched faith preconceptions. Your dislike of mythicism is, I am sure you must agree, more than intellectual. There is a visceral component to it, too, I am sure you must acknowledge.

            I am reminded of my undergraduate days and being introduced to modern German history by a professor who was discussing a range of prominent historians with us. One of these was A. J. P. Taylor. The professor acknowledged that Taylor was a brilliant historian and well-worth reading in any topic — except German history. He attributed Taylor’s going off the rails whenever he turned his hand to writing about Germany to the fact that he lost his son in the war. Viscera is understandable, but it does not mix well in intellectual debates.

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

              If you are referring to my preconceived faith that it is better to be honest than dishonest, then I do indeed refuse to budge on that.

              Your attempts at distraction, I humbly suggest, have nothing to do with faith presuppositions since the matter under discussion is not a matter of faith but of history. Your attempts at distraction seem to be doing nothing other than avoiding addressing the fact that you write things that are not true.

              Until you begin to address things that are written with precision, to represent the views of others with accuracy and fairness, and to cease misrepresenting others and offering at times what can only be either lies or evidence that you have not read things (whether scholarly books or mythicist web pages) that you claim to have read, then I will not be pursuing conversation with you. It is simply a waste of my time.

    • Geoff Hudson

      Er well yes! How did the letters get collected together for a start?  This would seem to be a simple question, wouldn’t it?  If Paul was travelling all over the place writing everywhere he went, wouldn’t they have disappeared into thin air, and deteriorated to powder?  Or was he laboriously making copies for posterity to pass on?  Or may be people remembered them word for word after receiving them, and wrote them down later?  

      The letters of Paul are not original texts, as is Acts not an original text, as is Mark not an original text.  They are the extensive re-workings of prophetic documents (the originals).  The letters of Paul are re-worked letters, likely of James, written from Rome to people in Judea.  Copies or the originals would thus have been found in one place. 

      • Geoff Hudson

        Or may be someone repeated Paul’s journey’s and called on his old friends to see if they had any of his letters?

  • http://twitter.com/goodacre Mark Goodacre

    Interesting comments, Neil.  Is it true, though, that “The threatened interests are all on the one side of the debate”?  As you know, there are plenty of atheists and agnostics who work within mainstream historical Jesus scholarship.  You say “Imagine arguing against everyone who believes in the historicity of Jesus and lumping together fundamentalists, liberals, conservatives, the lot”.  But isn’t that what you’ve done in your introductory paragraph?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Mark, no I have not lumped together all critics of mythicism. In my sentence addressing the Christian believer critics of mythicism I meant the Christian believer critics of mythicism. I have never suggested that all critics of mythicism are Christian believers.

      Quite the contrary, I have often pointed out in many posts and comments on my blog and in other discussion forums (word search “icon” in my own blog) that criticism of mythicism comes from the wider cultural heritage — the iconic status of Jesus Christ in our culture. Jesus does not exclusively belong to the devout in western society.

      I have made this point several times to Dr McGrath, too, but to my knowledge he has never responded to it. Meanwhile, it is very clear from other posts of Dr McGrath that he — like the vast majority of scholars in this area — does have a personal faith interest in the question.

      The Christian faithful have an obvious personal stake in the debate. I think Albert Schweitzer tried to gently suggest that their faith should be more than contingent upon the historicity of a man but that advice has gone out the window it seems. I have no problem with people having their faith and am not the least interested in undermining or challenging it. I would never dream of attempting to argue my octogenarian mother out of her faith. And I see no reason why mythicism should undermine people’s faith — unless their faith is in “proofs” of an “historical event”. But “proofs” and “faith” don’t seem to go well together in my understanding. As another scholar of the Westar Institute once opined to me, “If Jews can get along without an historical Abraham I suppose it might be possible that Christians could get along without an historical Jesus. . . ”

      Then there are the academics who have dedicated their lives to exploring the meaning of this iconic figure in our culture — whether believers or not — who do have much to lose perhaps. But in reality mythicism opens up so many more potential avenues for understanding Christian origins.

  • http://twitter.com/goodacre Mark Goodacre

    Thanks, James.  OK, I see what you mean, though the Pastorals are suspicious because we have the undoubtedly authentic epistles with which we can compare them.  I suppose that it is interesting to ask the question about the trace that Paul has left.  One could say that he leaves less of a trace in non-Christian documents than Jesus does, which does stimulate reflection on the nature of ancient history.  One of the reasons that I enjoy the exercise of attempting to engage with mythicists is that it does encourage reflection on the historical task, especially in relation to ancient history.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

       Mark Goodacre wrote:

      One of the reasons that I enjoy the exercise of attempting to engage
      with mythicists is that it does encourage reflection on the historical
      task, especially in relation to ancient history.

      Is this true? Really? I have long been a student of history, both ancient and modern, and in particular have had an interest in the philosophy (let’s say nature) of history. I have attempted many times to engage Dr McGrath in a discussion along these lines but without any success. Perhaps you might like to engage with the questions I have raised about the nature of evidence, vis a vis the nature of data and information/knowledge, and in particular the fundamentals of historiography. Maybe a convenient place to begin would be with the works that Dr McGrath himself recommended to me, “From Reliable Sources” by Howell and Prevenier and any relatively recent work by Vansina on oral history.

      Or I am just as happy to begin with Collingwood, Carr, Elton or White.

      Over to you.

  • Gakuseidon

    Neil, when you write “Christian believers… need to find all the arguments they can to fend off
    mythicism” and that McGrath has a “visceral component” to his dislike of mythicism, and that there are even non-Christian academics who “have much to lose” by losing the HJ, in your view, do these people who question mythicism:
    1. Deride it for being a weak and evidence-lacking theory?
    2. Deride it because they feel it is strong and threatening?
    3. Deride it because they understand the mythicist case well?
    4. Deride it because they don’t understand the mythicist case?

    There are combinations of the above, e.g. “They deride mythicism because they feel it is strong and threatening, even though they don’t understand it.”

    From what I understand, most believers and most HJ scholars are only vaguely aware that there are mythicist theories, much less know anything about them. So I would guess most don’t feel threatened by mythicist theories, simply because they don’t know anything about them.

    I get a feeling from mythicist writings that there is some subconscious conspiracy among HJers: that they have “circled the bandwagons” against mythicism, as one mythicist put it; yet simultaneously the HJers know very little about mythicism.

    Are you sympathetic to such a “subconscious conspiracy” view? Do HJ scholars refuse to engage with mythicism because they fear it? Do Christian believers engage mythicism and find all the arguments they can to fend off mythicism because they fear it? Do you think that McGrath’s “visceral component” is motivated by a recognition of the strength of the mythicist case? Or is it STOPPING him from recognising the strength of the mythicist case? What is the result of this visceral component, and do other HJers who reject mythicism have the same visceral component in general, in your view?

    Often I find two themes simultaneously in mythicists’ writings, including IMO yours:
    (1) “HJ scholars think the HJ case is obvious and unassailable because they don’t know anything about the mythicist case”
    (2) “HJ scholars are scared of the mythicist case, because they know how weak the HJ case is and fear the potential strength of the mythicist case.”

    What is your view on where HJ scholars are on that line, generally?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      GDon, I have a slight suspicion that if someone is scarcely even aware of X then, just maybe, quite possibly, that someone will not worry about X or feel “threatened by it”.

      You have pulled out the conspiracy card (accusing me and others of believing in conspiracies) but such notions are all in your own head.

      Instructive it is, I believe, that you and Dr McGrath here both walk away from my original comment and critique of Dr McGrath’s post http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/02/paul-mythicism.html#comment-428380782 and go madly all out to find some way to turn the discussion to my own presumed hidden thoughts and character instead. Yes, viscera trumps the intellect every time.

      • Gakuseidon

        Neil, I agree that if someone is scarcely aware of X, then it is reasonable to assume they are not threatened by it. This covers most believers and most HJ scholars, I think you would agree.

        So what about those anti-mythicist non-Christian academics who “have much to lose” by mythicism being correct. Do you think they reject mythicism because they have a good understanding of it and think, based on non-visceral reasoning, that it is wrong?

        Or do they reject mythicism because they have a good understanding of it but reject it for non-academic reasons (i.e. they “have much to lose”)?

        Or do they reject mythicism because they have a strawman’s understanding of it, so legitimately reject the mythicist case as they understand it?

        Or they reject it for some other reason?

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          GDon, your avoidance of the argument addressing Dr McGrath’s post is noted. Your preference to steer the discussion into a question of my thoughts about others’ motives is also noted.

          It is nothing more than a truism that Christian confessors whose faith is in a historical event (like Dr McGrath) have much to lose if mythicism ever gains a respectable foothold in academia, and it is also clear that Dr McGrath’s arguments against mythicism have regularly been exposed as lacking intellectual substance and that he habitually resorts to vague sweeping assertions and ad hominem. That this is consistently so suggests something other than pure intellectual argument is involved.

          I have no more ability to read the minds of individuals than you do.

          • Gakuseidon

            Neil, I was referring to non-Christian academics. People like Casey, Crossley, Fredriksen, Gibson, Hoffman, Steph Fisher, all of whom have been not been impressed by mythicism.

            Do you think they reject mythicism because they have a good
            understanding of it and think, based on non-visceral reasoning, that it
            is wrong?

            Or do they reject mythicism because they have a good
            understanding of it but reject it for non-academic visceral reasons (i.e. they
            “have much to lose”)?

            Or do they reject mythicism because they
            have a strawman understanding of it, so legitimately reject the
            mythicist case as they understand it?

            Or they reject it for some other reason?

            I’m not asking you to mind-read. I’m asking you whether you think those non-Christians scholars who have rejected mythicism have a good understanding of mythicism, and reject it on that basis; or have a bad or strawman understanding of mythicism, and reject it on that basis. Or do they fear the strength of the mythicist case and want to hide the weakness of the mythicist case, and so they treat it dishonestly in order to play it down (the “they have much to lose” scenario)? Or some other reason?

            You’ve accused non-Christian scholars of dishonesty a number of times, e.g. “Steph is quite prepared to lie to support her false accusations against Doherty” and “Steph is learning well how to fit in with the likes of Gibson and
            Fredriksen and McGrath and their dishonest treatment of Doherty’s work”. So I assume you think their dishonesty is established. The question is: why are there **non-Christian** scholars being dishonest about mythicism, in your opinion?

            • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

              I do not equate Steph’s manner of argumentation with that of the scholarly guild. That she makes false allegations is a matter of demonstrable fact. I can say nothing more about her motives than what she herself has confessed. Other scholars have noted Hoffmann’s embarrassment over Steph.

              I have challenged Hoffmann and Casey and McGrath on blatantly false claims that are clearly demonstrable as false when set beside the evidence. McGrath’s best response has been to dismiss my point by point demonstrations with: “Just because you write a lot of words does not mean you have addressed my points.” We can all see online the exchange between Fredriksen and Doherty.

              Motives do not interest me any more than the substance of my critique of Dr McGrath’s posts interests you.

              • Guest

                GDon appears to have compiled a file of quotations by me and others that dates back years and from which he from time to time draws out half sentences as means of character attacks when he and others have been shown to have failed in their anti-mythicist forays.

                My reference to Steph being “quite prepared to lie” was couched in conditional clauses that GDon has stripped out in order to give an impression that was not found in the original:
                http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/how-and-why-scholars-fail-to-rebut-earl-doherty/#comment-9579

                So GDon, dragging out statements made 18 months ago and stripping them of their original context, and disregarding all that has been said and practiced since, and especially disregarding the current topic under discussion — the logical and factual flaws in Dr McGrath’s attacks on “mythicism”, — all of this is your intellectual contribution to the defence of Dr McGrath’s and others’ arguments against “mythicism”!

              • Gakuseidon

                Neil, McGrath can defend himself. I want you to explain why even non-Christian scholars like Casey, Crossley, Fredriksen, Gibson, Hoffman, Steph Fisher have problems with mythicism. Is it because:

                (1) They reject mythicism because they have a good
                understanding of it and think, based on non-visceral reasoning, that it
                is wrong?

                (2) They reject mythicism because they have a good
                understanding of it but reject it for non-academic visceral reasons (i.e. they
                “have much to lose”)?

                (3) They reject mythicism because they
                have a strawman understanding of it, so legitimately reject the
                mythicist case as they understand it?

                (4) They reject it for some other reason?

                • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                  Oh my goodness GDon, what is your problem? I am not the least interested in attempting to mind-read anyone. And the names you mention are certainly not the only non-mythicists I have engaged or corresponded with on the subject. I am only interested in the validity of the arguments themselves and taking each argument from whoever on its own merits.

                  • Gakuseidon

                    Neil, if you are “only interested in the validity of the arguments themselves and taking each argument from whoever on its own merits”, then that is great!

                    As the names I mentioned “are certainly not the only non-mythicists [you] have engaged or corresponded with on the subject”, have you found that when non-Christians you have corresponded with have issues with mythicism, is it because they understand the mythicist case well but disagree with it, or because they understand the mythicist case poorly, and are disagreeing with a strawman version of it?

  • Anonymous

    Et tu, Dan Barker?

  • Geoff Hudson

    Mark Goodacre wrote: “One of the reasons that I enjoy the exercise of attempting to engage with mythicists is that it does encourage reflection on the historical task, especially in relation to ancient history.”

    It doesn’t sound very promising.  For a professor of New Testament, I would have thought that he would have been very interested in ancient history, without feeling the need to be encouraged by engaging with mythicists.  So what is the relevant history then Mark?  Is it the history according to the writings attributed to Josephus?  Is it the history as supplied to us by Flavians, and regurgitated by classical historians such as Goodman, Fox, Grant, Levick et al. Something is dreadfully wrong with the ‘history’ of the period.       Like
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  • Geoff Hudson

    Mythical Paul sailing on his way to Rome waved to James as their ships crossed paths.  This was in 60 CE.  James was on his way to Ceasarea and then Jerusalem.  Paul had been dramatically shipwrecked.  But James had gone from Rome to Alexandria to charter  a grain ship, all paid for by Agrippina,  and was sailing north east against the prevailing winds.  The same winds sped Paul on his way to Rome.  James was blown off course and had to winter in an island, probably Cyprus.  

    Fictitious Paul stayed in his own house in Rome for two years.  He was guarded by a Roman soldier who would make sure he didn’t escape.  At the same time James lived in his own house in Jerusalem.  He too was guarded by a Roman soldier acting under Nero’s instructions.  But this was for James’s protection. In 62 CE, Paul was thrown to Nero’s lions so it was thought and James was executed (stoned) by Ananus.  Its a strange world.       

    • Rey Jacobs

      “Fictitious Paul stayed in his own house in Rome for two years.”

      What is this argument? That because the book of Acts says Paul did this or that, this proves there was a real Paul?  That doesn’t prove anything.  Look at the stories told about him in Acts.  Did Roman courts and judged and governors really behave that stupidly?  Is that history?   Or could someone on trial before the Jewish Sanhedron for attacking circumcision and for being a Christian really get off by lying and saying “I’m a Pharisee, and the only reason I’m on trial is because I believe in the resurrection!”  — would they really be stupid enough to buy that?  would the Pharisees and Saducees start fighting each other in the august “full Senate of Israel” (as even Acts calls it) because a liar that they *know* is a Christian and an anti-Judaic Christian opponent of circumcision says he’s a Pharisee?  NO!!!!!! They would say “We know you aren’t a Pharisee.  Pharisees don’t oppose circumcision!”  So, it is not HISTORY that book of Acts — its propaganda and fiction.

  • Rey Jacobs

    Jesus probably did exist but as a Jew plain and simple.  Paul however certainly never existed.  The epistles were forged by Gnostics in the name of an apostle who never actually existed; and then interpolated by another group.

  • Blood

    Well, when you have at least three different blokes all pretending to be “Paul,” that should send off some alarms that perhaps (a) some serious deceit is being perpetrated by the church, or (b) there was no “Paul,” which affirms (a). Nothing of what the different Paul’s say makes any sense coming from a Pharisaic Jew, as even Paul scholars like EP Sanders had to begrudgingly admit. But it makes a lot of sense coming from Christian apologists pretending to have uncovered the “lost” letters of the church’s early prophet …

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

      People regularly pretend to be be someone whose authority is respected, so I don’t follow your logic there. And few think that Paul’s Pharisaic views remained unchanged when he came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so your point there likewise seems hard to follow. Have you not read more recent works by E. P. Sanders subsequent to Dunn’s proposals of how to understand Paul, in light of Sanders’ work on Judaism?

  • newenglandsun

    Well that settles it. Paul was a fictional character.


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