Doug Chaplin has a post in which he mentions my attempt to engage mythicists. He writes:
Of course, in any topic under the sun, but especially those to do with Jesus, even almost indisputable facts get disputed, even down to his actual existence. The latter seems to be giving a few North American writers a little frisson of naughtiness and an illusion of intellectual courage in their frequently fundamentalist culture. Some scholars – such as James McGrath – do their best to take mythicists seriously enough to refute them. This side of the Atlantic academia hardly notices them.
The main content of his post is a list of twenty facts about Jesus, explicitly based on E. P. Sanders’ famous lists of things that we can have historical confidence about. I am reproducing Doug’s list below. Would you agree with his confidence about our historical knowledge regarding all, some, or none of them, and why?
- A man called Jesus existed who people thought was worth remembering
- He came from Nazareth
- He spoke Aramaic as his first language.
- He was washed in the Jordan by John the Immerser as part of John’s restoration movement.
- He developed a ministry independent of John’s (which was probably part-based around Capernaum and part-itinerant).
- His travels and planned action and teaching were confined to Israel although may have included areas whose “Israeliteness” was disputed.
- He ate, drank and spoke about God with those whose community status and purity was disputed or denied.
- He called disciples and spent time teaching them.
- Among these disciples he spoke of and to a core group of twelve.
- He prioritised the fictive kin relationships of his followers over their natural family relationships
- He performed exorcisms and other perceived healings
- He was also widely seen as a teacher, and a significant portion of his teaching was seen as indirect, riddling and opaque.
- One of his key subjects was the kingdom of God / heaven.
- He referred to himself using the idiom “son of man” (although how and why he did so is disputed)
- One characteristic way he expressed authority in his teaching was by prefacing some statements with “Amen.”
- He engaged in controversies over the interpretation of the law
- One of his final controversies was something to do with the Temple
- He was executed by the Roman authorities as a royal pretender
- His followers after his execution claimed he had been vindicated by God as God’s true king
- A new Jewish movement in his name opened up Judaism to include Gentiles and came into conflict with other Jews over Jewish identity, theology and practice.