Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right?

Editor’s Note: What better time, as Christmas approaches, to ponder the authenticity of the Jesus story? Clergy Project member and New testament scholar Bart Ehrman tells us how he’d react if he learned that his academic study of Jesus was not accurate. This is reprinted with permission from his blog.

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By Bart Ehrman

[I wrote this in response to a question] … almost exactly five years ago.  I would probably answer it the same today.  My thoughts here on how we go about knowing what actually happened in the past strike me as having very broad application (not just to the question I was asked), and (especially toward the end of my answer) to have even greater relevance now than they did then, given our current historical moment.

QUESTION:

…maybe you addressed this in your book [Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth]… would you feel an emotionally traumatic disappointment if it was conclusively proved that Jesus was indeed a mythical figure? In all honesty how would you feel if it were true beyond a doubt that all the arguments the ‘mythicists’ have presented were found to be correct (or mostly correct) regarding his assumed existence? This question is not meant to be offensive or unnecessarily provoking – I’m just curious.

RESPONSE:

I don’t address this in the book, and I think it is a terrific question! The reason I do is this: I think every historian of religion who makes a case for one thing or another needs to be queried: what is at stake for you in the matter?

For example, I have participated a number of public debates with conservative evangelical Christian scholars who have wanted to insist that they can PROVE, historically, that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now I should state with vigor and emphasis – the only people on the face of the planet who think that it is possible to use historical methods to prove that Jesus was raised from the dead are precisely Christians who personally believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. No one else thinks so.

I’m not saying that all Christians think Jesus’ resurrection is susceptible to historical proof.  There are obviously plenty of Christians, especially those who know anything about how history works, who are quite happy to say that No, the resurrection cannot be proved.  It is a matter of faith.   What I am saying is that the only ones who think that the resurrection can be proved are people who already believe in it.  And they believed in it long before they started thinking about it historically.   When they did start thinking about it historically – lo and behold, history proved what they already believed!!

In my view this is not history.  It is theology.   These people are trying to use history to support their theological beliefs.  And that’s not an appropriate use of history.

So too, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the mythicists.   They – to a person, so far as I know – are atheists (or strong agnostics) who think Christianity is wrongheaded.  They thought that well before they started looking into the historical Jesus.  And when they did look into the historical Jesus (will wonders never cease??), they found that Jesus was a myth, so that the religion they rejected and thought was dangerous turned out to be nothing but a fairy tale.   Again, their historical views have not been reached at by a disinterested application of historical criteria to the material.

So too in another but related realm.   Albert Schweitzer long ago argued that every generation of scholars portrays Jesus in their own image.  The same is true of individual scholars, who tell you what Jesus was really like, and mirabile dictu!, it turns out that Jesus looks a lot like them!

The_Head_of_Christ_by_Warner_Sallman_1941

And so, for example, a believer like Ben Witherington who, I suppose from his early days, has believed in Jesus as the miracle-working son of God, portrays Jesus precisely as a miracle-working son of God; a believer like John Dominic Crossan who is deeply invested in issues of justice and who works against oppression (e.g., of woman, minorities, people in developing countries) portrays Jesus as a first-century Jew who was principally interested in working for justice and against oppression.   Some feminist New Testament scholars see in Jesus a proto-feminist; some Marxist New Testament scholars see in Jesus a proto-Marxist.  And so on and on, world without end.

I myself am not a believer in Jesus, and I must say, my portrayal of Jesus does not coincide with the way I would like him to be, in major and fundamental respects.  My view of Jesus is that he was an apocalyptic prophet who expected that God would very soon intervene in the course of history to overthrow the forces of evil in a cataclysmic act of judgment, in order to bring in a miraculous utopian kingdom on earth in which there was no more pain, misery, or suffering.  I think Jesus was completely wrong about this, and this is not my view of the world.  It is not about to end with a cataclysmic break in history to be followed by a utopian existence here on earth.

When I started my serious study of the New Testament, on the other hand, I had a view of Jesus very much like the one most conservative evangelicals have: Jesus was a miracle-working son of God who came to earth principally to die for our sins.   My historical studies eventually changed my views of Jesus.  I think every historian should be willing to change his views based on his study of the evidence.  Scholars who do not change their views – but come out of a study with the same views they brought into it – are highly suspect.

And so, one might ask,

“What about the existence of Jesus?  Didn’t I start my study of the historical Jesus thinking he existed, and didn’t I come out of my study with the same view, so isn’t that view suspect?”

I think that is an entirely appropriate and fair question.  My response is this:

I looked at all the evidence I could, as hard as I could.  I examined every surviving source that refers to Jesus in all the relevant ancient languages.  I read what scores and scores of scholars had to say about Jesus.  And on that basis I decided whether I was right or not.   I decided that the vast majority of scholars (all but one or two, out of many thousands) are absolutely right.  Jesus did exist.

Would I be devastated to learn I was wrong?  Absolutely NOT!!!   Quite the contrary – throughout my scholarly career I have changed my views on lots of lots of issues, if the evidence seemed to demand it (I know scholars who have never changed their views on much of anything.  That should give one pause….).   And I simply adapt my personal views according to my historical findings.   Since I am an agnostic who does not believe in Jesus, one could easily argue that a mythicist position would be more attractive to me personally.  I too could then argue, as a scholar, that Jesus did not exist and that people should seriously consider leaving the Christian faith as I myself did.

So why don’t I argue that, if it would be more palatable with my personal view of the world?  Because I’m a historian, and I think evidence really matters, and it matters that we get history right, so far as we can.   If we rewrite history according to our own agendas and in light of our own deeply vested interests, how are we any better than other ideologues  — for example those that made such a mess of the twentieth century, in various parts of the world, with their rewriting of history?  We simply cannot allow ourselves to rewrite history to suit our purposes.

But if based on our historical investigations we come to learn something we did not know before, or come to see something we did not believe before, or find out that our previous views of something were wrong – we need to change what we think!   This applies to believers and non-believers both.  No one should be afraid to go where they think the “truth” (however you define it) is leading them.

Would I be traumatized if the mythicists were right after all?  Not in the least.  I would probably feel energized.   But I can’t allow that expected outcome determine what I find when I engage in the difficult task of coming to understand what happened in the past.

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Bart Ehrman, Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bart Ehrman, Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bio: Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Bart received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-six books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. For more detail, read here. Bart is also an original member of The Clergy Project. He has given The Rational Doubt Blog permission to repost public blogs from The Bart Ehrman Blog

>>>Head of Christ; By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132866

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  • Geoff Benson

    I have lots of respect for Bart Ehrman and this post of his is entirely consistent with the sort of response I would have expected. Essentially he says go where the evidence leads, and try not to start by being overly invested in a particular outcome.

    Personally I would like Jesus to be entirely mythical. I say that as a firm atheist, one who believes the evidence strongly suggests there is no controlling deity, and a mythical Jesus would add to my position. So I’ve approached writers of the mythical Jesus very sympathetically, the most strident I suppose being Richard Carrier, and I’ve come to think they are wrong. The evidence for the existence of Jesus is weak but it’s just enough to get through the gate. On the other hand, there is a case to be made for mythicism, because the evidence really is relatively light, and one of the reasons it’s difficult to debate properly is the level of screaming and shouting that comes from the ‘historical’ Jesus camp. “No serious scholars’ usually prefaces the discussion on the subject or ‘all mythicists lack credibility’. So nobody dare raise the issue. Yet how many of those ‘serious’ scholars are themselves simply bible scholars, without the sheer intellectual ability, or even just honesty, of Bart Ehrman, and how many fit into his description of those already pre-disposed to believe a historical Jesus. Take those out of the mix and I’d guess the relative numbers are, at least, not quite so extreme.

    • Raging Bee

      I can’t say I’d “like” Jesus to be this or that. What I believe is that at least one person existed in Roman-occupied Judea at that time, who preached a radical-progressive (for his time at least) doctrine and got a noticeable following, and whose story got embellished over generations into the mythical Jesus we know today.

      How close was the original person(s) to the myth? I’m not sure we’ll ever find enough evidence to answer that question. All we can say for sure is that there’s no evidence for any of the miracles or other supernatural events alleged in the Bible. I figure we can accept a non-supernatural historical Jesus, if only because the basic story of a man preaching a radically new, relatively-liberating doctrine, in a radically-liberating time for Jews under a larger secular empire, is entirely plausible in itself. (EDIT: And it’s also entirely plausible that such a person would inspire a large following, and that at least some of those followers would embellish his story, both unconsciously due to emotion, and deliberately to enhance the new church’s authority.)

      • Jim Jones

        I’d like a couple of facts about Jesus. More would be better. But AFAIK, there are no facts to be had.

  • William

    Perhaps a better question is, to what extent did Jesus exist, in any form that we’d recognize? I assume you don’t believe that he was divine, came back from the dead, or did any of the other miracles attributed to him. We know that many aspects of his alleged biography were cribbed from those of other figures. And we know (don’t we?) that different authors put some of their own, sometimes contradictory ideas into Jesus’ mouth. So… what’s left? And does he even matter?

    I guess I’m agnostic on the existence of this hypothetical founding figure, but I’m a mythicist simply because there’s much more myth in Jesus than history, any way you look at it.

  • G.Shelley

    I’m sure Ehrman believes this, but I’m not convinced. His responses to mythicist claims aren’t those of someone who is looking at the evidence and proposed explanations with an open mind.
    I’m also not convinced by the “sure, i spent 30 years trying to find the real Jesus and have pushed my own version pretty hard, but I wouldnt care if I had wasted all that time because there wasn’t a real Jesus”

  • mason lane

    Bart, I really appreciate your willingness to respond to the question. Even attempting to accurately record the history of yesterday’s news is nearly impossible. And this history subject matter is over 2,000 years old. Since the victors write the history, and fake news has been here since, “I didn’t eat the apple,” you’ve chosen a tough career field. :)

    I recently read “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” and am still not convinced there was a singular actual very human, born of a non-virgin, social reformer, Jewish chap who was used as the story board sketch onto which the mythology was heavily overlaid.

    The biggest problem that I have with the idea that a singular original story board chap ever existed is the fact that he, according to the final story was a political trouble maker, drew huge crowds, appeared in public before a Roman Governor, was a rock star of his era, and yet as you’ve cited, there isn’t a single reference in the entire first century by a Roman or Greek historian etc.! The arguments for the existence of this chap seems to be academic hair splitting, and most of the “evidence” is what’s called in one of the book reviews “nothing more than the bible says … ”

    In the often cited Josephus’ reference Antiquities (written A.D. 93-94) 20, 9, 1, there are three references to the name ‘Jesus’, in Book 20, Chapter 9: “Jesus, who was called Christ” (i.e. ‘ Messiah’); “Jesus, son of Damneus”, a Jewish High Priest (both in Paragraph 1); and “Jesus, son of Gamaliel”, another Jewish High Priest (in Paragraph 4). There was no shortage of Jesus’ in those days. From the sources I’ve read, the “Christ” Jesus reference was a Catholic church interpolation and/or alteration; early “hacking”, when the Church realized the historical evidence problem.

    And … Josephus wasn’t even born until A.D. 37!

    I’m certainly no ancient writing scholar, have the highest regard for all the hours of research and historic writing you do, and being able to keep separate study of the “historic” from study of *theology. But, (ye ol’ but) my answer to still after reading your book, … Did Jesus Exist? would be, … A Jesus Existed, Actually Quite a Few. :)

    * study of nonsense

    • ThaneOfDrones

      And … Josephus wasn’t even born until A.D. 37!

      I agree. Even if Josephus referred to a Jesus known as the Christ a generation or two later, this wouldn’t prove anything. It is as if I wrote a book today about the life and death of John F. Kennedy, a book which made some novel claims on the subject. What’s the first thing people would ask? Probably, “What are your sources?” And suppose I responded, “What do you mean? Here’s this book, written a half century after JFK’s death. This is my source.” The laughter would be profound.

      And yet the writings of Josephus a generation or two after the alleged life and death of Jesus H Christ are cited as evidence of His historical existence, even by someone like BDE who claims to be meticulous in his historical technique.

      I have been an atheist for over half my life. But I didn’t immediately head for the mythicist camp. Like most people, I presumed there must be something there. But seeing the evidence laid out impresses me as to its paltriness. Today I would not call myself a mythicist, but the more I hear about it, the more sympathetic I become.

      • mason lane

        From presuming to seeing the paltriness of “evidence” (that’s stretching paltriness) has also led me to the position of at least 95% mythicist. For the reasons cited by Bart in the now famous (one of my favorites) meme about not a single first century Greek or Roman historian etc etc mentioning this super human, I’m getting closer to abandoning my 5% hedge bet that there even was a Jewish Jesus political and social preacher the myth was constructed around. Whoever the writers of the so called New Testament were, they were so obsessed by their delusions they would hardly need anything real as a starting point. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c80199a539d8c08878dc5f25d7d48ff054bab12a7827b09c3e926f4ea6c97df1.jpg

      • ElizabetB.

        Do you know how mythicists handle Paul’s letters that describe meeting, arguing with Peter etc & Jesus’ brother? Thanks!

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Do you know how mythicists handle Paul’s letters that describe meeting, arguing with Peter etc & Jesus’ brother? Thanks!

          Some are willing to argue that “brothers of christ” is meant to convey a spiritual kinship, not a biological relation. I believe Richard Carrier does this. And opinions vary over how convincing it is.

          But let me point out that this is over a very few lines of the NT, when what is sought is confirmation from outside the NT. Seriously, the best evidence for a historical Jesus H. Christ is some very few lines from an epistle of Paul?

          • Linda_LaScola

            Ditto — why take as fact something Paul says in the Bible. I remember Ehrman saying something like “Why would Paul lie about this?” My response would be, “Why do we think we know enough about Paul’s character or motivations to think he wouldn’t lie? Or maybe he got bad information which he believed and repeated. Who knows?

            Personally at this point I don’t care if Jesus is myth or not — I don’t “believe” in him either way

          • mason lane

            Ditto

          • ElizabetB.

            I’m with you and Ehrman on being ok with whatever is factual about the existence of a Jesus. I think the crucial question is the values someone thinks are good, beautiful, and true — whatever may happen to be the supporting mental framework — religious or non

          • ElizabetB.

            Many thanks, ToD! Maybe, as Linda suggests, the author of Galatians could have been describing alternative facts : ) As a general rule, I don’t search solely for items outside the NT… sometimes I think the bible is considered a single book rather than a collection of various sources — which can be quite contradictory! and discerning which statements if any may be factual is a challenge in much of human history I think! The idea of no historical Jesus is interesting… thanks for the info!

          • mason lane

            Contradictory indeed! Here’s 534 “bible” contradictions. (there’s more) http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/number.html

            Having the collection of contradictory and mythical writings viewed by the general public as a book has been one of the greatest achievements and scams accomplished by Christianity.

          • ElizabetB.

            Whew… I agree that taking the bible as inerrantly literally true has caused untold grief in this world. Seems sad that that makes it so hard to appreciate the good parts. Got to get busy on that Pick and Choose tome

        • Steven Watson

          How would you handle it? Read Galatians 1. Paul is writing way before the Gospels remember. Read it closely and note what he says about where he got his teaching from.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks, Steven! Right, I wasn’t asking about the teaching source, but about the claim to have met (alleged) disciple Peter and brother to Jesus, James…

          • Steven Watson

            I was deliberately not trying to lead you to a particular conclusion. Just read Paul remembering the Gospels won’t be written for fifty years, neither will Josephos. The mythicist position arises from a plain reading of the texts, importing no assumptions from later writings.

            Where Paul thinks he is getting his teaching from (and says the other apostles thought the same) bears directly on his mention of ‘James the brother of the lord’. Not the brother of Jesus you’ll note, but the lord. What does that mean? Lord is ambiguous in itself, sometimes it means God, sometimes Christ, sometimes a lord, sometimes we can’t even tell. Not Peter either, Cephas (probably the same as the name Caiaphas, it is otherwise unknown). A Peter is mentioned later in such a way as to be distinct from, and subordinate to, this Cephas who is part of the leadership troika. In the same way ‘James the brother of the lord’ seems to distinguish between this James, perhaps an ordinary follower, perhaps a member of a distinct group in the sect, and the James who is senior in the troika.

            Paul’s is a very high christology. We are innoculated by Gospel Jesus; James the brother of a jobbing builder is something else, something a lot less, than James the Brother of the Most High God. The latter completley trumps the claims to authority of a Johny-come-lately who describes himself as an abortion: and Paul is forever telling people they shouldn’t listen to anyone but him or people in aggrement with him!

            Even accepting James as brother of some itinerant rabbi, and Cephas and John as lately companions of the murdered rabbi, trumps Paul. Paul gets narked by ‘some of James’ going around undermining him. Such would be unanswerable if James were the actual brother of an actual Jesus. They would be unanswerable still if he were just a companion. Real people with real teachings trump hallucinations after the fact.

            If there were actual family or actual companions of Jesus, Paul should be devoting a lot of time to deflecting them, just as he devotes a lot of his time deflecting other matters lesser in the scheme of things than family or companions would be. Throw away ambiguous single mentions make not a ha’p’orth of sense if that were so.

            No, the Gospels are fifty years later, and the legend of James the Just even later still. Like Topsy, the story just ‘growed and growed’.

          • ElizabetB.

            hmmmm That’s an interesting thought experiment. I’ve always assumed [tho my kids warn me to never assume] Peter and Cephas are interchangeable. Going forward, it will be interesting to try out a different framework for understanding. In sem, I read some Goulder, and it’s interesting to see his approaches more fleshed out now. Thanks for the ideas

          • Steven Watson

            NT studies is asumptions all the way down. They have never actually asked how they know the most basic things of their area of study. When almost any question is asked the answer when you drill down comes back ‘The Bible tells me so’. Take nothing for granted and ask ‘Cuo bono?’.

            Another thing, the NT is written in Greek, the Bible used for prophecy and evidence is Greek. The Virgin Mary nonsense for instance wouldn’t come about, or work, in a setting, Judea/Galillee, where the language is Aramaic and the official Bible is in Hebrew.

            How is Paul dated? He says he had to flee the Aretas’ govenor of Damascus. The only Aretas we know held Damascus ruled it in the eighties BC. Putting Paul in the thirties to fifties AD relies on circular reasoning. Curiously, Jews outside the Roman Empire have Jesus stoned in Joppa at around the same time.

            Burton L. Mack has long proposed two groups, Jesus People and Christ Cultists, arose from the death of Jesus. The groups are plausible but how they could have arisen from the same source and be more or less ignorant of each others teaching, almost never referencing one another, is much less so to my mind. I think it is more likely the two groups became more similar over time and the disruption of the three Jewish-Roman wars allowed them to merge, anything other than the sketchiest memory that they had originally been distinct being lost in the scrum.

            It is much easier to reconstruct the origins of the Christ Cult. All it might be possible to say about the Jesus People is they had a prophet; he might have been called Jesus; and he was stoned. That is to my mind plausible. I think it a stretch to think it is anywhere near as probable as Jesus Christ being entirely mythical though.

            You might come to different conclusions, thats all to the good. Providing your reasoning is sound no one can be considered a better authority than anyone else because only now is anyone studying these matters properly and the majority are still lost in fallacy, delusion, and assumptions.

          • ElizabetB.

            Well, I think figuring out just the bible is worth some hypothesizing : )

            And yes, the move from Hebrew to Greek vocabulary and style made for some interesting changes — some pretty humorous, like ‘Matthew’s donkey-plus-colt in the triumphal entry

            Thanks for the hypotheses I haven’t thought of before! …will be interesting to see how they wear as people explore these directions

            Merry MidWinter!

          • Steven Watson

            All the best to you and your’s. :-) Ah yes, J astride mare and colt. G.Matthew is allegefly the most Jewish. I think that hiccough gives the lie to the author being anything but a gentile writing for gentiles. Have a good one and TTFN.

    • Linda_LaScola

      A court of law would lkely require something physical, like fingerprints or DNA, which isn’t available for Jesus or for many other historical figures

      • mason lane

        Wouldn’t a court accept artifacts, credible writings, inscriptions, correspondence, appropriate to the time of an historical figure, not things from later generations?

  • Tony D’Arcy

    I was never brought up to be religious, but I always assumed that there was some historical preacher around at the time who caused such an apparent stir, and upset the Jews and the Romans. One good job the mythiciists have done is to raise the question of this preacher’s actual existence. Looking for myself, I’ve found the ‘evidence’ to be pretty thin on the ground, most of it derived from the Bible. Certainly there were Christians as witnessed by Tacitus and Josephus, many decades after the supposed events. But then would the existence of Trekkies prove the existence of Dr Spock or Captain Kirk, or even Scotty, these days ?

    • mason lane

      Josephus was born 37 A.D. :)

      • Jim Jones

        Philo of Alexandria was born: 25 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. He died: 47-50 CE.

        He should have been the source. But nothing.

        • Steven Watson

          The writings of Philo in fact falsify the NT accounts. See Carrier, ‘On the Historicity of Jesus’, pp200-205, you are probably aware of it already but I toss it in for the uninitiated.

          • Jim Jones

            Yes. There is no end of critical books on the bible. Search a torrent site for (Criticism of the Bible – Collection) – there are at least 39 collections so far. Gigabytes of books – incredible!

        • Erp

          Philo was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher living in Alexandria not Jerusalem and almost all of his known writings are philosophical not historical or about current events. The one place where he mentions events current to Jesus’s life is when he writes a letter in 40CE trying to persuade the then emperor, Caligula, not to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem. He is trying to depict the Jews as law abiding but that they would not stand for the Temple being desecrated and he mentions a previous attempt in Pilate’s time which the then emperor overturned. Explicitly mentioning a Jew who was executed by Pilate supposedly for claiming to be King of the Jews wouldn’t help the effort to depict Jews as law abiding so it is not surprising Jesus is not mentioned even if Philo knew of him. He does state of Pilate “his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned” so Pilate did have a reputation for executing people. Now it is possible Philo did write something but like many ancient authors we only have a little bit of his writings (for the rest we have nothing or perhaps just their names). In other words you have to look not only at the authors who might have written but whether in any of their surviving writings it makes sense to have mentioned the life or death of an obscure Jewish man. Remember the historian’s Jesus did not have a miraculous birth or resurrection, those are later additions much like many charismatic historical characters of that time had legends added to their histories [this also happens more recently, George Washington did not cut down a cherry tree]. Christianity started small and stayed small for a long long time (think Jehovah’s Witnesses who many people consider irritating but don’t generally write about).

          • Jim Jones

            > Now it is possible Philo did write something but like many ancient authors we only have a little bit of his writings.

            We have almost 1 million words he wrote (about thirty manuscripts and at least 850,000 words by Philo are extant.).

          • Erp

            Well yes and almost all of it has absolutely nothing to do with current or historical events except for the letter I mentioned; we also know that we don’t have his complete works. There is also Flaccus on the Alexandrian pogrom but that has nothing to do with events in Jerusalem or areas adjacent. Which of his works that still exist do you think should mention Jesus?

          • Jim Jones

            Philo was born before the supposed Jesus and lived after the supposed death. He lived far closed to the places mentioned than any of the Greeks who wrote the gospels. But I don’t care about any of that, I’d just like ONE PERSON who has no motive who wrote about Jesus.

            After all, if a skateboarder described a flying saucer landing we don’t dismiss the story BECAUSE he’s a skateboarder and not a saucerologist – we dismiss it because we are skeptical of any such claims.

            The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:

            Josephus,
            Philo-Judaeus,
            Seneca,
            Pliny the Elder,
            Arrian,
            Petronius,
            Dion Pruseus,
            Paterculus,
            Suetonius,
            Juvenal,
            Martial,
            Persius,
            Plutarch,
            Justus of Tiberius,
            Apollonius,
            Pliny the Younger,
            Tacitus,
            Quintilian,
            Lucanus,
            Epictetus,
            Silius Italicus,
            Statius,
            Ptolemy,
            Hermogones,
            Valerius Maximus,
            Appian,
            Theon of Smyrna,
            Phlegon,
            Pompon Mela,
            Quintius Curtius
            Lucian,
            Pausanias,
            Valerius Flaccus,
            Florus Lucius,
            Favorinus,
            Phaedrus,
            Damis,
            Aulus Gellius,
            Columella,
            Dio Chrysostom,
            Lysias,
            Appion of Alexandria.

            Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.

          • Erp

            First, so you can’t point to any particular writing of Philo that should have mentioned Jesus because it talked about the right time and place.

            Second, historians don’t think the historical Jesus did anything stupendous. No earthquake or darkness when he died, no star in the sky when he was born, no resurrections. He was a seed that started a movement but it would be decades before that movement was more than a few hundred people out of the millions in the Roman empire.

            Third the list. Josephus did write about James brother of Jesus and also Jesus directly though the latter passage has been modified (note the historical consensus is untouched for the first and modified but not a total interpolation on the second). Pliny the Younger has quite a bit about Christians though what he knows about Jesus seems to be from the very Christians he was torturing. Tacitus mentions a Christus executed by Pilate who had followers in Rome in 64CE. Of the rest of the writers, most did not write history covering the time period and place in question (late 20s, early 30s CE in the area of Jerusalem and Galilee). A good test is which of them mention Pontius Pilate who definitely did exist. If they don’t mention Pilate why should they mention the much more obscure Jesus? Philo is the only mention of Pilate without Jesus and he had good reason not to mention a Jew accused of rebellion in a letter trying to show that Jews were loyal even if he did know about Jesus. The only other mention of Pilate is in the gospels and on a dedication stone that Pilate set up in Caesarea.

            BTW who is Hermogones? There is a Hermogenes of Tarsus (different spelling) in the late 2nd century CE who wrote books on rhetoric (not history). Ptolemy btw was an astronomer and geographer not a writer of histories. Pausanias wrote a travel guide to Greece and was notable for generally ignoring anything recent. Lucian mentions Christians and, without naming him, Jesus in his work on Peregrinus, it is in a satire; it is also somewhat after your time frame.

          • Jim Jones

            Jesus & Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      No, but it would be a phenomenon that needed to be explained, if you didn’t know about the show. It’s not about “proving” beyond a shadow of a doubt. Historical explanation is all about relative probability. What is the most likely explanation for the phenomena? And in this case the overwhelmingly most likely explanation is that there was a historical Jesus and that at least some of the things described in the Gospels really happened, particularly the Crucifixion.

      • Tony D’Arcy

        “particularly the crucifixion”, is exactly why the Christian claims are nonsense, whether or not a carpenter was born in Bethlehem, or was from Nazareth. People don’t actually come back from being dead, let alone being creators of the universe. But fictional characters can do all sorts of amazing things !

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The crucifixion does not involve coming back from being dead. That would be the resurrection. The crucifixion is pretty generally accepted by historians as having occurred. It’s not something Christians are likely to have made up (the spurious parallels with various mythical hangings of gods nonetheless). It was a serious reproach to them in the Roman world, not some sort of cool mythical thing.

          I get that you are apparently so afraid of affirming the resurrection that you want to deny the crucifixion too, and if your main goal is to preserve your ideology at all costs, that is no doubt prudent. But there are lots and lots of people, including Dr. Ehrman, who manage to affirm the crucifixion without affirming the resurrection, so I don’t think your danger is too great. And shouldn’t truth be our main concern anyway?

          • Jim Jones

            Some of us don’t find wishful thinking a substitute for evidence.

      • mason lane

        Only if a historian gives undeserved credibility to the contradictory and absurd so called “gospels.” The bible is a collection of short writings consisting mainly of fantasy and poorly told lies. Here are in this site, from #325 to #524, 199 gross contradictions relating to the “gospels” and the Jesus fable. How can these poorly told lies be a source of “evidence” for any historian is quite incredible. http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/number.html

  • See Noevo

    “Would I be traumatized if the mythicists were right after all? Not in the least.”

    Call me crazy, but I don’t believe you. Not in the least.

    Your life’s work, your academic reputation, your “job”, all go up in smoke, but you
    wouldn’t be the least upset.

    Hmmm.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      His life’s work would not go up in smoke. The bulk of his work is analysis of the New Testament text. The New Testament text actually exists. He did write one book on the historicity of Jesus, and this can be viewed as outside his area of specialisation, construed in a very narrow fashion.

    • mason lane

      Hmmm … “Up in smoke?” Really? Unlike Evangelical believers, Science and all academicians including those in the humanities like history (history is often referred to as a social science) welcome new information that changes ideas and beliefs. When all the historic myriad of scientific and historic discoveries that were achieved the past several hundred years, did all the careers of those who were wrong go “up in smoke?”, no … those who were proven wrong congratulated those who got it right, and knowledge was advanced. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/892911935c5a6cc286d36e53205d6cb01de3406f04a44b90c8530c8dbd616624.jpg

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      You seriously think people lose their jobs in the UNC religion department for not believing in a historical Jesus?

      • See Noevo

        I seriously think that the people whose life’s work, and
        academic reputation, and “job”, were based on the Bible (including its
        depiction of the bodily resurrection of Christ) being a myth,

        would have something to worry about.
        Something to worry about if the Bible was shown to be “right after all.”

        • mason lane

          Yeah, that will happen simultaneously when the “flat earth” people are proven right. :)

          • See Noevo

            Do the flat earthers have book sales, an academic
            reputation, and a well-paying “flat-earther” job on the line?

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Look at all the classicists who lost their teaching jobs when someone figured out that the Iliad is not a documentary…
          /s

        • Jim Jones

          2000 years of failure, despite desperate efforts by many powerful and wealthy people, show that you are wrong.

          If there was any evidence anywhere, reproductions would be found in every church. Instead, they have resorted to torture to enforce the appearance of belief.

  • alwayspuzzled

    What would count as credible and verifiable proof that there was or was not an historical Jesus? Or is this just bickering for the pure pleasure of bickering. Bickero, ergo sum!

    • mason lane

      Good question. Bart, … is there an accepted evidence criteria list used by academic historians?

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        Here’s the standard list for evaluating the historicity of claims made within the NT: http://eschatonnow.blogspot.com/2010/04/five-criteria-for-assessing-historicity.html

        • ElizabetB.

          Thanks for the summary!!

        • mason lane

          Thanks, very interesting link, and it affirms how “biblical” historians might as well be Harry Potter historians. As the article says; “Devising a completely objective, fool-proof methodology for separating the historical gospel material from the non-historical gospel material is obviously beyond the powers of the historical-critical method.” It should also be recognized that no “gospel material” should merit any historic credibility.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Don’t know, but I doubt there is a standard. If there were, the bickering would be done. I’m also guessing that if the person in question were not as prominent as Jesus has become, we wouldn’t even be discussing it. No one would care.

  • Keulan

    I still don’t understand why Bart Ehrman thinks the Jesus mythicists are wrong when he literally says in one of his own books that there’s no historical evidence for Jesus.

    • mason lane

      Bart writes; “In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

      and also writes; “I think the evidence is just so overwhelming that Jesus existed, that it’s silly to talk about him not existing. I don’t know anyone who is a responsible historian, who is actually trained in the historical method, or anybody who is a biblical scholar who does this for a living, who gives any credence at all to any of this.”

      The statements do sound a tad antithetical.

      So I can only conclude he believes there is rather tardy evidence from after the 1st century that convinces him there was some kind of a Jesus Jewish preacher (sans the magic, miracles, and super hero/villain qualities). I read his book and with so many references to basically “the bible says”, “the writer of this passage” etc. I found the evidence written 100 years or more after the alleged “fact”, very underwhelming. Bart is a bible scholar and studies the most ancient of the so called biblical copies; there are no original manuscripts but there are aprox 24,000 handwritten copies of the so called New Testament, which were quickly copied by monks, who loved good wine, and with each copy the chance of errors existed.

      When a parent spends many years so close to a child, or a scientist with a lifetime project, maintaining objectivity becomes a huge challenge.

      A very insightful interesting site about the “bible.” http://irr.org/todays-bible-real-bible

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        The evidence is almost all from the New Testament. You’re following the usual mistake of non-scholars of treating sources as either wholly accurate or to be thrown out. The best explanation for the existence of these documents and of the communities that produced them is that there really was a Jewish preacher named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans while Pilate was procurator. And that’s what pretty much everyone I know would think a person meant if they said “Jesus existed.” If you aren’t contending against that, then don’t say that Jesus didn’t exist.

        • mason lane

          It just seems inconceivable to me that a Jewish preacher messiah type could have drawn tremendously large crowds for the era, created serious political upheaval, and was crucified by a Roman Governor, and there, as Bart states, not be a mention by a single Greek-Roman historian etc. etc etc.

          I think the entire tale is most likely a composite character that was based on various Jewish messiahs and preachers.

          I personally feel the historians have given way way too much credibility to the thousands of copies of these short writings that were bound together and called a book, especially since they are replete with contradictions.

          • Jim Jones

            Indeed.

            Philo of Alexandria was born: 25 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. He died: 47-50 CE. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Jesus is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Jesus’ miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. Philo spent time in Jerusalem where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. One of Alexander’s sons (and Philo’s nephews, Marcus) was married to Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, 39-40. After the exile of Herod Antipas – villain of the Jesus saga – Marcus ruled as “King of the Jews”, 41-44 AD. But nothing from Philo on Jesus, the other ‘King of the Jews’.

            Philo was there when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with an earthquake, daytime darkness, and resurrection of the dead ‘saints’ took place and when Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days. He was there when Jesus ascended into heaven. About thirty manuscripts and at least 850,000 words by Philo are extant. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although Jesus, this Word incarnate, was walking around giving speeches and performing miracles, Philo wrote not one word about him or any of this.

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            This article seems questionable: how does the author know that Philo was present at whatever hypothetical time Jesus would have been doing these things? And aren’t most of Philo’s writings about Biblical exegesis and speculative philosophy/theology? Furthermore, the article assumes, as such polemics often do, a position of total NT accuracy as the polemical target. This conversation is about whether the mainstream historical/critical view of Jesus is correct or not. So references to the infancy narratives, which most historical critics reject, are irrelevant, as well as references to the more astounding features of the NT narrative. Would an aristocrat with ties to the Jewish elites really bother to note that yet another messianic pretender had been crucified by the Romans with the approval of the Jewish elites, or that one of his followers had somehow escaped from prison (assuming that story to have some basis in fact)?

          • Jim Jones

            > This article seems questionable: how does the author know that Philo was present at whatever hypothetical time Jesus would have been doing these things?

            If you lived through WWII or the US civil war would you be unaware that it happened?

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            No. So you are comparing the crucifixion of an itinerant preacher with a major war?

            My point is that the article is trying to suggest that Philo was in Jerusalem when these events would have happened if they happened. That’s highly shaky. I’m not sure it matters. No one here is arguing that every detail and subjective impression of the Gospel accounts is accurate. Of course, written as they are by Christians, they will make Jesus sound a lot more important than he would have seemed to someone like Philo or Josephus. Josephus mentions Jesus briefly (I’m following the consensus view that the Testimonium Flavianum has been altered but not wholly invented by Christians), and Philo not at all. That seems quite plausible to me.

          • Jim Jones

            An itinerant preacher was the creator of the galaxy and all in it?

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            That is the Christian claim, yes. But we aren’t talking about Christian theological claims here, but about the historical consensus that there was an itinerant preacher named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans and who said and did at least some of the things recorded in the Gospels.

            Jesus’ divinity would not, of course, be visible to Philo. Again, I don’t think you’ve made a case that anything Ehrman and other mainstream secular scholars believe happened would have been noticed by Philo.

            If you want to discuss how much of the Gospel accounts I, as a Christian believer, accept as accurate, and how I defend those beliefs historically, I’m happy to have that conversation. But that is a separate conversation.

          • Jim Jones

            Fine. Name one person who met Jesus, spoke to him, saw him or heard him who
            wrote about the event, has a name and is documented outside of the bible
            (or any other gospels).

          • Pseudonymous Bosh

            James, the brother of Jesus, documented in Antiquities of the Jews XX:200. This is the second passage in Antiquities that refers to Jesus, one that, unlike the first, shows no signs of Christian forgery and is hard to extricate from its context. James was executed in an event that was part of a political controversy in Jewish priestly circles when Josephus, a member of the priestly circles himself, was in his 20s. If Josephus didn’t meet James, he certainly knew of him.

          • Jim Jones

            Where does James write of his interaction(s) with Jesus?

          • Pseudonymous Bosh

            He doesn’t seem to have done so, but that wouldn’t be a surprise if James was illiterate, as he and his brother may have been. (In the gospels Jesus displays a working knowledge of Jewish scriptures, but because many people in the ancient world “read” books by hearing them read aloud, he wasn’t necessarily literate.)

            More to the point, where does any ancient author write of his personal interactions with, say, Hannibal? There are many, many ancient figures who we only know about from secondhand accounts, figures who were much more significant in their own lifetimes than Jesus was. Why do you single him out? Because the belief system that was built on top of him annoys you. Well, you can poke holes in that belief system without applying a double standard. The gospels themselves show an awkward reality underlying their belief system. The nativity stories are contrived to claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem even though everyone knew he was from Nazareth. If you’re making up a messiah, why not just have him come from Bethlehem?

          • Jim Jones

            I haven’t been to the Church of the Holy Hannibal for a long time. Something to do with “The Silence of the Lambs” perhaps?

            > The nativity stories are contrived to claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem even though everyone knew he was from Nazareth.

            Jesus was supposedly a Nazarene, a member of a political sect. ‘Nazareth’ was invented long after his supposed life and in the days of Constantine.

        • Jim Jones

          What about John Frum? Or Ned Ludd?

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            You seem first to be assuming that neither of these characters existed, and secondly that the internal evidence for them is just as good as that for Jesus. The first assumption seems overly confident to me and the second downright wrong.

            That composite legendary characters (Robin Hood would be another example) can develop is clearly true. The question is whether the extant evidence supports Jesus being that kind of character–a generic “messianic pretender” around whom a body of stories and teachings developed. It’s not impossible, but it seems highly improbable given the nature of the accounts we have.

          • Jim Jones

            See “Cassie Bernall”.

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Who was a real person :)

          • Jim Jones

            A book and a movie, all based on something proved wrong after just one day!

    • G.Shelley

      nothing outside the gospels. He believes that after Jesus died, people would have told stories about him, and that over several decades, these changed (it’s not clear to me if he thinks all the gospel stories have this origin) and some form of them was eventually written down.
      In his mind, as these derive from actual stories told by eyewitnesses, they count as historical evidence.

    • ElizabetB.

      Hi Keulan! If you’re thinking of the quote in the meme above, I think that is an assertion Erhman used at a very conservative venue to make the point that things are not as solid as fundamentalists might assume. In “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth,” he goes on to apply historical methods to sources like non-Christian references (Roman, Jewish, Rabbinic); historical material that can be teased out from the gospels, their sources, and the oral traditions behind them; later independent Christian sources; the writer of Acts; non-Pauline epistles; “Paul;” etc.

      I’m a little concerned that I may be quoting more than copyright allows, but here are a couple of paragraphs from the beginning and near the end of that book:

      “But as a historian I think evidence matters. And the past matters. And for whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain : Jesus did exist. He may not have been the Jesus that your mother believes in or the Jesus of the stained-glass window or the Jesus of your least favorite televangelist or the Jesus proclaimed by the Vatican , the Southern Baptist Convention , the local megachurch, or the California Gnostic. But he did exist, and we can say a few things, with relative certainty, about him.” p.6

      262 pages of explanation later he writes:

      “We have seen that these sources are more than ample to establish that Jesus was a Jewish teacher of first-century Roman Palestine who was crucified under Pontius Pilate…. Even given these problems, there are a number of important facts about the life of Jesus that virtually all critical scholars agree on….Everyone, except the mythicists, of course, agrees that Jesus was a Jew who came from northern Palestine (Nazareth) and lived as an adult in the 20s of the Common Era. He was at one point of his life a follower of John the Baptist and then became a preacher and teacher to the Jews in the rural area of Galilee. He preached a message about ‘the kingdom of God’ and did so by telling parables . He gathered disciples and developed a reputation for being able to heal the sick and cast out demons. At the very end of his life, probably around 30 CE, he made a trip to Jerusalem during a Passover feast and roused opposition among the local Jewish leaders, who arranged to have him put on trial before Pontius Pilate, who ordered him to be crucified for calling himself the king of the Jews. Nearly all critical scholars agree at least on those points about the historical Jesus.” [pp.268-270]

      • Keulan

        It sounds like Ehrman thinks the gospels and other books of the New Testament are evidence of a historical Jesus, even though the earliest books of the NT were written decades after the time when the events they describe supposedly happened. I don’t see how non-eyewitness stories written long after the events they describe count as evidence to him, while he mentions then ignores the fact that there are no non-biblical accounts of Jesus from that time period.

        • ElizabetB.

          Thanks, Keulan! It’s not a gospel as a whole, but comparing gospels, figuring out how they were put together, what shows up in different places, what that means about what may be behind them, etc. The letters attributed to Paul are pretty close to the time a historical Jesus would have been crucified, and they describe his meeting with followers and a brother of Jesus (as Linda suggests, it’s possible he was fabricating). Pontius Pilate is never mentioned in any of these Greek and Roman records either, except for the one that also mentions a Christ crucified. Etc Etc Etc. It’s sort of how one puts all these pieces, and more besides, together. For me, reading Ehrman’s book and having explored the ways the gospels differ and coincide, I can see how scholars reach a historical Jesus conclusion. But as I replied to Linda, I think the important thing is what someone’s values are, wherever they get them and whatever they think about a Jesus character. Seems like everything is just too uncertain to lean heavily on!! tho if I knew everything Dr. Ehrman does, I might be convinced : )

          • Jim Jones

            > The letters attributed to Paul are pretty close to the time a historical Jesus would have been crucified,

            Sure, but what in them sets a time for a historical Jesus? Does Paul even do much about anchoring Jesus in place? As is well known, his Jesus is a spiritual being, not a physical one.

          • Steven Watson

            The one datum for dating in Paul seems to be his escape from King Aretas’ govenor of Damascus. The only Aretas known to have held Damascus is the third one in the first quarter of the 1st century BC. There is zero evidence that the 1st century Aretas IV ever controlled it. The Roman Legate of Syria Vitellius was ordered to smack this Aretas down by Tiberius after he attacked Herod Antipas. If he had invaded the Decapolis and captured/occupied Damascus, Rome would have kicked his head in and annexed his kingdom! The only Jewish mention of Jesus has him killed in the reign of Alexander Janneus, King of Judea and High Priest in Jerusalem. Guess who he is contemporaneous with, and an enemy of?… Aretas III. Anyone care to riddle me why we should date Paul in the First century AD other than the usual idiot circular reasoning?

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks Jim Jones! Are you saying that the tradition that Pilate was involved does not indicate a time period?

          • Jim Jones

            IMO, ‘tradition’ is a code word that means “we made it up”.

            Unless Paul mentions Pilate, what other sources are there? The gospels were written after 135 CE and in Greece, not Jerusalem, and we know they get the time sequences and the geography of the “Jesus time” wrong.

          • ElizabetB.

            Tacitus and Josephus? (assuming 1 Timothy has an author different from Galatians’)

          • Jim Jones

            Neither is trustworthy. Josephus is such a blatant forgery it is astonishing that it ever fooled anyone. And Tacitus is no better. Examples:

            Josephus:

            “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ;

            Tacitus:

            “Nero, in order to stifle the rumor, ascribed it to those people who were abhorred for their crimes and commonly called Christians: These he punished exquisitely. The founder of that name was Christus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was punished as a criminal by the procurator, Pontius Pilate.

            See http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46986

            Neither were contemporaries of ‘Jesus’.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks again! interesting Remsburg book. I’m afraid that for the present I’m ok with just letting these questions sit — my hunch is that those who say we can’t know for sure are likely to be correct; and that in order to have an informed opinion I would need to spend a couple years back in school. You may have seen this, but in case you’re interested, here’s a series in Ehrman’s blog about Carrier’s review of “Did Jesus Exist” — in which he mentions Pilate, Tacitus, etc
            https://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/
            Thanks again!

          • Jim Jones

            The book is free online. Published in 1920 (really) it is well worth a read.

          • ElizabetB.

            Yes, it was after scanning a few chapters that I decided it would take a few years of studying ancient history to form an educated opinion!

            One agreement I do have generally at the outset —

            “Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist. From the beginning to the end of this Christ’s earthly career he is represented by his alleged biographers as a supernatural being endowed with superhuman powers. He is conceived without a natural father….. His ministry is a succession of miracles. With a few loaves and fishes he feeds a multitude…. (Kindle Locations 98-104).

            “It may be conceded as possible, and even probable, that a religious enthusiast of Galilee, named Jesus, was the germ of this mythical Jesus Christ. But this is an assumption rather than a demonstrated fact. (Kindle Locations 57-58).

            “It is not against the man Jesus that I write, but against the Christ Jesus of theology (Kindle Location 95).

            Glad to have the book for ideas to check out over the years! — many thanks

          • Pseudonymous Bosh

            Paul’s Jesus was a born to a woman who was “under the law”, that is, a Jew (Galatians 4:4). Paul’s Jesus was a descendant of King David (Romans 1:3) and had a brother whom Paul had met (Galatians 1:19). He says Jesus broke bread, was executed, died, and was buried. That’s a spiritual being?

          • Jim Jones

            Read the weird way Paul writes about this. Yes, Paul never saw Jesus.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          A few decades is not ‘long after,” and accounts don’t have to be written by eyewitnesses to have value as evidence. (Richard Bauckham has argued that the Gospels were based directly on eyewitness testimony, but I am sure Ehrman doesn’t accept this view).

          • Jim Jones

            Supposedly Jesus was dead by 35CE (approx) and there’s no evidence placing the gospels before 135CE. That’s a long time for a barely literate people to play Chinese whispers. That the gospels were all written in Greek is another huge factor.

  • carolyntclark

    Linda, just an interesting aside on the Sallman “Head of Christ” painting….in my religious days, it was one of my favorites.
    Our attention was brought to the reflected light on Christ’s face.
    In the center of His forehead is a circular glow, suggesting the Eucharistic host, while the light on the side of forehead and face has the silhouette of a Chalice.
    I don’t know if the artist intended that, but it’s quite visible.

  • Jim Jones

    > Again, their historical views have not been reached at by a disinterested application of historical criteria to the material.

    I disagree. I assumed that there was some sort of historical figure and some, if few, facts about him were known.

    Then I read The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidences of His Existence by John E. Remsburg.

    Given the weight of this, none of which has been seriously challenged, I concluded that Jesus was as fictional as Robin Hood, King Arthur and William Tell, and invented for much the same reasons.

  • Steven Watson

    “They – to a person, so far as I know – are atheists (or strong agnostics) who think Christianity is wrongheaded.”

    Thomas L. Brodie.

    Honestly Ehrman, stop being a muppet.

    • ElizabetB.

      Thanks very much for mentioning Brodie. Here’s what looks like a pretty neat article:
      “Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale
      about the State of Biblical Scholarship”
      Tom Dykstra
      “In this article I take a close look at two recent books by prominent scholars who take opposite
      sides in the controversy. Finding both strengths and weaknesses in each, I conclude that the
      minority view deserves more respect than it gets and that most biblical scholars are overconfident
      about their literary and historical interpretations. Ultimately, I question the value of both the
      “quest for the historical Jesus” and the opposing quest to prove that Jesus never existed. The whole
      debate seems a lost cause for both sides, with the unfortunate effect of diverting attention away
      from the only real Jesus who remains accessible to us, the literary character who is unique to each
      writing he appears in.”
      http://ocabs.org/journal/index.php/jocabs/article/view/80/47
      Journal of the Orthodox Center for the
      Advancement of Biblical Studies
      Vol. 8, No. 1 (2015)

      • Steven Watson

        Thanks, I’ll take a look tomorrow.

  • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

    “So too, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the mythicists. They – to a person, so far as I know – are atheists (or strong agnostics) who think Christianity is wrongheaded. They thought that well before they started looking into the historical Jesus.”

    So what? I mean, that is the proper default position to take when looking into anything: assume it’s not worthy of belief until someone can show evidence that supports its existence. We don’t assume unicorns are real just because people have claimed they exist. Before we can assume they exist, we need some sort of hard evidence. The same applies to Jesus. If Bart Ehrman approached his study of Jesus with any other perspective, he was fooling himself.