The ongoing conversation has shown yet another parallel between mythicism and creationism.
On the one hand, it seems increasingly clear that there is strictly speaking no “evidence” for mythicism. Positive evidence for mythicism would presumably involve some actual indication that someone somewhere invented the story of Jesus, not merely as the novelistic historical fiction that is common in the ancient world, but as pure fiction.
The discussion keeps returning to the “compatibility” of evidence with mythicism. But evidence is often compatible with more than one conclusion – what makes for an academically rigorous investigation is an attempt to deal as efficiently and persuasively as possible with as much of the relevant evidence as possible.
The evidence from biology is “compatible” with young-earth creationism – as long as you are willing to posit a creator who arbitrarily makes organisms created independently appear as though they are related, and creates rocks with ratios of radioactive isotopes to decay products that “mislead” scientists into thinking the Earth is much older than 6,000 years. Likewise, no evidence is incompatible with mythicism – as long as one is willing to posit an arbitrary mythmaker who invents things for no obvious reason, and who often expresses himself so poorly that one often gets the “wrong impression” that he is talking about a historical figure.
But as it turns out, neither mythicism nor young-earth creationism is about the evidence at all, but is a presupposition which is brought to the evidence and which no evidence can ever counter. In the case of mythicism, it is a presupposition that no details in a narrative such as the Gospels can ever lead a historian to conclude that he or she is dealing with a story based on historical events. And if that is one’s presupposition, then unless different sorts of evidence are found, or unless mythicists show some willingness to deal more plausibly with Paul’s references to Jesus being “born of a woman,” “descended from David according to the flesh,” and crucified, then it seems that time spent discussing the New Testament with mythicists would be better spent discussing the nature of historical inquiry when archaeological evidence and first-hand eyewitness accounts are lacking. That seems to be where the real disagreements lie.
But mythicists have been emphasizing that they are a diverse group, and so I wonder whether there are any mythicists reading this who would in theory accept a textual account as evidence (not providing certainty, of course, but providing a high degree of probability) of something or someone historical. If you could provide an example or illustration, it would be greatly appreciated.