The Mything Links

Having spent so much time blogging about mythicism, I felt I would be remiss (or is that remyth?) if I were not to share a few last links that have come to my attention.

Joseph Hoffmann recently touched once again on the existence of Jesus and the Jesus Project. And although the Christian CADRE blog is clearly apologetic in its aims, in their recent post on this topic they seem to be more honest and accurate about the relevant sources and the views of historians than the mythicists I’ve interacted with.

I also want to share links to Neil Godfrey’s latest posts, since they illustrate nicely why attempting to interact with mythicists is probably, ultimately, a waste of time. In one post he even engages in something as childish as switching around elements of my name, calling me “Garth McJames.” Yet he is offended that I don’t take the views he is “defending” (but has yet to present a case for) seriously. He also keeps claiming (falsely) that I have not actually read anything by mythicists.

Although the juvenile tactics of its proponents might seem like sufficient reason to ignore mythicism, in fact there have always been poor proponents of good ideas, and I would hate to see mythicism rejected for ad hominem reasons rather than for the real reason it deserves to be ignored. The real reason mythicism is not worth serious consideration is that there is still no plausible case for mythicism. Godfrey’s best “case” for mythicism thus far has been to assume that Jesus is like William Tell and Rama, neither of whom is a figure the complete ahistoricity of whom is certain, and neither of whom was written about as soon after they were supposed to have lived as Jesus was. If we had someone writing as soon after William Tell was supposed to have lived as Paul did in relation to Jesus, and who claimed to have met his brother, I doubt anyone would seriously question Tell’s existence.

But then again, it is still not clear that anyone seriously questions the existence of Jesus.

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  • Steven Carr

    Jesus like William Tell? This is parallelomania gone mad.The first mentions of Jesus are somebody whose body and blood was accessed by his followers by conjuring it up in a ritual meal.How can Jesus be a myth like William Tell?We don't have early members of the Tell fan club explaining that the body and blood of William Tell were conjured up in a ritual meal.Mainstream scholarship has proved that the best explanation for the lack of mention of anything Jesus said or did in Romans, Jude, James , 1 Peter is that there was an historical Jesus who said and did things that Christians were amazed by.Similarly, historicists have proved that the best explanation for the books of Luke/Acts, James, Jude, John never saying Jesus had a brother called James, is that Jesus had a brother called James who became leader of the church.And historicists have proved that the best explanation for the fact that no Christian ever named himself as hearing about Lazarus, Judas, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Simon of Cyrene, Bartimaeus, Joanna, Salome, Martha , Nicodemus etc etc is that Christians heard about such people, but never wrote about them except in unsourced, unprovenanced works.James complains that mythicists explain away some verses, while he has to find a way to explain *entire books* of the New Testament.A saying about motes and planks springs to mind.Mainstream Biblical scholars have proved lots of things about Jesus.Mainstream scholars are too dogmatic in my opinion about the historicity of events in the Gospels.On page 169 of ‘A Marginal Jew’ JP Meier writes about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist that ‘the event simply never occurs in John’s Gospel’Meier regards the baptism as historically certain, and gives the silence in John’s Gospel as part of the evidence for this certainty.But is this silence multiply attested? No it isn’t.Surely if we managed to unearth some more Gospels in some abandoned monastery library somewhere, and the baptism simply never occurred in those Gospels, then the silence would be multiply attested.And then we would have final proof that the baptism really did happen, proof even mythicists would be forced to accept – lots of multiply attested silence about the baptism.Surely, a responsible historian cannot conclude that the baptism happened, until the time that we find more texts where the event never occurred.Granted the event simply never occurs in John’s Gospel, but that is only one text.Until we find more texts which back up the silence in John about the baptism, we cannot leap to the conclusion that it happened…

  • Vinny

    Dr. McGrath,I think the biggest flaw in your creationist/mythicist analogy is that anyone who came to the issue without preconceptions would never be attracted to creationism by the work of mainstream biologists. On the other hand, I had originally assumed the historicity of Jesus, but the more I read the work of historicists like Ehrman and Allison and Mack and Spong and Crossan and Vermes and perhaps even McGrath, the less I felt like I could know with any certainty about the historical Jesus. The more I think about it, the more Price’s notion of “Jesus at the Vanishing Point” resonates for me.I am quite open to the possibility that there are still a few secure facts that can be known about the historical Jesus, but it would be nice if somebody could suggest some that are corroborated by our earliest source. I quite agree that the mythicists have not made a convincing case that explains all the data. On the other hand, I cannot think of any single historicist case that has answered all my questions either. What has most puzzled me, however, is the vitriol. For someone who “would hate to see mythicism rejected for ad hominem reasons,” you have been laying the sarcasm on pretty thick.

  • mikew1584

    Hhmmm, And Paul doesn't name the 12 apostles he just says the 12. How do we know they had names? Luke only says Jesus brothers came to see him, it is quite a leap to presume one was named James, like the guy who Paul said was the lords brother.

  • Vinny

    mike,I do not generally see "the twelve" cited as one of those facts that can be known with certainty about the historical Jesus, I suspect because too many scholars think that this was a intended to invoke the twelve tribes. However, I would still note that Paul does not say anything about the twelve being disciples who followed Jesus around Galilee. They are people who witnessed appearances of Jesus after the resurrection like Paul did.

  • Neil

    Oh do come on now James. You seem as if you are intent on finding fault in any way you can when you write: In one post he even engages in something as childish as switching around elements of my name, calling me "Garth McJames."Do learn to lighten up! And be honest enough to give the context. You can surely see that I was setting up a hypothetical situation and rather than introduce your name into this hypothetical I chose to create a character that readers would see clearly represented you, but was not "you" since the whole scenario was hypothetical.This is the second time you have grossly misrepresented what I actually said in that "William Tell" post. I'm wondering if you are incapable of responding to it rationally and can find no way to respond except with ridicule and distortion. This is not how evolutionists are capable of responding to creationist arguments. Are you as serious as they are about actually educating and informing the public on the wrongs of creationism? Or are you only capable of winning over those who respond to sarcasm and strawman "rebuttals"?You continue here again to make up your own arguments about William Tell and Rama comparisons that bear no relation to what my post was about.James, you have a preconceived idea about what you expect me to be arguing and are incapable of actually reading what I do write — you persist in reading into my words what you find fits into your preconceptions about mythicist arguments.I at no time drew the assumptions between the two (Tell, Rama, etc and Jesus) that you continue to falsely claim. How about a little bit of honesty and deal with the questions and arguments actually expressed, not just mine, here?You say it is pointless engaging with me. Is that because I actually called you to account for evidence you said exists in abundance when there is not a scrap of it by the admissions even of mainstream scholars who specialize in the topic of messianism? Or is it because I actually did take up your challenge re the methods and conclusions of E P Sanders and found, contrary to your assertions, that they did not prove historicity at all?Or is it because you have been challenged to justify why you use or accept the Gospels as sources of historical events exclusively on the basis of a priori arguments that are nothing more than a narrative's plot analysis? External testimony is the only tool nonbiblical historians rely on for securing historicity, and you know (or ought to) that Schweitzer himself said so. Even in Schweitzer's own words, the evidence for Jesus cannot even reach positive probability because all sources are themselves Christian — there are NO external controls!(No, I am NOT suggesting Schweitzer was a mythicist, so don't attempt to misrepresent my comment in that way as someone else has done. But at least that person had the good grace to retract his claim when I corrected him.)As for the ChristianCadre arguments, what can I say? They do not link to my original post and they seem to have forgotten the responses I gave to each of those arguments they have regurgitated in their recent post. They also, by the way, deleted one of my replies to some of those arguments some years back. They continue to repeat the same arguments that I addressed a couple of years ago — and which they simply ignored or deleted or failed to link to.No worries, I will dig them up or repeat them soon enough. But when I do it will be to link to their site so readers can read for themselves he posts being responded to.

  • Neil

    P.S. James' comments on the ChristianCadre post as if it is a solid rebuttal of anything I have said when he has not even seen my previously existing replies to those CC "arguments" sums up James' one-sided blinkered and less than professional approach to the question from the beginning.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Neil Godfrey wrote on his blog:"In recent exchanges it became clear that McGrath — and he is presumably representative of at least a significant number of biblical historians — has very scant knowledge of how classical and other nonbiblical historians evaluate the value of documents as sources of historical information." Neil,you go on repeating the same nonsense ad nauseam. James is using the same methods that nonbiblical historians like Lane Fox, Grant, Sherwin White among others use. And many of the methods and criteria used in biblical studies are also used by historians in islamic studies. And I am still waiting for the moment when you will stop playing the talented amateur game instead of engaging the arguments of scholars like Crossley, Casey and Meier.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Carr: "Similarly, historicists have proved that the best explanation for the books of Luke/Acts, James, Jude, John never saying Jesus had a brother called James, is that Jesus had a brother called James who became leader of the church."It's strawmen like this that that keep mythicists from being taken seriously. You know that it's the presence of references to James as a brother of Jesus that lead historicists to their conclusions, yet you devise a caricature nonetheless.

  • Anonymous

    In one post he even engages in something as childish as switching around elements of my name, calling me "Garth McJames."Why do you assume this is intentional? You've never typed anything backwards by takemis?

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, yes, this has been going on for quite some time now, and it would be nice if James actually responded to some of the things Neil is saying instead of thrashing convenient strawmen. Come on James, get your hands dirty, dig in! If you don't have the time, fair enough, but I think we've all had quite enough of these weaksauce Parthian shots – they're not impressing anybody.