Julius Caesar Mythicism vs. Jesus Mythicism: Smackdown!

Julius Caesar Mythicism vs. Jesus Mythicism: Smackdown! August 9, 2011

Tom Verenna shared some thoughts on something I wrote recently, in a comment on the Vridar blog, in which I suggested that it is not harder to be a mythicist about Julius Caesar than about Jesus, and that the same tactics and methods used by Jesus mythicists could be employed for good effect in the case of Julius Caesar or anyone else from the ancient world, and perhaps even more recent times.

I agree with Tom completely that the comparison that is often made between evidence for Jesus and for Julius Caesar is problematic. The latter was the sort of influential and powerful figure that people would make busts of even in their own time, while Jesus was not, and it is unrealistic and misguided to expect there to be inscriptions by or monuments to Jesus from his own time. All the early sources suggest he was not that sort of figure.

But precisely for this reason, the comparison between the two possible mythicisms can be instructive, because if someone could deny the existence of someone like Julius Caesar using the same sorts of tactics and approach as are used by Jesus mythicists, would this not constitute an adequate demonstration that the approach of Jesus mythicists is problematic?

And so let me invite those who see the problems in Jesus mythicism to join in a fun little exercise in the comments section on this post. See if you can make a case for Julius Caesar originally having been a mythical figure who was later historicized. See if there is any evidence that you cannot explain away or find grounds to dismiss.

With any luck, Jesus mythicists who are annoyed by the comparison may chime in to defend the historicity of Caesar. Anyone want to be that if they do so, they will end up using some of the same sorts of arguments used by mainstream historians and scholars to argue for the historicity of Jesus?

An interesting twist is that there is more than one fringe mythicist-type book out there arguing that Jesus Was Caesar

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