A Mythicist Salm of Lament

A Mythicist Salm of Lament December 16, 2012

Some mythicists might consider it a major achievement that Rene Salm got invited to speak at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting this year.

They would do well to keep in mind that Simcha Jacobovici was also invited to be on the program. 🙂

But more seriously, the only people who get really excited to be on the program are (1) young scholars needing to build up their resumes, (2) established scholars who depend on being presenters for their university to pay the cost of their attendance, and (3) pseudoscholars thinking that being there will somehow make their work credible. Scholars who attend know that many of the ideas that will be put forward at a conference will turn out to be wrong – including possibly their own. Anyone who thinks that merely being involved in a session at an academic conference demonstrates that your views are correct has clearly not understood how scholarship works.

Salm's paper is online and is embarrassing for many reasons, including in its combination of apologetics-style tactics and its fundamentalist-style uncritical treatment of the Gospel narratives. Read it – and fact-check his claims – and then if there are any points people want to talk about here, we certainly can. But as with most mythicist materials, I am glad it is online where its claims can be closely examined by anyone with the interest in doing so.

Jim Linville presented in the same session as Rene Salm, and on his blog has described Salm's unprofessional and rude behavior there. Salm apparently not only turned up late, but while he was there he either wasn't paying attention or didn't understand what Jim Linville and others were saying, and yet nevertheless blogged about what he (mis)understood.

Also about mythicism is the more serious discussion between Mark Goodacre and Richard Carrier on the radio show Unbelievable (which previously had Bart Ehrman on talking about the existence of Jesus; see too Ehrman's recent article). Neil Godfrey has a recap of the episode (with comments added in an usuccessful attempt to lessen the force of Mark Goodacre's solid points). Do give the interview a listen – Carrier emphasizes that there is only one defensible mythicist theory, but fails to make a case for it that can compete with how mainstream secular historians and scholars interpret the evidence. Carrier has objections at every point which those familiar with his work will have heard before, including some which are thoroughly bogus, like the claim that Philo calls the Logos “Jesus.” But even setting such considerations aside, mainstream scholarship offers an interpretation of the entirety of the evidence, while mythicism offers ad hoc attempts to explain away evidence inconvenient to its preconceived ideas.

Also of interest, Tom Verenna tackles some bizarre pseudoscholarly Essenic mythicism. And of related interest is Anthony Le Donne's blog entry beginning to offer a scholarly evaluation of the Wikipedia entry about the historical Jesus.

Let me close by mentioning that I thought of Salm's claims about Nazareth when I recently saw this cartoon on IO9:

 

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