Why Do Mythicists Care So Little About Facts and Details?

Why Do Mythicists Care So Little About Facts and Details? July 4, 2013

Neil Godfrey has a post which claims that I’m unconcerned with facts and details. And unsurprisingly, his post has little interest in facts and details. It repeats Richard Carrier’s claim that mythicism is embraced by individuals like Thomas Thompson (who has distanced himself from mythicism) and Kurt Noll (whose contribution to Is This Not the Carpenter? is rather wonderful and does much to undermine mythicism).

He also claims that I am somehow ignoring the plain words of what Brodie wrote, even though the list I made of reasons why Brodie had trouble having his claims accepted are precisely what Brodie wrote. The only possible question about that is whether Brodie’s issues with not doing research and writing in an appropriate manner affected his ability to get things published, or only the assessment of his assignments by his professors when he was a student. As Brodie says, and I repeat, it was above all else his attempt to publish the idea that Jesus never existed through a Christian publisher.

If a Christian tried to publish a piece of dubious apologetics with American Atheist Press, and had their manuscript rejected, would anyone consider that evidence of discrimination against Christians in the academy?

Neil Godfrey offers posts of increasing length as though that somehow made up for lack of depth, when what he has to offer is nothing but a silly waste of time. Just read Brodie for yourself and see whether he makes a persuasive case for his views. Don’t let mythicist attempts to spin and dissect a book review distract from the point. It is just like the creationists who keep saying “there’s no evidence for evolution” and work hard to spin the mountains of evidence against their own position and to distract from all the ways that they are wrong by pointing out things that might be wrong in this or that writing reflecting mainstream science. Human beings are imperfect, and even solid scholarly work doesn’t always manage to avoid all errors, from typos to miscalculations. But those minor errors do not change the fact that serious work is being done by these human researchers, and that they consistently reach a particular conclusion. And so even if my book review had in fact been full of errors, it would not make mythicism plausible, any more than when a young-earth creationist finds that this or that book or book review contained an error, it changes the overall state of our scientific knowledge.

I encourage you to read my review, read Brodie’s book if you have access to it, read the posts at Vridar, and let me know whether the latter are anything other than an attempt to distract from the serious shortcomings in Brodie’s work, and its utterly unpersuasive character.

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  • Mark Erickson

    Ah, yes details. And so easily checked ones at that. The link to your previous post says “Thompson seems to be trying to both defend mythicism and distance himself from it.” You somehow left out the first half of your surmise this time. But your view is a trifle. Let’s go back to TT’s post. If you read past the first sentence, you’ll see your link text doesn’t exactly capture the full post fairly. In fact, the second sentence says “Rather than dealing with the historicity of the figure of Jesus, my book had argued a considerably different issue, which, however, might well raise problems for many American New Testament scholars who historicize what was better understood as allegorical.” Do read the full article, as you suggest, but I’ll provide one more quote, “Ehrman has asserted that the present state of New Testament scholarship is such that an established scholar should present his Life of Jesus, without considering whether this figure, in fact, lived as a historical person. The assumptions implied reflect a serious problem regarding the historical quality of scholarship in biblical studies—not least that which presents itself as self-evidently historical-critical.” One more detail, why did you not provide any references to what Thompson said in his book that does deal with the issue of the historical Jesus? You seem to have read Noll’s contribution, have you read Thompson’s?

    • Yes, I have a review of the book coming out in RBL. I think that I was quite fair even though I could have criticized the book, and Thompson’s chapter, much more harshly. Thompson is not even sufficiently acquainted with the Gospels so as to not attribute to Jesus words of John the Baptist, apparently. It is rather perilous to venture outside one’s area of expertise – which is not to say it should not be done. I have done so myself with my work on the Mandaeans, and on Doctor Who. But it is easy as a newcomer to miss things that might seem obvious to someone whose primary expertise is in the field in question. And I suspect that it is not a coincidence that it is mostly Hebrew Bible scholars contributing to the volume who find it likely that Jesus might be just like one of the folkloric figures from their field.

      Grabbe presents the mainstream historical position admirably within the volume, I think. And nothing in the volume seems to me to at all justify abandoning that view.

  • Mark Erickson

    Well, I have now read the comments to Thompson’s Bible & Interpretation article, including yours. http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tho368005.shtml #6 ff. In my reading, Thompson has distanced himself from historicism. Do you disagree?

    If you could reference quotes in the online source that most applies to this question, Thompson’s introduction to “Is this not the carpenter?” http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/carp358009.shtml , I would appreciate it.

    • Thompson’s chapters, if one includes the introduction which also bears his name, seem to me rather bizarre, since they indicate that he is focusing on literary questions, as though that were a new approach and one which in and of itself can answer historical questions. And then he focuses on a narrative which no historian can conclude is historical anyway. So he is certainly distancing himself, but whether it is from historicism or the asking of historical questions altogether is harder to pin down.

  • Mark Erickson

    As for Noll, Carrier’s short summary of Noll’s chapter is not encouraging. http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2671/comment-page-1#comment-25314. Can you provide online sources about Noll’s view of historicity?

    • I am not sure why you have posted these comments separately. I do not think we need separate threads for each. I will share my RBL review here once it is published but it is obviously inappropriate for me to reproduce it here prior to that.

      • Mark Erickson

        Because you ignored a big chunk of my first comment and just responded to the last question, but what’s the big deal anyway?

        Not asking you to, but rather links to Noll’s own writing.

        • I was asking whether it would not have made more sense to at least have your follow-up questions nested under the original one to keep it a single thread. But no big deal.