Mythicism in the Arctic Vortex

Mythicism in the Arctic Vortex January 7, 2014

Johnny Walker responded to a response to a blog post of his about mythicism. If you are experiencing yet another day disrupted by the arctic weather, and are looking for something to read, there’s that.

Of related interest: Mauro Pesce shared a book chapter on, “The Beginning of Historical Research on Jesus in the Modern Age.” James Charlesworth’s article on the Gospel of John and the historical Jesus is available for free through Brill Online. Jason DeBuhn has an article in The Bible and Interpretation about Marcion and the invention of the New Testament.


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  • Gary

    I’ll have to get Jason DeBuhn’s “The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon”. His article, plus a quote from Pagel’s “The Gnostic Gospels”, “One of Tertullian’s prime targets, the heretic Marcion, had, in fact, scandalized his orthodox contemporaries by appointing women on an equal basis with men as priests and bishops.” Marcion sounds like an interesting fellow, deserving better than he got.

  • Jeremiah J. Preisser

    I have never posted here before but I have followed your blog for awhile(since June of 2012) because of your persistence to refute mythicism. I was wondering if you could help me out. Before that however, I would like to point out that I am an amateur and not deeply knowledgeable about this subject. I am debating a myther who makes incessant claims that every mention of Jesus outside the Bible is a forgery and I have dealt with his claims pretty well so far, but I am wondering if you could enlighten me on this so I can enlighten him. What would be a succinct rebuttal to the following:

    “[If] Josephus text of Jesus existed before the 4th century origen would have quoted it. He is known for quoting Christian scholars.If you think coincidentally that page is missing from his version out of all the pages that is just bullshit.”

    He also says:

    “To believe the term Christian was widespread and well known by 64 CE you would have to believe in the first couple years of the New Testament the term Christian was invented,termed,numerous people identifyed with and that whoever wrote that portion of the numerous New Testament told people about the term christian 20-30 years before that specific gospel was finished.”

    • Thanks for your comment! On the first point, I am not sure where the person you are talking to got the idea that Origen had a copy of Josephus’ Antiquities that was missing a page. Origen says confidently that Josephus was not a Christian, which seems clear evidence that his copy did not have the Christian-interpolated version of the Testimonium. But it may suggest that he knew a version like the one historians have reconstructed, which talks about Jesus in a way that suggests the author was not a Christian. Origen botches what Josephus actually says about James the brother of Jesus, but he seems aware that he is mentioned, suggesting strongly that the reference to him is not an interpolation.

      The term Christian took a while to catch on, but is likely to have been known in Rome in Josephus’ time. It is not widely used in the NT. I am not sure what your conversation partner’s point was in relation to that.

      A key point to raise is why Christian sources are disqualified by mythicists as evidence. When we read early disciples of Socrates, we suspect that they may not give a balanced portrait of him because of their devotion. We do not think that because they were his disciples they cannot be trusted to tell us honestly whether he existed.

      Hope this helps!

      • arcseconds

        Do you think the quotes on that page indicate that Origen’s copy of Josephus mentioned Jesus? It strikes me so on a cursory reading, but I suppose it would be possible for a mythicist to insist that Josephus just mentioned James.

        • I think it at least indicates that he mentioned “James the brother of Jesus called Christ.” It strikes me too that Origen’s statement seems more natural if Josephus said something about Jesus akin to what scholars have reconstructed and Agapius paraphrases. But that has to be at best a tentative proposal given the evidence. Origen doesn’t specify what led him to be certain that Josephus was not a Christian.

          • Jeremiah J. Preisser

            I apologize for taking my time to respond back but it is only because it took me just about this long to respond to the mythicist I am debating. I want to say that I appreciate you addressing my post and I found the information helpful. Hopefully he reads my rebuttal and feels the same way, though I am doubtful because he is unwavering in his views that all mentions of Jesus outside of the Bible are void of any merit and that…**drum roll**… the Bible cannot be trusted as a sources for Jesus` life. Ah, geez and the ‘argument from silence’ for which I have had to repeatedly put to rest because he seems to not understand that the overwhelming majority of people could not write, therefore they could not simply pull out their notepads or scribble over their previous entries in their papyrus dream journals and record Jesus` deeds.

            Anyways, I may come back with future inquiries but at this juncture I am trying to broaden my knowledge with Ehrman`s “Did Jesus Exist?”. Again, thank you.

          • By all means ask other questions in the future! It may also be worth mentioning that Maurice Casey has a book coming out addressing mythicist claims.

          • Jeremiah J. Preisser

            If you remember(if you don`t that is fine too) someone was asking about that particular book on Exploring the Matrix`s facebook page, that was me. I will be awaiting the review.

          • I remember now – sorry that it had slipped my mind!

          • arcseconds

            It’s also worth remembering that even if something is written down, it won’t be preserved unless people take the effort to preserve it. The earliest extant gospel manuscripts are from no earlier than the 3rd century, so 200 years at least after the works were first written. So they’re probably copies of copies of the originals, at best. (feel free to fill in more accurate details, someone who knows what they’re talking about, thanks).

            Probably no-one’s going to bother copying Yosef bin Schmosef’s papyrus dream journal (great phrase!) where he complains about the filthy rabble-rousing street preacher, even if it got written. Not surprisingly, the people most interested in preserving records of Jesus where Christians…

  • arcseconds

    Bahumuth has commented here before. Google finds only the incident where Vridar was taken down: