Brief Review of Maurice Casey’s New Book on Mythicism

Brief Review of Maurice Casey’s New Book on Mythicism February 14, 2014

Diglotting has posted a brief review of Maurice Casey’s latest book, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?, which is now available for purchase for Kindle, and will be available in print form in the next few months.

I had the opportunity to read an earlier draft of the manuscript, and am looking forward to seeing the finished product. I wrote in notes I took at that time, “There is much here that is simply important evidence regarding historicity and development of material in the Gospels, and their date, which itself deserves to be published. Mythicism is the unifying thread, but the book works well as a general overview of mainstream historical Jesus studies in relation to popular misconceptions.” And so the book is one that everyone interested in the historical figure of Jesus ought to read, and not only those interested in debates about his historicity.

Here’s the full version of the blurb review I provided to the publisher:

In his latest book, Maurice Casey brings his great expertise in historical Jesus studies to bear on the phenomenon of mythicism, the claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. Although mythicism is universally rejected by professional historians, it is surprisingly popular on the internet and in a small number of self-published books. Casey’s book offers both the scholarly detail needed to deal with the subject seriously, and the sarcastic wit appropriate to the character of the phenomenon. The result is not only informative but also entertaining.

Despite dealing thoroughly and persuasively with the subject, it is probably too much to hope that Casey’s scholarly treatment of mythicism will lay the matter of the existence of the historical Jesus to rest, any more than scientists addressing young-earth creationist claims have managed to bring about the end of that pseudoscience. But Casey’s book will provide for the realm of historical Jesus study what biologists have provided in relation to evolution: a clear and sufficiently detailed explanation of what mainstream scholarly conclusions are, why and how they are reached, and why professionals in the field all but universally find the denialist alternative not merely unpersuasive, but failing to even implement the appropriate methods of scholarly investigation and argument.

Yet this book will also be of great interest even to those who couldn’t care less about what internet cranks think. In the process of responding to their claims, Casey offers everything one might hope for in an overview of the methods, sources, and conclusions of historical Jesus study. And so whatever one’s interest in the historical figure of Jesus, I highly recommend this book.

The book addresses the claims of mythicists like Earl Doherty directly and in detail. Doherty is the person whose brand of mythicism is behind the views of people like Richard Carrier and Neil Godfrey. It is my impression that those claims are dealt with in this book more effectively and persuasively than they have been anywhere else at any time in the past, including by me. While I’ve blogged about this subject in some detail, Casey has devoted the time to produce a full-fledged monograph, worthy of publication by a major academic publisher. And so this is an important book, and I look forward to the discussions that it will generate.

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