The Historical Consensus About Jesus

The Historical Consensus About Jesus September 9, 2014

A commenter on the blog made the assertion that scholars are somehow deferring to popular opinion when it comes to the existence of Jesus. The suggestion is so ludicrous that I thought I had best address it, and am sharing it here as well. Here’s what I wrote:

The notion of being “unbiased” is naive. We all have biases, and what is great about the way scholarship works is that it provides methods and a community of experts who can limit the impact that individual biases can have.

I’ve never seen anyone use popular opinion as an argument in my field. Do you have a reference? What we have is an enormous body of scholarship, skeptically investigating the details asserted about Jesus in our earliest sources, in scholarly articles and monographs. The historicity of every single one has been challenged. The fact that the consensus remains that some details are probably historical is what you need to be looking at. The historicity of Jesus cannot be dealt with in the abstract, any more than evolution can be. It is a theoretical framework for making sense of a range of pieces of evidence in relation to one another. That is why mythicists and creationists tend to say both that “there is no evidence” and to think that showing that one particular piece of evidence is problematic means that the entire theoretical framework must be invalid. But that isn’t how scholarly investigation of the past works. The question must always be, what theoretical framework makes the best sense of all the evidence, or as much of it as possible. And of course, those who have not dedicated their lives to the study of that evidence are unlikely to make sound judgments about such matters.


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