CNN Covers Mythicism

CNN Covers Mythicism March 24, 2015

CNN has an article about mythicism. Here’s a sample:

Crossan…says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.

“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American.  If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”

Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?

Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.

If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.

It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”

“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”

Click through to read the rest.

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  • John Thomas

    I believe that person named Jesus might have lived in Jerusalem in first century CE. If Josephus is to be believed, name Jesus seems to be a common name in that part of the world during that period and there were messiah claimants who were killed by Pilate or Roman legion during that period. And crucifixion is one of the ways that Romans killed the rebels. But I am not sure whether gospel accounts give a true historical account of a person named Jesus or whether it is just a legendary account with some true history interspersed in between based on a person named Jesus. But be that as it may, I don’t agree with Crossan, when he says that Jesus’ ideas won’t matter if he didn’t exist. I am not sure whether Buddha as a person existed or the ideas attributed him was contributed by a series of wise men in that tradition. But I am so inspired by his ideas that it doesn’t matter to me whether he (as one person) existed or not. Similarly I don’t know for sure Socrates or Plato existed, but I am inspired by their ideas when I read them. I don’t know for sure, a man named Aristotle wrote the entire body of works attributed to him. Or it was just a collection of works written by many authors, attributed to that name later. But I am still astonished by the wisdom of that writer(s), whoever he maybe. Same goes for Pythagorus, Stoics or Neoplatonist philosophers. But important thing is that many of the ideas of these writers are relevant even now and help me lead a better life in this world as it reduces my effort for thinking about those issues from scratch.

  • Jim Jones

    Philo of Alexandria was born in 25 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. He died about 47-50 CE. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Jesus is said to have existed on earth. Philo spent time in Jerusalem where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. One of Alexander’s sons (and Philo’s nephews), Marcus, was married to Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, 39-40. After the exile of Herod Antipas – villain of the Jesus saga – Marcus ruled as King of the Jews, 41-44 AD. But nothing from Philo on Jesus, the other ‘King of the Jews’.

    Philo was living in or near Jerusalem when Jesus’ miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with an earthquake, daytime darkness, and resurrection of the dead ‘saints’ took place and when Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days. He was there when Jesus ascended into heaven. About thirty manuscripts and at least 850,000 words by Philo are extant. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although Jesus, this Word incarnate, was walking around giving speeches and performing miracles, Philo wrote not one word about him or about any of this.

    • This comment is quite bizarre. It treats stories of the miraculous as though they were credible historical events that we ought to find testimony of, makes unsubstantiated claims, and apparently thinks that Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities were by Philo of Alexandria.

      • Jim Jones

        So you admit that there isn’t the slightest evidence that the Abrahamic religions are anything more than fairy tales for the gullible?

        • You clearly did not understand what I wrote in my comment. Mythicism is a fairy tale for the gullible. Historical critical investigation of the textual traditions of the Abrahamic religions shows them to be a mixture of historical fact, pre-scientific cosmology, legend, and many other sorts of things. But people who accept mythicist fairy tales typically don’t understand the primary source material and the secondary literature well enough to understand this, or the reasons for drawing such conclusions, as your comments show.

          • Jim Jones

            Which bits are “historical fact”? What is “pre-scientific cosmology” and which bits are that? And how do you know?

          • How do we know what is historical? By engaging in historical critical study, the same way we know anything else about history.

            When the Deuteronomistic History says that the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem, we have confirmation from Assyrian records. When the early Christians say that the Davidic anointed one is a crucified man, it is easy to determine that this is most likely a belief resulting from the crucifixion of a man that was believed to be that figure, since being executed by the Romans before restoring the Davidic dynasty to the throne made you a failed messianic claimant. In other instances, the Biblical sources are at odds with other accounts and we must decide between them. In others we simply don’t know if details are historical. In the case of miracle stories, we simply set them aside since they are by definition unlikely. In some instance, we have contradictory geographical or chronological details even within the Biblical collection. Each case is dealt with on its own terms, and the evidence should be followed where it leads.

            When Genesis 1 depicts a solid dome over the Earth holding up waters above it, that is pre-scientific cosmology.

          • Jim Jones

            “Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go!”

    • Right okay. My academic life has been largely focused upon Philo of Alexandria and the above statement is completely ludicrous. So outlandish I had to see where on all earth such nonsense could have come from- and you have lifted this from Kenneth Humphrey’s website. Philo did not write an account of the Jews, let alone an account of the Jews up to the time of Jesus. What on all earth can you (or Humphrey’s) be referring to?? Looking forward to your answer. (by the way waste your time searching wikipedia or google if you want- no such work or project exists in the entire Philonic corpus of work. You have been fed a lie.)

      Further, Philo did not “live in or near” Jerusalem. He lived his entire life in Alexandria, and only once (once!) alludes to going to Jerusalem- In Prov 2.64- which he did for a pilgrimage during Passover, as was custom for diasporan Jews. That is it. There are no more references to him being in Jerusalem. That is a well-know, often-cited fact in Philo scholarship. But again feel free to waste your time searching for more- you wont find it. Sadly and along with so many of the online atheist community, you have failed to realize that atheist activitists can also lie and twist facts just as much as Christian apologists or creationists can do. With mythicism it in fact seems to be the default position (with the exception of Carrier who I respect, but disagree with). Also you are aware that Philo hardly ever talks about contemporary groups of figures? Where are all the Jewish leaders, their disciples, groups, insurrections Josephus talks about are mentioned. Heck even the Pharisees aren’t even referenced.

      Please try to use your critical thinking skills that that little A-for-atheist logo at least pretends to stand for, and don’t just jump on whatever argument you think sounds good and suits your prediposition to accept.

      • Jim Jones

        So, what DID Philo write about Jesus?

        • Nothing – just as he didn’t write about other messianic types of figures, or rabbis, in that part of the world. Why would he have? Indeed, he tells us little about his own life, never mind that of others.

          • Jim Jones

            So he wrote nothing about the Logos?

          • The Logos is not Jesus, at least not until the Gospel of John identified the two.

          • Jim Jones

            So even though the Logos was walking around not far from where Philo lived, he couldn’t be bothered?

          • Are you a troll, or do you genuinely not understand what has been written here? Alexandria in Egypt is not “not far from” Palestine, and the earliest Christians did not think Jesus was the Logos.

          • Jim Jones

            Alexandria is closer to Jerusalem than Greece, no?

          • California is closer to Mexico than Canada, no? What is your point, exactly?

          • You are aware that the understanding of Jesus as logos emerged decades after his life. Even a close reading of the Gospels themselves will you a good indication of this.

            I find it unbelievable that you keep wanting to insist that Alexandria and Palestine were close to each other- either geographically or culturally. They are hundreds of miles apart- and remember the restrictions in antiquity that distance makes. Heck Philo didn’t even know Hebrew- that is how far removed he was. But keep on depending upon the information you get from your silly skeptic websites if you want…

        • where on all earth in his extant writings do you think would have been a good place for him to mention Jesus? Thank you in advance…

  • Cecil Bagpuss

    This is bit off topic but it may be of interest. In a recent blog post, Matthew Ferguson talks about Dennis MacDonald’s theory that the Gospels incorporate themes from Homer. Carrier uses this as part of his argument against the historicity of the Gospels, but Ferguson makes the point that it was common for biographies of real people to be modelled on the the lives of mythical characters:

    However, I have realized from my own research in Classics that, if the Gospels really are ancient biographies, this view actually supports MacDonald’s thesis! I made this connection from the research on my master’s thesis (pp. 40-45) dealing with ring composition in Suetonius. One of the findings of my research was that even the historical biographer Suetonius uses ring structure in his Life of Nero to parallel Nero with tragic characters in Greek mythology — namely, Oedipus (for having sex with his own mother), Orestes (for killing his mother), and Hercules (for killing his wife in a fit of rage). What I realized from this research is that Greco-Roman biographers would often model their subjects based on parallels with characters in Greek epic and tragedy.

  • Does Crossan really think that a historian can determine whether a human being “fully cooperated with God”?

    • I doubt very much that he thinks a historian can determine that. I suspect that he has read Maurice Wiles’ concluding piece in The Myth of God Incarnate.