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Skeptical of Mythicism

Skeptical of Mythicism June 4, 2017

Guignebert quote

Ron Huggins shared the following on Facebook:

The French scholar Charles Guignebert, Professor of Christian History at the Sorbonne in Paris, wrote a very critical book on Jesus in the 1950s. He was far more skeptical of the value of historical data on Jesus than most New Testament scholars liberal or conservative would be today. Compared to him, for example, people like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, or John Dominic Crossan come across looking like sawdust-trail walkin’, Bible-thumpin’ Fundamentalists. (James McGrath knowing how much you love the mythicists, I thought you might appreciate this quotation)

Still, as skeptical as Guignebert was of the New Testament evidence, he was even more skeptical of the fanciful reconstructions of the Mythicists (historical Jesus deniers). I don’t think I’ve ever run across a better summing up of why scholars as a whole tend to reject the theories of the Mythicists:

“It is evident that if the personality and influence of Jesus disappeared from history, the birth of Christianity has still to be explained, and it is to this task that those who deny his historicity have applied themselves, with a confidence only equaled by the variety of their theories and the flimsiness of their arguments. Popular opinion, always susceptible to novelty, and entirely indifferent to the cautious reservations of scientific exegesis, impressed by their air of conclusiveness [64] and originality, has more than once given an enthusiastic reception to such theories, and encourage the amateurs by its admiring applause. For “amateurs” they nearly all are who uphold the negative and mythological point of view; some naïve and superficial, quite unconscious of the pitiful inadequacy of their knowledge, others well documented, that is to say, conversant with the subject, sometimes even learned in it, but equally ignorant or impatient of the humble and patient discipline of exegesis. They are ever ready to thrust aside or mishandle the texts instead of cautiously and respectfully attempting to extract truth from them; to impose upon them whatever conclusions their own convictions demand, instead of keeping within the limits to which a scrupulously critical and historical sense would confine them. Such flimsy and unfounded speculations may perhaps yield interesting works of the imagination, and exhibit a fascinating ingenuity, but they do no service to science.”

Charles Guignebert, Jesus (trans. S. H. Hooke; New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1958), 63-63.

Compare that quote with how Robert Price apparently spoke of Guignebert’s perspective:

quote-though-charles-guignebert-could-not-accept-either-the-christ-myth-theory-which-held-robert-m-price-111-84-88


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