Jesus myth theory
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“”[T]he entire history of Christianity, its origins, and the origins and original meaning of its scriptures, entirely depends on the question of historicity. That is beyond trivial.
So how do we proceed? We should start by examining the best case for both sides. And see which side has the sounder premises and logic, when everything is added up, nothing straw-manned, nothing swept under the rug. When all fallacies and falsehoods removed, from both sides, what remains? . . . We may end up simply not knowing whether Jesus really existed or not. But I put it to you, that an honest and unbiased inquiry, will not end up in certainty that he did.
The Jesus myth theory (also known as the Christ myth theory, Jesus mythicism and the nonexistence hypothesis, as well as Jesus ahistoricity) refers to several hypotheses that regard the New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus as so filled with myth and legend (as well as containing internal contradictions and historical irregularities) that at best one can extract no meaningful historical verification regarding Jesus of Nazareth (including his very existence) from them.
Some academics have accepted the Jesus myth theory. As Archibald Robertson stated in his 1946 book, Jesus: Myth Or History, at least as far as John M. Robertson was concerned, the myth theory was not concerned with denying the possibility of a flesh-and-blood Jesus being involved in the Gospel account, but rather: "What the myth theory denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded". This definition is echoed by Ehrman (himself not a mythicist) in his 2012 book Did Jesus Exist?, when he summarizes the views of Earl Doherty: "In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity". In contrast, people who accept that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood man have been called Christ mythers. The most infamous of these was Sir James George Frazer ("My theory assumes the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth"), who along with John M. Robertson was grouped with those "who contested the historical existence of Jesus" by no less than Albert Schweitzer.
- 1 Leading scholars on the question of the "historicity of Jesus"
- 1.1 Agnosticism scholars
- 1.2 Philosophy scholars
- 1.3 Scholars on Pre-Christian myth
- 1.4 Scholars on Paul's second god
- 1.5 Scholars on Mark allegorizing the teachings of Paul
- 1.6 Scholars on the Q Gospel
- 1.7 Pseudo-scholars
- 2 Historical method
- 3 Academic consensus
- 4 Background and origins
- 5 Problems with definitions
- 6 The historical Jesus spectrum or color me completely confused
- 6.1 Christ (philosophical) myth theory (fringe)
- 6.2 Christ (historical) myth theory (the narrative is essentially false), ahistorical, or reductive (less fringe)
- 6.3 Triumphalist theory or extreme historical (fringe)
- 6.4 Moderate historical, Christ (Historical) Myth (the narrative is essentially true)
- 7 Arguing the wrong Jesus and the Jesus myth
- 8 Arguments against a "historical" Jesus
- 9 Common objections
- 9.1 "Most scholars think Jesus existed"
- 9.2 "There is more evidence for Jesus than for X"
- 9.3 Christianity proves Christ
- 9.4 "Myth, madman, or Messiah"
- 10 How did the myth of Jesus start?
- 11 Questions for all
- 12 Questions for Jesus historicists
- 13 See also
- 14 External links
- 15 Further reading
- 15.1 Trade publications
- 15.2 Surveys of early 20th century proponents of an ahistorical Jesus figure
- 15.3 Surveys of early 21st century proponents of an ahistorical Jesus figure
- 15.4 Non English language books
- 15.5 Online English language books
- 15.6 Radical criticism of the Pauline epistles authorship
- 15.7 Responses to Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?
- 15.8 Pre-Christian myth
- 15.9 Logical arguments
- 15.10 Miscellaneous
- 15.11 Websites
- 15.12 Point Counter Point
- 16 Bibliography
- 17 Notes
- 18 References
Leading scholars on the question of the "historicity of Jesus"
“”I have long searched for good cases for the Historical Jesus. I sought fairly recent, peer-reviewed academic books or articles, solely/primarily focussed on arguing for Jesus’ historicity, written by secular scholars in relevant fields. Not one source met these criteria. I would have loved the opportunity to critique books focused on this topic written by a James Crossley or an Aaron W. Hughes, and published with Oxford University Press, but such books – perhaps like Jesus – do not exist; so I have settled for two popular books written by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey.
Per scholarship on the question of the "historicity of Jesus", Raphael Lataster identifies three positions held by scholars being, historicity as the mainstream position, while agnosticism and mythicism are non-mainstream positions.
The leading historicity scholars are Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman, whose individual works on the question of the "historicity of Jesus"—as a sustained argument that Jesus lived—are not comparable to any other work by a contemporary scholar who also holds the historicity position.[note 1] Casey and Ehrman are the only contemporary "secular" scholars to comprehensively address this issue,[note 2] as Ehrman writes, "Odd as it may seem, no scholar of the New Testament has ever thought to put together a sustained argument that Jesus must have lived." Ehrman also notes that his book Did Jesus Exist? was written for a popular audience and that in regards to the question of the historicity of Jesus, "I was not arguing the case for scholars, because scholars already know the answer to that question." (Never mind that scholars don't know any such thing, hence the reason for this article.)
One of the leading mythicism scholars is Richard Carrier, who—as asserted by Lataster—"seems to be the first to examine the issue of Jesus’ historicity by incorporating a direct and probabilistic (and also logically exhaustive) comparative analysis of the plausible hypotheses." Which is the basis for Carrier's sustained argument for Jesus’ ahistoricity, which is not comparable to any other work by a contemporary scholar who also holds the mythicism position. Other leading mythicism scholars include Robert M. Price, Thomas L. Brodie, etc..
Leading mythicism scholars do not not assert that the historicity of Jesus is a black or white scenario, R. M. Price writes, “I don’t think you can ‘prove’ either that a historical Jesus existed or that he didn’t. What you can do . . . is to construe the same old evidence in a new way that makes more natural, less contrived, sense”; and Carrier gives at best a 1 in 3 (~33%) chance that Jesus existed. Carrier writes, "I am not engaging in “tactics.” I am simply stating what is true. If I had found the odds of historicity to be 50/50, that’s what I would have reported my findings to be. I reported what I found." (Like Ehrman, Carrier may be letting his own biases creep in here, as his 1 in 3 chances relies heavily on personal judgement and, potentially, bias.)
“”For all the evidence anyone has ever adduced from the Epistles (once we exclude those known to be forged): it is ambiguous as to whether an earthly or celestial Jesus is being referred to. The Gospels I found wholly symbolically fictional and not even interested in actual history. And the Jesus in them I found to be so very like other mythical persons of the period. And then I found that no other evidence can be shown to be independent of the Gospels. At the very least, putting all of that together should make agnosticism about the historicity of Jesus a credible conclusion.
The leading agnosticism scholar is Raphael Lataster, who argues that flaws in the work of Casey and Ehrman justify a de-facto position of agnosticism. Lataster writes, "Ehrman should recognise that the middle ground is usually where the most rational views reside, and would also do well to recognise that the Historical Jesus agnostics should actually be paid far more attention than the sometimes ‘extreme’ mythicists" and further "Ehrman appears to set up a false dichotomy, a black or white scenario, as many Christian believers do in arguing over God's existence and other Christian claims, with no reasonable middle ground".
Agnosticism scholars often hold that the historicity of Jesus is not relevant to understanding early Christianity. Tom Dykstra[note 3] writes, "As for the question of whether Jesus existed, the best answer is that any attempt to find a historical Jesus is a waste of time. It can’t be done, it explains nothing, and it proves nothing." While Emanuel Pfoh warns, "The main reason for holding to the historicity of the [gospel] figure of Jesus . . . resides not primarily in historical evidence but derives instead from a modern theological necessity." Alvar Ellegård writes that, "most present-day theologians also accept that large parts of the Gospel stories are, if not fictional, at least not to be taken at face value as historical accounts. On the other hand, no theologian seems to be able to . . . admit that the question of the historicity of Jesus must be judged to be an open one."
Robert W. Funk writes:
Philip R. Davies writes:
The crisis in what the church believes about Jesus will not go away. . . . The crisis arises, in large part, from what we can know about Jesus himself. For example, as a historian I do not know for certain that Jesus really existed, that he is anything more than the figment of some overactive imaginations.
What I can see, but not understand, is the stake that Christians have in the unanswerable question of Jesus’ historicity and his true historical self.
And R. Joseph Hoffmann writes:
I no longer believe it is possible to answer the 'historicity question'. . . . Whether the New Testament runs from Christ to Jesus or Jesus to Christ is not a question we can answer.
Funk, Davies, and Hoffmann admit to the plausibility of mythicism; but not to its probability, they all believe the historicity of Jesus is more probable. "But even that" Carrier opines, "would be progress, if it became the consensus position [i.e. that mythicism is at least plausibile] (as Davies among them did explicitly argue for)."
Agnosticism scholars are often mischaracterized as "Mythicism scholars" by those who fail to understand that while agnosticism scholars may find some points of mythicism plausible, that does not imply that said scholars are asserting that these points of mythicism are the most probable or that the argument has been resolved in favor of mythicism.[note 4][note 5] Neil Godfrey writes:
The Vridar blog is not a “Jesus mythicist” blog even though it is open to a critical discussion of the question of Jesus’ historicity. I do not see secure grounds for believing in the historicity of Jesus but it does not follow that I reject Jesus’ historicity. Clearly, the Jesus of the Gospels and Paul’s letters is a literary and theological construct but it does not follow that there was no "historical Jesus".
“”Where testimony/documents weave together a narrative that combines mundane claims with a significant proportion of extraordinary claims, and there is good reason to be sceptical about those extraordinary claims, then there is good reason to be sceptical about the mundane claims, at least until we possess good independent evidence of their truth.
|—The contamination principle of Stephen Law|
Stephen Law holds that for Jesus—in the context of the contamination principle—we have no good independent evidence for the mundane claim that Jesus existed. Therefore the Gospel's inordinate amount of myth and fabulation about Jesus actually leave us in doubt whether he existed. Concurring with Law, Carrier writes, "The more fabulous the only tales we have of someone are, the more likely we doubt their historicity, unless we have some good mundane corroboration for them. Hence we doubt the existence of Hercules, Dionysus, Romulus, and so on" and "Jesus is one of the most mythified persons in human history."
Law's position is challenged by Robert G. Cavin and Carlos A. Colombetti who in collaboration, present four items of evidence (see Cavin & Colombetti's evidence). They also invoke a Bayesian 0.99 prior probability[note 6] for mundane claims about a historical Jesus. Lataster notes the "incredible assumption" made by Cavin and Colombetti, such that "their 'bracketing'[note 7] of the material in the sources makes the incredible assumption that the obviously mythical material should not at all make us sceptical about the rest" and further "Cavin and Colombetti would be happy to proclaim the 0.00001% of a story's mundane claims as being almost certainly true, even if 99.99999% of the story consisted of supernatural fiction."
Rejecting Cavin & Colombetti's "resort to illogical Christian apologetics", Carrier writes, "Stripped down to its purest generalization, Law’s principle essentially argues that when instead we have evidence for a source’s unreliability, the probability of any mundane detail in the story being true doesn’t increase. It stays at 50/50 . . . . Until we get good independent evidence for it. Cavin & Colombetti present no logically valid or factually sound objection to this conclusion." Lataster writes:
All too often I see philosophers comment on biblical claims with an inadequate knowledge of the Bible, Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general. This can lead to scenarios . . . where too much credence — more than some Christian scholars of the Bible in some cases — is given to the sources. And all too often, I see biblical scholars make logical claims without the vitally important critical framework of the analytic philosopher. I believe that both are needed to answer questions of this sort. We need the knowledge and nuance of the specialist scholar of religion and the logical acuity of the analytic philosopher.
Scholars on Pre-Christian myth
“”Jonathan Z. Smith spent a lifetime trying to get us beyond the taboo of suggesting Christians may have borrowed some customs and beliefs from contemporaneous pagan religions. Smith said we should look for analogies and comparisons and we should shun the apologetic, untenable idea of uniqueness. Stop worrying about who borrowed from whom, and start looking for shared ideas and cross-fertilization.
However, the Bauckham camp seems to have won decisively. For any facet of Christianity, if a modern scholar finds any possible link to Judaism, that must be where it came from. If it sounds remotely close to something in the OT or any Jewish writing, you can stop looking. There are never any Christian precursors in the pagan traditions, and anyone who says differently must be laughed out of the room.
Smith held that the famous “dying and rising god” mytheme was a modern myth—not an ancient one. However Carrier asserts that per the Dying-and-Rising God Mytheme, Smith “didn’t even address 99% of the evidence for it, but flat out ignored almost all of it”.
While Smith clearly retreated from the “dying and rising god” mytheme, Widowfield observes that, "Smith doubted the usefulness of the dying-and-rising-god motif because it was too Christian-centric and carried too much historical baggage — with scholars who worried about who adopted what from whom instead of what it all meant to adherents."
One of the leading scholars on pre-Christian myth, John Granger Cook, asserts—contra Smith—that the continued use of the category of dying and rising gods is justified, writing:
The resurrection of Osiris is the closest analogy to the resurrection of Jesus, although Osiris remains in the netherworld—wherever it is located. Horus’s resurrection is a clear analogy. The rebirth or resurrection of Dionysus also provides a fairly close analogy to the resurrection of Jesus. The revival of Heracles and probably that of Melqart are also strong analogies.
Other scholars such as Tryggve Mettinger and Paola Corrente have also concluded that the mytheme was extant prior to Christianity. Corrente notes that "three gods from Mesopotamia, Ugarit and Greece – or say from Mesopotamia, from Near East and from Greece – which are, like, the most certain examples of a god who dies and comes back, are ignored usually."
Carrier notes that Tertullian, in Prescription against Heretics 40 makes exactly the same argument that Justin Martyr made in Dialogue 69, which is that Jesus dying-and-rising—contra other dying-and-rising gods—was the only one that actually happened. Carrier writes:
Ancient Christians well knew there was nothing new about their dying-and-rising god [i.e. Jesus]. Not in respect to the mytheme. Their claims were solely that his particular instantiation of it was better, and the only one that actually happened. They didn’t make up the stupid modern arguments that dying-and-rising god myths didn’t exist or weren’t part of a common mytheme everyone knew about.
R. M. Price holds that per mythicism the dying and rising god issue is a moot point and does not significantly reflect on the mythicism v. historicism debate. Price states:
Ultimately I don’t think the dying and rising god thing, though fascinating, really bears on mythicism, because Rudolf Bultmann and Joseph McCabe and various others have long said there were dying and rising god myths and they were among the resources early Christians used to mythologize the historical Jesus.
Bultmann goes into all of this stuff, but he thinks there was a historical Jesus, it was just he was made over in this image as he was.. with a gnostic redeemer and the Jewish Messiah. If you could prove that there were dependencies of genealogical relationship—that wouldn’t really reflect on mythicism verses historicism anyway. So in a way it’s like a moot point, as fascinating as it is.
Carrier argues that the "Dying-and-Rising God Mytheme" is a sub-mytheme of the "Savior-God Mytheme", both of which were culturally prevalent during the period and region in question, and that a recognition of this historical fact is critical to understanding how Christianity arose. Carrier writes:
Element 11: The earliest definitely known form of Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion.
Element 31: Incarnate sons (or daughters) of a god who died and then rose from their deaths to become living gods granting salvation to their worshipers were a common and peculiar feature of pagan religion when Christianity arose, so much so that influence from paganism is the only plausible explanation for how a Jewish sect such as Christianity came to adopt the idea.
[The "Savior-God Mytheme" (including the "Dying-and-Rising God Mytheme") was] “syncretized” with Jewish elements, ideas, requirements, and sensitivities . . . The mytheme was simply Judaized [e.g. "Element 17: The fundamental features of the gospel story of Jesus can be read out of the Jewish scriptures."]. And thence Christianity was born. The “differences” are the Jewish element. The similarities are what were adopted from the widespread mythemes raging with popularity everywhere around them.
Scholars on Paul's second god
“”All [the evidence historicists cite] from the Epistles [is] hopelessly vague and theological, not plain references to an earthly life of Jesus at all. Which is already by itself extremely strange. Why is this all we have, and not numerous debates and discussions and questions about Jesus’ ministry and trial and death or his miracles or parables or how he chose or affected or instructed the people who knew him? How has Paul never heard of the word “disciple” or that anyone was Jesus’ hand-picked representative in life? Why is he always weirdly vague; for instance, ascribing the death of Jesus to “archons of this eon” (1 Corinthians 2:6–10), which he characterizes as spiritual rather than terrestrial forces (as he there says they would understand esoteric details of God’s planned magical formulae), rather than to “Pontius Pilate” or “the Romans” or “the Jews”? Why does he never say Jesus’ death occurred “in Jerusalem”? How can Paul avoid in some 20,000 words ever making any clear reference to Jesus being on Earth? How can every question, argument, or opposition he ever faced have avoided referencing things Jesus said or did in life? He never referenced them. He never had them cited against him. He is never asked about them. That’s weird. And weird is just another word for improbable. Unless the only Jesus any Christians yet knew, was a revealed being, not an earthly minister.
Carrier asserts that certain aspects of Paul's Jesus (being "a preexistent superbeing, who eventually had a body of flesh manufactured for him so he could die") are confirmed by Philo and by the author of Hebrews. Carrier writes:
In his letter to the Romans, Paul confirms that Jesus was sent from outer space by God and given a mortal body to wear for the mission (8:3). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul reveals that Jesus was indeed an angel (4:14). And again in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says Jesus was God’s agent of creation at the dawn of time (8:6), a belief confirmed by the authors of Hebrews (1:2, 2:9–10, 2:17) and Colossians, who wrote that Jesus was indeed “the firstborn of all creation” (1:15). The author of Hebrews 9 also confirms that Jesus was the high priest of God’s celestial temple in the farthest reaches of outer space—a role we know ancient Jews always reserved for an archangel, usually Michael, or an ambiguous “archangel of many names” (as the Jewish theologian Philo describes it in On the Confusion of Tongues §146–47, which predates all Christian writing).
Philo, a helenized Jew (see Word of God §. Hellenistic Judaism and logos), wrote that the archangel (second-god) he worshiped had many names, but the only specific name Philo ever mentions this angel having is Anatole (Rising One). However Philo does attribute to this second-god elements that Paul also attributes to his second-god, such as:
- Firstborn son of God ← Romans 8:29.
- Celestial image of God ← 2 Corinthians 4:4.
- God's Agent of Creation ← 1 Corinthians 8:6.
And from other of the earliest Christian documents:
- God's celestial high priest ← Hebrews 2:17 4:14, etc.
Furthermore Philo also interprets the Jesus in Zechariah 6 as this angel. Therefore Philo must also have believed this second-god was not just named Anatole but also named Jesus. Carrier writes:
[T]o believe that Philo did not interpret this verse as being about the same person [sc. Jesus Son of God and High Priest]—to insist, instead, that Philo thought the Anatolê was someone else, like the king Zerubbabel, and not the Jesus Son of God and High Priest being told this in that passage—requires assuming three bizarre and thus improbable coincidences. Whereas to believe that Philo is reading this passage as all about the same person [sc. Jesus Son of God and High Priest] (regardless of how other interpreters ever read it), does not require any of those coincidences, and thus does not accumulate any of those improbabilities.
The Christology of Paul establishes the celestial pre-existence of Jesus and identifies him as Kyrios (Lord). The Pauline epistles use Kyrios to identify Jesus almost 230 times, and express the theme that the true mark of a Christian is the confession of Jesus as the true Lord, rather than perhaps the "Daemon Lord Sarapis" or else some similar "False Lord". Frances Young writes:
[I]n 1 Corinthians (11:23–6), Paul had recalled what happened at the Last Supper [note 8] as if the story were an aetiological cult-myth, and had insisted that there could be no communion between the ‘table of the Lord’ and the ‘table of the daemons’. Papyri found at Oxyrhynchus reveal invitations to ‘sup at the table of the lord Sarapis’. (P. Oxy. 110 and 523.)
Reading Paul’s words in the context they were in ("which is of a strongly affirmed honor/shame society, as analyzed by the likes of Bruce Malina et al.") then it is highly probable that Paul promoted the viewpoint that Christians should not dishonor the true god lord (i.e. second-god) and its father (i.e. first-god) by giving titles of honor—such as kyrios (lord) and theos (god)—to evil beings. However as Carrier notes, "Just because Jews [including Paul] tried to avoid the specific Greek word theos when speaking of any other deity . . . simply for reasons of honor and to avoid offense, does not mean they did not regard other beings as gods." Thus Paul held a position of Christian monolatrism derived from the honor-based monolatry of Judaism. Carrier writes:
[What Paul] is calling “demons,” “principalities,” “fallen angels,” “Satan,” are what we mean by the word gods today—and what most ancient Greeks would all recognize as such, too. The peculiar insistence of Jews calling their gods angels was quaint and weird among their Hellenic peers.
One of the most relevant questions is: Did a group of Jews prior to Paul worship/revere a celestial second-god with similar attributes as those Paul attributed to his celestial Jesus, his Christ lord, his second-god? Lataster writes:
Ehrman argues that since there are Jewish texts that outlaw angel worship, there must have been Jews worshipping ‘non-God’ divine beings. . . . Ehrman even refers to the Son of Man of 1 Enoch as the “cosmic judge of the earth”, and acknowledges that some considered him to be the Messiah, and worshipped him ([How Jesus Became God] pp. 66-68). He also gives a nod to ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Logos’, and admits that Philo of Alexandria describes his Logos as divine, as God’s first born. Ehrman even realises that the Tanakh made it very easy for Jews to incorporate similar ideas from the Ancient Greeks (such as the Wisdom figure appearing in Proverbs 8, and Genesis 1’s ‘creative Logos’). All this only bolsters the claims . . . that all the elements needed to create Christianity, without a HJ [Historical Jesus], were already present in Judaism.
Many Jewish counter-culture sects were extant during the period in question that may have influenced or even competed with the Jewish sect that Paul joined—now termed as the original "Christian" sect—which may have originally been named "The Brothers of the Lord". Carrier writes:
The distinguishing characteristic of a Christian sect would be the archangel Jesus having died. There is no evidence Paul knew of any Christian sect preaching “another kind of death.”[…]
Paul is never clear on what sort of death is meant. The words he uses also referred to standard Jewish executions (as for example by stoning). I cite scholarship and evidence of that in OHJ (pp. 61-62). So, for example, the sect outside the Roman Empire that preached Christ was stoned and then crucified, by the Jews (OHJ, Ch. 8.1; which Paul could be referring to, as he is sufficiently vague) could be more original than the souped up version invented possibly by Mark that has the Romans do it in collusion with the Jews.
Other than that, there probably were pre-Christian sects (one of which probably became Christian, by novel revelation) that did revere the archangel Jesus and probably even taught he would be the coming messiah, but had not yet come to the conclusion that he’d died to effect his plans, thus had already initiated the end times timetable. There are hints in the Dead Sea Scrolls that the sect(s) represented there did have some such view (and may even have written up pesher prophecies of that angel’s future planned death). But we don’t know that for sure, we don’t know if the only such sect simply became Christianity, we don’t know if any members of that sect protested the revelation and stuck to the original timetable and thus broke away, we don’t know if there were other sects never impacted by the revelation who continued preaching their own thing. Paul does say there were sects preaching “another Jesus” whom the Christians should shun. So those could have been any of the above, for example.
Another way to look at it is: the manner of death was too trivial to have a schism over at that point, especially as Paul is so vague about it—and you don’t go vague on a point that’s creating schisms; that’s what creeds are for: to demarcate what’s valid and what’s anathema. So clearly there were no anathemas regarding means of the killing; vagueness would at best mean an intent to “big tent” the movement and unite schisms. Notice that by the time we get to Ignatius, now the manner of death is a schism point built into the creed, indicating that by then there certainly were sects disagreeing (though exactly what they were disagreeing on or why we can only speculate). But that’s almost a hundred years later. But there could well have been sects still revering or expecting the Jesus angel as not having died, and who (like possibly Philo) thought it absurd that he would ever do so, and/or who (like possibly the Qumran sect) thought it was not time yet for it to happen, who were competing with Christian sects. They could be the “other Jesus’s” Paul talks about. But we sadly just don’t know.
|—A Dictionary of the Bible, edited by W. R. F. Browning|
Peter as the putative founder of Christianity may have created a pesher that he used to recruit followers to his cult. This hypothetical pesher would have revealed God's plan for Jesus to bring about salvation.
The Markan text was written at least forty years after the Christian religion began (then an average human lifetime), and thus was responding to recent events (the destruction of Jerusalem). We can not explain the origins of Christianity by appealing to the Markan text or to the author's motives; The Markan text is a latecomer that was responding to profound changes in the religion and its circumstances. The religion itself began long before it was known that the Romans would actually destroy Jerusalem (early Christian thinking was then more in line with Daniel, which never mentions this, but only the temple’s “desecration,” after which God and his angels would destroy everything).
The name Jesus as an alias
The first Christians believed Jesus was an eternal being who descended from what they understood to be outer space. Darrell Hannah asserts that the name Jesus was an alias for the Archangel Michael, an alias that means God’s Messianic Savior, suggesting that the name is fabricated: Christ means Anointed ergo Messiah/Messianic; and Jesus, i.e. Joshua, i.e. Yeshua, means God’s Savior.
Paul Davidson notes that the belief in an Archangel with a "multifaceted, cosmic identity wasn’t introduced by an itinerant Galilean preacher, nor did it originate with the teachings of the early apostles, for the notion of a divine saviour described in these terms was already widespread in Judaism before Christianity was born." Writing:
Jews reading the LXX would have concluded that each nation had an angel assigned to it. The evidence for this belief beginning in the second century BCE is widespread (Sirach 17:17 and 24, Jubilees 15.31f., the Animal Apocalypse in 1 Enoch, etc.; see Culianu, p. 81). Furthermore, these angels were held responsible for the actions of worldly kings (cf. Isaiah 24:21-22), and the angels of the nations would even fight amongst each other, as explicitly depicted in The Ascension of Isaiah.
1 Enoch 20 and book of Daniel applied this tradition to Israel itself and identified Michael as the angelic guardian of the Jewish nation.
Scholars on Mark allegorizing the teachings of Paul
“”One of the particularly ironic aspects of the Markan story is that those closest to Jesus, both his relatives and his handpicked associates [the disciples [note 9]], misunderstand and even oppose him. Not just once, but repeatedly, constantly, throughout the story from beginning to end. His family thinks he’s gone mad.
It is commonly maintained that the Gospel of Mark was originally written in Greek and is the earliest Synoptic Gospel (composed c. 70 CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple). The intertextual production of the Markan story with Old Testament (OT) scripture has been recognized by scholars such as Thomas L. Brodie, Richard Carrier, Dennis MacDonald, and R. G. Price. Brodie writes, "Since around 1970 an alternative explanation of the New Testament and related texts has been emerging. Researchers are recognizing precise ways in which New Testament texts are explained as depending not on oral tradition but on older literature, especially older scripture." While John Shelby Spong regards the Markan story as midrashic fiction in virtually every detail, other scholars see this reliance on OT scripture as a function[note 10] of Mark allegorizing the teachings of Paul.[note 11] Carrier writes, "Mark’s whole Gospel feels like it has been inspired by Paul’s teachings. Its narrative is inordinately concerned with Gentiles and the criticism of Jewish legalism." Some paradigmatic examples are: "The Pauline Chiasmus", "Jesus on Taxation", and "The Last Supper". Dykstra writes:
The primary intended audience would then be the same as for the epistles: established Christian communities in which the battle between the competing gospels [in the sense of the message] continued to rage. The primary purpose of the [Markan] gospel narrative would then be to assert that Paul’s gospel was correct, that Paul’s interpretation of the significance of the person of Christ and his crucifixion and resurrection was the correct one, and that Paul’s opponents were wrong even though they could boast of close personal connections to Jesus while Paul could not.
In the Markan story, Jesus is written about as an allegorical type of person on earth conversing with humans and spirits. Jesus also does many inexplicable things and speaks in ways that his hearers do not understand. In the end, Mark’s Jesus is abandoned and rejected by all the Jews. A recognition of the original ending of the Markan story is significant to this conclusion i.e. the women did not understand and told no one: "The End" (see Gospel of Mark §. Alternate endings).
In the case of the disciples in the Markan story, Samuel Sandmel writes, "I allege that Mark regards them as villains.” R. M. Price opines that the author's treatment of the disciples in the Markan text as "buffoons and dullards" is consistent with Marcion's viewpoint. Therefore a possible conclusion is that the Markan text may be related to Marcion's work in some way, such as both authors being from the same "haireseis" school/faction. This possibility is given greater weight in light of Marcion being the initial collector and redactor of the Pauline material.
“What,” Dykstra asks, “could have prompted someone to undertake the composition of Mark at the specific time it was written so long after the history it recounts? One hypothesis that makes sense of the known facts is that the same groups involved in creating the epistles simply added a new tactic—that of narrative—to their literary repertoire. The change in tactics may have been occasioned by the death of Paul and the realization that the effectiveness of his personal authority in the ongoing [gospel message] battle was diminishing"; and R. G. Price asserts that the Markan Jesus was a literary device patterned on the apostle Paul, which was used by the author of Mark’s gospel in writing an allegorical lesson—never meant to be taken literally—about the First Jewish Roman War. R. G. Price writes:
In his work, Dykstra proposes that, “Mark’s primary purpose was to defend the vision of Christianity championed by Paul the Apostle against his ‘Judaizing’ opponents.” I agree with that assessment, but would extend it by saying, “Mark’s primary purpose was to defend the vision of Christianity championed by Paul the Apostle against his ‘Judaizing’ opponents, [in light of the outcome of the First Jewish-Roman War].”
[Mark’s politics do not differ from Paul’s] They are quite in agreement.
The Barabbas narrative is a myth against military messianism and its replacement with a spiritual messianism that eliminates reliance on the violence-inducing temple cult. This is very much Paul’s thing. And Mark simply reifies it into stories. See my discussion of it in OHJ (see the index for Barabbas).
The double “trial” is a myth about the complicity of worldly powers in effecting injustice—through ignorance among the Romans and malice among the Jews (or to be precise, the Jewish elite, not all Jews—Christianity was a counter-cultural sect, teaching that most Jews were failing to hear God, especially the governing and academic elite, and that therefore they, and “the common people” among the Jews, were the true Jews). This reifies Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 2 and all through Romans.
Mark denounces only the Jewish elite of the past (no such parties existed in his day; there was no Judea, and no temple cult, all destroyed, which in fact Mark is explaining); but notably never a Roman, for example. Pilate is depicted as reluctant and merely ignorant (and ultimately a necessary actor in God’s plan), not as a villain. . . . In this he is identical to Paul, who likewise mentions persecution from the Jewish elite owing to ignorance and demonic influence. But never denounces Romans, but rather calls for deference to them, as God’s chosen authorities. Paul was writing in a different context, but this resonated with Mark’s post-war perspective, who thus weaves stories of how God destroyed Judea and the temple cult, using the Romans as his vehicle. His now chosen agents. Accordingly Mark depicts Romans favorably several times. And never unfavorably.
As for the “king of the Jews” stuff, that’s all allegory in Mark for Paul’s notion of kingdom, which was spiritual, not military. Mark writes everything to match this (the slain swine, the Barabbas parable, etc., it all depicts militarism as “not getting it,” and recognizing the kingdom as spiritual as “getting it,” exactly Paul’s message too). Their politics are exactly in agreement.
Mark only uses John to endorse Jesus as his successor and teach a lesson about the elite corruption of the Jews that led God to destroy them at the hands of the Romans. That much is new, but only because it happened, so Mark has to explain it. Paul didn’t see it coming. He thought God would nuke the world before that. Mark is interpreting Paul in light of what actually happened, not as Paul mistakenly imagined things would go. Because Mark had to. Indeed, that’s possibly the entire reason Mark wrote this Gospel: to explain that unexpected outcome, and capitalize on it, adapting Pauline theology and politics to the purpose.
Note also that Paul was already an anti-temple sectarian. Christianity was such fundamentally from the beginning; so Paul was adopting that political stance the moment he joined. That’s why he is teaching freedom from Torah on the back of the Christian doctrine of Christ’s atonement. Paul acknowledges Jesus has replaced the temple cult (as both Passover and Yom Kippur sacrifices); it’s actually a very short line from there to Paul’s modified gospel of just doing away with the rest of the Torah as well (albeit only for Gentiles; by Mark’s time this may have evolved a bit).
The naked young man is an allegory for death and resurrection. Notice he is stripped naked of a linen cloak at the arrest; and appears after the resurrection in a radiant white robe. These were well known literary tropes (the body of flesh as linen garment; the resurrection body as donning a glorious white robe). I analyze this in my chapter on the Empty Tomb legend in The Empty Tomb. The man’s anonymity allows him to stand in for everyone, including Mark’s readers/hearers.
Mark's bizarre geography
“”[The LXX Books of Isaiah and Ezekiel] depict Galilee of the Gentiles as specially appointed to receive salvation in the messianic age, and, further, as a land which will be one of the first to experience God’s deliverance. The writer of Isa. viii. 23–ix. 6 proclaims that the light of the messianic day will disperse the shadow of death lying over “Galilee of the Gentiles”; and the LXX text of ch. viii. 23 begins with a notable addition . . . that God will pour forth this light of His salvation first upon Galilee . . . according to Ezek. xlvii. 1–12, the prophet beholds a river issuing from under the threshold of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. . . . and it was flowing towards Galilee (verse 8)!
|—G. H. Boobyer|
The Book of Isaiah anticipates that emissaries will preach the word of God to the Gentiles and that a savior figure will restore the Jews that were disenfranchised by the Assyrian captivity and who still continue to live among the Gentiles in regions like Galilee. The Intertextuality of the Markan text and Isaiah has been recognized by many scholars. The Markan text can be divided by geographical designation as Mk 1.14-6.13 being the "Galilean ministry" and Mk 6.14-8.26 being the "Ministry beyond Galilee". Jesus conducts much of his ministry in Galilee, which was then known at the time as a region that contained a mixed Jewish and Gentile population. Whereas Jerusalem, located in the preeminent region of Jewish identity, is the place where the Jews reject Jesus.
Many scholars have concluded that the author of Mark was not familiar with the geography presented in the text, thus the author must have lived and written someplace else, e.g. Alexandria. However some scholars assert that the bizarre geography in the Markan text is understandable as intertextual OT geography. C. C. McCown writes:
When Jesus begins his ministry, Capernaum [on the shore of the Sea of Galilee] is his center. He walks by the lakeside, he goes back into the mountains, he tours through Galilee, he sails across the lake. If, however, one attempts to plot exact itineraries, he finds that the data fail him. In most of the sections of Mk 1 1–6 29, there is nothing to determine clearly either geographical or chronological connection.
It is inexplicable that the author of Mark uses the toponym "Sea of Galilee" given that no other writer before had ever referred to this lake as a sea with the western side being a Jewish region and the eastern side being a Gentile region. Some scholars hold that in the Markan text the "Sea of Galilee" is symbolic of the Mediterranean Sea as an allusion to the greater Pauline mission throughout the Roman Empire. Jennifer Wilkinson writes, "The [Markan] evangelist shows a great awareness and interest in the Graeco-Roman city territories surrounding Galilee: Gerasa (Mk 5.1); Tyre and Sidon (7.24-31); Caesarea Philippi (8.27) and the Decapolis (5.20; 7.31), and has Jesus himself travelling into these areas."[note 14]
The author of Mark refers to Jesus from Nazareth (ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ) once, and to Jesus the Nazarene (Ναζαρηνοῦ) four times. Even in the unlikely event that the Markan text's single reference to "Jesus from Nazareth" is original, there is no specific information presented within the text that unambiguously identifies Jesus as a resident of Nazareth rather than just passing through Nazareth en route to the Jordan river. Also if original, "Jesus from Nazareth" is most likely an intertextual allusion to OT geography or a sect—divergent from the Essenes.[note 15] Carrier writes:
[T]he scriptures the [early] Christians were then using predicted three things about the messiah (and we know this, because they say so): that he would be born in Bethlehem, that he would come from Galilee (even though Bethlehem isn’t in Galilee), and that he would be a “Nazorian,” which actually doesn’t mean someone from Nazareth (the word is significantly different, though similar enough to sound almost like it). . . . There is no evidence Jesus was ever imagined to come from Nazareth before the Gospels invented the idea; all by trying to make their invented stories match select scriptures...
René Salm is the author of two Nazareth books which are currently largely ignored by mainstream scholarship (as is also the case with the field of Jesus Mythicism in general). Salm has been successful in casting some doubt on the traditional view that Nazareth—Jesus’ putative hometown—was a viable settlement at the turn of the era (which was also located on the brow of a hill and sufficiently large to have a crowd and a synagogue as depicted e.g. in the Gospel of Luke 4:16–30). Furthermore, Salm alleges that archaeologists at the archaeological site now called Nazareth (as well as at other venues of religious significance) have engaged in a lengthy history of misrepresenting and misdating evidence for both confessional and commercial reasons. In NazarethGate, Salm alleges that a key witness to the existence of Nazareth in Roman times, the so-called “Caesarea Inscription”, is a modern forgery (see Nazareth §. Archaeology).
Mark's reliance on Jesus ben Ananias/Hananiah
“”[The Markan] sequence of the Passover narrative appears to be based on the tale of another Jesus: Jesus ben Ananias, the ‘Jesus of Jerusalem’, an insane prophet active in the 60s CE who is then killed in the siege of Jerusalem (roughly in the year 70).
His story is told by Josephus in the Jewish War, and unless Josephus invented him, his narrative must have been famous, famous enough for Josephus to know of it, and thus famous enough for Mark to know of it, too, and make use of it to model the tale of his own Jesus.
Or if Josephus invented the tale then Mark evidently used Josephus as a source. Because the parallels are too numerous to be at all probable as a coincidence. [citation no. 86.]
[...]86. Theodore Weeden, ‘Two Jesuses, Jesus of Jerusalem and Jesus of Nazareth: Provocative Parallels and Imaginative Imitation’, Forum N.S. 6.2 (Fall 2003), pp. 137- 341; Craig Evans, ‘Jesus in Non-Christian Sources’, in Studying the Historical Jesus (ed. Chilton and Evans), pp. 443-78 (475-77).
Carrier clarifies his citation of Weeden and Evans in OHJ, writing:
Note the Evans piece was published a decade before Weeden’s. . . . Of course Evans, a conservative Evangelical Christian, attempts an alternative explanation of the parallels, but even he cannot deny they are real. Evans’ argument is of course apologetic nonsense, ably refuted by Weeden, and numerous other notable scholars...
Weeden asserts that the Markan text is reliant on Josephus' report of Jesus ben Ananias in part due to many obvious parallels between them. Weeden also holds that Jesus-Ananias was not a real historical person active in the 60s ce, but was an invention of Josephus. Thus the Markan text could not have been written before the early 80s CE.
Mark's inadvertent reliance on Hyrcanus II
“”In the same way [as demonstrated with other unrelated but likewise dislocated accounts], Josephus’s John the Baptist story reads as a doublet or different version of Hyrcanus II chronologically dislocated to the time of the wrong Herod. In this case Josephus did not place the two versions of the death of Hyrcanus II close together in the same time setting as in some of the other cases of doublets. If Josephus had done that, the doublet in this case would have been recognized before now. Instead, Josephus mistakenly attached one of the traditions of the death of Hyrcanus II to the wrong Herod, just as he separately mistakenly attached documents to the wrong Hyrcanus.
If this analysis is correct—that Josephus misplaced this story to the wrong Herod in Antiquities—then there is no attestation external to the New Testament of the Gospels’ figure of John the Baptist of the 30s CE. The implication would seem to be this:
These issues are beyond the scope of this paper.
It is commonly maintained that the composition of the John story found in Antiquities postdates and is derivative from the John the Baptist story found in the Gospel of Mark. However Gregory Doudna argues that this premise needs to be questioned, Doudna writes, "There needs to be consideration given to an inversion of that premise, in which literary influence operated in the reverse direction from what has been assumed", Doudna furthur states:
In this light, references to what the Gospels say of their John figures are of no relevance to understanding the Antiquities John passage. There is no beheading of John in the story in Antiquities, and therefore beheading has nothing to do with understanding Josephus’s John passage.
Per Doudna, "Where my proposal differs from prevailing conceptions is in understanding the Antiquities passage as coming from a Jewish source telling a story of an undated John killed by an undated Herod, a tradition of the death of Hyrcanus II at the hands of Herod the Great, mistakenly dated by Josephus to the wrong Herod–and the Antiquities story generates the stories of the Gospel of Mark re John the Baptist rather than vice versa."
Brad McAdon notes the similarities between the Markan text and Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus:
The narrative similarities between Antiq 18 and Mark (especially) 6 seem striking:
- Flashbacks: Both accounts are widely recognized as literary ‘flashbacks’.
- “Herod” instead of “Herod Antipas”: “Antipas” does not occur in any of the passages under consideration in Josephus’s Antiq, but only “Herod”; “Antipas” does not occur in Mark’s account, only “Herod”.
- “John a good man”: Josephus expresses that John “was a good and righteous man” (18.117); “Herod in awe of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man” (Mk 6:20).
- Reference to John’s arrest: Because of Herod’s suspicions, John was brought in chains to Machaerus (18.119); “Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison” (6:17).
- A reason for John’s arrest: Herod’s fear of John’s persuasive effect may lead to a form of sedition (18.118); “On account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her” (6:17).
- Herodias’s previous marriage: Herodias was previously married (18.110); Herodias was previously married (6:17-18).
- Herodias’s previous husband identified: Correctly as Herod’s step-brother (Herod II, 18.106); incorrectly as Philip (Mark 6:17).
- Herodias has a daughter: Herod II and Herodias have a daughter named Salome (18.136); Herodias’s daughter is not named in Mark.
- A “Philip” in both narratives: Philip as Herodias’s daughter’s (Salome’s) husband (18.136); Philip as Herodias’s first husband (Mk 6:17).
- Criticism of Herod and Herodias’s marriage: Herod and Herodias’s marriage criticized for traditional / religious reasons (18.136); Herod and Herodias’s marriage criticized for traditional/religious reasons (Mk 6:17).
- Leviticus 18:16 and 21: Implicit reference to Leviticus (18.136); implicit reference to Leviticus 6:17-18).
- Reasons for John’s death: Because of Herod’s suspicion that John’s ability to persuade the people may lead them to revolt (18.118); not because of John’s persuasiveness and fear of sedition, but because of his denouncing of Herod for taking his brother’s wife (Mk 6:17).
- Herod executes John: Antiq 18.116-19 and Mk 6:16,27).
From a narrative perspective, it seems that the material in Antiq 18 could provide auMark [author of Mark] with much of the narrative material that would be needed to frame the ‘death of John’ narrative in Mark 6—very similar to, as just one example, how the narrative material in LXX Jonah 1:4-16 served as his framing material for the Jesus “calming the sea” narrative in Mk 4?
Scholars on the Q Gospel
“”[Defenders of Q] tell the public we “have” these non-existent sources and therefore “know” Jesus existed. Their motive for believing this myth is included in their very assertion of the myth itself.
And this is a perfect model for the historicity of Jesus. All the same reasons Q is believed in, even by secular scholars, when in fact no rational person who believes in evidence-based reasoning should believe in it, are the reasons a historical Jesus is still believed in, even though the evidence for that Jesus is almost as lousy as the evidence for Q. Understand why so many experts believe in Q, and you will understand why they can’t tolerate any criticism of the historicity of Jesus, either. They either lie in defense of Q, or swallow lies in defense of it. They either lie in defense of Jesus, or swallow lies in defense of it. It’s the same phenomenon, the same field.
The Q gospel is a hypothetical document; there are no ancient manuscripts that narrate Jesus’s life or recount his sayings that are commonly seen as having been written earlier than the gospels. Carrier asserts that Q never existed, which is also the viewpoint of other leading scholars such as Mark Goodacre, Michael Goulder, E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies.
Bart Ehrman embraces the hypothesis that:
- narrative material that Matthew (A) or Luke (B) share with Mark (C) [i.e. (A⋂C)⋃(B⋂C)]—came from Mark, and everything Matthew and Luke share only with each other [i.e. (A⋂B)⊄C]—came from Q.
- narrative material that is unique to the Gospel of Matthew is derived from a source named M, and narrative material that is unique to the Gospel of Luke is derived from a source named L.
Ehrman further assumes that these hypothetical sources (Q, M, L) are independent of each other, and that they were derived from oral traditions that went back to the historical Jesus himself. Ehrman's approach to the Gospels foundational hypothetical sources is described by Lataster as:
The generally unreliable, untrustworthy, and fiction-filled Gospels can occasionally be considered excellent sources of objective and accurate historical information because of their foundational written sources, which do not exist, which contained many fictions if they did, and which cannot now be scrutinised for authorship, age, genre, intent, and so forth. These hypothetical written sources are themselves based on oral traditions, that also cannot be scrutinised, that changed over time, and that may well have been made up whole cloth. Therefore we have conclusive proof that Jesus definitely existed.
“”While some works by mythicists could be said to be characterised by a particular explanatory or rhetorical style common to conspiracy literature and contain conspiracies . . . most do not.
Leading mythicist scholars are often ignored by critics who prefer bashing low-hanging fruit like the movie Zeitgeist which credits the pseudoscholarly work of Acharya S (who in turn credits the pseudoscholarly work of Kersey Graves). An example of this is Maurice Casey's Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? and his virtual non-engagement with the Doherty–Carrier celestial Jesus argument. Justin Meggitt writes:
It would be a rather thankless and dispiriting task to correct the egregious errors of . . . Kersey Graves or Acharya S, but it would be unfair for the contributions of Brodie, Price, Carrier and Wells to ‘be tarnished with the same brush or be condemned with guilt by association’; indeed such scholars are generally as critical of the failings of the excesses of fellow mythicists as any others.
“”New Testament scholars should concede that the kind of history that is deemed acceptable in their field is, at best, somewhat eccentric. Most biblical scholars would be a little unsettled if, for example, they read an article about Apollonius of Tyana in a journal of ancient history that began by arguing for the historicity of supernatural events before defending the veracity of the miracles ascribed to him yet would not be unsurprised to see an article making the same arguments in a journal dedicated to the study of the historical Jesus.
A protest often heard from biblical scholars is that historians cannot apply the same rigorous standards to ancient sources as they do to modern ones or they would not be able to say very much about ancient times. Those who believe “standards must be lowered” for ancient sources fail to realize that—given the limitations of ancient sources—the types of questions historians can ask of them must be more limited. Lataster writes:
Historians cannot lower the standards by which they measure a source’s reliability, simply because they already know, due to the time period in question or for other reasons, that the source is relatively less reliable; even if this is what Biblical scholars actually do. That would be illogical and inconsistent; and its practice all but proves bias. Scholars could then proclaim any source reliable. If that means historians can say nothing of the ancient world with certainty, then so be it.
Criteria of authenticity
“”The idea of formulating certain “criteria” for an evaluation of historical sources is a peculiar phenomenon in historical-critical Jesus research. It was established in the course of the twentieth century . . . and it does not, to my knowledge, appear in other strands of historical research.
Historical Jesus scholars have often used "Criteria of Authenticity" in order to assess what sayings or deeds of Jesus are most likely historical. Of course, such criteria are built on the assumption that there was a historical Jesus whose sayings and actions could be tested for historicity. Critics of mythicism have attempted to use some of these criteria to rebut the view that Jesus did not exist.
Crucifixion, for example, was a shameful death so no follower of Jesus would have made that up. However scholars like Lataster point to the obvious: Jewish and Christian martyrs found great honor—according even to their scriptures—in being shamefully treated and persecuted by the unjust.
Another dubious claim is that vivid details in the gospel narratives are indicators of eyewitness sources. Lataster cites a range of scholars, including biblical ones, who raise doubts about such a claim; and he also notes many examples of vividly told fiction. Carrier asserts that: "Verisimilitude is . . . just as likely to be found in fiction as history; it is what mythographers aimed to create. 'Verisimilitude' therefore cannot be evidence warranting our putting the same trust in the private, uncorroborated details of a tall tale that we can put in the public, corroborated incidentals that [said tall] tale is colored with. To behave otherwise is simply to codify gullibility."
Rejecting the "Criteria of Authenticity", Carrier writes:
The growing consensus now is that this entire quest for criteria has failed. The entire field of Jesus studies has thus been left without any valid method.
Daniel Gullotta notes that per the criteria of authenticity, "Many of Carrier’s concerns and criticisms have been longed noted and echoed by other historical Jesus scholars." In support of this claim, Gullotta presents an extensive list of citations that were also given in Carrier's 2012 Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (pp. 11, 293f, n. 2-7). Gullotta additionally presents the following citations that were not given by Carrier in his 2012 work:
- Le Donne, Anthony (2009). The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David.
- Rodriguez, Rafael (2010). Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text.
- Charlesworth, James H.; Rhea, Brian, eds. (2014). Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions : the Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Princeton 2007.
- Crossley, James (2015). Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus. Oxford University Press.
- Bernier, Jonathan (2016). The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Toward a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies.
- Keith, Chris (2016). “The Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research”. Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 38 (4): 426–455. doi:10.1177/0142064X16637777.
Since the "entire field of Jesus studies has thus been left without any valid method", then how is the historicity of Jesus defended by contemporary scholars? Carrier writes:
[T]he historicity of Jesus is really only defended today on the back of purely hypothetical sources and interpretations [see §.Scholars on the Q gospel]. Not actual evidence; imaginary evidence. Ehrman says we can trust the Gospels report true facts about Jesus because “Q” and “M” and “L” really existed, and we can assume “they” are reliable…for some reason never explained. But we don’t even have any evidence those sources did exist; much less were recording any history at all, rather than just myth and legend, fiction about a cult’s magnificent, often celestial founder, no different than fiction about Osiris, Romulus, Hercules, Moses.
Faith and inconsistency
“”[Hector Avalos takes issue with] Biblical scholars who simply accept (at least in part, as supernatural claims may be omitted) what the gospels say about Jesus, and also takes issue with scholars “privileging” the texts. . . . Avalos claims that Biblical scholarship is primarily a religionist enterprise and also criticises the use of the Bible as a reliable source of history.
Scholars such as Hector Avalos and John Gager make the same sorts of criticism of the methods of their peers, as those leveled by Lataster against said peers—being scholars who really do seem to be operating within a bubble of logical and methodological flaws. Lataster further cites examples of these scholars appealing to “hermeneutics of charity” in which they insist that scholars should assume “traditions” found in the gospels should be accepted as authentic until someone points out clear reasons not to.
Another problem is the supernatural in the gospel narratives. It is not sufficient to remove the supernatural and then suspect the mundane remnant of having some probable historicity (see §.Philosophy scholars). Very often it is the supernatural that is the very point of the story; remove the supernatural and one has removed anything of interest. The supernatural is not the embellishment; it is the core of and the reason for the story.
The most problematic issue of historical Jesus scholarship is the extent to which Christian scholars—and many atheists—tend to assume that the gospels contain some historical core material or are derived from reports of historical events (see Gospels as history). Lataster writes, "Using the Gospels to argue for Jesus’ existence may be circular reasoning. Arguing from external sources would generally result in a much more convincing case."
A common objection is that “ahistoricists” or “mythicists” do not have an alternative explanation for Christian origins. However given Paul’s testimony that he hallucinated a Jesus constructed from the Jewish Scriptures, it only need be shown—as Narve Strand asserts—"that the historicist doesn’t have real evidence that would make his purely human Jesus existing more probable than not." Lataster writes:
This is similar to the agnosticism over God’s existence. Those agnostics do not need to have evidence that God does not exist. They just need to be unconvinced by the lack of good evidence for God’s existence. In other words, my case for Historical Jesus agnosticism does not need to rely on good alternative hypotheses, though it certainly can be strengthened by them.
“”[U]nlike ‘guilds’ in professions such as law or medicine, it is not apparent what members of the ‘guild’ of biblical scholars have in common, other than a shared object of study and competence in a few requisite languages, and therefore what value an alleged consensus among them really has, especially on what is a historical rather than a linguistic matter.
The increasingly common view of Jesus among New Testament scholars as of 2007 is that "historical research can indeed disclose a core of historical facts about Jesus", but "the Jesus we find at this historical core is significantly different from the legendary view presented in the New Testament".
A small minority, past[note 16] and present,[note 17] believe there is insufficient justification to assume any individual human seed for the stories, representing an extreme in the other end of belief (see List of Jesus myth theory proponents).
It should be noted that at least one anthropology paper states in both its abstract and main text "there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived".
Carrier asserts that the the modern consensus is not reliable, writing:
[N]o historian of Jesus has ever explained, logically, how or why any argument they make increases the probability of Jesus existing, much less enough to be confident he did. They haven’t. This is the whole point I make in Chapter 1 and the introduction to Chapter 5 of Proving History. Historians also, however, get tons of facts wrong, too. So it’s not just that historians forming the consensus today can’t explain why their conclusions should be deemed probable from the evidence they present, but the evidence they present often doesn’t in fact exist.
In Proving History I show many historians making many mistakes . . . in defense of the historicity of Jesus—and when you correct all these mistakes (both of fact and of logic), there is no case left over for a historical Jesus. This is how we know the modern consensus is malformed and thus no longer citable as reliable.
Carrier's work on historical method, Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus promotes the use of Bayes' theorem to analyze highly uncertain problems in history, as Carrier notes, "All historians use it, unknowingly, to generate every claim they make about history."
In June 2014, Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-909697-49-2 became "the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review", and is therefore a peer-reviewed challenge to the current consensus.
Given that Carrier asserts that Philo interprets the Jesus in Zechariah 6 as the archangel (second-god) Philo worshiped (see §.Scholars on Paul's second god), and that Larry Hurtado disputes this assertion. Carrier demonstrates with the following imaginary thought exercise how a scholar of history should respond when a disagreement arises with another scholar of history's assertions that challenge the current consensus:
Carrier: Philo identifies this archangelic Son of God High Priest with the Son of God High Priest in Zechariah 6, who is named Jesus.
Hurtado: Hmm. I’m sure that can’t be. Because that verse is usually interpreted in a way that distinguishes the Anatolê figure Philo is talking about, from the Jesus figure there. So why does Carrier think otherwise? I’ll need to check and see what arguments he has. After all, his book is peer reviewed, so I can be sure he’ll have arguments and evidence for his reading; that’s what peer review is for. So I know he didn’t just assert it. So I need to know what his case for that reading is. Let me check.
Hurtado: [Checks the cited section of my book, reads the evidence; checks the evidence, confirms it’s correct.]
Hurtado: Hm. Okay. I see how he thinks that; there’s some evidence for that conclusion. But I’m not convinced by it. So I need to explain why each item of evidence he presents doesn’t persuade me.
Hurtado: [Publishes an accurate summary of the reasons I give in the book for my conclusion. Enumerates those reasons, and for each one, gives his reason for not being persuaded by it; and gives his reason for not being persuaded even by the conjunction of those reasons.]
Carrier: [Responds with the same collegiality in kind, pointing out why his reasons for not being persuaded aren’t logically valid.]
Hurtado: [Explains why his reasons are logically valid.]The Public: [Looks at which one of them is correct about the logic; because they both now agree on the premises.]
Historicity is the consensus only by assumption
“”[There has] been no peer reviewed monograph in defense of the assumption of historicity for over a hundred years—not since Shirley Jackson Case published a now-deeply-outdated treatment for the University of Chicago in 1912 (a second edition released in 1928 isn’t substantially different).[note 2]
[...]Which is why it’s fair to say historicity is only the consensus now by assumption, not argument; because no new defense of it has appeared. Instead, excuses are thrown together here and there for believing that assumption valid, which are all ad hoc, contradictory, contrafactual, or fallacious, and altogether ignore competing theories rather than properly ruling them out.
The consensus among many historians is that the historicity of Jesus is true; therefore the ahistoricity of Jesus is false. However, very few historians have actually studied this question in depth or published peer-reviewed scholarship on the question, rather they are just themselves parroting the consensus that they have been taught (see Argumentum ad populum).
Additionally there is a significant difference between a scientific consensus and “Academic Consensus”, and they are often wrongly conflated. A scientific consensus is a product of the scientific process—arrived at through the collection of data and by conducting experiments—however in contrast, “Academic Consensus” as R. G. Price notes: "is much broader and is not necessarily based on scientific rigor." Benjamin Cain writes:
[M]odern history is a soft science at best, which is why the consensus of New Testament scholars doesn’t carry the same weight as consensus in physics or climatology. Hard sciences have methods for obtaining physical evidence that speaks for itself. For example, these are the sciences that feature experiments that can decisively falsify hypotheses.
Bart Ehrman writes, "I would say that most biblical scholars in fact are not historians. But some are. It depends on what their interests and expertise are." Which then raises the question: Is Bart Ehrman a Historian? Ehrman claims to be a Historian, but then he also claims that the existence of Jesus is entirely certain. To which Philip Davies responds, "[Per Jesus] a recognition that his existence is not entirely certain would nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability." Carrier writes:
[An error many historians make] is to say “My theory explains the evidence, therefore my theory is true!” They forget to ask if an alternative explanation also explains the same evidence just as well (or even better).
The Jesus ahistoricity theory is the antithesis of the Jesus historicity theory. However a thesis/antithesis definition is problematic because while the consensus among many historians is that the historicity of Jesus is true, what they mean by the term "Jesus"—other than an entirely Earth based Homo sapient specimen (non-extant)—is anybody's guess. PZ Myers opines that the meaning of “historical Jesus” is problematic, writing:
[I] don’t know what the “historical Jesus” means. If I die, and a hundred years later the actual events of my life are forgotten and all that survives are legends of my astonishing sexual prowess and my ability to breathe underwater, what does the “historical PZ” refer to?
Raphael Lataster writes:
I do not assert that Jesus did not exist. I am a Historical Jesus agnostic. That is, I am unconvinced by the case for the Historical Jesus, and find several reasons to be doubtful. To compare these terms to those often used when discussing the issue of God’s existence, the ‘historicist’ is the equivalent of the ‘theist’, and the ‘mythicist’ is the equivalent of the ‘strong atheist’ or ‘hard naturalist’. The oft-forgotten ‘Historical Jesus agnostic’ is the equivalent of, well, the ‘God agnostic’.I'd like to throw one more term into the mix. Not all ‘atheists’ are ‘strong atheists. Some are simply ‘agnostics’. I would like to propose, then, that we use the term ‘ahistoricists’ to encompass both the ardent ‘mythicists’ and the less certain ‘agnostics’. This avoids the false dichotomy, which I think historicists (much like theists) have been taking advantage of. They often frame the debate as only being between the right and the wrong, the reasonable and righteous historicists versus the silly mythicists, ironically appearing as unnuanced and dogmatic fundamentalists in the process. (As with the common false dilemma, presented by apologists, of ‘the truth’ being found in ‘Christianity’ or in ‘strong atheism’.)
James Dunn asserts that "the 'historical Jesus' is properly speaking a nineteenth- and twentieth-century [re]construction using the data provided by the Synoptic tradition, not Jesus back then and not a figure in history whom we can realistically use to critique the portrayal of Jesus in the Synoptic tradition." Numerous NT scholars have nominated their preferred reconstruction of "Jesus" as a candidate for "the" real historical Jesus. With no indication for which reconstruction (if any) is correct.
David M. Litwa writes:
The historical Jesus is always an imaginative creation that, to some degree, fits modern needs—otherwise, no one would make the effort to remember and (re)construct him as a believable figure.
Albert Schweitzer writes:
[E]ach successive epoch of theology found its own thoughts in Jesus; that was, indeed, the only way in which it could make Him live. But it was not only each epoch that found its reflection in Jesus; each individual created Him in accordance with his own character. There is no historical task which so reveals a man's true self as the writing of a Life of Jesus.
"What" Philip Davies asks, "does it mean to affirm that ‘Jesus existed’, anyway, when so many different Jesuses are displayed for us by the ancient sources and modern NT scholars? Logically, some of these Jesuses cannot have existed. So in asserting historicity, it is necessary to define which ones (rabbi, prophet, sage, shaman, revolutionary leader, etc.) are being affirmed—and thus which ones deemed unhistorical. In fact, as things stand, what is being affirmed as the Jesus of history is a cipher, not a rounded personality . . . Does this matter very much? After all, the rise and growth of Christianity can be examined and explained without the need to reconstruct a particular historical Jesus." Carrier reports that a similar viewpoint (i.e. "Jesus Studies" suffer from an "Embarrassment of Riches" per the historical Jesus) was also presented by R. Joseph Hoffmann at the Jesus Project's 2008 Amherst, New York conference:
[Hoffman's opening speech] was entitled "Jesus 'Projects' and the Historical Jesus: Receding Conclusions" which made the entirely sound point that Jesus is getting more vague, ambiguous, and uncertain the more scholars study him, rather than the other way around. Something is fishy about that. We are multiplying contradictory images, rather than narrowing them down and increasing clarity (or solidifying our state of uncertainty or ignorance). As Hoffmann said, all these versions of Jesus seem entirely plausible, and yet most of them must be false (logically, after all—only one of them can actually be accurate, and that at best).
Ironically, based on some of the definitions provided, these could be said to qualify as Jesus myth theory positions. As Ehrman notes: "Other writers who are often placed in the mythicist camp present a slightly different view, namely, that there was indeed a historical Jesus but that he was not the founder of Christianity, a religion rooted in the mythical Christ-figure invented by its original adherents." Carrier gives the following definition:
[T]hree minimal facts on which historicity rests:
- An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.
- This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.
- This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod).
That all three propositions are true shall be my minimal theory of historicity.
R. G. Price opines that: "The 'minimal Jesus' is a very odd thing that, for some reason, many people are drawn to, but in fact it makes no sense and isn’t really supported by any data. It’s more like just a sort of personal bargaining chip that people throw out so that they can both agree that the Gospels are exaggerations that don’t tell us anything meaningful and also that mythicism is bunk."
Some secular scholars do secretly hold a Jesus ahistoricity viewpoint or agnosticism viewpoint and have stated their positions, in confidence, to Carrier. These scholars wish to remain apart from the public debate because of the negative response that going public would entail. Carrier writes:
[N]o one wants to undertake the stress of defending a position they secretly hold but will be vilified for expressing, suffering a loss of status, reputation, or other complications (the cost-benefit just isn’t there), and so most [scholars] remain silent; while the few who go on tirades against it [note 18] . . . are defending a status quo for various reasons that may be personal to them[note 19] . . . but is often a matter of mere status quo bias.
Bias, bias, everywhere and no logic anywhere
“”[T]he majority of biblical historians in academia are employed by religiously affiliated institutions. This fact alone explains much of the resistance to Jesus Myth theory even among scholars who personally identify as secular. Furthermore, of those schools, we can quantify that at least 41% (if not 100%) require their instructors and staff to publicly reject Jesus Myth or they will not have a career at that institute of higher learning. So the question shouldn’t be: “How many historians reject mythicism?” but “How many historians are contractually obliged to publicly reject mythicism?”
Carrier has documented systemic dishonesty in the ranks of "Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus", writing:
I’ve repeatedly documented how dishonesty typifies historicists in the academic community. And this should be a scandal. Their peers should not be endorsing that behavior but condemning it, as it discredits the integrity and professionalism, and reliability, of their entire academic field.
A simple Litmus Test to weed out potentially biased non-secular scholars is to ask the following: Do these scholars have an on-the-record position, in clear and unambiguous language, without equivocation for the Historicity of the Mosaic authorship of the Torah and the Historicity of the resurrection of Jesus?
Additionally the following questions should be presented to any secular or non-secular "Defender of the Historicity of Jesus":
- What is the "minimal theory of historicity" that they hold? (And then compare it with Carrier's rigorous and robust "minimal theory of historicity")?
- Do they denounce the scholars and the enablers that are party to the systemic censorship of free thought found within religiously affiliated institutions?
Many critics of leading mythicist scholarship assume that the motivation behind the arguments is a hostility towards religion in general and Christianity in particular. However that canard will not fly (so to speak), since the worst way for anyone to attempt to undermine a person’s faith is to deny the very existence of the figure at the center of their faith. Carrier opines that one should "Dump the strategy of arguing that Christianity (or the New Testament, or this or that teaching, or anything whatever) is false 'because Jesus didn’t exist.'" Lataster writes, "Christian believers should generally not become involved in this debate, nor should non-believers thrust it upon them. . . . I have no desire to upset Christians." James Crossley writes:
[I]nstead of more polemical reactions on all sides of these debates about the historicity of Jesus, perhaps it would be more worthwhile to see what can be learned. In the case of Lataster’s book and the position it represents, scepticism about historicity is worth thinking about seriously—and, in light of demographic changes, it might even feed into a dominant position in the near future.
Reversal of the consensus on “minimalism”
“”Biblical minimalism grows out of the failure of biblical archaeology’s efforts to provide a critical history of Israel. . . . our [Lemche, Davies, Thompson, et al.] history (of Palestine) is evidence-based in archaeology and contemporary inscriptions rather than biblical narrative, as in biblical archaeology.
[...]In 1991 and 1992, however, the publication of new works by Lemche, Davies and me, concluding in a rejection of the historicity of the biblical narratives about the United Monarchy and the Book of Kings [sparked a wave of protests]. . . . a return to civility in Europe and elsewhere (apart from in Israeli and American scholarship) since then, has reflected a marked acceptance of the scholarship and principles fostered by minimalism’s separation between an expansive understanding of the Bible as primarily a literary work and the understanding of Palestine’s history . . . in paleography and archaeology.
|—Thomas L. Thompson|
What has been branded “minimalism” by its critics is actually a methodology, an approach to the evidence: primary, secondary, archaeological, biblical. Minimalism is in fact the conclusion derived from following that methodology. In short, this methodology is the study of a region or era by applying normative methods to the primary archaeological evidence and only then interpreting biblical literature in the light of that primary evidence. The alternative “maximalism”, in short, reverses this process and starts with the assumption of the historicity of the biblical narrative (post demythologization), and then interprets the archaeological evidence through that narrative.
The “minimalism”/“maximalism” viewpoints is an example of a complete reversal of the consensus over a twenty-year-plus time period. Many of the attacks made against “minimalism” then are similarly made now against "mythicism". Tom Dykstra writes:
The [current] consensus of biblical scholars is that Jesus existed as a historical person, and those who assign him to the category of fictional character are still few and far between. Their ranks are growing, but their views are met with disdain by the majority. That disdain may be just as unjustified today as it was when directed toward Thompson a few decades ago.
Today Thompson is widely recognized as one of the foremost scholars of the Old Testament, and his conclusions about the patriarchal stories not being historical are as universally accepted as they once were reviled. In fact, today critical scholars view the entire stretch of core Old Testament stories from Genesis through Joshua and into Judges as largely ahistorical.
Background and origins
“”The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally paid to the sun.
|—Thomas Paine, An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry, written 1803-1805.|
Proponents of Jesus-myths point to early beliefs in a non-corporeal Jesus (docetism, as condemned in 2 John 1:7, which would help explain the lack of historical evidence for a human seed), and to close correspondence of the Jesus story with many other myths current at the time (a correspondence first noted by the 2nd-century apologist and saint Justin Martyr). The Jesus-myth theory in its broadest definition can be traced as far back as the concept of Docetism and Celsus (around 180 CE) and there is a possible hint of it in Justin Martyr's "Dialogue with Trypho". The modern revival of the myth goes back to the 1790s with the ideas of Constantin-François Volney and of Charles-François Dupuis.
However, Volney and Dupuis did not agree on a definition of the Christ myth. Dupuis held that there was no human being involved in the New Testament account, which he saw as an intentional extended allegory of solar myths. Volney, on the other hand, allowed for confused memories of an obscure historical figure to be integrated in a mythology that compiled organically. So from nearly the get-go the modern Christ Myth theory had two parallel lines of thought:
- There was no human being behind the person portrayed in the New Testament.
- Confused memories of an obscure historical figure became woven into the mythology.
For the most part, the no human being behind the New Testament version is presented as the Christ myth theory, ignoring Volney's confused memories of an obscure historical figure version.
In fact, as the John Frum cargo cult shows, even in as short a time as some 11 years after a message starts being noticed by unbelievers, the question of the founder being an actual person or a renamed existing deity is already unclear and in a few more years the oral tradition has forgotten the possible human founder (illiterate native named Manehivi who caused trouble using that name from 1940 to 1941 and was exiled from his island as a result) and replaced him with a version (literate white US serviceman who appeared to the village elders in a vision on February 15, late 1930s) better suited to the cult.
Problems with definitions
One of the biggest problems is thanks to Volney and Dupuis having different views regarding the Christ myth the term (be it "Jesus myth theory", "Christ myth theory", or "Ahistorical Jesus") includes ideas that accept Jesus existed as a human being. The terms of "myth", "historical" and "fiction" are no help either as what exactly they mean varies from author to author. In fact the very term "historical Jesus" has a huge spectrum of hypothesis. Touched on by Remsberg in 1909,[note 20] by Rudolf Bultmann in 1941 (and used by Richard Carrier in 2014), and reiterated by Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall in 2004, the two ends of this range (the italicized clarifiers are from Marshall) are:
- Reductive theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Nazareth): "Jesus was an ordinary but obscure individual who inspired a religious movement and copious legends about him" rather than being a totally fictitious creation like King Lear or Doctor Who
- Triumphalist theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Bethlehem): "The Gospels are totally or almost totally true" rather than being works of imagination like those of King Arthur.
Marshall warns "We shall land in considerable confusion if we embark on an inquiry about the historical Jesus if we do not pause to ask ourselves exactly what we are talking about."
However, as Carrier notes, "Either side of the historicity debate will at time engage in a fallacy here, citing evidence supporting the reductive theory in defense of the triumphalist theory (as if that was valid), or citing the absurdity of the triumphalist theory as if this refuted the reductive theory (as if that were valid)".
Too many times when apologists talk about a historical Jesus they are actually talking about the Jesus of Bethlehem and too many times Christ mythers are trying to disprove the Jesus of Bethlehem rather than a possible Jesus of Nazareth.
The historical Jesus spectrum or color me completely confused
“”[W]e shall land in considerable confusion if we embark on an inquiry about the historical Jesus if we do not pause to ask ourselves exactly what we are talking about.
|—New Testament scholar Ian Howard Marshall, I Believe in the Historical Jesus|
Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall writes that there are "two views of the historical Jesus which stand at the opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion about him." At one extreme is the view that Jesus existed as a person but the gospels describe an essentially fictional person. At the other extreme is the view that the gospels portray events exactly as they happened, and each event depicted in the New Testament is the literal truth.
As with any spectrum there are "colors" (or categories) and over the course of a century at least three people (Remsburg, Barker, and Eddy-Boyd) have taken a stab as what those colors are. However, as Eddy-Boyd points out these categories are "admittedly over simplistic", "ideal-typical", and a "useful heuristic" and therefore should not be taken as absolute definitions.
In fact, if you look at the definitions provided by these three authors as well as some others you will notice that the four categories don't always match up, which in turn means the boundaries between the definitions are not sharp and clear...even to scholars and experts. This is why one needs to nail down just what what one means when talking about the "Jesus myth theory" or the "historical Jesus."
The four "colors" of the historical Jesus spectrum (and their current status with the academic community) are the following.
Christ (philosophical) myth theory (fringe)
"Jesus Christ is a pure myth—that he never had an existence, except as a Messianic idea, or an imaginary solar deity."
"Jesus never existed at all and that the myth came into being through a literary process."
All trace of a historical person, if there was ever one was to begin with, has been lost. (Jesus agnosticism)
The Legendary Jesus thesis - "The term 'legend' has various meanings in different contexts. In some academic circles, i.e., certain sectors of folkloristics, the term has come to refer to a transmitted story set in the relatively recent, or at least the historical, past that, though believed to be true by the teller, may or may not be rooted in actual history. On the multiple uses and definitional complexities of the term ‘legend'—including its relationship to 'history'—see [reference list omitted]."
Christ (historical) myth theory (the narrative is essentially false), ahistorical, or reductive (less fringe)
"Many radical Freethinkers believe that Christ is a myth, of which Jesus of Nazareth is the basis, but that these narratives are so legendary and contradictory as to be almost, if not wholly, unworthy of credit."
"Other skeptics deny that the Jesus character portrayed in the New Testament existed, but that there could have been a first century personality after whom the exaggerated myth was pattered."
There is just enough to show there was a first century teacher called Jesus and little else. (The lower end of Marshall's historical Jesus spectrum.)
Triumphalist theory or extreme historical (fringe)
"Christ is a historical character, supernatural and divine; and that the New Testament narratives, which purport to give a record of his life and teachings, contain nothing but infallible truth."
"The New Testament is basically true in all of its accounts except that there are natural explanations for the miracle stories."
Moderate historical, Christ (Historical) Myth (the narrative is essentially true)
"Jesus of Nazareth is a historical character and that these narratives, eliminating the supernatural elements, which they regard as myths, give a fairly authentic account of his life."
"Jesus did exist, and that some parts of the New Testament are accurate, although the miracles and the claim to deity are due to later editing of the original story."
A historical Jesus did exist but was very different from the gospel Jesus. (This is very close to the ahistorical category above)
Arguing the wrong Jesus and the Jesus myth
As is shown above the more moderate "Jesus (as a Historical) Myth" theory has gone mainstream but the more extreme "Jesus (as a Philosophical) Myth" is still very much fringe. Compounding matters is the fact the Jesus story has picked up many oral traditions that are not in the Bible at all and there are clues that the versions of the Gospels we have are not what were originally written. A good amount of bad Christ Myth theory can be seen in Kersey Graves' 1875 book The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors and many armchair Christ Mythers unknowingly reference material in that work. Of course bad Christ Myth is helped by bad historical Jesus positions which try to use the very same points in support of a historical Jesus.
Born on December 25
The December 25 date was set by Imperial decree to compete with the popular Sol Invictus worship and first appears on a Roman calendar in 334 CE. Luke tells us that shepherds were tending their sheep in the fields when Jesus was born, something that shepherds did from June until November.
In fact, before the decree there was much debate regarding when Jesus was born. Tertullian (c 160–220 CE) and Hippolytus (c 170-235 CE) said March 25; Clement (c 150-215 CE) gave 25th day of Pachon (May 20) and the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi (April 19 or 20), while others were saying January 6 (the birthday of Osiris), and still others pointed to the Essenes whose couples had sex in December so their child would be born in September (the holy month of Atonement).
This means any argument that Jesus was a myth or historical based on the December 25 date is doomed from the start because that part of the story isn't even in the Bible and didn't appear until well into the 4th century.
While it is true that our versions of Matthew and Luke have virgin birth stories there are hints that these are latecomers to the Jesus story.
Paul in Romans 1:1-3 states that Jesus came "from the seed of David, according to the flesh" (the belief at the time was that women were the earth into which men planted their seed so here Paul expressly states that Jesus's link to David is through the male line: i.e. through Joseph) and in Galatians 4:4 stated "God sent his Son, born of a woman" using the word gune (woman) rather than parthenos (virgin). Admittedly if one looks at the original Greek Romans 1:1-3 is simply bizarre as Paul normally uses gennaô for birth while here he uses the same work for God’s manufacture of Adam’s body from clay, and God’s manufacture of our future resurrection bodies in heaven (ginomai)  but these two points would seem to point to the idea that Paul not only did not know of a virgin birth, but expressly denied it.
When Marcion of Sinope put together the first Christian bible ca. 140 CE, his Luke (Evangelikon) had no birth story. While his critics claimed he removed this portion it is more likely that the Luke as we know it today was written in response to Marcion's Luke.
This means that the virgin birth was added sometime between Paul's letters and whenever Matthew was written (some time before ca. 180 CE).
Moreover Irenaeus' Against Heresies (c 180 CE) documents the existence of a sect of Christianity led by Cerinthus who "represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men."
In fact, it has been suggested that being born of a virgin was the ancient equivalent of being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth and signified the "extraordinary personal qualities exhibited by an individual" as well as being an "attempt to explain an individual's superiority to other mortals. Generally Mediterranean peoples looked at one's birth or parentage to explain one's character and behavior" and "veneration of a benefactor."  Caesar Augustus, Alexander the Great, Plato were all stated as being born of virgins and we know they were actual historical people—so the term 'born of a virgin' was never meant to be taken literally.
The "star" of Bethlehem
On occasion the "star" of Bethlehem is presented as a reference for a possible date, but there are several problems here. Only Matthew mentions this "star" and there is much debate over just what (if anything) this star was. Hypotheses range from a comet (Halley's Comet of 12 BCE is popular), a nova recorded by c. 5 BCE Chinese and Korean stargazers, a series of planetary conjunctions from 3 to 2 BCE, or a pious fiction. As this rough sampling above shows, the dates, nature of the "star", and even its very existence are guesswork and so are totally useless at forming a date. Never mind that it is trying to prove the Gospel Jesus of Matthew existed rather than a hypothetical ordinary flesh-and-blood Jesus.
The correct Jesus to argue about and the gray area between historical and mythical (the ahistorical realm)
Because of the huge variance of what constitutes a historical Jesus (and by extension a Jesus Myth) Carrier set three criteria for the minimal historical Jesus:
- An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death
- This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities
- This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshipping him as a living god (or demigod)
"If any one of these premises is false, it can fairly be said there was no historical Jesus in any pertinent sense, And at least one of them must be false for any Jesus Myth theory to be true."
"But notice that now we don't even require that is considered essential in many church creeds. For instance, it is not necessary that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Maybe he was, But even if we proved he wasn't that still does not vindicate mysticism. Because the 'real' Jesus may have been executed by Herod Antipas (as the Gospel of Peter in fact claims) or by Roman authorities in an earlier or later decade then Pilate (as some early Christians really did think) Some scholars even argue for an earlier century (and have some real evidence to cite) ... My point at present is that even if we proved proved the founder of Christianity was executed by Herod the Great (not even by Romans, much less Pilate, and a whole forty years before the Gospels claim), as long as his name or nickname (whether assigned before or after his death) really was Jesus and his execution is the very thing spoken of as leading him to the status of the divine Christ venerated in the Epistles, I think it would be fair to say the mythicists are then simply wrong. I would say this even if Jesus was never really executed but only believed to have been Because even then it's still the same historical man being spoken of and worshiped."
Carrier gave a lot of leeway with his criteria and also put forth five criteria for a minimal mythical Jesus:
- At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.
- Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophecy, past and present).
- Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
- As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.
- Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only 'additionally' allegorical).
"That all five propositions are true shall be my minimal Jesus myth theory."
However, there are are a lot of ways that one can fall between these two criteria and have a hypothetical Jesus who is neither historical nor mythical by Carrier's standard but who can be both by other people's criteria:
- John Robertson's 1900 idea that the Gospel Jesus was a composite character or that a person inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, tried to preach his own version of Paul's teachings, and possibly got killed for his troubles fails both criteria.
- The idea expressed by Remsberg that there was a Jesus but his following wasn't an identifiable movement until Paul and later the writers of the Gospels got ahold of it also fails Carrier's two sets of criteria: "Jesus, if he existed, was a Jew, and his religion, with a few innovations, was Judaism. With his death, probably, his apotheosis began. During the first century the transformation was slow; but during the succeeding centuries rapid. 'The Judaic elements of his religion were, in time, nearly all eliminated, and the Pagan elements, one by one, were incorporated into the new faith."
- G. A. Wells' Jesus Legend (1996) with its mythical Paul Jesus + 1st century teacher who was not executed fails the "same Jesus" criteria and so is not a "historical Jesus in any pertinent sense". Carrier's classified this position as "ahistoricitical".
- Dan Barker's "Other skeptics deny that the Jesus character portrayed in the New Testament existed, but that there could have been a first century personality after whom the exaggerated myth was pattered" would also fail Carrier's criteria as Baker's first century personality need not be named "Jesus" or if he did his movement was not identifiable until much later.
Jesus Frum a.k.a. John Christ
The real world examples of Melanesian cargo cults (and other examples, such as Ned Ludd) show that it is not an inherently crazy that a major movement's "leader" is originally entirely mythical but is then quickly (in a matter of decades) placed into a historical framework. Richard Carrier goes into detail on why such things happen in his peer reviewed On the Historicity of Jesus as Element 29 of his examples.
Thanks to the wealth of material available one can use the particular example of the John Frum cargo cult on how the Jesus myth theory has validity because everything the Christian apologists claim couldn't have happened in the development of Christianity appears to have happened with the John Frum cargo cult: It evolved from pre-existing beliefs without a clear and definitive founder and one variant even said the mythical John Frum was related to a real living person (Prince Philip is the brother of John Frum in this variant even though Prince Philip had no brothers)
Carrier states regarding the plugging of a mythical person into history "the same thing happened in Melanesian Cargo Cults, which still revere completely mythical heroes who were nevertheless quite rapidly placed in history and believed to be real (most famously 'Tom Navy' and 'John Frum'), again within decades of their supposed appearance."
"Further supporting the previous element is the fact that what are now called 'Cargo Cults' are the modern movement most culturally and socially similar to earliest Christianity, so much so that Christianity is best understood in light of them."
"Unlike the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, we can see the whole course of events laid out before our eyes (and even here, as we shall see, some details are now lost). It is fascinating to guess that the cult of Christianity almost certainly began in very much the same way, and spread initially at the same high speed. [...] John Frum, if he existed at all, did so within living memory. Yet, even for so recent a possibility, it is not certain whether he lived at all."
However, if you examine the John Frum cargo cult in detail one can see possibly of one or more inspired believers deciding to become Jesus even if Jesus originally started out as nothing more than a celestial being. So it is well within reason as John Robertson implied in 1900 that one or more people inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, preached their own view of Paul's message, and possibly got killed for it. It is one way to read Paul's 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 warning of minds being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by "another Jesus, whom we have not preached," "another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted".
Guiart's 1952 Oceania paper also shows the complexity involved regarding determining if Jesus was a man or a celestial being.
We are told that "A man named Manehevi had posed as a supernatural being by means of ingenious stage management." But later we are also told "From elsewhere rail the rumour that, in spite of the Administration statement, Manehevi was not John Frum, and that the latter was still at liberty."
Here we are told John Frum was a "supernatural being" while the believers are saying he is an actual man who "was still at liberty"
If that isn't enough we are also told "John Frum, alias Karaperamun, is always the god of Mount Tukosmoru, which will shelter the planes, then the soldiers."
Here we are told that John Frum is Karaperamun (who is a long existing volcano god) but we were also told that Manehevi was (or pretended to be) John Frum and that John Frum was another person who was still at liberty.
As you can see from Guiart's 1952 article, a mere 11 years after the John Frum movement become noticeable by nonbelievers it is not clear if John Frum is simply another name for Karaperamun (the High god of the region), a name that various actual people use as leader of the religious cult, or the name of some other person who inspired the cult perhaps as much as 30 years previously. If to confuse things further it has been suggested that Tom Navy, a companion to John Frum, is based on a real person: Tom Beatty of Mississippi, who served in the New Hebrides both as a missionary, and as a Navy Seabee during the war. and the splinter Prince Philip movement which has Prince Philip as John Frum's brother...even though Prince Philip only had sisters.
Arguments against a "historical" Jesus
Some (but not all) of these points also appear in regards with moderate "Christ mythers" in the Jesus likely existed but the Gospels tell us nothing (or next to nothing) about the actual man or his real teachings vein.
- See the Paul of Tarsus article on this topic.
The main issue is that of all the "evidence" for a historical Jesus only the writings of Paul (Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon) can be said to be of a true possible contemporary to a Jesus who supposedly lived c 6 BCE to 36 CE and Paul is emphatic that all his knowledge is coming from visions and revelation not from human sources.
Some versions of the Christ myth theory (such as Kenneth Humphreys') suggest that Paul was a fictional person. To put it bluntly, this is one of the places where parts of the Christ myth goes off the rails and enters tin foil hat land.
Saying Paul was fictional would make sense if he provided a "smoking gun" to the pro-historical Jesus debate but the fact is he brings nothing to the table; his Jesus is a being only seen via visions. Paul supposedly talks with people who based on the Gospels should have known the living Jesus and yet Paul doesn't give one actual detail regarding Jesus's activities on Earth. Also, someone wrote the authentic/early Pauline epistles and calling that author Ed, Bill or RamaLamaDingDong doesn't change the fact that these letters were an important influence on Christianity. You don't have to accept the clearly embroidered version in Acts to find the Pauline authorship of these early epistles historically plausible. Contrast Jesus, from whom we have no letters or other writings and who is portrayed through and through in the supernatural light seen in other myths and legends, with Paul, who in his own letters doesn't claim any supernatural powers, except for his opinion that he has some sort of mental hotline to God and Jesus.
From an Occam's Razor standpoint a fictional Paul doesn't make any sense; it just adds an unneeded level of complexity to the Christ Myth Theory. Moreover, what actual purpose does such an idea even serve? If anything, claiming Paul is a fictional creation smacks of the kind of Illuminati level conspiracy theory nonsense seen in Joseph Wheless' 1930 Forgery In Christianity that only convinces most people that the Christ myth theory does belong in the same land of crazy as those who deny the Holocaust or Moon landings.
- See Gospels as history for more details.
|—R. G. Price|
The Gospels are anonymous documents with dates that are "arbitrary ballpark figures with don't really have much basis in facts." The only thing that can be said with certainty is the Gospels have a range that ends in the mid to late 140s. Even if the usually accepted dates of c. 70 CE for Mark, c. 80 CE for Matthew, c. 90 for Luke-Acts, and c. 100 for John are correct it can be shown there is a strong correlation between the Jesus of Mark regarding the Passover and the actions of a would-be messiah named Jesus ben Ananias (66-70 CE) written about in Josephus's Jewish Wars (c. 75)  meaning that Mark (and therefore Matthew, Luke, and John) could be in reality a Robin Hood like series of stories with Jesus ben Ananias being one of the elements used to flesh out Paul's earlier writings of a visionary Jesus.
R. G. Price asserts that the Gospel of Mark is the first story of Jesus’ life that was written. And that all other accounts of Jesus’ life are derived from Mark (in agreement with Michael Goulder’s thesis). Per Price, the author of Mark knew that Jesus was not a real person and knew that the story he was putting forward was “fictional” (now diverging from Goulder’s thesis, who believed that Mark was the only “true” historical account of the canonical gospels).[note 21]
- See Josephus for more details.
Josephus's work, Antiquities of the Jews, mentions Jesus twice. The first is in Jewish Antiquities XVIII.3.4 (also known as the Testimonium Flavium, or TF), and the second one is in Jewish Antiquities XX.9.1.
It can be shown that the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus has been tampered with and is not fully authentic, though most historians say that some part of it is genuine. However, as Carrier's examples of John Frum and Ned Ludd show, the more than 50 years between 36 CE and when Antiquities was written (c. 90 CE) is more than enough time for a possible founder's origin to be entirely replaced or a narrative to be built around a founder who may have never existed in the first place. Even in the form we have the passage is insanely short when compared to Athronges: a "mere shepherd, not known by anybody" who with his brothers gets some five paragraphs and Josephus gives details on Athronges' actions.
As for Jewish Antiquities XX.9.1, mythicists such as Richard Carrier believe that this reference is an interpolation and actually references a figure named Jesus ben Damneus who is identified at the end of the passage as becoming high priest. Moreover "Christos" was used in the Old Testament to refer to high priests so even though the majority of contemporary scholars believe the phrase is authentic it need not refer to the Jesus of the Gospels.
In fact, for a long time tradition held that James brother of the Lord died c. 69 CE but the James in Josephus died 62 CE. Furthermore, it was stated that James brother of the Lord was informed of Peter's death (64 CE or 67 CE) via letter, long after the James in Josephus was dead and gone.
Never mind, as seen with John Frum's brother Prince Philip, a supposed founder can be said to be related to real people, even when those relations are not supported by fact.
Origen's comments regarding the passage of James in Josephus he is referencing shows that it also had Josephus directly connected the death of James with the "fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple" raises doubt about the reliably of the "the brother of Jesus, him called Christ, whose name was James" passage.
Often cited as evidence of a historical Jesus, Roman historian Tacitus' Annals have problems.
First, it is known the passage was tampered with. The "Chrestian" in the passage was changed to "Christian" after the fact.
Second, the word rendered as "Christus" or "Chrestus" (seemingly based on if the transcriber/translator wants to connect it to Suetonius) is in reality "Chrstus".
Third, the part of the Annals covering the period 29-31 (i.e. the part most likely to discuss Jesus in detail) are missing.
Fourth, two fires had destroyed much in the way of official documents by the time Tacitus wrote his Annuals so he could have simply gone to the Chrestians themselves or written to his good friends Plinius the Younger and Suetonius for more on this group.
Finally, the account is at odds with the Christian accounts in the apocryphal "Acts of Paul" (c. 160 CE) and "The Acts of Peter" (150-200 CE) where the first has Nero reacting to claims of sedition by the group and the other saying that thanks to a vision he left them alone. In fact, the Christians themselves didn't start claiming Nero blamed them for the fire until 400 CE.
Given neither Josephus or Pliny the Elder mention Christians in Rome during the time of Nero there are serious questions about Suetonius' account. Carrier suggests that like Tacitus, Suetonius was actually writing about Chrestians and "corrected" by a later Christian scribe. Even if the passage Suetonius is genuine it only shows the existence of the Christian movement and that their punishment was part of a general housecleaning of Rome by Nero. As John Frum cargo cult shows a movement need not have an actual founder.
Although there are some early accounts of Jesus (none being contemporary), a number of them are not helpful for affirming the historicity of Jesus. Scholars have been convinced by our sources, whereas mythicists are more skeptical regarding their validity -- although, it must be admitted, some are simply too skeptical and try to find holes where there are none. Because of some of the more fringe views of mythicism, the atheistic historian Maurice Casey says that many proponents of the mythicist position are "extraordinarily incompetent".
The other timelines and their problems
Paul of Tarsus gives no details or temporal references to exactly when the Jesus he talks of walked the Earth. In fact all that can be pulled from his writings is that his conversion must have happened before 37 CE. The problem is that if the relationship between Aretas and Damascus Paul relates is accurate then the vision is pushed that back to no later then 33 CE and possibly as early as 28 CE. John the Baptist's death is also known with it being put as late 36 CE, giving Jesus only months (certainly not the three years suggested by John) to have his ministry.
While the conflict between the birthdates (10 years apart) presented in Matthew and Luke is generally well known, what is less known is that there were other accounts that placed Jesus's life in other times which have been provided by Robert M. Price. In one piece Price points out that the Talmud has Jesus crucified under Alexander Jannaeus c. 83 BCE and that Irenaeus had him crucified under Claudius Caesar (41-54 CE). Theologian Robert M. Grant cross references Irenaeus' Demonstration and Against Heresies which together firmly puts Jesus's crucifixion just before the age of 50 somewhere between 41 and 54 CE.
Carrier clarifies that this the 83 BCE is the Babylonian Talmud (compiled in the 3rd to 5th centuries) and that the writers knew only of a Jesus killed under Jannaeus, not of one killed during the time of Pontius Pilate. Furthermore Epiphanius confirmed that some denominations of Christianity preached that Jesus lived in the time of Jannaeus. If correct then this of course invalidates the canonical Gospel account.
The same is true if as Lena Einhorn, PhD suggests the "Egyptian Prophet" (between 52 and 58 CE based on the descriptions in Jewish War 2.259-263 and Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171) was the basis for the Gospel Jesus.
Carrier's suggestion that Jesus ben Ananias [Ananus] of 66-70 CE was used as a kind of raw template for the Passover section of "Mark" would also mean the canonical Gospel accounts are not history.
Moreover in Book III, Chapter 21 Paragraph 3 of Against Heresies Irenaeus stated "for our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus" (i.e. 14 CE) which would place Jesus's crucifixion at a minimum of 44 CE...long after Paul's vision (which is no later than 37 CE). Now some apologists point to Tertullian's account which states “in the forty-first year of the empire of Augustus, when he has been reigning for 10 and 8 years after the death of Cleopatra (30 BCE), the Christ is born.” as evidence that the count wasn't from 27 BCE but rather 44 BCE. The problem here is that Herod the Great died in 4 BCE or two years before Jesus was born by this calculation. This argument also ignores the fact that Irenaeus, in Book II, Chapter 22 of Against Heresies, goes into a long argument of how Jesus had to be in his 40s if not in his 50s when he was crucified and that in Demonstration 74 Irenaeus expressly states Jesus was crucified in the reign of Claudius Caesar and Herod "King of the Jews". Tertullian himself also suggests that the destruction of the Jewish temple (70 CE) happened 22.5 years after Christ's crucifixion but this results in 47 CE. Tertullian gets around this by playing fast and loose with the reigns of Claudius, Tiberius, Gaius and Nero to where "he is able to squeeze the 72½ years from 2 BCE (the birth of Jesus) to the burning of the temple, into 52½ years (7½ hebdomads)." The key here is both Irenaeus and Tertullian put Jesus's crucifixion 22.5 years before the destruction of the Temple or around 47 CE which conflicts with the Gospel account.
So, at best the Gospel Jesus is either a time-shifted preacher of c. 83 BCE, 40s CE, or 50s CE, or a composite person made up of several would-be messiahs. This would totally invalidate the idea that the canonical Gospels are even remotely accurate history.
Raglan's hero pattern
Every so often Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is presented as "evidence" that Jesus is a philosophical myth. The flaw here is it can be shown that known historical people can score high on Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern and known fictional characters come in on par with known historical figures of antiquity. For example, Tsar Nicholas II comes in at 14 or higher than the Jesus described in Mark (11) or John (13) or even Apollo (11). Similarly, Anakin Skywalker gets a 10.5 or roughly on par with Augustus Caesar (10). For reference, King Arthur and Robin Hood, whose historical existence is debated, scored 19 and 13 respectively.
So the Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is poor evidence for a character being a philosophical myth.
There are several objections to questioning a historical Jesus.
"Most scholars think Jesus existed"
Arguments regarding Jesus as a historical person tend to improperly mix reductive and triumphalist theories. So instead of debating the existence of an ordinary man one gets a lot of nonsense about miracles, earthquake, and darkness (any argument involving Thallos) with the historical method, for the most part, being out to lunch. That said the whole "most scholars think Jesus existed" is an argument from authority fallacy.
A related problem as also demonstrated above is just what is meant by the "Jesus Myth" varies and includes positions that could fall in the "Jesus existed as a human being" (i.e. he was "historical") category. It's worth asking the question "What are their qualifications?" followed by "Who is this scholar and what do they mean when they say 'Jesus existed'?" and "Are there any widely accepted views in the field that could push a scholar to a certain conclusion?"
It is important to note that few theologians are historians (and those who are aren't very good at it) and fewer are historical anthropologists, the two fields critical to the "Did Jesus exist?" question.
Scholars such as Avalos, Carrier and Price are trying to bring the tools of historical anthropology and its new layer of writer/cultural dynamics to the historical method to the issue but those tools are either not understood or are outright ignored by most "historical" Jesus supporters.
Hector Avalos details the differences between the seminary and secular streams of Bible-related study in his 2007 book The End of Biblical Studies, which had some impact on the field. It should be noted that some apologists for a historical Jesus are fundamentalists, such as Lee Strobel, who are rarely taken seriously in mainstream academia. Others are liberal Christians such as Marcus Borg, or flat-out agnostics, such as Bart Ehrman and Robert , are more respected in mainstream academic circles (there are also quite a few Jewish New Testament scholars such as Amy Jill-Levine or Geza Vermes). Even taking scholars like Ehrman into account, mythicists such as Richard Carrier believe that the methodology of Jesus-related historical studies is of a much lower standard than the historical method used for comparable periods.
Historians who are skeptical of the historicity of Jesus are often painted by theologians and apologists as fringe lunatics even when that skepticism is regarding how Jesus is depicted in the NT rather then him existing as a human being. However, these arguments rarely go beyond ad hominem attacks. with any points ignored. To be fair, there is as much or even more nonsense on the Christ Myth side of things, but trying to say people like Robert M Price and Richard Carrier are in the same class as Acharya S. or Joseph Wheless is at best an insult.
As Richard Carrier correctly points, there is a large variety of material on both sides of the historicity argument ranging from the absurd to the somewhat reasonable. The problem on the mythicist side is that most of the theories involve great amount of elaborations making the theory more complicated than it needs to be. The problem on the historical side of things is "arguing there are flaws (mostly flaws of exaggeration) in the scholarship of the mythicists, yet without demonstrating that any of these flaws are actually relevant."
"There is more evidence for Jesus than for X"
When discussing the evidence for Jesus' existence, a common claim made by apologists is that there is "more evidence for Jesus than X".
Regarding this position Richard Carrier states:
Just FYI, most experts are historicity agnostics about Aesop and Zoroaster, and odds favor non-existence for both.
Meanwhile, many scholars are agnostic about Homer and Pythagoras (the latter is outside our ability to know, while every expert agrees no one author composed the works of Homer any more than one author composed Genesis, so the historicity of Homer is on the same level as “the author of Genesis”: obviously such an author existed, since the text didn’t write itself, but there was more than one of them over centuries, and we know nothing about them).
Similarly, all experts agree no one person lies behind the writings of “Hippocrates” and we know nothing reliable about “Democritus”, only that he wrote some things that were later quoted and talked about–which entails someone wrote those things, regardless of their name, so “Democritus” is as good a stand-in term for them as anything.
Likewise the evidence for Epicurus is a bit better than we have for Jesus (e.g. unlike Jesus, we have the actual writings of Epicurus himself.)
And so on.
So you really don’t get anywhere with an argument like this. Especially since no good case for the non-existence of Jesus rests on our merely not having records of him.
While it is is impossible to cover all the ancient figures and events Jesus has been compared to there are a few popular ones that show just how shaky the position really is (It should be noted that this sometimes mixed with the more accurate than Homer argument).
- Sun Tzu (Sun Wu) (544–496 BCE?): his very existence is debated in scholarly circles  despite reference in the Records of the Grand Historian and Spring and Autumn Annals which used earlier official records that haven't survived.
- Confucius (Kong Qiu) (551–479 BCE): the Records of the Grand Historian used archives and imperial records as source material (which themselves have not survived). Its author Sima Qian noted the problems with incomplete, fragmentary, and contradictory sources stating in the 18th volume of the 180-volume work "I have set down only what is certain, and in doubtful cases left a blank." Moreover, Kong Qiu was the governor of a town in Lu and ultimately held the positions of Minister of Public Works and then Minister of Crime for the whole Lu state, not exactly minor positions one could create a fictitious person to fill.
- Leukippos (shadowy nearly legendary figure of early 5th century BCE): very existence doubted by Epicurus (341 – 270 BCE).
- Socrates (c469 – 399 BCE): written about by contemporaries Plato, Xenophon (430 – 354 BCE) and Aristophanes (c446 – 386 BCE).
- Plato (428 – 347 BCE): written about by contemporaries Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Xenophon, and Aristophanes.
- Alexander the Great (July 20, 356 – June 11, 323 BCE): official historian Callisthenes of Olynthus, generals Ptolemy, Nearchus, and Aristobulus and helmsman Onesicritus were all contemporaries who wrote about Alexander. While their works were eventually lost, later works that used them as source material were not. Additionally there are known contemporary accounts that survive: Isocrates, Demosthenes, Aeschines, Hyperides, Dinarchus, Theocritus, Theophrastus, and Menander. And on top of all that there are the contemporary inscriptions and coins.
- Hannibal (247 – 182 BCE): Written about by Silenus, a paid Greek historian who Hannibal brought with him on his journeys to write an account of what took place, and Sosylus of Lacedaemon who wrote seven volumes on the war itself. Never mind the contemporary Carthaginian coins and engraved bronze tablets.
- Julius Caesar (July 100 – 15 March 44 BCE): Not only do we have the writing of contemporaries Cato the Younger and Cicero but Julius Caesar's own writings as well (Commentarii de Bello Gallico a.k.a. The Gallic Wars and Commentarii de Bello Civili a.k.a. The Civil War). Then you have the contemporary coins, statues and monuments.
- Pontius Pilate (unknown – c 37 CE): Some apologists try to imply that people at one time thought this person didn't exist. In reality, no evidence of anyone having ever stated that Pontius Pilate didn't exist could be found. In fact, known contemporary Philo does mention Pontius Pilate in what survives of Embassy to Gaius (c.40 CE) and near contemporary Josephus describes in detail several conflicts that Pilate had with his Jewish subjects.
- Apollonius of Tyana (c15 CE – c100 CE): Often referred to as the "Pagan Christ". Fragments of Apollonius' own writings are part of the Harvard University Press edition of The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (1912) ISBN-13: 978-0674990180 as documented in Carrier's Kook article. Interestingly some people are suggesting that the Gospels are actually based on Apollonius' exploits though there are some obvious problems with this idea (key of which is Paul was writing about a dead and resurrected Jesus about 40 years before Apollonius died.
- Boadicea (d. 60 CE): Tacitus himself would have been a 5-year old boy when she poisoned herself c. 60 CE, making him contemporary to her. Furthermore, his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola served under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus during the revolt. So Tacitus was not only an actual contemporary, but he had access to Gaius Suetonius Paulinus' records and an actual eyewitness.
- Muhammad (570 – c. June 8, 632 CE): Contrary to the picture some apologists like to paint, there are non-Muslim references by people who would have been contemporary with Muhammad. The earliest is the personal notes of an unnamed monk c. 636 CE mixed in with his copying of the gospels which mentions that "many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Mụhammad and a great number of people were killed and captives" and in 661 CE Sebeos writes about Mụhammad and is believed to be an eyewitness to many of the events he recorded. As if that wasn't enough, the Quran and other writings about Muhammad can be traced to identifiable people who actually were with him during his lifetime (as in the case of Alexander the Great).
Now compare those to Jesus:
- The only known possible contemporary is Paul (Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon) who not only writes some 20 years after the events but seems more intent on the Jesus in his own head than any Jesus who actually preached in Galilee. In fact, even though in his own account Paul meets "James, brother of the Lord" we get no details of Jesus' life, not even references to the famous sermons or miracles. And in any case, Paul never met or even saw Jesus in person.
- The Gospels are anonymous documents written sometime between 70 CE to 140 CE and there are no references to any of them until the early 2nd century.
"A viable theory of historicity for Jesus must therefore instead resemble a theory of historicity for Apollonius of Tyana or Musonin Rufus or Judas the Galilean (to list a few very famous men who escaped the expected record more or less the same degree Jesus did.)"
In his article "So What About Caligula? How Do You Know HE Existed!?" Richard Carrier demonstrated the total non sequitur of these arguments with N.T. Wright's comparison of the material regarding Jesus being on par with Caligula. Saying the evidence for these two people is not even in the same ballpark is generous; more realistically they aren't even in the same solar system in terms of evidence. Carrier concludes this blog with "All that this shows is how incompetent and irrational defenders of historicity are. Incompetent, because a real historian would know these claims weren’t true, or know they’d better check first (and thus would discover they aren’t true, before saying they are). And irrational, because they have no grasp of how evidence works or that they should check, yet feel the desperate need to hyperbolically assert total confidence in completely ridiculous things."
Comparing the quality of Jesus to that of any major person after the invention of the printing press in the west (1436) is bad enough but when people compare denying Jesus as a historical person to Holocaust denial they are either ignorant of just how much material evidence there is for the Holocaust or are making a strawman...and simultaneously flirting with Godwin's Law.
For the record there were 3,000 tons of truly contemporary (i.e. between 1938-1945) records presented at the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials. The 1958 finding aids (eventually the index to the Holocaust evidence) was 62 volumes--just 4 books shy of the number of books (66) traditionally in the entire Bible! Then between 1958 and 2000 they added another 30 volumes, bringing the total to 92.
It is an emotional argument and a totally unfair one as Jesus to the best of our knowledge never had the quantity or quality of evidence that shows the Holocaust happened.
"Jesus was an unnotable minor figure"
The other argument presented is that Jesus was in reality an obscure person who was largely ignored during his lifetime. There are some figures whose existence is historically questionable. However, they tend to be more minor figures who most people haven't heard of (a non-biblical exception would be Aesop).American historian Richard Carrier writes on the problems with this view:
In one of his blogs Carrier spelled out the problem:
One could say that Jesus was an insignificant, illiterate, itinerant preacher with a tiny following, who went wholly unnoticed by any literate person in Judaea. However, this would not bode well for anyone who wished to maintain he was God, or did any of the more amazing things attributed to him. It is very implausible, for instance, that a biography would be written for the obscure itinerant philosopher Demonax in his own lifetime (by Lucian), yet God Incarnate, or a Great Miracle Worker who riled up all Judaea with talk, should inspire nothing like it until decades after his death. And though several historians wrote on Judaean affairs in the early 1st century (not just Josephus and Tacitus, but several others no longer extant), none apparently mentioned Jesus (see the Secular Web library on Historicity). Certainly, had anyone done so, the passages would probably have been lovingly preserved by 2nd century Christians, or else inspired angry rebuttals.
For instance, the attacks of Celsus, Hierocles, and Porphyry, though destroyed by Christians and thus no longer extant (another example of the peculiar problem of Christian history discussed above), nevertheless remain attested in the defenses written by Origen, Eusebius, and Macerius Magnes. But no earlier attacks are attested. There is no mention of Christians in Plutarch's attack On Superstition, nor a rebuttal to any attack on Christianity in Seneca's lost work On Superstition (which ruthlessly attacked pagans and Jews, as attested in book 10 of Augustine's City of God), so it seems evident Christians got no mention even there, in a text against alien cults, by a man who would have witnessed the Neronian persecution of 64 CE (alternatively, the fact that this is the only work of Seneca's not to be preserved, despite the fact that Christians must surely have been keen to preserve an anti-pagan text by a renowned pagan, might mean it contained some damning anti-Christian material and was suppressed, though Augustine clearly had access to the work and says nothing about such content). All of this suggests a troubling dichotomy for believers: either Jesus was a nobody (and therefore not even special, much less the Son of God) or he did not exist.
It is also problematic to claim Jesus was a nobody. I grant that’s an out. But it comes with consequences. Because if it’s so, you are conceding the Gospels are lying (egregiously…and evidently, successfully) and that Jesus never said or did anything in life that would inspire fanatical worshipers or warrant anyone considering him worth dying for–because nothing Jesus ever said or did in life is ever relevant to the gospel preached anywhere in the authentic letters of Paul... which begs [sic] the question how he convinced anyone he was the Messiah and Savior who would soon return on clouds of glory if he never said or did anything anyone thought impressive enough to ever discuss until a lifetime later.
So this line of reasoning creates the issue of how did such a supposedly minor person get elevated to the status of the character in the Gospels and if Acts 7-9 is to be believed had supposedly inspired followers in three provinces (Galilee, Samaria, and Judea) by 37 CE? Similarly, if the Gospels and Acts are wild propaganda then how can anything they stated about Jesus or his following be regarded as history?
However, there are examples of people who were thrust into prominence that, when you look at the evidence, is greatly inflated. Ephraim McDowell (November 11, 1771 – June 25, 1830) is one such example. When you really look at his work it is not that important in the grander picture. Because his operations depended on a mixture of ridiculous luck, patients with stamina to withstand being cut open without anathesia, a passion for being meticulously clean when doing his operations (the merits of which would not be fully understood for decades) and crediting his success to divine providence (he tended to do his operations on Christian holy days), his contribution to the field of medicine in his own day was effectively nil. Without the printing press just how good would our knowledge of McDowell's achievements be?
A even more relevant example to this can be said of John Ballou Newbrough (1828–1891), the founder of the obscure Oahspe cult; even with the power of the printing press, our knowledge of it is relatively minor. Relegated to just another leader of just another Third Great Awakening movement that went nowhere, he has been elevated to prominence unknown in his own time based largely on him being one of the first people to use the term "star-ship". Jesus could have been like McDowell or Newbrough.
"Most people Jesus preached to were illiterate"
One hypothesis that comes up with regards to the nonexistence of truly contemporary evidence for Jesus is that he preached to people who were illiterate.
The problem with this idea is it is basically ad hoc (i.e. untestable). There is no agreement on the literacy level of the Roman Empire in general (ranging from 5% to 30%) or Palestine in particular. In fact, there is an argument that the Roman Empire in general and Palestine in particular was far more literate than once supposed.
Even if Palestine was more literate, there is still the issue of any contemporary writing of Jesus' actions and deeds either surviving the elements and two revolts that followed 36 CE or being copied by someone else.
Christianity proves Christ
It is sometimes argued that Christianity's mere existence necessitates a Christ.
For example, it is claimed that the handful of early Christian churches "prove" "a man named Jesus existed as the leader of a religious movement" based on the theory that people do not usually make up leaders for all that they aggrandize, and mythologize them. That theory can be easily shown to be nonsense with such counterexamples as Ned Ludd and various Malaysian Cargo cults where this very thing happened. Similarly, the 1982 and 1995 editions of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J use this "story of" definition for Christ myth and make no comment regarding whether Jesus the man is regarded as mythical.
For comparison, other stories of semi-mythical figures such as King Arthur or Robin Hood appear to have no original author,[note 22] instead being legends that accreted — possibly from a basis of one original person, possibly from several, or possibly from pure invention. For example, John Frum is a claimed cargo cult founder that many anthropologists have written about since 1952, well within living memory of his supposed late 1930s appearance to the village elders, but even for him we don't have enough evidence to establish whether or not he was a real person - we just don't know whether the stories started from any actual person or just accreted spuriously.
Further, the existence of modern Christianity proves only that Paul of Tarsus — the man who revolutionized Christianity by pitching it to non-Jews — existed, and that Paul spoke of Jesus the Christ, based on oral stories going round and his own vision. The existence of a founding figure who can reasonably be tagged Paul is quite good as these things go, with textual analysis showing that several of the Biblical texts attributed to Paul do indeed seem to have been written by the same single hand. This is comparable to the evidence we have for the existence of figures such as Socrates and Pythagoras; as with Paul, their existence is secondary to their body of work.
"Myth, madman, or Messiah"
Alternately, the "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord" argument and a specific case of a false dichotomy.
All too often, the "historical existence of Jesus" debate turns into the Myth, Madman, or Messiah argument: the concept that Jesus has to be either a myth (both types), madman, or essentially what the Gospels describe. The key issue is that this really argues for the Jesus of the gospels rather than the gospel story being inspired by an actual person. It also relies on the (false) a priori assumption that the Gospels are essentially providing us with an unvarnished historical record of Jesus' life.
The argumentum ad martyrdom of "Would the Disciples die for a lie?" falls into this category and ignores that there are many examples of people dying for beliefs which turned out to be false, deceptive, or poorly understood (Hong Xiuquan's Taiping Rebellion followers, Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, Branch Davidians, etc.)
The "skeptics just don't want to be accountable for their sins" and "skeptics have blind faith in the words of man" are essentially two sides of the same argument that also falls into this category. Here again this is arguing that the Gospel Jesus is a historical person, not arguing that the stories were inspired by a quite normal man.
How did the myth of Jesus start?
There are several natural explanations, some more valid than others.
- One of the views, held by J. M. Robertson and others, is that the Jesus myth was patterned after a story found in the Jewish Talmudic literature about the illegitimate son of a woman named Miriam (Mary) and a Roman soldier named Pandera, sometimes called Joseph Pandera. In Christianity and Mythology, Robertson writes: “…we see cause to suspect that the movement really originated with the Talmudic Jesus Ben Pandera, who was stoned to death and hanged on a tree, for blasphemy or heresy, on the eve of a Passover in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (106-79 B.C.E.).” Dr. Low, an accomplished Hebraist, is satisfied that this Jesus was the founder of the Essene sect, whose resemblance to the legendary early Christian has so greatly exercised Christian speculation.
- Another view is that the Jesus myth grew out of a pre-Christian cult of Joshua. Some suggest that the New Testament story about swapping Jesus for Barabbas (meaning “son of the father”) arose from the tension between Joshua factions. Origen mentioned a “Jesus Barabbas.” The name “Jesus” is the Greek for Joshua (“Yeshua” in Hebrew). In Mark 9:38 the disciples of Jesus saw another man who was casting out devils in the name of Jesus (Joshua). The Sibyllene Oracles identify Jesus with Joshua, regarding the sun standing still.
- W. B. Smith thinks there was a pre-Christian Jesus cult of Gnosticism. There is an ancient papyrus that has these words: “I adjure thee by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus.” The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God? makes a compelling case that the original Christians were indeed Gnostics and that the story of Jesus was invented by Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria as a mystery play patterned after the Osiris/Dionysus mystery cults, and was not to be taken literally. The play depicted a god-man who died and came back to life. It was only after Constantine in the fourth century that the life of Jesus became suddenly “historical”.
- Randall Helms, in the article “Fiction in the Gospels” in Jesus in History and myth, presents another view. Helms notices that there are many literary parallels between Old Testament and New Testament stories. He calls this “self-reflexive fiction.” It is if there are some skeletal templates into which the Jews placed their stories. One example is the comparison between the raising of the son of the window of Nain in Luke 7:11-16 and the raising of the son of a widow of Zarephath in I kings 17. Not only is the content similar, but the structure of the tale is almost identical. Other examples are the storm series in Psalms and Jonah compared with the New Testament storm story in Mark 4:37-41, and the story of Elijah’s food multiplication with that of Jesus. The first-century Jews were simply rewriting old stories, like a movie remake. This view, in and of itself, does not completely account for the entire Jesus myth, but it does show how literary parallels can play a part in the elaboration of a fable.
- John Allegro suggested that the Jesus character was patterned after the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, who was crucified in 88 B.C.E. He wrote that the Dead Sea Scrolls prove that the Essenes interpreted the Old Testament in a way to make it fit their own messiah. Allegro writes: “When Josephus speaks of the Essene’s reverence for their ‘Lawgiver’…we may assume reasonably that he speaks of their Teacher, the ‘Joshua/Jesus’ of the Last Days. By the first century, therefore, it seems that he was being accorded semi-divine status, and that his role of Messiah, or Christ, was fully appreciated.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth)
- R.G. Price argues that Jesus was originally constructed as a spiritual concept by Hellenistic Jews, which later eventually turned Jesus into "historical" and was sure that Jesus was "of the flesh" for theological reasons. Christians had to construct Jesus to be made of the flesh for two reasons: 1) Suffering and a flesh-and-blood sacrifice were required to create a new covenant and 2) The resurrection of a flesh-and-blood Jesus proved that resurrection of the flesh was possible. To achieve the completion of the mythical Jesus, the following steps had to be taken:
- Development of apocalyptic and Messianic traditions in Judaism from the 6th century BCE to the 1st century CE
- Fusion of apocalyptic and Messianic Judaism with Hellenistic culture
- Emergence of "Jesus Christ" mystery religion among Hellenistic Jews
- Development of "flesh" based Christ theology within the mystery religion
- Writing of allegorical Christ narrative(s?)
- Writing of pseudo-historical Christ narratives
- Development and defense of historical Christ theology
- Development of post-canon dogma
- Elimination of remaining non-historical Christ theologies
Questions for all
Neil Godfrey presents the challenge to a historicity viewpoint and the challenge to an ahistoricity viewpoint. Godfrey writes:
[I]n the Gospel of Mark the Jesus figure is most unlike any ordinary human figure in ancient (or modern) literature. He is a human, of course, with brothers and sisters and a mother, and he eats and drinks. But he is unlike any other figure in works that we know to be ancient biographies or histories. . . . With that background, the two horns of the dilemma are modified somewhat:
- If Jesus did exist, we have to explain how, within a relatively short time of his death, he was being spoken of as some kind of mythical semi-deity in the writings of some of his followers.
- If Jesus was a myth from the start, on the other hand, we have the reverse problem of having to explain how he then came to be written about and taught about as a parabolic or allegorical type of person who walked the face of the earth conversing with humans and spirits and did many inexplicable things and spoke in ways that his hearers did not understand.
Or maybe I should make the dilemma a triceratops with a third horn:
- If Jesus was a myth from the start, on the other hand, we have the reverse problem of having to explain how two of the three canonical evangelists [viz. Matthew and Luke following after the earliest: Mark] . . . “corrected” his account [as given by Mark] and made him and his followers a little more realistically human.
- Per Bart Ehrman:
I have been arguing that there were two separate streams of early Christology (i.e. “understandings of Christ”). The first Christologies were almost certainly based on the idea of “exaltation.” . . . The other type of Christology came a bit later. It was an “incarnation” Christology which indicated that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being – for example, an angel – who became a human being for the purpose of salvation.
- Per Richard Carrier:
Christianity began incarnationist (OHJ, Element 10 in Ch. 4, with Ch. 11). . . . And the evidence for that is as solid as any evidence we have for early Christianity: Paul explicitly says it was incarnationist; Paul even quotes a pre-Pauline creed that affirms it was; and Paul never mentions anyone ever contesting it, even when he mentions competing sects of the faith that he insisted be declared anathema (e.g. Galatians 1). There is, likewise, no other evidence from pre-Markan Christianity that mentions anything else.
Question: Which is more likely: a) the first Christology was based on the idea of “exaltation"; or b) the first Christology was based on the idea of “incarnation”?
Neil Godfrey presents how the canonical gospels—when laid out chronologically—illustrate the progression towards historizing a bodily resurrection. Godfrey writes:
- Mark merely has an empty tomb and no resurrection appearance, and this is the sort of indicator that one reads in Greco-Roman stories of Heracles and co — the disappearance of the body was the conventional indicator that the deceased had been taken to join the gods.
- Matthew has a resurrection appearance or two, and in the first one the women hold Jesus by the feet. In the second one Jesus stands on a mountain and some disciples are not even convinced it is Jesus.
- Luke has Jesus vanishing before the eyes of onlookers and appearing mysteriously in the middle of closed rooms, but to persuade disciples he was nonetheless flesh he told them to touch him and watch him eat.
- John then has the famous doubting Thomas scene where Jesus, after having asked his disciples to have a look at his flesh, appears again to require they (or at least one of them) thrust their hands into his side. He then starts a fire on a beach and cooks everyone a meal of fish.
So even within the gospels themselves we can see an evolution of the idea of the resurrection of the physical body.
- Per Richard Carrier:
- …Many counter-cultural Jewish sects were seeking hidden messages in scripture.
- …Cephas (Peter), a member or leader of one of those sects, had “visions” telling him one of those messages was now fulfilled.
- …That fellow influenced or inspired others to have or claim supporting visions.
- …They all died.
- …Then some later folks did what was done for all savior gods: they made up stories about their savior god to promote what was by then a lifetime of the accumulated teachings, dogmas, and beliefs of various movement leaders.
- …They all died.
- …Then some later folks started promoting those myths as historically true.
- …Those who protested that, were denounced as heretics and agents of Satan.
- …They all died.
- …Those who liked the new invented version of history won total political power and used it to destroy all the literature of those who had ever protested it.
Note that at no point is the historicity of Jesus even denied in these ten facts,[note 23] individually or in conjunction. Because all ten can simply be a description of the invention of the historicity of the resurrection alone, not the man.
And yet these same ten facts fully explain the historicization of either the resurrection or the man. If the one could happen (and it did), so could the other. And we can assert that without positing a single other fact about anything.
Question: Do you concur that all ten points are indisputable facts?
- Per R. G. Price:
Where I differ from Carrier is, he proposes that Jesus was consciously historicized in order to achieve some goal. I, on the other hand, propose that the Gospel of Mark was the origin of the idea that Jesus was a real person, but that the Gospel of Mark was written as an allegorical tale that was only misinterpreted as real history. This misinterpretation of the story of Mark is what led to the belief that Jesus was a real person. Thus, the historicization of Jesus wasn’t a conscious effort, it was the result of a mistaken interpretation of a fictional story.
Question: Which is more likely: a) the historicization of Jesus was a conscious effort; or b) the historicization of Jesus was the result of a mistaken interpretation of a fictional story?
Questions for Jesus historicists
- Per R. G. Price:
Questions for Jesus historicists
- If Jesus were a real person, then why do neither the letters of Paul nor the epistle of James provide any description of him?
- If Jesus were a real person and his brother James became a prominent leader of the Christian community, then why didn’t James provide any account of the life of his brother Jesus?
- The epistle of James goes into an extensive discussion of the importance of works, yet uses examples of figures from the Jewish scriptures to show the importance of works. Why wouldn’t this letter have used Jesus’s deeds as an example of the importance of works if the writer were someone who knew of Jesus or thought that Jesus was a real person?
- If the narrative of Jesus’s life and death were developed before the First Jewish-Roman War and maintained by a community of Jesus worshipers, why was it not recorded until after the war?
- If we can conclude that the “cleansing of the temple” is a truly fictional event based on literary allusions, what then would explain why a real Jesus would have been executed?
- If we can conclude that the crucifixion of Jesus during the Passover festival is not credible, then what would account for the fact that every description of his execution follows the narrative from Mark, other than that no one had any knowledge of the actual event?
- If the events of the Gospels are indeed a purely fictional postwar narrative, then what could explain why a real human Jesus would have been worshiped as such a powerful divine being? If the “real Jesus” didn’t perform miracles, didn’t actually rise from the dead, didn’t have teachings that were cited by either Paul or James, then what would cause people to worship this real human Jesus who had no deeds or teachings worth noting by the earliest writers about him?
- If the earliest worshipers of Jesus believed that the material world was corrupt and needed to be destroyed, then why would they worship a material human being? The only theological explanation for why a Jesus of the flesh would be worshiped is that by becoming flesh and “overcoming death” Jesus transcended the corruption of the material world. But if we can conclude that a real-life Jesus wouldn’t have actually “overcome death,” then why would a real-life Jesus be worshiped?
- Why would Paul insist that his knowledge of Jesus was superior because it came from revelation, if Paul knew that other apostles had direct knowledge of Jesus the person and were taught directly from the mouth of Jesus?
- If a real Jesus were worshiped and executed, then why was his real grave unknown and unvenerated?
- If the “Q” teachings come from a separate independent source, then why does the “Q” dialog fit so neatly into the Markan narrative, using elements of language that are unique to the Gospels?
- If Paul knew that Jesus was a real person who was recently on earth, then why did he never talk about him “returning” or “coming back”?
- Per Robert M. Price:
[A]lmost every story in the Gospels (and Acts) can be plausibly argued to be borrowed from the Greek Old Testament, Homer, or Euripides.
Question: Do you concur, that when we find details in the life of Jesus evidently derived from from the Greek Old Testament, Homer, or Euripides, then we cannot but suspect that they are mythical rather than historical?
Corollary question: How many stories in the Gospels and Acts, do you find to be borrowed from the Greek Old Testament, Homer, or Euripides? Or more simply, which ones are not?
- Per Tom Dykstra:
Brodie and Ehrman are both competent scholars, both are assessing the same body of literature acting as historical evidence, and yet they reach diametrically opposite conclusions.
the strongest argument for Jesus’s historicity is that multiple literary witnesses to his life are independent – that is, they are documents written by authors who had no knowledge at all of each other’s writings. That is precisely the approach Ehrman focuses on first in his book [Did Jesus Exist?]. He counts seven independent narratives about Jesus...[note 1]
Question: If we do not have any ancient manuscripts of documents that narrate Jesus’s life or recount his sayings that are commonly seen as having been written earlier than the gospels. Then how is it possible to establish that the seven narratives about Jesus—presented by Ehrman as independent—are not just embellished redactions of the earliest: Mark?
- Per Jens Schröter:
The idea of formulating certain “criteria” for an evaluation of historical sources is a peculiar phenomenon in historical-critical Jesus research. It was established in the course of the twentieth century as a consequence of the form-critical idea of dividing Jesus accounts of the Gospels into isolated parts of tradition, which would be examined individually with regard to their authenticity. Such a perspective was not known to the Jesus research of the nineteenth century and it does not, to my knowledge, appear in other strands of historical research.
Question: Why have other historians—who do not specialize in the New Testament texts—not used these “advanced techniques”?
- Per Raphael Lataster:
Carrier published his academic book in 2014 and I have published mine in 2019. We are still waiting for a proper refutation of my case for agnosticism and his more ambitious case for outright mythicism. I suspect that this will never occur, because ‘at least agnosticism’ is very sensible.
Question: When will an academic book—published by a respected biblical studies press—present a proper refutation of Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt and also make a peer reviewed case for historicity?
Corollary question: Do you concur that 'at least agnosticism' is very sensible?
- Biblical contradictions
- Critics of the historicity of Jesus
- Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ
- Jesus Malverde
- Life of Brian
- Nazareth, and the dipsute over its existence
- "Why the Christ-Myth Controversy Won’t Go Away".
- List of Jesus myth theory proponents.
- "A Mythicism Timeline". Mythicist Papers.
- "WHO's WHO: Mythicists and Mythicist Agnostics". Vridar.
- "1950s Scholarship on the Historicity of Jesus - Vardis Fisher's summary". Vridar.
- "Demolishing the historicity of Jesus – A History". Church and State.
- "A Growing Number of Scholars Are Questioning the Historical Existence of Jesus". BigThink.
- "FAQ: Did Jesus Really Exist?". Reddit. r/atheism.
- "Existence of Jesus". religions.wiki.
- "Jesus began as a myth and was later historicized" religions.wiki.
- "Podcast: 313 - Richard Carrier (Jesus from Outer Space) @ time 00:05:00". American Freethought.
- "Jesus from Outer Space?". The Bible and Interpretation.
- "The Mythicism Files". mythicismfiles.blogspot.
- "Over 40 Pages of books/works by scholars, historians, academics, professors, philosophers, and intellectuals who have helped discover and document that Jesus was a fictional character and Christian claims about him are fraud". The Jesus Birther Movement.
- August 2014: "Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt: Should We Still Be Looking for a Historical Jesus?". The Bible and Interpretation.
- August 2019: "Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation.
- December 2020:"Jesus from Outer Space?". The Bible and Interpretation.
Surveys of early 20th century proponents of an ahistorical Jesus figure
- Robertson, J. M. (1932). "VIII. The Making of Christianity". Courses of study (3 ed.). London: Watts & Co. pp. 77ff.
- Dujardin, É. (1938). "L'évolution des théories mythiques sur l'origine du christianisme: à propos d'un livre récent" (in French). Revue De L'histoire Des Religions, 117, 90-104.
- Weaver, Walter P. (1999). "The Nonhistorical Jesus". The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century: 1900-1950. A&C Black. pp. 45–71. ISBN 978-1-56338-280-2.
- Price, R. M. (2011). "The 'Pre-Christian Jesus' Revisited". The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems. American Atheist Press. pp. 387ff. ISBN 978-1-5788-4017-5.
Surveys of early 21st century proponents of an ahistorical Jesus figure
- Lataster, Raphael (2015). Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1-5148-1442-0.
- Hansen, Christopher M. (2020). [PRELIMINARY DRAFT] Quest of the Mythical Jesus: A History of Jesus Skepticism, ca. 1574 to the Present. Academia.edu.
- Christiansen, Chris (2020) "§.3.5 Twenty-First Century Mythicism", Was Jesus a Mythical Figure?.... M.S. Thesis: Trinity Western University.
Non English language books
- Stéphane, Marc (1959) (in fr). La Passion de Jésus: fait d’histoire ou objet de croyance. Paris: Dervy-livres.
- Ory, Georges (1968) (in fr). Le Christ et Jésus. Éditions du Pavillon.
- Dubourg, Bernard (1987) (in fr). L'invention de Jésus. Gallimard. ISBN 978-2-07-071093-5.
- Viklund, Roger (2005) (in sv). Den Jesus som aldrig funnits: en kritisk granskning av Bibelns Jesus och kristendomens uppkomst. Vimi. ISBN 9789163173998.
- Detering, Hermann (2011) (in de). Falsche Zeugen: ausserchristliche Jesuszeugnisse auf dem Prüfstand. Alibri. ISBN 9783865690708.
- Kaaij, Edward van der (2014) (in nl). De ongemakkelijke waarheid van het christendom: de echte Jezus onthuld.
- Onfray, Michel (2017) (in fr). Décadence. Flammarion. ISBN 9782081399204.
- Charbonnel, Nanine (2017) (in fr). Jésus-Christ, sublime figure de papier, Préface de Thomas Römer. Berg International. ISBN 9782370201096.
Online English language books
- Greenly, Edward (1927). The Historical Reality of Jesus: A Concise Statement of the Problem.... Rationalist Association of Australia.
- Couchoud, P. L. (1939) (in en) [1937 in fr]. "The Creation of Christ: An Outline of the Beginnings of Christianity". Watts, 2 vol.
- Kryvelev, Iosif Aronovich (1987) (in en). Christ: myth Or Reality? [PDF]. Religious studies in the USSR #2. Moscow: "Social Sciences Today" Editorial Board.
- Detering, Hermann (2003) [in German 1995]. The Fabricated Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight. Translated by Darrell Doughty. Independently Published. ISBN 978-1-981040-81-0.
- Price, Robert M. (2012). The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. Signature Books. ISBN 978-1-56085-216-2.
Responses to Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?
- "80+ mythicist responses to B. Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?", Mythicist Papers. A collection of links compiled by Dave Mack and René Salm.
- "Debunking Bart Ehrman's belief in Jesus that he is attempting to call a fact, with his newest book", Exposing Religion Blog. A collection of links and quotes compiled by Peter Vidani.
- "Ehrman on the Historicity of Jesus and Early Christian Thinking", Free Inquiry. Vol. 32 no. 4. Review of DJE by G. A. Wells.
- "My Review of Did Jesus Exist?", lost-history.com. Review of DJE by Jeff Querner.
- Prof. “Errorman” and the non-Christian sources. Hermann Detering's engagement with Ehrman’s treatment of the non Christian sources. [PDF].
- The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest. asin B00A2XN7EQ. Earl Doherty’s response to DJE.
- "epilogue: Bart D. Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?", Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus. ISBN 978-1-907534-58-4. Review of DJE by Thomas Brodie.
- Why Jesus Most Probably Never Existed: Ehrman’s Double Standards. Narve Strand’s engagement with Ehrman’s arguments.
- Ehrman's Folly. Ben Goren responds to DJE.
- "Is This Not the Carpenter's Son?", The Bible and Interpretation. A Response to Bart Ehrman by Thomas L. Thompson.
- "Did Jesus Exist?", The Bible and Interpretation. A Response to Bart Ehrman by Philip Davies.
- Richard Carrier:
- Raphael Lataster:
- Tom Dykstra
- "Did Jesus Exist?–-Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book". Mandatory for Decent Human Life.
- "Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship". The Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS) 8 (1): 1–32. 2015.
- Thomas Verenna:
- "Preliminary Overview of Bart Ehrman’s ‘Did Jesus Exist?’". The Musings of Thomas Verenna.
- "Did Jesus Exist? The Trouble with Certainty in Historical Jesus Scholarship". The Bible and Interpretation.
- Derreck Bennett:
- Ophelia Benson:
- Steven Carr
- Steven Bollinger:
- "It's Settled! (Not!)". The Wrong Monkey.
- "I Accuse You, You Cowardly Closeted Academic Mythicists!". The Wrong Monkey.
- "Resurrection and Apotheosis in Pre-Christian Antiquity (Derreck Bennett)". GCRR
- "Virgin Birth: It's Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- "Dying-and-Rising Gods: It's Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Cook, John Granger (2018). Empty Tomb, Resurrection, Apotheosis. ISBN 978-3-16-156503-8.
- Corrente, Paola (2013). "Dioniso y los Dying gods: paralelos metodológicos" (in es). Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
- Mettinger, Tryggve N. D. (2001). The Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East. ISBN 978-91-22-01945-9.
Pre-Christian Jewish Ideas of a Suffering and Dying Messiah
- "How to Successfully Argue Jesus Existed (or Anything Else in the World)". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- "Historicity Big and Small: How Historians Try to Rescue Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- "A Few More Attempts to Rescue Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Law, Stephen (2011). "Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus". Faith and Philosophy 28 (2): 129–151. doi:10.5840/faithphil20112821. (Available Online)
- Lataster, Raphael (2019). "Defending Jesus Agnosticism". Think 18 (51): 77–91. doi:10.1017/S1477175618000362.
- Bennett, Derreck. "Not Even a Carpenter: Why a Historical Jesus Is Doubtful". Atheomedy.
- Cain, Benjamin. "Clarifying and Debating the Christ Myth Theory". Medium.
- Carrier, Richard. "List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Doherty, Earl. "Responses to Critiques of the Mythicist Case". jesuspuzzle.com
- Mergui, Maurice. "L'hypothèse midrashique" (in fr). Le Champ du Midrash.
- Price, R. G.. "The Gospel of Mark as Reaction and Allegory". rationalrevolution.net.
- Price, R. G.. "Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed - Book". decipheringthegospels.com.
Point Counter Point
• Ehrman, Bart D. (20 March 2012). "Did Jesus Exist?". HuffPost.
‣ Carrier, Richard (21 March 2012). "Ehrman Trashtalks Mythicism". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (21 April 2012). "Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)". The Bart Ehrman Blog.[note 24]
• Ehrman, Bart D (19 March 2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins–HarperOne. ISBN 9780062206442.
‣ Carrier, Richard (19 April 2012). "Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (22 April 2012). "Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”)". The Bart Ehrman Blog (reproduced: "Author Bart Ehrman post". Facebook).
‣ Fincke, Daniel (22 April 2012). "Ehrman Evades Carrier's Criticisms". Camels With Hammers.
• Hoffmann, R. Joseph (23 April 2012). "Mythtic Pizza and Cold-cocked Scholars". The New Oxonian.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (24 April 2012). "Response to Carrier". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
‣ Carrier, Richard (27 April 2012). "Ehrman's Dubious Replies (Round One)". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (25 April 2012). "Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
‣ Carrier, Richard (29 April 2012). "Ehrman's Dubious Replies (Round Two)". Richard Carrier Blogs.
‣ Carrier, Richard (24 July 2012). "Ehrman on Historicity Recap". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (21 April 2014). "Attacks from the Other Side: An Ill-Tempered Richard Carrier". The Bart Ehrman Blog.[note 25]
• Ehrman, Bart D. (3 May 2014) ap. "Bart Ehrman Freedom From Religion Foundation Lecture". YouTube. Scott Burdick. 13 August 2014.[note 26]
‣ Carrier, Richard (11 July 2014). "On Bart Ehrman Being Pot Committed". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (18 February 2016) ap. "Bart Ehrman at Fresno City College". YouTube. Paul Gilmore. 20 April 2016.[note 27]
‣ Carrier, Richard (25 April 2016). "Bart Ehrman Just Can't Do Truth or Logic". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Ehrman, Bart D. (21 October 2016) ap. "Dr. Robert Price & Dr. Bart Ehrman Debate: Did Jesus Exist?". YouTube. Mythinformed. 21 March 2017.[note 28]
‣ Carrier, Richard (25 October 2016) ap. "Did Jesus Exist? Price/Ehrman Debate- Who Won? Who's Next?". YouTube. Mythinformed. 5 November 2016.
‣ Carrier, Richard (28 October 2016). "The Ehrman-Price Debate". Richard Carrier Blogs.
‣ Carrier, Richard (6 October 2018) ap. "Richard Carrier Vs Bart Erhman: Did Jesus Exist? (Re-edited)". YouTube. MythVision Podcast. 24 November 2018.
‣ Ehrman, Bart D. (20 April 2012). "Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?". [note 29]
• Gathercole, Simon (14 April 2017). "What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?". The Guardian
‣ Carrier, Richard (19 April 2017). "The Guardian on Jesus: Dear oh dear…". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Gathercole, Simon (6 December 2018). "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters". Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 16 (2-3): 183–212. doi:10.1163/17455197-01602009.
‣ Carrier, Richard (28 February 2019). "The New Gathercole Article on Jesus Certainly Existing". Richard Carrier Blogs.
• Cain, Benjamin (2 June 2020). "Assessing the Christ Myth Theory". Medium.
‣ Pemberton, Graham (13 June 2020). "Reflections on the Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ — part 1". Medium.
‣ Pemberton, Graham (15 July 2020). "Reflections on the Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ — part 2". Medium.
• Cain, Benjamin (21 June 2020). "Clarifying and Debating the Christ Myth Theory". Medium.
‣ Pemberton, Graham (30 June 2020). "Further Reflections on the Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ". Medium.
• Cain, Benjamin (6 July 2020). "Clarifying and Debating the Christ Myth Theory: Round Two". Medium.
• McGrath, James F. (20 January 2020). "Mythicism, Isnads, and Pseudepigrapha". Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath.
‣ Godfrey, Neil (23 January 2020). "Answering James McGrath's Questions for Mythicists". Vridar.
‣ Godfrey, Neil (26 January 2020). ""Nothing in what [mythicists] write is authoritative or trustworthy"". Vridar.
• "Does the Bible Accurately Record Jesus’ Life? | Bible Questions". JW.ORG.
• "Do Scholars Believe That Jesus Existed? | Bible Questions". JW.ORG.
• "Did Jesus Really Exist?". JW.ORG.
‣ Carrier, Richard (31 August 2018). "How the Jehovah's Witnesses Website Manipulates Readers on the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Adamczewski, Bartosz (2014). The Gospel of Mark: A Hypertextual Commentary. Peter Lang Edition. ISBN 9783631647158.
- Barker, Dan (2006). Losing Faith in Faith.
- Boobyer, G. H. (1952–1953). "Galilee and Galileans in St. Mark's Gospel [PDF]". Bulletin of the John Rylands Library XXXV: 334–348.
- Brodie, Thomas L. (2004). The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 9781905048038.
- Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed (1982). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0802837851.
- Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed (1995). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0802837820.
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- Tarazi, Paul Nadim (1999). Paul and Mark. THE NEW TESTAMENT: AN INTRODUCTION. Vol. 1. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 978-0-88141-188-1.
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- Ehrman presents seven narratives about Jesus as independent attestations for the historicity of Jesus. Ehrman derives these independent narratives from “either entirely or partially independent” extant sources. Said sources being the four canonical gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke, John; and three non-canonical gospels: Thomas, Peter, P Egerton 2.
- Comment by Carrier—25 May 2020—per "Lataster v. McGrath: Jesus Must Be Real...Because, Reasons". Richard Carrier Blogs. 24 May 2020:
"Van Voorst’s treatise is only a reference manual on sources “Outside the New Testament.” It has only a few pages on the historicity question and then simply presumes historicity thereafter. It does not systematically defend the historicity of Jesus or systematically analyze arguments for or against. Moreover, as a reference book, it only surveys various positions on the external sources. But doesn’t address any of the actual evidence for or against mythicism. For instance, there is no chapter on the Epistles or any arguments or evidence regarding historicity from them."
"That book is the one I recommend to anyone who wants the closest thing to a defense of historicity there yet is, but it doesn’t really fill that role, with no chapter on the Epistles, no chapter on the Method of Criteria in extracting evidence from the Gospels, no chapter on mythicist views to the contrary of either (a few pages doesn’t count). Contrast this with Case, who wrote his entire book about the historicity question. No such thing has been done since. Not even by Van Voorst."
"I use Van Voorst as a source quite a lot in OHJ. But like every other monograph on Jesus, it simply presumes historicity, with only the feeblest effort to justify that (not even five pages). Nevertheless, I survey those few pages in OHJ, pp. 4-6."
- Tom Dykstra is an independent scholar with a PhD in Renaissance Christianity and is published in the field of New Testament studies (See Dykstra 2012.).
- Thomas Verenna notes a complaint against his position of agnosticism ["Agnosticism and Jesus and What it Means". 24 April 2012. The Musings of Thomas Verenna] :
One cannot easily deny their association with a group if they spend all of their time defending the ‘quality’, ‘truth’ claims, or ‘validity’ of said group.Verenna writes in response:
Pick a side, Tom.
But I refuse to do so. The only honest position in this whole debate is on the side of doubt and agnosticism. Does he not know that the reason I am agnostic is because I am not convinced by arguments for historicity? It just so happens I think that some (please note: some–not all, not most) mythicists have sounder arguments about the state of the evidence (because historicists will often take that evidence for granted). That doesn’t mean I agree with their conclusion about historicity.
- Thomas L. Thompson responds to the question: Do you agree that mythicists could follow the steps of biblical minimalists?
I think they may be too quick to judge the single issue of whether he existed. The proper question is rather a largely literary question than an historical one. Until we have texts, which bear evidence of his historicity, we can not do much more with that issue. We can and must, however, ask what the texts mean—as well as ask what they mean if they are not historical (a minimalist question).
- i.e. almost certainly true. However as Carrier writes, "if we have already concluded that the mundane details in a story are 99% certain to be true, Law’s Contamination Principle no longer applies."
- In this context "Bracketing" is Cavin & Colombetti ignoring/dismissing any implication of the miraculous parts on the reliability of the non-miraculous parts. However "Bracketing" is more commonly known as used by apologists arguing for the resurrection by first establishing the truth of the non-miraculous parts, and then using these supposedly now “firmly established facts” as a platform from which to argue for the truth of the miraculous parts.
- more acurately the Lord's Supper, Paul never used the term "the Last Supper"
- see Gospel of Mark §. Greek names of the disciples of Jesus
- i.e. creating a new Moses/Elijah in Jesus by transvaluing the tales in the Septuagint with new contexts and outcomes.
- Mark not only presents Pauline teachings/tenets (being true originals or those later interpreted as such) but also theological functions and social ideals, such as: "what baptism means"; "not putting oneself before the group"; etc..
- Isaiah 9:1 (LXX 8:23)
. . . πέραν τοῦ Ιορδάνου Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν τὰ μέρη τῆς Ιουδαίας [péran toú Iordánou Galilaía tón ethnón tá méri tís Ioudaías ("beyond the Jordan [Transjordan]", "Galilee of the nations", and districts of Judaea)]Mark 3:8
. . . πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου καὶ περὶ Τύρον καὶ Σιδῶνα [péran toú Iordánou kaí perí Týron kaí Sidóna ("beyond the Jordan [Transjordan]" and around Tyre and Sidon)]
- Both Galilee and Perea were Incorporated into "Greater Judea" i.e. Provincia Ivdaea, in 44 CE, which already incorporated the regions of Samaria, Idumea, and the eponymous Judea. The regional name Perea is used by Josephus (c. 75 CE) and Pliny the Elder (c. 75 CE) in their geographic descriptions of the regions within the province.
- In the Markan story, geography demarcates Jew from Gentile. While at the Gallilee region, Jesus receives Gentiles from the surrounding regions—one of which is Transjordan (Mark 3:8). Mark names the Transjordan region by using the same general term found in the LXX Book of Isaiah—péran toú Iordánou.[note 12] Notably the Markan author never uses the specific contemporary name for the east bank territory of Herod Antipas, i.e. Perea.[note 13] The same term for the Transjordan region is repeated in Mark 10:1, therefore the traditional view of the Perean ministry, which holds that Jesus did not travel beyond the Perean territorial region of Herod Antipas is not supported by the Markan text. It appears that the usage of the term Transjordan in Mark 10:1 is a reference to the Decapolis and other Gentile regions such that Jesus—enroute to Jerusalem—is teaching both Jews and Gentiles per the same literary East/West axis presented previously for the Sea of Galilee ministry.
- Per the relationship between Nazareth and Nazorean, the reference to the "sect of the Nazoreans" (τῆς τῶν Ναζωραίων αἱρέσεως) in Acts 24:5 raises the possibility of "Nazorean" originating as a sectarian name and the dual forms of Ναζαρηνός (characteristic of Mark) and Ναζωραῖος parallel the spelling variants Ἐσσηνος and Ἐσσαῖος for the Essenes. It is not until Epiphanius that we get the form Νασαραῖοι [Nasaraíoi (Nazarites)] which refers to a sect that Epiphanius wants to distinguish from the Ναζωραῖοι [Nazoraíoi (Nazarenes)]. According to Epiphanius in his Panarion (29.5.6), the 4th century Jewish-Christian Nazarenes (Ναζωραιοι) were originally Jewish converts of the Apostles. There is also a third sect, the pre-Christian Nasarenes, whose name is more intelligible in Aramaic or Hebrew as Natsarene. René Salm writes, "Like Epiphanius, we should also carefully observe a distinction: the Nazoreans were early Christians (cf. Mt 2:23; Acts 24:5), but the Nasarenes were pre-Christian . . . . I shall use the English spellings 'Natsarene' (rendering the Semitic tsade) and 'Nazorean'."
- Bruno Bauer (19th century German Biblical historian), George Wells (20th century historian of Germany)
- scholars Richard Carrier (historian), Robert M. Price (theologian), and author Earl Doherty (writer)
- including, sometimes even, threats against any peers who would disagree with them, thus reinforcing the aforementioned silence
- e.g. it might not be a coincidence that Ehrman has a Christian wife who has already been troubled enough by his publicly defending agnosticism about God; and many a supposedly secular scholar is actually, unlike Ehrman, a devout Christian, however liberal—because there is a known tendency in the field adopted by many scholars to keep their religious affiliation secret; and so on
- "Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist". Remsburg then clarifies this position by stating "that a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written".
- R. G. Price does not specifically address or answer how and why the other gospels were derived—after the Gospel of Mark. He does propose that it seems that the author of Luke believed in the literal truth of the Markan narrative and thought he was writing a real biography of a real person. As for Matthew and John, Price offers no conclusion, saying that its not clear if whoever wrote those accounts believed that Jesus was a real person or understood that the story was “fictional”. However Price does consider it possible—that: "Like Matthew, "John" was simply trying to make a buck and his story is written with the intent of fooling people into believing that it was something it was not."
- Although Geoffrey of Monmouth has a fair claim with King Arthur.
- i.e. a fact being: an established fact; or the evidence is consistent with it being the case such that it is "not refutable"—thus respectably possible/probable.
- Bart Ehrman writes:
I began to write replies to Richard Carrier’s rather heated response to my Huffington Post article before his now more extensive review of my book appeared on his blog. I will first reply in a series of posts to the first response, and then deal with the more extensive and, well, overly heated (!) later response. This was my first response: Richard Carrier has written a rather intemperate reaction to my piece in the Huffington Post in which I summarize, in about a thousand words, some of the major points I make in my new book Did Jesus Exist (361 pages! It is not easy to condense that much material in three pages!). One thing he objects to most vehemently to is my claim that there are no scholars trained in the relevant fields of academic inquiry (e.g., New Testament; early Christianity) and teaching at a recognized institution of higher learning who takes the position that he and his fellow mythicists take, that Jesus never existed. I can understand why Carrier is so upset. He [...] [NB: full post not available per the given "Read More" link]
- NB: Ehrman is using Carrier as a foil against Barron to say.. Barron did not read my book; Carrier did not read my book. Cf. "Critique of the Very Reverend Robert Barron". 17 April 2014.
- @time 00:51:16—An audience member states (to Bart Ehrman): “I do not see evidence in archaeology or history for a historical Jesus.” Cf. Ehrman, Bart D. (16 August 2014). "Freedom From Religion Foundation Lecture". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
- @time 00:23:18—Bart Ehrman states: "I don’t think there is any doubt that Jesus existed. There are a couple of scholars who’ve argued he didn’t exist. There are a lot of voices out there saying that he didn’t exist. But they’re not by scholars who are actually trained in any historical disciplines. There are voices on the internet. But there are voices on the internet for all sorts of things. Scholars who study this stuff really, there isn’t any, it’s not a question that’s debated among my colleagues. It is not debated. Because the evidence is so overwhelming."
- Cf. Ehrman, Bart D. (26 March 2017). "Bart Ehrman & Robert Price Debate - Did Jesus Exist?". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
- Bart Ehrman writes:
I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, incredulous, and well, OK, pretty ticked off and aggravated when some of the mythicists that I deal with in my book, Did Jesus Exist, went on the attack and made it personal. Let me make a confession: before getting ready to do this Blog, and getting into Facebook as a preparation for it, I had no idea how grimy the Internet can be. It is one messy place. I know, I know – welcome to the 21st century! One of the charges against me that is being made is not just atrociously wrong but insulting to my integrity, something I take very seriously. It’s one thing to have a disagreement about how to interpret historical data; it’s another thing to charge a scholar with dishonesty. The first instance I know of the charge was suggested by Achyra S on her blog, and most forcefully by Robert Price on his podcast. The charge is that I did not actually do any of the research for Did Jesus Exist myself, but that [...] [NB: full post not available per the given "Read More" link]
- Carrier (26 April 2018). "Historicity Big and Small: How Historians Try to Rescue Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 24-27.
- Holding 2008, p. 277.
- Houlden 2003, p. 660.
- See the Wikipedia article on Archibald Robertson (atheist).
- See the Wikipedia article on John M. Robertson.
- Robertson 1946.
- Ehrman, Bart, Did Jesus Exist? (2012), Harper Collins, p. 12.
- See the Wikipedia article on James George Frazer.
- Frazer 1913, p. 412.
Schweitzer, Albert (2014). "12: Literary studies during my medical course". Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781466882942. Retrieved 31 Jan 2019. "I especially wanted to explain late Jewish eschatology more thoroughly and to discuss the works of John M. Robertson, William Benjamin Smith, James George Frazer, Arthur Drews, and others, who contested the historical existence of Jesus.
It is not difficult to pretend that Jesus never lived. The attempt to prove it, however, invariably produces the opposite conclusion."
- Bennett, Clinton (2001). In Search of Jesus: Insider and Outsider Images. London: Continuum. p. 205. ISBN 9780826449153. Retrieved 31 Jan 2019.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 29.
- Lataster 2019b.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 115. "So thus ends Casey’s case for the Historical Jesus. All he had done is argue — or rather, claim — that the Gospels of Mark and Matthew are older than is commonly thought, and that they ultimately derive from hypothetical Aramaic sources that we are apparently just supposed to assume were accurate and reliable. Just as with his discussion of his ‘method’, there is little presented here that is coherent, let alone convincing. Casey added nothing useful to what Ehrman had already contributed to the discussion, which itself was inadequate."
- Van Voorst 2000.
- Case 1928.
- Ehrman (5 May 2012). "Did Jesus Exist as Part One". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
- Ehrman 2012.
- Ehrman (25 April 2012). "Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 351.
- Price, Robert M. (2018). "Foreword" ap. R. G. Price 2018, p. ix.
- "Spencer Alexander McDaniel on the Historicity of Jesus". 1 July 2019. Richard Carrier Blogs. "[On the Historicity of Jesus, published in 2014] arguing that Jesus’s historicity has odds of at best 1 in 3 is also the first to pass peer review in the century long history of arguing such a thesis (and indeed by a respected biblical studies press then run by faculty on the campus of the University of Sheffield)."
- Comment by Richard Carrier—1 August 2020—per "Open Thread On the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs. 29 June 2020.
- Carrier, Richard (2015)."Foreword" ap. Lataster 2015b, pp. xi-xii.
- Lataster 2019b, pp. 129, 149. "The recent defences of Jesus’ historicity by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey lack lucid and competent methodologies, rely on highly questionable documents, and further make use of sources that no longer exist, if they ever did. [...] If the consensus view that a historical Jesus certainly existed is based on such tenuous methodology, it would seem reasonable that the consensus view should be reviewed, while not necessarily immediately rejected as false."
- Lataster 2019b, p. 33.
- Carrier 2020, p. 26.
- Dykstra 2015, p. 29.
- Pfoh, Emanuel (2012). "Jesus and the Mythic Mind: An Epistemological Problem". In Thomas L. Thompson. "Is this Not the Carpenter?": The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus. Thomas S. Verenna. Equinox. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-1-84553-986-3.
- Godfrey, Neil (2 September 2012). "Why Historical Knowledge of Jesus Is Impossible: 'Is This Not the Carpenter?' chapter 5". Vridar. "Pfoh examines the current research into the historical Jesus in the context of the “historical milieu of previous scholarship”. He draws lessons from the past — how social, political, ideological and intellectual contexts of past studies have influenced the results produced by that scholarship — and makes some incisive observations about the real nature of current historical Jesus studies as a result."
- Ellegård 1993, pp. 170–171.
- Funk 1995, p. 9.
- Godfrey, Neil (22 October 2018). "Ludemann: The Resurrection of Jesus". Vridar.
- Davies, Philip R. (2012). "Did Jesus Exist?". The Bible and Interpretation. [NOW BOLDED].
- Hoffmann, R. Joseph (2009). "Threnody: Rethinking the Thinking behind The Jesus Project". The Bible and Interpretation. [NOW BOLDED].
- Comment by Richard Carrier—23 October 2020—per "Formalized Gullibility as a Modern Christian Methodology". Richard Carrier Blogs. 18 October 2020.
- Godfrey, Neil (9 February 2020). "Interview with Thomas L. Thompson #2". Vridar.
- Godfrey, Neil (8 February 2020). "Interview with Thomas L. Thompson #1". Vridar.
- Law 2011.
- "Blog of Philosopher Stephen Law". Blogger. Stephen Law.
- Carrier (27 November 2017). "For the Existence of Jesus, Is the Principle of Contamination Invalid? Cavin & Colombetti vs. Law". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- "Congratulations and Thank You For Your Service, Retirees!". Cypress College. 4 May 2018. "[Retiree] Robert Cavin has been teaching philosophy and religious studies at Cypress College since 1996."; See also: "Robert Greg Cavin". Secular Web. Internet Infidels.
- "Carlos Colombetti Home Page". San Mateo County Community College District.
- Cavin, Robert Greg; Colombetti, Carlos A. (2014). "Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus [PDF]". Faith and Philosophy 31 (2): 204–216. doi:10.5840/faithphil20146511.
- Lataster 2019a, p. 86.
- Lataster 2019a, pp. 83–84.
- Widowfield, Tim (31 December 2020). "Did Jonathan Z. Smith Really Not Understand Ideal Types? (Part 4)". Vridar.
- “Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine“. depts.drew.edu. “Reviewed by Robert M. Price. Institute for Higher Critical Studies JHC 3/1 (Spring, 1996), 137-145.”
- Carrier (19 September 2016). "Virgin Birth: It's Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Widowfield, Tim (3 December 2020). "Did Jonathan Z. Smith Really Not Understand Ideal Types? (Part 2)". Vridar.
- Cook 2018, p. 143. "[Chapter one: Resurrection of Divinities §. Conclusion] The review in this chapter thoroughly justifies the continued use of the category of dying and rising gods."
- Cook 2018, p. 143.
- Mettinger 2001.
- Corrente 2013.
- Paola Corrente ap. Castillo, Sidney (3 June 2019). “Philology and the Comparative Study of Myths”. The Religious Studies Project.
- Carrier (30 March 2018). "Dying-and-Rising Gods: It's Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- "Robert M. Price & Christopher Hansen – INTERVIEW! @Time: 01:46:30". YouTube. MythVision Podcast. 2019.
- Godfrey, Neil (29 May 2019). "Robert Price and Christopher Hansen Discussion". Vridar.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 96–108.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 168–173.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 141–143.
- Carrier 2020, p. 9. "We all agree the Christians originally believed Jesus was from outer space. So the only question is, in the original creed, how far did they think he actually descended from there to effect his cosmic sacrifice?"
- Carrier 2020, pp. 47–48.
- Carrier (14 March 2021). "Should We Assume Jesus Was Historical? The Mythvision Carrier-McDonald Debate". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier 2020, pp. 31–32.
- Carrier (16 December 2017). "On the Historicity of Jesus: The Daniel Gullotta Review".
- slide 14 of PDF Slide show provided by Carrier
- Carrier 2020, pp. 17–18. "The earliest documents we have from Christians are the authentic letters of Paul (only seven; the rest are now known to be later forgeries), and perhaps a few other letters in the New Testament, like 1 Peter, James, Jude, and Hebrews, and possibly the first letter from Clement of Rome."
- Carrier (9 December 2017). "The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist". Richard Carrier Blogs. "[Zechariah 6] was written about Jesus ben Jehozadak (literally, “Jesus, Son of God the Righteous”), the first High Priest of the second temple. It’s his coronation. Philo says the Logos (God’s “Firstborn Son”) is the Son of God and the High Priest. Who is the Son of God and the High Priest in this passage? There is only one: Jesus. It’s therefore clear, Philo is reading this as a coronation declaration to Jesus, not of someone else (and note, there isn’t anyone else present to “behold” but him)."
- Carrier (9 December 2017). "The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (26 April 2018). "Historicity Big and Small: How Historians Try to Rescue Jesus". "[Paul says] in 1 Cor. 11:23-27 . . . that he learned of the Eucharist blessing and ritual (now called “the last supper,” but not so called by Paul)..." Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (25 October 2019). "Mark's Use of Paul's Epistles §. Paradigmatic Example: The Last Supper". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Young 2006, p. 14.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—26 August 2020—per "Antonio Piñero: Raving Historicist". Richard Carrier Blogs. 31 July 2020.
- Carrier (31 July 2020). "Antonio Piñero: Raving Historicist". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—1 August 2020—per "Antonio Piñero: Raving Historicist". Richard Carrier Blogs. 31 July 2020.
- Lataster, Raphael (August 2019). "Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation. "[T]here were Jews who expected a Celestial Messiah who would bring abut somewhat of a spiritual victory; which makes sense as the poor Jews would have no hope of defeating the mighty Roman Empire, and most could not access the Temple. Philo even, directly or indirectly, connects this figure, his Logos, with the name ‘Jesus’. For more on all this, please read Questioning the Historicity of Jesus [Lataster 2019b]."
- Lataster 2016a, p. 183.
- Levine, Lee I. (2002). Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E. ? 70 C.E.). Jewish Publication Society. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-8276-0750-7. "A variety of religious approaches and ideologies have come to light in apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books … many are apocalyptic in nature and are concerned with the end of days … Sometimes these final events are essentially historical: a Davidic king, the end of foreign rule, an ingathering of the exiles, etc. In other cases, the description is supernatural: The messiah is a supernatural being; the final events will happen suddenly and shake the earth’s foundations; but, in the end, good will triumph once and for all over evil."
- Carrier (1 July 2019). "Spencer Alexander McDaniel on the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs. "[Paul] says he met James “the Brother of the Lord,” Lord being a cultic title, not a personal name, for the figure also known as Jesus (literally Joshua, a common name, but also aptly meaning “God’s Savior”). Paul says all baptized Christians are Brothers of the Lord (OHJ, p. 108). Indeed from what we can tell in Paul, this sounds like an original name for their sect: the Brothers of the Lord (OHJ, pp. 582-92)."
- Carrier (9 November 2017). "How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus?". Richard Carrier Blogs
- Comment by Richard Carrier—23 May 2018—per "Historicity Big and Small: How Historians Try to Rescue Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs. 26 April 2018.
- "Pesher" In A Dictionary of the Bible, edited by W. R. F. Browning. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. (accessed 3 May 2021).
- "An Expert Explains Mythicism with Dr Richard Carrier @time 00:34:48". YouTube. Lloyd Evans. 1 May 2021.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—13 June 2021—per "Was Jesus-Is-Michael an Early Christian Mystery Teaching?". Richard Carrier Blogs. 2021-06-11.
- Carrier (2021-06-11). "Was Jesus-Is-Michael an Early Christian Mystery Teaching?". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Paul Davidson (2020-09-20). "Michael the Great Prince and Saviour of Israel". Is That in the Bible?
- Dykstra 2012, p. 105.
- Brodie, Thomas L. (2004). The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings. Sheffield Phoenix Press. pp. 85, 146. ISBN 978-1-905048-03-8. "[A] substantial clue is found in Luke-Acts: several of its general features reflect the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX), so much so that Luke—Acts has been described as a mimesis or literary imitation of the LXX (Pliimacher 1972), and as a continuation of the LXX (Sterling 1992: 352-63). [...] It emerges that all three sources—Proto-Luke, the Old Testament (especially the Elijah—Elisha narrative), and the epistles—have been used in Mark’s composition."
- Carrier (16 December 2017). "On the Historicity of Jesus: The Daniel Gullotta Review". Richard Carrier Blogs. "Gullotta deceives his readers again by arguing it’s obvious Mark relies on the Jewish Scriptures more [than Homer]—a fact that I myself argue in OHJ, and vastly more extensively than my scant few references to the role of Homer. Gullotta gives the impression he is schooling me on the point. When in fact, it’s 90% of my argument!"
- MacDonald 2012, p. 543. "[There is a] profound influence of Jewish Scriptures, especially Deuteronomy, on the Logoi of Jesus [ca. 60-70] . . . [and the Logoi has a] pervasive influence on all three of the Synoptics [Mark ca. 75-80] . . . Paul's authentic epistles predate the composition of the Logoi of Jesus..."
- Price 2018, Ch. 1. "Much of the story called the Gospel of Mark follows the story of Elijah and Elisha from 1 and 2 Kings. In fact, I would call the story of Elijah and Elisha in 1 and 2 Kings the primary template for the Gospel called Mark."
- Brodie, Thomas L. (2012). "epilogue: Bart D. Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'". Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. Sheffield Phoenix Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-907534-58-4.
- Doherty 1997, §. Piece No. 8: The Gospels Not History.
- Boyarin, Daniel (2012). The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. New Press/ORIM. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-59558-711-4. "[In the Gospel of Mark] we see its background in the Jewish mode of biblical interpretation, midrash. Once again, to remind readers, midrash is a way of multiply contextualizing verses with other verses and passages in the [Hebrew] Bible, in order to determine their meaning."
- Comment by Richard Carrier—27 October 2019—per "Mark’s Use of Paul’s Epistles”. Richard Carrier Blogs. 25 October 2019. "To see how Mark riffed on the OT, what his purpose was and his techniques, see Randel Helms’ short introduction and Crossan’s Power of Parable, which I had already cited here. For more detailed scholarship, see MacDonald’s Two Shipwrecked Gospels and Brodie’s Birthing of the New Testament."
- Helms 1988.
- Crossan 2012.
- MacDonald 2012.
- Brodie 2004.
- Carrier 2014, Ch. 10.
- Price, Robert M. (2018). "Foreword" ap. R. G. Price 2018, p. ix. "And far from Paul quoting teachings of a historical Jesus, [R.G.] Price sees the transmission going in the opposite direction . . . Mark lifted Pauline texts from the epistles and credited them to Jesus . . . and made the statements into replies by Jesus [in order] to set-up questions of the disciples [to Jesus]."
- Dykstra 2012.
- Rutherford 2015.
- Marcus 2000.
- Svartvik 2006, p. 177, n. 20. "[Some] scholars have suggested that Mark may be described as a Pauline Gospel. [^20] In favour of this understanding are the facts (1) that both Paul and Mark emphasize the theological importance of Christ on the cross, rather than on the teachings of Jesus, (2) that both repudiate the actual followers of Jesus [i.e. the disciples], and (3) that the Gentiles play an important role both in the letters written by the ἐθνῶν ἀπόστολος [apostle to the Gentiles] (Rom. 11.13) and in the Markan narrative. . . . What Paul states about the Gospel in Rom. 1.16, Mark depicts in his narrative about the Nazarene. Mark is perhaps best described as a narrative presentation of, and a parallel to, the Pauline Gospel."
"[note:20] See, e.g., D.C. Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), pp. 132ff. and especially p. 190 (‘Mark’s law-free attitude...clearly places him in the camp of the Pauline churches’.); J. Marcus, ‘Mark – Interpreter of Paul’, NTS 46 (2000), pp. 473–87. For further references, see Marcus, p. 474 n. 3."Cf. Marcus 2000, p. 474 n.3. and Lataster 2019b, p. 255.
- Bird, Michael F.; Willitts, Joel (2011). Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts, and Convergences. T & T Clark. ISBN 9780567661074.
- Smith, David Oliver (2011). Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul: The Influence of the Epistles on the Synoptic Gospels. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4982-6993-3.
- Oda Wischmeyer, David C. Sim, and Ian J. Elmer eds. Paul and Mark: Comparative Essays. Part I Two Authors at the Beginnings of Christianity. BZNW 198. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014. ; Eve-Marie Becker, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Mogens Müller eds. Mark and Paul: Comparative Essays. Part II For and Against Pauline Influence on Mark. BZNW 199. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014.
- Nelligan, Thomas P. (2015). The Quest for Mark's Sources: An Exploration of the Case for Mark's Use of First Corinthians. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781625647160.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 257. "[Bartosz Adamczewski] is sceptical over claims made about oral traditions, and sees Mark’s Jesus as deriving from Paul’s writings, Paul’s life, the Septuagint, Josephus’ writings, and various Pagan (and fictional) texts, to the extent that “Mark should therefore be regarded as a strictly theological-ethopoeic work, rather than a biographic one” [Adamczewski 2014, §. Back cover]."
- Lataster 2019b, p. 257. "Clearly, if Mark merely and primarily allegorised Paul’s writings, the traditional theories about the Historical Jesus — which borrow heavily from the Gospels rather than Paul’s letters — are in quite a bit of trouble. . . . Paul also allegorises the Old Testament, which is basically fictional, it seems that Mark’s account of Jesus, which forms the basis for later accounts of Jesus, is constructed from allegories of allegories of fictions."
- Carrier (25 October 2019). "Mark's Use of Paul's Epistles". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Dykstra 2012, pp. 37–38.
- Arnal, William E. (2014 ). The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism and the Construction of Contemporary Identity. Routledge. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-1-317-32440-9. "The Gospel of Mark . . . is a narrative that includes a cast of characters comprising, inter alia, God, a son of God, angels, the devil, demons, holy spirits, evil spirits, and what seem to be the ghosts of Moses and Elijah. It is a story that features miraculous healings and exorcisms, as well as walking on water, feeding thousands of people with a handful of loaves and fishes (twice!), face-to-face conversations between people who lived centuries apart, spooky prognostications, trees withering at Jesus’ simple command, a sun darkening in the middle of the day, and a temple curtain miraculously tearing itself in half. [...] Just as the myths and legends about Herakles are simply not about a historical person, so also the gospels are not about the historical Jesus."
- Godfrey, Neil (26 November 2018). "A Response to Dr Sarah, Geeky Humanist, on the Jesus Question". Vridar.
- Godfrey, Neil (8 July 2019). "The Mystery of the "Amazing" Jesus in the Gospel of Mark". Vridar. "Mark’s Jesus is not at all “human” in any way, which is to say he is the opposite of the “most human” figure that some critics declare is found in that earliest gospel."
- Godfrey, Neil (4 May 2019). "Once More We Rub Our Eyes: The Gospel of Mark's Jesus is No Human Character?". Vridar. "The Gospel of Mark . . . made very little sense as a genuine history or biography. The people simply did not act like real people. [...] Here are [William Benjamin] Smith’s justifications for his assertion (the subheadings are mine): [...] The Unknown Background of Jesus [...] No More Emotion than Attributed to God [...] there are other reasons for interpreting Mark’s Jesus as a cipher, a type, a literary figure somehow beyond the genuinely human sphere."
- Godfrey, Neil (17 November 2010). "The acts and words (and person?) of Jesus as Parables in the Gospel of Mark". Vridar.
- Carrier (22 December 2019). "Tim O'Neill & the Biblical History Skeptics on Mythicism". Richard Carrier Blogs. "Jesus in Mark never behaves like a human: even when he isn’t doing works of wonder, he is acting very strangely compared to any real person; moreover, he is a supernatural being from the very start, parting the very heavens, defeating the Devil, and he continues as such in every subsequent chapter. If you count up incredible events, and divide by number of words, there actually is no greater miraculism in any other Gospel. The rate of the amazing per thousand words is the same, or as near enough as makes no statistically significant difference."
- Price, Robert M. (2018). "Foreword" ap. R. G. Price 2018, p. viii. "The note of impending divine judgment on the Jewish people for rejecting Jesus, the point of so many of the literary references, is no side issue, according to [R.G.] Price. On reflection, mustn’t the prominence of the theme at least suggest that it is actually the main reason for the writing of Mark?"
- Rutherford 2015, §. 3.3 A Polemic against the Judean Jews.
- Rutherford 2015, §. 4. Conclusion.
- Sandmel, Samuel (1972). Two Living Traditions: Essays on Religion and the Bible. Wayne State University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-8143-1460-9.
- Tolbert, Mary Ann (1996). Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective. Fortress Press. p. 195, n. 31. ISBN 978-1-4514-1440-0. "The disciples’ change of state from initial faith to fear and failure . . . has caused considerable confusion in Markan scholarship. Some scholars, emphasizing the deeply negative depiction of the disciples in the later chapters, have argued that for Mark the disciples are the opponents of Jesus or the object of the author’s strongest polemic (see, e.g., Weeden, Mark—Traditions in Conflict, 26–51; and W. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 97–99, 125–29)."
- "Mythicism, The Celestial Christ | Who Was Paul's Jesus? Dr. Richard Carrier & Dr. Robert M. Price @time 01:18:37". 10 October 2019. YouTube. MythVision Podcast.
- Green 2008, p. 239. "[Per] “heresies” (αἱρέσεις, haireseis), a noun that originally had to do with a choice made (1 Macc. 8:30) or an inclination. From there it could mean a group, school, or sect differentiated from others . . . By extension, it could speak of a faction . . . or the distinct doctrine of a factional group (Philo, Planting 34 §151)."
- Detering 2003 [1995 in de.] tr. Darrell Doughty.
- Detering 1996.
- Price 2012.
- Wells 2015, §. A Revised Basis to Evaluate Paul.
- Godfrey, Neil (13 July 2014). "Mark, Canonizer of Paul". Vridar. "[R]elying primarily upon Michael Goulder’s argument in St. Paul vs. St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions Dykstra presents a scenario of a sharp divide between two different types of gospels [in the sense of the message]."
- Comment by David Oliver Smith—14 October 2019—per Godfrey, Neil (13 October 2019). "Review part 6: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus / Lataster (The Problems of Paul - 1)". Vridar. "I think Paul broke with the Jerusalem apostles over the question of whether Christ had been crucified (in the celestial realm). . . . The JA [Jerusalem apostles] believed that Daniel’s “one like a son of man” would be sent by God to establish the kingdom of God governed by Mosaic law (a Jewish kingdom). Paul interpreted Isaiah to say that a crucified messiah would be sent to redeem all mankind. But the redeemed had to have faith in the crucifixion and resurrection." ; Cf. Smith, David Oliver (2018). “Another Jesus, the Christology of Paul’s Opponents”. Journal of Higher Criticism Vol 13, No 2, pp 45–64.
- Madison, David (13 September 2019). "The Gospels Writers Didn’t Care What Jesus Would Do". Debunking Christianity.
- Dykstra 2012, p. 23.
- Price 2018, p. 61.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—27 October 2019—per "Mark's Use of Paul's Epistles". Richard Carrier Blogs. 25 October 2019.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—28 October 2019—per "Mark's Use of Paul's Epistles". Richard Carrier Blogs. 25 October 2019.
- Godfrey, Neil (2 October 2011). "That Mysterious Young Man in the Gospel of Mark: Fleeing Naked and Sitting in the Tomb". Vridar.
- The empty tomb : Jesus beyond the grave. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. 2005. ISBN 978-1591022862.
- Boobyer 1952–1953, p. 336. "Τοῦτο πρῶτον πίε (or ποίει) ταχὺ ποίει . . . Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν"
- Boobyer 1952–1953, p. 336.
- Sankamo 2012, p. 34. "According to Isaiah, the Servant of the Lord . . . and some human emissaries . . . would be active in proclaiming the word of God to the Gentiles..."
- Godfrey, Neil (29 July 2013). "The Gospel of Mark As a Fulfilment of Isaiah's New Exodus". Vridar. "The Gospel opens in Galilee, but Jesus is not confined to Galilee. He sometimes goes to the Decapolis and to Tyre. . . . When in Tyre, Jesus says that he has only been sent to Israel, not the gentiles. That’s an odd thing to say if he was only days earlier casting a Legion of demons out of a gentile and commanding him to spread the gospel to his own people. Rikki Watts finds an answer in Isaiah: Mark is following the theme of bringing in the Jews/Israelites from among the nations/gentiles..." ; Cf. Watts, Rikki E. (1997). Isaiah's New Exodus in Mark. Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 9780801022517.
- Sawyer 1996, §. Isaiah and Christian Origins.
- Price 2018, pp. 3–5.
- Larsen, Kevin W. (2004). "The Structure of Mark’s Gospel: Current Proposals". Currents in Biblical Research 3: 140-160 (146). "One principle that scholars have traditionally used to outline Mark is topography. Mark typically introduces pericopae with the topographical movement of Jesus. Taylor (1966) has five sections marked off with a geographical designation, excluding the Introduction (1.1-13) and the Passion/ Resurrection (14.1—16.8). •1.14-3.6 Galilean ministry •3.7-6.13 — Height of Galilean ministry •6.14-8.26 Ministry beyond Galilee •8.27-10.52 Journey to Jerusalem •11.1-13.37 Ministry in Jerusalem"
- Cappelletti 2007, p. 80. "Strabo is aware that Galilee had a mixed population . . . The sources seem to ignore the Hellenistic history of Galilee, its relations first with the Seleucid kingdom and then with the Hasmoneans."
- Chancey 2005, pp. 221–222. "[Herod Antipas’s] rebuilding of Sepphoris and establishment of Tiberias allowed the [Roman] client king to demonstrate his enthusiasm for the mingling of Greek, Roman, and local cultures that was taking place throughout the Levant. . . . [exposure to pagan cities and their Greek and local deities and demigods] stood only a very few miles away, such as [at] Scythopolis and Hippos, and many Galileans would have known something of the pagan rituals that took place there."
- Dykstra 2012, p. 75.
- Ferguson, Matthew Wade (2017). "Why Scholars Doubt the Traditional Authors of the Gospels". Internet Infidels. "[M]any scholars argue that the anonymous author of Mark was more likely an unknown Gentile living in the Jewish Diaspora outside of Palestine. This is strengthened by the fact that Mark uses Greek translations to quote from the Old Testament. Likewise, the author is unaware of many features of Palestinian geography."
- Godfrey, Neil (6 August 2010). "Mark: failed geography, but great bible student". Vridar. ; Cf. Notley 2009.
- McCown, C. C. (March 1941). "Gospel Geography: Fiction, Fact, and Truth". Journal of Biblical Literature 60 (1): 3. doi:10.2307/3262559.
- Carrier (22 December 2019). "Tim O'Neill & the Biblical History Skeptics on Mythicism". Richard Carrier Blogs. "[Tim] O’Neill also asks why Jesus is in Galilee. He evidently doesn’t know scripture required him to be. Or that such a location was remarkably convenient for Mark’s messaging. As I show in my article on "Mark's Use of Paul's Epistles", the very passage of Isaiah, Isaiah 9, that predicts the messiah will come out of Galilee calls it “Galilee of the Gentiles,” perfectly suiting Mark’s repeated messaging that the Gentiles will be saved along with the Jews (see Chapter 10.4 in OHJ). Thus Galilee allows Mark to have Jesus interact as often with Gentiles as with Jews and still be solidly in the Holy Land and in agreement with scripture. It also gives him a body of water in the middle of it all to emulate the miracles of Moses in. Notably, Paul never shows any knowledge that Jesus ever had any connection with Galilee. That idea first appears with Mark. And the other Gospel authors entirely get it from him. There is no other source for it. So it’s actually one of the least credible facts claimed about Jesus."
- Davidson 2016, §. Conclusion. "Whether the toponym “Sea of Galilee” was an invention of Mark’s or of the early Christian community he belonged to (so Notley), it is clearly a theological innovation that associates Jesus with an Isaianic “prophecy” . . . It was also important for Mark that his story take place on and around a perilous sea — and not merely a placid lake — in order to fully illustrate his views of Jesus." ; Cf. Notley 2009.
- Malbon 2018, p. 127. "In Mark’s Gospel, the western side of the sea is clearly indicated as “Jewish,” the eastern side as Gentile."
- Tarazi 1999, p. 141. "The first part of Mark’s gospel . . . follow the historical sequence of events in Paul’s life that we learn about from Galatians. The first cycle begins with Jesus “passing along by the Sea of Galilee,” which in Mark symbolizes the Roman (Mediterranean) sea, the domain of the Gentiles."
- Dykstra 2012, p. 232. "[The Markan author's use of] geographical references reflect the logic of symbolism, not of geographical reality."
- Rutherford 2015, §. Geography in Mark.
- Davidson 2016. "The possibility that Mark’s use of the sea is symbolic rather than historical is strengthened by the fact that his itinerary of sea crossings don’t always make geographical sense as described."
- Wilkinson, Jennifer (2012) Mark and his Gentile Audience: A Traditio-Historical and Socio-Cultural Investigation of Mk 4.35-9.29 and its Interface with Gentile Polytheism in the Roman Near East. Doctoral thesis, Durham University. pp. 51–52
- Iverson, Kelly (2007). Gentiles in the Gospel of Mark: 'Even the Dogs Under the Table Eat the Children's Crumbs'. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-567-35972-8. "The Gentile mission in Mark’s Gospel is inaugurated when Jesus travels into foreign territory and heals the Gerasene demoniac (5.1-20). The episode is the first instance to depict Jesus outside the geopolitical space of the Jewish homeland, after he receives Gentiles from the surrounding regions in Galilee (3.7-12)."
- "Isaiah 9:1 (LXX 8:23)". Blue Letter Bible.
- Lust 1999, pp. 152–153, 155. "[Per the MT Hebrew text for Isaiah 8:23b] The RSV and NRSV render the relevant part of the verse as follows: “. . . he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” It is generally assumed that it offers information about the historical setting of the oracle, referring to the Assyrian annexation of the northern part of Israel around 732. This took place under Tiglath-pileser during the Syro-Ephraimite War. . . . After the Syro-Ephraimite War, Israel was divided into three parts: the coast lands, Galilee and the land beyond the Jordan, the three parts of Israel addressed in 8:23b. [...] [In the LXX Greek text] The expression τὰ μέρη τῆς Ιουδαίας at the end of the verse is a real “plus” without any support in the Hebrew [text]. It seems to apply the oracle, originally addressed to the northern kingdom of Israel, to the southern kingdom of Judah. This addition transports us into the historical atmosphere of Palestine in Hellenistic times. The use of μέρος, in the technical signification of ‘district’ is particularly known from the papyri."
- "Mark 3:8 (MGNT)". Blue Letter Bible.
- "Naturalis Historia/Liber V §. XV". Wikisource Latin. "Perea is covered with rugged mountains, and is separated from the other parts of Judaea by the river Jordan." [Pliny the Elder (c. 75 CE). Natural History 5.15.]
- "16. Beschreibung der Landschaften Galiläas bei Josephus" (in de). University of Siegen. "Perea is . . . uninhabited in large parts, being to rugged and inhospitable for the growth of the superior fruits. However in its friendlier parts all the fruits grow. [Flavius Josephus (c. 75 CE). Geschichte des Jüdischen Krieges III 3.3 §44f. Übersetzt Dr. Heinrich Clementz. Köln 1900.]"
- Hall, Thomas Cuming (1901). The Messages of Jesus According to the Synoptista: The Discourses of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. C. Scribner's sons. p. 141. "The Perean ministry is presented only in very meagre form by Mark's narrative. . . . It is contained in Mark 10:1 to 11:2."
- Svartvik 2014, p. 178. "I have argued elsewhere that the east-west axis is far more central to the [Markan] narrative than the north-south axis. The hypothesis that Galilee might be terra Christiana should not overshadow what is more obvious, namely, the importance of the western and eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. In a few words, the Sea of Galilee is even more important than the soil of Galilee."
- Broadhead, Edwin K. (1999). Naming Jesus: Titular Christology in the Gospel of Mark. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-567-46408-8. "The Nazarene title or imagery appears only five times in the Gospel of Mark. In Mk 1.9 the term is used to describe Jesus’ place of origin. In 1.24 Jesus is addressed as the Nazarene by an unclean spirit. Bartimaeus hears in 10.47 that Jesus the Nazarene is passing by. The servant of the high priest accuses Peter of association with the Nazarene (14.67). The messenger at the tomb refers to Jesus as the Nazarene (16.6)."
- Harfield, Dick. "The mystery of the Nazarenes". p. 3. Academia.edu. "Mark’s only mention of Nazareth, at verse 1:9, could be a later redaction to imply that when Mark calls Jesus a Nazarene, this is actually a reference to Nazareth. If the author of Mark did believe that Jesus was from Nazareth, there is nothing in the Gospel that can be relied on as showing this to be the case."
- Price 2003, p. 53. "[T]he difference between “Nazarene” and “Nazorean” does give us reason to suspect that the familiar epithet does not after all denote Jesus’ hailing from a village called Nazareth. “The Nazarene” would imply that, but not “the Nazorean.” That seems to be a sect name, equivalent to “the Essene” or “the Hasid.”"
- Luomanen 2008, p. 282. "Epiphanius discusses the correct spelling of the term Nazarenes (Nazòraioi) in Pan. 29.5.6–29.6.1, emphasizing that the name does not refer to nazirites . . . but is derived from the name of Jesus' hometown."
- Salm, René (30 September 2012). "Mythicists, docetists, Nazoreans". Mythicist Papers.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—6 May 2017—per "The Guardian on Jesus: Dear oh dear...". 19 April 2017. Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Salm 2008.
- Salm 2014.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 428f. [NOW FORMATTED].
- Carrier 2014, pp. 428–429.
- Evans 1993, p. 106, n. 47. "There are several important parallels between the temple-related experiences of Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus son of Ananias."
- Weeden 2003.
- Evans 1998, p. 477, n. 85. "There is no indication that the story of one Jesus influenced the telling of the story of the other Jesus. For further discussion of the parallels and their implications, see C. A. Evans, “Jesus and the ‘Cave of Robbers’: Toward a Jewish Context for the Temple Action,” BBR 3 (1993) 93–110."
- Carrier (28 September 2020). "Jesus from Outer Space! The Price Review". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Miller 2017, pp. 263–264. "[Weeden (2003)] has presented an impressive list of parallels between Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem and Jesus-Ananias in Jerusalem in a Greco-Roman environment in which the penchant for mimetic writing was a central feature of literary production."
- Miller 2017, pp. 263–264. "Weeden does not view the oracle of Jesus-Ananias as a real warning in the early 60s . . . but as an invention of Josephus [...] Weeden concludes that the New Testament texts are all directly dependent on the text of Josephus. . . . [Weeden] makes a case for Mark's access to book 6 of Judean War through the channels of Agrippa II and the Jewish community [in Caesarea Philippi] . . . This would mean that the Gospel of Mark and the redaction of Q could not have been written before the early 80s."
- Doudna 2019, pp. 132, 136. [NOW BOLDED and FORMATTED].
- Comment by Gregory Doudna—9 September 2020—per Godfrey, Neil (27 August 2020). "continuing ... Biblical Narratives, Archaeology, Historicity – Essays in Honour of Thomas L. Thompson". Vridar.
- Comment by Brad McAdon—13 December 2020—per Godfrey, Neil. "Another Pointer Towards a Late Date for the Gospel of Mark?". Vridar. 10 December 2020.
- McAdon, Brad (2017). “Josephus and Mark”. Alpha: Studies in Early Christianity. 1: 92–93. “The author of our canonical Mark may have been influenced by several texts . . . Josephus’s Antiquities Book 18, and the Septuagint. If so, there will be significant implications concerning the historicity of Mark’s John the Baptist narratives, the dating of canonical Mark, and Mark’s compositional practices.”
- Carrier (27 April 2017). "Why Do We Still Believe in Q?". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 57.
- Meggitt 2019, p. 457.
- Casey 2014.
- Lataster 2014a, p. 15. "[While] Casey addresses many mythicist claims . . . he barely touches upon Earl Doherty’s promising hypothesis of Paul’s Christ being entirely celestial (with the later Gospels elaborating). He poses some challenges to Doherty’s thesis, but this falls short of a comprehensive comparative analysis of the plausibilities of his and Doherty’s theories (including a survey of all the relevant background knowledge), which is effectively what Richard Carrier has since successfully completed."
- Meggitt 2019, p. 447.
- Meggitt 2019, p. 458.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 137.
- Schröter 2012, pp. 51–52.
- Carrier (18 October 2020). "Formalized Gullibility as a Modern Christian Methodology". Richard Carrier Blogs. "In my own peer reviewed book on historical methodology, Proving History, I addressed . . . the so-called Criterion of Vividness of Narration (pp. 182-83), noting “vivid detail,” such as when a story is written “as if the author were ‘there’ and viscerally responding to what she experienced,” is “also an established trend in fictionalization and embellishment.” In fact, “Good storytellers often come up with these details, especially when they are lacking, and thus such elements are as likely as any to accumulate in the retelling over time.” Ancient schools even specifically taught students to do this."
- Carrier 2012, p. 11.
- Gullotta, Daniel N. (2019). "Curriculum Vitae". danielngullotta.com.
- Gullotta 2017, p. 345, n. 127.
- Carrier 2012.
- "Lataster v. McGrath: Jesus Must Be Real...Because, Reasons • Richard Carrier". 25 May 2020.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 151.
- Gager, John G. (1974). "The Gospels and Jesus: Some Doubts about Method". The Journal of Religion 54 (3): 244–272 (244). doi:10.1086/486389. "[R]igorous historical method has been subordinated to religious and theological concerns. With dogged regularity, the desire to reach authentic Jesus material has led questers to sacrifice methodological rigor or to minimize the difficulties posed by the sources."
- Lataster 2019b, pp. 135–136.
- Strand, Narve (5 May 2019). [1.1 ver]. “Why Jesus Most Probably Never Existed: Ehrman’s Double Standards”. Academia.edu. "Paul’s Jesus is arguably a composite: Part hallucinated, part rambling literary construct from the Jewish Scriptures . . . We don’t even have to hold this as a positive thesis, only to point out that Paul believed in this [Jesus] figure and that (a) nothing follows from this about his existence and besides (b) this Jesus ever having existed is prima facie unlikely too. A consistent ahistorical stance here is like atheism: Just like with the theist, the only thing we really need to show is that the historicist doesn’t have real evidence that would make his purely human Jesus existing more probable than not."
- Cain, Benjamin (19 August 2020). "Clarifying and Debating the Christ Myth Theory". Medium. "I’m not saying anyone can prove Jesus didn’t exist. I’m saying the available evidence is too ambiguous or otherwise problematic to establish any particular model of an historical Jesus beyond reasonable doubt. If all such models not just can but must be doubted, there’s no way of knowing, from our standpoint now with the evidence we have, whether anything like the familiar Jesus actually lived. Given that extreme uncertainty, a mythicist scenario becomes at least as plausible and as likely as any of the historicist ones."
- Lataster 2019b, p. 131.
- Meggitt 2019, pp. 459–460).
- Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 24-25.
- Fischer, Roland (1994) "On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind" Anthropology of Consciousness. Dec 1994, Vol. 5, No. 4: 16
- Carrier (31 July 2020). "Antonio Piñero: Raving Historicist". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (6 July 2017). "What Is Bayes' Theorem & How Do You Use It?". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—4 July 2020—per "Open Thread On the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs. 29 June 2020. "[A]ll historians who are arguing validly, even though they can almost never explain what it is about their arguing that makes it valid, are in fact already arguing with Bayes’ Theorem. In other words, we can fully model their argument with Bayes’ Theorem and thus explain why what they are arguing is valid—even though they are not consciously aware of this fact about their reasoning. See my article "Bayesian Statistics vs. Bayesian Epistemology" (and philosophy of history expert Aviezer Tucker’s demonstration in Our Knowledge of the Past and Efraim Wallach’s demonstration with respect to the evolution of the consensus on Old Testament historicity)."
- Richard Carrier (July 17, 2013) Update on Historicity of Jesus
- Carrier (9 December 2017). "The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (25 May 2020). "Lataster v. McGrath: Jesus Must Be Real...Because, Reasons". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (8 May 2014). "On Evaluating Arguments from Consensus". Richard Carrier Blogs. "I have often been asked how we should evaluate arguments from consensus. That’s where someone says “the consensus of experts is that P, therefore we should agree P is true.” On the one hand, this looks like an Argument from Authority, a recognized fallacy. On the other hand, we commonly think it should add weight to a conclusion that the relevant experts endorse it. Science itself is based on this assumption."
- Price, R. G. (2 November 2018). "Academic consensus is important, but it’s not always right". rationalrevolution.net.
- Price, R. G. (1 November 2018). "On the Origin of Jesus by Means of Mythical Propagation". rationalrevolution.net.
- Cain, Benjamin (6 July 2020). "Clarifying and Debating the Christ Myth Theory: Round Two". Medium.
- Ehrman (13 January 2017). "Can Biblical Scholars Be Historians?". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
- Davies, Philip (August 2012). "Did Jesus Exist?". The Bible and Interpretation.
- Walsh 1998, p. 37. "My present opinion is that, in the case of Jesus, we simply do not know for certain anything about his biography, not even that he existed."
- Carrier (25 April 2016). “Bart Ehrman Just Can’t Do Truth or Logic”. Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Goren, Ben (4 April 2012). "Ehrman’s Folly". Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. trumpetpower.com. "Ehrman believes in a Jesus who was a Jewish preacher and teacher crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate. Towards the end of his book, Mr. Ehrman indicates that he believes that his Jesus was born into poverty and was either a carpenter or a carpenter’s son. He began his public ministry while trapped in a poverty-stricken lower-class life. He was an “The end is nigh! Repent!” type of preacher. He was baptized by John the Baptist. He “raised the ire of Pharisees,” causing a ruckus in the Temple but not at the scale depicted by the Gospels. Pilate personally ordered his crucifixion after a brief trial at the beginning of Pesach, the holiest holiday of them all. Roman soliders flogged Mr. Ehrman's Jesus on his way to the Cross, and he was dead within six hours."
- David Chumney ap.Tarico, Valerie (3 May 2017). "Fabricating Jesus — An Interview with Former Minister David Chumney" (in en). AwayPoint. "If someone were to ask me, “Is there credible historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed?” I would say, “Yes, but precious little.” If someone were to ask me, “Is some of what the gospels preserve about Jesus a product of pious imagination and religious devotion?” I would say, “Yes, nearly all of it.” In other words, I am convinced that Jesus of Nazareth really did exist, but I am equally convinced that the Gospels comprise, as Randel Helms has said, “largely fictional accounts concerning an historical figure.”" Cf. Chumney, David (4 April 2017). Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-5441-2558-9.
- Parvus, Roger (7 March 2019). "Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 4 / Conclusion - Historical Jesus?". Vridar. "[W]hat a historical Jesus could have been like. He was not a teacher or even a leader of any kind. If he went up to Jerusalem with some fellow believers in an imminent Kingdom of God—perhaps a group of John the Baptist’s followers—he was not the leader of the group. Once in Jerusalem he may have done or said something that got him pulled out from the others and crucified. That would have been the end of the story. Except that another member of the group had a vision of him resurrected, and interpreted it as meaning that the Kingdom of God was closer than ever. Jesus thereby began to take on an importance all out of proportion with his real status as a nobody. The accretions began. And the excuses for why no one had taken much notice of him before."
- Godfrey, Neil (23 August 2018). "Just what do you mean... HISTORICAL JESUS?". Vridar.
- Myers, P. Z. (20 August 2018). "History is hard". FreeThoughtBlogs. Pharyngula.
- Lataster 2019b, pp. 2–3.
- Dunn 2003, p. 126.
- Davies, Philip R. (2012). "Did Jesus Exist?". The Bible and Interpretation.
- Is This Not the Carpenter?: The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus, Ed. By Thomas L. Thompson and Thomas S. Verenna, 2012
- Litwa, M. David (2019). How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths. Yale University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-300-24263-8.
- Schweitzer,Albert(1906) Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, literally "History of Life-of-Jesus Research", 1st edition, as translated by W. Montgomery (1910)
- Carrier, Richard (10 January 2009). "Amherst Conference". richardcarrier.blogspot.
- Schweitzer, Albert (1913 ). Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (in German) (2nd, Revised and Expanded ed.). translated by John Bowden et al. (2001). The Quest of the Historical Jesus. p. 402. "Modern Christianity must always reckon with the possibility of having to abandon the historical figure of Jesus. . . . he should never be considered its foundation."
- Bultmann, Rudolf (1926). Jesus. Die Unsterblichen: Die geistigen Heroen der Menschheit in ihrem Leben und Wirken, Vol. 1. (in German). Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek. p. 10. "[W]ir vom Leben und von der Persönlichkeit Jesu so gut wie nichts mehr wissen können, da die christlichen Quellen sich dafür nicht interessiert haben, außerdem sehr fragmentarisch und von der Legende überwuchert sind, und da andere Quellen über Jesus nicht existieren."
- Russell, Bertrand (1927). Why I Am Not a Christian (Published as a pamphlet, 1st ed.). Rationalist Press Association Limited: Watts & Co.. "Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him..."
- Smith, A. D. Howell (1943). In Search of the Real Bible. Thinker's Library, No. 98. London: Watts. p. 87. "The writing of biographies of Jesus is of doubtful critical value. Legend has coloured the historic data too much, and outside corroborative testimony is too slender..."
- Robertson, Archibald (1946). Jesus: Myth or History?. Thinker's Library, No. 110. London: Watts. p. 107. "We know next to nothing about this Jesus. He is not the founder of anything that we can recognize as Christianity. He is a mere postulate of historical criticism—a dead leader of a lost cause, to whom sayings could be credited and round whom a legend could be written."
- McCabe, Joseph (1948). "Jesus". A Rationalist Encyclopædia: A Book of Reference on Religion, Philosophy, Ethics and Science. Watts. "Many (including the present writer) are content to infer broadly, from the scanty reliable evidence and the religious developments of the first century, that probably some Jew named Jesus adopted the Persian belief [see Avesta] in the end of the world and, thinking that it was near, left his Essenian monastery [see Essenes] to warn his fellows, and was put to death. They feel that the question of historicity has little importance [...] the very scanty biographical details even as given in the Gospels [see Mark] do not justify the claim of a 'unique personality'..."
- Price 2000, pp. 17, 85. "There may have been a Jesus on earth in the past, but the state of the evidence is so ambiguous that we can never be sure what this figure was like or, indeed, whether there was such a person. [...] I am not trying to say that there was a single origin of the Christian savior Jesus Christ, and that origin is pure myth; rather, I am saying that there may indeed have been such a myth, and that if so, it eventually flowed together with other Jesus images, some one of which may actually have been based on a historical Jesus the Nazorean."
- Bromiley 1982.
- Ehrman 2012, pp. 19, 348, n. 10.
- Goguel, Maurice (April 1926). "Recent French Discussion of the Historical Existence of Jesus Christ". Harvard Theological Review 19 (02): 115–142. doi:10.1017/S001781600000763X. "Negative as these [radical minimalist] conclusions appear, they must be strictly distinguished from the theories of the mythologists. According to the critics whom we may term [radical] minimalists, Jesus did live, but his biography is almost totally unknown to us. The mythologists, on the other hand, declare that he never existed, and that his history, or more exactly the legend about him, is due to the working of various tendencies and events, such as the prophetic interpretation of Old Testament texts, visions, ecstasy, or the projection of the conditions under which the first group of Christians lived —into the story of their reputed founder."
- Carrier 2014, p. 34. [NOW FORMATTED].
- Comment by R. G. Price—29 October 2019—per Godfrey, Neil (27 October 2019). "Review part 10: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus / Lataster (Conclusion)". Vridar
- Comment by Richard Carrier—5 August 2020—per "Antonio Piñero: Raving Historicist". Richard Carrier Blogs. 31 July 2020.
- Fitzgerald, David (2017). "Myths of Mythicism §. Bias Cut". Jesus: Mything in Action. 1. CreateSpace. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-5428-5888-5.
- Carrier (18 June 2014). "List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier (24 August 2020). "Piñero Returns". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 33–34.
- Carrier (23 October 2013). "Fincke Is Right: Arguing Jesus Didn't Exist Should Not Be a Strategy". Richard Carrier Blogs,
- Lataster 2019b, pp. 14, 15, 20.
- Lataster 2019b, p. xiii.
- Godfrey, Neil (8 February 2020). "Interview with Thomas L. Thompson #1". Vridar.
- Dykstra 2015, p. 2. [PARAGRAPHS NOW reordered for presentation].
- Shai Afsai, "Thomas Paine's Masonic Essay and the Question of His Membership in the Fraternity". Philalethes 63:4 (Fall 2010), 140–141.
- Carrier 2014, p. 350: "But Christ--if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere--is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing."
- Wells, G. A. "Stages of New Testament Criticism," Journal of the History of Ideas, volume 30, issue 2, 1969.
- Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
- Worsley 1957, pp. 153-159.
- Lal & Fortune 2000, p. 303.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 26-30.
- Marshall 2004, pp. 27-29.
- Carrier 2014, p. 30.
- Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
- Remsburg, John (1909). The Christ.
- Walsh 1998, p. 58.
- Dodd 1938, p. 17.
- Barker 2006, p. 372.
- Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 13.
- Carrier, Richard (2003) "Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors
- While there is some debate the temperature in 1st century Judea in December this doesn't change the fact no census that would have required travel would have been done in that month as night temperatures dipped below freezing and road conditions were poor. - United Church of God Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?
- In fact, between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago there were two protracted cold periods that Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Doron Nof suggest caused ice to form on the Sea of Galilee and that was what Jesus walked on.
- John James Bond (1887) Bond's Handy-book for Verifying Dates pg 22
- "Born on December 25th" Jesus Police (Internet Archive)
- "Mary Was a Virgin" Jesus Police (Internet Archive)
- Carrier, Richard (Oct 18, 2017) The Cosmic Seed of David
- Waite, Charles B. (1881) History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred
- Tyson, Joseph B (2006) Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle University of South Carolina Press; annotated edition ISBN-13: 978-1570036507
- Irenaeus (c 180 C Against Heresies Book I, Chapter 26, Paragraph 1)
- Tucker, Bob (2009) "Was Jesus Virgin Born?" Foundation of Contemporary Theology- Internet archive
- Talbert, Charles H. (2006) “Miraculous Conceptions and Births in Mediterranean Antiquity.” Pp. 79-86 in A.J. Levine, D.C. Allison and J. D. Crossan (eds.), The Historical Jesus in Context. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press
- Mark, Kidger. "Chinese and Babylonian Observations"
- Colin Humphreys, 'The Star of Bethlehem', in Science and Christian Belief 5 (1995), 83–101.
- Brown, Raymond E. (1993), The Birth of the Messiah, Anchor Bible Reference Library, p. 188
- Price 2011, pp. 387-388.
- Carrier 2014, p. 53.
- Robertson, John (1900) Christianity and Mythology pg 125
- Carrier 2014, pp. 9-11.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 159-163.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 9-10.
- Carrier 2014, p. 159.
- Dawkins, C. Richard (2006). The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 202-206. ISBN 978-0-618-68000-9.
- Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
- Brian Dunning (March 30, 2010) Cargo Cults Skeptoid #199
- Galatians 1:11-12
- Carrier 2014, p. 515.
- St Paul the Apostle – Could it all be a fabrication?
- Comment by R. G. Price—22 August 2019—per Lataster, Raphael (August 2019). "Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 264-270, 387-509.
- Carrier, 2014 & 427 433.
- Price 2018.
- Comment by R. G. Price—16 August 2019—per Lataster, Raphael (August 2019). "Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation.
- http://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/5871/ A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum
- Theron, Daniel Johannes, ed. Evidence of tradition: selected source material for the study of the history of the early church, introduction and canon of the New Testament. Bowes & Bowes, 1958.
- Semen, Petre. "Jesus' Brothers." Analele Ştiinţifice ale Universităţii» Alexandru Ioan Cuza «din Iaşi. Teologie Ortodoxă 1 (2011): 5-15.
- Harrison, Everett F. A Short Life of Christ. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1968.
- "The epistle in which the same Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, informs him of the death of Peter, and that he had left him his successor in his chair and teaching..." Recognitions (Preface)
- Against Celsus 1.47, 2.13
- Carrier 2014, p. 349.
- http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/jesusrealquotes// Quotes on Jesus as a historical person
- Irenaeus (c. 180 CE)Demonstration (74)
- Price 2009, pp. 80-81.
- Grant,Robert M. (2006) Irenaeus of Lyons pg. 33
- Efrón, Joshua (1987) Studies on the Hasmonean Period Brill Academic Pub Page 158
- Carrier 2014, pp. 284-285.
- Lena Einhorn, PhD (Nov.17-20, 2012) Jesus and the "Egyptian Prophet" Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting
- Jewish War 6.301-302
- JW 6.301 = Mk 14.2; Mk 11-17; Both quote the same chapter of Jeremiah; JW 6.306 = Mk 14.49; JW 6.304, 306, 309 = Mk 13.17; JW 6.300, 309 = Mk 13.2; JW 6.302 = Mk 14.43; Mk 14.58; Mk 14.60; Mk 14.65; Mk 15.1; JW 6.305 = Mk 15.2-4 (this is actually three different points); JW 6.304 = Mk 15.15 JW 6.305 is inverted in Mk 15.34; JW 6.308-309 = Mk 15.34 (two points); Mk 15.37 - Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 428-430.
- Raskin, Jay (2002) "A Discovery, The Crucified, Simon, Zealots and Essenes" 9/1 Journal of Higher Criticism
- At best only three Herods formally had this title: Herod the Great (died 4 BCE), Herod Agrippa I (42-44 CE), and perhaps Herod Agrippa II (c48-c100 CE)
- Raskin, Jay (2002) "A Discovery, The Crucified, Simon, Zealots and Essenes" 9/1 Journal of Higher Criticism
- Nicholas II, Tsar of All the Russias (14 points)
- List of Lord Raglan evaluations from Beacon Library
- Horace Mitchell Miner's darkly satirical 1956 paper "Body Ritual among the Nacirema" showed how preconceptions could influence not only data collection but the conclusions of that data
- Akenson, Donald (1998). Surpassing wonder: the invention of the Bible and the Talmuds. University of Chicago Press. pp. 539–555. "...The point I shall argue below is that, the agreed evidentiary practices of the historians of Yeshua, despite their best efforts, have not been those of sound historical practice..."
- Meier, John. "Finding the Historical Jesus: An Interview With John P. Meier". St. Anthony Messenger. "...I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that people claim they are doing a quest for the historical Jesus when de facto they’re doing theology, albeit a theology that is indeed historically informed. Go all the way back to Reimarus, through Schleiermacher, all the way down the line through Bultmann, Kasemann, Bornkamm. These are basically people who are theologians, doing a more modern type of Christology [a faith-based study of Jesus Christ]..."
- Hector Avalos. The End Of Biblical Studies. Prometheus, 2007. ISBN 1591025362.
- e.g. "General Thoughts on Jesus Not Existing", "Jesus mythers & creationists: common grounds (?)"
- Carrier 2014, pp. 6-8.
- e.g. "There's More Evidence that Jesus Lived than x Person" Statements thread" at bibleforums.org
- Richard Carrier (May 10, 2014) "On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up?"
- Sawyer, Ralph D. (2005), The Essential Art of War, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-07204-6
- Diogenes Laërtius x. 7
- Carrier 2014, p. 21, citing E. P. Sanders.
- Carrier 2014, pp. 22.
- Kapyong (2011) Pontius Pilate's Personal Logs
- W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1870, Part I, Printed by order of the Trustees: London, No. XCIV, pp. 65-66. This book was republished in 2002 by Gorgias Press.
- Nigosian, Solomon Alexander (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21627-3. pg 6
- Carrier 2014, pp. 291.
- Bart Ehrman, interview with Reginald V. Finley Sr., "Who Changed The New Testament and Why", The Infidel Guy Show, 2008 repeated in Ehrman, Bart D. (March 20, 2012) Did Jesus Exist? Huffington Post and referenced by John Blake, CNN (April 7th, 2012) The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
- Nicholas Perrin (2008) Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus pg 32)
- McClymond, Michael James (2004) Familiar Stranger: an Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth pp. 23-24
- Powell, Mark Allan (1998), Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, Louisville: Westminster John Knox p. 168
- Piper, John (2006) Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, Wheaton: Crossway, pp. 14-15
- Michael R. Licona, in Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, p. 112
- Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Richard Carrier, 2002. "Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument to Ahistoricity (2002)" infidels.org.
- On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up? Richard Carrier (May 12, 2014) On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up? comment 33.1
- Oxford University Press (2006) The Catholic Comparative New Testament pg 851-967
- SIlverberg, Robert (1966) The Great Doctors Publisher:Scholastic Book Services ASIN: B000N7CWZG pg 131-144).
- Oahspe Book of Divinity 16:14
- Di Renzo, A (2000) “His master's voice: Tiro and the rise of the Roman secretarial class,” Journal of technical writing and communication, vol. 30, (2) 155-168
- Dupont, Florence. (1989) Daily Life in Ancient Rome Tr. Christopher Woodall. Oxford: Blackwell; pg 223
- Millard, Alan (2003) Literacy in the Time of Jesus - Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime? Biblical Archaeology Review 29:04, Jul/Aug 2003.
- "Would someone die for a lie?" (religions.wiki)
- Ehrman (2 March 2018). "Early Christology: How I Changed My Mind". The Bart Ehrman Blog. See also: Ehrman (2014) ap. Reasonable Doubts Podcast @time 00:15:25. "How Jesus Became God". YouTube. Bart D. Ehrman. 29 September 2017.
- Carrier (23 September 2017). "Kristi Winters on the Historical Jesus: Part 1". Richard Carrier Blogs.
- Comment by Neil Godfrey—10 April 2011—per "Does the notion of a crucified messiah need a historical easter experience?". Vridar. 5 April 2011.
- Comment by Richard Carrier—14 November 2017—per "How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus?". Richard Carrier Blogs. 9 November 2017.
- Price, R. G. (11 April 2019). "The State of Scholarly Mythicism". Debunking Christianity.
- Price 2018, pp. 329–330.
- Price 2011, p. 425.
- Dykstra 2015, p. 6.
- Carrier 2014.
- Lataster, Raphael (August 2019). "When Critics Miss the Point About Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation.
- "Bart’s Critics §. Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)".
- "Bart’s Critics 6 §. Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?”)".
- Ehrman 2012, p. 141.
- Lataster 2019b, p. 41, n. 51.
- Godfrey, Neil (24 September 2019). "Review part 3: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus / Lataster (Addressing the Case FOR)". Vridar. "Ehrman embraces the hypothesis that narrative material that is unique to the Gospel of Matthew and unique to the Gospel of Luke must be derived from other sources named M and L. And it is further assumed that these hypothetical sources were independent of each other. And that they derived from oral traditions that went back to the historical Jesus himself. The simpler explanation, that the authors of those gospels created the material themselves, is not considered. This appears to be particularly problematic given that we can often see how the evangelists responsible for those gospels reinterpreted and rewrote certain other stories that we find in the canonical and non-canonical Jewish literature available to them."