Talk:Jesus myth theory

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This Christianity related article has been awarded BRONZE status for quality. It's getting there, but could be better with improvement. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.


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Criticism of Ehrman[edit]

Can I just point out that this article, which, I assume, is supposed to take an objective view of the issue, has an entire reference section for rebuttals of Bart Ehrman's (one of the leading historical Jesus supporters) book? It's literally titled "Responses to Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?" and there are 28 works listed there. No other author, historicist or mythicist, gets this dubious distinction. For those of you who are unaware, Ehrman and Carrier aren't the best of friends. They had a long-running war of blog posts, which is included in the article. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about, when I say that the articles are propped up by Carrier. Not just that he's overrepresented as a source, but the blatant influence seen in the article. Friedman (talk) 19:42, 8 December 2021 (UTC)

Give interested parties time to study the article. I myself have not read it all yet, Jesus science can be tricky. Don't try to hurry the process.Ariel31459 (talk) 19:53, 8 December 2021 (UTC)
Sorry about that. And lol to "Jesus science." Friedman (talk) 19:54, 8 December 2021 (UTC)
I agree that this article needs a major editing/daughtering out of material.--BruceGrubb (talk) 22:46, 8 December 2021 (UTC)

Citation doesn't say what article says it does[edit]

Article says that Paul claims all of his knowledge comes from visions and revelations, not human sources.

The citation is Galatians 1:11-12.

I believe someone has gotten their timeline confused.

If you were raised fundamentalist Christian and then became an atheist later, you might think or have been taught that the gospels came before Paul's letters since that is how they are laid out in the Bible. This is wrong. Paul wrote about 20 years before even the earliest gospel.

So in Galatians 1:11, Paul says his "gospel" came from no man and it came from direct revelation. This is not the same thing as what the article claims, and I think someone confused the word "gospel" with "story of Jesus" because of the 4 gospels in the NT. But those hadn't been written yet so Paul wasn't talking about that. He literally just means the "good news" he is sharing with the Galatians came from no man but from direct revelation. He's talking about how he preached to them gentiles don't need to follow Mosaic law, particularly circumcision. He is saying that that "good news" (the literal translation of "gospel") came from no man, it came from direct revelation. The rest of his knowledge about Jesus, and whether it came from divine revelation, human beings, a swamp monster, a talking tree, or a giant meteor, is ambiguous based on this verse. It could have come from divine revelation, could have come from a crazy dude on drugs talking to him, could have came from anywhere. This verse says nothing about the rest of his knowledge.

I've tried searching his epistles and I can't find anything to support this assertion. I think someone confused the word "gospel" with "what Jesus did and said" because they thought the gospels in the New Testament were around when Paul was writing. Gospel in his time just meant "good news".

That statement needs removed, or needs better supported. -- 20:49, 8 April 2022‎ User:CecilHarvey

Paul wrote at least six letters (Pauline epistles) in the 50s of the 1st century CE proclaiming and commenting on the GOSPEL of Κυρίος (Lord) Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) Χριστός (Christ). As an Apostle, Paul had a personal relationship with this god, writing, "[It pleased First-god] to reveal his son in me, that I might preach him among the gentiles" and "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."
  • Godfrey, Neil (10 April 2022). "The Crucifixion of Jesus as Implicit History of the Jewish War".  Vridar.

    The letters of Paul that are understood to have been written some twenty to ten years before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE speak about the crucifixion of Jesus as a simple fact. There is never any elaboration of when or where it happened (unless one treats 1 Thess 2:13-16 as genuine). The message of death and resurrection of the son of God by itself is sufficient to lead to conversion.

The Pauline epistles are the earliest extant Manuscripts that attests to the practice of "Christians" proclaiming the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek term "gospel" was a mundane word and was used by other writers for topics unrelated to Christianity.
--Dbz (talk) 13:57, 10 April 2022 (UTC)
Biblehub shows the many ways Galatians 1:12 is translated:
  • New International Version: I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
  • New Living Translation: I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
  • Berean Study Bible: I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
The other translations of Galatians 1:12 effectively say the same thing. The citation doesn't need to removed or be better supported as anyone who reads both Galatians 1:11 and Galatians 1:12 can see the reference is properly cited.--BruceGrubb (talk) 20:32, 10 April 2022 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Right, it's not a translation issue. But the article is taking that statement to be much broader than what it is.

Let's look at those translations. What exactly is the "message" referring to in the NLT? What exactly is "it" in the NIV and berean translations?

Suppose I tell you that this money I have in my pocket came not from any work I did, but came directly from my father. That's only me talking about the money I have in my pocket, not all the money I have. The money in my bank account may have come from me winning the lottery.

Paul indeed is quite insistent that the gospel he had preached to the Galatians, which is that they do not need to follow Mosaic Law (particularly circumcision) came directly from revelation from Jesus. But he's not saying all of his knowledge came directly from revelation, only that gospel referred to in Galatians. I think people are equating the word "gospel" with "story about Jesus" because of the gospels in the NT. Paul is leaving the rest of his sources of knowledge ambiguous. Could have been revelation, could have been some crazy dude on the sidewalk, could have been anything. He even claims that he persecuted Christians prior to said revelation ( Gal 1:13-16). He might be lying about that for all we know. But he certainly couldn't be simultaneously claiming complete ignorance of this new religious movement prior to his revelation while also claiming he persecuted them prior to his revelation. He had to have obtained some knowledge about what this new religion was in order to persecute them, and he places this strictly before his revelation of Jesus. In fact if anything, this is pretty close to a confirmation that Paul is claiming to have obtained some level of information that wasn't obtained from some revelation or vision.

I can't find anything in Paul that supports a statement as broad as what this article is saying. "Jesus came down out of heaven and told me we don't need to circumcise gentiles" is not the same as "Jesus came down out of heaven and told me every single I know about how to worship him and what we should do" — Unsigned, by: CecilHarvey / talk / contribs

The gospel of Paul is:
  1. Jesus died
  2. Jesus was buried
  3. Jesus was resurrected
All the rest is not. It is commentary, proclamations (of additional revelations), interpretations (of scripture), theology, politics, preaching, etc. --Dbz (talk) 12:57, 14 April 2022 (UTC)
So you're saying that when Paul says "gospel" in Galatians it is equivalent to "gospel" in 1 Corinthians 15:2-3? In other words, we should treat all usages of the word "gospel" by Paul to be equivalent?

Romans 1:16 implies that "the gospel" is that both Jew and gentile can be saved. Galatians 1:6 has Paul referring to other gospels Romans 2:16 has Paul saying his gospel included God judging people, that's not in 1 Cor 15:2-3 Romans 15:16 it's the gospel of God. Is that different from Paul's gospel? 1 Corinthians 9:14. Now Paul says you can earn a living by the gospel. Sounds like here he's using "gospel" to mean preaching. 1 thessalonians 1:5. "Our gospel" wait, plural? I thought Paul's gospel was his alone, no other people have it? Who are these other people that have the same gospel as Paul? Right after Galatians 1:11-12, Paul claims he persecuted Christians before his vision. Now he might have lied about that, but clearly he is saying that he had some knowledge of the Jesus followers and what they did and believed prior to his vision. He certainly couldn't be persecuting them while simultaneously having no idea what they believe in or who they are.

Paul clearly indicates he had some knowledge of the Jesus cult prior to his revelation, and he clearly does not have some consistent use of the word "gospel". There is no basis to justify equating the term "gospel" as used in Galatians 1 with the term "gospel" as used in 1 Corinthians 15. The word didn't have a standardized meaning until the end of the 2nd century. All we can tell is the Paul is claiming what he is preaching to the Galatians came from no man but directly from visions. We can't conclude that about all of his knowledge, like this article claims.

If you're just going to assert with evidence that "gospel" in Galatians 1 and "gospel" in 1 Corinthians 15 means the exact same thing, then everyone should just dismiss it without evidence.

"This explains why Paul takes little notice of Jesus ' life on earth ( the death on the Cross and the resurrection excepted ) . He only knew the heavenly Jesus of the vision ; the earthly Jesus he had not known; and the account of Him" ... "Hibbert Journal: A Quarterly of Religion" (1903)--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:06, 26 April 2022 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Per 1 Corinthians:

  • [15:1] Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀδελφοί τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε [2] δι᾽ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε [3] παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς
  • [15:1] Gnorízo dé ymín adelfoí tó evangélion ó evingelisámin ymín ó kaí parelávete en ó kaí estíkate [2] di᾽ oú kaí sózesthe tíni lógo evingelisámin ymín ei katéchete ektós ei mí eikí epistéfsate [3] parédoka gár ymín en prótois ó kaí parélavon óti Christós apéthanen ypér tón amartión imón katá tás grafás

[15:1] …brethren the "good news (i.e. gospel about Jesus)" I testify (evangelize) to you…

The Greek word "gospel" is just an everyday common word that is context dependent. If Paul also told everyone the gospel of his regular bowel movements it would not be surprising. But the gospel of dietary fiber is not the same as the gospel of Jesus.

References by Paul to his gospel of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection are identifiable by Paul's use of:

  • tó evangélion ó evingelisámin
  • tó evangélion tó evangelisthén

--Dbz (talk) 12:28, 28 April 2022 (UTC) && 14:44, 3 May 2022 (UTC)


The rationalwiki article on the historical evidence for Jesus makes it fairly clear that the evidence is weak. The Testimonium Flavianum was long considered an interpolation in toto, and the fact is that Origen and other Fathers of the Church before Eusebius did not speak of any reference to Jesus in Josephus. The Tacitus reference mentions chrestianos, not christianos, as shown through UV, and yet refers to Christos and not Chrestos. Pilate is also called a procurator when he was, in fact, a prefect. It is misleading to speak of a “consensus” in this case. The historians dealing with the New Testament are overwhelmingly Christian, a fact that will bias them a priori towards historicity regardless of how “liberal” they are. Secular scholars are still overwhelmingly employed by religiously-affiliated institutions, who will fire them for expressing mythicist opinions, as happened with Thomas Brodie. The fact that mythicism is dismissed without even analysing the evidence, while ridiculous and far more implausible than even the most outlandish mythicist theory pseudo-scholarship such as N. T. Wright’s arguments for the resurrection is at the very least clear indication of the pathological nature of much of “biblical scholarship”. Many bible scholars even speak of alleged “naturalistic biases”! (LOLZ) It is, plainly, a forced and manufactured consensus, no more credible than a consensus of North Korean historians on the glorious leadership of Kim Il Sung or the geocentric or creationist “consensus” imposed by the Catholic Church based on no evidence whatsoever.2A02:2F0F:B00C:CC00:1413:23D1:C8C5:C18F (talk) 19:03, 9 June 2023 (UTC)

Dubious citation for the claim that "most scholars oppose the Jesus Myth theory"[edit]

At best the citation is 20 years out of date, at worst it's by Robert van Voorst, a christian believer who's been retired for half a decade. Citing a christian's claim that most people believe in Jesus' existence is like citing a christian's claim that Christianity is the one true religion. Have we got at minimum an atheist backing up that claim? Or even better a citation that isn't 2 decades of huge, world shaking archeological discoveries out of date? (talk) 03:45, 8 October 2023 (UTC)

Jesus’s historicity is not a variable independent of the decision of those who study his life or legacy to do so. Christian faith — which, except very eccentrically, must surely include a belief that Jesus was a real person — has often been a motivating factor in individuals’ decisions to pursue a career in the sorts of academic fields under scrutiny here. In other words, belief in Jesus’s historicity has come a priori of many scholars’ historical study of him, and the argument that their acceptance of the ability to study him historically proves his historicity is mere circularity.

Just as significantly, the existence of a critical mass of scholars who do believe in Jesus’s historicity will almost certainly have shaped the way that all other scholars write about the subject. Unless they are strongly motivated to argue that Jesus was not real, they will not arbitrarily provoke colleagues who do believe in his historicity by denying it casually.

--Miles Pattenden (19 January 2022). "Historians and the historicity of Jesus" (in en-AU).  ABC Religion & Ethics

I’ve been asked if I meant this sentence literally (or if I meant to replace “is” with “may [be]”): “…believers can’t engage in honest debates over the historicity of Jesus” because “merely entertaining the proposition requires them first to admit their religion is false.” I do mean that as written. The non-existence of Jesus and the truth of Christianity are logically contradictory (except for very fringe Christianities not widely found among the populace).

Therefore for most Christians it is not even logically possible that Jesus did not exist—unless Christianity is false. This is the reason why there is such emotional pressure to avoid even entertaining the possibility: doing so entails questioning their faith; and, moreover, they cannot adopt the one proposition without abandoning the other. Which is the psychological threat that hampers their ability to honestly engage this question, even with themselves.

--Richard Carrier October 30, 2023, 6:09 pm per "Things Fall Apart Only When You Check: The Main Reason the Historicity of Jesus Continues to Be Believed • Richard Carrier Blogs". 10 October 2023. 

--Dbz (talk) 17:20, 26 November 2023 (UTC)

Seems A Little Untidy[edit]

This article is certainly full of interesting, relevant information and discussion of its stated subject. Too full, some might say. I seem to not be the first person to point this out, which is nice, but rather more ominously it also seems as though any previous attempts to cut down on the colossal length (but average girth) have not been particularly successful. Or maybe they have, and previous iterations of the article were even more unwieldy, which is a terrifying thought.

The most obvious source of unnecessary bloat is the tendency towards providing extended, multi-paragraph verbatim quotes, instead of referencing or summarizing their content and linking to the source with a citation. I get the impression that this has something to do with some... let's say "spirited discussion"... across several related talk pages centered around the work of Richard Carrier. This would explain why he is the one who is, more often than not, the one being quoted at such great length. I would like to try and avoid getting caught up in some new iteration of those arguments, but I am somewhat resigned to the fact that having suggestions for improvements to this article and therefore, no matter how tangentially, an opinion on Carrier, may attract some attention in that regard. I will say that I do very much think that he (and Lataster) should feature quite heavily in a hypothetical ideal version of the article, as their work does represent the most comprehensive modern iteration of Christ Mythicism, or the Jesus Myth Theory, or whatever you want to call it (the multiple inter-related articles here as well as the shifting definitions may cause my use of terms to be inconsistent in any discussion here, and I apologize in advance for that); but I think there is an issue with the manner in which they are included.

A casually curious reader, coming across this article and powering through its labyrinthine depths, would be left with an exceptionally inflated perception of Carrier's theories when compared to the mainstream consensus among historians. This is not meant as a judgment of the quality of his work, merely that his position is one which does not have significant support among academics, and has in fact been met with quite widespread criticism and disagreement. The vast, yawning chasm that separates this article from the equivalent on Wikipedia is difficult to ignore, and while Wikipedia is not without fault, in this instance it is very much the better of the two. An aggressively pared-down, but fairly presented, overview of Carrier's opinions (Lataster's too), given appropriate scholarly context and framing, would represent a significant improvement over the current accretion of granular rebuttal and counter-rebuttal. Prefacing that with an overview of the history and development of the Jesus Myth Theory, and definitely still including a discussion of the shift in understanding of what a "Mythicist" or "Historicist" position is taken to mean, would result in at least a sort of minimum-viable-article scaffold around which any especially important specifics could be re-introduced in a better-organized and less excessively directly quoted form.

That this could be split into a number of smaller, more focused and contained, pages is also a potential path to overhaul, and something else I am not the first person to suggest. That possibility does, of course, come with the risk that any resulting pages would simply also balloon in size and crater in readability or approachability for the same reasons this one has. I fear that the simultaneous existence of Jesus myth theory, Christ myth theory, and Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ are already evidence of that having happened in the past.

I am showing up here, full of good faith, optimism, and free time over the holidays. Any amount of productive discussion regarding anything I have suggested, or some alternative thing which I have not, would be great; since I am loathe to just wade in and start hacking away at bits of the article with a big cartoon machete without at least some longer time user who I can point at and say "they let me do it!" if I do an absolutely catastrophically terrible job. 𒌨𒈪 ur-gig2 / 𒌨𒉆𒉺𒇻 ur-nam-sipad 10:53, 19 December 2023 (UTC)

I am going to start listing some more specific stuff which I think warrants removing / severely altering / just trimming down a bit, but it isn't going to be in any especially coherent order, just as I encounter it and feel like I have a productive suggestion. I wont let this clog up too much talk page space, either, if I am just alone in here doing this, I will move all this over to my userspace. But, as a demonstration of the problems in the article:
The "How did the myth of Jesus start" section is a real mess:
  • The first point mentions Christianity and Mythology by J. M. Roberts (though he is mentioned alongside unnamed "others"), a 1910 work which asserts that a mythical Jesus is based on Krishna (and both are Osiris maybe? I haven't actually read the thing yet, it is 400 pages). No citation, but it is in the public domain and on the Internet Archive. This being presented as a serious source is a joke; but as a kooky example of historic, obsolete versions of Mythicism, maybe still worth mentioning?
  • Second point is just "another view" that "some suggest" with no citations anywhere. Find me a source, or be complicit in my tossing it into the garbage.
  • Third point starts off poorly with early 1900s white supremacist math professor W. B. Smith, in the same position as Roberts: completely outdated and disregarded, useless as a source for anything but historical development of Mythicism itself. Then The Jesus Mysteries is referenced: this book is utter crank nonsense, it certainly does not "make a compelling case".
  • Randel Helms' name is misspelled, and the choice to cite the 1986 article "Fiction In The Gospels" and not the 1988 book "Gospel Fictions", which I assume is an expanded and revised version of the same theory, is a little odd, but this is the best source so far. Helms is a professor of literature, not a history scholar, and a goodreads summary of the book does mention that he is trying the "Jesus is based on Osiris" flavor of Mythicism, but I will withhold judgment until I can get my hands on a copy of either book or article.
  • Allegro is probably worthy of some kind of mention regarding Mythicism generally, but presenting his theories without mentioning that they were so spectacularly rejected by academia that they exploded his entire career seems like a disingenuous omission. The Wikipedia page for The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth has a couple of different sources for that already.
  • R.G. Price certainly offers a theory, but (correct me if I am mistaken) his relevant qualifications and experience seem to be "he has a blog and self-published a book". Not exactly a high quality source, I fear.
So the vast majority of this section as it is basically needs to be tossed. Tentatively Helms' theory, and Allegro's with the clarification that it was so off-piste it ruined his career, are the only things there which even approach notable, worthwhile sources. Hopefully I just ended up going through an especially bad section, and things improve elsewhere. 𒌨𒈪 ur-gig2 / 𒌨𒉆𒉺𒇻 ur-nam-sipad 19:04, 19 December 2023 (UTC)