Talk:Jesus myth theory

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Against Jesus Mythicists[edit]

Thread moved from the saloon bar by Dysklyver

Original source:

Dbz (talk) 04:27, 23 November 2018 (UTC)

Many of the arguments for a Mythic Jesus that some laypeople think sound highly convincing are exactly the same ones that scholars consider laughably weak, even though they sound plausible to those without a sound background in the study of the first century. For example:
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1. “There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed.”
This seems a good argument to many, since modern people tend to leave behind them a lot of evidence they existed (birth certificates, financial documents, school records) and prominent modern people have their lives documented by the media almost daily. So it sounds suspicious to people that there are no contemporary records at all detailing or even mentioning Jesus.
But our sources for anyone in the ancient world are scarce and rarely are they contemporaneous – they are usually written decades or even centuries after the fact. Worse still, the more obscure and humble in origin the person is, the less likely that there will be any documentation about them or even a fleeting reference to them at all.
For example, few people in the ancient world were as prominent, influential, significant and famous as the Carthaginian general Hannibal. He came close to crushing the Roman Republic, was one of the greatest generals of all time and was famed throughout the ancient world for centuries after his death down to today. Yet how many contemporary mentions of Hannibal do we have? Zero. We have none. So if someone as famous and significant as Hannibal has no surviving contemporary references to him in our sources, does it really make sense to base an argument about the existence or non-existence of a Galilean peasant preacher on the lack of contemporary references to him? Clearly it does not.
So while this seems like a good argument, a better knowledge of the ancient world and the nature of our evidence and sources shows that it’s actually extremely weak.
2. “The ancient writer X should have mentioned this Jesus, yet he doesn’t do so. This silence shows that no Jesus existed.”
An “argument from silence” is a tricky thing to use effectively. To do so, it’s not enough to show that a writer, account or source is silent on a given point – you also have to show that it shouldn’t be before this silence can be given any significance. So if someone claims their grandfather met Winston Churchill yet a thorough search of the grandfather’s letters and diaries of the time shows no mention of this meeting, a solid argument from silence could be presented to say that the meeting never happened. This is because we could expect such a meeting to be mentioned in those documents.
Some “Jesus Mythicists” have tried to argue that certain ancient writers “should” have mentioned Jesus and did not and so tried to make an argument from silence on this basis. In 1909 the American “freethinker” John Remsberg came up with a list of 42 ancient writers that he claimed “should” have mentioned Jesus and concluded their silence suggested Jesus may never have existed. But the list has been widely criticized for being contrived and fanciful. Why exactly, for example, Lucanus – a writer whose works consist of a single poem and a history of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey (in the century before Jesus’ time) “should” have mentioned Jesus is hard to see. And the same can be said for most of the other writers on Remsberg’s list.
Some others, however, are more reasonable at first glance. Philo Judaeus was a Jew in Alexandria who wrote philosophy and theology and who was a contemporary of Jesus who also mentions events in Judea and makes reference to other figures we know from the gospel accounts, such as Pontius Pilate. So it makes far more sense that he “should” mention Jesus than some poets in far off Rome. But it is hard to see why even Philo would be interested in mentioning someone like Jesus, given that he also makes no mentions of any of the other Jewish preachers, prophets, faith healers and Messianic claimants of the time, of which there were many. If Philo had mentioned Anthronges and Theudas, or Hillel and Honi or John the Baptist and the “Samaritan Prophet” but didn’t mention Jesus, then a solid argument from silence could be made. But given that Philo seems to have had no interest at all in any of the various people like Jesus, the fact that he doesn’t mention Jesus either carries little or no weight.
In fact, there is only one writer of the time who had any interest in such figures, who also had little interest for Roman and Greek writers. He was the Jewish historian Josephus, who is our sole source for virtually all of the Jewish preachers, prophets, faith healers and Messianic claimants of this time. If there is any writer who should mention Jesus, it’s Josephus. The problem for the “Jesus Mythicists” is … he does. Twice, in fact. He does do so in Antiquities XVIII.63-64 and again in Antiquities XX.200. Mythicists take comfort in the fact that the first of these references has been added to by later Christian scribes, so they dismiss it as a wholesale interpolation. But the majority of modern scholars disagree, arguing there is solid evidence to believe that Josephus did make a mention of Jesus here and that it was added to by Christians to help bolster their arguments against Jewish opponents. That debate aside, the Antiquities XX.200 mention of Jesus is universally considered genuine by Josephus scholars and that alone sinks the Mythicist case (see below for more details).
3. “The earliest Christian traditions make no mention of a historical Jesus and clearly worshipped a purely heavenly, mythic-style being. There are no references to an earthly Jesus in any of the earliest New Testament texts, the letters of Paul.”
Since many people who read Mythicist arguments have never actually read the letters of Paul, this one sounds convincing as well. Except it simply isn’t true. While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn’t giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus’ earthly life in many places. He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a “human nature” and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3) of of Abraham (Gal 3:16), of Israelites (Romans 9:4-5) and of Jesse (Romans 15:12). He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1Thess. 4:15). He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1Cor. 2:8) that he was crucified (1 Cor 1:23, 2:2, 2:8, 2 Cor 13:4) and that he died and was buried (1Cor 15:3-4). And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).
So Mythicist theorists then have to tie themselves in knots to “explain” how, in fact, a clear reference to Jesus being “born of a woman” actually means he wasn’t born of a woman and how when Paul says Jesus was “according to the flesh, a descendant of King David” this doesn’t mean he was a human and the human descendant of a human king. These contrived arguments are so weak they tend to only convince the already convinced. It’s this kind of contrivance that consigns this thesis to the fringe.
The weaknesses of the Mythicist hypothesis multiply when its proponents turn to coming up with their own explanation as to how the Jesus stories did arise if there was no historical Jesus. Of course, many of them don’t really bother much with presenting an alternative explanation and leave their ideas about exactly how this happened conveniently vague. But some realise that we have late First Century stories that all claim there was an early First Century person who lived within living memory and then make a series of claims about him. If there was no such person, the Mythicist does need to explain how the stories about his existence arose and took the form they do. And they need to do so in a way that accounts for the evidence better than the parsimonious idea that this was believed because there was such a person. This is where Mythicism really falls down. The Mythicist theories fall into four main categories:
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1. “Jesus was an amalgam of earlier pagan myths, brought together into a mythic figure of a god-man and savior of a kind found in many cults of the time.”
This is the explanation offered by the New Age writer who calls herself “Acharya S” in a series of self-published books beginning with The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold (1999). Working from late nineteenth and early twentieth century theosophist claims which exaggerate parallels between the Jesus stories and pagan myths, she makes the typical New Age logical leap from “similarity” to “parallel” and finally to “connection” and “causation”. Leaving aside the fact that many of these “parallels” are highly strained, with any miraculous conception or birth story becoming a “virgin birth” or anything to do with a death or a tree becoming a “crucifixion” (even if virginity or a cross is not involved in either), it is very hard to make the final leap from “parallel” to “causation”.
This is particularly hard because of the masses of evidence that the first followers of the Jesus sect were devout Jews – a group for whom the idea of adopting anything “pagan” would have been utterly horrific. These were people who cut their hair short because long hair was associated with pagan, Hellenistic culture or who shunned gymnasia and theaters because of their association with pagan culture. All the evidence actually shows that the earliest Jesus sect went through a tumultuous period in its first years trying to accommodate non-Jews into their devoutly Jewish group. To claim that these people would merrily adopt myths of Horus and Attis and Dionysius and then amalgamate them into a story about a pagan/Jewish hybrid Messiah (who didn’t exist) and then turn around and forget he didn’t exist and claim he did and that he did so just a few decades earlier is clearly a nonsense hypothesis.
2. “Jesus was a celestial being who existed in a realm just below the lunar sphere and was not considered an earthly being at all until later.”
This is the theory presented by another self-published Mythicist author, Earl Doherty, first in The Jesus Puzzle (2005) and then in Jesus: Neither God nor Man (2009). Doherty’s theory has several main flaws. Firstly, he claims that this mythic/celestial Jesus was based on a Middle Platonic view of the cosmos that held that there was a “fleshly sub-lunar realm” in the heavens where gods and celestial beings lived and acted out mythic events. This is the realm, Doherty claims, in which it was believed that Mithras slew the cosmic bull, where Attis lived and died and where Jesus was crucified and rose again. The problem here is Doherty does very little to back up this claim and, while non-specialist readers may not realize this from the way he presents this idea, it is not something accepted by historians of ancient thought but actually a hypothesis developed entirely by Doherty himself. He makes it seem like this idea is common knowledge amongst specialists in Middle Platonic philosophy, while never quite spelling out that it’s something he’s made up. The atheist Biblical scholar Jeffrey Gibson has concluded:
“… the plausibility of D[oherty]’s hypothesis depends on not having good knowledge of ancient philosophy, specifically Middle Platonism. Indeed, it becomes less and less plausible the more one knows of ancient philosophy and, especially, Middle Platonism.“
Secondly, Doherty’s thesis requires the earliest Christian writings about Jesus, the letters of Paul, to be about this “celestial/mythic Jesus” and not a historical, earthly one. Except, as has been pointed out above, Paul’s letters do contain a great many references to an earthly Jesus that don’t fit with Doherty’s hypothesis at all. Doherty has devoted a vast number of words in both his books “explaining” ways that these references can be read so that his thesis does not collapse, but these are contrived and in places quite fanciful.
Finally, Doherty’s explanations as to how this “celestial/mythic Jesus” sect gave rise to a “historical/earthly Jesus” sect and then promptly disappeared without trace strain credulity. Despite being the original form of Christianity and despite surviving, according to Doherty, well into the Second Century, this celestial Jesus sect vanished without leaving any evidence of its existence behind and was undreamed of until Doherty came along and deduced that it had once existed. This is very difficult to believe. Early Christianity was a diverse, divided and quarrelsome faith, with a wide variety of sub-sects, offshoots and “heresies”, all arguing with each other and battling for supremacy. What eventually emerged from this riot of Christianities was a form of “orthodoxy” that had all the elements of Christianity today: the Trinity, Jesus as the divine incarnate, a physical resurrection etc. But we know of many of the other rivals to this orthodoxy largely thanks to orthodox writings attacking them and refuting their claims and doctrines. Doherty expects us to believe that despite all these apologetic literature condemning and refuting a wide range of “heresies” there is not one that bothers to even mention this original Christianity that taught Jesus was never on earth at all. This beggar’s belief.
Doherty’s thesis is much more popular among atheists than the New Age imaginings of “Acharya S” but has had no impact on the academic sphere partly because self-published hobbyist efforts don’t get much attention, but mainly because of the flaws noted above. Doherty and his followers maintain, of course, that it’s because of a kind of academic conspiracy, much as Creationists and Holocaust deniers do.
3. “Jesus began as an allegorical, symbolic figure of the Messiah who got ‘historicised’ into an actual person despite the fact he never really existed”
This idea has been presented in most detail by another amateur theorist in yet another self-published book: R.G. Price’s Jesus – A Very Jewish Myth (2007). Unlike “Acharya S” and, to a lesser extent Doherty, Price at least takes account of the fact that the Jesus stories and the first members of the Jesus sect are completely and fundamentally Jewish, so fantasies about Egyptian myths or Greek Middle Platonic philosophy are not going to work as points of origin for them. According to this version of Jesus Mythicism, Jesus was an idealization of what the Messiah was to be like who got turned into a historical figure largely by mistake and misunderstanding.
Several of the same objections to Doherty’s thesis can be made about this one – if this was the case, why are there no remnants of debates with or condemnations of those who believed the earlier version and maintained there was no historical Jesus at all? And why don’t any of Christianity’s enemies use the fact that the original Jesus sect didn’t believe in a historical Jesus as an argument against the new version of the sect? Did everyone just forget?
More tellingly, if the Jesus stories arose out of ideas about and expectations of the Messiah, it is very odd that Jesus doesn’t fit those expectations better. Despite Christian claims to the contrary, the first Christians had to work very hard to convince fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah precisely because he didn’t conform to these expectations. Most importantly, there was absolutely no tradition or Messianic expectation that told of the Messiah being executed and then rising from the dead – this first appears with Christianity and has no Jewish precedent at all. Far from evolving from established Messianic prophecies and known elements in the scripture, the first Christians had to scramble to find anything at all which looked vaguely like a “prophecy” of this unexpected and highly unMessianic event.
That the center and climax of the story of Jesus would be based on his shameful execution and death makes no sense if it evolved out of Jewish expectations about the Messiah, since they contained nothing about any such idea. This climax to the story only makes sense if it actually happened, and then his followers had to find totally new and largely strained and contrived “scriptures” which they then claimed “predicted” this outcome, against all previous expectation. Price’s thesis fails because Jesus’ story doesn’t conform to Jewish myths enough.
4. “Jesus was not a Jewish preacher at all but was someone else or an amalgam of people combined into one figure in the Christian tradition”
This is the least popular of the Jesus Myth hypotheses, but versions of it are argued by Italian amateur theorist Francesco Carotta (Jesus was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity. An Investigative Report – 2005), computer programmer Joseph Atwill (Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus – 2005) and accountant Daniel Unterbrink (Judas the Galilean: The Flesh and Blood Jesus – 2004). Carotta claims Jesus was actually Julius Caesar and imposed on Jewish tradition as part of the cult of the Divius Julius. Atwill claims Jesus was invented by the Emperor Titus and imposed on Judaism in the same way. Neither do a very good job of substantiating these claims or of explaining why the Romans then turned around, as early as 64 AD (fifteen years before Titus became emperor) and began persecuting the cult they supposedly created. No scholar takes these theories or that of Unterbrink seriously.
No scholar also argues that Jesus was an amalgam of various Jewish preachers or other figures of the time. That is because there is nothing in the evidence to indicate this. This idea has never been argued in any detailed form by anyone at all, scholar or Jesus myth amateur theorist, but it is something some who don’t want to subscribe to the idea that “Jesus Christ” was based on a real person resorts to so that they can put some sceptical distance between the Christian claims and anything or anyone historical. It seems to be a purely rhetorically-based idea, with no substance and no argument behind it.
Gewgtweg (talk) 16:44, 7 November 2018 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── If the Romans had wanted to create a religion that was attractive to 'the locals' it would have more-Rome-friendly sentiments.

John the Baptist was also a preacher-man: and how do you accommodate the number of apocryphal texts (The Gospel according to..., The Revelation of... etc)? Were other preacher-people making use of the 'Joshua ben Joseph brand' to promote their own agendas? Anna Livia (talk) 19:00, 7 November 2018 (UTC)

You've made some good points Gewgtweg, though I have to say: Krishna, Orunmila and Väinämöinen could also be 'real' I guess, or based on real people, even though there are scant records of them besides epic literature and in the case of Väinämöinen & Orunmila, oral tradition. Mí má kȍhà hńg gǀȕì ō ǁȁhìn-ā ō hȁ ō gǀè gù ǀxūúnnu. (talk) 06:32, 9 November 2018 (UTC)
Could this discussion be copied to 'a relevant Jesus article talk page' rather than merely gurgle down the RW tubes into an archive page?
Repositioning the topic: assuming that there was a 'Joshua bin Joseph, profession preacher man', there will have been various 'Jesus-philosophy-preachers and interpreters', and groups and audiences making their own interpretations of the material to hand (and possible syncretist elements), and include 'communications difficulties at the time.' The result might well be 'many Jesuses but only one real Jesus.'
What was the social-cultural-political world in which Jesus etc operated - to what extent were there other radicals, 'nationalists'/'anti-colonialists' (to use modern terms), preachers and doom-mongers, anti-local-leadership groups etc? Anna Livia (talk) 15:33, 9 November 2018 (UTC)
The Essenes? Mí má kȍhà hńg gǀȕì ō ǁȁhìn-ā ō hȁ ō gǀè gù ǀxūúnnu. (talk) 22:30, 9 November 2018 (UTC)

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  • Tim O'Neill dismisses the apologist use of writers that simply make reference to early Christianity and not Jesus as a historical person.

O'Neill (6 June 2014). "An Atheist Historian Examines the Evidence for Jesus (Part 2 of 2)". Strange Notions.

Christian apologists often cite a long list of writers who mention Jesus, usually including Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius, Lucian, Thallus and several others. But of these only Tacitus and Josephus actually mention Jesus as a historical person - the others are all simply references to early Christianity, some of which mention the "Christ" that was the focus of its worship.
Current Josephus scholarship includes...

Current "Testimonium Flavianum ( JA: 18.63)" scholarship includes:

  • Whealey, Alice (2016). “The Testimonium Flavianum”. In Chapman, Honora Howell; Rodgers, Zuleika. A Companion to Josephus. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 345–355. ISBN 978-1-4443-3533-0.
  • Hopper, Paul (2014). “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63.”. In Fludernik, Monika; Jacob, Daniel. Linguistics and Literary Studies / Linguistik und Literaturwissenschaft: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers / Begegnungen, Interferenzen und Kooperationen. De Gruyter. pp. 147–169. ISBN 978-3-11-037068-3.
  • Olson, Ken (2013). “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum”. In Johnson, Aaron P.; Schott, Jeremy M. Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations. Center for Hellenic Studies. pp. 97–114. ISBN 978-0-674-07329-6.
  • Feldman, Louis (2012). “On the Authenticity of the ‘Testimonium Flavianum’ Attributed to Josephus”. In Carlebach, Elisheva; Schacter, Jacob J. New Perspectives on Jewish-Christian Relations. Brill. pp. 13–30. ISBN 90-04-22117-4.

Current "Josephus on James the Just ( JA: 20.200)" scholarship includes:

  • Allen, Nicholas P. L. (26 June 2017). “Josephus on James the Just? A re-evaluation of 20.9.1”. Journal of Early Christian History. 7 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1080/2222582X.2017.1317008.
  • Carrier, Richard (2012). "Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200". Journal of Early Christian Studies. 20 (4): 489–514. doi:10.1353/earl.2012.0029.

Dbz (talk) 23:58, 23 November 2018 (UTC)

More balanced view[edit]

Comment by Dennis Dean Carpenter—19 August 2014—per Galston, David; Farrin, Cassandra J. "Myth and the Historical Jesus". Westar Institute. 18 August 2014,

Did Jesus exist? It’s possible. The only Jesus Seminar vote I have seen is in “John the Baptist and Jesus,” p. 145. Their rationale was not convincing. They write, “Just as there was a person named John the Baptist, or Baptizer, so there was most certainly a person named Jesus.” My head spins with that argument! (The vote was 96% believing there was this Jesus.) Then, they mention footnotes by Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius and references in rabbinical writings, all written after the earliest Gospels, the first two having whiffs of the Gospels in their summaries, Suetonius rather confusing (Claudius expelling Jews because of Chrestus) and the rabbinical writings extremely late. None of those are compelling or even halfway convincing arguments. (They didn’t mention it, but there are letters of Pliny. These were after Christianity was in full swing, just as Suetonius and Tacitus.)
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Mythicist arguments generally hinge on Paul, but I believe there are more reasons to question the historicity of “Paul” the letter writer than Jesus! As Darrell Doughty wrote (“Forum, New Series,” 5.2) “Unlike any other field in the study of early Christianity, traditional Pauline studies deals with writings whose authorial authenticity and literary integrity are taken for granted. The critical methodologies – historical criticism and compositional criticism – that we apply to other early Christian writings have no place here, not because the historical integrity of these writings was demonstrated long ago, but because of the assumption of authenticity is foundational for Christian theological hermeneutics. The Pauline writings enjoy a privileged place…” Most mythicists I have read see the Gospels as being written after the “Christ myth” was assumed, using a default of a mid-first century letter writer. In my opinion, they put the cart before the horse, but they don’t get far. The cart has no wheels and the horse is the protagonist of a story. Since most I have read are not part of the guild, this is a real concern to me. I generally am very critical of people who enter my realm of scholarship making claims without background knowledge, so I can understand biblical scholars’ disdain.

The Jesus story is a reiteration of themes found in ancient Near East antiquity. It is one story, the Gospel of Mark, amended by other gospeleers. Though most real scholars (members of the guild) do not doubt there was a historical Jesus, the story is mythic, not biographic. If one takes the mythic out of it, one finds a Jesus walking around Galilee speaking a set of aphorisms, parables and challenge/responses (chreia). He decides to go to Jerusalem, is not well received, and killed for his efforts. In that light, there were probably many “Jesuses” who ran afoul with priests, Herodians, and Roman governors in the first century. The witty sayings and parables are literature. It seems impossible to say they contain the “voiceprint of Jesus,” unless one defines the Jesus (apocalyptic, wisdom man, God’s only begotten young‘un) before one sorts. Modern studies in oral tradition does not seem to support this, either, if indeed the Jesus story began with the oral sayings. This limits the reliability of form criticism.

Joanna Dewey, “First Century Oral-Written Media,” Spring 2006 Seminar Paper notes that “Oral stories are never fixed.” She speaks of context, of the oral story building on known traditions, the meaning not coming from words but the way it is told, and that the “oral story always adapts to the particular audience and situation.” “… the focus for both performer and audience is on the experience of the performance event, not on information learned or reinforced. The point is the emotional impact, not the knowledge gained.” If this is accurate, can one say that any of these Greek writers were transmitting any “historical” words of Jesus, which was written after the devastation of the first Jewish Roman war? Was that really God speaking verbatim to Moses in Exodus? If there is a “voiceprint,” it seems obvious that this would be the voiceprint of the storytellers, the author, and/or the modern theologian, if the Jesus story began orally. J. Dewey, same Seminar Papers, “Mark, A Really Good Story,” notes, about form criticism and its assumption of “bits and pieces of oral tradition,” in the Gospels states, “All that we know or can infer about how tradition operates suggests that this assumption of form criticism is wrong, deriving more from the critics’ own immersion in print culture than from how tradition operates.”

The criterion of dissimilarity, the venerable statute from which springs other criteria, merely points to a Greco-Roman author or common knowledge of that culture, not necessarily the voice print of a Galilean Jew. It tells one that the person who said or wrote it wrote or said something not like the characteristic Palestinian Jew or “early” Christianity, whatever that might have meant.

None of the above speaks directly to whether there was or wasn’t a historical Jesus. I have my doubts, but those doubts have to do with what I see is the purpose of the Gospel of Mark, the context, and the audience. They seek to answer why the original Gospel was needed. (As far as Q is concerned, after reading the Jesus Seminar, Kloppenborg, Mack, Arnal, and others, I am in the Goodacre, Thompson and Klinghardt camp. Goodacre’s look at the Greek Thomas conforms more or less with Thompson’s, and they are compelling. They make more sense than those of Q and “early” Thomas.)

I like the last two sentences in Robert Price’s “Deconstructing Jesus”: “Thus it seems to me that Jesus must be categorized with other legendary figures including the Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-tzu. There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure” (p. 261).

Colignatus, Thomas (2014). Review by an outsider of ancient history and new testament studies of "Maurice Casey (2014): Jesus. Evidence and Argument or MythicistMyths" [PDF]. thomascool.eu.

Professor Casey's book opposes the historical evidence for Jesus to the mythical origin of the story. Historicism is generally accepted in academic New Testament Studies, mythicism is often adhered to by non-scholars on the internet. The review uses the analogy of Santa Claus to bring forth a point that may have been missed by both professor Casey and the mythicists who he wishes to expose.
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If there was a historical preacher, healer and exorcist who got associated with already existing ancient myths of resurrection, then it becomes awkward to speak about a historical Jesus, just like with the "historical Santa Claus", because such historical Jesus is at distance from what defines him for the story that people consider relevant to relate.

Myers, P. Z. (20 August 2018). "History is hard". Pharyngula.  FreeThoughtBlogs.

I have to recalibrate. What does “Jesus mythicist” mean? Apparently, rejecting the idea of the Son of God wandering about Galilee, and thinking that many of the tales that sprang up around him were confabulations, does not make one a Jesus mythicist. I also 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? Does it matter if my birth certificate is unearthed (and framed and mounted in a shrine, of course)? Would people point to it and gasp that it proves the stories were all true <swoon>?

Cf. Godfrey, Neil (23 August 2018). "Just what do you mean... HISTORICAL JESUS?".  Vridar.

Godfrey, Neil (1 July 2019). "Definition of a Christ Mythicist".  Vridar.

A Christ mythicist is one who believes the literal truth of the myth of Jesus Christ as set out in the epistles and gospels of the New Testament, or who believes that those myths, even if they have only limited or no historical foundation, nonetheless contain symbolic or spiritual value for those of the Christian faith.

Litwa, M. David (2019). How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths. Yale University Press. pp. 215, 218. ISBN 978-0-300-24263-8. 

Just because Jesus once lived does not mean that the Christian representations of his life describe what happened. And what happened in the external world of the past, even if it is recoverable, is not a clear measure for what is true or real.
[...]
I do not deny the historical basis for some gospel stories (notably the crucifixion); my point is that the mythic imagination transforms historical memory, and it does so in often unpredictable ways. 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.

Comment by R. G. Price—3 September 2019—per Lataster, Raphael (August 2019). "When Critics Miss the Point About Questioning Jesus’ Historicity". The Bible and Interpretation.

I think what we can prove is that the Gospel narratives are entirely post-First Jewish-Roman War literary inventions, and that the Jesus character in those stories is derived entirely from scriptures and the letters of Paul. The personality, associates, and teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are all based on Paul as described in the collection of letters ascribed to him.
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Thus, it is proven that the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark is someone who "never existed". That is something that can be proven. That Jesus is not based on the life of any real-world Jesus. And it can be proven that every other story about Jesus is derived from the Gospel of Mark. Thus we can prove that all "Gospel Jesuses" are really just fictional characters and that nothing about the Jesus of the Gospels is based on anything real. None of the events described in the Gospels really happened, and none of the teaching relayed as coming from Jesus really came from a person called Jesus.

Whether you think that has been proven or not, all of that is theoretically provable, and my book basically makes the case that it has been proven, though I will say that I don't go into detail on every single sentence and every single word of every Gospel. I provide over a dozen examples with some lists that highlight dozens more examples, but, yes its true you can still find sentences among the Gospels that I haven't shown explicitly come from some known literary source. So I guess one could always say that some phrase whose provenance hasn't been traced to scripture or an epistle may have "been real words of Jesus". But anyway.

So once we've proven that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fictional literary invention, there really isn't anything left, because the Christian Jesus is the character described in the Gospels. It's like saying that maybe Harry Potter is real, but he wasn't a boy, he wasn't named Harry Potter, he wasn't a wizard, he never went to Hogwarts, etc. "He" was actually a little girl who lived in Africa and died when she was 10 years old. I mean at that point its all just nonsense.

So we can prove that the Jesus of the Gospels isn't based on the life of a real person, and we can prove that Jews in the 1st century were engaged in interpreting scripture in ways that conceived of eternal heavenly beings who had all of the attributes of Jesus, and that we find no examples of Jews ever worshiping a real living person as a powerful being the way he is described in the earliest writings about him, and that the earliest writings about Jesus are not consistent with descriptions of a real person. The earliest writings about Jesus share many consistencies with writings about other "mythical" Jewish figures, such as Enoch, Melchizedek, Isaac, etc.

The best model for how a real person would be become worshiped by Jews is far less reasonable than models for how the worship of a heavenly messiah would have developed.

And the key issue really is that all historicist arguments go back to claiming that the Gospels are the documents that provide the evidence that Jesus was real. Once it is proven that those documents actually don't provide any evidence for Jesus, there is nothing to base claims of his existence on.

--Dbz (talk) 06:59, 26 July 2019 (UTC) && 02:18, 29 July 2019 (UTC) && 16:59, 16 August 2019 (UTC) && 03:48, 7 September 2019 (UTC)

Anyone who reads the Christ myth theory would realize that this isn't exactly new. From the get go one of the founders of the Christ Myth theory, Constantin-François Volney, allowed for confused memories of an obscure historical figure to be integrated in a mythology that compiled organically. In fact, the majority of the Christ Myth theories of the late 19th early 20th centuries were more focused on the Gospel Jesus not existing while accepted the possibly still be a man behind the stories but the myth around that man was so dense that little (if anything) could be gleamed from it.--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:41, 8 September 2019 (UTC)

Response to Against Jesus Mythicists[edit]

Gads Gewgtweg went on way too long and ignored the range that the Jesus (Christ) myth has and the issues with the evidence. Yes parts of the Jesus myth goes into la la land but that doesn't mean the idea is totally off the wall. nearly all of these points fall into the Reductive (obscure human being who was mythologized) vs Triumphalist (entire Gospels are historical fact) theory Tar baby regarding Jesus.

1. “There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed.”

A more accurate version would be 'There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. If the Gospel accounts are remotely accurate there should be, so clearly that Jesus didn't exist.

2. “The ancient writer X should have mentioned this Jesus, yet he doesn’t do so. This silence shows that no Jesus existed.”

A more accurate version would be 'If the Gospel accounts are remotely accurate ancient writer X should have mentioned this Jesus, yet he doesn’t do so. This silence shows that version of Jesus didn't exist.' Philo Judaeus non mention of Jesus was such an issue the Christians were claiming he knew the apostles personally! Josephus two supposed references have issues and there is serious doubt that either was actually by him. I should point out that Remsburg was arguing against the Triumphalist and NOT a flesh and blood Jesus.

3. “The earliest Christian traditions make no mention of a historical Jesus and clearly worshipped a purely heavenly, mythic-style being. There are no references to an earthly Jesus in any of the earliest New Testament texts, the letters of Paul.”

See John Frum regarding the reasoning behind this.

The rest all boils down to too many people arguing the clearly (at least to anyone with a functional rational mind) illogical Triumphalist Jesus being historical rather then a Reductive Jesus.--BruceGrubb (talk) 17:09, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

@BruceGrubb OH MY FUCKING GODS AND GODDESS DEBAUCHING ABOVE AND BELOW!!! YOU ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE!!!! ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 18:16, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be.[edit]

  • The expectation of contemporary accounts is predicated on the contemporary fame of Jesus.

Cf. Neil Godfrey (2018-10-24). Response #2 to the Non Sequitur program: “Not even the gospels say Jesus was famous outside Galilee”. Vridar.

The spurious addendum "...so clearly no Jesus existed" is not asserted by the leading Mythicist scholar(s) who publish peer reviewed work on the matter.

If the contemporary fame of the Gospel figure of Jesus is true, then we should expect contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus, else the Gospel accounts are not reliable. - Dbz (talk) 18:21, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

Jesus was someone else or an amalgam of people combined into one figure in the Christian tradition[edit]

  • Raphael Lataster points out that if the “historical Jesus of Nazareth (sans miracles and divinity) is a virtually insignificant historical figure”, then it is possible that another different Jesus Messiah also existed—as a virtually insignificant historical figure.

Lataster (2015) [now bolded]. “Questioning the Plausibility of Jesus Ahistoricity Theories – A Brief Pseudo-Bayesian Metacritique of the Sources”. Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies. 6 (1): 63–96. ISSN 2155-1723.

[Per Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, Chapter 9, 1] Interestingly, even if “called Christ” was genuine, there is no necessary link to Jesus of Nazareth; there were many Jesuses in 1st century Palestine, and perhaps a few of them claimed to be or were perceived as being Messiahs. It cannot be reasonably assumed that any Jesus or Joshua who is called a Messiah or Christ must relate to the allegedly historic al figure of Jesus of Nazareth — since a purely historical Jesus of Nazareth (sans miracles and divinity) is a virtually insignificant historical figure, barely mentioned, if at all, in contemporary or near-contemporary historical accounts. —(p. 83)
Dbz (talk) 21:30, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

The earliest Christian traditions make no mention of a historical Jesus and clearly worshipped a purely heavenly, mythic-style being.[edit]

Per Carrier [now bolded], “How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus?“. Richard Carrier Blogs. 9 November 2017.

The Jewish War of 66–70 destroyed the original church in Jerusalem, leaving us with no evidence that any of the original apostles lived beyond it. Before that, persecutions from Jewish authorities and famines throughout the empire . . . further exacerbated the effect, which was to leave a thirty-year dark age in the history of the church (from the 60s to the 90s), a whole generation in which we have no idea what happened or who was in charge (Element 22). In fact this ecclesial dark age probably spans fifty years (from the 60s to 110s), if 1 Clement was written in the 60s and not the 90s (see Chapter 8, §5), as then we have no record of anything going on until either Ignatius or Papias, both of whom could have written well later than the 110s (Chapter 8, §§6 and 7).
[…]
almost all evidence of the original Christian sects and what they believed has been lost or doctored out of the record; even evidence of what happened during the latter half of the first century to transition from Paul’s Christianity to second-century ‘orthodoxy’ is completely lost and now almost wholly inaccessible to us (Elements 21-22 and 44).
[…]
even if we granted historicity, then we do not know how some sects transitioned to a cosmically born Jesus in the Christianities Irenaeus attacks as heresies (Chapter 11, §9) or a cosmically killed Jesus in the Ascension of Isaiah (Chapter 3, §1), or to a Jesus who lived and died a hundred years earlier (Chapter 8, §1). Thus, our ignorance in the matter of how the cult transitioned is not solved by positing historicity. Either way, we’re equally in the dark on how these changes happened.

  • Tim O’Neill notes that per variant forms of early Christianity: “We’ve mainly got the books written by other people who were arguing against them, because they won the argument, so they got to decide whose books got copied.” See comment quoting O’Neill per Response #4: Non Sequitur’s Tim O’Neill presentation, …. Your turn. Vridar. 2018-10-28. - Dbz (talk) 20:00, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

Docetism has been conflated with the original form of Christianity[edit]

The so-called “Docetism” refutations (of early date) from apologetic literature are more likely to be refutations of the original form of Christianity, i.e. cosmic-Jesus.
See:

  • Second Epistle of Peter
  • Irenaeus, per the cosmic-Jesus literature he was attempting to rebut

Cf. “How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus?“. Richard Carrier Blogs. 9 November 2017.

Comment by Richard Carrier—12 March 2019—>per "Hypothesis: Only Those Who Don't Really Understand Bayesianism Are Against It". Richard Carrier Blogs. 6 March 2019.

IMO what is usually called Docetism today also did not even exist in the ancient world; and what is mistakenly called Docetism now is actually a slew of unrelated unorthodox sectarian teachings, some of which may in fact be mythicist. The anti-heretical writings that modern scholars “consruct” Docetism from also only address heresies of the late second and early third century; they have no evident knowledge of any of the first century sects (e.g. that Paul was calling anathema and so on), or sects such as attacked by Ignatius or 2 Peter, which actually do not align with any of the sects addressed by the heresy hunters (or else their polemics disguise the real teachings of those sects).

So, in short, no “date” for Docetism is valid. We cannot ascertain when any of the doctrines variously now called Docetic began, or what they looked like when they began. We can barely accurately reconstruct what they looked like by the time we have any writings against them. And those anti-heretical writings are too late to inform us of early heresies at all, much less “accurately.”

Dbz (talk) 01:14, 18 November 2018 (UTC) && 20:43, 23 April 2019 (UTC)

Parts of the Jesus myth goes into la la land but that doesn't mean the idea is totally off the wall[edit]

  • Neil Godfrey defines two types of Jesus mythicism, which should be adopted for this article.

Neil Godfrey (24 October 2018). "There are two types of Jesus mythicism. Here's how to tell them apart". Vridar.

Type 1: Scholarly
The authors engage with not only the source documents of early Christianity but they also address the scholarship that has been written about those documents.

more...

The arguments are structured around engagement with the scholarship of biblical studies, ancient history (including judaica), the classics and other related fields such as archaeology, religion, anthropology, historiography, mythology. They apply the norms of the scientific method (e.g. evidence-based, falsifiability). e.g. Thomas Brodie, Richard Carrier, Earl Doherty, Robert Price.

Type 2: Pseudo-Scholarly
The authors engage with the source documents but disregard the bulk of related scholarly discussion and focus primarily on interpreting them tendentiously through a conspiracy theory or other unfalsifiable pseudo-historical theory. That is, their arguments are based on an assumption (that is, there is no unambiguous evidence in support) that there are behind-the-scenes powerful and complex forces and actors manipulating or producing the evidence. The emphasis is on arguing for the “missing link” in explaining Christianity and little to no attention is given to addressing alternative explanations in the scholarship for the evidence used. e.g. Christianity as an invention by Roman imperial powers; a strain of astrotheological beliefs dominated secret mystery religions and morphed into Christianity; Christian teachings began and were preserved in some form though centuries, even millennia, before being re-written in the gospels.

--Dbz (talk) 00:42, 20 November 2018 (UTC)

Radical criticism of the Pauline epistles authorship[edit]

  • Carrier gives the authentic letters claiming to have been written by Paul as the only reliable evidence.

Cf. "The Historicity of Paul the Apostle". Richard Carrier Blogs. 6 June 2015.

[T]he book of Acts is near useless fiction (On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 9). And all extra-biblical evidence for Paul, which is not based on the letters attributed to him, derives from Acts and no other source (either by using Acts as a source, or embellishing it’s tales with more mythology about Paul). So on those counts, Jesus and Paul are in the same evidential boat: there is nothing attesting them that counts as independent of Acts, and Acts is wholly unreliable as a source of historical facts in this matter.

Except in Paul’s case. Because we actually do have letters claiming to have been written by Paul. We do not have this for Jesus . . . So the historicity of Jesus and Paul are actually not in the same evidential state.

Per latter comment by Carrier—9 June 2015:

As for Paul being famous, I don’t see any evidence of that. He was just one of a dozen apostles, all doing the same things he was, yet all of whom were so obscure we know next to nothing about any of them. Someone just liked bits of his letters more than the others a lifetime later and preserved them (probably Marcion). Had that not happened, we would probably not even know the man’s name.

Scholars asserting that no reliable evidence of authorship is available per the Pauline epistles:

  • Hermann Detering (2003) [German 1995]. The Fabricated Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight. Translated by Darrell Doughty. Independently Published. ISBN 978-1-981040-81-0. "This book shows that all the Pauline letters are all 2nd-Century fabrications, Catholically redacted from Marcionite gnostic dualist-god original versions."
  • Robert M. Price (2012). The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. Signature Books. ISBN 978-1-56085-216-2. "The epistles give evidence of having been written at the end of the first century or early in the second—too late to have been Paul's actual writings."

Dbz (talk) 05:30, 21 November 2018 (UTC)

New work by R. G. Price (Not to confuse with Robert M. Price)[edit]

The case I put forward in my book [Deciphering the Gospels] is essentially that early Jesus worship developed out of prophetic scriptural interpretation.

more...
The "Jesus" (Joshua) that Paul talks about is a figure revealed by Jewish scriptural diviners along the lines of what we see taking place in the DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls). Paul is talking about ecstatic revelatory experiences that put him in touch with a Jesus only known to others via scriptural divination.

The Gospel of Mark, however, was written by a well practiced Jewish scriptural diviner and master of Jewish story-telling. The writer of Mark was in possession of a collection of Paul's works , was himself perhaps a Paulinist, and was inspired to write his allegorical tale after the fall of the temple in 70 CE. "Mark's" story is an allegory, written using many of the advanced techniques of allegorical Jewish storytelling. The story of "Mark" was a commentary on the War. The Jesus character is based directly on Paul himself. The message of the story is that the Jews brought the destruction of the war upon themselves by not following PAUL'S teachings of reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles. The writer of Mark was not writing for a community of people who believed in a human Jesus. "Mark's" story was intended to be taken as allegory. The entire story of Mark is an invention from the mind of the writer. There was no prior narrative about Jesus at all.

I have posted a review of R. G. Price’s book, Deciphering the Gospels — proves Jesus never existed, arguing for the Jesus of the gospels being an entirely literary invention...
more...
The “deciphering” in the title does not refer to any secret code but to a comprehensive, easy to follow presentation of how much each of the gospel narratives (focusing principally on the first written gospel, Mark) owes directly to Jewish or Old Testament scriptures. It is a common view among believers that traces of Old Testament passages in the gospels are there to “prove” that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. Price, however, demonstrates that these OT allusions are far more common than many of us realize and that the gospel stories of Jesus have been guided and driven by those OT passages. So deeply and thoroughly shaped by the Old Testament stories, prophecies and psalms in the first gospel, Mark, that Price is able to very reasonably argue there is no left-over room to think that those stories owe anything to oral traditions or independent stories of a historical figure.

[W]hat about that title! Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed? Robert M. Price writes in the Foreword: “I don’t think you can ‘prove’ either that a historical Jesus existed or that he didn’t. What you can do, and what [R. G.] Price does, is to construe the same old evidence in a new way that makes more natural, less contrived, sense.” (p. ix)

You certainly can prove, however, that evidence for a real Jesus is weak. You cannot change the nature of the gospels. There is not a single event in the life of Jesus (as opposed to historical persons, e.g., Pilate) that can be verified by documents outside the gospels. So I have no problem with Price’s title; let it be a challenge to Christians to think hard, do the homework, engage in the issues that he discusses. Let them try to prove him wrong.

Dbz (talk) 00:32, 18 November 2018 (UTC) && 03:58, 5 August 2019 (UTC) && 22:11, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

Consensus[edit]

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.

In reality, consensus alone is not a very good indicator of truth. The consensus has been wrong about almost everything at some point. This is a very touchy subject because academic consensus is one of easiest and most direct ways to affirm the truth of a claim, and it makes sense that experts who study a subject will have better judgement about the validity of a claim that non-experts or non-professionals – and in most cases that is true.

However, there are two major fields in particular where academic consensus is highly questionable: economics and religious studies. The academic consensus is suspect in these fields because there are strong incentives for biased findings and the fields do not strictly follow scientific methods.

  • Meggitt, Justin J. (6 September 2019). "‘More Ingenious than Learned’? Examining the Quest for the Non-Historical Jesus". New Testament Studies 65 (4): 443–460.  doi:10.1017/S0028688519000213.:
[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. —(pp. 459–460)

--Dbz (talk) 00:40, 19 August 2019 (UTC) && 04:31, 29 September 2019 (UTC)

Historians contractually obliged to publicly reject mythicism[edit]

Fitzgerald, David (2017). "Myths of Mythicism – Bias Cut". Jesus: Mything in Action. 1. CreateSpace. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-5428-5888-5.

[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?”

Despite much lip service given to academic freedom, the sad truth is that for religious institutions (and by extension, the majority of all biblical history positions), academics have only as much freedom as can fit comfortably within the school’s theological constraints. Any scholar whose findings threaten to step over that line — no matter how innocent or innocuous the doctrine in question may seem — is in danger.

Per Ehrman (28 May 2017) [NOW FORMATTED]. “Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right?...“. The Bart Ehrman Blog.

When I started my serious study of the New Testament . . . I had a view of Jesus very much like the one most conservative evangelicals have: Jesus was a miracle-working son of God who came to earth principally to die for sins.
  • My historical studies eventually changed my views of Jesus.

I think every historian should be willing to change his views based on his study of the evidence.
  • Scholars who do not change their views – but come out of a study with the same views they brought into it – are highly suspect.
[…]
Would I be traumatized if the mythicists were right after all?
  • Not in the least. I would probably feel energized.

Per Carrier (1 July 2019). "Spencer Alexander McDaniel on the Historicity of Jesus".  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). And its critics generally don’t honestly report or address what it argues or contains; a behavior that signals dogmatists circling wagons, not scholars sincerely confronting a thesis. That should warrant concern.

Dbz (talk) 15:50, 18 November 2018 (UTC) && 04:41, 22 November 2018 (UTC) && 14:45, 15 June 2019 (UTC) && 21:16, 10 July 2019 (UTC)

Techniques employed by "historical Jesus" historians[edit]

Per Neil Godfrey (28 October 2018). "Response #4: Non Sequitur's Tim O'Neill presentation, .... Your turn". Vridar.
[O]n the whole the “scholars” do not argue for the historicity of Jesus but work on other questions on the assumption that he existed. When asked to justify that assumption the responses are, too often unfortunately, logically invalid, question begging, divorced from normative scholarly approaches to sources, misrepresenting the questions posed, and…. condescending, abusive. On the principle that all authorities ought to be held to account, such responses deserve to be set aside and the question should be pursued.
more...

Per Neil Godfrey (22 November 2018) [now bolded]. "How Historians Know Their Bedrock Facts". Vridar.

There’s a blind spot, though, among many scholars of Christian origins. That blind spot is the assumption that the canonical gospels are derived from oral sayings or written documents that had their beginnings, however indirectly, from the events and persons they narrate. Unlike most other historical or biographical works of ancient times the gospels do not attempt to give their readers confidence by identifying the sources of their accounts nor do they attempt to let readers know something about the authors and why the readers can trust them. (Not even the prologue of Luke helps since it is so vague and brief.) In other words, when it comes to the narratives of the canonical gospels we have nothing like the contemporary or independent sources that are available to give us assurance that, say, the Battle of Hastings happened in 1066 and Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

But the problem gets worse. If we follow Morley’s advice we must first ask what type of literature the gospels are and even IF they are indeed attempting to present real history or biography. A related pursuit is to establish what we can know for certain about their sources. If it turns out that a comparative literary analysis demonstrates that a common source for many of the details and structures of their narratives are borrowed and reworked from the Hebrew Scriptures then we find ourselves even further from the confidence we would like to have that they are in any way related to genuine past events.

Biblical scholars have applied redaction criticism, criteria of authenticity and “memory theory” to the gospels in attempts to get closer to the history they believe must lie at their root source. None of those methods can ever offer the confidence that good old contemporary and independent accounts can offer.

Per Neil Godfrey (14 February 2019) [now formatted]. "Can Historians Develop a Valid "Feel" for a Reliable Source?". Vridar.

[Historical Jesus historians claim to] have criteria and tools to enable them to dig down and assess with some measure of reasonable probability how common reports 1 have mutated over periods through memory refractions and back to something close to an original saying through various criteria of authenticity.
  • Have other historians not yet caught up with these “advanced techniques”?

[note:1] Biblical historians use the term “oral tradition” which perhaps connotes a more stable notion of what is being passed on.

Comment by Neil Godfrey—14 May 2019—per "The Questions We Permit Ourselves to Ask". Vridar. 12 May 2019.

It’s a funny area because historians don’t generally spend a lot of time trying to decide is some person actually existed or not. Usually they have indisputable reasons for accepting certain persons and actions having existed in the past and the probabilities they are weighing up have to do with reasons, motives, explanations for certain actions and events. . . . Jesus, of course, is quite different for reasons that ultimately have little to do with “purely” historical interest.

Schröter, Jens (2012). "The Criteria of Authenticity in Jesus Research and Historiographical Method". In Keith, Chris; Le Donne, Anthony (ed.). Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. A&C Black. pp. 49–70. ISBN 978-0-567-37723-4.

[Per the “Criteria Approach” in Historical Jesus Research] 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. In analysing historical material scholars would usually ask for their origin and character, their tendencies in delineating events from the past, evaluate their principal credibility—for example, whether it is a forgery or a reliable source—and use them together with other sources to develop a plausible image of the concerned period of history. It is not by accident, therefore, that the rather curious “criteria approach” has evoked many criticisms. —(pp. 51–52)

--Dbz (talk) 16:57, 15 February 2019 (UTC) && 14:39, 16 May 2019 (UTC) && 02:16, 28 July 2019 (UTC)

One of my major beefs is the inconstancy with which the historical method is used. The best example of this is Sun Tzu. You can hold a translation of his work in your hands, he was written about by a professional historian who noted in his work "I have set down only what is certain, and in doubtful cases left a blank.", and yet we are not even sure if Sun Tzu.even existed. Yet Jesus gets effectively a free ride. How on earth does that work?!?--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:51, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
Only slightly related, but it's profoundly amazing to me that the words "Historical method" do not appear in this page at all. We don't even talk about the general processes that historians use to approximate the truth about the past in a broader context. The strange and oddball specifics of historic and/or mythical Jesus are so weird to think about in isolation from the techniques the wider field has created for itself. We're so good about discussing the scientific method here, and even philosophical hermeneutics, but we fail at giving history that same "here's the critical thinking toolkit" treatment. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 17:34, 15 February 2019 (UTC)
It was there but thanks to the convoluted wording it was not clear that the Historical method was what was being talked about. Historical Anthropology for example brings a host of new tools to the historical method namely what cultural influences existed at the time the records were put down that would color the way they portrayed events. In a world where Zeus was postulated as to have been a mortal king of Crete, Osiris was actually an ancient king of Egypt, or Heracles had been a flesh and blood Egyptian who became a king in Argos the idea Jesus may have not exist in any recognizable way becomes far less fantastic. The added comparison of Jesus to Ned Ludd and John Frum kicks the whole 'within living memory' argument in the head.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:05, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

The range of the Jesus Myth[edit]

"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."

The Christ Myth Theory article goes into the many ways the term has been used - including ones that accept Jesus as existing as a human being--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:46, 21 November 2018 (UTC)

Another theory[edit]

Has [1] been covered yet?

Changing the topic slightly - how many 'Exit the Roman Empire' activists, and how many 'preacher-men' were there in Judea? Given that there was a period of time between when 'Joshua ben Joseph' seemingly lived and when the gospels and related texts were written down to what extent could there have been a degree of syncretism in writing the various oral histories of such persons - with the 'John the Baptist stories' being another such conflation? Anna Livia (talk) 12:07, 11 February 2019 (UTC)

That second part is touched on in the Josephus article under Length and a host of holy men and as you can see from that list there were quite a few 'preacher-men' were in Judea. --BruceGrubb (talk) 01:42, 15 February 2019 (UTC)

Article name[edit]

This article should be more appropriatley named: "Jesus myth theories". –Dbz (talk) 13:17, 12 February 2019 (UTC)

The problem is there is this (mistaken) view there there is only one Jesus myth theory which is why the article has the name it does.--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:28, 15 February 2019 (UTC)
Also, “theory” used in the singular does not necessarily mean there is only one, but can be used to designate a broader “school of thought”, cf. gender theory, queer theory, quantum theory, Marxist theory etc. ScepticWombat (talk) 20:43, 3 September 2019 (UTC)
I added the following to the WP article: {{short description|Theory that the Jesus of Paul and later authors never existed}} --Dbz (talk) 01:59, 4 September 2019 (UTC)

r/atheism historical Jesus FAQ[edit]

Just FYI, if anybody is interested. --Dbz (talk) 19:57, 4 September 2019 (UTC)