A few weeks ago, PZ Myers released a video on Jesus mythicism, explaining why he doesn’t subscribe to it. Among other things, Myers pointed to prominent players in the community, and how they often tend to be ethically dubious, often right wing troll mongers.
And despite the inklings of logical fallacy in his positioning, I couldn’t help agreeing with him about that particular impression. Even if some mythicists make an adequate case for the problems of assuming Jesus historicity, I’ve been frequently struck over the years by other blatant illogical, grotesque, and even morally bankrupt, political positions of prominent mythicists.
To be honest, it’s one of the reasons why I took a step back from attempting to be a featured player in the community. I’m just not interested in being mentioned in the same breath as some people in the mythicist community (that is not to say that I think that about all mythicists…quite the contrary).
During this same time, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who are either involved in the mythicist community, or are community adjacent, have taken vocal positions in favor of historicity.
I don’t have a grand conclusion to this dilemma, because although I appreciate the problem of parsimony, economy, and value with regards to scrubbing a person out of history, I personally land somewhere in between mythicism and historicity, where I presume
- Jesus Christ of the Gospels probably didn’t live at the time purported
- The Jesus Christ of the Gospels appears to be a composite of a variety of figures
- The writers of the Gospels therefore had no discernible link between them and the original Jesus Christ, aside from reverence
- I’m suspicious of the notion that the Apostle Paul lived and wrote between the 30s and 50s CE
- I’m suspicious that Paul lived and wrote leveraging the canonical name assigned to him
- I’m not convinced that the handful of Pauline passages which seem to make some sort of reference to Jesus’s humanity should actually be interpreted as a legitimate reference to actual earthly humanity
I’m not sure how or if the reader has parsed this issue. If you have thoughts to share, let me know.
14 thoughts on “On The Jesus Myth Issue”
Good to read you again
I’m clueless about mythicism
But glad to learn
Lots of ideas …
But want share that it seems to me
That this entire enterprise is headed into a box canyon, headed for a dead end
Making me wonder what the purpose is …
I sense that this is a lot about not being able to shake literalism and a lot of effort is expended fighting a toothless dragon.
There’s an entirely different way to approach the gospels
And to summarize
Early gospel communities wrote (as we do) to make sense of and cope with atrocities that afflict us.
They found hope in a guy who stood up to tyrants and accepted the consequences.
To learn more about how the gospels are not about history but about living “spiritually”
By Dr. Shaia
Peace and blessings to you in the Struggle (Jihad)
theists do like to quibble about what they want to claim is literal and what is not.
What do you make of the accusation that mythicism is a conspiracy theory? It does seem like a lazy argument.
How does believing the evidence that supports Jesus as a historical figure is very weak, compare to having the belief that NASA and IPCC are inventing climate data to create a global warming hoax?
I certainly say the latter is a conspiracy theory, but is imagining 2nd century Christians invented history on the same level?
The whole idea that mythicism is a cesspool of dodgy egotists is troubling. It certainly takes a certain amount of ego to go out on a limb against a consensus, but the sins of the ego bring the scholar into disrepute. Certainly, mythicism can never be a respected avenue of inquiry if its proponents cannot stay respectable themselves.
I would point out that Bishop Spong got the balance correct, and set a great example of how religion and scientific inquiry can co-exist. He also seemed to be a man of great integrity, and an example of how skeptical scholarship can promote healthy religion. Perhaps he was not a mythicist, but much of his work leans that way.
I think there are some conspiracy elements in mythicism. There was the whole Joseph Atwill thing a few years ago where he proposed Jesus was an invention of the Roman government, which was pretty far out there, and definitely a conspiracy theory. I’ve heard his work has become more coherent over the past few years, but the notion doesn’t make much sense to me. And there have been some other zany ideas too (Zeitgeist comes to mind, but I can’t really remember the specifics on that.)
Ah yes, and sadly these theories get press coverage! Yes, I had tried to forget about this stupid theory, but I keep seeing it being referred to. – Caesars Christ?
Mythic Jesus wept!
I like the Robin Hood analogy. Let’s use the old movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn as our text. Did an actual historical “Robin Hood” exist? Maybe? Or maybe there was someone who was a general inspiration for the character, or even more than one person. Can we learn anything specific about the hypothetical historical Robin Hood from watching the Errol Flynn movie? Not so much. That guy is mostly if not entirely a fictional construct.
That’s how I feel about BibleJesus. The character in their book(s) is mostly legend and storytelling. If there was a real person behind it, it’s very difficult to figure out anything real about him using only religious propaganda as source material. We really ought to go to other contemporary sources about him for better information, but there aren’t any contemporary sources that mention him. So I just leave a big question mark on the question of historicity.
That’s roughly equivalent to my feelings on it…
I find the jesus myth issue to be rather silly since christians don’t worship some delusional Jew. they worship a magical character, and that is indeed a myth.
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They also tend to ignore key tenets (if there are any) of Jesus’ teachings…
that’s the problem, there are no “key tenets”, but various entirely different Jesuses.
and how they often tend to be ethically dubious, often right wing troll mongers.
I’m guessing you’ve heard the issue between Derek of the Myth Vision podcast and Bob Price who posted racist stuff on Facebook. It’s disappointing to see an intelligent and well versed secular NT scholar go down the MAGA rabbit hole.
I’m not convinced that the handful of Pauline passages which seem to make some sort of reference to Jesus’s humanity should actually be interpreted as a legitimate reference to actual earthly humanity
Oddly enough Bob Price made a good case on his book “The Amazing Colossal Apostle” that the Jesus of the gospels is different than the Pauline Jesus. The gospels talks about the corporeal Jesus while the Pauline one is about a celestial Jesus residing in the divine pleroma and any parts of the epistles harmonizing with the former is nothing but interpolations by the early Church Fathers. He even made a compelling case that the Gnostics are heavily influenced by the allegorical Hellenistic Judaism of Alexandria whom interpreted the Genesis creation and fall in Platonic categories just like Philo of Alexandria.
Yeah, rmp was definitely part of it. I knew he was in the echo chamber years ago, which, coupled with the strange anti woke track mythicist Milwaukee took, really turned me off to being anywhere near that circle. Even the people in that area who I align with politically rub me the wrong way. But yeah, price does have good scholarship… You wonder if he rejects Jesus because he was a socialist though…
Lol Luke 18:22.
But yeah Mythicist Milwaukee turning to an “anti-SJW extremist” was surprising and disappointing. I don’t know anything about the alleged scandal Richard Carrier had as per the comments on PZ Myer’s YT video you linked but I am turned off by Carrier’s attempt to monopolize mythicism to the point he actually become a troll. Heck I actually enjoy Bart Ehrman’s videos more even if I disagree with him that deep down the gospel magic tricks there was an apocalyptic prophet named Jesus minus the superpowers.
Though I agree with Bart that “Jesus is never mentioned in any Greek or Roman non-Christian source until 80 years after his death” and that “the canonical gospels are not eyewitnesses or written by people who knew eyewitnesses”.
I can barely read Carrier anymore. He jumps at every opportunity to roast non scholars despite repeating ad nauseam that no non scholarly opinion is worth his time. Strikes me as very thirsty