I’m really enjoying your blog, especially your material on the historicity of Jesus. What *is* it with Christ-mythers anyway? You’d think they’d drop the matter when it is pointed out to them that Christianity’s earliest enemies never questioned the existence of Jesus. So frustrating. I wish I could understand their mindset.
Anyway, please keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more of your articles.
Thanks Thomas, please do continue visiting my site.
The fact that Christianity’s earliest enemies never disputed Jesus’ historical existence is but only one line of evidence out of many that affirm, with a very high probability, that Jesus existed. In fact, when the evidence is weighed the evidence is so compelling it is basically certain that Jesus existed.
Regarding the Jesus mythicists the agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman, whom you may know is certainly no friend to Christianity, asks: “What is driving the mythicists agenda? Why do they work so hard at showing that Jesus never really lived? I do not have a definitive answer to that question, but I do have a hunch. It is no accident that virtually all mythicists (in fact, all of them, to my knowledge), are either atheists or agnostics. The ones I know anything about are quite virulently, even militantly atheist” (1).
The late scholar Casey also thinks along the same lines as Ehrman: “This view [that Jesus didn’t exist] is demonstrably false. It is fuelled by a regrettable form of atheist prejudice, which holds all the main primary sources, and Christian people, in contempt. …. Most of its proponents are also extraordinarily incompetent” (2).
This is undoubtedly true, Jesus mythicism is but only one form of the manifestation of fundamentalist atheism. I know several who have forwarded this theory with only three of those having any training in history. For example, I know of Richard Carrier (atheist), Robert Price (atheist), Murdock (spiritual atheist), Bill Maher (atheist comedian!), and several others (also atheists). This suggests that it comes down to worldviews, it is the atheist forcing the data to fit his/her bias. That is not to say that you do not get good atheist historians/scholars because you do (Gerd Ludemann, Tim O’Niell, John Dominic Crossan, Michael Grant).
What we find is that as soon as we consult the real historians who specialize in the field (atheist, Christian, Jewish etc.) this is not even on the table of discussion. Mythicists are entirely ignored. The only attention they get is from fellow atheist fundamentalists on the internet, as theologian Christopher Price writes:
“I have often been asked why more academics do not take the time to respond to the Jesus Myth theory. After looking into this question, I discovered that most historians and New Testament scholars relevant to the topic have concluded that Jesus Mythers are beyond reason and therefore decide that they have better things to do with their time” (3).
Atheist Scholars on Mythicism.
Atheists scholars openly disagree with those propagating the myth theory, according to atheist Michael Martin: “Some skeptics have maintained that the best account of the biblical and historical evidence is the theory that Jesus never existed; that is, that Jesus’ existence is a myth (Well 1999). Such a view is controversial and not widely held even by anti-Christian thinkers” (4).
The historian Michael Grant tells us that “To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars” (5).
Perhaps the most condemning words come from atheist historian Tim O’Neill, which is by no means off target: “One of the occupational hazards of being an atheist and secular humanist who hangs around on discussion boards is to encounter a staggering level of historical illiteracy. I like to console myself that many of the people on such boards have come to their atheism via the study of science and so, even if they are quite learned in things like geology and biology, usually have a grasp of history stunted at about high school level. I generally do this because the alternative is to admit that the average person’s grasp of history and how history is studied is so utterly feeble as to be totally depressing” (6).
We ought to be aware that it is a fringe group of atheists who forward the mythicist theory often through non-peer reviewed mediums such as personal blogs, websites and so forth on the internet. These atheists are mostly, by O’Niells affirmation, illiterate and fail to understand that of which they criticize and mock. They have little training in the subject, and have consulted limited, if any, experts in the field. Mythicism, is certainly not in the realms of scholarship.
Lastly, I find it interesting when you appeal to wishing to “understand their mindset.” One way we can understand such a mindset is to learn from it, and in turn avoid emulating it. Mythicism is a result of an intense agenda driven mindset that chooses to make data fit a preconceived mould. It is not honest, it is not open to evidence (which is ironic since atheists are all about attributing the badge of honest inquiry to themselves), it is not scholarly but rather intellectual dishonesty. Other than that, there isn’t much to understand.
1. Ehrman, B. 2012. Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. p. 337-38.
2. Casey, M. 2010. Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching. p. 499.
3. Price, C. 2009. Scholarly opinions on the Jesus Myth. Available.
4. Martin, M. 2011. The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. Skeptical Perspectives on Jesus’ resurrection (Chapter 18).
5. Martin, M. 1992. Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels. p. 200.
6. O’Neill, T. 2009. God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam. Available.