Saturday, December 15, 2012

Did Jesus Exist? with Richard Carrier and me on Unbelievable?

Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable? with Justin Brierly today featured a discussion about the historicity of Jesus with Richard Carrier and me. You can listen here:

Unbelievable? Did Jesus Exist?  Richard Carrier vs. Mark Goodacre
Richard Carrier is the world's foremost proponent of the "mythicist" view of Jesus - that he never actually existed as a historical person. He explains his theory that St. Paul only ever spoke of Jesus in the spiritual realm and that the Gospels are "extended parables". Mark Goodacre is NT professor at Duke University. He contends that Carrier's mythicist view is extrememly far fetched and the evidence for the historical Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt.


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Anonymous said...


My argument - as outlined say in "Woodbridge Goodman's" online white papers on "The Bible Supports Science, Over Faith" - is that most of the Mythicists do have positive values: science-based religious study. Or the Science of God, as set out by the Bible itself.

Science more than anything else, ironically, meets the criteria by which we are to know what is from God: it has been "fruit"ful; it has shown great "works," "fruits," 'signs," "deeds," and "proofs." Not "fruits of the spirit," as Paul would claim at times (if not always); but real physical, material accomplishments. Which finally, amazingly, the Bible itself, more "full"y read, valued.

We don't want to simply substitute one god for another; so suppose we look at, value, a whole disciplined discipline; a very carefully-regulated field of study, composed not of one fallible individual, but millions of individuals. A discipline with a self-critical ("humble") attitude.

One "day" or another, you are supposed to see a "second" "appearance" of God; and he arrives not so much as God, as the son of "Man."

We are not asking believers to trade something, for nothing.

So let's maintain a critical/scientific approach here. Keeping in mind? Behind the for-the-moment negative findings, is a very positive - and surprisingly biblical - positive alternative.

Mike Gantt said...

Standing on the same side of the belief/unbelief fence as the mythicists, maryhelena has honestly pointed out to them their Achilles' heel. However, they will not be able to follow his advice for if they do, their game is up. For they have no plausible alternative version of history to offer; they only want to unsettle conviction about the history we have.

Anonymous said...


Did you read my previous comment before you wrote?

Mike Gantt said...


I did, but it struck me as nonsensical. Sorry I can't be more positive.

Anonymous said...

"The Argument from Ignorance": a wellknown, formal logical fallacy. In which the offender says he does not understand a remark - and therefore concludes that it is nonsense. Overlooking the possiblity that he himself, just didn't get it.

In this case, I've recommended to Maryhelena - and now you - an admittedly obscure and rough work: my own work and related works. Which show that a scientific, critical approach to the Bible, is allowed - even outlined; even mandated. In the Bible itself.

This is a very obscure reference to be sure: "The Bible Advocates Science, Over Faith," online. A somewhat difficult and unedited text; but ultimately, logical. And absolutely biblical; loaded with hundreds of biblical quotes, and consistent with the entire text.

Don't be so negative Mike. Try to find something positive in ... even your "enemies."

My contention is that you are following a false idea of Christ; or if you will, a "false Christ." Read a little further in your Bible, and discover it's advocacy of ... not blind "faith," but a kind of critical Science. Rather like the critical science of Religious Studies; over and above Apologetics.

This advocacy of something positive, is by the way ... advocacy of something positive. Something you and MH are asking for.

Mythicism is not all negative, after all.

Mike Gantt said...


You're not addressing maryhelena's point. You're just trying to make something else the point.

Anonymous said...

MH has an extremely important decision to make here.

I vote for my position, of course.

Anonymous said...

MH or a lookalike, I think, by the way, holds that the main reason traditional Christians (like Mike?) in effect, do not accept Mythicism, Modernism, is that they do not want to exchance SOMETHING, for NOTHING. Certainty, for uncertainty. Dogmatism, for endless questioning.

My position is 1) they should; since being less certain is true "humility," the real version of the biblical virtue. Certainty is arrogance.

While 2) in any case, I am adding here that what I'm following here, is not entirely NOTHINGNESS and chaos anyway; those who look at religion with reason, have reason. And in critical religion, religious studies, they have even a reasonable, earth-and-heaven, reason-and-spirit religion at last. Religion, god, return to this earth at last. In a Science of God.

Which is enough; it's a good tight boat. Even if it is always floating on the shifting seas of life.

(My romantic but rational, postfoundationalist theology?).

Mike Gantt said...

Jesus demonstrates for us that certainty does not equate to arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Because he's not certain: "Who do you say I am?"; "My God, why have you abandoned me."

Mike? You follow what everyone told you in church; and like them, you get EVERYTHING exactly wrong. Every single thing. With no exceptions. You are exactly, entirely, absolutely, in the grip of the popular but false, anti-vision.

One apocalyptic "day" Mike, we are supposed to discover that the whole "world," even it's "worship," followed a false idea of Christ (Rev. 13).

When are you going to find the humility to see: that means you, personally, and all your friends and instructors and churchmembers.

Mike Gantt said...


You only think you know my point of view.

I don't go to church. I don't think anyone else needs to go either. (As you can imagine, this does not put me in good stead with my erstwhile fellow church members.) I believe everyone is going to heaven, and this is because of Jesus Christ. God doesn't care about the religion to which we do or don't subscribe. What He does care about is how morally we live, and Jesus is the standard by which all morality should be measured. I get all this from the Bible, which conveys the word of God to us.

For those of you who don't trust the New Testament portrayal of Christ as reliable, ask yourselves how human minds could have imagined and written such a life. The notion that Jesus was "invented" is one of the more absurd aspects of mythicism. I've read a fair amount of fiction - no writer's imagination could have produced the kind of life we see portrayed in the gospels and extolled in the epistles.

The Second Coming occurred long ago in the late 1st Century (exactly when Jesus said it would). No one physically saw it because Jesus came the first time as man and the second time as God. You can't see God - except by faith.

Bret, you've lifted two gospel statements out of context to misrepresent His certainty as uncertainty. Those who actually read the New Testament and know the context of these statements will recognize the falsity of your presentation.

Jesus certain and He was humble. How can someone who says "I am the way and the truth and the life" be humble? If it was true.

Ben said...

BTW, merry Christmas everyone!


Mike asked for the general outline of mythicism, presumably so he had an easy target to dismiss, and I was kind enough to provide it anyway. I'm aware every step of the way is contested and requires a lot of fleshing out (that's why Mike's dismissal was so trite). So when I present aspects of mythicism it's not meant to be the final say on the matter, but because we have to start somewhere. I came at this discussion not to argue for mythicism, but to help those interested understanding how mythicism generally processes the evidence (to the extent I currently understand it). If you want the full case, well Doherty's books are already available and Carrier's book will be coming out.

So, I agree with you that a mere perspective is not enough and that mythicism has to have positive arguments for it. That's not news. One of my comments seems to be missing where I said to Mike:

"The plausibility and probability factors are supposed to come into play when

A: You are familiar with the generic category of dying and rising savior, mystery cults, cultural syncretism, and euhemerization as things more than mere possibilities and rather as realistic explanatory components a knowledgeable historian should be concerned with when evaluating religions of that time and place (such as Christianity)


B: Actually folding this background knowledge into an intimate explanatory competition with historocity point for point on all the key battleground issues to show which is generally and significantly superior."

Doherty has already argued at length that Pauline Christianity appears to fit the mold of a mystery cult focused on a cosmic savior from the Pauline evidence itself. That's the positive element that's supplemented with pointing out the problems with historicity and explaining how mythicism overcomes its own problems.

"Ben, it’s one thing to argue that the probability of the gospel JC being ahistorical is pretty high - it’s a far different ball game - far removed from arguments of probability - to establish plausibility for your proposition dealing with a historicizing of that Pauline cosmic JC into the gospel JC figure."

So you have a problem with the concept of euhemerization? Do you think celestial beings were never historicised before or something and that mythicists just made that category up to get rid of Jesus or something? I'm not sure I'm following you.

Ben said...


Um, I'm not sure it's so easy to find a Jewish concept where god impregnates someone to create a demigod son, but it is really easy to find that in Greco-Roman myths. Does it matter how exactly that syncretism happened or am I secretly up against the Jesus-as-magic-man theory where more evidence than necessary is required? People combine ideas all the time intentionally and unintentionally and we don't have to know the exact process that went on to say that it probably did.

You seem to be hung up again on expecting us to know everything about the particulars when no hypothesis about Christian origins is so lucky. We don't know who the gospels authors were, where they got their evidence, how they sorted through conflicting information, etc. Similarly we don't know what kinds of Christians Paul had been persecuting, what they believed exactly, where they got their info, etc. There are always going to be a lot of unanswered questions and you don't seem prepared for that. If you want photos of someone baking the mythicist cake, please provide photos some someone baking the historicist cake.

"And to question Jesus' historicity on the basis of Paul's testimony because Paul did not know Jesus before the crucifixion is like questioning the historicity of a murder victim because the homicide detective working the case did not know the victim before the crime occurred."

We could have equally early writings of Jesus' disciples making clearly historical statements (which is much more of what we'd expect rather than someone like Paul), but the person carrying the most theological and historical water for everyone here is someone who got their knowledge from visions and scriptural tea leaf reading, never identifies any other path of knowledge for anyone else, and who makes statements that seem to fit well with a known type of mystery religion aimed at celestial events only. There's a case to be made for mythicism.

"And the use of pejoratives like "tea leaf scripture reading" is faux argumentation."

It's not meant to be an argument at all, it's called description. It's also only an insult if you don't respect that particular religious methodology. I'm mildly pleased that you know better, but did Paul? He thought he was searching his scripture looking for clues to understanding his salvation and that his god was revealing to him secrets of the messiah that aren't necessarily there on a straight forward reading. To say I can't call that "scriptural tea leaf reading" is laughable. I think you feel insulted, because (as you've confessed in this thread more than once) you ask your god to help you understand the Bible in an all too similar way. Whose fault is that? Mine? Perhaps you should give up some magic thinking.

And I'm not a mythicist. Apparently understanding their perspective makes me one though.

Ben said...


"Nationality, flesh and blood, physical reality, historical reality, have no relevance for a philosophy focused on spirituality, on the non-material. But they do have relevance for Jewish culture, then, and now."

If we could point out other celestial beings that did in fact have an ethnicity contrary to your sensibilities, would you demand that those religious perspectives be understood as historical persons as well? You are aware that Jesus would not have been a white dude with blue eyes, right? Why is it that white US Christians constantly paint him that way anyway? It's because people care about identifying with an ethnicity whether it makes any damn sense or not. This would be just a more elaborate version of that.

"...speaks volumes that Pauline philosophy is not entirely theological/spiritual speculation."

Speculation? This guy saw "concrete" visions of Jesus. You seem to have some wires crossed here. It was perfectly real to him.

Ben said...


"The notion that Jesus was "invented" is one of the more absurd aspects of mythicism. I've read a fair amount of fiction - no writer's imagination could have produced the kind of life we see portrayed in the gospels and extolled in the epistles."

I think you have quite a few more issues to take up with the mainstream consensus on Jesus than mythicists do. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...


You should go to church. There you would discover that your every single statement - every single statement Mike - is a common sermon, a common apologetics cliche.

After your undergrad in information tech, when you went to graduate school in divinity late in life at Fuller, you must have decided to simply, precisely, consciously, utterly and without reservation ... program/confirm your mind with whatever they told you. With no notion that it might not all be entirely true.

Utter, total trust. Never mind that the Bible warned hundreds of times, of "false" things in our holiest men and angels. Never mind that your teachers were after all, human beings, and could fail.

Mike? You desperately need to know this: a Min D. is essentially a program that teaches ... church dogmas, sermonic cliches, and apologetics.

I see one hope for you: know that you are right to worry about churches. But here's what you desperately need to know: when you weren't looking at them ... the churches slipped in behind you, and got you Mike!

Listening to the things you say, I need to tell you this: the churches utterly, totally, completely, took you over. Without your knowing it.

Mike? I went to Sunday School or church every Sunday of my life for 14 years. I recognize the source of the things you say: it's not the Bible, exactly. Instead, your every single pronouncement is an all-too-common church sermon. A common ecclesiastical spin, twist, on the Bible.

Believe it or not, I've heard almost all your pronouncements and responses; almost every single one. They are standard church sermons.

Clearly, you shouldn't have proudly disdained the churches; because you weren't looking at them, the churches managed to slip in, and utterly take you over.

Mike? I'm actually a rather honest person. And honestly: I'm sitting here thinking - and finding it hard to find anyone in my memory, who have been so thoroughly, utterly, totally programmed with, dominated by, standard corner-church apologetics.

Do you want to actually escape from the grip of churches? 1)Think back to whatever commonsense objections you might have had to churches, as a child. And 2) recall whatever more critical/intellectual, less sermonic religious study it was, that you might have been exposed to; think about those things, and build on them.

In the meantime? I say this with total honesty and conviction. You Mike, your thinking has been utterly, totally, completely, absolutely taken over, by the very thing you despised the most: by church dogmas.

Your every pronouncement is a recognizable, all-too-common church sermon.

You desperately need to see this.

maryhelena said...


No, I don’t have a problem with the concept of euhemerism - but I’m beginning to think that perhaps you might have:

Wikipedia: Euhemerus

Euhemerus has become known chiefly for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as "Euhemerism", which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology.[14] Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events.[15] Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, including Xenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus.[16][17] However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise".
I don’t read anything in that account that even faintly hints at the possibility that euhermerism could be called upon to support the theory, of some mythicists, that the Pauline cosmic type JC was historicized as the gospel JC. Nothing. Euhermerism works from the perspective that historical events or historical personages were reshaped, exaggerated or altered in the process of becoming mythologized. “History in disguise”.

It makes absolutely no sense to attempt to turn euhermerism around so as to make it support the reverse of what it is upholding. The theory of some mythicists that the Pauline cosmic JC got historicized into the gospel JC is not euhermerism’s ‘History in disguise” - it is mythology in drag.

Euhermerism can be used to support a historical JC figure that got euhermerised into a celestial JC figure. Mythicists seeking to reverse this concept to support a historicizing of a myth cannot. The fundamental core of the concept of euhermerism is that history is relevant. For the specific mythicist idea in question on this blog - history is irrelevant.

Methinks, Ben, that going back to the drawing board might be in order. The proposition that is in contention here, a proposition upheld by some mythicists, is that a Pauline cosmic JC got historicized as the gospel JC - you have not attempted to provide any rationale for that proposition.

maryhelena said...


Paul had “concrete” visions of Jesus”?

Paul could have had a hundred and one visions of his cosmic JC - and not one of those visions is of any consequence to early Christian history.

History is not about dreams and visions - it’s about the concrete reality of living in a historical context. Yes, from that concrete reality of history the dreamers and visionaries can weave their insights and wisdom. It’s not the fly by night dreamers we need - it’s the dreamers of the day. The dreamers who open the window for the sun to shine in.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
T. E. Lawrence

Anonymous said...


My gratitude in any case, for your summary: so fast, so good, so quick-and-dirty, it was transcendent. While your later qualifications are good too.

Ben might not be a Mythicist yet; but I think he could easily become one of the lights of that movement. Just by virtue of the above in fact, he's already partially there.

By the way: don't despise it just because it came so easily.... Some of the best things in life are free.

A great elevator ride!

Ben said...


You missed the "or" part. Here it is: "or mythological characters as historical personages" = "it is mythology in drag."

Ta da!

Are you done?

"you have not attempted to provide any rationale for that proposition."

But if I proceed to step 2 without hammering you on step 1, you'll reprimand me for that, remember? And I don't like being reprimanded. And really, who does?

"Paul could have had a hundred and one visions of his cosmic JC - and not one of those visions is of any consequence to early Christian history."

Um...prove it? As it is, you seem to be in denial that the delusions of others can become an integral cog in the procession of history. Chasing down some heretics didn't mean anything to Paul until he had his visions believed to be actual telepresence from another world. It's history to them. And at least their mental brain farts are history to us in that sense. This is not a difficult concept.

It can't be shown that Paul portrays any other Christians of his time as having any other kind of evidence other than hallucinations and tea leaf scripture readings to go on. And we if accept that, as Doherty shows in his books, Paul presents a self-contained, coherent theology that looks a lot like the character and quality of the book of Hebrews where we're told all about the celestial priest Jesus who's livin large in his celestial temple.

The only trick here is not importing all the assumptions of the gospel layer of evidence into Paul and being willing to look at Paul's epistles in light of other possible religious conventions alive and well at the time. I promise your brain will not short out if you even contemplate the possibility. Then you can have some step 2. :D


You're welcome.

Mike Gantt said...

To all the mythicists, and pro-mythicist non-mythicists (that is, fence-sitters) as well,

Allow me to comfort you with the obvious: Rejection of Jesus as someone to trust can be accomplished without embracing the absurdity that is mythicism. Bart Ehrman and many other scholars show the way. Even on this blog post comment thread, mh is showing the way.

Again, if you want to reject Jesus, choose a less embarrassing way to do so. You'll be just as wrong, but the many new friends you'll have will make you feel better about it.

Anonymous said...

Here Mike issues another of his sermonizing moralisms/character assassinations.

Mike? Many of us are perhaps religious, even Christian, in ways you don't recognize. In your own vanity, you see only your own simple sense of it, as the only true path.

Mike? The Bible warned us all, over and over, that often just when we think we are being good, just when we think we are following God better than anyone around us ... we are actually being "deceived" by a "false spirit" and so forth. "Satan," the Bible warns,appears to you as "the angel of light."

In your case? The very sermonizing cliches that you think are the heart of all that are good and true, are actually ... not the angel of light at all.

Mike? You have a "DeMin"....

The very training and view of Christ that you so totally and faithfully accepted as the very angel of light ... was the devil himself.

Mike Gantt said...


As the song says, "Jesus is the answer for the world today; above Him there's no other, Jesus is the way."

Ben said...

RON PAUL 2012! Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh right, Mike departs the same way he was when I came in. A hypocrite pointing fingers at mythicists all the while having much worse intellectual sins by academic standards even in the worst case scenario for mythicists.

It's not really embarrassing to be possibly wrong that Jesus might be 10-20% more mythological than the mainstream consensus is currently comfortable with. On the other hand it is very embarrassing to buy wholesale the idea that Jesus was a freaking magic man 100% who couldn't possibly be even part invention.

I look forward to the likes of Mark Goodacre and others to kill mythicism properly. Being corrected and educated is a privilege and a joy, the first step in being more right...not an embarrassment. It's just our stupid anti-intellectual, reality challenged culture that tells you otherwise.

And, btw, Mike, if we're all going to heaven, then what the hell does it even matter whether we reject Jesus for embarrassing reasons? And if Paul really did believe in a cosmic only Jesus, what's wrong with that? He still died just as unfalsifiably for your sins, didn't he? I think you doth protest too much as though you were ever entitled (on your religion's own terms) to the full truth.

Anonymous said...

My point Mike: the entity you think is "Jesus" and "Christ," is actually just your own false idea of Jesus.

You are following the wrong idea of Christ. The real Christ of the Bible, was far, far more humble and self-effacing, than the paragon of certainty and dogmatism that you portray.

Your idea of Christ is wrong. So? The more loyally you follow your idea of "Christ," the more fatally you have been mislead.

Do you understand my words Mike? Repeat my statement, in your own words, to prove it.

Mike Gantt said...


"[I]f we're all going to heaven, then what...does it even matter whether we reject Jesus...?"

"If Mom and Dad are going to send me to college anyway, why should I behave for them?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your very cogent remarks to date!

Actually, I'm not sure that Ben and the famous Maryhelena (sp?) are really all that far apart; she seems to feel that some consideration of possibly historical foundations, is important. As I do too in fact.

It seems quite possible even to me that a least SOME elements of the Jesus Legend ("Legend" would the technical, historical/folkloristics term), were historical. Though personally I doubt that those historical elements include anything like the "historical jesus" that most Historicists see. Likely I think - and briefly noted above - there were a dozen or more relevant "Jesuses" in the timeframe of c. 64 BC to 100 AD, whose biographies were parts of the mix. Especially I'm suggesting Christianity starts, when 1)Philo's "Jesus" Joshua, gets mixed up in urban legend with 2) a few dozen Jesus' no doubt crucified by Archelaus, in the 2 or 3 thousand crucifixions of Jews, by him or his supporters.

As for historiographical methodology? We might not disagree at all on the matter of a rational methodology and orientation. I've been noting some anti-rational, anti-intelligence aspects of "faith" itself; and Ben's own outline of quotes above was quite good there, in filling that out.

Carrying a greater sense of the usefulness - even the holiness, the biblicality - of Reason in religion, in fact, is my current academic project; I'm suggesting that the Bible itself finally endorsed science and reason, even over faith. So that? The merely "faith"ful, who do not also develop and use their logic and reason even in religion, are actually, not really even following God of the Bible.

Science-based, reason-based religious study is what I support; as finally coming from the Bible itself. When we see that, I suggest? We begin to see massive sins and errors, in the blindly faithful,a nd their "Christ." Which turns out to be a "false Christ." While in contrast: ironically, when we become far more rational in our method, we're not even crossing, denying the Bible; we're fulfilling major sections of it.

As for Mark Goodacre's positions on all this? I'd like to hear them myself. However Mark is normally very generous and open-minded; I'm not sure he HAS a fixed opinion yet. The video radio interview with Carrier, finds him being rather polite; and nominally but only casually interrogating Mythicism, in his "chat." While Carrier's blog account of the recent Carrier/Goodacre interview, seeks to find common ground with Goodacre. As yet another scholar whose work has now and then been slighted in the mainstream, but which deserves far more attention.

By the way? No one should underestimate the usefulness of this very discussion, HERE AND NOW, in developing Mythicism. Many ideas I think are actually being presented only here and now, in their most coherent form, for the first time; thanks to useful and cogent discussions from many here!

Mark it as a "favorite" or a "like," or booknote it: what's happening here may have been more important than you think!

Note not least of all that a couple of already-famous names have gathered here, in our present discussion: 1) Mark Goodacre; 2) Earl Doherty; 3) Maryhelenna; with regard to 4) Carrier, etc.. While the contributions of as-yet unknowns here might be just as good - or better!

Thanks to everyone! Mark this very conversation; copy this! You yourselves are better than you think; I think our present discussion has real value in documenting the early progress of Mythicism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone - except Mike, of course.

Mike Gantt said...


I can agree with your characterization of Jesus as humble (that is, not arrogant), but I cannot see why you regard Him as uncertain.

That we seldom see humility and certainty in the same person, this just points to Jesus' uniqueness.

maryhelena said...


I missed nothing in that Wikipedia quote. ..”or mythological characters as historical personages” . One big word there that you seem to want to gloss over..”historical”.. The whole thrust of that Wikipedia article is dealing with “History in disguise” - it is not dealing with mythology in disguise i.e. in drag. Before you start waving the euhermerism flag around - get some history on the table.

The proposition that the Pauline cosmic JC figure has been historicized as the gospel JC is what is under question. The proposition is suspect. That this proposition seems to be viewed as being a consequence of an interpretation of the Pauline writing indicates just one thing. And that is that the interpretation of the Pauline writings that have led to this conclusion are in error. Check your premises, as someone once said. If your conclusion lacks plausibility - then check out your interpretation.

Doherty, unfortunately, is unable to help you out here.

Yes, running to step 2 - as though step 2 is going to support your proposition is not logical. How many people were waiting for the end of the world on Friday? And why - because they read some ancient calendar a certain way. And the rest of the world - a few heads being shaken, I would imagine. In other words; people are not going to go running to that ancient Mayan calendar, step 2, the moment they hear the proposition - the world will end on Day X. They have heard it all many times before. However, when someone comes along and says climate change is here - people will look around them and notice, and will have experienced, changes in the weather. They then have a reason, an interest, to look at various theories, step 2, regarding climate change.

Paul and his visions? No denial here - just an acknowledgement that visions are ten a penny - and last only as long as the next big thing comes along. Yes, Paul’s visions, his insights, propelled the early Christian movement forward. That is one thing - but to suppose that the whole NT story is nothing more than one’s man vision winning the Vision Jackpot - is ludicrous. Paul’s insights, his visions, needed to resonate with reality, with historical events, if they ever were to have ‘legs’ upon which to run.

Prove what? That visions are of no consequence to early Christian history? Come now - reality is a far greater taskmaster than any vision by anyone. If some mythicists are running with the idea that Paul won some Battle of the Visions - it’s no wonder that the JC historicists are giving them shortshift...

No, Ben, no tricks are needed here - just some rationality, some logic, some plausibility for that proposition, made by some mythicists, that the Pauline cosmic JC figure has been historicized as the gospel JC figure.

Anonymous said...

In defense of Earl Doherty, and the idea that "Cosmic" ideas were the source of the Jesus legends:

Abstract and even "cosmic" ideas, very often came to be thought of as real historical persons, in ancient society. It had happened hundreds of times before the time that "Jesus" appeared.

Personally, I'm prepared to look for both mythical, but even also some (albeit garbled, misattributed) historical elements, in the Jesus legend. However? It seems to me that sometimes ideas, our imaginations, fictional characters, are more than enough to inspire some people, to say they were real events, historical persons.

EXAMPLE: Above, I mentioned "personification." The objection was raised is that this is just something that happens just in novels, in obvious fictions. But clearly - if Carrier's "ephemerization" doesn't quite work - then this one does.

Because Personification does NOT just happen just in literature or fiction; and/or we know that fictional ideas are often soon taken as historical realities.

My examples? MARS, and VENUS. These we know, were personifications of two abstract ideas of qualities; respectively, War and Love. Yet note? Both of them were taken as real gods - and historical characters. By the Greeks.

Traditionally here an Historicst will object, that this or that phenomenon was not found in "Jewish" tradition; with the assumption that therefore, it could not have caused the rise of rumors of a Jesus; which is assumed to have happened purely and only among strict Jews. However, Classics and Religious literature is full of hundreds, thousands of cases where Greco-Roman, hellenistic and Platonistic ides for example, heavily influenced Jewish culture, and manh individual Jews.

The historicization, the transformation of abstract ideas, say "Cosmic" ideas, into rumors of "historical" entities, was common in Greco-Roman culture, among dozens of others. While Jerusalem from 64 BC had been occupied by Greco-Roman occupiers; and in the time of "Jesus" was in the hands of the Roman governor, Pontous Pilate; working with a half-Jewish, Hellenized Jew, Herod.

Personification - thus extended in meaning - did every day, what many say cannot happen: converts abstract ideas, to historical ones; achieves "historicization." This was quite common in Greece and Rome, among hundreds of other cultures. And? Greco-Roman influences in and among even Jews, are obvious and well-documented.

Therefore? It is very, very, very easily possible that Platonistic ideas of the "Logos," or abstract Greek ideas of differnt acts in the "Cosmos," could have been personified, into an alleged "person." Even especially in the time and person, of "Jesus."

Personally, I agree that we should all be open to also possible historical or real roots to some parts of the Jesus legend. However? Finally there is no insuperable barrior, no glaring impossiblity, to the idea that Jesus might just be a concretized, historicized version, of some story of abstract qualities; or specifically some "Cosmic" notion.

Historicization happened before in fact: in the personification, historicization of Love and War, as Venus and Mars. In the very culture that dominated and occupied Jerusalem, in the time that Jesus was alleged to have appeared.

Anonymous said...

Here I'm narrowing the most common definition of "personification" a bit; to mean what happens when we 1) use figures of people, to stand for abstract qualities or ideas. Venus stands for Love, for example; an idea, a cosmic reality some would say.

Another way of thinking about it; "anthropomorphization": we use human like characters, to symbolize abstract things. Venus again, stands for the abstract concept of Love.

This kind of use of a human-like figure as a symbol, often occurs in fiction; in literature; in folktales. And related to these, in myth and religion.

2) How might this have created the legends of gods like Venus and Mars? Stories are told, with human-like or godlike figures, representing major abstract things; like love and war. Though these were just literary symbols, as these tales are told over and over? It seems that people lose site of the fact (or some never really comprehend) that these were not real people; but only made-up symbols.

And many people come to think that these symbolic people, were real. This explains how Greeks and Romans came up with the idea of Venus (Aphrodite): they had earlier invented her as a human symbol for love. But many Greeks did not know this origin; and came to think that "Venus," the goddess and symbol of "love," was a real historical entity or person.

3) Could "Jesus" be a similar thing?

Jesus in Paul and generally, often seems indeed, to symbolically stand for some complex, Platonistic philosophical ideas. About "love" in part; about "faith"; about godlike authority; about materiality vs. spirituality and so forth. Doherty notes that the things he stands for, relate too to some ideas in "Platonism"; relating to layers of ideas, layers of reality, in the "Cosmos." (Ideas found in Gnosticism too).

It is therefore quite possible, that Jesus was always a sort of literary figure or metaphor; possibly invented deliberately as a symbol. A symbol to stand for various ideas, about ultimate reality, gods, and the Cosmos. Though invented as a symbol,possibly many people who heard about Jesus, and who didn't understand symbols and metaphors (cf. Fundamentalists), could easily have just thought he was a real person. (Fundamentalists being known in fact, to this very day, for taking metaphors literally).

So Doherty's thesis seems plausible: Jesus was in origin just a literary symbol, for some comosmological/religious/spiritual ideas. So that you might say next that he was "crucified" in the world of theory, of cosmology.

And for that matter? Vridar/Neil Geoffrey's traditional thesis that Jesus was "literary" in origin, fits into this as well. "Jesus" and his life,his crucifixion, might well have been invented as a literary symbol or metaphor, for some complex religious ideas about God and the "cosmos."

But since most people even to this very day, don't know much about literature, and metaphors, and personification? To this day, most dodn't guess the real nature of the story; and take these spiritual metaphors, as literal, historical truth. About real, historical people.

This is a good theory of the origin of Christianity,of Jesus, and of other similar religions.

Most believers today, don't have the kind of literary sophistication you need, to see this possibility clearly. Though many have some sense of about half of this story: they know that somehow, Jesus and his stories, are "parables" about some kind of remote, "spiritual," Heavenly lesson or reality. While "Heaven" is a major part of the "cosmos."

VinnyJH57 said...

Finally there is no insuperable barrier, no glaring impossibility, to the idea that Jesus might just be a concretized, historicized version, of some story of abstract qualities; or specifically some "Cosmic" notion.

I suspect that this is true, but unfortunately I have my doubts that mythicists are going to be able to demonstrate much more than this as they are plagued by the same problematic sources as the historicists.

Anonymous said...


Well, sometimes I have some doubts about the final details of Doherty's claims. Though?

1) There's lots and lots of old classics literature that would support him: scholarly literature on "Platonism," and its spinoff Gnosticism; and their probable relation to Christianity.

2) And no doubt there are some VERY Platonistic idea in the Bible. Of layers of reality, "heavens," and so forth, in our Bibles. OFten it is said - consonant with the NT - that this "earth" and material "flesh," are just a "low" level of the main layers, planes, or reality; while "heaven" is a better, higher level of the universe ... or "cosmos."

3) And and in fact, though "parallelomania" is being critized today, that is actually the classic and accepted Structuralist method of Mythography. If you can show that two stories - in this case, Platonism and Jesus - are very, very much alike in the major structural points of the story? Then classic mythography would regard that as a "gimmie."

So Doherty's thesis remains quite plausible, and can't be just ruled out. Though of course, there are a dozen or so other possible sources of the Jesus Legend with strong claims too.

4) My "personification" thesis is one of them; one that by the way, ALSO fits in with Doherty's, interestingly.

5) In fact, critics often complain that Mythicist theories are often incompatible (oddly; when most Historicist theories do to). But it's amazing how many of them could all fit one coherent picture.

In this case? 1) The story of Jesus could be an original oral tale; 2) copied often into writing, and becoming "literary," "fiction"; 3) about philosophical or "Cosmic" realities; 4) specifically Platonistic and 5) Greco-Roman. Even as this message corresponds to 6) Christian ideas of a "spiritual" "plane" in the Bible; 7) regarding "heaven." And the 8) rection of mere physical (/historical reality) or "flesh." To see the "higher" truth.

It's amazing just how many layers of interpretation and theory, can fit into one coherent model. Making me think that perhaps, after all, we have found the elephant; and are now triangulating him, by adding up the parts.

This is politically a useful view too; we can say "yes" to dozens of people. Almost everyone has at least part of the larger puzzle.

I think this is where Neil makes his mistake: he wants a very narrow audience. And neglects to note the importance of the Big Tent, a broad inclusivity, in starting a major movement.

Intellectuals can be narrowly exclusivistic; but in politics and in starting major movements, with lots of members, being broad-minded is important too.

And what do you know? There's a model here that finds a relation between dozens of different theories.

Anonymous said...


Before I forget: I've been interested your discussion of what constitutes Paul "consulting" or whatever, between Paul and the Jerusalem church, and/or God. Corinthians vs. Galatians? Seems like if you have two different accounts of the same situation, that's at least "equivocation"; the Bible is at least giving you two choices.

And as I read the language? At it's worst, even the passage that seems to have Paul getting something from the apostles, doesn't unequivocally specific exactly WHAT it was. Etc. It's not entirely sure he is getting anything, really.

The Bible is a remarkably indecisive document. One might even say studiously, deliberately so. Useful, when you have only one document to govern a country.

By the way, I'm muddling around with a point of law on another blog, if you are interested. Regarding the attempt of churches to get exemptions from contraception side of Obamacare:

Unknown said...

I state: if Jesus would not have risen from the death no one would even remember Him. True? He would at best have been a historical or cultural curiosity among other curiosities. Not worth mentioning.

Historical thought has no direct entrance to history, but only to what has been written about certain events. Written by whom and why? Every historical reading presupposes a certain reception and paradigma: there is no objective point of view. Which historical data are chosen from the infinite row of data and why these data and not others? In what way these chosen data are connected with each other and what is the origin of the particular historical concept? Why is it what and how we think it is? In essence all history is an illustrated myth.

The decisive question is if this myth is reflected about. This seems at least to be decisive for a historian. One can write a secular history, a christian history, a marxist history: the writer decides. See for yourself: the developement in historical writing during the last ages and how the insights of historians change with time. So the blunt dilemma between history and myth seems to be false after all. If the Jesus story has any relevance, this presupposes it was relevant for those who wrote about it and those who read their writings nowadays. Why? The real question lies with us and has to deal with our hermeneutics and with what we therefore think that might be relevant and true or not.

Theologically: it leads us to the understanding of our own spirit of understanding. The question about the historicity of Jesus is in essence the question about the historical context of our own spirit. The criterium if we can consider our own way of thinking as 'historical' of 'mythical' might be solved by the recognition of the present contextuality of our own paradigmatic understanding. Why do we believe to be historical or true what we believe to be historical or true?

Are you a man or a woman? A believer or non-believer? A scientist or a farmer? Rich or poor? Gentle or Jew? If we want our belief in the resurrection of Jesus to be more that just a 'myth', we will have to search for its historical context. What made these christians make believe the unbelievable? Even an a-historical spiritual experience (can this be?) has its own historical context. As long as we are human we cannot get rid of history. There is no a-historical point of view, because we are history.

I conclude with my first statement: since we - as it seems -all remember Jesus, he must have risen from the death. True?

Erlend said...


What other figures Classicists and historians agree were historical do you think are the creation of hidden Platonic metaphors?

Ben said...


"If Mom and Dad are going to send me to college anyway, why should I behave for them?"

Point taken. However it would also be nice if Jesus would stop by and say hello rather than forcing people to engage in dubious religious epistemology and/or complex historical inquiry.


"It seems quite possible even to me that a least SOME elements of the Jesus Legend ("Legend" would the technical, historical/folkloristics term), were historical."

Yeah, there is a bit of a demarcation problem between mythicism and historicity given that there could have been a very irrelevant apocalyptic preacher named Jesus who got crucified who only serviced the Christian mythology in the most generic sense possible. With so much myth piled on top of that we might not bother considering him the "real" Jesus so much as a stock template. It already seems to be kind of that way with historicity since the remnant of Jesus is apparently so underwhelming that it's really the exaggeration, mythology, and church polemics that are Jesus proper for us. The historicists might find they're in an M Night Shyamalan movie where at the end they realize they've been mythicists the whole time!


You're being intellectually dishonest. "Mythological characters as historical personages" is exactly what the mythicists are claiming about Jesus and that's right there as part of your wiki definition, so STFU.

"That is one thing - but to suppose that the whole NT story is nothing more than one’s man vision winning the Vision Jackpot - is ludicrous."

Technically it would be more than Paul's visions at work there and I don't know what it is about the final product of the NT story that couldn't possibly have started off through tea leaf scripture reading and the visions of primordial Christians (because we got to make sense of our religion these days somehow...), followed by Paul popularizing it and rebranding it in his own way predominantly (because someone had their guilt complex popped by their own zealotry), then euhemerization of a cherished celestial deity (because that's the kind of thing they learned from the Greeks and they can't have all the good stuff...) and the retconning of later Christians who decided it should actually have happened in earthly history (because those darned religious people and their random convictions...), but in the way that they liked. If you accept that those things are real religious conventions of the time and that religions can go through various stages of mutation and development, this should not be a hard pill to swallow...even hypothetically without declaring mythicism the unequivocal winner.

"Paul’s insights, his visions, needed to resonate with reality, with historical events, if they ever were to have ‘legs’ upon which to run."

It's as though you think major world religions haven't been started on less...or as though the NT doesn't spend a great deal of ink uplifting visions and scripture above and beyond human testimony and historical inquiry. You'll find their bizarre mysticism trumps reality whenever push comes to shove. Just read 1 John 2:27 and 1 John 5: 6-12 if you doubt.

There seems to be a great deal of unspecified incredulity in your comments which makes you rather pointless to interact with. It'd also be nice if you would be fair with points that shouldn't be that controversial. Oh well. You suck.


"I suspect that this is true, but unfortunately I have my doubts that mythicists are going to be able to demonstrate much more than this as they are plagued by the same problematic sources as the historicists."


Anonymous said...

Joop: pretty good; a lot like LeDonne (who has a blog by the way). Suggesting that we are all in "history," or at least in whatever determines our timely existence, and/or our idea of what is real, historical.

And I agree that some kind of Jesus is "resurrected" in part, in that his memory, an impression of "him," lives on in our minds.

Though? We should not be entirely satisfied with out own subjectivities; Science often notes a somewhat more "objective" reality than our own myths, desires. We can argue that even science's "objectivity" is still partially myth. But? Not quite as much a outright fiction, Analytic Philosophy seems to imply.

Erland: many gods are clearly metaphors for, human-seeming symbols for, elements of nature, and human nature; Venus/Aph. is clearly "love." Not sure any Greek gods per se, are specifically Platonic/Platonistic. Any suggestions? Seems to me there were many Platonistic novels; dramatizing the "soul"s ascention through the layers of the onion. Maybe some were models for Jesus?

Remember: we don't need absolute identity between alleged "cause" and "effect"; just structural resemblances.

Ben: Yup. In fact Carrier in a quick aside to Goodacre I think, throws out the figure that even "historicists" in effect think 90% of the biblical Jesus is myth.

So the difference between Historicists and Mythicists is the difference of degree; between 90-100%. While if it's 90? Then it would be more accurate to say "myth," than not.

Lots note that all that is left of Jesus today, is the smile of the Cheshire cat. And the grin is disappearing. I'd suggest that if one of the roots of "Jesus" is the 6% of the 2,000 Jews named "Jesus" crucified by Archelaus' buddy, the Roman general Varius c. 4 BC? Then there were about 120 Jesus' contributing to the story. Or 121, including Philo's Jesus.

In the end, there's no one single individual behind it then; even if hundreds of living (and imaginary) people contributed.

In that case though? Mythicists CAN look at what is considered "historical," without too much fear. It's not quite the same as finding "the" historical Jesus.

And as noted here first: if myth and reality are hard to distinguish; even "historial" things may "vanish like smoke"; as "all that is solid melts."

In the "end." In our current, final, Poststructuralist/Apocalyptic analysis.

Anonymous said...


Mythicism as yet, has not made an irrefutable claim. But it is more comfortable with this than Historicism. We KNOW we are in and with myths, whatever we do

And in that sense? We know more than Historicists.

If both are really in the same boat; if the firmness of Mythicism, and Historicism alike, are myths? Then "myth" overtakes both. And Mythicism wins.

If the bottom line is that "myth" overtakes us all, then the point here (Joop's?), that after all ... Mythicism should engulf and replace, Historicism. As the more humble and aware discipline; one more aware honestly, of its own subjectivity and fallibilities.

(Let anyone speak here, who can say this in a less clumsy way. My notes here are always VERY rough drafts!)

Anonymous said...

At least we know we don't know.

As Socrates tried to teach everyone, so long ago. (As he died a hero, a martyr; to save others....)

maryhelena said...


So what is this - you can’t support your earlier assertion “....we find that Christianity started out as a relevatory Jewish cult that historicizes its messiah urban legend...” so you resort to being bad mannered? ‘STFU’ and “You suck” hardly encourage one to discuss anything with you. So, Ben, from me - have a nice day.

Ben said...


We were having a conversation? I thought you were just being an incredulous, anti-mythicist pull string doll who would quibble any non-controversial point to death to keep things from moving on. My bad. I take it all back. :p

maryhelena said...


Well now - that’s a new one for me - “anti-mythicist pull string doll”....;-)

Let me tell you something - I doubt very much that you will come across such a hard core ahistoricist/mythicist than myself...

“ to keep things from moving on...” Ben, I’ve been at this ‘game’ for over 30 years - and I don’t think anyone is near catching up with me yet....haha.....

Actually, I’m not interested in the HJ/MJ debate - one makes ones decision and moves forward from there. The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating - so, in this case, it’s where the HJ or the MJ decision can take one that is important.

However, when I see some mythicist repeatedly banging their heads against the HJ camp - I get a headache - and either reach for the keyboard - or more usually - just shake my head. This HJ/MJ debate cannot be won via arguments over the NT. The NT is what it is. If a forward movement is possible in the search for early Christian origins, it will have to come from outside that source.

It’s this debate, the HJ/MJ debate, that is keeping things from moving along....this debate is a quagmire that will devour time and energy that would be better utilized elsewhere.

Mike Gantt said...


"However it would also be nice if Jesus would stop by and say hello rather than forcing people to engage in dubious religious epistemology and/or complex historical inquiry."

God did stop by to say hello, and was crucified for his trouble. That some people put themselves through all sorts of mental contortions (from excessive historical criticism all the way to mythicism) so as to be able to ignore the obvious testimony of those 1st-century documents we call the New Testament is not a fault which can fairly be ascribed to Him.

Anonymous said...

Except, Sermonizing Mike? 1) Jesus promised to return "soon" - and we haven't seen him close up and personal, in the flesh, for 2,000 years. The apostles had to spin the term "soon" to mean millions of years. Which clearly looks like semantic word-"twisting" to many of us.

And 2) Jesus also promised us "all the wonders" he himself worked, "and greater things than these." Yet Mike? You're not literally walking on water, are you?

3) So let's take a harder look even at the Biblical Jesus; he seems not only doubtful in objective terms, but even seems to doubt himself, at times; to indicate he was not as all-knowing as you think. To add to my above examples: Jesus was said to have "grown in understanding" as a youth; implying he didn't know as much, earler.

Then too, Jesus himself somewhere notes that he, jesus, picked the disciples ... but one of them was the devil himself. Did jesus deliberately pick the devil, as one of his disciples? To speak for him? This passage might seem in one reading to show Jesus noting mistakes even in himself.

So Jesus is not only questionable in Historical terms; even the biblical Jesus himself often (if not always) seems to be casting doubts ... on himself.

So your model of Jesus, as the perfect paragon of certainty, does not hold up historically - or biblically, theologically either.

Mike Gantt said...


You're fighting a straw man.

Jesus was not omniscient in His earthly life. He was, however, and contrary to your assertions, certain about his identity his mission.

VinnyJH57 said...

He was, however, and contrary to your assertions, certain about his identity his mission.

And you know this how Mike? Because thirty to sixty years after he died unknown authors put words into his mouth based on oral tradition that was removed an unknown number of times from anyone who might have actually have heard him speak them?

Is this your common sense notion of historiography?

VinnyJH57 said...


I think that agnosticism wins under the circumstances you describe. I think that mythicism wins when we can say that the non-existence of a historical Jesus is more likely than not that.

Anonymous said...

We have an undercertain Jesus, from every perspective. Except the conservative Dogmatists.

Mike? So in your account, when Jesus obviously felt he had been abandoned by God on the cross - "Why have you abandoned me" - he was certain about his mission? I'm sure there are apologetics rationalizations for this; but none hold up under close inspection.

Mike? You are a compendium of standard dogmatic apologetics cliches. Problem is, you're too proud to entertain the possiblity that they - and you - were wrong.
Your sin therefore? Is Pride and Vanity.

Vinny: sounds about right. But? I have high hopes that a bit more research ... and we'll be there.

While in the meantime? Historicism should concede it doesn't really know (either?); and should therefore collapse into a Mythicism that acknowledges it's all myth. Or say, both should merge into "Jesus Research"; a field that remains studiously open on the matter of whether Jesus exists or not. Rather than firmly telling us, as Ehrman or Hurtado did recently, firmly, that we "know" Jesus existed in some historical form.

I'm willing to live with a Mythicism that is uncertain or agnostic; as long as we don't have to listen to the vainly all-too-certain, self-trumpeting dogmatists any more, in other fields. To achieve that end, Mythicism doesn't have to do a thing; but Dogmatics, and much of Historicism, DO need to change radically.

Ben: I think you might be speaking to the rather wellknown author, Maryhelena/Acharya/Murdoch; who has strongly stupported Mythicism in the past. Though perhaps indeed some polite discussion is needed here.

By the way; I would agree that the exact origin of the Jesus myth is not yet fully known; and the "historical" roots I or anyone looks at are somewhat speculative. Here too, I have noted some possible historical events; but note that even these do not really indicate "an" historical Jesus. And there are dozens of other myths that seem relevant to.

Ben's characterization of the moment of genesis as "urban myth" is a pretty good blanket term, at present.

In addition, the term "legend," has a technical defintion in folkloristics; leaves open the possiblity that a given figure is either 1) historical, OR 2) mythical. A "legend" or popular story might be true - or might not. This might be a useful term for those who want to straddle the line.

But to be sure, most of the time, like much of Ben's writing, I like to argue the case for "total myth." Myths seem to fit Jesus so much better than the facts, historical or scientific. Or even biblical - Mike.

maryhelena said...

Bretton wrote:

Ben: I think you might be speaking to the rather wellknown author, Maryhelena/Acharya/Murdoch; who has strongly stupported Mythicism in the past. Though perhaps indeed some polite discussion is needed here.

Oh, dear...... your wrong on this. I'm not in the Acharya/Murdoch 'camp' - I've never even read her books.....

Roo said...

" MARS, and VENUS. These we know, were personifications of two abstract ideas of qualities; respectively, War and Love. Yet note? Both of them were taken as real gods - and historical characters. By the Greeks."

I have been reading Walter Burkert's "GREEK RELIGION" (1987, Harvard Un. Press), and his "ANCIENT MYSTERY CULTS" (1989, Harvard Un. Press), and am now looking at Jon D. Mikalson's "ANCIENT GREEK RELIGION" (2004, Wiley-Blackwell).

As far as I can recall, they never mention Mars or Venus. Mars was definitely a Roman God unknown among Greeks. His origin was strictly Roman. In ancient Greece, there was no temple, no sanctuary, no festival, no hymn, no sacrifice to this god. No Greek hopliter paid homage to Mars. No tragedy ever mentioning him. Greek religion in fact didn't even have a real equivalent to this Roman God.
Venus is a bit in the same situation, although Roman poets freely copied the features and stories about Aphrodite.

To claim that such gods were personifications of "abstract concepts" is unfounded and utterly misguided.
"War" was not a concept for the Greeks, but a real event, the war of Troy, the Persian wars, the Peloponnesian War against Sparta, etc...In each event they offered sacrifices to their gods for support. The gods were not forms of "abstract concepts" (an absurd idea) but forces that could influence the outcome of the battles. Aphrodite, working with Eros, was another force, that of sexual desire and sexual attraction. All the gods represented some kind of forces that had to be honored and respected. All Greek religion was based on the various forms of "honoring" the gods.

To see them as primitive adaptations of "abstract concepts" is a modern illusion, retrojecting our modern ideas back into an ancient world where abstract concepts were barely known, and, products of the language, they created perplexity and anxiety in a few isolated thinkers.
Thanks to education and printing, many "abstractions" have become part of our modern mental baggage. That was not the case at all in antiquity and around the ANE.

Those gods were part of the real world, could easily fly through the air, plunge into the ocean and rivers, animate the winds, move the scenery, change into animals or elements, go under the earth, etc...All very feasible when you had the right engines.

Nothing "cosmic" about this. This "cosmic-ness" is a modern invention retrojected into an ancient Weltanschauung which had different ideas from ours.

Anonymous said...

MH: So your view is "follow the evidence" on HJ; whether it seems historical, or mythical?

Though to be sure ... many historians today admit that all history is to some extent, unsure, and mythical.

So many of us end up in about the same place?

VINNY: COuld you live with a Mythicism that defined its main credo this way: "We THINK that Jesus is, overwhelmingly and perhaps totally, a myth."

Anonymous said...


Sorry. Elsewhere I noted more properly they were "Greco-Roman." But I assumed you knew that many Roman gods were modified Greek ones; "Venus" from "Aphrodite" and so forth.

Wiki on Mars: "Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. "

Mars and war moreover, might seem quite concrete. But if you read the tales of Mars and his Greek prececessors, he becomes a 1) character or force of nature, involved in 2) complex interactions with others; that amount to a kind of essay on the relation of "war" - rather in the abstract - with other things, like "love."

Love too of course, is already a (partially) abstract idea. And one that moreover links not only with Greco-Roman civ and Platonism, but also Christianity and its God; of whom it is said "God is Love."

Moreover? If in your own language, the gods were "forces," then in effect, they were still not quite PERSONS. They were therefore still personifications or anthropomorphizations, of either my "ideas," or your still somewhat abstract and general - if materially real - "forces."

Mars in everyday Roman life, might not seem very cosmic. But To say there is "nothing cosmic" is historically wrong; the gods remember, were often pictured in "heaven." Part of the cosmos. And though they often came down to earth, their behavior and doings, they were also associate with some kind of non-earthly being.

Granted, Mars was rather earthly. But Venus and Love might begin to show you how personified forces (Plato's "ideas" inhereing in things, as per Aristotle?), begin to become aetheralized; and ascribed more and more in some Greek philosophers, to more and more disembodied speculations and spheres.

Mike Gantt said...


"And you know this how Mike? Because thirty to sixty years after he died unknown authors put words into his mouth based on oral tradition that was removed an unknown number of times from anyone who might have actually have heard him speak them?

I can either believe what you just claimed or I can believe what the documents themselves claim. It is more reasonable to accept what the documents themselves claim.

Anonymous said...


Even when they claim hundreds of things that just manifestly never come true in the real life around us?

Mike Gantt said...


When Jesus said from the cross "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" He was invoking the 22nd psalm, yet one more claim that he was was the Davidic messiah.

Mike Gantt said...

This I will say on behalf of all the mythicists and fence-sitters:

They have the right to feel betrayed by skeptical biblical scholars. This is because the mythicists have simply taken the views and approaches of skeptical biblical scholars to their logical conclusion.

If you have been chipping away at a wall one brick at a time, you shouldn't act all that surprised if someone wants to come along with a bulldozer and finish the job.

Anonymous said...


Well, you looked up the standard apologetic. However, it doesn't quite work. Over and over in fact, the New Testament paralleled - and often directly quoted - the Old Testament. In part to try to gain legitimacy for its otherwise too-new, Platonistic ideas.

However? When Jesus quoted the Old Testament, it was not just attempting to gain legitimacy; and Jesus here specifically, was not JUST proving his tie to David (and not Job?) by quoting him. Normally, when OT phrases are quoted in the NT, it is because the particulars of the old event, match in SEVERAL respects the new situation. Of in this case, Jesus on the cross.

Here in fact, 1) if Jesus invokes this PARTICULAR quote from David, it was to link not just to David or the OT .. but 2) to link his own sense of abandonment by God, to earlier texts.

Which indeed was relevant for apologetics reasons. most Jewish ideas of God returning to earth, do not have him being killed. Nor even his hero son. So that Jesus - rightly - might feel that he has indeed been abandoned by God. Rather more exactly in parallel with David, than you think.

Indeed there is every indication that Jesus did not really know or think he was God, or even Christ. How could he have been a real human being in part,knowing that he was God? Wouldn't that interrupt his human side? Clearly he didn't really know his mission, or status.

Jesus was far more human - and fallible - than dogmatists like yourself have claimed.

Mike? By your own account, you began your college education in South Carolina; the state that is 49th in the US in high school graduation rates. The state that dragged the whole US into an immensely destructive Civil War, because it wanted to fight to the death, to hold on to Slavery; the enslavement of other human beings.

That was not a good place to begin your education Mike. It is not the place to be from, if you really want to learn to think your way through complicated problems. Even a later Min.D. at Fuller, finds a Fuller that in this late date, is nothing like the critical powerhouse it was decades ago.

It you want to learn to think clearly on religious problems, you're going to have to cut loose from some of the traditions behind you. Just quoting what you always heard in church in SC is no good. Especially not when the Bible itself began warning us of flaws, sins, even in the very earliest Christian churches for example. (Rev. 2-3).

Jesus was invoking the Ps. 22 ... and its more complete content. As being approriate to his own sitation: not knowing if he was really from God, or not.And like Jesus himself, you Mike - and all of us - should wonder, and think. Before presuming to harrange and prosletize others.

"NOt many should become teachers," James warned; against the Great Commission.

Who commissioned you Mike? Are you SURE it was really God? Or a "false spirit" posing as God, the "angel of light"?

Many, many people present themselves as the voicepieces of God; all our ministers it seems. And yet? The Bible warned over and over of massive sins in essentially "all" our holiest men and angels.

Who is so vain among us, as to imagine that he or she is good enough, to escape the foretold sins and errors of holy men?

Only our preachers. Who pretend to have modesty. But who deeper down experience the massive vanity, of presuming to speak for God, day after day.

Rather than merely preaching, it would be better to be truly humble and circumspect, Mike. Listen carefully to others, before you speak. And try to address their comments, in part on their own terms.

Anonymous said...

And indeed? Mythicists are in part, just following critical scholarship, to its logical conclusion. But not without a close look at the Bible - that discovers that oddly enough, a certain questioning can be found, even in Jesus himself.

So that a preacher's extreme dogmatism and certainty about what the Bible and God wanted, is not warranted. Not even by Christ himself. Who questions even himself, after all.

maryhelena said...


Perhaps, inadvertently, you have hit the nail on the head here. Yes, without those skeptical biblical scholars, I, and the rest of those ahistoricist/mythicists, would not be where we are today. I can still feel the astonishment - and the energy - I got from reading John Hick’s The Myth of God Incarnate. That book was my open door to an intellectual new world.

Betrayed? But, Mike, that’s the lot of ideas, is it not? Intellectual evolution is no respecter of the status-quo. And has not Christianity been called the ‘mother of heretics’. It’s in the blood...;-)

While on this subject - perhaps a word of thanks to Mark Goodacre. Not only for his willingness to debate/discuss the HJ/MJ ideas with Richard Carrier - but even more so his willingness to let this blog discussion run its course....

VinnyJH57 said...

I can either believe what you just claimed or I can believe what the documents themselves claim. It is more reasonable to accept what the documents themselves claim.

What makes it more reasonable, Mike?

Mike Gantt said...


To start with, your statement was more of a polemic than a rationale. Second, it used a dispute about gospel authorship as a justification for discrediting the entire New Testament. Moreover, it described a particular view of gospel authorship as if it was the only legitimate view. And, of course, you offered no reasons for the view at all. You just asserted it as if it were proven fact.

Ben said...


Ok, so you think the gospels are completely ahistorical and that Jesus didn't exist, but you just doubt that the gospel of Mark could have been translated into a symbolic tale of Pauline theology? That's your only hangup here? Wow...

Well that's nice. Maybe you should go to some other thread where euhemerization can mean all the things it's allowed to mean. Or maybe describe your Christian origins elevator speech so we have a better idea of where you are coming from. If you are going to continue to waste time with us.


"God did stop by to say hello, and was crucified for his trouble."

Doggoneit, I *just* missed him. Wouldn't you know. That's what I get for being born in the 1980's.

"If you have been chipping away at a wall one brick at a time, you shouldn't act all that surprised if someone wants to come along with a bulldozer and finish the job."

Mythicism (of the Doherty and Carrier variety)isn't about rounding down to zero from the smidgen of historicity scholars tend to accept. It's a hypothesis aimed at better understanding the kind of Christianity of Paul's era and before that. And that entails ironically being willing to say, "It is more reasonable to accept what the documents themselves claim," rather than what the gospels would have us impose on them as though their wall to wall bs makes them even a remotely credible source.

Mike Gantt said...


Leaving aside the gospels and other NT documents, it seems impossible to me that one could read the undisputed Paulines and think that he was writing about a Christ who had not lived an earthly life.

VinnyJH57 said...

To start with Mike, I didn't make a statement. I asked you a question about how you knew that Jesus was certain about his identity and his mission. The reason why I asked you this is because that strikes me as the kind of thing that is very difficult to know about any person.

Moreover, nothing in your last comment answers the question I asked in my last comment which is why it is more reasonable simply to accept the claims that the New Testament documents make.

VinnyJH57 said...


I can live perfectly well with them thinking that. I'm simply doubtful that they can actually demonstrate that.

Mike Gantt said...


You did make a statement and it was to that statement I was reacting.

If you want to know why I think Jesus was certain about his identity and mission it is because of the statements attributed to him in the gospels. Here is but a small sampling

- I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me

- He who sent me is with me and he has not left me alone for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.

- Go, and sell all that you have and come and follow me.

These are obviously not the statements of a person uncertain about himself or his mission.

If you want to know why I think it's reasonable to take the New Testament documents at face value is because there's insufficient reason not to. They documents come to us from antiquity attributed to the apostles who followed Christ and who were sent by him. They cohere with each other and with the Old Testament in striking ways. I've read many challenges to their reliability, but none that was compelling.

Bernard said...

At about 33:00 in the broadcast, Richard Carrier said (regarding the 'Ascension of Isaiah' (AofI), about what was heard or seen by Isaiah when in heaven (ch. 7-10):
“Jesus was a pre-existent being, who is going to descend and assume a body, and devil and Satan and his demons were the ones to crucify and kill him in the firmament in the lower heavens.”

There are two problems with that statement:
Never in AofI, it is written,
a) Satan and his demons crucified and killed Jesus.
b) This crucifixion took place in the firmament and/or in the lower heavens.

Furthermore, Carrier said Isaiah, according to the text, witnessed later these things. Again not true. It is not here.

Can anyone prove me wrong?

Cordially, Bernard

VinnyJH57 said...

In other words Mike, you have no reasons that would even remotely qualify as objective or legitimate based on any recognized historical methodology. Nevertheless, you blithely accuse mythicists of being anti-history and you wonder why they fail to answer questions to your satisfaction.

Bernard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maryhelena said...


Wow.....nice switch there Ben. So, that problematic bugbear of a word “historicized” has been dumped for the much easier on the eye “symbolic”...

As for my “elevator speech” - nice try to change the subject - but one thing about me - I like to keep things in focus. And that focus in this blog discussion is that between the HJ position and the position of some mythicists that a Pauline cosmic type JC has been historicized as the gospel JC. That’s it. That is the focus here. I’ve yet to see a mythicist provide any rational, logical or plausible argument to support this proposition. I’m waiting.....

Ben said...


"Wow.....nice switch there Ben. So, that problematic bugbear of a word “historicized” has been dumped for the much easier on the eye “symbolic”..."

Um, it's the same thing. The idea is that the author of Mark was consciously taking Pauline theology and creating a symbolic myth placed in a historical setting. You know, historical fiction, but in this case with a deep religious punch. And later Christians decided it must have actually happened and commissioned their own spins on it.

"As for my “elevator speech” - nice try to change the subject"

I want to know where you are coming from so I can connect with your background knowledge rather than continuing to argue in the dark having no idea what you already do and don't accept. If you don't want to have a conversation, you're doing a great job.

"I’ve yet to see a mythicist provide any rational, logical or plausible argument to support this proposition. I’m waiting....."

We can move on to step 2 when you get step 1.

maryhelena said...


No, can't get past step 1, I'm afraid. It just requires too much suspension of rationality for me to even contemplate it....

Anyway, I'm off to play bridge for the morning - so, bye for now....;-)

PS - don't worry about where I'm coming from - just concentrate on providing some logic and plausibility for the proposition you are advancing...

Ben said...


"just concentrate on providing some logic and plausibility for the proposition you are advancing..."

Pssst...that's step 2.

Anonymous said...

Mike & Vinnie:

The great sin of dogmatic preachers, is that they quote only the parts of the Bible that seem to make their own points; while they ignore the OTHER parts. In Mike's case - and in the case of most ministers - we are hearing only about those parts of the Bible that seem, taken by themselves, to present a perfect, all knowing Jesus. While Mike ignores - or then tries to "twist" - the many OTHER parts. The parts that picture Jesus as far more self-questioning, self-doubting. Doubting his status, and mission.

Jesus himself is far less certain therefore, thaan claimed. Than claimed by those countless ministers who want to assert that an unequivocal Jesus or God, stands behind their own moralistic bullying and condemnations and patronizations.

In reality, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away"; what we seem to see in one part of the holy book, is often all but entirely taken away in the next.

So what parts of the Bible might not picture Jesus as certain? Not certain in his own opinions ... and even in his own existence? I've quoted a few here.

Can we finally suggest that even the Bible at times hints that ... its own creations were often doubtful? Fictional?

In fact, aside from the quotes I mentioned above, it seems we can find major elements in the Bible and even in Jesus, that the Bible itself - and Science - seem to find flatly false. Like promises of physical miracles. Which are often delivered in far, far more equivocal language than Mike seems to ever notice. Indeed, even in the Bible itself, these physical promises in fact are often all but entirely disappeared. As they are turned into mere parables, figures, metaphors, for mental or "spiritual" wonders. For events in our spirit, or Heaven.

So oddly in fact, we can find support not only in Science, but even in the self-questioning side of the Bible itself, for suggesting that some parts of say Jesus, might simply be in effect, false. Starting with say, the parts that appeared to promise giant physical miracles. Maybe they were just metaphors, say, for spiritual, heavenly - cosmic - things.

So can Mythicism prove that Jesus is mostly myth? Actually part of its case seems proven already. Not just by the Bible itself, but also by Science. Most rational persons today would simply concede part of Mythicism's case: much of "Jesus" is about promising physical miracles; but science shows that miracles don't happen.

So this part of Jesus; his promises of miracles, "all" and "whatever" we "ask" - perhaps 50% of Jesus - now seems clearly false.

Therefore Science supports/proves already, a major part of both the Historicist and Mythicst thesis: that much of Jesus is myth. Specifically, to start with, his promises of physical miracles.

About half of Jesus' cachet in the world, comes from his promises of giant physical rewards, miracles, if we follow him. So if those promises are false - as Science firmly says - already we've proven more than half our case. Already we've proven that at least half of what most people think is Jesus, is false; 50% was not real.

And theologically? In Biblical language? Those who followed the miracle-working idea of Jesus, were following a false idea of Christ; or in other words one of the foretold "false Christ"s.)

So Vinnie? I think part of the Mythicist argument IS proven; even scientifically. Already.

While Mike? I think the Bible itself begins to suggest problems with this Magical Miracle jesus, and the other half of Jesus as well. The Bible begins to question the preachers' conventional Jesus, in hundreds of parts of the Bible that conventional preachers deny, or twist.

As it turns out, there are many parts - even thousands - of parts o fthe Bible that preachers deny, or twist. To support their desperate but flawed effort to establish an absolute, dogmatic Jesus. As the alleged foundation and justification, for their own inflexible pontifications.

Mike Gantt said...


"And that focus in this blog discussion is that between the HJ position and the position of some mythicists that a Pauline cosmic type JC has been historicized as the gospel JC. That's it. That is the focus here. I've yet to see a mythicist provide any rational, logical or plausible argument to support this proposition. I'm waiting....."

For mythicists and fence-sitters to address this point would require them to have an "emperor has no clothes" moment, which would be of course - poof - the end of their mythicism.

By the way, are there any former mythicists out there - or do they, Calvin-like, subscribe to "the perseverance of the ain't's?"

Anonymous said...

Partial Qualification:

After 12 or 14 years of forced church/Sunday School attendance, and then a lifetime of the Religious Right on TV, I'm not fond of specifically, ministers, with their sanctimonious pontifications and bullying.

Though to be sure, I'd allow say, Vinnie's steady interrogations. While even Ben's rather aggressive style, possibly suits the nature of the communication innovation of our time: the Internet blog. Which is to be sure, an aggressive, rude - but frank - genre.

Insult is the lingua franca of the Internet blog; it is intrinsic to the genre. Though of course, this is a partially academic blog too; overseen by a wellknown scholar.

So it's best to present insults in intellectual form ... or intials, etc., I guess.

Anonymous said...

Remember? The assertion that you "haven't seen" this or that, the assertion that a given position has yet to make sense to you, is not in itself, proof that the position is false. In effect, you might just be presenting the classic logical fallacy , the "Argument From Ignorance."

Too many people in fact, deify their lack of understanding.

Please note my argument, above: that Science has indeed already proven that half of Jesus at least, is a myth. Thus the Mythicist argument is largely proven, already. All we are looking at now, are the stragglers.

Mike Gantt said...


I'm not a historian; I'm just someone who, like everyone else, has read history. I see no reason to read history one way when it comes to the Magna Carta or the Gettysburg Address and another way when it comes to the New Testament documents.

Anonymous said...

Better described: the "Argument From Personal Incredulity." That's where you assert that you don't understand something, therefore it must be false. Overlooking the possiblity that it is true, but you just didn't get it.

Mike? Do you have any idea how many points were made above, that you never saw, or addressed? I've even called your attention to some of them several times. And essentially just got "huh?" or nothing, as your answer.

Much of History by the way, refers to Jesus as a "Legend." That is a technical word in the Social Sciences; it means an alleged fact that cannot be confirmed however, as a true fact.

Mike Gantt said...


Some of your posts are like stream-of-consciousness that flit from one subject to another. They defy cogent response.

Vinny is at least focused and succinct in his challenges, which is why you see me responding more to him than to you.

Anonymous said...


Consider the parable of "The Ostrich with its Head in the Sand." When confronted with something he doesn't like, or can't face? The ostrich sticks his head in the sand. And then says: "I can't see it; so it's not there."

What did I just say about physical miracles, above? Did you see it?

Anonymous said...


Here's my current argument, in simple language.

You and MH are arguing that Mythicism has not made its case, that Jesus was not real. I'm noting now, that part of the Mythicst argument, depends on Science.

Jesus as he is presented in the Bible, often promises physical miracles. But Science says there are no miracles. Therefore? Science says that a major part of Jesus is false.

Much of Mythicism rests on this finding, from Science.

At least one major part of Mythicism's case against HJ therefore, IS solidly proven. By science, no less.

Ben said...

It was asked that the Carrier/Doherty mythicist theory be outlined. And despite many people not doing so, I did outline it. Since then there have been issues with that basic description of explanation which I've been attempting to resolve so that we can move on to entertaining the reasons the likes of Carrier, Doherty, and Godfrey think it is more likely true than the standard historicist view. Books have been written on this stuff, so there might be an argument or two hidden away in there... All the while I'm being blamed for not moving on, even though I'm not the one holding up the conversation on relentlessly unspecified incredulity and definitional gerrymandering. That's Mike and Mary's job and all they are doing is retroactively justifying the cynicism of others who have already bailed on this "conversation." Personally I think I've advanced the discussion a great deal more than any other commenter in this thread has and I don't know why anyone would suspect I don't intend to do more. But *I* expect, ironically the same thing Mary *claims* she wants, a basic procedural *focus*. When the basic hypothesis has been adequately described as coherent in nature (something very difficult for lots of people, new to the topic, to wrap their minds around), I'm happy to keep pushing the envelope forward. It's pointless to argue for something like a circular square if you don't believe in circular squares as even Mary has pointed out. But am I still going to let you know you suck for playing both sides of the fence like you aren't the cause of the problem. You don't get a free pass for sucking. I don't go out of my way to lavish anyone in insults unless productive conversation is being held up for stupid reasons. If you take a real step forward, I'll take a real step forward with you. If you're a jerk with an ax to grind, well reap what you sow and go cry to someone else because someone called you a meanie on the internet for being a meanie on the internet.

maryhelena said...

No, Mike - for mythicists to address the proposition on the table, that a Pauline cosmic JC has been historicized as the gospel JC, would never be the end of mythicism. Yes, that particular proposition is like an ‘emperor with no clothes on” - but it’s just an idea. And surely, the mythicists that uphold this proposition won’t want to be seen to be doing what they so often accuse the JC historicists off - an unwillingness to even look at the issues surrounding their own position. It’s surely telling is it not.....the rush to step 2. Befuddle the opposition with volumes of Pauline interpretations - and ignore the fact that their proposition is devoid of logic and rationality.

Mike Gantt said...


I think you'd be more accurate to say Mythicism depends on Naturalism than to say it depends on Science.

Certainly, if Naturalism were true then the miracles attributed to Jesus would have to be considered as falsehoods, and a significant aspect of the gospels would thereby be removed - most notably His own resurrection from the dead.

I just don't think Naturalism adequately explains the world in which we find ourselves. Whether or not Mythicists consider themselves dependent on Naturalism, I have not heard them say (perhaps until now).

Mike Gantt said...


Point taken.

Mike Gantt said...


"Personally I think I've advanced the discussion a great deal more than any other commenter in this thread..."

For my part, Ben, I want to be sure to acknowledge that you have indeed been more forthcoming than any other mythicist or fence-sitter on this thread in making a positive case for Mythicism. And I hope maryhelena would agree.

The problem is that a thesis ought to have some plausibility on its face. The fact that the thesis you put forward lacks it so glaringly is not your fault. It is the result of the bankruptcy of Mythicism. It succeeds only where it attacks history; never where it is called upon to state history.

Mike Gantt said...


Thanks for the clarification, which explains why I had not heard Bret's view on this before.

Anonymous said...

Ben's elevator definition, probably incoporated not just Doherty and Carrier, but also elements of our own position(s) here. Which is fine by me! I think our/my local definition is better in fact.

So let's keep on with that as a working local definition of our work here.

For the sake of perspective on the Historicist/Mythicst argument, I'm now reminding everyone what people once meant by "Jesus is Historical." At one time, that meant Jesus was historical - physical miracles and all. So let's review how far "Historicism" has come; how far in the direction of Mythicism, it has already moved. Most of it has given up defending the Jesus that promised or worked, say, huge physical miracles. So those who say Jesus is "historical," have already given up say 50-70% of their turf. In favor of mythicism.

Current HJ studies now tacitly concede the Jesus of "miracles" is false. So HJ is just looking at say, the 30% of Jesus that is left, after subtracting many things that it does not even believe in itself. So in effect? Much of HJ study has already conceded 70% of the case to the argument, that Jesus was a myth.

That will help give us some perspective on this argument - and the drift, the trend: historicism is giving serious ground.

And by the way? We should not how different the "Historicism" of today is, from the assertions that Jesus is real, jesus is historical, from just a few years ago, or in everyday Historical work. When a Christian historian in 1940 spoke of Jesus as historically 'real" ... he or she often meant, miracles and all. But we should not refer to this kind of history, as proof that historians support HJ; rather they supported a far less defensible position; since abaondoned by current HJ studies.

The fact is, those who want to say Jesus is real, or historical, have already long since, given up huge amounts of turf. To essentially, Mythicism. In fact? if they have given up say 70%, then overall we might simply claim a Mythicist victory, on the spot. Without need for further argument.

As Ben and I and others have suggested; those who call themselves "historicists" today, are really 70% mythicsts. The argument was won, not too long ago.

To be sure, there are a many conservative preachers - like Mike Min.D.. Who might not concede miracles. But most in the academic community have long ago conceded them.

If we put the Mythicist/Historicist debate into larger historical perspective then? In academe, the battle was won by the Mythicsts. All we are talking about now, are stragglers; the academic small change. Or perhaps, the Fundamentalist churches.

Historicts should keep this perspective in mind - their existing record of massive losses, concessions - when they start crowing, like Mike.

Think back to what we might call, OHJ: "Original Historical Jesus." And how much turf HJ has given up already, from that original position.

While given such losses in the past? Given THAT history? What would we expect the final outcome will be? Even even the Historicts won their present case, they walk away with a 30% Jesus.

That would be about 1/1/2 feet high?

Mike Gantt said...


You are right that Historical Jesus studies per se (Funk, Crossan, et al) have conceded enormous historical ground to those who seek to de-historicize Jesus. And it is also true that these HJ studies have built upon the broader thrust of critical scholarship which has itself served to de-historicize much of Jesus' life.

For this reason, I find it amusing that the "historicists" and the Mythicists squabble with each other. For like the Pharisees and Sadducees, they are opposed to each other but manage to come together on the goal that is common to both of them: to marginalize Jesus of Nazareth.

Anonymous said...

Ben: The reason I'm not QUITE abandoning the Bible, is that though I hold that 1) while the common reading of it, and the Jesus it presents, are false and wrong, 2)the Bible itself actually holds up pretty well, properly read. 3) Though the final Jesus it presents is probably not historical, it is a valuable fiction at least.

Read more closely, I find, the Bible is actually a self-deconstructive document; it constantly warns about sins and errors in "all" our holiest men and angels ("all have sinned"; "no one is good but God"; "all" those host of heaven will fall). And the Jesus it presents is actually, modestly self-doubting. Not Mike's paragon of self-satisfied dogmatism.

So actually? I can simultaneously hold that 1) the "Jesus" that most Christians and even Historicists believe in is false; THEIR "Bible" is false; but 2) there is a better Christ; the more modest one. And 3)that reading of the Bible, its "Christ," is valuable, good, true. 4) Who may or may not be - probably isn't - "historical."

Over the centuries, the idea of Jesus evolved, in the writings about him. So the Jesus we have in the Bible, is probably not really true to history or an original. But even so this created Jesus - properly read - is a compelling and profound work of fiction at least. Particularly useful: reading Jesus more carefully, we find that he deconstructs much of contemporary Christianity; he is humble about the certainty of religion, especially. So we have a more introspective, self-critical religiosity.

The deeper, more humble Jesus may or may not be historical; but likely in fact is a gradual "literary" invention, as Neil Godfrey might like to say on Vridar. One evolved over many years; with little if any fidelity to any "original." So again, I'm in teh Mythicist camp. Even while asserting a valuable kind of "Jesus" in the Bible.

Perspective again: since 70% of historical jesus has already been conceded by Historicists, I suggest this means that overwhelmingly, if we had to summarize in a word, we should say generally, that "Jesus" as the whole world thought of him, does not exist; is a myth.

So much has been gained. What remains though? Summarizing, we might 1) note that Mythicsm has already largely won at least in academe; 2) but we should continue to go for the last 30%.

I'd 3) also like to suggest to the world as well however, that however, there is still a compelling - if not necessarily historical - more humble Jesus, in the "received" Bible; that appeared the text as it has evolved over the years, and that we have today. Perhaps not quite a single original historical person. And certainly not the Proud, Vain, self-proclaiming Jesus of the preachers. But a more humble, humanistic Jesus; one who especially knows that even our holiest men make errors all the time.

Ben? I think we have our own, very good local definition here, beautifully summarized in your elevator statement; is there any part of it in particular you'd like to work with?

MH: I'm overall quite Mythicist; but am willing to consider some historical material. Note that such material as I use it here, usually does not confirm the "Historicist" thesis; if "Jesus" is based on 121 past Jesuses (among a dozen other influences), then Jesus is literally no "one." Or there is no single "Jesus" as origin.

So the classic Historicist search in effect, for "an" historical source, doesn't work; any plausble historical material has been so reworked and added to; and there is no single reliable central person back there at all. Leaving us with,overwhelmingly, a "Mythicist" position. Whatever historical material there was, it seems, has been reworked well past any fidelity to any original.

But the final "humble" self-doubting Jesus is the best one in any case.

Mike Gantt said...


Jesus is humble, but it is a humility based on the certainty of his place before God.

Neither your portrayal of him as self-doubting and uncertain nor your portrayal of the straw man Jesus of self-satisfied dogmatism is accurate.

Mike Gantt said...

P.S. When I say "accurate" I mean consistent with the New Testament, and Old Testament for that matter, portrayal.

maryhelena said...

Ben: “But am I still going to let you know you suck for playing both sides of the fence like you aren't the cause of the problem. You don't get a free pass for sucking. I don't go out of my way to lavish anyone in insults unless productive conversation is being held up for stupid reasons. If you take a real step forward, I'll take a real step forward with you. If you're a jerk with an ax to grind, well reap what you sow and go cry to someone else because someone called you a meanie on the internet for being a meanie on the internet.”

A word of advise here. Don’t let your frustrations get the better of you. This little outburst does you, nor this discussion, any benefit.

Yes, as Mike wrote, you have been prepared to put your ‘elevator speech’ on the table. It’s been found wanting. Mike said it best:

“The problem is that a thesis ought to have some plausibility on its face.”

You put a proposition on the table, that the Pauline cosmic JC has been historicized as the gospel JC - you have not provided any logic, reason or plausibility why anyone should take this proposition seriously. Why therefore, should anyone want to investigate it at all. Putting the cart before the horse - as you are wanting to do by jumping to step 2 - won’t generate any forward movement.

Ben said...

So Mary thinks Carrier's use of euhemerization is backwards even though the "backwards" version of things is right there along side the "forwards" version of things in her chosen definition from wiki. There's just a spectrum of euhemerization techniques. Mind blown!

And Mike just can't read Paul's epistles through the mythicist lens (even hypothetically, apparently), but he also can't seem to spell out what exactly about it doesn't jive even though that terrain is well worn debate territory.

Bretton, (on a side note) I just don't think Jesus is worth salvaging even for his moral teachings. He's a crazy moral extremist, who thinks in black and white categories, damns most everyone to eternal torment, requires magical thinking (while explicitly stigmatizing evidentialism) to implement his impossible teachings, he condones the genocide of the OT as well as divine terrorism at the end of the world, and just generally has lots of bad advice to give anyone not living as a first century, Jewish, mystic, celibate, cult member thinking the world is going to end really soon. At most I relate very little to what he has to say without lots of caveats. So why bother? Even the seemingly good stuff like the Sermon on the Mt. is hinged on the rewards of heaven rather than selling us on the virtues in and of themselves (like a mature adult), and the parable of the good Samaritan seems to be a veiled put down to Samaritans ultimately aimed at humiliating bad Jews (as in, "even those low life Samaritan dogs can do x, so why can't you figure it out?"). Jesus may be little better or little worse than any other apocalyptic prophet of his time, but that's not saying much since I don't normally ask anyone like that for advice on anything important.

VinnyJH57 said...


I find mythicism persuasive on many points as well, but given the problematic nature of our sources, I still don't think it very likely to get to the point where it is going to be more than one of several plausible explanations. I don't claim any certainty on the issue, but I suspect that there are just too many gaps in our knowledge.

Anonymous said...

BEN: Lots of historical processes work in both directions:

1) Often a literary or philosophical idea or fictional character, is taken literally, to be a real historical person. "Love" is personified, euphemerized, as Venus.

2) Sometimes a particular person becomes a symbol, shorthand, for a particular idea or thing. A pope becomes a symbol for the Church.

Or for all we know? Both alternat back and forth, changing all the time: a) some original woman or mother, became associated with affection; b) was idealized and remembered as "Venus"; c) who came to be thought of as the symbol for "love." Who d) was then thought to be a god; who ... e) was later thought to be a mere person by some.

Such things go back and forth; alternate, and so forth.

Though to be sure it gets confusing.

MIKE: Jesus is "humble," but he knows he is God? (Or son of?).

Have you tried that Mike? Think of yourself as God, and then try to be humble.

VINNY: You seem to feel we're saying that we are "proving" Mythicism. Contrary to that, I'd like to present Mythicism here as an "hypothesis." Here, there is no assertion that the position is "proven"; just that it seems good enough to deserve serious consideration, pending more research. Science is full of working hypotheses.

IN most academic disciplines, there are many "schools of thought," many theories. All look at times like they have convinced themselves and are speaking for God and his definer Mike; but most present themselves as one theory among others.

VinnyJH57 said...

I see no reason to read history one way when it comes to the Magna Carta or the Gettysburg Address and another way when it comes to the New Testament documents.

The same kinds of questions should be asked of any historical document. None should be taken at face value.

Mike Gantt said...


It is not clear at all from the New Testament that Jesus ever thought of himself as God. It is clear that he thought of himself as Israel's messiah. And it took great humility for him to acknowledge that role because he knew the suffering he'd be require to endure patiently. That's right - he'd be required not just to endure suffering but to endure it without complaining and cursing his persecutors. A daunting and humbling task.

Anonymous said...

Jesus I am asserting, was far more humble than Mike.

If Jesus never thought of himself as God, then he never knew he was a member of the Trinity.

This means 1) he was rather more humble that our all-too-confident ministers. WHo feel they know and express God perfectly well enough to be adamantly dogmatic.

2) And was never fully conscious of his mission. Unless you read him out of the Trinity.

But even then, his "mission" gets quite a bit smaller than conventionally defined in most churches.

3) Thus Jesus is also "humble" in yet another way; not just in his conscious feelings, but also in his status.

Here we begin to see that if we read the Bible more and more closely, we begin to see Christ himself becoming smaller and smaller, more and more humble. Until even the Bible itself might agree that Jesus was not God; or possibly we will see, not even ... historically real.

maryhelena said...

Ben: “So Mary thinks Carrier's use of euhemerization is backwards even though the "backwards" version of things is right there along side the "forwards" version of things in her chosen definition from wiki. There's just a spectrum of euhemerization techniques. Mind blown!”

Lets use some logic here. Euhermerism relates to historical events or figures being mythologized. If you want to reverse this i.e. to turn mythological figures into human form, you have, in actuality, not only demoted the ‘gods’ but emasculated them. That, I’m pretty sure, is not what the proposition, by some mythicists, is seeking to do with their Pauline cosmic JC becoming the gospel JC. It seems, to me, that such mythicists want their cake and they want to eat it too! Something has to give in this Euhermerism process. The historical figures died; the historical events past - the mythology lived on. Now, with reverse Euhermerisim it is the ‘gods’ that died in their cosmic setting and the human de-mythologized figure lived - i.e. no more gods. (and the human dies anyway.......)

In his essay Derk Bodde discusses both the process of euhemerization and its reverse. He relates the theory of Euhemerus, which states that, "the origin of myth is to be found in actual history, and that the gods and demigods of mythology were, to start with, actual human beings" (Bodde 48). Bodde explains that most myths have a basis in reality. People who once lived have, over time, become more than they were in their lives. Stories told of these people were handed down through the years with much embellishing have turned the real characters of the story into people or creatures so fantastic that their lives become myths and their actions too godlike to be human.

Bodde goes on to discuss the reverse process of euhemerization as used by Chinese scholars. He refers to it only as euhemerization, but says of it, " [a]s commonly used by writers on Chinese mythology, however, "euhemerization" denotes precisely the opposite process [to the one just described]: the transformation of what were once myths and gods into seemingly authentic history and human beings" (Bodde 48). Apparently, Chinese historians, upon reading ancient myths, would change the gods and demons in them to actual people; they would also change all incredible events to those more believable, or erase them entirely. In this manner well-intentioned historians have nearly eradicated the myths and legends of ancient China.
What reverse Euhermerism would do for the proposition, of some mythicists, that a Pauline cosmic Christ figure became the gospel JC figure, is show it up for the irrational nonsense it is.

Anonymous said...


If Carrier's "Euhemerization" does not work? Then what about my "personification?"

If seems that the Greeks for example, ofrten took abstract concepts like "love," and symbolized them as human-like Gods, like Venus. Gods who were thought to be - like Jesus - partially divine, but also earthly, anthropoid, and ... historical.

From such examples as Venus (see also Romulus, in Livy), it would seem clear that indeed, ideas of cosmic forces and so forth (like love), can indeed come to be thought to be gods ... who are also manlike, and historical. (While if we now think of Jesus as just a person? Then the movement has gone all the way to that, moreover).

It is such a very, very, very short step from the personification of Love, as Venus, to Doherty's proposal. His suggestion that Paul's cosmic symbol (for martyrdom of the "flesh"? etc.), being taken by, presented as, gospel writers as an historical god/person.

So if Carrier's "Euphemerization" does not work; what if we use my concept of Personification, instead?

Granted, the progression in Venus, goes from an idea, to a "god"; but an anthropomorphic, (wo)manlike, historical God. In both the case of Venus, and Jesus too for that matter.

Personification fits exactly.

Doherty's model is therefore quite plausible; especially if we think of it in terms of Dr. Garcia's "personification." Using the example of the personification of "Love," as the allegedly historical, humanlike god, Venus.

maryhelena said...

Bretton: "If Carrier's "Euhemerization" does not work? Then what about my "personification?"

Keep focus - keep focus....;-) The Euhermerization issue is a side issue here. The BIG ISSUE is the proposition, by some mythicists, that a Pauline cosmic JC figure was HISTORICIZED as the gospel JC figure. The attempt to use a reverse Euhermerism to support this idea is flawed.

Anonymous said...

Well, I haven't been reading your whole discussion. But? If the hangup is that Jesus was a god, and therefore was never really thought to be an historical person? Then perhaps we should just change the language: an abstract notion, was turned into say, a man/god. Who was also thought to be "historical."

This matches both Venus, and Jesus. Who - if you want to split hairs - were not quite merely historical persons. But they they were anthropomorphic Gods; who were thought to have an historical existence.

Finally, the problem I see with many opponents of Mythicism, is that they cannot strech their imagination much; to see similarities in things that are slightly different, but essentially the same in some generic way. They cannot see the overall pattern; but seize on minor differences, as if they made a relation impossible.

It's as if I pointed to one "apple," that was mostly red with some green spots, and and said that was an apple - along with the one that was more green. And you told me: they're obviously not the same! One has more green! They're obvously not both apples!

Seizing on very minor differences, and failing to see the larger generic/analytic similarities .... makes many people incapable of seeing the relationships between myths.

A good book or two to fix this thought, would be a book or two by Structural Anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss; or Roland Barthes. Or any book by professional mythographers. WHo have always relied on noting larger structural similarities, overwhelming small differences, to establish generic relation.

Is that the problem here?

[Or is it that neither Venus nor Jesus is truly "historical"? but that is our point: we are tracing a process by which an abstract idea merely comes to be THOUGHT OF as historical. Suggesting that this is how Jesus came to be thought of as real, as historical. By a simple and common kind of confusion. ]

I'll admit I haven't been reading the whole dialogue here. But?

Mike Gantt said...


"And Mike just can't read Paul's epistles through the mythicist lens (even hypothetically, apparently), but he also can't seem to spell out what exactly about it doesn't jive even though that terrain is well worn debate territory."

I actually have tried to read Paul's letters through the mythicist lens. But the idea is so foreign to what is presented in those texts that it's hard for me to imagine how someone can hold to this thesis while reading them. I think part of the way it works for some people is that someone like Richard Carrier or Earl Doherty pulls a Pauline verse or phrase out of context and then smothers it with so many citations from Greco-Roman culture that a reader or listener loses sight of the Pauline context and hence the original meaning.

You're right that this territory has been debated, so I don't see the value of rehashing those debates here. The mythicist construct that Paul was preaching a cosmic-only Jesus just can't be supported by Paul's letters. On the podcast, Mark seemed perplexed at points as to how someone would need so obvious a point explained to them. This is the essence of the problem you have in constructing a plausible thesis for maryhelena.

Anonymous said...

If we see that Chinese historians, mistakenly turned mythic persons into "history," then couldn't the authors of the gospels, have mistakenly turned a cosmic mythic person or image, into stories of an "historical" Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Paul would be, more properly, a sort of INTERMEDIARY. Half-historical. First 1) assume an origin in flat out MYTH. Then 2) Paul's transitional half-historical, sketchy Jesus. Then just a short step to 3)the gospel writings carrying the ball one step further; and generating realistic stories with a walking, talking, dialoguing Jesus.

Some like Mike might see Paul's Jesus as already quite firm. Though it seems to be transitional compared to the GOSPELS.

Paul seems quite real; his actions seem real. But how vivid is THE JESUS he describes? We here a few sketchy, abstract descriptions of Jesus, only. Seemingly partially human; yet so abstract, as to suggest an origin in ... some vague ideal.

Paul is transitional; he has only partially historicized the myth; the gospels take it to the full fledged picture of Jesus as a walking, talking charcter.

The fact that these things happened gradually in short steps, makes it all the more plausible; no single author had the sensation of making things entirely up; but believed he was just slightly elaborating what went before.

Mike Gantt said...


"The same kinds of questions should be asked of any historical document. None should be taken at face value."?

I take the Magna Carta and the Gettysburg Address at face value. To do otherwise is to violate their organic integrity as documents. To think that when it comes to the New Testament documents we have the right to assume interpolations, redactions, and such at will is to destroy meaning intended by the original authors.

Since we have a millennium and a half of hand-written copies before the printing press, textual criticism is a helpful field of study. But I've seen nothing from that field that warrants the wholesale revisionism that seems to animate so much HJ and even critical scholarship in modern times.

Thus I think the NT docs are best understood on take-'em-or-leave-'em basis. If interpreters are free to pick and choose what they want to believe the authors wrote then such interpreters are in essence writing their own new testaments.

Bernard said...

to Dr Bretton Garcia:

Do you really think:
"Jesus I am asserting, was far more humble than Mike.

If Jesus never thought of himself as God, then he never knew he was a member of the Trinity.

This means 1) he was rather more humble that our all-too-confident ministers. WHo feel they know and express God perfectly well enough to be adamantly dogmatic.

2) And was never fully conscious of his mission. Unless you read him out of the Trinity.

But even then, his "mission" gets quite a bit smaller than conventionally defined in most churches.

3) Thus Jesus is also "humble" in yet another way; not just in his conscious feelings, but also in his status.

Here we begin to see that if we read the Bible more and more closely, we begin to see Christ himself becoming smaller and smaller, more and more humble."

I did not know you were sharing these ideas. Or am I hallucinating?
BTW, that's what I think also (that humble Jesus).
See my website, more so, that short page:

Cordially, Bernard

Bernard said...

Dr Bretton Garcia wrote:

"First 1) assume an origin in flat out MYTH. Then 2) Paul's transitional half-historical, sketchy Jesus. Then just a short step to 3)the gospel writings carrying the ball one step further; and generating realistic stories with a walking, talking, dialoguing Jesus."

BM: I think the first step is rather hard to prove (shall I say impossible?).

The second step is right here in Paul's letters. But is it a step? or was Paul referring to HJ only to validate his argumentation?
as here:

And what could Paul use from HJ if he was not a teacher, not godly in any ways, just a humble uneducated Jew with a short and local public life in rural area, etc?

Furthermore, Paul wrote his Christians had been exposed to a knowledge of Jesus, in the past, through some worldly point of view (which Paul asked his Christians to forget!).

Cordially, Bernard

Anonymous said...


Yup! The humble Jesus is something I think too. It's been around though, for a while. Happy we can agree on this.

As for where the first inspitation for the Jesus legend come from? Did Paul consult with other apostles? We are not quite sure who he is meeting. And The language on meetings with "alleged" "pillars" was amibiguous at best; they "added" nothing to what Paul knew, he says at times. While Paul claims to know Jesus by a "vision ," and revelation mainly.

Others examples from Paul are ambiguous to be sure. But there's not MUCH evidence of Paul meeting Jesus personally (not in 55 AD especially), or hearing about him from others. Perhaps only a very general vague notion.

Where did that vague 1st notion come from? Carrier and I - following a century of others hinting at this - suggests that Philo's faint hint at "Joshua"/Jesus as a "new priest," as Platonic "archetype," and finally "Logos" or "Word," was small. But just enough to be a catylist to start the snowball rolling; for Hellenistic Jews who wanted a Hellenistic priest, a merger of Judaism and Greco-Roman ideas.

Maybe such ideas were further developed in the collaborationist courts of Herod; or the Hellenized Jewish community in Alexandria Egypt.

I think Paul might accept a humble Jesus; if Paul wanted to teach humility, before the Roman occupiers.

Wasn't Philo the origin? The fact that signs of a "Jesus" are slight in Philo (though not so slight, if you know Philo well), does not prevent them from being seen as the tiny seed, that seeded the cloud, after all.

VinnyJH57 said...


We observe interpolations, redactions, and variants in the manuscript record. We observe that the variants are most frequent in the earliest extant manuscripts. We reasonably infer that an even higher rate of variants would have occurred during the first century and a half of transmission for which we have almost no manuscript evidence. The logical implication of this is that there are changes to what was originally written that will remain forever unknown to us. By taking the documents at face value, you are picking and choosing what you want to believe the authors wrote just as much as anyone else is, if not more.

Mike Gantt said...


Your "we" doesn't include all New Testament scholars, much less all readers of the New Testament.

VinnyJH57 said...


You are correct. It does not include wishful thinkers who ignore reality.

Mike Gantt said...


If insults were arguments you'd have yourself an argument.

Mike Gantt said...


"Jesus I am asserting, was far more humble than Mike."

True, but I'm working every day to close the gap.

"If Jesus never thought of himself as God, then he never knew he was a member of the Trinity."

Jesus couldn't know he was part of the trinity because there isn't a trinity. That's a philosophical concept superimposed on the Scriptures which fits no better than Mythicism.

The New Testament makes no explicit claims that Jesus considered himself to be God. It does claim that Jesus understood himself to be the messiah, and he humbly accepted this role.

Anonymous said...

For an eye-popping exposure to how extensive the differences are between event extant early bibles, see the "Septugint" Wiki article; the comparion of a passage in Deut., in the 1) Masoretic, 2) Septuagint, and 3) Dead Sea versions of the text.

The Septuagint is twice as long as the Masoretic. Just to give you an idea how extensive the changes might be.

VinnyJH57 said...

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning.

Mike Gantt said...


It's supposed to be eye-popping that variants exist between ancient handwritten texts?

What is truly eye-popping is the way the apostles confidently quote the LXX, Hebrew source, or Targum knowing that on the matters of central importance there is no significant variation.

Bernard said...

A response to Dr Bretton Garcia
(this is what I concluded from my research and explained on my website)

DBG: Yup! The humble Jesus is something I think too. It's been around though, for a while. Happy we can agree on this.

As for where the first inspitation for the Jesus legend come from?

BM: I think the so-called Jesus legends (as added on to a "humble" HJ) started with "Mark" (70-71).

DBG: Did Paul consult with other apostles?
BM: Paul got aware of the humble HJ through the proto-Christians he later persecuted, then Peter & James (Gal 1:18-19 - around 38), etc.

DBG: We are not quite sure who he is meeting. And The language on meetings with "alleged" "pillars" was amibiguous at best; they "added" nothing to what Paul knew, he says at times.

BM: The meeting happened much latter (52), well after Paul knew a few things about HJ.
I could say a lot about that meeting but that's another story and not affecting Paul's knowledge of a human Jesus (he already knew).

BDG: While Paul claims to know Jesus by a "vision ," and revelation mainly.

BM: Paul boasted he knew about the heavenly Jesus that way (of course, by the time of Paul, Jesus was supposed to be in heaven). And Paul wrote his gospel (good news) was coming from above (God, Jesus, the Spirit). But that does not mean Paul did not know about humble HJ prior to that.

DBG: Others examples from Paul are ambiguous to be sure. But there's not MUCH evidence of Paul meeting Jesus personally (not in 55 AD especially), or hearing about him from others. Perhaps only a very general vague notion. Where did that vague 1st notion come from?

BM: Of course Paul did not meet Jesus personally. Hearing from others? Why not. He heard he was a poor Jew, ministered to Jews (only), was arrested & crucified in weakness in Zion (the Jewish hearland) as christ (anointed one). He had brothers, one of them named James, who became a pillar in a Jewish sect in Jerusalem.

BDG: Carrier and I - following a century of others hinting at this -suggests that Philo's faint hint at "Joshua"/Jesus as a "new priest," as Platonic "archetype," and finally "Logos" or "Word," was small.

BM: very small, indeed. Requiring a big leap of faith. However the influence of Philo on Paul, and more so on the author of "to the Hebrews" was huge. I emphasized that on my website.

DBG: But just enough to be a catylist to start the snowball rolling; for Hellenistic Jews who wanted a Hellenistic priest, a merger of Judaism and Greco-Roman ideas.
Maybe such ideas were further developed in the collaborationist courts of Herod; or the Hellenized Jewish community in Alexandria Egypt.

BM: That's a huge leap of faith here, backed on very weak & scanty evidence.

BDG: I think Paul might accept a humble Jesus; if Paul wanted to teach humility, before the Roman occupiers.

BM: Paul had to accept it because that's what Jesus was. And he made use of Jesus' past human condition, his Jewishness and poverty in his argumentation. But Paul was concentrating on, by his own admission, on Christ crucified (and resurrected) and developing Theology & Christology from that.

BM: I want to add a very important key point of my understanding:
Peter, James and other members of the Church of Jerusalem never became Christian, never believed in the Resurrection, or future resurrections in general, and never said anything above a "humble" HJ. Clues for that are in some Pauline epistles, Mark's gospel, "Hebrews", "James" and Hegesippus writings (as explained in my website).

Cordially, Bernard

Anonymous said...

Does the Bible itself even really have so much confidence in itself? We're looking here at specifically here, Jesus. At times it seemed to have confidence in Jesus, as Christ. But learn to read closer.

Did Jesus know his mission was to be the promised "Christ"? Not only did Jesus not know he was 1) God; 2) he didn't know he was "Christ" either it seems. Out of say 100 times he was asked if he was the Christ, or discussed it, 99% of the time he was evasive: "who do you say I am?" and so forth. And in the Bible, those who say he is the Christ, are flawed persons with "demons," "unclean spirits," or are Romans, etc.. Peter declares Jesus Christ ... but then betrays Jesus - and is called "Satan" by him (Mat. 16.23). There is actually probably only one place in the NT where Jesus seemed to firmly say he was the Christ - and that same incident is narrated differently in the parallel account in another gospel. Where it is pointedly, not he but another (a priest) that is saying it about him - and misattributing it to Jesus himself.

What I'm saying here is that the closer you look at Jesus, the more self-doubts you see in him; the less awareness of his mission and status.

As it turns out, the whole Bible is like this; the closer you look at it, the more self-doubts and criticisms you see in it. Until the Bible finally self-cancels. Of its own accord. Noting problems with one after another elements - of itself.

Out of real humility, one might say.

Which means? Much of the Bible itself, more closely read, does not support say, specifically, Jesus as God or Christ. Especially, Jesus himself does not.

Suggesting that the Bible itself offers far less support for its own verity, than preachers have claimed. Or for say, its own historicity, as it turns out.

Mike Gantt said...


It's faulty logic to say that because there was a time when Jesus did not want to publicize the fact that He was the Messiah means that He was uncertain about that fact.

Anonymous said...

Mike? It's well known how seriously Paul especially, twists the OT texts; and even appears to make some up. While note, the Septuagint was written in Greek; and so was already partially armonized from birth, with the Hellenism of the NT.

"Handwritten texts"? There was no print press in this time; they were all handwritten. So if handwritten texts vary? Then expect huge variations.

When the apostles "quoted" the OT, all sorts of odd twisted things happened.

Mike Gantt said...


You think you know more about how to interpret the Old Testament than the apostles of Jesus?

And you think you know enough to call their interpretations "twisted"?

Anonymous said...

Just exactly why Jesus never tells us he is the Christ, is actually never clearly stated in the text itself.

The bottom line therefore, the only thing we know for sure, is have a Jesus that never says he is a Christ.

And so? if you insist he is, you are not following what he told you.

And as it turns out? The notion of Jesus as doubting, is confirmed by dozens of other examples - some of which I'm quoting above. There are so many examples of Jesus not knowing, doubting, that finally,in individual cases whose meaning is not entirely clear, we can use this larger, overall massive pattern; to decisively indicate a
self-doubt" theme, as prevailing in individual cases.

Mike? You like most preachers, are clearly a sophistical apologist. Who will go to any lengths, to cover up -"twist," "whitewash" - the hundreds of signs of what the Bible was really trying to say, to a mature reader.

The Bible is a sort of "roman a clef"; a keyed text. One with two layers in it. A first surface layer, that seems to express great confidence in itself, and demand faith and obedience in it. But underneath that? To the reader who is mature enough, who has some "judgement"? The Bible confesses its own sins. And releases the reader to his own recognizance, his own "wellformed conscience."

Anonymous said...

Are the apostles reliable? Paul himself confessed he was "not yet perfect" as he narrated his half of the Bible. Peter was called "Satan" by Jesus himself (Mat. 16.23). St. James confessed that "we all make many mistakes." Paul calls Cephas or Peter, "insincere" or a "hypocrite."

Am I suggesting that these apostles might do something bad or wrong? Yes I am. And so is the Bible itself.

Ben said...

It's been boring, folks. Unsubscribing.

Mike Gantt said...


"The bottom line therefore, the only thing we know for sure, is have a Jesus that never says he is a Christ.

And so? if you insist he is, you are not following what he told you."

Which New Testament are you reading? The Perry-Mason moment of Jesus' trial was His confessing to being the Christ (Messiah). The "King of the Jews" sign above His cross underscored the point to any and all who witnessed that scene.

"And as it turns out? The notion of Jesus as doubting, is confirmed by dozens of other examples - some of which I'm quoting above. There are so many examples of Jesus not knowing, doubting, that finally,in individual cases whose meaning is not entirely clear, we can use this larger, overall massive pattern; to decisively indicate a
self-doubt" theme, as prevailing in individual cases."

You're being absurd, completely misrepresenting the New Testament portrayal. At heart, you are merely reflecting one of modern man's key values: the only thing we have to be certain about is uncertainty itself, but the boldness and confidence with which you convey this falsehood about Jesus' self-perception is truly staggering.

Mike Gantt said...


"Are the apostles reliable? Paul himself confessed he was "not yet perfect" as he narrated his half of the Bible. Peter was called "Satan" by Jesus himself (Mat. 16.23). St. James confessed that "we all make many mistakes." Paul calls Cephas or Peter, "insincere" or a "hypocrite."

Am I suggesting that these apostles might do something bad or wrong? Yes I am. And so is the Bible itself."

You have established an M.O. You take a verse, wrench it from its context, make it say something other than, or even contrary to, what it actually says, and then assert or imply that there are many verses which confirm this false meaning you have assigned. In this way you repeatedly misrepresent about what the New Testament says about various subjects. And you do so with such chutzpah that those unfamiliar text are encouraged to assume that you know what you are talking about.

The truth of this particular matter is that while the New Testament makes clear that the apostles were imperfect human beings, it also makes clear that Jesus transformed them into people worthy for us to imitate.

The apostles and those who were faithful to their teaching gave their lives for us. It is despicable to make light of their holiness and their sacrifice.

Anonymous said...


Mike? I have a PhD in interpreting texts basically. And have expertise in several relevant areas here. If you really know what you are doing, the subtext I've described here is found throughout the entire NT; within individual words, and its immediate, then its larger context. Most individual words, for example, are what we call "polysemic." Or "Ambigious." Or are "equivocal." Look these up.

Most churchgoers have actually noted this before. Though others have heard it; but still will not believe, not see.

Is my reading wrong, decontextualized? I've given a dozen examples here to help people see that it's not just one or two examples; it's a general trend, throughout the entire Bible.

Finally it is actually the blindly positive, the passively accepting, that have actually been victims of the one-sided reading that you advocate; the one everyone has heard in church, and simply repeated. Rather than really going to the text itself.

But when you learn to read well enough - and are thereby presumed to have attained sufficient independent "judgement" - then, one heaven-shattering "day," you notice THIS side of the text. The side of the Bible that acknowledges its own shortcomings, the real humily of its Jesus - and thereby humbly effaces itself. "Free"ing you, manumission style, from continued blind, "child"like obedience to incomprehensible authority.

When the text becomes comprehensible to you, you are allowed to see the escape hatch.

To be sure, the language of the Bible is too difficult for many. And 1) most readers will never learn to see more in the text, than what they were told, in church. 2) Others will hear this "second" "appearance" ("parousia") of Christ, but not comprehend.

And many therefore will remain in bondage, to blind obedience of (itself fallible) authority. They remain in blindly "faithful" bondage, to an "enchantment," an "illusion," a "strong delusion"; a "vision" of magic, and "magicians," of bad and "false prophets." Bondage to the thousand other "false" and bad elements of religion that the Bible itself warned us about over and over.

Mike? Read the Bible yourself. Look at all the hundreds of warnings about "false" and bad things, even in those who think they are following "Christ"; even those crying "Lord, Lord" to him. "All have sinned"; "no one is good but God." And? "This is for you, O priest."

Many preachers never learn to see this side of the text; they never see its self-decontractive side. Because they cannot be truly humble; they cannot "face" or "bear" seeing this, the terrible side of God: the side that lets the whole "world" live in a false "worship" (Rev. 13).

But there it is. For those who have the courage to see it.

Anonymous said...

The "king of the Jews sign" was not put up by Jesus himself.


"Who is blind, but his servant?"

The apostles gave their lives; but dying for a point proves nothing. In every war, millions of soldiers on the wrong side give their lives, for the wrong thing.

Mike? I'm tired of speaking with you.

Bernard said...

To Dr Bretton Garcia,
I was expecting some feedback from you for my latest posting (addressed to you)
Cordially, Bernard

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your interest. I don't know how many more posts I'm good for here. But I'll try to address your post quickly.

Briefly, we both seem to see a small, reduced, "humble" Jesus. You're holding out for him being at least some kind of actual, if humble, human being. I'm suggesting - with the Mythicists - that the more we look at the text, the smaller "Jesus" becomes. The more and more titles ascribed to him, don't really hold up. So finally, someone (Rene) said he's like the Cheshire cat; more and more of him disappears ... until finally, Mythicists are proposing that even the smile disappears ... and nothing whatsoever is left. Except some ideas, in some texts; probably Philo.

To those who believe in Humility though? I'd suggest that beyond the small MAN, we might finally see and respect, the even seemingly smaller ... Philonic IDEA. Which seems empty and small at first. Smaller than a man in fact.

But? The first will be last. And the last, first.

Vinny has been looking closely at Galatians; parts seem to support Paul getting things from apostles. But it all begins with "The gosp[el which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it" (1.12. This has a double meaning; but the better reading is this one. Confirmed: later meetings "added nothing" to Paul (2.6).

So Doherty has a pretty good case that Paul never heard much about Jesus before himself; not from the Apostles anyway. Could be Philo, after all.

Can't guarantee I'll be here to respond much to further questions; but thanks for your interaction. And I may check in with your blog now and then?

I'll be looking closer at some of your references, to be sure.

Mike Gantt said...


Jesus is humble to be sure. However, when you read the New Testament with an open mind, and re-read it with an open mind, He only looms larger and larger from its pages. And the Bible itself defers to Him, for it is to Him that the entire Bible - Old and New Testaments - solemnly testifies.

Unknown said...

To Dr Bretton Garcia:

Thanks for your comment. I agree that science tries to note a somewhat more ‘objective’ reality than our myths and/or desires. I have two remarks.

First: if we search for the historical Jesus we presuppose has been there and then, we should take notice that we do not have a scientific report about him. The Evangelists were no scientists but at their best witnesses (first hand or second hand).
Though we do have writings about Jesus, our scientifical approach can not get behind these writings to the historical reality they express. We may try to make a speculative construction about ‘what really happened’ by comparing these writings, but strictly we act beyond science. Modesty adorns the scientist. Therefore we cannot make any real scientific statement about the historical Jesus. We can - however - make a scientific analysis of the writings about Him (lectio litteralis).

Second: the question is how to prevent that we get lost into subjectivities and myths. This has been a well documented problem in church history, remember the heresies. For a theologian it is necessary to take notice of these historical documents to consider why they thought about Jesus what they thought about Jesus. One should ask for the historical background of these views. But this seems to be also true for our present situation: the question why do we think about Jesus what we think about Jesus must be answered by reflecting on our own historical context.

The focus must therefore change from the historicity of Jesus to the historicity of our understanding of Him. What matters is not the historical Jesus, but the history of christology. What matters is not what you believe, but why you believe what you believe. Because you learned that in church? Because science told you so? Because of a particular revelation you received? Because of the writings of the Scripture you read recently?

What is right or wrong can not be historical proven, but only believed. But what we believe ourselves is historically conditioned and must also be historically cleared. Why? The awareness of the historicity of believes prepares an end to fanatical thought and idolatry. I like myths as long as they are recognized as such! For not this or that idea or view or myth rules history, but God is God of history and no one of us is able to grasp Him. This is a theological argument. This insight seems to me a condition sine qua non for the freedom of human thought and for religious freedom. It is a call for decency and holiness.

Mr Regnier said...

Earl – apologies for the delay in responding to your comment. Christmas – busy time and all that. Anyhooo, this won’t take long…

“…my arguments, backed up with relevant citations…” is completely neutral.

Really? Why introduce your use of citations into your discussion with Mike unless for some rhetorical purpose, i.e. to show that your views deserve to be taken seriously?

OK, so maybe your point was intended to be a neutral one, a random detail you introduced that you no more intended to be taken as evidence for your scholarly credentials than if you’d written “my arguments, written in 12 point Times New Roman font” or “my arguments, which you can find in books, sold in book stores”, then fine. No problem. But again, if you think that the fact that you use citations entitles your work to be taken seriously then there are some serious flaws in your logic: because as I’ve shown above, pseudo-historians also adopt such scholarly conventions.

in your knee-jerk a priori mindset… personal church hall… Behind your wall of faith you are immune to criticism… simply the self-indulgent choir preaching to itself… etc

As Mike points out, I’m agnostic. I don’t reject your views because of some a priori faith position, precisely because I do not have one. “You don’t get my arguments because of your narrow Christian mindset” is a stupid (and plainly wrong) complaint that internet mythicist warriors like BG sling around when they are failing to make a convincing argument. Any other bogus accusations you’d care to fling at me?

it shows that its users do not even recognize that they are simply adopting ad hominem tactics because they have nothing else

Earl, if I’ve said something that is genuinely ad hominem, please cite my words and show how they qualify as ad hominem. Otherwise, it just looks like one of those words that misunderstood, but oh so reputable, Canadian scholars incorporate into the diatribes they pen when people are mean enough to disagree with them:

Anonymous said...


As is increasingly the case, your entire last post is entirely about personalities, and human motives; impugning motives. With no engagement with the ideas in the Historicist/Mythicist debate as such.

As such? Your entire last post was an Ad Hominem argument.

You mention ideas, but do not grapple here with them as ideas. Your post does not discuss their intellectual merits case by case; you can only mention them sketchily - and then launch into your usual approach: character assassination.

You suggest that people embrace Mythicist ideas,not out of their intrinsic intellectual merit, but out of purely human motives of lust and greed and so forth. Months ago, you suggested Mythicists are "Holocaust Deniers" - or in effect, Nazis. These attempts to assassinate the character of your opponents, you dignify with some pseudo-Psychology of "cults."

As a sometimes-academic, I've long become aware that perhaps the most useful convention of academe, is never discussing personalities, or "attributing human motives" to your opponents; but to simply address the ideas as ideas; engaging with them factually and logically. In academe, there is usually very little of this personal emotional drama; the petty, all-too-human drama of animal fears and passions. We put that aside; to just look at the facts, and the ideas.

The dispassionate side of academe, by the way, came in part from various religious philosophers, like St. Paul; who noted that giving in to the "low" animal emotions, "passions" of Envy, Greed, Lust, Anger, simply distract us from clear, rational thinkng.

You see somewhat aware of this; but you notice all the low passions only in others; never noting it in yourself.

Look for the "beam in your own eye," first, Paul.

Here to be sure, just for a moment, I will have addressed the personal. But just for a moment. While the vast bulk of my own work does exactly what I recommend: just take a clear, dispassionate look at the ideas, the evidence. Don't attribute all opposing ideas, to some intrinsic emotional evil, malice, in your opponents.

And avoid those distracting emotions in yourself as well.

There is a HUGE difference between the world of Academe, and Internet blogs. And this is it: academe is generally polite, and simply looks at the evidence and logic for things. Whereas the Internet blot world is a world of competing egos, low passions for superficial contests of animal wills. The thrill of the fight; light a football game or a name-calling contest. Or a schoolyard brawl.

Getting in fights, experiencing and emphasizing one Will against the other, an animal desire to win a battle, is the chief and even distinguishing characteristic of most Internet blogs.

But? Adults don't engage in such things so much.

Just address the ideas, Paul. Without ascribing, impugning motives.

By the way? The way most academics deal with embarrassing displays of personal animosity and low passions? Is to simply ignore them. And move on to quieter, more academic forum.

Though Earl Doherty and I will now and then engage the Punchy-and-Judy show of raw emotional "drama," that is primarily just for the sake of those who are stuck there. While note that the bulk of our efforts by far, is not here; but in our calm, reasoned, logical .. books.

If only you were more like (your namesake?): St. Paul. Or at least, like what Paul wanted to be.

That's about all I have to say here: a word to the wise is sufficient.

Signing out.

Mike Gantt said...


As an observer of the exchanges on this thread between you and Paul - and elsewhere on occasion - I must say that I am completely puzzled as to how you manage to interpret him as you do.

You have completely mischaracterized his comment. Paul Regnier's demeanor in these sort of interactions reminds me very much of Mark Goodacre's - tempered, circumspect, respectful without being excessively deferential, and - most importantly - meaningful.

His point that couching one's prose in scholarly apparatus does not ipso facto make one's prose legitimate scholarship is a simple one that invites acknowledgement or a counter-point. But you distort his argument into something it wasn't and attack his motives without restraint.

Paul certainly doesn't need me to intercede for him, but one of the responsibilities of observers is to speak up when one side or the other has exceeded the bounds of fair play.

Your latest post is little more than a textbook example of the very faults it decries.

Mr Regnier said...

Thanks for the kind comments Mike.

BG –

Your entire last post was an Ad Hominem argument.

So please quote some of my words back to me and show how they constitute an ad homimen argument. If my whole post is ad hominem, that should be really easy.

Months ago, you suggested Mythicists are "Holocaust Deniers" - or in effect, Nazis.

I did nothing of the sort. If you can provide a quote from one of my comments or posts to show that I said any such a thing, or where such a conclusion follows logically on from my words, then please do so. Otherwise, kindly withdraw this silly accusation.

You suggest that people embrace Mythicist ideas,not out of their intrinsic intellectual merit, but out of purely human motives of lust and greed and so forth

Lust and greed?! What are you on about BG? Again, if you can provide a quote from one of my comments or posts to show that I said any such a thing, or where such a conclusion follows logically on from my words, then please do so. Otherwise, again I’d appreciate it if you could withdraw this rather silly accusation.

no engagement with the ideas in the Historicist/Mythicist debate as such.

As Mike points out, I made a fairly simple point that using certain scholarly conventions does not of itself identify a work as a piece of legitimate scholarship. Accept the point and move on, or make a counter-argument.

If there is some pressing part of the mythicist case that you think I’m overlooking or that you would like me to comment on, then please say what it is and I’ll give you my thoughts on it. I’m very doubtful that I’ll change your opinions where people much better qualified than me have failed to do so, but hey I don’t want you thinking that I dodge the argument.

VinnyJH57 said...

I made a fairly simple point that using certain scholarly conventions does not of itself identify a work as a piece of legitimate scholarship.


Actually what you said was "No, the fact that Doherty puts footnotes in his books has nothing whatever to do with whether Doherty's views deserve to be taken seriously. That was my point." (emphasis added) IMHO, this exchange is where it is in part because you tried to make so much out of Earl's statement that he backs up his arguments with citations, which I don't believe merits anywhere near the attention it has gotten.

I would agree with Mike that your comments are not particularly ad hominem, but I would question the amount of time you spend comparing mythicism to pseudo-scholarship. As you point out, pseudo-scholarship can look very much like real scholarship. As a result, noting a work's similarity to pseudo-scholarship isn't likely to tell you anything more about its merits than noting its similarity to real scholarship.

Anonymous said...

Paul and Mike:

I have seen the two of you work together for about a year; your approach is very similar. Much of the time - as Paul in his referenced post above, specifically - either of you really discuss the IDEAS per se; instead, you simply try to characterize the speaker as a moral failure. As preachers and amateur "psychologists" do. The attack on the moral character of the speaker, note, is an ad hominem attack, par excellence.

In Paul's case, my argument for example, is "silly." That is not a substantive address of the idea per se; that is a simple value judgement - and a personal insult.

Likewise, the accusation that Mythicists are like a "cult," coming from a non-psychologist like Paul, is the very quasi-psychology, used as a veiled insult: "you are an irrational cultist," or "pseudo" scholar it says. In the writing of a real psychologist, there might be professional judgement behind such statements. But behind Paul, with an MA in religious studies (as I recall)? It is again, mere insult. Trying to appear to be exact and scholarly. By psychologising in an amateurish and insulting way. Which is not scholarly or objective; but is mere insult.

Your view on quotes too - as Vinny well notes - is absurd; some people may use false quotes - the way irresponsible persons like yourself, misuse psychology. But Earl by now, is an expert in his field; using useful scholarly quotes. As anyone can see.

You claim to - elsewhere - find "serious flaws in" Earl's logic; but cite no example in your post referenced above. So again: your post in itself is mere name calling; without examples. Logic is named - but not employed by you here.

And by the way? If Earl at times impatiently at last turns the tables, and suggests that your own thinking is out of typical religious fanaticism? Here you deny religious affiliation. But my memory is that though at times you present yourself as an agnostic, on the other hand, you make your living teaching religious studies in High School in effect; where the most useful stance, is a position that is not fully critical; in order not to offend believers. In such formats, there is a constant flirtation with the rejection of scholarship; and catering to emotional Belief. Over rational argument.

Mike and you often show up in the same place and time. And it's not surprising; your arguments are quite similar. Though Mike does not resort to pseudo-Psychology, he thinks and speaks in a religious framework - that is inherently "moral." Or in his hands, moralistic. Assaulting again, character. Not ideas: personal character.

Anonymous said...

Paul and Mike:

Part of the usual framework of religion in fact, is to see all human activity in the light of Character, Christian or otherwise. Though this approach is commonly accepted by many, oddly enough, it is not normally part of academic activity. In academe, when we hear a professors' ideas that we do not like say, in a seminar, we don't accuse the professor of being a "cultist"; or presented "pseudo" scholarship; and we do not presenting our critiques in an angry tone, or let our anger and personal vindictiveness mould our thoughts. We do not use such loaded, insulting terms. We simply look dispassionately at the ideas.

Apparently neither of you really sees the personal, insulting side of your comments. Perhaps you think you are "objectively" assessing Character here. But while such an assessment might seem appropriate in Psychology proper (if there), or marginally in a church that shows up to hear such character assessments/assassinations, such an approach does not work in academe. It comes off as hugely inappropriate, and "low," in an academic context.

I am not surprised neither of you quite see the simple emotional motivation and low method of character assassination in your methods; they are common on the Internet. But your methods are clear as day, to an academic.

Do you really think that when you accuse Mythicists of being like a "Holocaust-denying" "cult," that you are really being objective? when you have no Psychological credentials to make such a judgement professionally?

In fact its clear: both your efforts are absolutely, Ad Hominem; and with a vengeance. And neither of you have any place, in an academic forum.

Mike Gantt said...


You do not sound dispassionate.

Anonymous said...

The proper subject of an academic blog, is Ideas; not the character of the author.

It is only to dispose of this subject, that I mention it.

Mr Regnier said...

Hi Vinny,

Actually, what you’re quoting above is my parody of Stephen Carr’s parody of my original point! I agree that a fairly minor criticism is getting more attention than it deserves… mostly because a few commenters have chosen to misrepresent what I’m saying instead of acknowledging or countering the point, which has rather forced me to restate the original point on several occasions.

You pointed to a distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions. You’re right that the use of citations are a necessary, but not sufficient condition of mainstream scholarship. It’s the confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions that constitutes the logical fallacy.

noting a work's similarity to pseudo-scholarship isn't likely to tell you anything more about its merits than noting its similarity to real scholarship.

This is true if you’re only focusing on one feature, such as use of citations. But if you’re drawing a wider contrast between pseudo-history and genuine scholarship then I think it’s perfectly valid to discuss which side of the boundary a given work falls on.

Steven Carr said...

Regnier says it is a 'minor point' that he compared mythicists to Holocaust deniers....

Now he has managed to pull the discussion into a discussion about him.

He has to do that, because he is unable to produce any arguments.

Mr Regnier said...

BG - A couple of brief points:

my argument for example, is "silly." That is not a substantive address of the idea per se; that is a simple value judgement - and a personal insult.

Nope, I said that your accusations were silly (e.g. that I suggest that mythicists are holocaust deniers). As you have failed to provide any evidence to substantiate these accusations, I think that rather proves my point.

You claim to - elsewhere - find "serious flaws in" Earl's logic; but cite no example in your post referenced above.

Actually, if you look at the whole quote ‘if you think that the fact that you use citations entitles your work to be taken seriously then there are some serious flaws in your logic: because as I’ve shown above, pseudo-historians also adopt such scholarly conventions.’, then it’s perfectly obvious that my claim (whether you agree with it or not) does refer to a specific example. That you’ve removed a couple of words from their wider context is your problem, not mine.

The rest of your latest posts are simply flinging more accusations at me. Until you provide evidence to substantiate your original accusations, or else do me the courtesy of withdrawing them, I see little reason to dignify your most recent remarks with a response

Mike Gantt said...


"The proper subject of an academic blog, is Ideas; not the character of the author. It is only to dispose of this subject, that I mention it."

I will try to remember that the character of the author is off-limits...except when you want to attack it.

Anonymous said...

Paul Regnier:

I had hoped to here finally "dispose" of Character or personal emotiveness - 1) as in issue in your discussions. And? 2) As an element in my own discourse.

Selfless objectivity is what it is all about; in both Christianity, and academe.

I have finally mentioned - and even evoked - outrageous character for once, here and now. But 3) only after about a year of your invoking it over and over; far, far too much.

4) Having mentioned the problem with your allusions to character here once, having here discussed the problems with it finally at length, I hope that you and Paul are willing to get over character issues, finally.

And discuss the ideas, instead.

5) Paul, there were indeed something like your own raw accusations in my own example; so you can see what they look like.

Now let's move on?

6) Paul? Can you discuss ideas? First: a) is denigrating scholarly footnotes as "pseudo" an idea? The fact is, that b) I am familiar with much of the classic literature, linking Greek Platonism to Christianity; Earl could easily have listed a bibliography a thousand scholarly articles and books long, in support of his case.Look up the topic yourself; reams of real - not "pseudo" -scholarship support his general idea.

7) Do you really think that your attempted distinction bewteen "my arguements" and your "accusations" really holds up? All you've done is substitute an emotionally loaded term, for a neutral one: proving my point about your orientation and method.

8) Paul? With your MA, clearly, objectively, you just don't have the academic credientials to participate usefully here; and are substituting incendiary rhetoric and insult, as if that was a reasonable substitute.

Since you can't see that though? Maybe it's time to fight fire, with fire.

VinnyJH57 said...


As near as I can tell, the original point directed to Doherty was "I wish you and other mythicists would stop with this 'my book has footnotes therefore it’s proper history' nonsense." This does not appear to me to be a accurate characterization of anything Doherty said nor does it draw any useful contrasts between scholarship and pseudo-scholarship. On the other hand, neither is it ad hominem.

Mr Regnier said...

Vinny – You might be right, perhaps I’ve misconstrued Earl’s comment. It seemed to me that he was aiming for some rhetorical effect in his comment to Mike but perhaps that wasn’t his intention.

And no, the use of citations doesn’t allow us to draw any useful contrast between pseudo and legitimate scholarship: that was the point I was trying to make!

BG – Again, either stump up some evidence for your earlier accusations or withdraw them. No point chatting further until then.

SC – I’m afraid I can’t see the point of your comment. Is there something here you feel I should respond to?

VinnyJH57 said...


From time to time, I have experimented with various rhetorical effects myself when discussing things with Mike as usual modes of discourse seem always to wind up in faith based apologetics.

Mike Gantt said...

In a truth-seeking environment is any conclusion involving faith to be excluded a priori and assigned the pejorative description of "faith based apologetics"?

Anonymous said...

"Faith" explicitly means in large part, "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" (Merriam Webster's Coll. Dict., 11th Ed.).

Since those who argue from "faith" therefore are by definition, arguing a position that has no proof, or that procedes without one? Then how much attention should faith-based argumentation have, in an academic setting, that always is based on looking at rational and/or empirical proofs?The minute you declare a "faith-based" argument, you are disqualified from academic and rational discussion - by definition.

Furthermore? Those who next try to turn around and assert a rational element to or basis of their "faith," seem to be in a selfcontradictory position. Either it is "faith" ... or it isn't. Either it is based on reason ... or it isn't.

Mike Gantt said...

I know nothing of a faith not based on reason. Neither does the Bible.

Anonymous said...

So Mike? Your definition of "faith" directly contradicts:

1) The dictionary definition of faith.

And, if we include not only Reason but also related to that, empirical Science and scientific "proof" - which seems reasonable? Then you also contradict:

2) St. Paul. When he says that Heb. 11.1: "Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." And 2 Corin. 5.7, "we walk by faith and not by sight."

Granted, there might be some problems with these parts of Paul; but most Christians follow these. And they use "faith" as a synonym for following something, without visible evidence it is true. Which nearly everyone (but you?) would agree, is unreasonable.

Mike Gantt said...

Anyone who could read the letters of Paul - undisputed or otherwise - and conclude that this man preached a faith unassociated with reason has problems too large for this comment thread to solve.

VinnyJH57 said...

Anyone who could read the letters of Paul - undisputed or otherwise - and conclude that this man preached a faith unassociated with reason has problems too large for this comment thread to solve.

And this is what I mean by discussions with you eventually winding up in faith based apologetics, Mike. You take whatever you see in the New Testament as self-evident and dismiss all contrary views as unworthy of consideration.

Mike Gantt said...


You seemed to stake out the radical position that truth excludes faith. Bret clearly staked out the radical position that reason excludes faith. Why are such radical positions not considered out of bounds, but a challenge to those positions is considered out of bounds?

Anonymous said...

So Mike? Your "Faith" is not based on faith?

But doesn't that - and Paul therefore - semantically stretch and "twist" the word, way, way past the breaking point?

With you and Paul busily playing outrageous semantic and word-stretching games with the word "faith," now we're in the realm of flagrant selfcontradiction. A logic problem. An oxymoron.

VinnyJH57 said...


I did nothing of the kind. I merely commented on my experience in discussions with you.

In any case, I don't believe that truth excludes faith. However, I do think that historical methodology is a truth seeking mechanism which is not equipped to operate on faith based claims.

Mike Gantt said...


"In any case, I don't believe that truth excludes faith."

I'm glad to hear that.

"However, I do think that historical methodology is a truth seeking mechanism which is not equipped to operate on faith based claims.

I'd like to discuss this further but we've gotten ourselves so far beyond the topic of the original post we probably ought to stop now and pick it up the next time it's relevant and we have a proper context.

Anonymous said...

Mike's arguments are improving a little here.

It is true that ultimately, even Reason depends to some tiny degree, on SOME assumptions. (As Richard Rorty began to note, in his writing on the "myth of the 'given.'"). And so there is a TINY element of simple, uncritical (faithfu) acceptance, in even a rational understanding of the truth.

Still, though there is some faith in reason, some reason in much of faith, still there's the matter of degree, of percentages here. Reason and Science have some faith - but they do not make GIANT leaps of faith. Instead they believe what proves to be true in scientific experiments and math and so forth; things proven by real material "fruits," "works," "signs,"deeds," and "proofs."

It may also be true that what is known as our "Faith" (proper noun), is based not only on faith, but has an element of Reason in it at times. But that means however, that faith is ... not quite what most Christians and ministers claim. Since after all, it makes some unexpected concessions to Reason. (If not enough concessions finally).

So even if there is no perfectly "pure" Reason, or "pure" faith either in actual practice (if not in common assertions), still, there is the matter of ... HOW MUCH of each should we have.
And there? Most of us find that the "faith" of preachers, is just a little too blindly loyal. Preachers are all too faithful to countless admant assertions, promised miracles, that just don't appear to come true in real life.

For that reason? Rationalists, scientists, would simply reject out of hand, most of Mike's VERY faith-based sermons. Even the small amount of reason in some of them, would not quite be enough.

Though in any case? Thank you Mike for your for once, somewhat less dogmatic, somewhat more reasonable response above.

Though remember Vinny's objection too: here we are trying to be investigators, academics, Historicans. And in that forum? Reason and Science are the major virtues. While gaint, baldly unsubstantiated faith claims ... just don't cut it.

Unknown said...

What are we talking about? Is it 'fides quaerens intellectum' or is it 'intellectus quaerens fidem' and can we bridge or not?

Unknown said...

In 1930 the astronomist Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. Before 1930 Pluto simply did not exist in science, nor for reason itself. Now we know it has been there for 4.5 billion years. What does this tells us about reason and science? Clearly, much more seems to be real than we can think of. Science and reason are not masters of the universe. And God is far beyond our rationality. Both describe at their best only a fraction of the mystery that surrounds us. It is a human necessity to believe in consistency, but how to prove it? I believe in science, but at the same time I have to be critical: too many mistakes have already been made. Science is 'trial and error' at its best. It is one of the most effective tools we have to disclose reality, as long as it is done honestly and modestly. But if I only would believe what I really can prove, my world would become pretty small. I guess my neighbour is alive and well at this very moment, but who really knows? I believe this chair will hold me while writing, but who really knows? To live without believing is humanly impossible. Martin Buber defined belief as being the openness for the possiblity of revelation. I think he made a decisive mistake and bowed for rationality in the end. In my perception belief is the openness for the reality of revelation. Reality, not possibility. Cause something is given there on the other side, always... it is not 'possible', but real and I have to confront it, to grasp it, to put it into words, to imagine it, to construct it. Revelation means that I wonder about it and that I am aware of my particular reception of what is given to receive. The point of the 'historicity of belief' is that historicity wants to express that the 'depositum fidei' (fides quae) is not just a couple of ideas or mythical construct, but that this belief points to something in reality. This fides quae is not just a phantastic construct with of without an inner consistent rationality, but it wants to be an authentic respons on reality, c.q. on what happened before or is happening now. It is therefore we have to mention openness to reality, c.q. disclosure. The memoria Jesu came from 'witnesses' much more than from 'scholars'. What differs are their particular perspectives and receptions. Since rationality in general is so utterly small and these witnesses were no modern scientist at all, we need to go as a camel through their needle to address the reality they expressed. The question: is it of any importance to find the historical Jesus, presumed we could find Him. It sounds to me a bit like: 'Who is the real Virginia Woolfe?' Would it matter for the reception of the wellknown play to know Elisabeth Taylor? Where is the message if not in the play itself? So the answer might be negative. But what about the real Jesus? Would it matter for the reception of the Gospels to know the historical Jesus? Is the message itself not given in the Gospels? The Gospels give us Jesus as being revealed. It is not reality that matters, but the revelation of reality as such: Jesus being the Christ, the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, etc. There is no 'Jesus who he really was' - only a Jesus who he was for the recipients. Their reception is the way Jesus revealed himself and how he was revealed to them. The search for the historical Jesus seems to be an attempt of robbing Him of the essence of his revelation and therefore of the core of his identity. Being reduced to 'just a man' of flesh and blood, he can easily be done away with as just one in a row or maybe an exceptional case of religious fanatism. Our own identity is revealed during our life and after our life and not without the reception of the people who make us who we are. Who the hell was Michael Jackson without his listeners? The Gospels make fourfold clear who Jesus is from four different perspectives in four different receptions. Do we really need more?

Anonymous said...

But if we accept the perspectives of four individuals, and the cumulative idea of Jesus, accepting their perspectives not for their objective historical accuracy (non available), but for say their dramatic power? Then in effect, we are accepting the Jesus story, not as History, but as ... Myth.

Myths too are "true" ... but not in an objective sense. They are "true" only in the sense that they speak to our emotions, our desires, our subjectivities, etc..

So actually Joop? You would not be an historicist; you would be a Mythicist, after all. You are just a mythicist ... who however, defends the reality, the usefulness, of Myth itself.

Which indeed, many mythographers do.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your comment. Of course I accept the perspectives of our four individuals. I would like to consider their writings as a mythical reading of history. I am convinced that all history is ‘mythical’ in the sense that it presupposes a certain paradigm: ‘objective history’ is non-existent. With a ‘mythical reading of history’ I mean a different reading of history than the common reading. If you want: a new paradigm. Our four read the data of the history of Jezus with Eastern glasses on. I stated earlier: if there would not have been a resurrection, no one would even remember Him. He would just have been one of the countless would-be improvers of man and world, not worth mentioning and albeit forgotten. Maybe this new mythical paradigm of history is the expression of what ‘resurrection’ really means: a remythologisation of reality. This understanding of the person and history of Jesus is also the basis of every christology.

Every understanding of the person and history of Jesus that is disconnecting Him from His resurrection, is an amputation of his identity. Lets take an example: Mozart wrote his music that became worldfamous after his death. It says that he has been burried in a poor mans grave. If we would make a reconstruction of his life, but exclude the fact that his music became worldfamous after his death, would we do Mozart right? Would we understand his identity if we stop at his death? What kind of choice would that be? If we take in consideration the popularity of the music after his death would that lead us to a mythical understanding?

I want to make clear that an objective historical view on Jesus is not possible and – if possible – it would not be without risk damaging his identity. Jesus will always have a different identity for the believer and the non-believer, for they have different paradigms. Both are mythical. History as a mythologisation of reality and christology as a remythologisation of reality. The resurrection itself is between what you call history and myth.

Unknown said...

You write about the truth of myths. They are true in a particular subjective sense. What you do is defining the dominant (secular) historical myth as the objective truth and deporting other views on reality to the private domain and defining them as just myths. The marxist historians in Sovjet Russia would have considered your so called ‘historical truth’ as a deceptive fruit of western capitalism. And in my view they would have had a point. Nothing personal, but the arrogance is that you seem to refuse to recognize the mythical presupposition of your ‘objective’ history. This is a methodological arrogance, made possible by dominance in society. But if we not transcend the ‘objectivity’ of our history by discovering ‘objectivity’ as the common myth of our modern secular culture, we are in fact fanatical and getting pretty religieus. The historian must not only criticize this or than myth, but myth altogether, including its own myth. Why are we so fond to find the ‘historical’ Jesus? Why do we want to understand him in our own secular terms? Are historians refusing to accept that things can happen IN history that are not FROM history. Things that cannot be historically described - for our language is inadequat – but at the same time play a decisive rol in the course of history. I do not have words for describing ‘resurrection’, but its appearance lead to a different understanding of man and world in western society: a paradigm shift. Even to a different understanding within history itself, e.g. belief in progress.

The idea of a non-mythical ‘objective’ historical knowledge is a romantic abberation. In my view what is most important for a historian is the research of myths, including its own myth. For myths are not coming ‘senkrecht vor oben’, but they do have a ground. How could countless decent German people become convinced Nazi’s? The myth is clear, but why and how could it develop itself? What were its conditions of possibility? We urgently need a historical reading of mythologies, including the Gospel. What were the preconditions for the belief in this so called ‘resurrection’? And, last but not least, what are the preconditions for our own ‘objective’ historical understanding? If we remove God from history beforehand, how can we wonder we cannot find him there?

Anonymous said...

The preconditions for my objective understanding of the Bible, are basically, science. Which is proven in turn, by real material results.

Which in turn, I suggest, is also biblical: "beware of false prophets. By their fruits you shall know them." Some have tried to claim that this includes Paul's "Fruits of the spirit." But in my own works, I find that finally, the Bible wanted us to follow only those beliefs that produce real, physical, material, empirically-verifiable, "fruits," "works," "signs," "deeds," and "proofs"; as approved by real "science" (Dan. 1.41-5 KJE, etc.).

The attack on objectivity, your fashionable posing of history as "belief in progress," is indeed fashionable. But as someone who has been through that myself, long ago? As someone who did his dissertation many decades ago, on Poststructuralism? I'd have to warn you that all but entirely giving up on objectivity, the way that you and many others are - particularly in the defense of Religion - is not the way. Such things pass in the Humanities; but not in the Sciences. And not in real life either.

Finally I show in my own works, that the Bible itself valued objective, scientific reality, far more than our subjectivist postmoderns do. It is materially "fruit"ful. It accurately predicts things that "come to pass." And that, the Bible itself finally said, is the ultimate arbiter, as to what is true, what is from God, and what is not (Deut. 18.20-22, etc.).

And by the way? The founders of the subjectivist approach you advocate here, were almost universally atheists and (even the existentialists and many poststructuralists) Marxists. And they would be utterly appalled at the use of their thought, their endorsement of subjectivism, to defend the subjectivity of specifically, religious sentiment.

Anonymous said...


Since the days of structural linguistics (phonemics vs. phonetics), then Saussure, then Levi-Strauss, then Derrida, the thesis has been bandied about that our human minds, only know things in terms of something like human language; languages dominated by to some extent possibly false "differences," or binary opposites or antipodes (raw v. cooked; Oh vs. ooh; up vs. down). And to some it seems, the notion of "Myth" vs. "History" many might say, is a false antipode.

However? You yourself seem to acknowledge SOME kind of genuine difference between Myth and History. And thus, between religion and History.

While? If you want to insist that we consider historiography (cf. History itself; the supposed real events), as full of its own myths, I suppose we could go back to 1975and do that. But many of us went through that long ago; today some of us are doing what happens after Post Structuralism.

Which is? A partial return to a kind of scientific realism; as the basis of even say, History.

In a simple example? My own Post-Poststructuralist realism,,my own Historical method, would suggest that science pretty firmly says that biblical accounts of giant physical "miracles" are rather plainly, clearly, rejected by Science. Which suggests in turn that much of Religion is far, far less certain or usable or materially fruitful, than Science and practical reason. And would better deserve the label "Myth" rather than "History."

Speaking of History here, again, as a rather more objective discipline than you would like to characterize it.

A discipline rather more certain, more objective, than the Religious tales it looks at. A History capable in fact, of even levying a sort of "judgement" on much of religion.

Unknown said...

After Gadamer wrote his Truth and Method we know that you will always find what you are looking for. Is your precondition science, you will find science. But do you never ask what you will not find, because of your precondition? And how can you evaluate what you don’t find?
Fruits are not scientific data, but ‘good deeds’ (to do good). The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the tree is known by its fruits. We are talking about the cross of the resurrected (St.Paul), or the historical reading of the myth. It immediately points to our own belief: what about the fruits?
Don’t take it personally: I never thought about you as an oldfashioned follower of history as ‘belief in progress’. I share your concern on objectivity. I am not giving up at all, on the contrary! I like a purification of all the crap that is presenting itself as ‘objective’. Think about media and manipulation. I stress that we need a historical reading of mythology in order to analyse and separate the sheep from the goats, the chaff from the grain. But then we have to become clear about our own beliefs. For the way we look at reality and understand it, depends on what we believe in. The way we approach reality is contextual. There is no objective point of observation. Even the scientifical point of view is not value-free. And if our understanding of reality depends also (but not only!) on our beliefs, how much more our review about true and false, good and evil ? Science will be able to analyse and search for facts and insights, but the decision which way to go? Industries invest in universities for scientific development. Value-free? They like to sell a new mobile phone.
To believe the Bible is the ultimate arbiter is your own belief. There is no scientific proof. It may predict things ‘come to pass’, but a lot of things it predicted did not come to pass, e.g. the return of Efraïm from Exile. What about the return of Jesus within one generation? (parousie) So in fact you are the ultimate arbiter and your belief in the Bible is a confession and no science. The rabbis understand this: the Thora was given to Mozes on Mount Sinaï, but Thora is given to us whenever we receive it. You received it. Good! The Bible is about Truth, but at the same time being a historian, you can not close your eyes for the fact that it is full of manipulation and corrupt in historical data. No problem for it is a mythological reading of history! By the way: did Jesus have his sermon in the field (Luke) or on a mountain (Matthew): or were there two different sermons?
About the founders of the subjectivist approach: if you can’t beat them, join them (joke). I don’t think I am their advocate. I opt for a historical reading of mythology. The subjective approach is not fond of this kind of demythologisation. But I am really not the first to defend subjective religious sentiment (pietism): Kierkegard did just that after Marx.

Anonymous said...

In spite of some current disenchantment in the Humanities with Science, I personally retain an interest in science, and a science-based history. And I suggest that the Bible supports Science - even against itself at times (miracles, and so forth).

Many to be sure read the biblical call for "fruits" just as a call for "good works." But look more closely: Dan. 1.4-15 KJE, 1 Kings 18.20-40, are actually the best descriptions of scientific, experimental method that you could ask for from 2,000 years ago or so.

So I suggest the Bible advocated real science in fact.

As for being open enough to see things well? No doubt our mindset, our mental paradigms, the culture of our times, determine much of the way we see, and what we look for. But those of us with a wide education, are determined by so many conflicting things - that finally, we are almost free to choose; or be open to seeing whatever presents itself in the subject itself.

Science itself is fairly open; especially if you add to it knowledge of ten or twenty common historiographic methods. And use a little originality and personal openness too.

K defended pietism probably even before Marx (fl. 1848). But most of the most famous existentialists that came after, like Sartre, were atheists. While Sartre tried to temper the out-of-control subjectivism of existentialism, with his own occasional Marxism; dialectical materialism.

None of these methods is foolproof of course. But if we are open to using many of them? And open to whatever presents itself to us after all, unexpectedly? Then...?

Overall, I would still see your expressed views as closest to one kind of Mythicist position. Note that mythicists are adamant historians too: they want to know what really happened in history, insofar as we can tell. And they feel that the best historiographical methods we have ... suggest tht Jesus had no historical reality. It really seems that the Jesus story overlaps so exactly, with dozens of popular myths in Jerusalem and in Greco-Roman culture, that finally his story is more continuous, isomorphic, with myth, than with historical events.

Though to be sure? Neither Historicism nor Mythicism have absolutely proven their case yet; and so Mythicism should probably not be presented as "proven fact." But as the Mythicist "Hypothesis."

It is not yet a certain fact. But there is enough information in support of it, to use it as an extremely valuable model or hypothesis for further research.

Unknown said...

First, there is no history without myth. Without myth the only ‘history’ would be a kind of ad random collection of (mediated) data from the past? History is illustrated myth. But we do not consider it being myth, but history. Because it is our common myth. At primary school I learned about the old times and about the first Dutch. Later I found out that the old time was not old at all and that the Dutch did not exist yet by then. But it was considered as ‘our past’… Hiostory was about the great men and the great wars the fought. Not a history of children or women. Nor a history of the poor and the victims. Nothing to mention about them? No historical data? Why not?

You yourself seem to acknowledge SOME kind of genuine difference between Myth and History. And thus, between religion and History.

Religion and history were once equal. In biblical times the history of the Jewish people was written in the Old Testament. After the middelages thins started to change. Richard St. Victor talked about the sensus littera of the Bible in comparison to the sensus spiritualis. Religion and history broke up. In philosophy Hegel was the last one who was able to reconcile both. After that we get Marx and Kierkegard and the synthesis is broken. What is left is a world without God and a God without world. Since I have to hold heaven and earth at the same time, for I do not want to be torn apart, I have to mediate both. I can read history from a religious perspective, and I can read religion from a historical perspective. The first I call a remythologisation of reality, for it differs from history (with its common myth). I am doing nothing new: the Gospels have done pretty much the same in their christology. But at the same time I am aware of the danger that reading history from a religious perspective may estrange me from the common history of Mort und Totschlag. It could lead me to heaven while losing earth. So I have to dare a historical reading of my religion. What is the fruit of this myth? I think I get close to what you call a return to scientific realism. The problem is that this historical reading is in fact not ‘objective’, but also mythical in a secular way. You can go beyond the existentialists and marxists, but not without learning from them. So if fact I am confronting two worldviews, heaven and earth are close at hand and the extremes move each other.

The rejection by science of the biblical accounts of giant ‘miracles’ is mistaken. You cannot reject accounts: they are simply given. You can reject what they describe having ever happened, because you scientifically may prove it could not have been. Has Jesus really walked on water? Or have we simply misunderstood the account and mistakenly thought it was a historical report? But what if I learn from this account that the impossible can be real? That reality is not captured in what I think is possible or not? This can change my view on history itself. Science often presupposes people are rational beings. Surprise, they are not! So a financial crisis could not be possible. However, it is factual. The brokers were not so rational after all.

Unknown said...

The question if religion deserves the label myth? We all like to label except what we believe in ourselves being ’the truth, the only truth and the full truth’. This is valid even for Nihilists. But as Bloch said: ‘Only an atheist can be a good christian’ (I do not know exactly), christian faith has to be crossed by reality. Reality and history is not the same for history is the common myth about what happened. Religion must criticize secular historical thought. At the same time religion needs secular historical thought. The inverse is not true: secular historical thought does not need religion. So I think christian religion needs to be defined as a myth. It can stand scientific criticism and it can learn from it. But at the core (resurrection) it is not vulnerable, because science cannot grasp its origin. A secular paradigm that excludes God beforehand, cannot find Him and will not be able to understand the phenomenon of religion in its core, which is beyond rationality.

Anonymous said...

You DO seem to suggest it is all mostly Myth.... Though you hope some of our myths are somehow, true. You suggest that even if promises of miracles say are not, then we learn other "spiritual" lessons.

Still though? If your sense of Christianity is right ... then many peoples' sense of it is wrong. So there is still a sense of "right" answers and "wrong" ones. A kind of quasi-objectivity.

And indeed? The danger of going too far beyond rationality, is falling into a self-destructive sentimentality, or mere illusions and delusions. We need some kind of objectivity here; if for no other reason than to choose the best myth or illusion.

Speaking in a general way about Christianity in the modern world, is an important discussion in many ways; but I'm not sure I can follow it much further here, without warndering far from our prompted topic.

But clearly you are almost explicitly arguing for a deliberate embrace of even irrationality, or very speculative intuition. Yet I see too many people making too many mistakes, with too much subjectivity and so forth.

So I hold to the reality and usefulness of a more scientific/objective method. And to a distinction between Myth and History; speculation and proven facts.

Possibly at some point, our rational knowledge always runs out, and we need to substitute guesses and intuitions. But in that case, my intuition tells me that the best guess as to what is out there, is rather more natural, than supernatural. Based on what HIstory has shown to be most materially productive here on this earth.

And when I am speculative? Why choose specifically to follow an allegedly "Historical" Jesus? Maybe it would be better to know your Jesus is a "Myth"; albeit an occasionally useful myth. That gives you some greater freedom of interpretation; an openness to more things.

Whereas an "Historical" Jesus pretends to more dogmatic firmness than a religion or credo should have. Even according to your account, I would suggest.

Unknown said...

In the eyes of the historian with his secular paradigm nothing really new can happen in history. He is not able to really wonder about life. For everything is understandable en explainable. There is no room for the impossible that can be a reality. I remember having been in Tallinn (Estonia) some years before the perestrojka. At that time life was not very pleasant over there. A few years later I visited Tallinn again. The MacDonalds was ready and women were wearing colourful dresses. For the historian just fact of change. But I wondered: how could this been possible? If I would have told someone in Tallinn he would visit the MacDonalds within five years, he would think I was completely out of my mind. The historian may try to analyse what happened in its presupposed inner logic, but can he really wonder? Reality is greater than we can imagine or even think of. And although historical analysis is a great tool and we really should invertigate the origins and causes as best we can, we at least should keep in mind that tomorrow can proof we are all completely wrong. History is only definitely written at the end of time, before that it is only guessing.

Now the arrogance of religion is even greater. Mythology is in fact dangerous. People kill for it. The fruits can be pretty sour or bitter. Berdjajev said that man is incurable religious. Even the historian can not hide his own belief in science. If he wonders, he will start immediately to search for an explanation, for miracles cannot be. But why not? You may have your dogmas. Historians know about actions of great moment in history that have a paradigmatic relevance. For christian religion the resurrection was a great moment in history. It could not be caught in historical terms. It was more than history. It is the historical unexplainable in christian belief, the theologicum. From there it is ‘fides quaerens intellectum’ and rationality comes in. We can not understand resurrection, but we can understand what it did. We have the Gospels, we know about the movement of the church that developed itself. Even the secular historian could not close his eyes for that. And paradoxically all this strange christian behaviour must have a cause, for science asks for it. If there would not have been a resurrection, an a-historical moment in history, no one would remember. I would like to mention that this a-historical moment is also given in me being a believer. For I am aware that history is not all. History is contingent, it changes with time. But I have a notion of eternity, of infinity. And I am not alone. Most people have. It is the presumption for the experience of contingence and even the condition of possibility for history. Without this horizon history would be sacred and in fact religion itself. Now I do not ask an historian to become a promulgator of eternity, but I do ask for an open mind that is able to transcend the own a priori’s and categories of thought. For to place Reason on the place of God is in fact not reasonable at all. In my opinion this is also valid for religion. I like the idea of Karl Barth that ‘Religion ist Unglaube’ and can be the most effective way to repress the mystery of life. On the other hand it seems the only way people can deal with it. If you close your eyes for what could make you wonder, you will see nothing what makes you wonder.

Unknown said...

With the theologicum of the resurrection I introduced the root of christianity. Without it no one would remember. The search for the historical Jesus seems - if it would be possible at all - not very relevant after all. We will find a son of a carpenter who tried to do well. The Gospels give us a mythological reading of history, to mediate revelation.

On the other hand I pleaded for a historical reading of mythology. First I have to justify why history is relevant at all. To clear this, I focus on the term ‘resurrection’. Resurrection is not only a theologicum, but a theologicum in a historical context. Theological speaking: if there was no cross of suffering and death, the term resurrection would become impossible. The term resurrection includes as it were the ‘Mort und Totschlag’ of Jesus in particular and of mankind in general. Countless christians identified their own suffering and dying with the suffering of Christ. ‘Every home has its cross’ is a dutch expression. It points to the inescapability of human suffering and death. Being human, we need a human world and a human existence, this means: a world in which we can live and a life that we can live.

The theologicum of the resurrection includes this ‘Nichtigkeit’ of human existence. Suffering and death are at its historical core. St. Paul insisted on the cross of the resurrected Christ, for he was fully aware that the resurrection could otherwise vaporize as a mythical phantasy. So he stressed that the historical context of the resurrection is the suffering and death of Christ(the cross). Herewith we seem to have found a criterion and therefore a horizon for our historical reading of reality. If history has no eye for human suffering and death it is estranged from human reality and therefore ideology.

This means that we have a christian criterium for the historical reading of mythology. You referred to St. Paul and his ‘fruits’. To analyse and evaluate myth we can ask for the fruits of a myth. Does it make possible a world in which we can live and a life that we can live? What about human suffering and death? You can call Christianity a myth, but Nazism was a myth too. And I am sure you will hesitate to compare both. But what is the distinguishing criterion? I do not separate myth from reality: there is no ideal christian myth without a bad christian practice. So I propose the criterion is about their ‘output for humanity’: did they make a human world and human existence possible? Theologically spoken: do these myths bring the Kingdom of God a bit nearer to mankind? Can they help us to give an answer on human suffering and death? For a historical reading of mythology the proof of the pudding should be in the eating.

Anonymous said...

But since say, many - even most - Germans in WW I, and even most everyday Nazis in WW II, claimed to be Christian? Then we have a practice that suggests severe problems with Christian "fruits."

While indeed, the deep and intrinsic Christian glamorization of suffering and death (crucifixion) might have, if anything, contributed to all this. Love of death of certain things in oneself, seems to bleed over, all too easily. While the sacrifice even of one's self, always interfaced all too easily with (and perhaps originated in part with), the expected self-sacrifice of the good Greek or Roman soldier or centurion (cf. Luke 7.9).

Unknown said...

The Deutsche Kirche had no problems with the Nazi's, on the contrary. In the Netherlands most christians did not see the danger in time and when they saw it, their reaction was 'too little too late'. However, there were some who did resist, even in Germany(e.g. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bernard Lichtenberg, Kurt Huber)and who paid for it with their own life. It is because of them that I can still be a christian today. I do not like the holy cross 'mit Rosen umschlungen' and other pius perversities and I reject the idolatry of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, although 'a man has to do what a man has to do' and face the ultimate consequence. I think of Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Romero and also the man nextdoor who cares half his life for his handicapped wife. Were they all mythesists and martyrers? And what about Bin Laden and his friends? No lack of self-sacrifice and martyrdom here, but for what case? Only myth?

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Why would some instantly regard Palestinian martyrdom and Bin Laden, as myth, and a bad myth at that ... and yet not also see a dangerous myth in Christian martyrdom too?

No doubt, there is occasional need for some self-sacrifice. But? The crucifixion with its symbolism of self-sacrifice does not really act as a very strong reason to accept Christianity as "true." Or even as a "good" myth. Consider this perspective: when others sold us on the whole notion of sacrifice, they sold us on the idea that it is good to die ... for them. (Cf. McGrath's current selfish cartoon cat, accepting Jesus' efforts as simply his due).

Then too? Many Christians are fond of asserting that the notion of Christ being great, but dying, is so singular that it must be historically true. Yet of course, martyrdom, the idea of your dying to say "Save" others, to save your country, is nearly the most common myth of all, in probably most cultures.

And it's not always good; as we saw in the case of millions of German soldiers dying to "save" Germany, in WW II. Arguably in fact, there are some ethical issues even in Christian self-sacrifice too.

This issue is not directly related to the question at hand; to the question of the historical status or historicity of Jesus. However? To the extent that Historicists are motivated, in their Faith in Historical Jesus, by a sense that theirs is the "moral" position? Here it might be useful to briefly note that even the Christian morality, that is in love with Death and Sacrifice, (and say, apostles' "hate" for the "world," as seen in John?) should undoubtedly be very critically examined.

Even the moral value of the Jesus legend is questionable. So that researchers need not feel any lingering sentimental attachment to the Jesus Legend, on account of its alleged moral perfection.

As in all true academic inquiry, all these things should be regarded as questions, open for investigation. And confirmation - or dis-confirmation - as either "true," or "historical."

gbarrett said...


"Again, don't just tell us what you think could have happened, or even what you think happened, but rather how and when you think it happened that a myth became history. "

I would venture that an unknown author, sometime late in the first century(very late) penned a tract known now as the Gospel of Mark, for all we know, out of the blue. The events in this gospel are not corroborated by any contemporary sources, or any later indisputably independent or authentic source. Earlier sources, allegedly earlier anyway, such as the epistles of Paul seem to mention the same central character, but do not corroborate key historical data such as: birth in Bethlehem, hometown of Nazareth, crucifixion BY ROMANS (an idea actually contradicted by Paul's views), or that any of the characters created by the Mark author knew a Jesus of Nazareth in person. The easiest explanation? Some unknown author created this fiction out of elements he found around him in history, probably Josephus, and interesting bits of sectarian theology

Mike Gantt said...


Your theory does not explain the Christ movement of the 50's as evidenced by the undisputed letters of Paul which are dated to that decade. Jesus' life as a descendant of David, his death by crucifixion, his resurrection, and his status as Israel's messiah are all depicted as commonly held beliefs by many people across the Mediterranean world of that time. Moreover, these beliefs are depicted in such as way as to indicate that they had been held for some time - probably beginning in the 30's.

Thus if you want to put forth a theory about Christian origins that is consistent with extant evidence acknowledged by scholars, you cannot begin "very late in the first century." The show was well on the road by then.

Anonymous said...

1) There are no "undisputed Paulines."

2) The Book of Acts rather clearly shows Paul meeting mostly pagans, and perhaps Jews: not many signs here (if any) of a pre-existing Christianity.

Next, even if our apologists like Mike, inconsistently reject this part of the Bible, in Acts? The rest of the Paulines are even worse in looking for evidence of a Jesus that existed before Paul. ("Churches" were likely synagogues, etc.).

3) Indeed, Paul is travelling in order mostly to establish for the first time, Christian churches; clearly not just meeting pre-existing ones. Why travel around, telling others what they already knew?

4) Was there a firmly Christian church in Jerusalem before Paul? A reliably Christian church, that Paul learned about jesus from? If we accept Galatians for instance too, Paul says he is an apostle "not from men" (1.1); suggesting he did not get his ideas of Jesus from the apostles. Indeed he first meets earlier alleged apostles "by revelatin" (2.2). Meeting only those "reputed to be something"; apostles who "added nothing to me" (2.6). While Paul, far from humbly learning a viable Jesus traditon from others before him, actually condemnes Peter and what Peter knows, in Gal. 2.11.

There are no "undisputed Paulines"; all have been questioned often. And if we accept Galatians anyway? Then we don't see Paul humbly meeting and learning an earlier tradition from undisputed apostles; but from highly questionable, "alleged" pillars. Whom Paul often condemns.

There is no real case in the writings of Paul, for any firmly-defined, reliable, firmly Christian church or Jesus legend, pre-existing Paul himself.

Finally Paul offers little more than vague, random bits of legend and myth - in Philo and others - might have handed him.

Unknown said...

The original christian martyrs martyred themselves and not other innocent people for their belief. This however changed: the persecution of heretics, the crusades, the Reformation and last but not least the Jews. Looking at history one ponders: in the last age the murdered are like flies on the wall and the Kingdom of God seems to be further away then ever before. The societas christiana has been far from a societas perfecta. There are some holy men and women, but most of us are not. We may doubt if God exists, but may be sure the devil is alive and well.
The resurrection has its ground (Boden) in human suffering and death. But is it not because of human suffering and death that this christian ‘myth’ exists. The reason is its theologoumenon that God resurrects Him. It is this living giving power that is dramatically reenacted in representing the cross. If we share (with our suffering and death) in His suffering and death, we will also share it His resurrection by the power of God. (St. Paul) The preposition is: if we would share the same historical context, we would share the same myth. That is why a Jewish child is asked - as it were - to stand at the Red Sea by himself. In christianity there is a problem however. The history of Jesus is not the history of the church, because ante resurrectum en post resurrectum are devided by the a-historical resurrection itself. The expectation of the Kingdom of God (not yet) is ante resurrectum, the beginning of the Kingdom of God in the risen Christ (already) is post resurrectum. There is a shift in the historical paradigm that devides the christian Jewish sect from the Jewish mainstream. For the Jewish mainstream its rootexperiences (that are normative for the historical paradigm) are the liberation at the Red Sea and the giving of Thora on Mount Sinaï, but for the christian Jewish sect its rootexperience is the resurrection of Christ. This means that the historical Jesus is read after Eastern and Good Friday ante resurrectum is quite different from post resurrectum. Christians can call it GOOD Friday and the murderweapon of the cross, being the symbol of suffering and death, becomes a sign of victory over suffering and death. This is what I call the (christian) mythological reading of history, with ‘history’ understood in the ante resurrectum way. This new paradigm makes also clear that christian martyrdom could even be experienced as a gift of grace. For christians certainly die, but death they will no see. (also St. John 11, 21-27). With this myth countless common christians lived, suffered and died in dignity with their head held high. If we want to call this a ‘myth’ we might to re-evaluate the meaning and the importance of this term.

Unknown said...

What is important for the subject of this threat is that if we could find the ‘historical’ Jesus, he would not be identical to the Christ in whom christians believe. Between Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ is the theologoumenon of the ressurection, the ‘fides qua’ itself. This abbys is bridged however in the Gospels with their mythological reading of history. No doubt, their subject is still Jesus of Nazareth. There are soms ‘historians’ who deny the historical existence of Jesus and see him not mostly, but purely as a literary construct. I am not their follower, but the question is if this really matters, for resurrection is not ‘ there and then’, but ‘here and now’. For a believer Jesus lives ‘here and now’ or he does not live at all. Christ is about Gods actual presence in our presence.

Christian belief is not about death, but about life. The Greeks however considered life being a deadly illness and welcome death as eu-thanasia that liberates from this lifelong illness. There is some life-pessimism here! The meaning of the ‘world’ (that should be hated) has to be examined carefully in a moral and in a metaphysical sense. It might be the world of those living without hope as in the days of Noach? ‘World’ might be those who still live ‘in the flesh’ (the old aeon) and not in the (holy) Spirit, the context post resurrectum?

Unknown said...

The vision on the Kingdom is far from gone though. Just take a look:

Happy Newyear!

Mike Gantt said...

Ian at Irreducible Complexity has a contribution to the topic:

Mike Gantt said...

And here's yet another categorization of views, yet of less recent vintage:

Unknown said...

'The Book of Acts rather clearly shows Paul meeting mostly pagans, and perhaps Jews.' I wonder if this is true. When St. Paul arrived somewhere his first visit would be the local synagoge to find shelter. He uses the synagoge also as a starting point for his local mission... until he gets into trouble with the local Jewish authorities again and has to leave town. It is like a pattern. So as to say he PERHAPS met Jews...? Why the synagoge? Near the synagoge pagans could be found who shared in the jewish belief, but not in the jewish people(proselytes). They were often the first candidates for the christian mission of St. Paul. They might have been vulnerable for his mission, because the jewish community was accessible at one hand, but it was not easy to become a Jew (e.g. circumcision, dietary laws)on the other hand. Therefore these proselytes were to stay in a second-class position: not to be considered as really 'real' Jews. St. Paul offered them an easy alternative to free themselves from this inferior position without losing their faith and to reverse the relation with the Jews.

Unknown said...

There are signs of a pre-pauline christitianity in the writings of St. Paul. E.g. the already existing tradition of the Last Supper that he has heard about and the poor christian community of Jerusalem that he tried to facilitate by collecting money. We find mostly 'kerygma' and no 'memoria Jesu' in his writings. There is some mythology here! Saulus became Paulus and the pauline paradigm shift is quite radical in its understanding of Thora, that not longer can be considered as a positive 'road to heaven'.

Marc is considered to be the oldest Gospel and comparison of Matthew and Luke then lead to the hypothesis of the 'Logienquelle Q', a collection of TEXTS that might have been used by both Matthew and Luke for they share material that is not in Marc. The idea that Jesus is a figure that is composed solely by Marc alone may therefore not be true.

Anonymous said...

Standard apologetics sermons insist that Christianity does not "glamorize" death. However, we would have to say that it at the very least, "minimalizes" it, as unimportant. It is OK to die now; because we "go to Heaven" or some such. We don't really die. In this way, it makes death negligable; even attractive, if we die as a "martyr."

While making death seem unimportant, or even attractive, might be a dangerous thing, I continue to suggest.

While of course, the Old Testament is full of Jewish soldiers dying to save others. A kind of martyrdom.

Christianity does emphasize self-martyrdom; but my point is that when someone else, tells you it is good for you to die, for THEM? The speaker is not supporting self-martyrdom at all. Rather he is encouraging others, to die for HIM.

But all this is a distraction: did Paul really describe much about Jesus? The Lord's supper in 1 Corin. might seem one example; though 1) sacramental as it is, it might seem also to be a late interpolation of the Church. Or? 2) My own suggestion: Christianity largely derives from traditional Servant/Lord economies: a solider or knight can eat supper with the Lord, or at his table, so long as he serves him. The Lord is sacrificing part of his goods; his food; what he needs to live himself, what would become his body, for his servants. And in exchange, they are expected to serve and obey him.

So that? A kind of "Lord's Supper" or "table," would be generic to most economies and cultures of the time.

Unknown said...

Although Jewish tradition rejected human sacrifices (e.g. against the Moloch-practice), the ‘kiddush ha Shem’ (sacrifice for the Name) was well known. The minimalization of death has been a real danger in christian tradition, because the belief in the resurrection could lead to a contempt for death. It gave reason to St. Paul to stress the cross of the resurrected and for the gospels to extensively describe the suffering and death of Christ. In this way suffering and death are not minimalized at all, but at the heart of christianity. There is no minimalization, but an overcoming. The resurrection has never been the reason to remove the cross as meaningless, but rather to stress it. Although there are differences between the gospel of Mark and the gospel of John: in time the cross became more and more innocent and a kind of safe passage to heaven. Although St. Paul believed the new aeon started with Christ, he knew all to well that man and world were not free from suffering and death. He mentions his own suffering for the purpose of the Good News and he tries to brake the too enthousiastical christians who consider themselves to be in heaven already. The new aeon started in Christ, but at the same time we seem to experience the contractions of its birth.
Death is not seen as an end but as a transit, you may say. The river Jordan (river of death) is overcome in Christ, therefore we can overcome. Although we die (no doubt about this), there is a kind of death-optimism here! In a historical reading of mythology we will have to criticize this optimistic ‘death-myth’ so to speak, so your remarks are certainly to the point.
In some way death is welcome: Abraham, being old and tired, welcomes death, knowing that Isaak will carry on and the Jewish people will live. The problem starts when people die because of evil. There is a great sense of injustice (their blood cries to God from the earth - Hosea) and righteousness has to be! In fact the roots of the idea of resurrection in the Old Testament are not ontological, but ethical. God has to resurrect the murdered, because justice has to be done. This ethical imperative of resurrection may give a new light on resurrection in general and on christian resurrection in particular. For resurrection is primary not about overcoming death, but about overcoming injustice.

Unknown said...

This brings me to your other remark: people that tell it is good for you to die for them. Humans are mortal and hope to live and to die for what is worth to live and to die for. As Jesus lived for people, he died for them too. It is nothing else then the ultimate gift of one’s life to others. The radix of love.
People who believe that it is good for you to die for them, is another cup of tea. This idea is strange to christianity for the idea ‘that He died for that we live’ is central. The letter to the Hebrews make very clear that after His sacrifice no other sacrifice is needed, nor useful in any way. Jesus even said that the emperor may have right on you money but not on your life, since we have to give God what God belongs. In refusal of the idolatery of the emperor, the christian martyrers have trusted their lives to the right Owner.
I agree fully that St. Paul did not describe much about Jesus. You can even ask if he had any information about the ‘historical’ Jesus at all (in the sense of ‘memoria Jesu’). I doubt it if the Lord’s supper already had the sacramental character at that early time. Jewish christians participated in the synagogal liturgy on Saturday and had a kind of brunch together on early Sunday morning ensembled at home, in remembrance of the Lord. Later they brunched also on the graves of the martyrers. The last supper may originally have been a Pesach meal that was and still is celebrated in intimacy at home. Since Jesus and his disciples were quite close, I do not see any reason for a ‘lord-knight’ – scheme, that – by the way – is well known to me from Germanic culture. The ‘Lord’ in Jewry really means something else and should be understood in its own terms, so within its own jewish cultural context. In my view the pivotal point of the Lord’s supper is that Jesus is Lord and that in the gift of his life, out of love for us, we are encouraged to do the same for each other. So reconciliation seems to be the core of this brunch.

Anonymous said...

Well, we're down to a defense of the faith now, rather than the topic of hand. I may need to close here therefore. But if so, here's a statement that might serve as "final" for me for now.

How reliable is the Historical Jesus? For that matter, how reliable is Christianity itself? If it depends on the reality of Resurrection for instance, then we should face the fact. That though Jesus was said to have raised Lazarus with just faith and a prayer, we don't see that happening in our own time much. Suggesting many ancient religious promises and “realities” like physical resurrection, were not accurate. While as it will turn out, there are "spiritual" problems with a "spiritual" Christianity that minimizes physical death.

Oddly enough, in fact, I find elsewhere that the Bible itself began to cancel itself; to selfdeconstruct; to confess errors even in itself. “Let not many of you become teachers,” the apostle St. James said, “For we all make many mistakes”; “If any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man” - “but no man can tame the tongue” (James 3.1-2-8). Here St. James begins to confess sins and errors, even in “we” apostles and others, it seems. He warns specifically about the trickiness of language, the “tongue,” and errors in speaking.

The Bible confesses sins in itself in effect. But how reliable are modern alternatives to religion? How reliable is Mythicism? Ancient religion made many mistakes; and no doubt, I've probably made a few “mistakes” of my own, especially slips of language, here and there. My PhD is not in Religious Studies. And furthermore, my remarks on Internet blogs are presented as informal, preliminary, ad hoc hypotheses; as a quick informal “brainstorming” session.

In fact, I'd probably present the Mythicist thesis itself not as fully-proven “fact,” but as an heuristic; as the Mythicist “Hypothesis.”

While then too, more specifically, my own very quick remarks on Internet blogs, are very largely unedited; and many occasional slips therefore undoubtedly take place. However, many of my seeming “mistakes” are probably justified in more scholarly, thought-out works, elsewhere. Other apparent mistakes could be resolved in part by me, by quick edits; as due largely to slips of the tongue after all.

However, I hope that my many remarks here and other blogs on Historicism and Mythicism, etc., preliminary and informal as they are, will be taken as what they often are: a first, ad hoc body of hypotheses and speculations; some of which might be rejected, but a high percentage of which might be verified and retained.

I once presented most of my remarks without spelling and typo corrections; and with a Germanic question mark after them, to signify a question open to discussion; until Neil Geoffrey complained. But here I explain the reason for the question marks, after all; Mythicism is much better-founded than current religious scholars think; but many of our own more modern efforts are still “pioneering,” and speculative; especially informal remarks on blogs. Still? If even the apostles who wrote our Bibles, acknowledge that they “make many mistakes,” and were not yet “perfect” (as Paul confirmed of himself), I'm not too embarrassed to be throwing out some quick speculations, here and elsewhere … even under the watchful eye of a cautious and accomplished scholar like Mark Goodacre.

To some extent, historically, Mythicism is still a new field; and so I hope that readers here and elsewhere will take my quick notes in blog com boxes, as a simple first brainstorming session; from which many ideas will stand. While others might need to be, of course, edited. (And often even reversed).

That's how it is for now.

Unknown said...

In my opinion the reliability of Christianity depends on the reliablility of the resurrection. If the resurrection of Christ dit not take place, ‘we are the most piteable of all humans’ (St. Paul). Historically we can not understand resurrection directly, but we may recognize it indirectly in its effects (paradigm shift, glorification of Jesus).

In the Gospels, being a remythologisation of reality, the resurrected Jesus is described as ‘one who resurrects the death’: see Lazarus and also the daughter of Jaïrus. In a mythological way, this makes sense.

But as we hear these stories, we wonder about them: could it have been happening in reality there and then? Of are these just stories? Imagine for a moment that in the case of Jesus the laws of nature temporarily were put out of order by the almighty God and that therefore the impossible became real but only temporal, what would this mean for us? In fact nothing at all, because if this happened ‘there and then’ and only ‘once and for all’, it would not have any potence to change our world for better or for worse. So the story is quite meaningless to us, if it only wants to convince about a miracle. It would only make sence to us if the miracle ‘there and then’ can be also a miracle ‘here and now’. If the Gospel wants to testify that from the perspective of the resurrection (their paradigm) the impossible can become a reality and that belief can move us beyond the imaginable, they might have a point. But a historical reading of the myth of resurrection tells us that the dead do not come alive again, just with faith and a pray. They never did and even if they did for once in the past, this has no meaning to us, since it does not happen in our lifetime. ‘Credo quia absurdum’: believing may be absurd in itself, but believing in the absurd is complete madness. Does this mean that these mythical stories are useless?

One may wonder that these absurd stories have given hope and strength to people in the past and that they still do nowadays. The historian has to recognize that the church still exists, being the living body of the Resurrected. How is this possible if these stories would have no meaning to us? Jesus being ‘the way, the truth and the life’ might be madness to some, it is the ultimate truth to others and they live and die with His name on their lips. From a historical perspective we cannot close our eyes for this factual truth either. The conclusion might be: how we understand what happened (historical, mythical) has a meaning for our survival and the way we live and die. What is objectively true may still not be the ultimate truth, a truth people can live and die with. Thank you for your interesting contributions.

TheCommonStandard said...

I'm not a believer, but given what I've seen in the research I've done, historical Jesus just makes more sense. A lot of the arguments mythicists put forward just show that its possible that Jesus didn't exist, not that its probable. Certain things we learn in the gospels (that he was from Galilee, that he preached adherence to mosaic law, that he predicted the world would end in his generation, and that he never clearly referenced his divinity) don't fit in well with the Christianity practiced in the first century, or today. Historical Jesus just fits those ideas better.

Lepernet said...

"But I do not see why Zechariah would be considered a companion of Moses ..."

You are using an artificially narrow definition of the word "companion". Meaning something like "a contemporary of Moses". Then claiming that you don't see how Zechariah is a 'companion/contemporary' of Moses.

Philo uses the word to mean something like 'of similar character'. So all holy and pious people, such as prophets, can be described as "companions" of each other. Moses and Zechariah are both prophets and hence "companions". This does not require them to be contemporaries.

"... the immortal and most perfect race of beings [prophets?], ... and of these men Isaac is reckoned as a

macroman said...

Dr Goodacre,

I think you said to Carrier that Paul started off with the Jesus tradition he received from Cephas et al, but when his authority was challenged he switched to saying he learned everything directly by revelation. It seems to me that makes sense if the challenge was "that stuff that Cephas teaches is rubbish, why should we believe Cephas or you when you repeat it" and Paul answers "I am NOT repeating Cephas, stuff. I taught this stuff before I every spoke to Cephas. I got it direct from the source".

But since the challenge seems to comes from the Cephas camp, that doesn't make much sense, does it?

So is your view something like: 1. Paul started teaching Cephas-compliant Jesus tradition 2. Paul introduced something not from that tradition and was challenged "This ain't what Cephas teaches, this doesn't meet the standard". 3. He responded, "Of course it's not from Cephas, I have been teaching it before I ever spoke to Cephas, and it's as good as (or better, to be blunt) than Cephas-stuff, since I got it directly by revelation".

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