This week my local SSA group is having me talk about the historical Jesus and the Christ myth theory, a topic that has been rather popular among skeptics and atheists on the ‘net for a while but is very much fringe in the scholarly world. I hope to have the talk recorded, but we’ll see about that.
I want to give some resources from what I have blogged in the past. For one thing, it should be noted that there are some really, really bad sources out there. The most popular is probably the stuff from Zeitgeist, but I point out here and here how it is totally wrong in fact and method concerning one argument, which shows how the entire movie’s plan of attack is flawed. I also made this into a video presentation to get the point about the claims of the Star of Bethlehem and Zeitgeist.
So while Zeitgeist is not a good source to defend the idea that Jesus was never historical and the idea itself is fringe, there are qualified scholars coming to that conclusion. Recently the Dominican biblical scholar Thomas Brodie published his memoir about his research and coming to the conclusion that Jesus never existed and the Gospels are fictive through-and-through. He doesn’t prove his case in that book, and another mythicist, Richard Carrier, notes that the argument presented doesn’t even reach the conclusion validly, though it does certainly undercut the historical Jesus hypothesis. If you want something that is more helpful to that end, Brodie’s Birthing of the New Testament is great is arguing the interdependence of all the New Testament writings about Jesus and how they derive from the Old Testament. Brodie also in both books undercuts the idea of oral tradition which is a must-read.
On scholars and questioning the historical Jesus, I did a several part review of the volume ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ going through the important chapters dealing with the methodology of determining anything about Jesus, including his historicity. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. This is probably the most scholastic book on the subject right now, and it really shows how the arguments in the future can and should go, at least the productive ones.
Lastly for now, in my War on Christmas I brought up arguments concerning different timelines in which Jesus was said to have lived. After a few more posts, I showed how the prophecy in Daniel 9 could be used to explain all the timelines, which then led me to pointing out that this does seem to affect the probability of the historical Jesus. I don’t claim it to be a proof, but it is a way of showing how the Christ Myth can explain the weird data which the historic theories of Jesus have trouble doing so.
As for my upcoming talk, I will not be proving anything, but rather I will talk about what things support the idea of a mythical Jesus and what problems this theory runs into, at least which problems are the most significant. So don’t think the evidence against a historical Jesus is as good as, say, the evidence against ancient aliens building things in the past. I also don’t think there is a book proving the case yet, though Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle is the best right now, and Robert Price’s The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems is also a useful book. I suspect the idea will be greatly advanced, if not superseded, by Richard Carrier’s upcoming book on the subject, hopefully coming out this year.
So, hope to see some on Thursday, and hopefully this can be put up on YouTube in the near future.