Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jesus Mythers Can't Cut It By Their Own Criteria

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I have been arguing with an assortment of sceptics on a message board, many of whom can be described as "Jesus mythers." The pure Jesus myther is one who believes that Jesus did not exist as a man in history, but was made up as a fictional character. Who made him up and why can get very complex. The other major requirement for being a myther is the belief that in some sense Jesus is patterned after the dying/rising savior gods of the ancient world such as the Hours from Egypt and the Turkish Attis, and Persian/Roman cult Maitra (Mithras). The problem is, it is hard to find a pure "Myther." Most scpetics will begin to argue about Jesus and our knowledge of him, but when push comes to shove will admit that "I think he probably existed, but we don't know much about him." What I find is that most people can't keep stairght what the argument is about. They confuse arguments for Jesus as a man in history with Jesus as the son of God and both of those issues with the idea that the New Testament has no authority historically, but is a pack of lies. I find that most sceptics are very confused and have no clear understanding of these issues, but their agenda is such that they embrace anything that assists in destroying Christianity.

The mythers and quasi mythers both have little sense of history. Most of them have no idea what historians do or why they arrive at the conclusions that they do. In place of a true understanding of historiogrophy they have placed the evening News. Their basic argument is just that, where is Jesus on the 6:00 news? There is no tarnscript of the ancient world from the local news that speaks of Jesus in an up-to-the-minute way, so there must not have been a Jesus. "There is no contemporary record of his existence." Well, we can show that the basic sotry that makes up the Pre Markan redaction was used by all four Gospels, and that it was circulating as early as AD 50, that's just 18 years after the original events. That closes the gap between the Gospels as we know them in their final form and the original events in an amazing way. The mythers, however, are not impressed. They demand evidence from during Jesus life time and from the every same time as the events were "breaking." This is the evening news syndrome. They seem blissfully unaware of how remote everything was back then and how slow the news would have spread..

There are many reasons why we don't have a lot of contemporary records of Jesus' doings. He wasn't important to anyone elite enough to write until years latter after his followers became numerous enough to start going to Rome. Rome was the center of everything, Jerusalem was a backwater for which the Romans could not have cared less.. Jesus was not important enough in a worldly way, to the elites and the powerful people, to be the subject of contemporary writing.The writers whose works were important enough to survive that era were mostly in Rome, or a few other places like Alexandria, but not Jerusalem and certainly not Galilee. Yet the mythers and their confussed coheart of skeptics trnslate this lack of evening news immediacy into what they think is an iron clad argument that Jesus didn't exist. Had existed, they reason, he would have been on the evening news. Most of Jesus' followers were illiterate and poor, but this doesn't even phase the mythers. With no sense f history all they know is, everything that is important is on the evening news.


The news argument goes hand in hand with the general argument "there's just no proof Jesus existed." The problem here is that to achieve a "proof free zone" around the topic they to get rid of the major artifact that proves Jesus existed, the New Testament. They accomplish this setting up phony criteria, criteria that real historians think is silly, and then using that to just totally ignore the NT completely. Any attempt to bring the NT into the argument is met with "that's by biased people who had visions and believed in supernatural so it has to be wrong." I brought all of this up to the historian from whom I was TA, a few years ago when I first began doing apologetics on the net. This man has a big name reputation and he is a well respected historian, Cambridge educated.He said to me "why spend your time arguing with idiots?" This guy was not a Christian, he was an atheist. He thinks the Jesus myther thing is stupid, and so do most real academic historians, and he explained why: Because the same criteria they use to dismiss the NT could be used to dismiss 90% of what we know about the ancinet world. Historians do not see a mythological source and say "O that' can't have any truth in it because it's mytholgoical." No, this histoiran told me of reports of battles in which gods fight with men and it is said that so many people were in the battle that it was more people than lived on earth at that time. But historians do not decide that the battle didn't happen! they do not rule out sources just because they are infected with mythology. Most ancient world sources were biased, had visions and were polemical and religious, which is all the major criteria through which the mythers write out the New Testament. The supreme irony is that the very sources the mythers use to argue for the pattern of dying/rising savior god, which suppossedly undergirds the Jesus story, comes from these same kinds of soruces, people who had visions and were believers in supernatural and myth, polemical and religious.


Michael Grant
In his book Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, Atheist historian Michael Grant completely rejected the idea that Jesus never existed.

This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth.... But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because some pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms.... To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.' In recent years, 'no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.




Speaking of their being no proof, there is cerainly no proof for the Jesus myth hypoethesis. There is no tone single soruce anywhere before the ninteeth century who ever suggested that Jesus didn't exist. He's proven to have existed alright, many times over, no one ever denied it! There is no a shread of proof for any of the Jesus myth world view because it requies one supposition after another all of which are unfounded, such as a quasi Christian type group going before Jesus time whcih would have the motive to make up such a figure.The author of this theory of Jesus fiction is Earl Doherty, no formal crednetials in Biblical studies, who has championed the cause of Jesus mythism. Doherty quotes Helmutt Koster as an authoirty, but Koster says outright "do not conclude that there was a cyncial or stoic hellinism in Galilee, and that's exactly what Doherty bases his view upon. So he can't follow the adivce of his own sources. The theory also requires that myth run backwards, it must move from an abstraction based upon idealized types and an etherial nature, to a concrete history made up latter to cover for the etheral backdrop. This is totally contrary to any example of mythology. So the mythers have absoltuely no basis for their views, no evidence to back it up, the whoel things is based upon argument from silence and doubious connections and bait and switch to ignore the major Christian evidence. But what's a little hypocracy for a skeptic?

11 comments:

Lurchling said...

Just a quick correction: Wells is the German teacher, not Doherty.

J.L. Hinman said...

Yes noted. I thought of that after I already published. I will go back and correct.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

You keep repeating this bit:

"Well, we can show that the basic sotry that makes up the Pre Markan redaction was used by all four Gospels, and that it was circulating as early as AD 50, that's just 18 years after the original events."

You rely on a single book by a single scholar (Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels) to establish the existence of a hypothetical document. The two problems here are, first, that Koester's views are of course contestable, and are contested by a number of scholars, and second, that you inject a large amount of your own interpretation into what Koester (and Petersen) actually say in the book. You really need to take another look at this claim and stop simply repeating it.

Reagards,

LO

Anonymous said...

I think you are mixing up the arguments being made to make your own position seem stronger. There are at least two arguments being made here, one is the one you seem to have latched on is also the least common, that is that Jesus never existed and it was all made up. The other argument is that Jesus did exist but much of what has been attributed to him has been gleaned from other sources. Considering how early christianity was competing with a number of other smallish cults at the time for worshippers it is entirely understandable that it might have done so. The adoption of the date of christmas, even though from a later period shows this has happened.

J.L. Hinman said...

Anonymous said...
"I think you are mixing up the arguments being made to make your own position seem stronger. There are at least two arguments being made here, one is the one you seem to have latched on is also the least common, that is that Jesus never existed and it was all made up."

>>>I said that. why is skeptics don't read well? You read what I said again you will see the following points:

(1) 2 kinds, pure mythers who think he didnt' exist at all, and wanna be mythers who will admit he existed but we don't know much abotu him.

(2) I said the pure mythers are kind of rare. most skeptics begin the argument saying he didn't exist, but when persured (push comes to shove--that's what tha tmeans) they will admit he existed but we don't know much about him.



"The other argument is that Jesus did exist but much of what has been attributed to him has been gleaned from other sources. Considering how early christianity was competing with a number of other smallish cults at the time for worshippers it is entirely understandable that it might have done so."


I have disproven most of the alledged semilarities just by using real mythology books rather than myther books. But I quote a source saying Mithrism did not complete with Christaintiy.



Mithrism was not Christianity's Major Rival


Mithraism
The Ecole Initiative:

http://cedar.evansville.edu/~ecoleweb/articles/mithraism.html



Mithraism had a wide following from the middle of the second century to the late fourth century CE, but the common belief that Mithraism was the prime competitor of Christianity, promulgated by Ernst Renan (Renan 1882 579), is blatantly false. Mithraism was at a serious disadvantage right from the start because it allowed only male initiates. What is more, Mithraism was, as mentioned above, only one of several cults imported from the eastern empire that enjoyed a large membership in Rome and elsewhere. The major competitor to Christianity was thus not Mithraism but the combined group of imported cults and official Roman cults subsumed under the rubric "paganism." Finally, part of Renan's claim rested on an equally common, but almost equally mistaken, belief that Mithraism was officially accepted because it had Roman emperors among its adherents (Nero, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and the Tetrarchs are most commonly cited). Close examination of the evidence for the participation of emperors reveals that some comes from literary sources of dubious quality and that the rest is rather circumstantial. The cult of Magna Mater, the first imported cult to arrive in Rome (204 BCE) was the only one ever officially recognized as a Roman cult. The others, including Mithraism, were never officially accepted, and some, particularly the Egyptian cult of Isis, were periodically outlawed and their adherents persecuted.







"The adoption of the date of christmas, even though from a later period shows this has happened."


>>>yes, in a latter period. that makes a huge difference since the Jesus story was already set in stone.

J.L. Hinman said...

Joe,

You keep repeating this bit:

"Well, we can show that the basic sotry that makes up the Pre Markan redaction was used by all four Gospels, and that it was circulating as early as AD 50, that's just 18 years after the original events."

You rely on a single book by a single scholar (Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels) to establish the existence of a hypothetical document. The two problems here are, first, that Koester's views are of course contestable, and are contested by a number of scholars,



>>well let's see you nam a few? Of course all views are contestable. That's where the fun of scholarship comes in, you get to argue about it. But there are a number of major schoalrs who agree with Koseter, including Crosson. i had a list too but its' somewhere on Doxa.






and second, that you inject a large amount of your own interpretation into what Koester (and Petersen) actually say in the book.


>>>that is a matter of opinion. But basically all readers do.




You really need to take another look at this claim and stop simply repeating it.

Reagards,

LO



>>>that's a pretty arrogant comment. how dare you think that! I've read that book over and over again several times, I've looked his calims from several pionts of view and researched a good deal of what he says.I'vd studied it compeltely and if you weren't too lazy to actaully look up a scholar who disagrees and quote him I could show you where he's wrong.

12:42 PM

Anonymous said...

(2) I said the pure mythers are kind of rare. most skeptics begin the argument saying he didn't exist, but when persured (push comes to shove--that's what tha tmeans) they will admit he existed but we don't know much about him.

Okay you meant to say pressured, now I get it. Since you have dyslexia and a distinct dislike for any kind of spellcheck you have to understand that we have to interpret what you are trying to say at times.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

First off, Koester does not say that the Passion Narrative source he hypothesizes was written by 50 CE. He does say that Crossan dates his hypothetical Cross Gospel to “the middle of the 1st century CE” (ACG 218). You take this to mean by 50 CE, but the words are not so specific and allow a range of dates. Crossan, in fact, says the Cross Gospel was composed “by the 50’s” (Historical Jesus, 429). Secondly, Koester is not endorsing Crossan’s hypothetical document or his dating of it—he is skeptical of “major literary compositions of a very early date” and suggests that “the earliest written materials were relatively small compositions of special materials” (219). Koester does believe that the Gospels of Mark, John and Peter were all dependent on an earlier Passion Narrative, but he doesn’t assign it an exact date. He puts the composition of Mark (which he thinks existed in many versions) “shortly after 70 CE” (290). This would allow a date for the PN source a decade or two later than 50 CE.

LO

J.L. Hinman said...

yes Koster does say that. he says it exactly.

Koster expresses agreement with Crosson. Then he says:

(Koester, p. 220)

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb."

that is the same "basic acont" that Crosson puts at AD 50 Koster never says otherwise. What he differs on is the epiphanies after the resurrection, that's another matter.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

This is the kind of thing I meant when I said you should take another look at this claim and stop simply repeating it. First, as I said earlier, Crossan says “the 50’s” not “by 50.” Koester describes Crossan’s position as dating the Cross Gospel to “the middle of the 1st century CE.” You interpret this “middle” to mean by 50 precisely, but “middle” means a range of possible dates in the middle, not the exact middle. Second, Koester is describing Crossan’s position, not his own. You say Koester never says otherwise. Even if this were the case, it would not mean that he endorses Crossan’s position or that he actually says he dates the Passion Narrative source to 50. But in fact, Koester disagrees with Crossan, and on a lot more than the epiphany stories. After describing Crossan’s theory in the paragraph on pp. 218-219, Koester criticizes it, saying, “There are three major problems regarding this hypothesis.” The second of these major criticisms has to do with Crossan’s early dating of a “major literary composition,” by which Koester means Crossan’s Cross Gospel.

You also jump ahead to p. 131 to cite two sentences about the PN source, where Koester is no longer discussing Crossan’s position. Yes, Koester believes that all the gospels depend on one PN source and that it ends with the empty tomb story. However, he does not say that this PN source was written by 50. You pull that from the earlier paragraph describing Crossan’ theory on pp. 218-219, though, as I’ve said you misinterpret “middle of the 1st century” to mean specifically the year 50. Crossan’s study is not one of the studies Koester is referring to on p. 131. Crossan’s hypothetical source, the Cross Gospel, did not contain the empty tomb story. Crossan thinks that story was composed later by the author of Mark.

So you are ignoring what Crossan actually says about when he dates his Cross Gospel, you are forcing an overly specific interpretation on Koester’s description of Crossan’s “middle of the 1st century”, and you mistakenly take Koester to be agreeing with Crossan on all but the epiphany stories.

Regards,

LO

J.L. Hinman said...

my answer to this comment is in the blog itself.