- I've used quotes from Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus" and his conclusions on texts where I can.
- There have been other books that have been thought as scripture like the Shepherd of Hermas (which Doherty believes is a text by non-historicist Christians) that I haven't included. But they might be useful to add.
- I've used the words 'mythicist' and 'historicist' below, but with the caveat that Carrier uses 'earthly' to imply 'historical', which skews the odds in my opinion. In a broader context, 'mythicism' doesn't mean 'celestial Jesus' nor 'earthly' mean 'historical Jesus'.
- I'm not arguing for H or M here (though I clearly come down on the H side). I think if it was proven without a doubt that there was no historical Jesus, it would change the debate on what is happening in early texts and why rather than stop the debate.
'M" = Mythicist text, i.e. a text written by a 'mythicist' Christian, i.e. the author didn't believe in a historical Jesus
"H" = Historicist text, i.e. the author believed in an earthly Jesus who actually lived on earth.
M? = Could have been written by a 'mythicist' Christian
M?? = May have been a 'historicist' author, but using non-historicist materials so that the text contributes towards 'mythicism'. (Added category thanks to criticisms by Giuseppe below on the Gospels and Acts
H? = Could have been written by a 'historicist' Christian
|Matthew||M??||H?||Author may be historicist believing that gMark was about an actual historical person|
|Mark||M||The Gospels contribute to Carrier's Rank/Raglan score, and are 2 to 15 times more likely on M than H|
|Acts of the Apostles||M??||H||OHJ, p 386 “The content of Acts is therefore evidence against the historicity of Jesus.“ It is up to 5 times more likely on M rather than H|
|Paul||Disputed letters are marked with an asterisk (*)|
|1 Thess||M||OHJ p 566 “1 Thess. 2.15-16… has long been recognized as an interpolation”|
|2 Thess*||M||OHJ p 594 “Other canonical Epistles: Best 4/5, Worst 3/5”|
|Pastorals||Epistles are known as the Pastoral epistles except for Philemon|
|1 Timothy*||M?||H?||OHJ, p 538 “Even the gospel declared in 1 Timothy is odd: though the author of 1 Timothy may have been a historicist… the gospel he summarizes (in 1 Tim. 3.16) looks pre-historicist in origin”|
|2 Timothy*||M?||No historicity details|
|Titus*||M?||No historicity details|
|Philemon||M?||OHJ, p 261 “Philemon contains no data relevant to the historicity of Jesus, so it can be disregarded anyway.”|
|1 James||M?||OHJ, p 529 “That this letter [James] looks more in agreement with minimal mythicism than minimal historicity is therefore noteworthy....”|
|1 Peter||M?||OHJ, p 528 “The epistles of James and 1 Peter are also oddly silent about a historical Jesus...” OHJ, p 530 “1 Peter 1.10-12 describes the actual process by which facts about Jesus were discovered: scripture (vv. 1 0-l l ) and revelation to the apostles (v. 1 2). Jesus having ministered to the public and been known to anyone in person is again conspicuously absent here. This is practically minimal mythicism in a nutshell.”|
|2 Peter||H||OHJ, p 351 “2 Peter is attacking some Christian heresy we know nothing else about and have no documents from. Instead, we get a forged 'eyewitness testimony' cleverly designed to refute the claim that the Gospel was a myth...”|
|1 John||H||OHJ, p 528 “… the forgery of the Epistles of John (since 1 Jn 1 . 1 -3 seems to serve a similar purpose as 2 Pet. 1 . 1 6-2. 1 , indeed it even appears to protest too much...”|
|2 John||-||-||Not discussed, very short letter. No historicist or Gospel details. Contains “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”|
|3 John||-||-||Not discussed, very short letter. No historicist or Gospel details.|
|Jude||M?||OHJ, page 528 “Following them is the Epistle of Jude (lit erally, Judas), which also makes no reference to the historical Jesus”|
Of the 27 texts in the NT:
- 23 texts could have been written by Mythicists. These include texts that seem to support mythicism strongly according to Carrier, to texts that don't offer any details about a historical Jesus, or any Gospel details.
- 4 epistles were probably written by 'historicists', though 3 of the Gospels could have been written by 'historicists' as well.
- Acts of the Apostles seems to have included Mythicist material, to the extent that Carrier considers that Acts supports mythicism rather than historicity. Best/worst case according to Carrier: 18/25 to 1/5 (e.g. Acts is 5 times more likely to support mythicism than historicity). It contains few statements supporting an 'earthly' Jesus.
- The single 'earthly' statement in 1 Tim may be an interpolation. If that is the case, then 1 Tim would fall into the pattern of 'mythicism' (e.g. no historical details about Jesus, no Gospel details, vague statements not supporting time and place such).
- 2 Peter contains a single 'earthly' statement about being 'eye witnesses' to the glory of Jesus. If that is an interpolation, then 2 Peter would fall into the pattern of 'mythicism' (e.g. no historical details about Jesus, no Gospel details, vague statements not supporting time and place such).
- 1 John contains a single 'earthly' statement 'we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life'. Otherwise, it seems to fall into the pattern of 'mythicism', as above.
Even in the Gospels, there are surprisingly few details about Jesus. Was Jesus married or single? Tall or short? How long was his ministry? Carrier uses the contents of the Gospels based on Rank/Raglan scale for his prior probability, and gives the Best case/worst case as follows: 2 to 15 times more likely to support mythicism rather than historicism. However, only Mark may be by a 'mythicist'. The other Gospel writers may have been 'historicists' who used Mark and other sources in order to 'flesh' out their Jesus stories. (Updated thanks to Giuseppe's criticisms below)
Of the 23 non-Gospel texts:
There is very little difference in style or content between the 19 possible mythicist texts and the 4 'historicist' texts. The historicist texts are also vague about details around the historical Jesus and lack Gospel details and an earthly setting for Jesus. Removing one 'earthly' statement -- usually nothing more than 'we were eye-witnesses!' would move the text over into a 'mythicist' written one.
Looking at later literature, we see the same vagueness: Carrier writes (in OHJ page 315) the following about the Epistle to Barnabas, which was considered scriptural at an early state (my bolding):
Going onto the Second Century apologists, Earl Doherty writes in his "Jesus: Neither God Nor Man" when he compares the Second Century Christian apologists writing to pagans with the First Century epistle writers:
And I agree! There is a pattern there. I am an amateur with no knowledge of the ancient languages involved, just someone who has read a lot of early literature in its English translation. But it does seem to suggest to me that a common writing style that is vague on historical details is at play here, and that should be taken into consideration when evaluating whether a text is 'mythicist' or 'historicist'.
I welcome any comments. Should I move any text from one column to the other? Or something I've missed here? The results are based on the works of Carrier and Doherty, so I'd like to keep it consistent with their ideas if I can.
(Comments updated thanks to Giuseppe's criticisms below)