Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:30 am

Chris Hansen wrote:
Tue Jul 07, 2020 7:50 am
To Giuseppe:

I think that Carrier's statement in the comments, "rarely do historians read an entire work; they only read the portions of a book or article that they need" kind of sums up just how much he lacks the ability to do what he wants others to do with his own work. He outright claims that scholars rarely read an entire work, but then everywhere else has the audacity to accuse others of not reading his whole book. It is honestly kind of hilarious just how little self awareness he has and how he just shot his own allegations against scholars in the foot.
It is a truism that most people, especially scholars, do not read entire works in very many cases -- obviously and for good reasons. But it is an entirely different situation when a scholar does not bother to read a work sufficiently to ascertain an accurate knowledge of the argument presented in it.

To equate the two types of incomplete readings is not, let us say, very helpful or useful.

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:50 am

Redirect me if this point has been previously addressed, but on page one of Quest of the Mythical Jesus Chris Hansen writes:
It is primarily relegated to atheists and antitheists (though there are some religious exceptions) who have made it a point to try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments: that the very savior that Christians around the world believe in never existed at all.
Can someone name for me those who have argued for the nonhistoricity of Jesus in order to "[make] it a point to try and disprove Christianity"? I can think of no worse way to "try and disprove Christianity" than by attempting to argue for the nonhistoricity of Jesus.

I can understand some people using certain mythicist arguments as part of their arsenal with which to attack Christianity, but there are enough people in the world to take up any idea or project imaginable.

I have certainly not read all mythicist works but I don't recall reading a single one that can be demonstrated to have as its "point" to "try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments".

So who are some names that could be cited to support Chris Hansen's sweeping characterization of Jesus mythicism?

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by Giuseppe » Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:28 am

In my view, a feature shared by many past mythicist authors (at least, those only preferred by me) is to view the Gospel Jesus a denigrating and decading product in comparison to the original more innocent mysticism.

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by mlinssen » Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:50 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:50 am
Redirect me if this point has been previously addressed, but on page one of Quest of the Mythical Jesus Chris Hansen writes:
It is primarily relegated to atheists and antitheists (though there are some religious exceptions) who have made it a point to try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments: that the very savior that Christians around the world believe in never existed at all.
Can someone name for me those who have argued for the nonhistoricity of Jesus in order to "[make] it a point to try and disprove Christianity"? I can think of no worse way to "try and disprove Christianity" than by attempting to argue for the nonhistoricity of Jesus.

I can understand some people using certain mythicist arguments as part of their arsenal with which to attack Christianity, but there are enough people in the world to take up any idea or project imaginable.

I have certainly not read all mythicist works but I don't recall reading a single one that can be demonstrated to have as its "point" to "try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments".

So who are some names that could be cited to support Chris Hansen's sweeping characterization of Jesus mythicism?
Hi Neil,

I think you are adding "in order" yourself there, Chris doesn't have that. It might be the goal, it might not be, but it is the inevitable outcome: if you argue that Jesus never existed (good luck there) then Christianity gets automatically disproven. Or is it?

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by Chris Hansen » Tue Nov 10, 2020 1:00 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:50 am
Redirect me if this point has been previously addressed, but on page one of Quest of the Mythical Jesus Chris Hansen writes:
It is primarily relegated to atheists and antitheists (though there are some religious exceptions) who have made it a point to try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments: that the very savior that Christians around the world believe in never existed at all.
Can someone name for me those who have argued for the nonhistoricity of Jesus in order to "[make] it a point to try and disprove Christianity"? I can think of no worse way to "try and disprove Christianity" than by attempting to argue for the nonhistoricity of Jesus.

I can understand some people using certain mythicist arguments as part of their arsenal with which to attack Christianity, but there are enough people in the world to take up any idea or project imaginable.

I have certainly not read all mythicist works but I don't recall reading a single one that can be demonstrated to have as its "point" to "try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments".

So who are some names that could be cited to support Chris Hansen's sweeping characterization of Jesus mythicism?
I would rather you take what I say in context and not just snippet a quote, as I go on to qualify this, and in my demographics section of the book I specifically note there are religious, ideological, political, social, and academic reasons why mythicism is taken up as a position, often many intersecting and others not.
This debate has been rather prominent in modern literature, for a variety of reasons. It is primarily relegated to atheists and antitheists (though there are some religious exceptions) who have made it a point to try and disprove Christianity with one argument to end all arguments: that the very savior that Christians around the world believe in never existed at all. In this regard, some have taken the CMT to be nothing but that of radicals who have been polarized by religious upbringing and disillusionment from their former faith. In some cases, this can definitely be said to be the case, as David Fitzgerald’s bias about Christian scholars and biblical studies shows especially in the first volume of his series Jesus: Mything in Action. However, it is apparent that there are also academics who have taken it based on their own findings, not out of a desire to disprove their previously held religion, though they are still usually functioning under an atheist position and, often, publishing in atheist/secularist presses.
As you can see, I actually qualify this statement against the likes of Casey and others that would simplify mythicism as purely taken up by those who argue for antichristian purposes.

That being said, I could easily provide a list of antichristian and antireligious academics and laity who have taken up mythicism primarily as a method of a scorched earth approach:

Vladimir Lenin and the Soviet Union largely followed this. Lenin's own philosophy of this debate (as outlined in "On the Significance of Militant Materialism" 1922) was that materialists should adopt the mythicist work of Arthur Drews because it helps them dismantle Christianity. He qualifies this by further noting that they should in turn also not use Drews' work uncritically, because of Drews' monist tendencies.

Arthur Drews himself was an antichristian, viewing Christianity as regressive. He was in good company in this, as he was a monist, and the entire German Monist League was largely of this opinion as well, viewing Christianity as detrimental to the progressive of society. Drews was specifically a mythicist in one regard because the concept of god becoming an incarnate man was completely and totally unable to be rectified with his Idealist Monism (see Garrish's paper, "Jesus, Myth, and History: Troeltsch's Stand in the "Christ-Myth" Debate" 1975 and the second part of Die Christusmythe Fourth Edition, German, Eugen Diederichs Verlag).

Similarly, we can look at others like Robert Taylor, Richard Carlile, the early Deists in England and the Netherlands (i.e. the earliest evidence of mythicism that I have, dating back into the 1620's, see my book The Earliest Mythicist References 2020, Amazon KDP, where I have translated, compiled, and edited tons of early sources that indicate mythicism existed as early as the life of Grotius). Likewise, Chinese academia largely used mythicism as a counter narrative to Christianity until the 1980's, after the Open-Door policy and the opening of dialogue on the issue, which (like in the USSR following the Khrushchev Thaw) led to the position being largely abandoned.

Today, it is definitely the case that mythicism is used in antichristian tendencies, especially by places like American Atheist. I don't think this is in much dispute. Likewise, there are other parallels. For example, mythicist books tend to be either self-published, or very commonly shoved through secularist and atheist presses with a clear anti-conservative Christian agenda (Prometheus Books, American Atheist Press, Hypatia Press has one coming, Pitchstone Publishing) and this has actually been the most common space where they are published in fact. Hence, Watts & Co. (publisher for the Rationalist Association in England), Eugen Diederichs Verlag (an antichristian who later endorsed the Volkisch movements), Ateist (Soviet publisher in Moscow that was largely responsible for many mythicist works, disseminated primarily as propaganda), the secularist periodicals like Free Inquiry, The Republican, The Lion, The Isis, etc. I could go on and on.

------------------

Now by no means am I saying this is the only reason, nor would argue that scorched earth approaches can be generalized into the most common one, as I would argue that it is simply more complicated than that, especially because of ideological intersections. But frankly, I don't think it is much of a step nor even that absurd to think that many do take a scorched earth approach. Even Price does.

C. Dennis McKinsey, John Pickard, Raphael Lataster (who even includes mythicism as part of his case against Christianity, btw, see his dissertation), Hector Avalos (a noted anti-conservative Christian who has spent much effort attacking Christianity), and more I would all argue are coming at things at least in part from an anti-Christian agenda.

It doesn't have to be explicitly stated in the text for us to get that. After all, actions speak louder than words. And their actions note how anti-Christian they are. Plus, seldom in this world does anyone even write accurately of their own biases and assumptions in scholarship anymore. It is a point I find rather troubling, but I personally would like to have a time where every single person writes down in their work a list of their biases they think would affect what they are doing. In my own book I do this.

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:18 am

I am not denying that some people use mythicism as a club with which to beat Christianity (as I mentioned in my initial post) but that is quite different from researchers into the origins of Christianity being demonstrably motivated by an intent to prove Jesus did not exist in order to trash Christianity.

My interest, though, has been in serious works of original research. I ignore those that are derivative and are little more than cut and paste jobs from the serious works. I haven't taken much notice of those except to know that some do exist (I had not been thinking of them when I wrote my comment).

I myself am in one sense "anti-Christian" (though I respect others' beliefs and experiences and do not go out of my way to attack anyone -- rather I am more interested in understanding them) -- and it would be very easy to say that therefore my interest in mythicism is motivated by my hostility to Christianity. But obviously -- surely -- correlation itself does not make the case. Correlation may suggest hypotheses but those hypotheses need to be tested.

For obvious reasons there will be more "anti-Christians" than "Christians" who are mythicists but we cannot for that reason assume that their hostility to Christianity is the motivation or reason they are mythicists.

Yes, I did take the quotation of Chris in isolation but that was because it was made in isolation without any pointer for readers to expect or anticipate any sort of qualification later on. To fail to do so opens the author to the charge of lack of clarity, ambiguity, and sometimes worse.

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:26 am

mlinssen wrote:
Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:50 am
I think you are adding "in order" yourself there, Chris doesn't have that. It might be the goal, it might not be, but it is the inevitable outcome: if you argue that Jesus never existed (good luck there) then Christianity gets automatically disproven. Or is it?

Again, we are confusing concepts and ideas here. Outcomes are not evidence of intents or motivations. We need more than outcomes to determine intent.

Besides, we have mythicists who have demonstrated that mythicism does not "inevitably" lead to the end of Christianity, but can actually place it on a more secure footing. Schweitzer himself (who was not a mythicist) called for a more "honest" grounding for Christianity by removing from its centre any reference to a "historical Jesus" -- because, he said, such a reference point was always going to be open to dispute. Schweitzer called for a "new metaphysic" to set Christianity of a firmer foundation than that of a "historical Jesus".

By the way, it's easy to argue that there is no secure evidence -- according to the norms of historical research (e.g. Moses Finley, one of the most prominent names in ancient history in the twentieth century and who critiqued core methods/arguments of one of the leading NT scholars of his day) -- for a historical Jesus (which is very different from arguing that Jesus never existed) otherwise there would be no debate to begin with. (There is stronger evidence for the existence of Cicero's slave Tiro than there is for Jesus.)

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by Chris Hansen » Wed Nov 11, 2020 5:33 am

As I have noted in my chapter on demographic correlations, none of these have been tested. My entire point in drawing correlations is for there to be more sociological research (as I am currently aware of an academic who wishes to do a sociological study of mythicism, and so has specifically asked me to take note of these correlations). Regardless, I have specifically noted these are just correlations, and that mythicism likely has numerous reasons for its appeal and acceptance.

I will take note and make adjustments to the opening per your critiques though. Thank you Neil.

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by Giuseppe » Wed Nov 11, 2020 7:02 am

Chris Hansen wrote:
Tue Nov 10, 2020 1:00 pm


Similarly, we can look at others like Robert Taylor, Richard Carlile, the early Deists in England and the Netherlands (i.e. the earliest evidence of mythicism that I have, dating back into the 1620's, see my book The Earliest Mythicist References 2020, Amazon KDP, where I have translated, compiled, and edited tons of early sources that indicate mythicism existed as early as the life of Grotius).
Apart the dedication (to James Dunn, considered by me a Christian apologist), I thank you for the book.

I thank particularly you for your commentary of Grotius's words (I use the kindle version so I can't give the precise reference), since you claim that "Grotius, here, affirms this likely in response to well known allegations that Christ did not exist". Well: this has made me remember easily that mythicist Earl Doherty argued the same thing commenting a very similar passage in Ignatius (I go to memory) when the latter insisted (with an insistence very much similar to Grotius's words) that Jesus "really suffered and died" under Pontius Pilate. I wonder if this Grotius's example can help to support Doherty's interpretation of Ignatius's words (as addressed not against Docetists, but against early mythicist Christians and/or early Jewish skeptics).

As to presumed anti-Christian agenda behind mythicism, it is not a mistery, for myself, since it was my own original impulse to buy and read Doherty (and accordingly to correct my understanding of written English language) out of very vague hearsay on Internet about his 'scandalous' conclusions. Later, reading Couchoud about Marcion and Jean Magne about Gnostics versus Judaizers, my antipathy is going to address not more the Christians, but the people who think that our Gospels were written without no polemic in view against early Christian haters of YHWH, even if said people are themselves mythicists.

(I talk about mere personal antipathy, at any case, not more than that).

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Re: Quest of the mythical Jesus available online

Post by Chris Hansen » Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:29 pm

I would argue that Ignatius' rebuttal is more toward Docetism, since Docetists rejected a physical suffering and death, but had a divine illusion of such. They did not deny Jesus' place in history though, whereas the mythicism that Carrier describes would have this transpire in the heavens/sub-lunar realm entirely, not on earth as the Docetists did. That is why I don't include it in my book. I tend to try and be very cautious when we have things which can be interpreted in multiple directions. In the case of Ignatius this can be explained either as response to docetism, a docetic form of gnosticism, or an early Christian mythicism, and since I don't see a clear way to interpret between those, I do not count it as evidence. On Grotius' example, there is only one reason to defend the historicity of Jesus directly, declaring:

"That there was such a Person as Jesus of Nazareth, who lived heretofore in Judea, when Tiberius was Emperour of Rome, is not only most constantly professed by all Christians, who are scattered over the face of all the Earth: but acknowledged by all the Jews, who now are, or ever wrote since those times. Nay, the very Pagan Writers, that is, such as are neither of Jewish nor Christian Religion, namely, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and many more after them do testifie [=testify] the same." (Hugo Grotius, The Truth of Christian Religion: In six Books. Written in Latin and Now Translated into English with the Addition of a Seventh Book Against the present Roman Church, trans. Simon Patrick (London: J. L., 1700), Book 2 page 40. Originally translated from De veritate religionis Christianae, Liber Secundus (Jakobus Rurt, 1627), 39-40)

Now if Ignatius made such a statement, I would be entirely on your side on this. But his is too ambiguous as is, in my opinion.

In my case, when I was a mythicist (I am not anymore) I moved that direction quite vehemently out of an anti-Christian reactionary bias, moving directly out of fundamentalism to the atheist community. I was, initially, a follower of Carrier's works but before I changed to historicity I had drifted more toward the work of Soviet Mythicists like Kryvelev (I find the Soviet Mythicists to have the best cases for ahistoricity, myself, Couchoud probably a close second).

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