John the Baptist Mythicism

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Chris Hansen
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John the Baptist Mythicism

Post by Chris Hansen »

Want to create a list of academic sources that claim that John the Baptist never existed or float the possibility. Here are the sources I have collected thus far who have either (A) argued for it, or (B) pose it as a possibility:

From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia:

s.v. IOANN KRESTITEL’, in O. YU. Shmidt (ed.), Bol’shaya sovetskaya entsiklopediya: Interpolyatsiya-Istoricheskoye yazykovedeniye (65 Vols.; Moskva: Sovetskaya entsiklopediya, 1926), XXIX, 73

Then also:

N. V. Rumyantsev, “Iosif Flaviy ob Iisuse Khriste i Ioanne Krestitele,” Ateist 36 (1926): 32-57

N. V. Rumyantsev, Mif ob Ioanne Krestitele (Moskva: Ateist, 1930)

I. A. Kryvelev, Istoriya relligiy (Moskva: Mysl’, 1988), 196 seems to regard John the Baptist as at least semi-mythical

Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth, Third Ed, trans. C. Delisle Burns ([repri.] Amherst: Prometheus, 1998), 119-123

Arthur Drews, The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus, trans. Joseph McCabe (London: Watts & Co., 1912), 183-194

Peter Jensen, Moses, Jesus, Paulus: drei Varianten des babylonischen Gottmenschen Gilgamesch: eine Anklage und ein Appell, Third Edition (Frankfurt: Neuer Frankfurter Verlag, 1910)

Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World: A Work of Reclamation and Restitution in Twelve Books (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907), Vol. 2, 855-856

Jean Magne, From Christianity to Gnosis and From Gnosis to Christianity: An Itinerary through the Texts to and from the Tree of Paradise, trans. A. F. W. Armstrong (Brown Judaic Studies series 286; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), 203f

Frank R. Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources (Cranford: American Atheist Press, 2003), 91 poses it as a possibility that he never existed

Acharya S. Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled (Kempton: Adventures Unlimited, 2004), 433

Pier Tulip, KRST, Jesus a Solar Myth: A New Exegesis Explores Mythical and Allegorical Contents of the Gospels, New Hypothesis on the Historical Jesus, trans. Robert Tulip (YouCanPrint, 2015), 111-112

René Salm, NazarethGate: Quack Archeology, Holy Hoaxes, and the Invented Town of Jesus (Cranford: American Atheist Press, 2015), 471 poses it as a possibility that he never existed

Lena Einhorn, A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus (New York: Yucca, 2016), 123-133

Tom Harpur, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2004), 93-94

Tom Harpur, Water into Wine: An Empowering Vision of the Gospels (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2008), 46-47

Robert Taylor, “The Devil’s Pulpit No. 4: John the Baptist, A Sermon,” The Comet Vol. 1 (1832-1833): 66-77

Richard Carlile, "Sunday Schools of Free Discussion," The Lion vol. 4, no. 17 (1829): 534-536

J. M. Robertson, The Jesus Problem: A Restatement of the Myth Theory (London: Watts & Co., 1917), 136-137 declares him a very dubious figure

Eliza Sharples, "The Thirteenth Discourse of the Editress," 12, no. 1 (1932): 177-183 (181)

Herbert Cutner, Jesus: God, Man, or Myth? (reprint; Escondido: Book Tree, 2000), 145-146

Khepra Ka-Re Amente Anu, Dominant World Religions are Mythical, Violent, Sexist, Misogynistic, Discriminatory and Judgmental: All Religious Scriptures are Fabrications Attributed to an Imaginary God (Pittsburgh: Dorrance, 2020), 120-122

John Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, Second Edition (Amherst: Prometheus, 1992), 181 doubts if John existed

Bernard Dubourg, L'Invention de Jésus (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), Vol. 2, 58

Anyone know of any other figures who argue this?
Last edited by Chris Hansen on Sat Oct 22, 2022 7:37 am, edited 4 times in total.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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You don't count those who argued that the JtB passage in Josephus is a forgery and that the gospels tell us nothing about a historical JtB?
Chris Hansen
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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Not always, because a lot of them do think that JtB existed despite all of that. If I were to do a list of those who specifically argue the Josephus passage is inauthentic, it would be a pretty long one, especially since I have found challenges to its authenticity back into the 1600s.
Chris Hansen
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 8:07 pm You don't count those who argued that the JtB passage in Josephus is a forgery and that the gospels tell us nothing about a historical JtB?
I'm trying to get explicit doubts on John's historicity. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who will challenge all these sources, but either not follow it to John didn't exist, or may point to other sources for him (Mandaean), or may claim that even if these don't record reliable information about him, they retain the memory of the historical JtB.

So explicit doubt is what I'm looking for atm, until I can get more from those who are less forward with what they mean to imply with their conclusions about the gospels and Josephus as sources.
Chris Hansen
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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Added Eliza Sharples.
Chris Hansen
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

Post by Chris Hansen »

neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 8:07 pm You don't count those who argued that the JtB passage in Josephus is a forgery and that the gospels tell us nothing about a historical JtB?
Side note, but found out that Burton Mack challenged the historicity of the baptism.

Burton L. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 54 declares it outright "mythic"
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neilgodfrey
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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Chris Hansen wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 9:11 pm
neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 8:07 pm You don't count those who argued that the JtB passage in Josephus is a forgery and that the gospels tell us nothing about a historical JtB?
Side note, but found out that Burton Mack challenged the historicity of the baptism.

Burton L. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 54 declares it outright "mythic"
Yes. I was thinking of Rivka Nir and Joshua Efron. They essentially declare all our sources re JtB are theological and/or forgeries leaving the notion of a "historical JtB' totally lost from view. I suppose we can't be too careful though. Just because there is no evidence that he existed doesn't mean we have a right to say he didn't exist. :problem:
Chris Hansen
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 10:13 pm Yes. I was thinking of Rivka Nir and Joshua Efron. They essentially declare all our sources re JtB are theological and/or forgeries leaving the notion of a "historical JtB' totally lost from view. I suppose we can't be too careful though. Just because there is no evidence that he existed doesn't mean we have a right to say he didn't exist. :problem:
Oh yeah, Rivka Nir and Efron definitely come to mind. I would be most inclined to include Efron in the list, but remaining on the safe side. I do plan to create a list of those who argue(d) that the Josephus passage on John is an interpolation. I have basically taken up Huidekoper's position now.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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And what does one "do" with Greg Doudna who argued the JtB passage in Josephus is a misplaced text about Hyrcanus II.

(Now you see him now you don't.)

not sure if his article is published, tho.
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MrMacSon
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Re: John the Baptist Mythicism

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neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 11:09 pm
And what does one "do" with Greg Doudna who argued the JtB passage in Josephus is a misplaced text about Hyrcanus II.
(Now you see him now you don't.)
not sure if his article is published, tho.

Gregory Doudna, 'Is Josephus's John the Baptist Passage a Chronologically Dislocated Story of the Death of Hyrcanus II?' in: E. Pfoh and L. Niesiolowski-Spano, eds., Biblical Narratives, Archaeology, and Historicity: Essays in Honour of Thomas L. Thompson, London: Bloomsbury/T & T Clark, 2020, pp. 119-137 (hyperlink to a pdf: https://www.academia.edu/43060817/_Is_J ... rcanus_II_)

"This article proposes that Josephus's John the Baptist passage of Ant. 18.117-119 is a chronologically dislocated story of the execution of Hyrcanus II by Herod the Great. The passage is to be understood as in the class of additional material from Jewish stories inserted by Josephus into the preexisting narrative of War in the composition process of Antiquities, comparable to other doublets, in this case mistakenly attached to the wrong Herod. The baptizing of Josephus's John the Baptist is identified as purification by immersion reflected in the mikvehs of Jewish practice in Judea and Galilee of the 1st century BCE, in which Hyrcanus II played a leading role as high priest and ethnarch of Jews throughout the Roman empire." This is the Accepted Manuscript of a chapter at pp. 119-137 in Biblical Narratives, Archaeology, and Historicity: Essays in Honour of Thomas L. Thompson, ed. by E. Pfoh and L. Niesiolowski-Spanò (2020), available in print from Bloomsbury/T & T Clark at https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/biblical- ... 567686565/


eta:


Rather, the insertion of a story into preexisting narrative is a well-known phenomenon in the composition process of Josephus.2 But this composition process results in precisely the kind of passage that can be subject to Josephus making a chronological mistake, in this case attaching an undated story from a source to the wrong Herod ...

... In this story there is no mention of Galilee, asceticism or wilderness associated with John. There is no criticism by John of Herod’s marital behavior. There is no mention of strange dress or diet. Herod is presumed ruler over the area in which John is active, and Herod controls Machaerus. John is portrayed favorably, unlike Josephus’s negative portrayals of wilderness wonder-workers of the first century CE. Josephus uses a word widely in use meaning immersion,βαπτισμός, not the word used in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament as a terminus technicus for Christian baptism, βάπτισμα.

On the baptism of John in the Josephus passage, key points of interpretation and/or assumptions (without going into detail to argue each of these points) are: (1) The immersions are repeated, not one-time, and are best understood in terms of a study of Étienne Nodet (2009), of initiation to social levels of formal status and purity requirements as reflected in Josephus’s description of Essene practices of War 2.129, 137-139, 150, and the haburim of rabbinic tradition4 ...

The point of interest here is that every word of Josephus’s story of John would read perfectly well in the time of Herod the Great (37-4 BCE). The figure ‘Herod’ of the story, if the story were read in isolation, would read perfectly well and naturally as Herod the Great.

Meanwhile, Hyrcanus II, the aged ex-high priest executed by Herod the Great, has long been presumed and understood to have been named ‘John’ on the basis of papponymy—the common Jewish practice of naming a firstborn son after the paternal grandfather (on the prevalence of papponymy, Hachlili 2005: 195). The paternal grandfather of Hyrcanus II was John Hyrcanus I (high priest 135-104 BCE). The name ‘John’ for Hyrcanus II has not, however, gone unchallenged.

In a 1987 article Tal Ilan noted that there is no ancient attestation of a Hebrew name for Hyrcanus II, questioned whether Hyrcanus II had a Hebrew name, and if he did, challenged the assumption that it must have been ‘John’ (Ilan 1987) ...

As for the identity of Hyrcanus II’s Hebrew name, Ilan cites the example of Jonathan Aristobulus III (War 1.438; Ant. 15.51) whose Hebrew name was that of his great-grandfather Alexander Jannaeus (Jonathan) which suggests that papponymy, while common, may not have been absolute. Nevertheless, although not attested or certain, Yohanan or John is the leading candidate for Hyrcanus II’s Hebrew name based on papponymy, the same name as Josephus’s John the Baptist. In the end Ilan’s argument is more of a demonstration of incompleteness of evidence in favor of, than a falsification of, the prevalence of papponymy as it bears on Hyrcanus II’s Hebrew name.


2 As just one example, compare Noam (2018: 59-69), on an interpolation by Josephus at Ant. 13.282-283 of a story from a Jewish source concerning a heavenly voice in the temple heard by John Hyrcanus I, into a narrative otherwise following War. Noam discusses the way in which the story was ‘interpolated into an existing narrative in Antiquities … a further illustration of Josephus’s addition of sources with parallels in rabbinic sources to his later work [Antiquities]’

4 cf. War 2.150 speaking of the Essenes: ‘They are divided, according to the duration of their discipline, into four grades; and so far are the junior members inferior to the seniors, that a senior if but touched by a junior, must take a bath, as after contact with an alien’ (also: Klawans 2000: 145-74; Sanders 1990: 37-8; and Haber and Reinhartz 2008: 93-124).



Last edited by MrMacSon on Sat Oct 22, 2022 12:10 am, edited 7 times in total.
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