I’m a Historical Hillel Mythicist

I mean, if we are going to start chunking out the window history and methods long standing, I’m going to start with Hillel. I mean, sure, there are some serious connections between Hillel and Jesus in the Synoptics, but that doesn’t matter since neither existed.

What? Prove it you say?

Well, Hillel, just like the other teachers of his time, never wrote anything down. So, since he didn’t expect mental giants to deny his existence and write something down t counter them although his culture at the time really did need such things, then just must not have existed.

I mean, the closest we come are documents at least 100 years or more removed from him.

There is also the fact that he is just so covered up with ‘myth’ that we can never really find the real Hillel. For example, the most scholarly source available today for Hillel Mythicists, Wikipedia, states,

Hillel lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman EmperorAugustus. In the Midrash compilation Sifre (Deut. 357), the periods of Hillel’s life are made parallel to those in the life of Moses. Both lived 120 years (Deut. 34:7), and at the age of forty Hillel went to the Land of Israel; forty years he spent in study; and the last third of his life he was the spiritual head of the Jewish people. A biographical sketch can be constructed; that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his life and attained a great age. His activity of forty years likely covered the period of 30 BCE to 10 CE.

See! Hillel’s ‘life’ is patterned after Moses. This proves that Hillel is just a literary vehicle.

And, while Josephus mentions Hillel’s grandson as present in his day (Life, 38), the Jewish Historical also mentions Jesus and we know that Josephus was really just a dumb historian who confused myths with facts and couldn’t produce anything but a cartoon version of history.

So, there you go. I’m a Historical Hillel mythicist.

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Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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25 thoughts on “I’m a Historical Hillel Mythicist

  1. If Hillel’s followers insisted that he rose from the dead (by God) to cleanse the sins of the world, and wrote fantastical ‘gospels’ to that effect, then yeah, we would have a good reason to doubt the historicity of Hillel, too. It is the nature of the sources that matter, not the sketchiness of the historical person.

    • In other words, because you either don’t believe the gospels or don’t understand them, then the historical Jesus is a myth?

      Seems like you are judging the reality of a person by what others say about them. Yeah… Good methodology there.

      • “In other words, because you either don’t believe the gospels or don’t understand them, then the historical Jesus is a myth?”

        It doesn’t automatically follow from the gospels, fantastical as they are, that Jesus was a myth. Because of the nature of the sources, however, I think it does remain a distinct possibility. Narrative theology has no need for historicity; it is 90 percent revelation and 10 percent perspiration.

        • Really? Care to cite that?

          Further, Paul precedes the Gospels in announcing the historical Jesus. Given the amount of rhetoric used in at least Mark, a real figure is indeed required. Not even that, the Mark, the first Gospel, is not writing narrative theology.

          • The purely theological tendenz of Mark is evident from the opening lines. His purpose is not to document an historical figure but to write a sequel to the Septuagint’s prophetic books, relying on their revelations and secrets to locate what the life and death of a prophet would be like if it happened in contemporary times.

            The most important person in Paul’s religious landscape is Paul — the “historic” Jesus is of no use whatsoever to him. It is only Jesus’s death and resurrection that matters to Paul, not his earthly ministry.

          • Andrew, you seem to be spouting the party line without any real evidence to back up your point. In other words, you have created your own methodology which has no bearing on reality and then judge others by it.

  2. Hello, I’m Ned Ludd. I’m not real and I have a good buddy in mythland in the sky here who is named Hillel. He’s not real either. So what’s your point?

  3. http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/the-history-of-hillel-and-the-hillel-of-history-the-glyphs-and-blips-of-faith/

    Jacob Neusner is arguably the great expert on things of this nature.

    “What is, and always was, asks Neusner, the Jewish interest in Hillel? One thing only: no one could tell stories like he could; he was a “model story-teller.” (Charlton “Moses” Cheston loved the Bible; it had such wonderful stories, he said). 

    Where I see a chasm between “the history of Hillel” and divine revelation, Neusner, like a good reconstructionist (though he would perhaps not like the label) believes he sees solid ground; a middle solid ground: “the Hillel of history.” 

    If you would like more, here you go:

    http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/the-history-of-hillel-and-the-hillel-of-history-the-glyphs-and-blips-of-faith/

  4. “Andrew, you seem to be spouting the party line without any real evidence to back up your point. In other words, you have created your own methodology which has no bearing on reality and then judge others by it.”

    So what does have bearing on reality in matters of the interpretation of ancient theology? You hold the floor.

    • First, you have to separate theology from ancient. I’m not sure you know what you are talking about when you keep thinking that the Gospels are theological.

        • No, I don’t think they do. Instead, I think that we have looked at them as history, at theology, even as biographies. This denies their cultural place. There are really only two Gospels, Mark and John. We need to decide what they are first, and since theology wasn’t really something until 100 years later, they ain’t theological.

          Ideology. Maybe ideological idiographs. Still working on it.

          • OK. I do want to be precise in definitions, and I well understand everything doesn’t conveniently fit into the categories and genres we place them in. So you’re saying that the gospels represent an ideology that eventually developed into a theology by 150-200, and therefore it’s anachronistic to refer to Mark (or even John) as narrative theology?

          • Yes. It’s like Homer. Homer eventually developed into theology, but it didn’t start that way. It started off as poetic history, albeit one which was placed into the realm of the gods, although to be fair, everything was. Think about the radical change in culture from the time Mark was written until the time theology started being made. It was wasn’t until the Latins become doctors of the Church that the Gospels were quoted. Don’t get me wrong, Paul quotes Jesus, as does Ignatius and Polycarp, but the earliest Christian writings never fully quoted the Gospels.

            Then, look at Thomas which is nothing but sayings of Jesus.

  5. Your “the earliest Christian writings never fully quoted the Gospels.” By the third century or so the whole NT Canon (as in the protestant Bible) – except for 6 verses – could have been reconstructed from quotations from the early church (antenicene) fathers.

    On another, crucial note, Joel, how do you define “theology?” (you might have done so already but I’m new n your blog).

    • Raphael, the Gospels were in existence in the late 1st century, but my point is, is that they weren’t fully understood as history by the followers of the apostles.

      Theology is reflection upon tradition, including written texts.

    • I am unsure as how to address you, so please, if I am in error, correct me…

      Bography,

      Ignatius, for one, Polycarp for another.

      The theological reflection of which I speak is not so much what you find in the Prophets v. Law, or NT v. OT, although the NT saw themselves as continuing the OT, I would believe rather than as a separate point of reflection, are such things of the long treatises of interpretation by the Latins and others, coming up with creeds, and the such.

      Was Hillel making theology? No, doubtful. Was Jesus? No. Paul? No. later summations of belief, yes.

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