THE SEVEN FUNGUSMENTALS OF MYTHTICISM

WRITTEN by Stephanie Louise Fisher – a lovely person!

F1: the non existence of God.
F2: the non existence of Jesus.
F3: the non existence of Nazareth.
F4: the non existence of blood brothers.
F5: the non existence of external evidence because it is unreliable and inaccurate so therefore not worth mentioning.
F6: the non existence of internal evidence because it depends on circular arguments is therefore invalid.
F7: everything attributed to Jesus had been said before and therefore could not have been repeated.

TO these seven fungusmentals THE MYTHTICS remain faithful, with alotta Lunacy Bayes at the Moon, and Trickery Dickery Doc… THE logical necessity from F1-7, ALL UNARGUABLE FACTS, THEREFORE ALL CONCLUSIONS ARE NECESSARILY ILLUSIONS AND RELIGIONY THINGS ARE LIES LIES LIES.

Mythicism is at best a laughable proposition, at worst… a delusion.

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Post By Joel Watts (9,934 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, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. 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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42 thoughts on THE SEVEN FUNGUSMENTALS OF MYTHTICISM

  1. “(and keep in mind, I am not a mythicist).” Yeah right. Should have been a ‘librarian’, eh.

    • Wow, okay. I was just telling Joel that I was going to let this die and not aggitate this any further. But apparently, Steph, you need some sort of vindication for something. Whatever it is, you can have.

      Joel; I don’t care who your friends are. But I do not appreciate having words of mine, from a different medium, taken out of context and placed on a blog with a snide remark. If I wanted to say these words on your blog, rather than on your Facebook page, I would have posted them there. I question the integrity of a person who would do something like that; friend of yours or not.

      Steph, I’ll be sure to pass along the message to others that you believe them all to be gullible and susceptible to flattery. Shows how little you really think of our mutual friends. But on that subject, what is it about my friendship with these scholars that troubles you so much? That I am barely a student in college and I have a coedited book with over a dozen top-notch scholars involved in the project? Is that what this is all about?

      No, not you. I suppose it is me. I suppose I’m just deceptive and have wiggled my way into their good graces somehow. I’m buttering them all up and winning their favor–with *what*, exactly?

      Because if I’m a sycophant, I’m the worst one in the world…having taken a fringe position that barely any of them agree with and making every effort to engage them critically in an open forum, calling them out in articles and posts and in academic publications (forthcoming or elsewhere). Right.

      Maybe I should have just been mediocre like you, riding the mainstream boat all the way down the river. Maybe I should have buttered up to Casey or somebody who believes in the historicity of Jesus. Maybe I would have been better at being a sycophant then.

      • Just recounting how I know here… She won a scholarship to study Aramaic in the UK. She won a second award and was offered places at both Nottingham and Sheffield. She works on many things with different people. Independent minded scholars do not run around latching onto people and trying to impress. Independent critical thinkers are interested in research. Mainstream? Mythtic speak. It’s about research. I don’t think any of her academic friends have ever met you – no mutual friends.

        I really don’t think we should be throwing stones across the pond.

        • I don’t think he understands how scholarship works or what friendship is about. But no matter – his comment is a bit incomprehensible.

  2. I am sorry to see that your blog has been defiled by Verenna with his customary rudeness and mendacity. He shows as usual no sense of reality, and he is completely wrong about Steph and me, as well as scholarship in general and his (non-existent) place in it.

    As you know, she would not ‘hang on’ to anyone, because she is much too independent of mind and being. After exceptionally brilliant first class degrees at Victoria University, Wellington, she obtained a scholarship to come here to work with me, or to go to Sheffield and work with James Crossley. She could have chosen to go to any first class independent university on earth, but she chose to come to England because of the quality of the published work of Crossley and myself in genuinely independent universities. Verenna hasn’t got anything like that far, and in view of the quality of his comments, one can’t see how he could. If Steph simply wanted to ‘hang on’ to people, and claim that supposedly ‘top-notch’ scholars were her ‘friends’, she could have stayed in Victoria and done just that! Steph, James and I have however worked well together, and we have had many scholarly debates, while becoming genuine friends of equal status over the past few years, and she has plenty of other academic friends with whom she works and meets with around the world. The concept of conveniently selected scholars being ‘top notch’ is inappropriate in academic circles.

    Verenna further lies about Steph when he says he will ‘pass along the message to others that you believe them all to be gullible and susceptible to flattery. Shows how little you really think of our mutual friends’. She has not expressed any such opinion, and he does not say who any of these ‘mutual friends’ are supposed to be. I doubt he has met any of her academic friends and I suspect Verenna has an illusion about ‘friendship’ which is not in touch with reality. This sort of ingratiating behaviour appealing to non existent friendships and colleague type relationship is not appreciated from undergraduates. You gain no credibility in academia without proper credentials and expertise, neither of which Verenna has.

    Critical scholarship is about independent research, advancing knowledge and discussing ideas and the most productive relationships can be found in adversarial debate, not in attachment to other people’s ideas whether it be Thompson, Goodacre or me.

    The description of her as ‘mediocre’ is ludicrous, as is the idea that she would ‘butter up’ me or anyone else.

    Unlike Verenna, Steph has an analytical independent mind and takes part in international conferences, most of which require qualifications Verenna hasn’t got, where she meets lots of international colleagues with whom she gets on and works well. For example, at the next meeting of SBL in Chicago, she has accepted an invitation to chair a meeting of the Seminar on ‘Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship’, with papers by K.L.Noll, Robert Price and Rene Salm, with a response by Diana Edelman. This reflects the fact that she has a wide circle of international scholarly friends and acquaintances, whom she meets with, socialises and works with. She has also had offers from highly reputable publishers proposing to discuss publishing her work.

    Professor Maurice Casey.

    • Pathetic. It is Verenna’s usual ludicrous fantasy to consider scholars his ‘friends’ but Verenna was never a friend. Ludicrous. He requested to connect on facebook once and then defriended me and a colleague when my colleague reminded Verenna he wasn’t qualified. I’ve never met him and it is extrarodinarily unlikely our paths would ever cross. His ‘public apology’ didn’t impress Professor Casey who said, “Ludicrous”. It is utterly dishonest and misleading: Verenna writes “a few days removed from the situation, I feel extremely bad about it”. Dishonest manipulative rubbish. Bad about what? Where? He posted his little piece of deception without linking to “the situation” which contains Professor Casey’s rebuke, not long after Professor Casey had posted his rebuke. Verenna’s rant here and public-but-not-public-apology, are both pathetic.

  3. If we don’t actually hold to these things and yet still defend a piece of a mythicist argument does that mean we hold to those things anyway? I remember that scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life:

    Geoffrey: How did we all die at the same time?
    (The Grim Reaper points at one of the platters on the table.)
    Grim Reaper: The salmon mousse.
    Geoffrey: Dearest, you didn’t use canned salmon, did you?
    Angela: I’m so dreadfully embarrassed!
    Lady Presenter: (much later, as they’re all being carried away to the afterlife) Hey, I didn’t eat the mousse!

    • which ‘piece’? You can’t have and argument with only a piece and considering the ‘arguments’ in question which are based on a bundle of assumptions assumed to be unarguable… you’ve got yourself in a bit of a muddle without a properly formulated argument.

      • That’s actually the fallacy fallacy. You can present fallacious arguments for true conclusions and those arguments can be rebutted without touching the conclusion. There are many “historicity agnostics” out there who don’t necessarily fall into the die-hard camp, but who also don’t want to see clearly fallacious arguments presented to justify historicity. So, yes, you can argue with just pieces.

        • Do you have a problem with interpetation? Of course you can have a piece of an argument and pretend it’s an argument whether or not it’s taken from a fallacious argument – but what’s the point? You can’t argue credibly without a complete argument and evidence. I think you’ll find that critical scholarship doesn’t ‘believe’ in historicity, but provides arguments with evidence which can be altered and improved with new arguments and evidence. And critical scholarship is about being self critical and changing your mind. Don’t impose your fundmentalist preconceptions on critical thinkers.

          • What exactly are my “fundmentalist preconceptions” again? I think you are proving my point. Applying critical thinking to historicity arguments and not necessarily agreeing with them all apparently inherently makes you some mythicistic fundamentalist guilty of the intellectual crimes Joel laid out in the post. I see that you are completely convinced about the arguments and evidence for Jesus’ historicity. I don’t have a problem with that. But that doesn’t reflect all the actual mental states of other people who are learning the terrain and it doesn’t give historicists a free pass to make demonstrably shitty arguments in favor of what may well be a well established conclusion. A true critical thinker would be on board with rejecting the bad arguments leaving the good ones for any conclusion.

          • Your ‘die-hard’ assumptions Ben, such as “I see that you are completely convinced about the arguments and evidence for Jesus’ historicity” for one. :-)

      • A: Monty Python’s Meaning of Life is a *movie*.

        B: You’ve used silly internet videos to make your “points.”

        C: An argument using a humorous source is not a fallacy and apparently you conveniently understand that when it suits you. Hypocrisy is very funny, right!

        D: I don’t know how having an agnostic mental state on the nature of the evidence for Jesus’ historicity is a fantasy of mine? You’ll have to explain that one.

        • Not using videos to make my point. Using videos to laugh at the cartoonish scholarship of mythicists.

  4. Oh well, I guess I’ll enter the fray with why I believe that historical Jesus agnosticism is an intellectually defensible position.

    Supernatural stories were told about Alexander the Great as a result of his accomplishments in the real world. Natural stories about the earthly Jesus were preserved and transmitted in order to promote belief in the supernatural post-mortem accomplishments of the risen Christ.

    If you strip away the supernatural stories about Alexander, you still find a flesh and blood man who left a significant mark in the historical record. If you strip away the supernatural stories about Jesus of Nazareth, you strip away the only reason that any stories survived about him in the first place. The accomplishments in his life were such that a historian should not be surprised to find no evidence of his existence whatsoever.

    In this regard, Jesus of Nazareth is unlike any person in the ancient world about whose existence we might want to know. The resurrection is the starting point of the historical record concerning Jesus and it’s an event which is beyond the reach of historical methodology. It is the singularity from which the big bang proceeds. Whether anything came before it is not a question that I’m sure history can answer because I’m not sure that the tools of history work in such a situation.

    However, I remain agnostic about a historical Jesus because I think that the same problem faces the mythicists.

    • Kia ora Vince :-)

      I see no need to defend agnosticism. It is a safe and probably the most honest position especially when you’re not in a position to go and be trained by a variety of experts in different fields and devote a lifetime of learning to it. I could probably best describe my position on the Big Bang theory as agnostic because while I accept it as entirely plausible and the best explanation I’ve read, as presented by Stephen Hawking, I haven’t the training or knowledge to doubt it.

      However you say, “If you strip away the supernatural stories about Jesus of Nazareth, you strip away the only reason that any stories survived about him in the first place”. This is not true. First, stripping the supernatural elements not only removes what people believed about him at the time, but part of what they thought was the point of his existence. The resurrection stories are not the starting point – the baptism story is. Many of the exorcism stories (not for example, eg the Gadarene swine which is secondary storytelling tradition) also hold historical plausibility for various reasons, one being that first century Jews believed in the power of exorcists so that while demons were not actually exorcised, people would have believed Jesus had the power to exorcise. Anthropological studies have demonstrated people believe in the power of exorcism.

      Finally I would still be agnostic regarding Jesus’ historicity if I hadn’t been immersed in first century cultural studies and languages for the last couple of decades since completing my undergraduate degrees, researching and reading critical research all of which I have both agreement and disagreement with. All the assumptions about Jewish law not explained to readers in Mark’s gospel, and many other pieces of textual evidence, lead me to find it very difficult to doubt the existence of a historical figure, most likely a prophet who was devastatingly wrong. That conclusion is the best I have so far.

      • Thank’s for the response Steph. I am still thinking this through and I’m happy for any feedback.

        Had the belief in the resurrection not arisen, do you suppose that historians would have any way to know that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed or is it not entirely possible that he would have come and gone without leaving a trace in the historical record? I don’t doubt that the stories of the baptism and the exorcisms are historically plausible, but isn’t likely that no one would have bothered to remember them or pass them along had people not become convinced after his death that Jesus was the anointed one whose resurrection would usher in the coming of God’s kingdom? I suppose it’s possible that he might have attracted sufficient attention from the literate and prominent people of his day that he might have left some mark that would be discernible to historians after his passing, but I can’t see any particular reason to expect that he would or to think that he did.

        I think my point is that the historical record of Jesus of Nazareth starts with Paul and he never would have written a word about Jesus but for his belief that certain supernatural events occurred after his death. The gospels would not have been written and the oral tradition upon which they relied would not have existed but for the purpose of propagating faith in the risen and exalted Christ. We only know of the earthly Jesus as a result of a supernatural event which is beyond the reach of historical methodology.

        For anyone else in the ancient world about whose existence we are confident, I think we can identify the root cause of the mark they left in the historical record as being the impact they had on others while they were alive. That is how we know they existed. With Jesus, however, he would have left no mark, or at the very least, we can identify no mark, that was independent of a supernatural event that was believed to have occurred after his death. How then, do we determine that any of the stories that were told after the resurrection were in fact independent of early Christians’ belief in the resurrection?

        • You’ve just made a couple of assumptions and assumed they are true. Conservative and fundamentalist scholarship has promoted the views that Christianity rests on the resurrection tradition, and also that Paul is the earliest historical record. How do you know that these things are true? Mythtics take these views over. However critical scholarship has demonstrated with arguments including textual and historical evidence that the historical Jesus’ reputation grew as a result of his teaching and exorcism, and that Mark’s story is our earliest record. Also there is an early tradition that a disciple Matthew wrote things down but conservative and traditional scholarship has unfortunately connected this Matthew with the author of Matthew and this is not true.

          • What’s funny is that some mythicists will use an early date of Mark’s Gospel to suggest mythicism while others will use a late date to suggest the same.

          • Steph,

            As far as I know, it is still the consensus view of scholars that Paul is our earliest historical source and that this view is not confined to conservative and fundamentalist scholars. I have read a little bit on the topic and the logic seems sound to me, but whether I can claim to know it is an epistemological question that I won’t try to answer.

            That there might be an earlier source for Christianity in the earthly ministry of an actual human being is a possibility that I cannot eliminate. Nevertheless, it still seems entirely possible to me that historians would never have had reason to know that he existed had not the belief arisen in an exalted heavenly being that he was thought to have become after his death. I question whether the same historical tools that are used to separate myth from reality with a person who left a demonstrable mark in the historical record during his lifetime can be successfully used with a person who may have left none. I don’t claim to know that they can’t, but it seems to me to be a question that needs to be addressed.

          • Joel – which mythtics? All the main mythtic arguments as far as I am aware depend on the gospels being dated late with the earliest date of Mark being post 70.

          • Vinny hi, Why appeal to ‘consensus’ NT scholarship when you know the majority of ‘mainstream’ NT scholarship is conservative Christian scholarship? Recent critical scholarship has diverged from this view with evidence and argument in learned monographs and the like. The consensus view of the correct solution to the synoptic problem is the two document hypothesis including ‘Q’. I think that can be satisfactorily refuted with argument and evidence and proposed alternative models. The consensus view of mythtics is that Jesus didn’t exist. The consensus view of the world once, was that it was flat…. ;-)

          • Why appeal to ‘consensus’ NT scholarship when you know the majority of ‘mainstream’ NT scholarship is conservative Christian scholarship?

            Because there are only so many hours in a day Steph. I actually have read some of Mark Goodacre’s stuff on Q though and I thought it was interesting.

          • I would actually put Mark in ‘mainstream’ conservative scholarship Vinny, and he does write for popular audiences as well as learned work. Farrer’s and more importantly Goulder’s view on Luke’s use of Matthew rather than Q does have a larger acceptance in ‘mainstream’ scholarship beyond the borders of the US. But I appreciate your right and integrity to remain skeptical when you haven’t the freedom to devote your life to academic training and scholarship. We all have ‘lives’… In any case, I, having never been a believer with no preconceptions of faith depending on the reality of historicity anyway, in your shoes, would no doubt still be skeptical too. Apathetically agnostic probably. ;-)

          • If someone had showed up at my local school board ten years ago demanding that the economics curriculum include discussions of rainbows and pots of gold, I might have wound up blogging about the existence of leprechauns.

        • I think Vinny has the better argument here. There is no reason to believe any record of an itinerant excorist and teacher would survive – meaning survive by being in constant use, not preserved in a desert cave – to the present day without the belief that the person was divine. And if a record did survive, it would most likely be writing attributed to that person that circulated during or immediately after his life.

  5. Steph,

    This:

    Your ‘die-hard’ assumptions Ben, such as “I see that you are completely convinced about the arguments and evidence for Jesus’ historicity” for one.

    is not significantly different than this:

    “Finally I would still be agnostic regarding Jesus’ historicity if I hadn’t been immersed in first century cultural studies and languages for the last couple of decades since completing my undergraduate degrees, researching and reading critical research all of which I have both agreement and disagreement with. All the assumptions about Jewish law not explained to readers in Mark’s gospel, and many other pieces of textual evidence, lead me to find it very difficult to doubt the existence of a historical figure, most likely a prophet who was devastatingly wrong. That conclusion is the best I have so far.”

    “Very difficult to doubt” and “completely convinced” are only different if you assume that I must have meant you are a die hard fundamentalist historicist. Which isn’t so.

    • Completely convinced is wrong Ben. Very difficult to doubt but I have disagreements with all arguments Ben. Perhaps you’re not very clever at expressing yourself accurately, Ben. I am not a die hard historicist. The best arguments (and evidence) I have so far, Ben. Got a better argument Ben, eh?

      • I agree was not expressing myself accurately. You think historicity is the best explanation of the evidence and I’m fine with that. That’s what I meant. Historicity is a completely reasonable position to take and people like Carrier have their work cut out for them.

        For the record, I haven’t once tried to make an argument for mythicism on Joel’s blog. I’m not in a position to do that. I argued that Joel was misrepresenting Carrier’s position. That doesn’t make Carrier’s position correct.

        • …Of the evidence, and learned monographs on specific aspects, combined with a combination of recent critical scholarly arguments, and my own research, yes. Thanks for the qualification Ben. :-)

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