First, James McGrath has pointed to Thompson’s recent essay, calling it rather odd. McGrath points out what many of us see in other academic mythicis that “Thompson seems to be trying to both defend mythicism and distance himself from it.”
That’s the problem, ain’t it. Mythicism is being redefined merely as a healthy dose of doubt. I would say that if we are redefining the word, then we should see that it is a healthy dose of the loss of reality, but…
Tom didn’t like that. He suggests that because McGrath doesn’t believe Thompson and then sees that Thompson is indeed a mythicist that somehow McGrath has failed to read his book.
I’m trying not to comment too much on Thompson’s article, finding some personal flaws in it, but it is rather clear that Thompson is a mythicist.
Jim has posted some of it, in response to Bart’s failure to respond properly here. Seems that Prof. Ehrman thinks that a challenge is mean-spirited.
I got this from Steph:
Maurice Casey has responded which I repost here:
“Ehrman’s blog comments are extraordinarily self-centred, and make one wonder which New Testament scholars he has ever talked to about the existence of Jesus. For example, he comments, ‘before writing the book, like most New Testament scholars, I knew almost nothing abut the mythicist movement’. Most of us knew perfectly well that there was a massive attack on the existence of the historical Jesus in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Until recently, however, we thought that the work of Case and Goguel, supported by lots of detailed comments in other scholarly works, made it unnecessary for us to keep publishing about it when we were trying to make a contribution to knowledge, not just to repeat what had been written before. Among much modern scholarship with which he seems unfamiliar is recent work on the term ‘Son of Man’: his comments (Did Jesus Exist?, pp. 305-7) imply a complete lack of familiarity with Aramaic sources from the Sefire Inscriptions through the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Yerushalmi and the literature of the Syriac-speaking church, as well as recent secondary literature.
“The notion that none of us has read the work of recent mythicists again makes one wonder again which New Testament scholars he has ever talked to about the existence of Jesus. He comments again, ‘no scholar of the New Testament has ever thought to put together a sustained argument that Jesus must have lived.’ Most of us have spent a regrettable amount of time becoming regrettably familiar with their regrettable outpourings, some of us have discussed it with each other, with varying opinions about what needs to be done, and I have a book in an advanced state of preparation for publication by T & T Clark/Continuum, hopefully before the end of 2012. We don’t expect or want Ehrman at meetings of British New Testament scholars, but does he not attend SNTS either?”
EVERYTHING BELOW IS CONTRIBUTED BY STEPH FISHER:
Steph writes, “Bart Ehrman had deleted my own comments on his blog and sent me an email:”
“Your comments are mean-spirited and not appropriate for the blog. If you want to try again in a more temperate tone, I would consider including them. As you might imagine, I do have a response to your points.”
I have been advised by Casey and others that they are entirely appropriate so I will reproduce my own unpublished comments here:
“You say that New Testament scholars have never taken mythicists seriously, they have never seen a need to argue against their views. This is false. Case and Goguel for example explicitly demonstrated with argument and evidence the mythicist arguments to be flawed in 1912 and 1925. Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth introduces Price, Doherty and Zindler for example and explicitly provides evidence for their mistakes. His forthcoming volume later this year is also a refutation of the main mythicist arguments. Also you claim NT scholars have never tried to prove the existence of Jesus and have simply assumed it. This is untrue of Case, Goguel and the entire life work of Maurice Casey who has never assumed the existence of Jesus at all and has dedicated his life’s academic research to providing argument and evidence. I know what the book is about – I helped edit it. Just read the ded and preface. You made some unusual assumptions about Aramaic in your latest book and didn’t engage with the most recent critical scholarship which is a shame because so few New Testament scholars are competent Aramaists.
“However I did enjoy reading Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. I bought it when it was release in the nineties and I had graduated. It inspired my direction to a degree and I still find it useful at times.
“You say “The book you’re referring to here is a fairly full exposition of what he thinks is historical information about Jesus, a nice contribution to the field.” – Hardly a fair description of an academic career devoted to Aramaic research culminating in a book designed for a wider audience and providing argument and evidence to demonstrate the existence of a historical figure, simultaneously engaging with mythicist arguments which argue the contrary, is it?
“I feel compelled to add that your derogatory insinuations about New Testament scholars are false and offensive. Responsible New Testament scholars around the world do take mythicists seriously. They do read the published work and even the blogs. They do not just dismiss them. That would be irresponsible. Jesus scholars do NOT assume the existence of the historical Jesus. I gave you three scholars spanning a century. I could give you three hundred more – or even more. And actually we read the German edition of Schweitzer (including his other work). You then say “many scholars in the field, I would venture to say, until my book had not even heard much about [mythicists]” which is an extraordinary outburst of self-confidence, effectively your own assumptions without evidence. It is utterly false – ‘until my book’?!”
One thing though… if I was Carrier, I’d go with the degree in Classics because it would seem that at least at that point, he would have a better chance to argue his points than a degree in Ancient History. His overblown rebuttal of the degree proffered by Ehrman by mistake only creates this sense that Carrier is a rather tiny little man, bent only on his own self-aggrandizement. Further, what I thought was a poor attempt by a Classicist to use a math formula has now turned into what I consider a laughable gag that someone with a degree in Ancient History, who should know better about how Ancient History was done, would attempt to pretend to use a math formula to discover the probability of the Historical Jesus.
Carrier has a review up on Bart Ehrman’s book on the historical Jesus. I haven’t yet read it yet, as I am, as you know, WRITING MY OWN (and while not dealing expressly with the historical Jesus, it will, however, I hope, have something to say in that regard).
Anyway, so as I started to read Carrier’s review, his opening paragraph essentially said all I needed to know:
Moreover, it completely fails at its one explicit task: to effectively critique the arguments for Jesus being a mythical person.
Here’s the thing… one would have to first assume that the arguments of the mythicists are worth considering. They aren’t. It is like Ken Ham asking a real scientist to prove that Creationism is false. First, one has to assume Creationism (6000 YEC) is true. Why waste time debunking garbage? Facts are presented in Science, but because the Hamites do not accept them, then they claim that they haven’t been “effectively critiques.”
I’m sure that there are a lot more fallacies in Carrier’s (world renowned? avid fans? Really?) thought process, but over all, the fact that one believes that someone else has to pay them attention or else is just silly.
“I wanted to approach this question as an historian to see whether that’s right or not,” Ehrman tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
The answer is straightforward and widely accepted among scholars of all faiths, but Ehrman says there is a large contingent of people claiming that Jesus never did exist. These people are also known as mythicists.
“It was a surprise to me to see how influential these mythicists are,” Ehrman says. “Historically, they’ve been significant and in the Soviet Union, in fact, the mythicist view was the dominant view, and even today, in some parts of the West – in parts of Scandinavia — it is a dominant view that Jesus never existed,” he says.