Blogging my Book: Avoiding the trap of Parallelomania

Tom posted a link on my wall today from a favorite scholar of mine. ]] has a new book coming out that details his decent into mythicism.

The work of tracing literary indebtedness and art is far from finished but it is already possible and necessary to draw a conclusion: it is that, bluntly, Jesus did not exist as a historical individual. This is not as negative as may at first appear. In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of Jesus as an icon of God’s presence in the world and in human history.

Now, I have to agree with James McGrath here:

The very fact that some mythicists have been able to claim that the New Testament is entirely based on pagan myths, while others have been able to claim that it is entirely based on stories in Jewish Scripture, shows that people who want to find precursors will do so, and will find diverse and even mutually exclusive ones. So mainstream historical scholars will look forward to Brodie further illustrating this problematic aspect of the alleged case for mythicism.

Brodie’s book, Birthing the New Testament, is an outstanding read especially in regards to mimesis/imitation. The problem with all of this is that no one takes seriously (well, I mean no mythicist, but I mean, what do they take seriously?) the idea of contextualization, something playing a part in mimesis and human memory. ]]’s book is a great place to start with this subject. Actually, both books are.

Going through my book, I have first attempted to establish that I am well aware of parallelomania, the idea that the Christian New Testament is nothing more than a poorly reconstructed collection of pagan myths and/or writings from the Septuagint. Second, I have shown how several instances are simply not parallel with others, and thus are most likely drawn from some historical tradition. Brodie’s complaint is against oral tradition, but the Gospels were written long after the oral tradition circulated. I do not need to look for oral tradition, only acknowledge that oral tradition existed before the Gospels were written. Paul is an example of one who sits in this tradition. So is Peter and a few others. To deny, then, oral tradition is to cut out a needed foundation for any study of the historical Jesus, and thus you are left with the idea that Jesus is only a collection of myths.

This is disheartening, to say the least, but is a stern reminder not to forget the very human authors of the Gospels, who, just like us, contextualized things according to their lexicon. What a shame when we so arrogantly think we can rightly separate the authors from their time.

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