What is the Jesus Mythicist's Position?
The Rational Response Squad is a Jesus-Free™ team. What does this mean? It means we are all Jesus Mythicists. You may ask yourself, what is a Mythicist? (And more importantly, are you one as well?) These are excellent questions and you probably have more, which is what this bulletin is about to cover.
Here is one brief synopsis into what the Jesus Mythicist stance is:
- Earl Doherty argues that Christianity began as a mystical-revelatory religion, very different from the "deviant" sect that won the propaganda war to become the eventual "orthodoxy." The latter gained prominence in the 2nd century and achieved total victory by the 4th. According to this theory, the idea of an historical progenitor was not original to the faith even in Paul's day, but evolved over the course of the later 1st century. As Doherty argues, "Jesus Christ" (which means "The Anointed Savior") was originally a heavenly being, whose atoning death took place at the hands of demonic beings in a supernatural realm halfway between heaven and earth, a sublunar sphere where he assumed a fleshly, quasi-human form. This and the rest of the "gospel" was revealed to the first Christians in visions and inspirations and through the discovery of hidden messages in the scriptures. After the confusion of the Jewish War and persistent battles over power in the church, rooted in a confused mass of variant sectarian dogmas, a new cult arose with the belief that Jesus actually came to earth and was crucified by Jews with the complicity of the Roman authorities. To defend itself against sects more closely adhering to the original, mystical faith, the new church engaged in polemics and power politics, and eventually composed or adopted writings (chiefly the canonical Gospels) supporting its views.
The "scandalous" consequence of Doherty's theory is that Jesus didn't exist. But it cannot be emphasized enough that Doherty's thesis is not "Jesus didn't exist, therefore Christianity started as a mystical-revelatory Jewish sect" but "Christianity started as a mystical-revelatory Jewish sect, therefore Jesus didn't exist." This is significant. Most scholars who argue that Jesus didn't exist (who are called "ahistoricists," because they deny the "historicity" of Jesus, or "mythicists," because they argue Jesus is mythical) have little in the way of reasons beyond a whole complex of arguments from silence. Doherty, in contrast, uses arguments from silence only to support his thesis. He does not base it on such arguments, but rather on positive evidence, especially a slew of very strange facts that his theory accounts for very well but that traditional historicism ignores, or explains poorly. By far most of the criticism or even dismissal of Doherty's work is based on the criticism or dismissal of the Argument from Silence, or his (often supposed) deployment of it. This completely misses the strongest elements of his case: evidence that Christianity did in fact begin as a mystical-revelatory religion.
(This is Richard Carrier’s overall synopsis of The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus, a work by Earl Doherty; Canadian Humanist Publications: Ottawa, Canada; revised edition, 2000)
A simpler summary is that around the turn of the First Century CE, a Hellenized cult formed around Jesus Christ (Greek: Iêsou Christou) who was a spiritual being which brought about the Gnosis (knowledge) of the Logos (The forethought, or first thought) – sometimes referred to as the Monad or “one” (The Secret Book of John) by which was only achieved through Sophia (or wisdom). It is even said that this being was also a rank, achievable just by attaining Gnosis. (Gospel of Thomas)
The confusion of the early centuries of the Common Era (CE) bring on multiple different interpretations of this cult, and from it springs Orthodox Christianity. Over time, and various slander wars, the Orthodox Church wins out and crushes the Gnostic and Mystics movement. They burry or destroy the texts and canonize the books that fit their philosophy. What doesn’t fit originally is made to fit with forgeries and minor altercations of the texts. (Codex Siniaticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, etc…)
This is the Mythicist standpoint. The fact that a spiritual and non-physical Christ became euhemerized into history.
There may be some of you out there who seem to think you have evidence of a historical Jesus’ existence. You feel you have texts, although you’ve probably never read them yourself, that prove Jesus’ existence as a historical person. Of course there’s always a few of you. Let’s look at the evidence quickly (I’ll only include a few in this thread, the rest will be available on this board):
- (1) Suetonius wrote in the year 115 CE, so this is FAR from a contemporary account. He doesn't cite or list sources and Christianity would have been decently established by this time.
- (2) Surely no one will contend that Christ was inciting riots at Rome 15 years after he was supposedly crucified at Jerusalem. And why would Jews be led by Jesus to begin with? But by citing this you are assuming this is the case.
- (3) This passage contains no evidence for the historicity of Jesus, even if we substitute "Christus" for "Chrestus." Christus is merely the Greek-Latin translation of "anointed" and the phrase "at the instigation of Christus" could refer to a group of people just as much as it could have meant one person. This is reminiscent of the name Theophilus mentioned in the beginning of Acts and Luke, (whom the narrator/author of the books are addressing the prose too) which simply means "lover/friend of God." Which can apply to many people instead of one singular person (maybe even a congregation of people).
- (4) "Chrestus" was not only a familiar personal name, it was also a name of the Egyptian Serapis or Osiris, who had a large following at Rome, especially among the common people. Hence "Christians" may be either the followers of a man named Chrestus, or of Serapis. Historians know what evil repute the Egyptian people, which consisted mainly of Alexandrian elements, had at Rome. While other foreign cults that had been introduced into Rome enjoyed the utmost toleration, the cult of Serapis and Isis was exposed repeatedly to persecution. The lax morality associated with their worship of the Egyptian gods and the fanaticism of their worshippers repelled the Romans, and excited the suspicion that their cults might be directed against the State.
- (5) Vopiscus said, "Those who worship Serapis and the Chrestians,.... They are a turbulent, inflated, lawless body of men." Is it not possible that the reference to Chrestus and the Chrestians has been too hastily applied to Christos and Christians? The "Chrestians," who were detested by the people for their crimes,..., are not Christians at all, but followers of Chrestus, the scum of Egypt, the apaches of Rome, a people on whom Nero could very easily cast the suspicion of having set fire to Rome.
- (6) The name in the text is not "Christus" but "Chrestus," which by no means is the usual designation of Jesus. It was a common name, especially among Roman freedman. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, book 2, letter 8, section 1; "What! Do you suppose that I meant you to send me an account of gladiatorial matches, of postponements of trials, of robberies by Chrestus, and such things as, when I am at Rome, nobody ventures to retail to me?") Hence, the whole passage may have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.
- (7) As one source mentioned it, "Thus much we seem to learn from both passages: but the most enlightened men of that age were singularly ill-informed on the stupendous events which had recently occurred in Judea, and we find Suetonius, although he lived at the commencement of the first century of the Christian aera, when the memory of these occurrences was still fresh, and it might be supposed, by that time, widely diffused, transplanting Christ from Jerusalem to Rome, and placing him in the time of Claudius, although the crucifixion took place during the reign of Tiberius." (Suetonius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars; An English Translation, Alexander Thomson. Philadelphia. Gebbie & Co. 1889.) What is interesting to note here is that if these events had recently just happened (in the Gospels or anything similar) you'd think those who wrote about it would have written about these events and got them down as they remembered them. Apparently this isn't the case.
- (8 ) From Suetonius, "He suppressed all foreign religions, and the Egyptian and Jewish rites, obliging those who practiced that kind of superstition, to burn their vestments, and all their sacred utensils. He distributed the Jewish youths, under the pretence of military service, among the provinces noted for an unhealthy climate; and dismissed from the city all the rest of that nation as well as those who were proselytes to that religion, under pain of slavery for life, unless they complied. He also expelled the astrologers; but upon their suing for pardon, and promising to renounce their profession, he revoked his decree." (Lives of the Caesars; Tiberius, 36) What is important to note here is that Tiberius (not just Claudius) also revoked the Jews religious rites and expelled them from Rome. (This is also mentioned in Acts) As this is the case, and upon reading Cicero, it could have easily been in Seutonius' interest to apply the name "Chrestus" to the instigator of the Jewish expulsion. (Read also Josephus, Ant.18:5.)
- (1) It is extremely improbable that a special report found by Tacitus had been sent earlier to Rome and incorporated into the records of the Senate, in regard to the death of a Jewish provincial, Jesus. The execution of a Nazareth carpenter would have been one of the most insignificant events conceivable among the movements of Roman history in those decades; it would have completely disappeared beneath the innumerable executions inflicted by Roman provincial authorities. For it to have been kept in any report would have been a most remarkable instance of chance.
- (2) The phrase "multitudo ingens" which means "a great number" is opposed to all that we know of the spread of the new faith in Rome at the time. A vast multitude in 64 A.D.? There were not more than a few thousand Christians 200 years later. The idea of so many just 30 years after his supposed death is just a falsehood.
- (3) The use of the Christians as "living torches," as Tacitus describes, and all the other atrocities that were committed against them, have little title to credence, and suggest an imagination exalted by reading stories of the later Christian martyrs. Death by fire was not a punishment inflicted at Rome in the time of Nero. It is opposed to the moderate principles on which the accused were then dealt with by the State.
- (4) The Roman authorities can have had no reason to inflict special punishment on the new faith. How could the non-initiated Romans know what were the concerns of a comparatively small religious sect, which was connected with Judaism and must have seemed to the impartial observer wholly identical with it.
- (5) Suetonius says that Nero showed the utmost indifference, even contempt in regard to religious sects. Even afterwards the Christians were not persecuted for their faith, but for political reasons, for their contempt of the Roman state and emperor, and as disturbers of the unity and peace of the empire. What reason can Nero have had to proceed against the Christians, hardly distinguishable from the Jews, as a new and criminal sect?
- (6) It is inconceivable that the followers of Jesus formed a community in the city at that time of sufficient importance to attract public attention and the ill-feeling of the people. It isn't the most popular way to convert and bring people into their religion.
- (7) The victims could not have been given to the flames in the gardens of Nero, as Tacitus allegedly said. According to another account by Tacitus these gardens were the refuge of those whose homes had been burned and were full of tents and wooden sheds. Why would he risk burning these by lighting human fires amidst all these shelters?
- (8 ) According to Tacitus, Nero was in Antium, not Rome, when the fire occurred.
- (9) Three years of the Histories of the Roman Empire and its Provinces are missing from Tacitus. Alarmingly, they are the years 30 – 33 CE, the same three years scholars date Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. There is some scholarly speculation that these years vanished during the early days of Orthodox Christianity, when scribes embarrassingly realized that there was no mention of their savior present in any of them.
- (10) And lastly, Suetonius doesn't mention this event in his histories.
For more thorough reviews of the evidence, visit THIS LINK and check out my "Examination of the Evidence for a Historical Jesus." You can also check out the Rational Response Squad’s $666 Prize for contemporary evidence of Jesus. Here are the Rules and the Thread where you can list your evidence, and here is the Peanut Gallery to discuss it.
Here is a free clip and some show information!
Show 22 with Steve Gregg: Christian Intervention: Steve Gregg a Christian Radio Talk show host was referred to us by a Christian who claims Steve is one of the best most rational defenders of his faith out there. Rook and Steve square up for one of our more animated discussions on the Rational Response Squad so far.
Show 22 with Rook Hawkins discussion on the Origins of Christianity: Rook Hawkins Lecture. Rook Hawkins Squad member and Biblical expert presents a short discussion, explaining parts of his dissertation. Rook is on the verge on some important findings that will help prove that Yeshua the Christ didn't exist. Rook has stumbled upon something big in his research
Show 25 with Richard Carrier and Rook Hawkins: Richard Carrier join us again to discuss his dissertation that he is currently writing to receive a Doctorate from Columbia University. As you may well know, Richard has a bachelors and two Masters degrees already! Rook will also further discuss the dissertation we heard in show 22, that he's currently working on.
If you are ALSO a Jesus Mythicist, feel free to ADD THESE BANNERS to your Myspace and Website, show your pride for your Mythicism!
Brought to you by your Friendly Neighborhood Rational Responder, Rook Hawkins.
So you agree that a majority of Scholars say that the man Jesus lived.
Sure. Rook doesn't deny that either.
But what matters if their grounds for holding to such a belief.
Mr. Shizzle wrote:
To question the historicity of Jesus is like exactly like questioning the historicity of Alexander.
False, for at least 2 reasons.
1) We have provenace for Alexander
2) Alexander claims are naturalistic claims.
You have the Bible,
I deal with the various problems with the bible in my links below.
I'll link them again, seeing as you ignored them:
This proves that there are no eyewitness accounts, even though there should have been.
This proves that the gospels are anonymous.
This proves that the book of mark, the first gospel on which both matthew and luke depended upon, is midrash of the OT and not an eyewitness account of anything.
This is a new essay I am compiling to refute claims for historical corroboration for jesus.
if you look at the first site I put on the last post they put multiple contemporaries that wrote about Jesus.
No, there are no contemporary accounts for jesus, and if you're posting the same hold "josephus, tacitus' arguments, you need to realize, once and for all that
1) they are not contemporaries!
2) their claims citing these people have been refuted, ad nauseum.
Here are rook's lengthy refutations of each of these claims:
How many times does this idea of Jesus never being born have to be refuted.
Once. It has not been accomplished so far.
1) There are no contemporary accounts for jesus.
2) The gospels, which begin with mark, (matthew is an expansion on mark, and an admitted non eyewitness, luke is based on mark and josephus, and again, even sites like CARM concede that he's not an eyewitness) are based on midrash, not eyewitness accounts.
But what about the Gospel of John.
The book of John is a second century document... it comes after all the other gospels, it's anonymous (just like the others). I didn't even bother to mention it because it's so clearly a second century document that I figured even you would concede that.
What about The letters of Peter who was a witness, book of James.
No, these are not eyewitness accounts again. Again, the book of james is an anonymous work.
Plus Paul believed that Jesus lived.
So? Paul admits that his evidence is a 'vision'.
What matters is his evidence, and even he admits he doesn't have any... just a vision.
Matthew Mark and Luke met people who saw Jesus.
Did you even read what I linked for you?
3) The silence of those who would have been his contemporaries destroys any claims for provenance for jesus.
Please stop ignoring the facts of the matter.
no ignoring, Who was silent. Look at those sites.
Yes, you are clearly ignoring what I posted. Read my links.
And again, your citations have already been refuted here, over and over... we've seen them all before. We already have stock replies, because we've already refuted these claims.
Please read them. Please note that every one of your claims is already refuted in them.
Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates
^ "The nonhistoricity thesis has always been controversial, and it has consistently failed to convince scholars of many disciplines and religious creeds. ... Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted." - Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p. 16.
How many times does this idea of Jesus never being born have to be refuted. Scholars have refuted this over and over. You don't have to a Christian but you need to be reasonable. The only people who do not believe in the historicity of Jesus are those that do not want to look at the facts.
I looked this guy Van Voorst up, here's his webpage:
Surprise surprise, he's all about this 'Theological seminary', where they teach you how to be a good little sheep in the christian faith. He's also a preacher. I can't believe people claim guys like Van Voorst to be an authority on anything but sequential brainwashing. How much more biased can you possibly get than a preacher? At the same time, atheists get accused of having a bias. An example is your own words "The only people who do not believe in the historicity of Jesus are those that do not want to look at the facts." Fucking hypocrites.
Would you agree that the vast majority of historians believe Jesus Christ existed and was the founder of the religion Christianity?
Just what historians are you referring to? Certainly none that lived during the alleged life time of the biblical Jesus.
I am an atheist because I do not believe in any Gods or anything related to the imaginary subjective supernatural realm that does not exist outside the mind. -- NotSaved
Michael Grant states in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels that "Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seemed so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit."
Off-topic, nonsensical post. Cannot delete because it carries replies to thread topic.
Post to the thread topic or other post. Tangential trolling sucks.
What is the primary reason that Paul is viewed as a real, historical man, but not Jesus? Is it because of an absence of texts claiming a direct authorship of Jesus?
What is the primary reason that Paul is viewed as a real, historical man, but not Jesus?
Two key reasons off the top of my head:
1) We have seven epistles that can be traced to one author.
2) Claims for the existence of Paul are naturalistic claims.
Is it because of an absence of texts claiming a direct authorship of Jesus?
Worse than that, there are no contemporary accounts of jesus at all.
Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates
In the field of history it is acceptable to assume the historicity of a character unless a large range of evidence (especially if it's many little things that collectively add up to a big case) is presented against it. There is absolutely no reason to doubt Paul's authorship or question his existence, and why this is so different is that Paul makes no claim to the supernatural (i.e. claiming to be God or the son of God, he never attests to performing miracles or raising from the dead, etc...). If Paul had attested to doing some of the supernatural things that Jesus had done, we would have to question ther veracity of Paul.
I wonder though if Paul was talking about himself when he described knowing a man who went to heaven and when he mentioned visions and revelations (assuming Paul authored that particular letter.) Did Paul ever reference in his letters the vision that the Acts wrote about his conversion?
I can see that. Jesus didn't just claim to talk to God, but to be God's Son, and sent from heaven, etc. I see an issue though, because I could question Paul's truthfulness when he strongly implies he has seen Jesus himself. Also, doesn't Paul mention going to heaven and seeing visions in one of the letters to the Corinthians? To me it seems like the primary difference between Jesus and people like James, Paul, Luke, etc is in the direct claim of authorship, as there aren't any major texts supposedly written by Jesus directly.
Also, Paul mentions talking to Peter in one of the letters (maybe the authorship of that letter is disputed, I don't know) attributed to Paul. He also mentions other people who would have been contemporaries of Jesus (James, John, Barnabas) - that same John was probably the one who also professed seeing Jesus in the gospel of John and maybe even 1 John. I don't understand why if the major historians of the day didn't mention Jesus, that Paul and other early followers of Jesus seemed so convinced in their writings of the magnitude of his importance, if not at least his existence
Also, I found a quote in 2 Corinthians where Paul claims he worked the signs of an apostle to the church, which he describes as wonders and mighty deeds. He doesn't claim to walk on water or multiply food for thousands, but I think if Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, then he claimed to have spiritual connections similar to Jesus. he also claimed in romans that Jesus lived his life through Paul which would also help explain any claims Paul might have made for having done miracles himself.
I find Paul nearly as hard to believe in as Jesus from a naturalist point of view, but I am no historian either. It seems like authorship of texts would be a greater difference between claims for existence of the two men (to me)
All historians today agree Jesus lived. Those who attack the historicity of Christ, are not abreast in this field of research. Jon Crossan is a liberal Jesus historian, and even he admits Jesus lived. He is considered by the liberals to be the greatest Jesus historian in the world. Gary Habermas has written a good book called "The Historical Jesus." It debunks all the silly claims by those pseudo-scholars and atheists who attack the historicity of Christ. This link also has good material:
(Mod Edit: DSO NOT LINK TO WEBSITES OUTSIDE OF THE RRS - POST THE MATERIAL HERE - DON'T LINK TO OTHER SITES. First warning.)
I don't want to sound mean, but I think it's virtually impossible that you have read the material posted in this thread before posting your own assertions. Since, at the time of this post, you have only been a member of the site for 27 minutes.
Nook stated: There is a lot of evidence however that supports Alexander the Great. Contemporaries, and the like, wrote about him, and the Empire he built is undeniable -
My Response: That's all hearsay and tertiary evidence. The first biography written on Alexander wasn't untill 400 years after his death by Plutarch. It always amazes me how "Jesus mythers" create such super high standards and criteria for Jesus' validity, but they swallow stories like Alexander the Great whole with virtually no standards at all.
God exists or nothing exists --- Greg Bahnsen
Why are atheists allowed to post links, but we cannot?