Christ myth theory
|Christ myth theory|
|Description||Jesus of Nazareth never existed, or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels|
Thomas Paine (1737–1809)|
Charles François Dupuis (1742–1809)
Constantin-François Volney (1757–1820)
Richard Carlile (1790–1843)
Bruno Bauer (1809–1882)
Edwin Johnson (1842–1901)
Dutch Radical School (1880–1950)
Albert Kalthoff (1850–1906)
W. B. Smith (1850–1934)
J. M. Robertson (1856–1933)
Thomas Whittaker (1856–1935)
Arthur Drews (1865–1935)
Paul-Louis Couchoud (1879–1959)
Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880–1963)
|Modern proponents||G. A. Wells, Tom Harpur, Michael Martin, Thomas L. Thompson, Thomas L. Brodie, Robert M. Price, Richard Carrier, Earl Doherty, Michel Onfray|
|Subjects||Historical Jesus, early Christianity, ancient history|
|Part of a series on|
The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism, or Jesus ahistoricity theory) is "the view that the person known as Jesus of Nazareth had no historical existence." Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman as per his criticism of mythicism, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."[q 1]
According to mythicists, the accounts of Jesus are mostly, or completely, of a mythical nature; and if there was a historical Jesus, close to nothing can be known about him. Most Christ mythicists follow a threefold argument: they question the reliability of the Pauline epistles and the Gospels regarding the historicity of Jesus; they note the lack of information on Jesus in non-Christian sources from the first and early second century; and they argue that early Christianity was syncretistic and mythological from the beginning, as reflected in both the Pauline epistles and the gospels. Therefore, Christianity was not founded on the shared memories of a man, but rather a shared mytheme.
The Christ myth theory is a fringe theory, supported by few tenured or emeritus specialists in biblical criticism or cognate disciplines.[q 2] It deviates from the mainstream historical view, which is that while the gospels include many legendary elements, these are religious elaborations added to the accounts of a historical Jesus who was crucified in the 1st-century Roman province of Judea.
- 1 Jesus and the origins of Christianity
- 2 Arguments
- 2.1 Overview of main arguments
- 2.2 The Pauline epistles
- 2.2.1 Dating
- 2.2.2 Lack of biographical information
- 2.2.3 Celestial being
- 2.2.4 Jesus lived in a dim past
- 2.3 The Gospels are not historical records
- 2.4 No independent eyewitness accounts
- 2.5 Diversity and parallels
- 3 18th- and 19th-century proponents
- 4 Early-20th-century proponents
- 5 Modern proponents
- 6 Reception
- 7 Documentaries
- 8 See also
- 9 Footnotes
- 10 Sources
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Jesus and the origins of Christianity
The origins and rapid rise of Christianity, as well as the historical Jesus and the historicity of Jesus, are a matter of longstanding debate in theological and historical research. While Christianity may have started with an early nucleus of followers of Jesus,[q 3] within a few years after the presumed death of Jesus in c. AD 33, at the time Paul started preaching, a number of "Jesus-movements" seem to have been in existence, which propagated divergent interpretations of Jesus' teachings. A central question is how these communities developed and what their original convictions were, as a wide range of beliefs and ideas can be found in early Christianity, including adoptionism and docetism,[q 4] and also Gnostic traditions which used Christian imagery,[q 5] which were all deemed heretical by proto-orthodox Christianity.[q 6]
Mainstream scholarship views Jesus as a real person who was subsequently deified, whereas traditional Christian theology and dogmas view Jesus as the incarnation of God/Christ on earth. Mythicists take yet another approach, presuming a widespread set of Jewish ideas on personified aspects of God, which were subsequently historicised when proto-Christianity spread among non-Jewish converts.
Mainstream historical view
Jesus is being studied by a number of scholarly disciplines,[i] using a variety of textual critical methods.[ii] These critical methods, and the quest for the historical Jesus, have led to a demythologization of Jesus, and the mainstream historical view is that while the gospels include mythical or legendary elements, these are religious interpretations of the life and death of a historical Jesus who did live in 1st-century Roman Palestine.[iii] While scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus, the baptism and the crucifixion are two events in the life of Jesus which are subject to "almost universal assent".[iv] According to historian Alanna Nobbs,
While historical and theological debates remain about the actions and significance of this figure, his fame as a teacher, and his crucifixion under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, may be described as historically certain.
New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman states that Jesus "certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees," and also states that the existence of Jesus and his crucifixion by the Romans is attested to by a wide range of sources including Josephus and Tacitus.
While there is widespread scholarly agreement on the existence of Jesus as a historical figure, the portraits of Jesus have often differed from each other and from the image portrayed in the gospel accounts.[v]
Traditional and modern Christian views
Traditional Christian theology and dogmas view Jesus as the incarnation of God/Christ on earth and as the Messiah, whose death was a sacrifice that procured atonement for all who believe Jesus to be the Christ. According to Christian traditions, the Gospels and the Pauline epistles are inspired writings, which tell us in a reliable way about the birth and the life of Jesus, his ministry and sayings, and his crucifixion and resurrection, according to God's plan.[vi]
Christ myth theorists
Most mythicists, like mainstream scholarship, note that Christianity developed within Hellenistic Judaism, which was influenced by Hellenism. Early Christianity, and the accounts of Jesus are to be understood in this context. Departing from mainstream scholarship, mythicists argue that the accounts of Jesus are mostly, or completely, of a mythical nature, questioning the mainstream paradigm of a historical Jesus in the beginning of the 1st century who was deified.
Carrier and other mythicists are critical of the conclusions and presuppositions of historicity proponents, questioning the value of consensus as a criterion for the historicity of Jesus.[q 7][q 8][q 9]
Some moderate authors, most notably Wells, have argued that there may have been a historical Jesus, but that this historical Jesus was fused with another Jesus-tradition, namely the mythological Christ of Paul.[q 10] Others, most notably the early Wells and Alvar Ellegård, have argued that Paul's Jesus may have lived far earlier, in a dimly remembered remote past.[q 11]
The most radical mythicists hold, in terms given by Price, the "Jesus atheism" viewpoint, that is, there never was a historical Jesus, only a mythological character, and the mytheme of his incarnation, death, and exaltation. This character developed out of a syncretistic fusion of Jewish, Hellenistic and Middle Eastern religious thought; was put forward by Paul; and historicised in the Gospels, which are also syncretistic. Notable "atheists" are Paul-Louis Couchoud, Earl Doherty, Thomas L. Brodie, and Richard Carrier.[q 12]
Some other authors argue for the Jesus agnosticism viewpoint. That is, we cannot conclude if there was a historical Jesus. And if there was a historical Jesus, close to nothing can be known about him. Notable "agnosticists" are Robert Price, Thomas L. Thompson, and Raphael Lataster.[q 13][q 14]
While proponents like Earl Doherty, Price, and Carrier, are concerned with the origins of Christianity and the genesis of the Christ-figure, the perception of and debate about the Christ myth theory has increasingly turned to the simpler question whether Jesus existed or not[q 15] and consequently with some scholars proposing a more moderate position.[q 16]
According to New Testament scholar Robert Van Voorst, most Christ mythicists follow a threefold argument: they question the reliability of the Pauline epistles and the Gospels regarding the historicity of Jesus;[q 17] they note the lack of information on Jesus in non-Christian sources from the first and early second century;[q 18] and they argue that early Christianity was syncretistic and mythological from the beginning.[q 19]
Overview of main arguments
Most Christ mythicists argue that the evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus Christ is weak at best,[q 20] pointing at a series of perceived peculiarities in the sources which they regard as untrustworthy for a historical account.[q 21] Early Christian and other sources lack biographical information on Jesus,[q 22] the so-called argument from silence.[q 23] Instead, the Christ of Paul[q 24][viii] and the Jesus of the Gospels are of a mythical and allegorical nature.[q 25][ix] They further argue that the Gospels are a composite of various strands of thought, relying on Jewish writings,[q 21] and note the similarities of early Christianity and the Christ figure with the mystery religions of the Greco-Roman world.[q 26]
- Paul's Jesus is a celestial being, not a historical person, or may have lived in a dim past - the Pauline epistles are older than the gospels but, aside from a few passages which may have been interpolations, make no reference to a historical Jesus who lived in the flesh on Earth,[q 27] nor do they cite any sayings from Jesus. There is a complete absence of any detailed biographical information such as might be expected if Jesus had been a contemporary of Paul;[q 28][q 29] instead, Paul refers to Jesus as an exalted being. Therefore, Paul is probably writing about either a mythical entity,[q 30] a celestial deity,[q 31] "a savior figure patterned after similar figures within ancient mystery religions"[q 29][q 32] named Jesus;[q 33][q 34] or a historical person who may have lived in a dim past, long before the beginnings of the Common Era.
- The Gospels are not historical records - although the Gospels seem to present an historical framework, they are not historical records, but theological writings,[q 35][q 36] which are based on a variety of sources and influences, including Old Testament writings, Greek Stoic philosophy and the exegetical methods of Philo.[q 37][x] The genre of the Gospels are myth or legendary fiction[q 38][q 39][xi] which have imposed "a fictitious historical narrative" on a "mythical cosmic savior figure"[q 40][q 19] by weaving together various pseudo-historical Jesus traditions,[q 41][xii] most notably the "supernatural personage" of Paul's epistles and "ideas very important in the Jewish Wisdom literature".[q 41]
- No independent eyewitness accounts - No independent eyewitness accounts survive, in spite of the fact that many authors were writing at that time.[q 42][q 43] Early second-century Roman accounts contain very little evidence[q 18][q 44] and may depend on Christian sources.[q 45][q 46]
- Diversity in early Christianity, and parallels with other religions - Early Christianity was widely diverse and syncretistic, sharing common philosophical and religious ideas with other religions of the time. Its origins cannot be traced to a single founding group, but must have been rooted in a wider religious movement. It arose in the Greco-Roman world of the first and second century AD, synthesizing Greek and Jewish philosophy of the Second Temple period.[q 19] Parallels with other religions include the ideas of personified aspects of God,[xiii] proto-Gnostic ideas, and salvation figures featured in mystery religions, which were often (but not always) a dying-and-rising god.[q 47][q 48][xiv]
The Pauline epistles
The seven undisputed Pauline epistles considered by scholarly consensus to be genuine epistles are generally dated to AD 50–60 (i.e. approximately twenty to thirty years after the generally accepted time period for the death of Jesus around AD 30–36) and are the earliest surviving Christian texts that may include information about Jesus.[q 49][q 50]
Some mythicists have questioned the early dating of the epistles, raising the possibility that they represent a later, more developed strand of early Christian thought.
Theologian Willem Christiaan van Manen of the Dutch school of radical criticism noted various anachronisms in the Pauline Epistles. Van Manen claimed that they could not have been written in their final form earlier than the 2nd century. He also noted that the Marcionite school was the first to publish the epistles, and that Marcion (c. 85 – c. 160) used them as justification for his gnostic and docetic views that Jesus' incarnation was not in a physical body. Van Manen also studied Marcion's version of Galatians in contrast to the canonical version, and argued that the canonical version was a later revision which de-emphasized the Gnostic aspects.
Price wrote that "the historical Jesus problem replicates itself in the case of Paul," and that the epistles have the same limitations as the Gospels as historical evidence. Price sees the epistles as a compilation of fragments (possibly with a Gnostic core), and contends that Marcion was responsible for much of the Pauline corpus or even wrote the letters himself, while criticizing the circumstantial ad hominem fallacy of fellow Christ myth theorists holding the mid-first-century dating of the epistles (e.g. Galatians is conventionally dated c. AD 53)[xv] for their own apologetical reasons. Price argues that passages such as Galatians 1:18–20, Galatians 4:4 and 1 Corinthians 15:3–11 are late Catholic interpolations and that 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 was unlikely to have been written by a Jewish person.
Lack of biographical information
Modern biblical scholarship notes that "Paul has relatively little to say on the biographical information of Jesus," viewing Jesus as "a recent contemporary." Bishop and historian Paul Barnett explains that
Paul's relative lack of detailed reference to the historical Christ is usually explained in one of two ways: either Paul knew only that there was such a man but knew (or cared to know) little more (Bultmann), or he knew quite a lot but didn't need to elaborate this in his letters beyond what his readers already knew.
Wells criticized the infrequency of the reference to Jesus in the Pauline letters and has said there is no information in them about Jesus' parents, place of birth, teachings, trial nor crucifixion. Robert Price says that Paul does not refer to Jesus' earthly life, also not when that life might have provided convenient examples and justifications for Paul's teachings. Instead, revelation seems to have been a prominent source for Paul's knowledge about Jesus.
Wells says that the Pauline epistles do not make reference to Jesus' sayings, or only in a vague and general sense. According to Wells, as referred to by Price in his own words, the writers of the New Testament "must surely have cited them when the same subjects came up in the situations they addressed."
Brother of the Lord
1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19 make reference to "the brothers of the Lord" and "James, the brother of the Lord" respectively. Per Galatians 1:19, mainstream scholarship holds that it attests that Paul met with James, brother of Jesus.[q 51]
Galatians 4:4 and Romans 1:3 make reference to Jesus’ birth, being: "born (Ancient Greek: γενόμενον, translit. genómenon, lit. 'made') of [a] woman" and "born (Ancient Greek: γενομένου, translit. genoménou, lit. 'was made') of [the] seed of David" respectively. Mainstream scholarship holds that Galatians 4:4 attests that Paul knew Jesus was born of a human mother and that per Romans 1:3, Paul says that Jesus was born a descendant of David—a historical ancestor in Paul’s view.[q 53]
Doherty and Carrier hold that Paul′s unique usage of the term "made" in the context of these references is consistent with a "Celestial Jesus" who was born/incarnated when a human body was made for him. Wells contends that Paul′s reference to Davidic descent "is surely to state an article of faith" and not an assertion of historical fact.
1 Corinthians 11:23–26 make reference to "the night" Jesus handled bread and wine, teaching Christians the theological ritual of the Lord’s supper. Mainstream scholarship holds that it recalls the earthly life of Jesus "in the context of cultic rites that assumed his divinity."[q 54]
Most scholars view the Pauline letters as essential elements in the study of the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity. New Testament scholar James Dunn states that in 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul "recites the foundational belief," namely "that Christ died." According to Dunn, "Paul was told about a Jesus who had died two years earlier or so." 1 Corinthians 15:11 also refers to others before Paul who preached the creed.
The Pauline letters incorporate creeds, or confessions of faith, that predate Paul, and give essential information on the faith of the early Jerusalem community around James, 'the brother of Jesus'. The Pauline epistles contain elements of a Christ myth and its cultus, such as the Christ hymn of Philippians 2:6–11, which portray Jesus as an incarnated and subsequently exalted heavenly being.[xvi][q 55][q 56][q 57] These pre-Pauline creeds date to within a few years of Jesus' death and developed within the Christian community in Jerusalem. Scholars view these as indications that the incarnation and exaltation of Jesus was part of Christian tradition a few years after his death and over a decade before the writing of the Pauline epistles.
Yet, the development of the early Christian views on Jesus' divinity is a matter of debate within contemporary scholarship. According to a longstanding consensus, the oldest Christology was an "exaltation Christology," according to which Jesus was subsequently "raised to divine status." This "exaltation Christology" may have developed over time, as witnessed in the Gospels, with the earliest Christians believing that Jesus became divine when he was resurrected. Later beliefs shifted the exaltation to his baptism, birth, and subsequently to the idea of his eternal existence, as witnessed in the Gospel of John. This "High Christology" is "the view that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being who became a human, did the Father’s will on earth, and then was taken back up into heaven whence he had originally come." Yet, as Ehrman notes, this subsequent "incarnation Christology" was also preached by Paul, and even predates him. According to the "Early High Christology Club," this "incarnation Christology" or "high Christology" did not evolve over a longer time, but was a "big bang" which arose in the first few decades of the church, as witnessed in the writings of Paul.[xvii]
Scholars have also argued that Paul was a "mythmaker," who gave his own divergent interpretation of the meaning of Jesus, building a bridge between the Jewish and Hellenistic world, thereby creating the faith that became Christianity.
According to Doherty, the Jesus of Paul was a divine Son of God, existing in a spiritual realm where he was crucified and resurrected. This mythological Jesus was based on exegesis of the Old Testament and mystical visions of a risen Jesus.[q 60]
Carrier argues that Paul is actually writing about a celestial deity named Jesus: Carrier notes that there is little if any concrete information about Christ's earthly life in the Pauline epistles, even though Jesus is mentioned over three hundred times. According to Carrier, the genuine Pauline epistles show that the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul believed in a visionary or dream Jesus, based on a pesher of Septuagint verses Zechariah 6 and 3, Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52–53. Carrier further argues that according to Paul (Philippians 2.7), Christ "came 'in the likeness of men' (homoiomati anthropon) and was found 'in a form like a man' (schemati euretheis hos anthropos) and (in Rom. 8.3) that he was only sent 'in the likeness of sinful flesh' (en homoiomati sarkos hamartias). This is a doctrine of a preexistent being assuming a human body, but not being fully transformed into a man, just looking like one".</ref>
The non-Pauline Epistle to the Hebrews is also relevant per Hebrews 5:7, "in the days of his flesh" Jesus cried and prayed to God to save him. Mythicists generally contend that this verse is anomalous with supposed traditions underlying the synoptic gospels, however Doherty and Carrier additionally hold that the phrase "in the days of his flesh" is consistent with a celestial Jesus.[q 61]
Jesus lived in a dim past
Wells argues that Paul and the other epistle writers—the earliest Christian writers—do not provide any support for the idea that Jesus lived early in the 1st century and that—for Paul—Jesus may have existed many decades, if not centuries, before. According to Wells, the earliest strata of the New Testament literature presented Jesus as "a basically supernatural personage only obscurely on Earth as a man at some unspecified period in the past". In The Jesus Myth, Wells argues that two Jesus narratives fused into one: Paul's mythical Jesus and a minimally historical Jesus whose teachings were preserved in the Q document, a hypothetical common source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Some myth proponents assert that the writings of Epiphanius of Salamis makes reference to a group of Jewish Christians who held that Jesus lived during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus—"placing Jesus about 100 BCE"—and that this was also the view presented in the Jewish writings about Jesus in the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu.[q 62][q 63]
According to the Panarion by Epiphanius, the Jewish-Christian sect known as the Nazarenes (Ναζωραιοι) began as Jewish converts of the Apostles.[q 64][q 65] Richard Carrier contends that "Epiphanius, in Panarion 29, says there was a sect of still-Torah-observant Christians who taught that Jesus lived and died in the time of Jannaeus, and all the Jewish sources on Christianity that we have (from the Talmud to the Toledot Yeshu) report no other view than that Jesus lived during the time of Jannaeus".
Theologian Gregory A. Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University, criticise the idea that "Paul viewed Jesus as a cosmic savior who lived in the past," referring to various passages in the Pauline epistles which seem to contradict this idea. In Galatians 1:19, Paul says he met with James, the "Lord's brother";[q 51] 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 refers to people to whom Jesus' had appeared, and who were Paul's contemporaries; and in 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 Paul refers to the Jews "who both killed the Lord Jesus" and "drove out us" as the same people, indicating that the death of Jesus was within the same time frame as the persecution of Paul. Boyd and Eddy doubt that Paul viewed Jesus similar to the savior deities found in ancient mystery religions.
The Gospels are not historical records
The general consensus of modern scholars is that Mark was the first gospel to be written and dates from no earlier than c. AD 65, while Matthew and Luke, which use it as a source, were written between AD 80 and 85. The composition history of John is complex, but most scholars see it taking place in stages beginning as early as before AD 70 and extending as late as the end of the century. None of the authors were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, "(t)he common wisdom in the academy is that stories and sayings of Jesus circulated for decades, undergoing countless retellings and embellishments before being finally set down in writing." According to scholar in theology Richard Bauckham the authors may have received their information very close to eyewitness reports.[q 66]
According to Carrier, "The Gospels cannot really be dated, nor are the real authors known. Their names were assigned early, but not early enough for us to be confident they were accurately known. It is based on speculation that Mark was the first, written between AD 60 and 70, Matthew second, between AD 70 and 80, Luke (and Acts) third, between AD 80 and 90, and John last, between AD 90 and 100".
According to Richard Burridge, priest and biblical scholar, any study of the Gospels must first determine the genre under which they fall, in order to interpret them correctly, since genre "is a key convention guiding both the composition and the interpretation of writings". The gospels authors may have intended to write novels, myths, histories, or biographies, which are different genres and have a tremendous impact on how they ought to be interpreted. Among contemporary scholars, there is consensus that the gospels are a type of ancient biography, though theologian Rudolf Bultmann notes that the gospel authors had no interest in history or in a historical Jesus.[q 67] Michael Vines, Professor of Religious Studies at Lees–McRae College, notes that the gospel of Mark may have aspects similar to a Jewish novel. Some scholars have argued that the Gospels are symbolical representations of the Torah, which were written in response to the Roman occupation and the suppression of Jewish religiosity.
According to Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, mythicists argue that in the gospels "a fictitious historical narrative" was imposed on the "mythical cosmic savior figure" created by Paul.[q 40]
Robert Price notes support for the view that the gospels are a fictional composition,[q 68] arguing that the Gospels are a type of legendary fiction[q 38] and that the story of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels fits the mythic hero archetype.[q 39]
Some myth proponents suggest that some parts of the New Testament were meant to appeal to Gentiles as familiar allegories rather than history. According to Richard Carrier, the gospels are "essentially allegory and fiction".[q 69]
Hebrew Bible parallels
Arguments drawing comparisons between the New and Old Testaments have traditionally been made by Christian theologians in defense of their teachings, but without doubting a historical Jesus.[xviii]
Some myth proponents note that some stories in the New Testament seem to try to reinforce Old Testament prophecies and repeat stories about figures like Elijah, Elisha, Moses and Joshua in order to appeal to Jewish converts. Price notes that almost all the Gospel-stories have parallels in Old Testamentical and other traditions, concluding that the Gospels are no independent sources for a historical Jesus, but "legend and myth, fiction and redaction".
In Christ and the Caesars (1877), philosopher Bruno Bauer suggested that Christianity was a synthesis of the Stoicism of Seneca the Younger, Greek Neoplatonism, and the Jewish theology of Philo as developed by pro-Roman Jews such as Josephus. This new religion was in need of a founder and created its Christ.[q 19] In a review of Bauer's work, Robert Price notes that Bauer's basic stance regarding the Stoic tone and the fictional nature of the Gospels are still repeated in contemporary scholarship.[q 68]
Weaving together various traditions
According to Wells, a minimally historical Jesus existed, whose teachings were preserved in the Q document. According to Wells, the Gospels weave together two Jesus narratives, namely Paul's mythical Jesus and the Galilean preacher of the Q document. Doherty disagrees with Wells regarding this teacher of the Q-document, arguing that he was an allegoral character who personified Wisdom and came to be regarded as the founder of the Q-community. According to Doherty, Q's Jesus and Paul's Christ were combined in the Gospel of Mark by a predominantly Gentile community.
No independent eyewitness accounts
Lack of surviving historic records
Mainstream biblical scholars point out that much of the writings of antiquity have been lost and that there was little written about any Jew or Christian in this period. Ehrman points out that we do not have archaeological or textual evidence for the existence of most people in the ancient world, even famous people like Pontius Pilate, whom the myth theorists agree to have existed.[q 70] Robert Hutchinson notes that this is also true of Josephus, despite the fact that he was "a personal favorite of the Roman Emperor Vespasian". Hutchinson quotes Ehrman, who notes that Josephus is never mentioned in 1st century Greek and Roman sources, despite being "a personal friend of the emperor". According to Classical historian and popular author Michael Grant, if the same criterion is applied to others: "We can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned".
Myth proponents claim there is significance in the lack of surviving historic records about Jesus of Nazareth from any non-Jewish author until the second century,[q 71] adding that Jesus left no writings or other archaeological evidence. Using the argument from silence, they note that Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria did not mention Jesus when he wrote about the cruelty of Pontius Pilate around 40 AD.
Josephus and Tacitus
There are three non-Christian sources which are typically used to study and establish the historicity of Jesus—two mentions in Josephus and one mention in the Roman source Tacitus. According to John Dominic Crossan:
That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus [...] agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.
Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93–94 AD, includes two references to the biblical Jesus in Books 18 and 20. The general scholarly view is that while the longer passage in book 18, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or forgery.[q 72] Myth proponents also argue that the Testimonium Flavianum may have been a partial interpolation or forgery by Christian apologist Eusebius in the 4th century or by others.[xix]
The other mention in Josephus is as follows:
...the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James
According to Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman, "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus' reference to Jesus in Antiquities 20, 9, 1 and it is only disputed by a small number of scholars.
Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, who are critical of Christ myth theorists, note that Josephus "mentions twenty-one other people with the name Jesus,"[xx] and argue that when Josephus called James the "brother" of Jesus "called Christ" in the Antiquities, he did so to distinguish him "from the other persons named 'Jesus' he had already mentioned."[xxi]
Richard Carrier disagrees, proposing that the original text referred to a brother of the high priest Jesus son of Damneus, named James, who is mentioned in the same narrative, in which James (the brother of Jesus) is executed by Ananus ben Ananus.[xxii] Carrier further argues that the words "the one called Christ" likely resulted from the accidental insertion of a marginal note added by some unknown reader.
Others speculate that he was referring to a mythic Christ that had already been historicized, or to fraternal brotherhood rather than a literal sibling.[q 52] This is dismissed by some in mainstream academia on the grounds that there is no evidence of a supposed "Jerusalem brotherhood".
...a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.
The very negative tone of Tacitus' comments on Christians make most experts believe that the passage is extremely unlikely to have been forged by a Christian scribe. The Tacitus reference is now widely accepted as an independent confirmation of Christ's crucifixion, although some scholars question the historical value of the passage on various grounds.
Christ myth theory supporters such as G. A. Wells and Carrier contend that sources such as Tacitus and others, which were written decades after the supposed events, include no independent traditions that relate to Jesus, and hence can provide no confirmation of historical facts about him.[q 45][q 46]
In Jesus Outside the New Testament (2000), mainstream scholar Van Voorst considers references to Jesus in classical writings, Jewish writings, hypothetical sources of the canonical Gospels, and extant Christian writings outside the New Testament. Van Voorst concludes that non-Christian sources provide "a small but certain corroboration of certain New Testament historical traditions on the family background, time of life, ministry, and death of Jesus", as well as "evidence of the content of Christian preaching that is independent of the New Testament", while extra-biblical Christian sources give access to "some important information about the earliest traditions on Jesus". However, New Testament sources remain central for "both the main lines and the details about Jesus' life and teaching".</ref>
Diversity and parallels
Early Christian diversity points to multiple roots
Early Christianity was wildly diverse, with proto-orthodoxy and "heretical" views like gnosticism alongside each other. According to Mack, various "Jesus movements" existed, whose ideas converged in an early proto-orthodoxy.
According to Doherty, the rapid growth of early Christian communities and the great variety of ideas cannot be explained by a single missionary effort, but points to parallel developments, which arose at various places and competed for support. Paul's arguments against rival apostles also point to this diversity. Doherty further notes that Yeshua (Jesus) is a generic name, meaning "Yahweh saves" and refers to the concept of divine salvation, which could apply to any kind of saving entity or Wisdom.
Parallels with other religions
Doherty notes that, with the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek culture and language spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean world, influencing the already existing cultures there. The Roman conquest of this area added to the cultural diversity, but also to a sense of alienation and pessimism. A rich diversity of religious and philosophical ideas was available and Judaism was held in high regard by non-Jews for its monotheistic ideas and its high moral standards. Yet monotheism was also offered by Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, with its high God and the intermediary Logos. According to Doherty, "Out of this rich soil of ideas arose Christianity, a product of both Jewish and Greek philosophy", echoing Bruno Bauer, who argued that Christianity was a synthesis of Stoicism, Greek Neoplatonism and Jewish thought.[q 19]
Jewish belief in a celestial angel called Jesus
Mainstream scholars have noted the extent and significance of Jewish belief in a chief angel acting as a heavenly mediator during the Second Temple period,[q 73] as well as the similarities between Jesus and this chief celestial angel.[q 74] Ehrman has even gone so far as to argue that Paul regarded Jesus to be an angel, who was incarnated on earth.[xxiii]
According to Carrier, originally "Jesus was the name of a celestial being, subordinate to God". According to Carrier, "This 'Jesus' would most likely have been the same archangel identified by Philo of Alexandria as already extant in Jewish theology". Philo knew this figure by all of the attributes Paul already knew Jesus by: the firstborn son of God (Epistle to the Romans 8:29), the celestial image of God (Second Epistle to the Corinthians 4:4) and God’s agent of creation (First Epistle to the Corinthians 8:6). He was also God’s celestial high priest (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14, etc.) and God’s Logos. Philo says this being was identified as the figure named Jesus in the Book of Zechariah.[q 34]
Personification of Logos and Wisdom
Separately from mythicism, scholar of ancient religious studies Peter Schäfer contends that Philo's Logos was likely derived from his understanding of the "postbiblical Wisdom literature, in particular the Wisdom of Solomon".[q 75] Professor of New Testament at Loyola University Urban C. von Wahlde notes that the Wisdom literature and the philosophical writings of Philo may furnish "the background to the Logos of the Johannine Prologue".[q 76]
According to mythicists, Christianity originated from a Jewish sect[q 77] in a milieu where some Jews practised a form of proto-gnosticism—seeking salvation by revealed gnosis—via a mediator between God and humans, i.e. an intermediary variously known as "one like a son of man", "the divine Logos", etc. From the cultus of Paul, a divergent form of this salvation theology was later promoted for non-Jews.[q 78][q 79][q 80][q 81]
According to Doherty, a somewhat similar idea to the Greek Logos was found in Judaism, where Wisdom, a personified part of God, brought knowledge of God and the Law. Similar ideas were also developed in other cultures and religions. According to Wells, the historical Jesus was derived from this Wisdom traditions, the personification of an eternal aspect of God, who came to visit human beings. Doherty notes that the concept of a spiritual Christ was the result of common philosophical and religious ideas of the first and second century AD, in which the idea of an intermediary force between God and the world were common. Doherty further notes that divine inspiration was a common concept.
Jewish-Hellenistic mystery cult
According to Doherty, the Christ of Paul shares similarities with the Greco-Roman mystery cults. Authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy explicitly argue that Jesus was a deity, akin to the mystery cults, while Dorothy Murdock argues that the Christ myth draws heavily on the Egyptian story of Osiris and Horus. According to Robert Price, the story of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels is akin to the mythic hero archetype.[q 39] The mythic hero archetype is present in many cultures who often have miraculous conceptions or virgin births heralded by wise men and marked by a star, are tempted by or fight evil forces, die on a hill, appear after death and then ascend to heaven. According to Carrier, early Christianity was but one of several mystery cults which developed out of Hellenistic influences on local cults and religions.
Mainstream scholarship disagrees with this interpretation. Many mainstream biblical scholars respond that most of these parallels are either coincidences or without historical basis and/or that these parallels do not prove that a Jesus figure did not live.[xxiv] Christian theologians have cited the mythic hero archetype as a defense of Christian teaching while completely affirming a historical Jesus.[xxv] Secular academics have also pointed out that the teachings of Jesus marked "a radical departure from all the conventions by which heroes had been defined".
18th- and 19th-century proponents
According to Van Voorst, "The argument that Jesus never existed, but was invented by the Christian movement around the year 100, goes back to Enlightenment times, when the historical-critical study of the past was born," and may have originated with Lord Bolingbroke, an English deist.
According to Weaver and Schneider, the beginnings of the formal denial of the existence of Jesus can be traced to late 18th-century France with the works of Constantin François Chassebœuf de Volney and Charles-François Dupuis. Volney and Dupuis argued that Christianity was an amalgamation of various ancient mythologies and that Jesus was a totally mythical character. Dupuis argued that ancient rituals in Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India had influenced the Christian story which was allegorized as the histories of solar deities, such as Sol Invictus. Dupuis also said that the resurrection of Jesus was an allegory for the growth of the sun's strength in the sign of Aries at the spring equinox. Volney argued that Abraham and Sarah were derived from Brahma and his wife Saraswati, whereas Christ was related to Krishna. Volney made use of a draft version of Dupuis' work and at times differed from him, e.g. in arguing that the gospel stories were not intentionally created, but were compiled organically. Volney's perspective became associated with the ideas of the French Revolution, which hindered the acceptance of these views in England. Despite this, his work gathered significant following among British and American radical thinkers during the 19th century.
In 1835, German theologian David Friedrich Strauss published his extremely controversial The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (Das Leben Jesu). While not denying that Jesus existed, he did argue that the miracles in the New Testament were mythical retellings of normal events as supernatural happenings. According to Strauss, the early church developed these miracle stories to present Jesus as a fulfillment of Jewish prophecies of what the Messiah would be like. This rationalist perspective was in direct opposition to the supernaturalist view that the bible was accurate both historically and spiritually. The book caused an uproar across Europe, as Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury called it "the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell" and Strauss' appointment as chair of theology at the University of Zürich caused such controversy that the authorities offered him a pension before he had a chance to start his duties.
German Bruno Bauer, who taught at the University of Bonn, took Strauss' arguments further and became the first author to systematically argue that Jesus did not exist. Beginning in 1841 with his Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptics, Bauer argued that Jesus was primarily a literary figure, but left open the question of whether a historical Jesus existed at all. Then in his Criticism of the Pauline Epistles (1850–1852) and in A Critique of the Gospels and a History of their Origin (1850–1851), Bauer argued that Jesus had not existed. Bauer's work was heavily criticized at the time, as in 1839 he was removed from his position at the University of Bonn and his work did not have much impact on future myth theorists.
In his two-volume, 867-page book Anacalypsis (1836), English gentleman Godfrey Higgins said that "the mythos of the Hindus, the mythos of the Jews and the mythos of the Greeks are all at bottom the same; and are contrivances under the appearance of histories to perpetuate doctrines" and that Christian editors “either from roguery or folly, corrupted them all”. In his 1875 book The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, American Kersey Graves said that many demigods from different countries shared similar stories, traits or quotes as Jesus and he used Higgins as the main source for his arguments. The validity of the claims in the book have been greatly criticized by Christ myth proponents like Richard Carrier and largely dismissed by biblical scholars.
Starting in the 1870s, English poet and author Gerald Massey became interested in Egyptology and reportedly taught himself Egyptian hieroglyphics at the British Museum. In 1883, Massey published The Natural Genesis where he asserted parallels between Jesus and the Egyptian god Horus. His other major work, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, was published shortly before his death in 1907. His assertions have influenced various later writers such as Alvin Boyd Kuhn and Tom Harpur. Despite criticisms from Stanley Porter and Ward Gasque, Massey's theories regarding Egyptian etymologies for certain scriptures are supported by noted contemporary Egyptologists.
In the 1870s and 1880s, a group of scholars associated with the University of Amsterdam, known in German scholarship as the Radical Dutch school, rejected the authenticity of the Pauline epistles and took a generally negative view of the Bible's historical value. Abraham Dirk Loman argued in 1881 that all New Testament writings belonged to the 2nd century and doubted that Jesus was a historical figure, but later said the core of the gospels was genuine.
Additional early Christ myth proponents included Swiss skeptic Rudolf Steck, English historian Edwin Johnson, English radical Reverend Robert Taylor and his associate Richard Carlile.
During the early 20th century, several writers published arguments against Jesus' historicity, often drawing on the work of liberal theologians, who tended to deny any value to sources for Jesus outside the New Testament and limited their attention to Mark and the hypothetical Q source. They also made use of the growing field of religious history which found sources for Christian ideas in Greek and Oriental mystery cults, rather than Judaism. Joseph Klausner wrote that biblical scholars "tried their hardest to find in the historic Jesus something which is not Judaism; but in his actual history they have found nothing of this whatever, since this history is reduced almost to zero. It is therefore no wonder that at the beginning of this century there has been a revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth century view that Jesus never existed".
The work of social anthropologist Sir James George Frazer has had an influence on various myth theorists, although Frazer himself believed that Jesus existed. In 1890, Frazer published the first edition of The Golden Bough which attempted to define the shared elements of religious belief. This work became the basis of many later authors who argued that the story of Jesus was a fiction created by Christians. After a number of people claimed that he was a myth theorist, in the 1913 expanded edition of The Golden Bough he expressly stated that his theory assumed a historical Jesus.
In 1900, Scottish Member of Parliament John Mackinnon Robertson argued that Jesus never existed, but was an invention by a first-century messianic cult. In Robertson's view, religious groups invent new gods to fit the needs of the society of the time. Robertson argued that a solar deity symbolized by the lamb and the ram had long been worshiped by an Israelite cult of Joshua and that this cult had then invented a new messianic figure, Jesus of Nazareth. Robertson argued that a possible source for the Christian myth may have been the Talmudic story of the executed Jesus Pandera which dates to 100 BC. Robertson considered the letters of Paul the earliest surviving Christian writings, but viewed them as primarily concerned with theology and morality, rather than historical details. Robertson viewed references to the twelve apostles and the institution of the Eucharist as stories that must have developed later among gentile believers who were converted by Jewish evangelists like Paul.
The English school master George Robert Stowe Mead argued in 1903 that Jesus had existed, but that he had lived in 100 BC. Mead based his argument on the Talmud, which pointed to Jesus being crucified c. 100 BC. In Mead's view, this would mean that the Christian gospels are mythical. Tom Harpur has compared Mead's impact on myth theory to that of Bruno Bauer and Arthur Drews.
In 1909, school teacher John Eleazer Remsburg published The Christ, which made a distinction between a possible historical Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth) and the Jesus of the Gospels (Jesus of Bethlehem). Remsburg thought that there was good reason to believe that the historical Jesus existed, but that the "Christ of Christianity" was a mythological creation. Remsburg compiled a list of 42 names of "writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time" who Remsburg felt should have written about Jesus if the Gospels account was reasonably accurate, but who did not.
Also in 1909, German philosophy Professor Christian Heinrich Arthur Drews wrote The Christ Myth to argue that Christianity had been a Jewish Gnostic cult that spread by appropriating aspects of Greek philosophy and life-death-rebirth deities. In his later books The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus (1912) and The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present (1926), Drews reviewed the biblical scholarship of his time as well as the work of other myth theorists, attempting to show that everything reported about the historical Jesus had a mythical character.
- Also see Wood, Herbert George: Christianity and the Nature of History. Cambridge University Press, 1934, p. xxxii.
- Arthur Drews: Die Christusmythe. Eugen Diederichs, 1910, published in English as The Christ Myth, Prometheus, 1910, p. 410.</ref> Drews met with criticism from Nikolai Berdyaev who claimed that Drews was an anti-Semite who argued against the historical existence of Jesus for the sake of Aryanism. Drews took part in a series of public debates with theologians and historians who opposed his arguments.
Drews' work found fertile soil in the Soviet Union, where Marxist–Leninist atheism was the official doctrine of the state. Soviet leader Lenin argued that it was imperative in the struggle against religious obscurantists to form a union with people like Drews. Several editions of Drews' The Christ Myth were published in the Soviet Union from the early 1920s onwards and his arguments were included in school and university textbooks. Public meetings asking "Did Christ live?" were organized, during which party operatives debated with clergymen.
In 1927, British philosopher Bertrand Russell stated in his lecture Why I Am Not a Christian that "historically it is quite doubtful that Jesus existed, and if he did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one", though Russell did nothing to further develop the idea.
Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was convinced that Jesus never existed, stating that Christianity evolved from the "R6 Implant": "The man on the cross. There was no Christ! The Roman Catholic Church, through watching the dramatizations of people picked up some little fragments of R6".
The French philosopher Paul-Louis Couchoud, published in the 1920s and 1930s, but was a predecessor for contemporary mythicists.[q 60] According to Couchoud, Christianity started not with a biography of Jesus but "a collective mystical experience, sustaining a divine history mystically revealed."[q 82] Couchaud's Jesus is not a "myth", but a "religious conception".
Robert Price mentions Couchoud's comment on the Christ Hymn, one of the relics of the Christ cults to which Paul converted. Couchoud noted that in this hymn the name Jesus was given to the Christ after his torturous death, implying that there cannot have been a ministry by a teacher called Jesus.
George Albert Wells
George Albert Wells (1926–2017), a professor of German, revived the interest in the Christ myth theory. In his early work, including Did Jesus Exist? (1975), Wells argued that because the Gospels were written decades after Jesus's death by Christians who were theologically motivated but had no personal knowledge of him, a rational person should believe the gospels only if they are independently confirmed. Wells was featured in the controversial UK television programme series, Jesus: The Evidence (Channel 4: 1984), which caused a furore, being Channel 4's first major religious programme commission.
Atheist philosopher and scholar Michael Martin supported his thesis, claiming: "Jesus is not placed in a historical context and the biographical details of his life are left unsuspecte [...] a strong prima facie case challenging the historicity of Jesus can be constructed". Martin adds in his book The Case Against Christianity that "Well's argument against the historicity [of Jesus] is sound".
Later, Wells concluded that a historical Jesus figure did exist and was a Galilean preacher, whose teachings were preserved in the Q document, a hypothetical common source for the gospels of Matthew and Luke.[q 83] However, he continued to insist that Biblical Jesus did not exist and argued that stories such as the virgin birth, the crucifixion around A.D. 30 under Pilate and the resurrection should be regarded as legendary.[q 84][xxvi] Biblical scholar Robert E. Van Voorst said that with this argument Wells had performed an about-face.[q 85] However, other scholars continue to note Wells as a mythicist.[q 86]
In his 2009 book Cutting Jesus Down to Size, Wells clarified that he believes the Gospels represent the fusion of two originally independent streams: a Galilean preaching tradition and the supernatural personage of Paul's early epistles, but he says that both figures owe much of their substance to ideas from the Jewish wisdom literature.[q 41]
In 2000 Van Voorst gave an overview of proponents of the "Nonexistence Hypothesis" and their arguments, and eight arguments against this hypothesis as put forward by Wells and his predecessors:
- The "argument of silence" is to be rejected, because "it is wrong to suppose that what is unmentioned or undetailed did not exist." Van Voorst further argues that the early Christian literature was not written for historical purposes.
- Dating the "invention" of Jesus around 100 CE is too late; Mark was written earlier, and contains abundant historical details which are correct.
- The argument that the development of the Gospel traditions shows that there was no historical Jesus is incorrect; "development does not prove wholesale invention, and difficulties do not prove invention."
- Wells cannot explain why "no pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus' historicity or even questioned it."
- The rejection of Tacitus and Josephus ignores the scholarly consensus.
- Proponents of the "Nonexistence Hypothesis" are not driven by scholarly interests, but by anti-Christian sentiments.
- Wells and others do not offer alternative "other, credible hypotheses" for the origins of Christianity.
- Wells himself accepted the existence of a minimal historical Jesus, thereby effectively leaving the "Nonexistence Hypothesis."
According to Graham Stanton, writing in 2002, Wells advanced the most sophisticated version of the Christ myth theory, noting that "[t]his intriguing theory rests on several pillars, each of which is shaky." According to Maurice Casey, Wells' work repeated the main points of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, which are deemed outdated by mainstream scholarship. His works were not discussed by New Testament scholars, because it was "not considered to be original, and all his main points were thought to have been refuted long time ago, for reasons which were very well known."
Canadian writer Earl Doherty (born 1941) was introduced to the Christ myth theme by a lecture by Wells in the 1970s.[xxvii] Doherty follows the lead of Wells, but disagrees on the historicity of Jesus, arguing that "everything in Paul points to a belief in an entirely divine Son who "lived" and acted in the spiritual realm, in the same mythical setting in which all the other savior deities of the day were seen to operate". According to Doherty, Paul's Christ originated as a myth derived from middle Platonism with some influence from Jewish mysticism and belief in a historical Jesus emerged only among Christian communities in the 2nd century.
Paul and other writers of the earliest existing proto-Christian documents did not believe in Jesus as a person who was incarnated on Earth in a historical setting, rather they believed in Jesus as a heavenly being who suffered his sacrificial death in the lower spheres of heaven, where he was crucified by demons and then was subsequently resurrected by God. This mythological Jesus was not based on a historical Jesus, but rather on an exegesis of the Old Testament in the context of Jewish-Hellenistic religious syncretism and what the early authors believed to be mystical visions of a risen Jesus.
Doherty agrees with Bauckham that the earliest Christology was already a "high Christology," that is, Jesus was an incarnation of the pre-existent Christ, but deems it "hardly credible" that such a belief could develop in such a short time among Jews. Therefore, Doherty concludes that Christianity started with the myth of this incarnated Christ, who was subsequently historicised.
According to Doherty, the nucleus of this historicised Jesus of the Gospels can be found in the Jesus-movement which wrote the Q source. According to Doherty, the Q-authors may have regarded themselves as "spokespersons for the Wisdom of God", with Jesus being the embodiment of this Wisdom, who was added in the latest phase of the development of Q. Q then started to take the form of a "foundation document", in response to a concurring sect who saw John the Baptist as its founder. Eventually, Q's Jesus and Paul's Christ were combined in the Gospel of Mark by a predominantly gentile community. In time, the gospel-narrative of this embodiment of Wisdom became interpreted as the literal history of the life of Jesus.
New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman quotes Doherty from The Jesus Puzzle as maintaining that it was Paul's view that Jesus' death took place in the spiritual not the earthly realm,:258 but according to Ehrman, not only is there "no evidence to support Doherty's assertion of what Paul's view of Jesus was", but there are also "a host of reasons for calling Doherty's view into serious question.":254,258
In a book criticizing the Christ myth theory, New Testament scholar Maurice Casey describes Doherty as "perhaps the most influential of all the mythicists", but one who is unable to understand the ancient texts he uses in his arguments.
Robert M. Price
American New Testament scholar and former Baptist pastor Robert M. Price (born 1954) was a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of writers and scholars who study the historicity of Jesus and who argue that the Christian image of Christ is a theological construct into which traces of Jesus of Nazareth have been woven. He was also a member of the Jesus Project.
Price questioned the historicity of Jesus in a series of books, including Deconstructing Jesus (2000), The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003), Jesus Is Dead (2007) and The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems (2011), as well as in contributions to The Historical Jesus: Five Views (2009), in which he acknowledges that he stands against the majority view of scholars, but cautions against attempting to settle the issue by appeal to the majority. Price notes that "consensus is no criterion" for the historicity of Jesus.[q 8]
In Deconstructing Jesus, Price points out that "the Jesus Christ of the New Testament is a composite figure", out of which a broad variety of historical Jesuses can be reconstructed, any one of which may have been the real Jesus, but not all of them together. According to Price, various Jesus images flowed together at the origin of Christianity, some of them possibly based on myth, some of them possibly based on "a historical Jesus the Nazorean". Price admits uncertainty in this regard, writing in conclusion: "There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure".[q 87]
According to Price, the accounts of Jesus are derived from Jewish writings, which show Greek influences and similarities with Pagan saviour deities. Christianity is a historicized synthesis of mainly Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek mythologies. Price maintains that there are three key points for the traditional Christ myth theory:
- There is no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources.
- The epistles, written earlier than the gospels, provide no evidence of a recent historical Jesus and all that can be taken from the epistles, Price argues, is that a Jesus Christ, son of God, lived in a heavenly realm, there died as a sacrifice for human sin, was raised by God and enthroned in heaven.
- The Jesus narrative is paralleled in Middle Eastern myths about dying and rising gods. Price names Baal, Osiris, Attis, Adonis and Dumuzi/Tammuz as examples, all of which, he writes, survived into the Hellenistic and Roman periods and thereby influenced early Christianity. Price alleges that Christian apologists have tried to minimize these parallels.
Citing accounts that have Jesus being crucified under Alexander Jannaeus (83 BC) or in his 50s by Herod Agrippa I under the rule of Claudius (AD 41–54). Price argues that these "varying dates are the residue of various attempts to anchor an originally mythic or legendary Jesus in more or less recent history".
Thomas L. Thompson
Thomas L. Thompson (born 1939), Professor emeritus of theology at the University of Copenhagen, is a leading biblical minimalist of the Old Testament.[q 88] According to Thompson, the accounts of Jesus are derived from Jewish writings. In his 2007 book The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David, Thompson argues that the biblical accounts of both King David and Jesus of Nazareth are mythical in nature and based on Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Babylonian and Greek and Roman literature. For example, he argues that the resurrection of Jesus is taken directly from the story of the dying and rising god, Dionysus.[q 89][q 90] However, Thompson does not draw a final conclusion on the historicity or ahistoricity of Jesus, but argued that any historical person would be very different from the Christ (or Messiah) identified in the Gospel of Mark.[q 36]
Thompson coedited the contributions from a diverse range of scholars in the 2012 book Is This Not the Carpenter?: The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus. Writing in the introduction, "The essays collected in this volume have a modest purpose. Neither establishing the historicity of a historical Jesus nor possessing an adequate warrant for dismissing it, our purpose is to clarify our engagement with critical historical and exegetical methods."
In a 2012 online article, Thompson defended his qualifications to address New Testament issues and he rejected the label of "mythicist" and reiterated his position that the issue of Jesus' existence cannot be determined one way or the other. Thompson contends that the present state of New Testament scholarship viz. Bart Ehrman "is such that an established scholar should present his Life of Jesus, without considering whether this figure, in fact, lived as a historical person" and that such assumptions "reflect a serious problem regarding the historical quality of scholarship in biblical studies".
Thomas L. Brodie
In 2012, the Irish Dominican priest and theologian Thomas L. Brodie (born 1943), holding a PhD from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and a co-founder and former director of the Dominican Biblical Institute in Limerick, published Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. In this book, Brodie, who previously had published academic works on the Hebrew prophets, argued that the Gospels are essentially a rewriting of the stories of Elijah and Elisha when viewed as a unified account in the Books of Kings. This view lead Brodie to the conclusion that Jesus is mythical. Brodie's argument builds on his previous work, in which he stated that rather than being separate and fragmented, the stories of Elijah and Elisha are united and that 1 Kings 16:29–2 Kings 13:25 is a natural extension of 1 Kings 17–2 Kings 8 which have a coherence not generally observed by other biblical scholars. Brodie then views the Elijah–Elisha story as the underlying model for the gospel narratives.
In response to Brodie's publication of his view that Jesus was mythical, the Dominican order banned him from writing and lecturing, although he was allowed to stay on as a brother of the Irish Province, which continued to care for him. "There is an unjustifiable jump between methodology and conclusion" in Brodie's book—according to Gerard Norton—and "are not soundly based on scholarship". According to Norton, they are "a memoir of a series of significant moments or events" in Brodie's life that reinforced "his core conviction" that neither Jesus nor Paul of Tarsus were historical.
American independent scholar Richard Carrier (born 1969) reviewed Doherty's work on the origination of Jesus and eventually concluded that the evidence actually favored the core Doherty thesis.[q 12] According to Carrier, following Couchoud[q 82] and Doherty, Christianity started with the belief in a new deity called Jesus,[q 91] "a spiritual, mythical figure."[q 92] According to Carrier, this new deity was fleshed out in the Gospels, which added a narrative framework and Cynic-like teachings, and eventually came to be perceived as a historical biography.[q 91] According to Carrier, for such a person to be considered "the historical Jesus in any pertinent sense", such a person must comply with his definition of a minimal historical Jesus.[q 93]
According to Carrier, many studies by mainstream scholars have shown that the current consensus of a historical Jesus is based on invalid methods.[xxviii] Carrier also claims that historical methodologies often use fallacious reasoning[q 94] and that they must be drastically revised.[q 95]
Carrier argues in his book On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt that there is insufficient Bayesian probability, that is evidence, to believe in the existence of Jesus. Furthermore, Carrier argues that the Jesus figure was probably originally known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture which were then crafted into a historical figure to communicate the claims of the gospels allegorically. These allegories then started to be believed as fact during the struggle for control of the Christian churches of the first century. He argues that the probability of Jesus' existence is somewhere in the range from 1/3 to 1/12000 depending on the estimates used for the computation.
His methodology was reviewed by Aviezer Tucker, a prior advocate of using Bayesian techniques in history. Tucker expressed some sympathy for Carrier's view of the Gospels, stating: "The problem with the Synoptic Gospels as evidence for a historical Jesus from a Bayesian perspective is that the evidence that coheres does not seem to be independent, whereas the evidence that is independent does not seem to cohere". However, Tucker argued that historians have been able to use theories about the transmission and preservation of information to identify reliable parts of the Gospels. He said that "Carrier is too dismissive of such methods because he is focused on hypotheses about the historical Jesus rather than on the best explanations of the evidence".
In the peer-reviewed scholarly Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus Daniel N. Gullotta, reviewing Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, says he finds Carrier's arguments "problematic and unpersuasive", his use of Bayesian probabilities "unnecessarily complex" and criticizes Carrier's "lack of evidence, strained readings and troublesome assumptions." Gullotta also states that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, either documentary or archaeological, that there was a period when Christians believed that Jesus only existed in heaven rather than living as a human being on earth, which is Carrier's "foundational" thesis.
Other modern proponents
In his books The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth (1979), the British archaeologist and philologist John M. Allegro advanced the theory that stories of early Christianity originated in a shamanistic Essene clandestine cult centered around the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms. He also argued that the story of Jesus was based on the crucifixion of the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Allegro's theory was criticised sharply by Welsh historian Philip Jenkins, who wrote that Allegro relied on texts that did not exist in quite the form he was citing them. Based on this and many other negative reactions to the book, Allegro's publisher later apologized for issuing the book and Allegro was forced to resign his academic post.
Using a reverse-translation mechanism, Bernard Dubourg's two-volume work in French on the New Testament (1987/1989) argued that the Greek text was originally composed in Hebrew instead of Greek, according to the traditional procedures of midrash. Following Paul Vulliaud, Dubourg emphasized the importance of gematria in showing the coherence of his back-translated text. He concludes that Paul is as mythical as Jesus.
Alvar Ellegård, in The Myth of Jesus (1992), and Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ. A Study in Creative Mythology (1999), argued that Jesus lived 100 years before the accepted dates, and was a teacher of the Essenes. According to Ellegård, Paul was connected with the Essenes, and had a vision of this Jesus.
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, in their 1999 publication The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? propose that Jesus did not literally exist as an historically identifiable individual, but was instead a syncretic re-interpretation of the fundamental pagan "godman" by the Gnostics, who were the original sect of Christianity. The book has been negatively received by scholars, and also by Christ mythicists.
Influenced by Massey and Higgins, Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880–1963) argued an Egyptian etymology to the Bible that the gospels were symbolic rather than historic and that church leaders started to misinterpret the New Testament in the third century. Author and ordained priest Tom Harpur dedicated his 2004 book The Pagan Christ to Kuhn, suggesting that Kuhn has not received the attention he deserves since many of his works were self-published. Building on Kuhn's work, Harpur listed similarities among the stories of Jesus, Horus, Mithras, Buddha and others. According to Harpur, in the second or third centuries the early church created the fictional impression of a literal and historic Jesus and then used forgery and violence to cover up the evidence. Harpur's book received a great deal of criticism, including a response book, Unmasking the Pagan Christ: An Evangelical Response to the Cosmic Christ Idea. Fellow mythicist Robert M. Price also wrote a negative review, saying that he did not agree that the Egyptian parallels were as forceful as Harpur thought. In 2007, Harpur published a sequel, Water Into Wine.
David Fitzgerald has self-published several works in defense of the Christ myth theory, including Nailed: 10 Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (2010), and Jesus: Mything in Action, Vols. I–III (2017).
In his 2017 book Décadence, French writer and philosopher Michel Onfray argued for the Christ myth theory and based his hypothesis on the fact that—other than in the New Testament—Jesus is barely mentioned in accounts of the period.
The Christ myth theory enjoyed brief popularity in the Soviet Union, where it was supported by Sergey Kovalev, Alexander Kazhdan, Abram Ranovich, Nikolai Rumyantsev and Robert Vipper. However, several scholars, including Kazhdan, later retracted their views about mythical Jesus and by the end of the 1980s Iosif Kryvelev remained as virtually the only proponent of Christ myth theory in Soviet academia.
Ehrman notes that "the mythicists have become loud, and thanks to the Internet they've attracted more attention". Within a few years of the inception of the World Wide Web (c. 1990), mythicists such as Earl Doherty began to present their argument to a larger public via the internet.[q 96] Doherty created the website The Jesus Puzzle in 1996, while the organization Internet Infidels has featured the works of mythicists on their website and mythicism has been mentioned on several popular news sites.[q 97]
According to Derek Murphy, the documentaries The God Who Wasn't There (2005) and Zeitgeist (2007) raised interest for the Christ myth theory with a larger audience and gave the topic a large coverage on the Internet. Daniel Gullotta notes the relationship between the organization "Atheists United" and Carrier's work related to Mythicism, which has increased "the attention of the public".[q 98]
According to Ehrman, mythicism has a growing appeal "because these deniers of Jesus are at the same time denouncers of religion".[q 99] According to Casey, mythicism has a growing appeal because of an aversion toward Christian fundamentalism among American atheists.
Lack of support for mythicism
According to New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman, most people who study the historical period of Jesus believe that he did exist and do not write in support of the Christ myth theory.
Maurice Casey, theologian and scholar of New Testament and early Christianity, stated that the belief among professors that Jesus existed is generally completely certain. According to Casey, the view that Jesus did not exist is "the view of extremists", "demonstrably false" and "professional scholars generally regard it as having been settled in serious scholarship long ago".
In his 1977 book Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, classical historian and popular author Michael Grant concluded that "modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory". In support of this, Grant quoted Roderic Dunkerley's 1957 opinion that the Christ myth theory has "again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars". At the same time, he also quoted Otto Betz's 1968 opinion that in recent years "no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus—or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary". In the same book, he also wrote:
If we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.
Graeme Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Classical Ancient History and Archaeology at Australian National University has stated: "Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ—the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming".
R. Joseph Hoffmann, who had created the Jesus Project, which included both mythicists and historicists to investigate the historicity of Jesus, wrote that an adherent to the Christ myth theory asked to set up a separate section of the project for those committed to the theory. Hoffmann felt that to be committed to mythicism signaled a lack of necessary skepticism and he noted that most members of the project did not reach the mythicist conclusion.
Questioning the competence of proponents
Critics of the Christ myth theory question the competence of its supporters.[q 88] According to Ehrman:
Few of these mythicists are actually scholars trained in ancient history, religion, biblical studies or any cognate field, let alone in the ancient languages generally thought to matter for those who want to say something with any degree of authority about a Jewish teacher who (allegedly) lived in first-century Palestine.
In a response, Thompson questioned the polemical nature of this qualification, pointing at his own academic standing and expertise. According to Thompson, Ehrman "has attributed to my book arguments and principles which I had never presented, certainly not that Jesus had never existed". Thompson questions Ehrman's qualifications in regard to Old Testamentical writings and research, as well as his competence to recognize the problems involved in "reiterated narrative" and "the historicity of a literary figure", stating that Ehrman had "thoroughly [...] misunderstood [...] the very issue of the historicity of the New Testament figure of Jesus".
Maurice Casey has criticized the mythicists, pointing out their complete ignorance of how modern critical scholarship actually works. He also criticizes mythicists for their frequent assumption that all modern scholars of religion are Protestant fundamentalists of the American variety, insisting that this assumption is not only totally inaccurate, but also exemplary of the mythicists' misconceptions about the ideas and attitudes of mainstream scholars.
Questioning the mainstream view appears to have consequences for one's job perspectives.[xxix] According to Casey, Thompson's early work, which "successfully refuted the attempts of Albright and others to defend the historicity of the most ancient parts of biblical literature history", has "negatively affected his future job prospects".[q 88] Ehrman also notes that mythicist views would prevent one from getting employment in a religious studies department:
These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.
Few scholars have bothered to criticise Christ myth theories. Robert Van Voorst has written "Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed (Christ myth) arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely...The theory of Jesus' nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question." Paul L. Maier, former Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and current professor emeritus in the Department of History there has stated "Anyone who uses the argument that Jesus never existed is simply flaunting his ignorance." Among notable scholars who have directly addressed the Christ myth are Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey and Philip Jenkins.
In this book, Bart Ehrman surveys the arguments "mythicists" have made against the existence of Jesus since the idea was first mooted at the end of the 18th century. To the objection that there are no contemporary Roman records of Jesus' existence, Ehrman points out that such records exist for almost no one and there are mentions of Christ in several Roman works of history from only decades after the death of Jesus. The author states that the authentic letters of the apostle Paul in the New Testament were likely written within a few years of Jesus' death and that Paul likely personally knew James, the brother of Jesus. Although the gospel accounts of Jesus' life may be biased and unreliable in many respects, Ehrman writes, they and the sources behind them which scholars have discerned still contain some accurate historical information. So many independent attestations of Jesus' existence, Ehrman says, are actually "astounding for an ancient figure of any kind". Ehrman dismisses the idea that the story of Jesus is an invention based on pagan myths of dying-and-rising gods, maintaining that the early Christians were primarily influenced by Jewish ideas, not Greek or Roman ones, and repeatedly insisting that the idea that there was never such a person as Jesus is not seriously considered by historians or experts in the field at all.
In Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (2014), scholar of New Testament and early Christianity Maurice Casey treats the historical method, the reliability of the Gospels, the argument from silence from both the Gospels and the Pauline epistles, and the similarities with other religions of the time. According to Casey, many mythicists seem to object to fundamentalist perceptions of Christianity, while ignoring or being ignorant of liberal forms of Christianity.
Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, has written "What you can’t do, though, without venturing into the far swamps of extreme crankery, is to argue that Jesus never existed. The “Christ-Myth Hypothesis” is not scholarship, and is not taken seriously in respectable academic debate. The grounds advanced for the “hypothesis” are worthless. The authors proposing such opinions might be competent, decent, honest individuals, but the views they present are demonstrably wrong....Jesus is better documented and recorded than pretty much any non-elite figure of antiquity."
Traditional and Evangelical Christianity
Alexander Lucie-Smith, Catholic priest and doctor of moral theology, states that "People who think Jesus didn’t exist are seriously confused," but also notes that "the Church needs to reflect on its failure. If 40 per cent believe in the Jesus myth, this is a sign that the Church has failed to communicate with the general public."
Stanley E. Porter, president and dean of McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, and Stephen J. Bedard, a Baptist minister and graduate of McMaster Divinity, respond to Harpur's ideas from an evangelical standpoint in Unmasking the Pagan Christ: An Evangelical Response to the Cosmic Christ Idea, challenging the key ideas lying at the foundation of Harpur's thesis. Porter and Bedard conclude that there is sufficient evidence for the historicity of Jesus and assert that Harpur is motivated to promote "universalistic spirituality".[xxx]
Since 2005, several English-language documentaries have focused—at least in part—on the Christ myth theory:
- The God Who Wasn't There directed by Brian Flemming and featuring Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price (2005)
- The Pagan Christ produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and featuring Tom Harpur (2007)
- Zeitgeist: The Movie directed by Peter Joseph (2007)
- The Hidden Story of Jesus produced by Channel 4 and featuring Robert Beckford (2007)
- Religulous directed by Larry Charles and featuring Bill Maher (2008)
- Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill (2013)
- Christ myth theory portal
- Bible conspiracy theory
- Christian mythology
- Criticism of the Bible
- Criticism of Christianity
- Criticism of Jesus
- Historical background of the New Testament
- Historical reliability of the Gospels
- Historicity of the Bible
- Jesus in comparative mythology
- John of Gamala
- Josephus on Jesus
- List of Christ myth theory proponents
- List of messiah claimants
- Origins of Christianity
- Quest for the historical Jesus
- Sources for the historicity of Jesus
- Tacitus on Christ
- Per biblical studies, the major subdisciplines include translation, textual criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, biblical theology, and biblical archaeology.
Per biblical criticism, studies of the Old and New Testaments are often independent of each other, largely due to the difficulty of any single scholar having a sufficient grasp of the many languages required or of the cultural background for the different periods in which texts had their origins.
Cognate disciplines include (but are not limited to) archaeology, anthropology, folklore, linguistics, Oral Tradition studies, and historical and religious studies.
- Criteria being used to determine whether Biblical passages can be attributed to Jesus include multiple attestation, dissimilarity, embarrassment, historical plausibility, rejection and execution, and congruence.
- Per the time period AD 26 to 36, Jerusalem was part of Roman Provincia Iudaea or "Greater Judea", which incorporated Samaria and Idumea into an expanded territory. Traditionally spelled Iudaea to distinguish it from the smaller region—Judea proper. Galilee and Perea were not part of Provincia Iudaea at this time, but part of a Herodian Tetrarchy. The traditional usage of the term Palestine originated c. 311 with History of the Martyrs in Palestine by Eusebius, which then was used by subsequent writers.
- The basic facts of Jesus' life according to scholars:
- James D. G. Dunn (2003): "[these] two facts [of baptism and crucifixion] in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent."
- John Dominic Crossan: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus...agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."
- According to Herzog, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, preached about the coming Kingdom of God, attracted numerous followers including the twelve disciples, and was subsequently crucified by the order of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, which eventually lead to his immediate followers continuing his movement which soon became known as Christianity.
- E. P. Sanders, in "Jesus and Judaism" (1985), says there are eight facts that can be discerned about the historical Jesus: his Baptism, that he was a Galilean itinerant preacher who was reputed to do healings and other 'miracles', he called disciples and spoke of there being 12, that he confined his activity to Israel, that he engaged in controversy over the Temple, that he was crucified outside of Jerusalem by the Romans, that those disciples continued as a movement after his death. In his 1993 work, "The Historical figure of Jesus" he added six more: that Jesus was likely born in 4-6 BC under Herod the Great (the Gregorian calendar is wrong), Jesus grew up in Nazareth, Jesus taught in small villages and towns and seemed to avoid cities, Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples, he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities apparently at the instigation of the high priest, his disciples abandoned him at his death, later believed they saw him and thereafter believed Jesus would return.
- According to Lataster, "the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus' historical existence".
- Protestant Christian fundamentalists regard biblical inerrancy as fundamental of the Christian faith. In keeping with traditional Christian doctrines concerning biblical interpretation, the role Jesus plays in the Bible, and the role of the church in society, fundamentalists usually believe in a core of Christian beliefs that include the historical accuracy of the Bible and all its events as well as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
- See Rudolf Bultmann, who was a strong proponent of this demythologization.
Arnal (2015), pp. 75–76: "Whether Jesus himself existed as a historical figure or not, the gospels that tell of him are unquestionably mythic texts [...] Investigations into the historical Jesus require, by contrast, that the gospels be used as historical sources, and in fact the main difference between “conservative” and “liberal” scholarship revolves around how much legendary accretion is stripped away in order to arrive at the “historical core”"
- The central Christology of Paul conveys the notion of Christ's pre-existence and the identification of Christ as Kyrios. The Pauline epistles[q 49] use Kyrios to identify Jesus almost 230 times, and express the theme that the true mark of a Christian is the confession of Jesus as the true Lord. Paul viewed the superiority of the Christian revelation over all other divine manifestations as a consequence of the fact that Christ is the Son of God. The Pauline epistles also advanced the "cosmic Christology" later developed in the fourth gospel, elaborating the cosmic implications of Jesus' existence as the Son of God (see Christology §Apostolic Christology). Some scholars see Paul's writings as an amplification and explanation of the teachings of Jesus. Other scholars perceive that some teachings of Jesus in Paul's writings are different from the teachings found in the canonical gospels (see Pauline Christianity). In a similar fashion, per Paul’s usage of the term Khristós, some scholars see this as an example of Messiah language in ancient Judaism, while others contend that Paul’s usage of the term Khristós is idiosyncratic (see Messiah in Judaism).
- A modern positive argument vis-à-vis the negative argument from silence, is the argument to the best explanation. As per the argument of Doherty and Carrier, derived from a sceptical analysis of the Pauline epistles, which reveals peculiarities that they claim are better understood in context with the supreme angel of Philo, already extant in Jewish angelology (Confusion of Tongues 62f, 146f; On Dreams 1.215; etc.), whose theological attributes correspond to the attributes of the Celestial Jesus of Paul (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 2:17, 4:14, etc.) thus being the same angel of Philo. And that furthermore, in early Christian belief this same angel deviates from Philo's account, per Phil 2:5–11; 1 Cor 15 with an incarnation, death, burial and resurrection taking place just below the moon (cf. the same, per the death and resurrection of Osiris), which identifies Christianity as distinct from Judaism.
- Carrier (2014b): "Osiris descends and becomes incarnate and is slain not on earth, but in the lower heavens, and then rises from the dead and reascends to power in the upper heavens [...] Adam was in some accounts buried in the heavens (as in chapter 40 of the Greek text of the Life of Adam and Eve), so possibly was Jesus imagined to have been. The incarnation, in a body of Davidic flesh, still would have been imagined as necessary to fulfill scripture. But as depicted in the Ascension of Isaiah, this would have happened in “the sky.”"
- Carrier (2002), §. The Argument to the Best Explanation: "[Per a critical review of The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty] when he argues that the sayings and deeds of Jesus are missing from the epistles (pp. 26-30) it is not the AfS [Argument from Silence] aspect of this argument that is most effective (though it is pretty good: he shows several examples of where we certainly should expect a detail to be mentioned yet it is not). Rather, it is the ABE [Argument to the Best Explanation] element..."
- Carrier (2005), p. 238, §. The Argument to the Best Explanation: "The argument to the best explanation works something like this: any statement about the past that we are justified in believing true to any degree must be tested against five criteria, and if no other competing statement about the same event comes close in meeting the same criteria, then we are more than justified in believing it. ...In general, the more one explanation exceeds all others on each criterion, the more confident we can be it’s true."
- Philo selected some of the philosophical tenets of the Greco-Roman world to fuse and harmonize with his exegesis of the Septuagint. Especially the Stoic doctrine of God as the only "efficient cause" (see Philo's view of God) as well as the general ethics and use of allegories found in Stoicism. His exegesis of the Septuagint is based upon the assumption that it contains a literal meaning for the un-initiated and an allegorical truth i.e. the "real" meaning that only the initiated could comprehend.
Niehoff (2011), p. 144: "[Per exegesis] Philo's approach thus relies on a delicate balance between the literal [body] and the allegorical meanings [spirit] of Scripture."
- The concept of the "Mythic Hero" as an archetype was first developed by Lord Raglan in 1936. It is a set of 22 common traits that he said were shared by many heroes in various cultures, myths and religions throughout history and around the world. Raglan argued that the higher the score, the more likely the figure's biography is mythical. Raglan did not categorically deny the historicity of the Heroes he looked at, rather it was their common biographies he considered as nonhistorical (see Rank-Raglan mythotype).
- Per Bart Ehrman, in regards to the historical reality of Christian tradition, most critical scholars assert that "there are forty to sixty-five years separating Jesus’s death and our earliest accounts of his life." In this 40 to 65 year time period, Jesus traditions (i.e. the practices, beliefs, and biographical details of Jesus) were transmitted via word of mouth (see Oral gospel traditions) or hypothetical written sources (see Q source)—by early Christian tradents (see Sacred tradition).
- Per Anthropomorphism, Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics to abstract concepts e.g. the personification of wisdom and Greek personified concepts such as: Arete—virtue, excellence, goodness, and valour; Techne—art and skill; etc.
- Many mythologies of the Greco-Roman era and region feature myths of a god who dies and returns to life (see Dying-and-rising god). Richard Carrier gives the following as germane examples that were extant prior to the origin of Christianity: Osiris, Adonis, Romulus, Zalmoxis, Inanna. And notes that Mithras is not a dying-and-rising god, but like those gods, Mithras is associated with a suffering or struggle that results in a triumphant victory over death.
Carrier (2014b): "Jesus belongs to a fraternity of worshipped demigods peculiar to the Greco-Roman era and region. All were “savior gods” (literally so called). They were all the “son” of God (occasionally his “daughter”). They all undergo a “passion” (literally the same word in the Greek, patheôn), which was some suffering or struggle (sometimes even resulting in death), through which they all obtain victory over death, which they share in some fashion with their followers. They all had stories about them set in human history on earth. Yet none of them ever actually existed."
- See also Ludemann (2002), p. 28: "A reconstruction of the chronology of Paul must begin with an analysis of Gal. 1:6–2:10. the central pillar of every chronology of Paul."
- See Philippians#2:6–11 for full text:
5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men;
8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient [even] unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name;
10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven and [things] on earth and [things] under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- The "Early High Christology Club" includes Martin Hengel, Larry Hurtado,[q 58] and Richard Bauckham.[q 59]
- Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method, by Sidney Greidanus, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999.
- The Old Testament and the Significance of Jesus: Embracing Change – maintaining Christian Identity : the Emerging Center in Biblical Scholarship, by Fredrick Carlson Holmgren, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999.
- The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, by Edmund P. Clowney, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 1991.
- Four Portraits of Jesus: Studies in the Gospels and Their Old Testament Background, by Elizabeth E. Platt, Paulist Press, 2004
- The Great Argument, Or, Jesus Christ in the Old Testament; by William H. Thomson, Harper and Brothers, 1884.
- One reason why Christ mythicists suspect forgery is because the passage previous to the Testimonium Flavianum concerns Pontius Pilate setting his soldiers loose to massacre a large crowd of Jews in Jerusalem and—without the Testimonium Flavianum—the following paragraph starts by saying: "About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder". They deem this suspicious as Josephus supposedly just wrote about Jesus being "the Christ" and the rise of "the tribe of Christians", seeing this as not fitting in the context. Other reasons include the passage not being something a devout Jew such as Josephus would write (especially, "if it be lawful to call him a man" and "doer of incredible deeds"), as his writing was usually sophisticated and would have explained anything out of the ordinary to his Gentile audience, such as explaining what the word "Christ" means, why Jesus was called that and further explanations such as how he won over many Jews and Greeks, as he did for every other group (see book 18, chapter 1), or why he would mention Jesus "appearing" in the "third day"—a Christian creed—without explaining it and how no one seemed to notice this passage until the 4th century, not even Origen who quotes Josephus extensively in his works, thus leading mythicists to think that the Testimonium Flavianum is a forgery of the 4th century, perhaps written by Eusebius in order to provide an outside Jewish authority for the life of Jesus.
- Josephus mentions several people named Jesus (Jesus son of Ananias, Jesus son of Damneus, Jesus son of Onias and Jesus the brother of John) as well as various prophets, being avidly against calling any of them Messiahs, even describing them as "having evil or dishonorable intentions" and sometimes calling them "charlatans" (the Egyptian, the Samaritan, Theudas and an unnamed "impostor"), but providing for each more information and explanations than the Jesus passage.
- More specifically, from Jesus son of Damneus, who is mentioned at the end of book 20, chapter 9:1).
- The Jews get angry at this, therefore complaints and demands are made, the king removes Ananus from being high priest and Jesus is then made high priest.
- Ehrman-blog, Paul’s View of Jesus as an Angel: "Paul understood Christ to be an angel who became a human." See also Paul’s View of Jesus as an Angel, Christ as an Angel in Paul (10 april 2014), Christ as an Angel in Paul (7 juni 2014); and Carrier's response at Bart Ehrman on How Jesus Became God.
- In particular, the transformations faced by deities have distinct differences from the resurrection of Jesus. Osiris regains consciousness as king of the underworld, rather than being "transformed into an eschatological new creation" as Craig S. Keener writes. While Jesus was born from a human woman (traditionally a virgin) and accompanied by shepherds, Mitra is born (unaccompanied by shepherds) from the goddess Aditi (to whom the word "virgin" is only rarely, loosely, and indirectly applied in a highly poetic sense), while Mithras (granted, accompanied by shepherds later) emerges full-grown from a rock. The rebirth of many of these deities was a clear metaphor for the renewal of spring that repeated the death every year, rather than a historic event meant to proclaim the god's cancellation of death. Some of these parallels appear after Christianity (e.g. the earliest references to Adonis rising from the dead is in the second century AD, Attis a century later), and are often only known through later Christian sources. Most other and later parallels were made in the works of James George Frazer, or may be guilty of parallelomania and even misrepresentation of religious (both Christian and non-Christian) and linguistic sources (for example, ignoring the false cognate relationship between Christ and Krishna).
- Some have even identified the historical and archetypal Jesuses or citing Carl Jung's statement "this Christ of St. Paul's would hardly have been possible without the historical Jesus."
- For a more brief statement of his position, Wells refers readers to his article, "Jesus, Historicity of" in Tom Flynn's The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Prometheus Books, 2007, pp. 446ff. Per Wells, G. A. Cutting Jesus Down to Size. Open Court, 2009, pp. 327–328.
- His subsequential study of the topic was published as The Jesus Puzzle in a series of articles in the Humanist (1995–1996) and as a book (1999), and republished as Jesus: Neither God nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus (2009).
- For example:
- Chris Keith and Anthony LeDonne (eds.), Jesus, History and the Demise of Authenticity (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2012)
- Dale Allison, 'The Historians' Jesus and the Church', in Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage (ed. Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Richard Hays; Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), pp. 79–95
- Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies (Amherst. NY: Prometheus Books, 2007), pp. 185–217
- Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (Louisville. KY: John Knox Press, 2002)
- Stanley Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000)
- See Thomas Verenna, Goodbye for now?
- See also Stephen J. Bedard, Jesus Myth Theory, for an overview of blogs by Bedard on the Jesus Myth Theory.
- Stark (1997):
- While others fled cities, Christians stayed in urban areas during plague, ministering and caring for the sick.
- Christian populations grew faster because of the prohibition of abortion, birth control and infanticide. Since infanticide tended to affect female newborn more frequently, early Christians had a more even sex ratio and therefore a higher percentage of childbearing women than pagans.
- To the same effect, women were valued higher and allowed to participate in worship leading to a high rate of female converts.
- In a time of two epidemics (165 and 251) which killed up to a third of the whole population of the Roman Empire each time, the Christian message of redemption through sacrifice offered a more satisfactory explanation of why bad things happen to innocent people. Further, the tighter social cohesion and mutual help made them able to better cope with the disasters, leaving them with less casualties than the general population. This would also be attractive to outsiders, who would want to convert. Lastly, the epidemics left many non-Christians with a reduced number of interpersonal bonds, making the forming of new one both necessary and easier.
- Christians did not fight against their persecutors by open violence or guerrilla warfare, but willingly went to their martyrdom while praying for their captors, which added credibility to their evangelism.
- Ehrman (2012), pp. 12, 347, n. 1: "[Per] Jesus mythicism, Earl Doherty, defines the view as follows: it is “the theory that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition.” [Jesus: Neither God nor Man: The Case for a mythical Jesus (Ottawa, ON: Age of Reason Publications, 2009), vii–viii.] In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."
- Gullotta (2017), p. 312: "[Per Jesus mythicism] Given the fringe status of these theories, the vast majority have remained unnoticed and unaddressed within scholarly circles."
- Dunn, James D. G. (29 July 2003). "Jesus the Founder of Christianity". Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 174ff. ISBN 978-0-8028-3931-2.: "If the starting assumption of a fair degree of continuity between Jesus and his native religion has a priori persuasiveness, then it can hardly make less sense to assume a fair degree of continuity between Jesus and what followed. ...the first followers of Jesus were known as ‘Nazarenes’ (Acts 24.5), which can be explained only by the fact that they saw themselves and were seen as followers of ‘Jesus the Nazarene’; and then as ‘Christians’ (Acts 11.26), which again must be because they were known to be followers of the one they called the ‘Christ’. Moreover, Jesus is explicitly referred to once or twice in the early tradition as the ‘foundation’ (themelion), which Paul laid (including Jesus tradition?), and on which the Corinthians were to build their discipleship (1 Cor. 3.10–14); or as the ‘corner stone’ (akrogōniaios) which began the building and established its orientation (Eph. 2.20; 1 Pet. 2.6)."
- Ehrman, Bart D. (28 September 2015). "Early Christian Docetism". The Bart Ehrman Blog. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
From the surviving documents of the period, there appear to have been five major competing Christologies (= understandings of who Christ was) throughout the Christian church [...] [Docetism] understood Christ to be a fully divine being and therefore not human; Adoptionism understood him to be a fully human being and not actually divine; Separationism understood him to be two distinct beings, one human (the man Jesus) and the other divine (the divine Christ); Modalism understood him to be God the Father become flesh. The fifth view is the one that “won out,” the Proto-orthodox view...
- Pagels (1975), p. 1: "Whoever knows contemporary New Testament scholarship knows Paul as the opponent of gnostic heresy. [...] Yet if this view of Paul is accurate, the Pauline exegesis of second-century gnostics is nothing less than astonishing. Gnostic writers not only fail to grasp the whole point of Paul’s writings, but they dare to claim his letters as a primary source of gnostic theology."
- Pagels (1979), p. 196: "If we go back to the earliest known sources of Christian tradition—the sayings of Jesus (although scholars disagree on the question of which sayings are genuinely authentic), we can see how both gnostic and orthodox forms of Christianity could emerge as variant interpretations of the teaching and significance of Christ."
- Ehrman (2003), pp. 125, 225: "[Most Gnostics claimed] that Christ was a divine emissary from above, totally spirit, and that he entered the man Jesus temporarily [...] Gnostics were saying that Jesus literally died "apart from God," in that the divine element within him had left him."
- Green (2008), p. 239, §. The Rise and Judgment of the False Teachers among You (2 Peter 2:1-3): "[Per 2 Peter 2:1-3] The heretics Peter seeks to arrest will bring with them “heresies” (αἱρέσεις, haireseis), a noun that originally had to do with a choice made (1 Macc. 8:30) or an inclination. From there it could mean a group, school, or sect differentiated from others (Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 26:5; 28:22). By extension, it could speak of a faction (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20) or the distinct doctrine of a factional group (Philo, Planting 34 §151). In other words, “It thus comes to be the αἵρεσις [hairesis] (teaching) of a particular αἵρεσις [hairesis] (school)” (H. Schlier, TDNT 1:181). Doctrinal and social aspects were tightly bound. But in 2 Pet. 2:1 the author uses it in a pejorative sense: it points to the heretics’ heterodox doctrine (Herm. Sim. 9.23.5; Ign. Eph. 6.2; Ign. Trall. 6.1; H. Schlier, TDNT 1:180–84; MM 13–14; BDAG 27–28). The presence of heresy, therefore, is a contradiction both to apostolic teaching and Christian community. In other words, “ἐκκλησία [ekklēsia, church] and αἵρεσις [hairesis, faction/heresy] are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter” (H. Schlier, TDNT 1:181)."
- Mythicists are critical of the conclusions and presuppositions of mainstream scholarship:
- Ellegård (1993), pp. 170–171: "It is fair to say that most present-day theologians also accept that large parts of the Gospel stories are, if not fictional, at least not to be taken at face value as historical accounts. On the other hand, no theologian seems to be able to bring himself to admit that the question of the historicity of Jesus must be judged to be an open one. It appears to me that the theologians are not living up to their responsibility as scholars when they refuse to discuss the possibility that even the existence of the Jesus of the Gospels can be legitimately called into question."
- Pfoh (2012), pp. 80–81: "The main reason for holding to the historicity of the figure of Jesus, as his activities are narrated in the Gospels, resides not primarily in historical evidence but derives instead from a modern theological necessity."
- Thompson (2005), p. 8, §. Historicizing the Figure of Jesus, the Messiah: "The assumptions that (1) the gospels are about a Jesus of history and (2) expectations that have a role within a story’s plot were also expectations of a historical Jesus and early Judaism [are not justified]."
- Lataster (2014), pp. 26–27, §. Conclusion: "[Per mainstream Jesus researchers viz. Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey] the approach taken by the scholars agreeing with the consensus view is uncritically grounded in unjustified presuppositions, and sometimes appears as unprofessional and unscholarly..."
- Carrier (2012), p. 11: "[Per attempts to ascertain the “real” historical Jesus] The growing consensus now is that this entire quest for criteria has failed. The entire field of Jesus studies has thus been left without any valid method."
- Price (2009), p. 61, §. Methodological Presuppositions: "[W]e must keep in mind that consensus is no criterion. The truth may not rest in the middle. The truth may not rest with the majority. Every theory and individual argument must be evaluated on its own. If we appeal instead to “received opinion” or “the consensus of scholars,” we are merely abdicating our own responsibility, as well as committing the fallacy of appeal to the majority."
- Carrier (2012), p. 21: "I believe there is ample reason to conclude that the consensus is not reliable in the study of the historical Jesus and therefore cannot be appealed to as evidence for a conclusion. [...] [However] the prima facie evidence for a historical Jesus, which constitutes all the valid evidence the consensus could ever appeal to, still cannot be ignored. But it should be examined anew (a task I'll undertake in the next volume [i.e. On the Historicity of Jesus (2014)])."
- Ehrman (2012), pp. 19, 348, n. 10: "Other writers who are often placed in the mythicist camp present a slightly different view, namely, that there was indeed a historical Jesus but that he was not the founder of Christianity, a religion rooted in the mythical Christ-figure invented by its original adherents. This view was represented in midcentury by Archibald Robinson, who thought that even though there was a Jesus, “we know next to nothing about this Jesus.” (A. Robertson, Jesus: Myth or History?, 107.) [Robertson, Archibald. Jesus: Myth or History? London: Watts & Co., 1946.]"
- Robertson, Archibald (1946). Jesus: Myth or History?. Thinker's Library, No. 110. London: Watts & Co. pp. 99ff.: "The myth theory as stated by J. M. Robertson does not exclude the possibility of an historical Jesus. “A teacher or teachers named Jesus” may have uttered some of the Gospel sayings “at various periods.” (J. M. Robertson , Christianity and Mythology, revised edition, p. 125.) The Jesus ben-Pandera of the Talmud may have led a movement round which the survivals of an ancient solar or other cult gradually clustered. [Robertson (1910) 284ff.] It is even “not very unlikely that there were several Jesuses who claimed to be Messiahs.” [Robertson (1910) 287.]"
- Robertson, John MacKinnon (1910). Christianity and Mythology. Watts & Co. p. 125.: "All that can rationally be claimed is that a teacher or teachers named Jesus, or several differently named teachers called Messiahs, may have Messianically uttered some of these teachings at various periods, presumably after the writing of the Pauline epistles."
- Robertson (1946), p. 107: "We know next to nothing about this Jesus. He is not the founder of anything that we can recognize as Christianity. He is a mere postulate of historical criticism—a dead leader of a lost cause, to whom sayings could be credited and round whom a legend could be written."
- Smith, p. 87: "The writing of biographies of Jesus is of doubtful critical value. Legend has coloured the historic data too much, and outside corroborative testimony is too slender..."
- McCabe (1948): "Many (including the present writer) are content to infer broadly, from the scanty reliable evidence and the religious developments of the first century, that probably some Jew named Jesus adopted the Persian belief [see Avesta] in the end of the world and, thinking that it was near, left his Essenian monastery [see Essenes] to warn his fellows, and was put to death. They feel that the question of historicity has little importance [...] the very scanty biographical details even as given in the Gospels [see Mark] do not justify the claim of a "unique personality,"...
- Other mythicists state that Jesus lived in a dim past:
- Price (2009), p. 65, §. The Traditional Christ-Myth Theory: "Some mythicists (the early G. A. Wells and Alvar Ellegard) thought that the first Christians had in mind Jesus who had lived as a historical figure, just not of the recent past, much as the average Greek believed Hercules and Achilles really lived somewhere back there in the past."
- Price (2011), pp. 387–388, §. The “Pre-Christian Jesus” Revisited: "[I]f we trace Christianity back to Jesus ben Pandera or an Essene Teacher of Righteousness in the first century BCE, we still have a historical Jesus."
- Doherty (2012), §. Bart Ehrman on G. A. Wells: "[G. A.] Wells interprets Paul as concluding that Christ had been born, lived and died on earth at an unknown time in the past, though he opts for Paul locating this during the reign of Alexander Janneus (103–76 BCE), known to have crucified hundreds of his rabbinic opponents."
- Lataster (2014b): "[Richard Carrier's hypothesis of ‘minimal mythicism’], highly influenced by the work of Earl Doherty, states that Jesus was initially believed to be a celestial figure, who came to be historicised over time."
- Agnosticism and atheism regarding Jesus' historicity:
- Price (2000), p. 17: "Generations of Rationalists and freethinkers have held that Jesus Christ corresponds to no historical character: There never was a Jesus of Nazareth. We might call this categorical denial “Jesus atheism.” What I am describing is something different, a “Jesus agnosticism.” There may have been a Jesus on earth in the past, but the state of the evidence is so ambiguous that we can never be sure what this figure was like or, indeed, whether there was such a person."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 365, n. 3: "As Robert Price puts it, “A heavy burden of proof rests on anyone who would vindicate the [canonical Gospels’] material as genuine.” (...this sort of radical methodological skepticism has led Price to a “Jesus agnosticism”—he is uncertain whether there ever was a historical Jesus.)"
- Lataster (2015a), p. 91, §. Conclusion: "Price speculates that the sources should point historical Jesus scholars in the direction of “complete agnosticism”"
- Hector Avalos, (June 7, 2014), A Historical or Mythical Jesus? An Agnostic Viewpoint. Lecture given at the University of Arizona. "There are three possible positions when it comes to Jesus. You can be a ‘historicist,’ you can be a ‘mythicist,’ or you can be an ‘agnostic’. . . An agnostic says: “Well, the data are insufficient to settle the question one way or the other.” That’s where I am."
- Carrier (2013): "The hypothesis that Jesus never really existed has started to gain more credibility in the expert community. Some now agree historicity agnosticism is warranted, including Arthur Droge (professor of early Christianity at UCSD), Kurt Noll (associate professor of religion at Brandon University), and Thomas Thompson (renowned professor of theology, emeritus, at the University of Copenhagen). Others are even more certain historicity is doubtful, including Thomas Brodie (director emeritus of the Dominican Biblical Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland), Robert Price (who has two Ph.D.’s from Drew University, in theology and New Testament studies), and myself (I have a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University and have several peer reviewed articles on the subject). Still others, like Philip Davies (professor of biblical studies, emeritus, at the University of Sheffield), disagree with the hypothesis but admit it is respectable enough to deserve consideration."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 137: "Robert Price argues that the ancient Mediterranean world “was hip-deep in religions centering on the death and resurrection of a savior god.” He then catalogs a wide variety of examples to explain the rise of the Christ cult through Paul—including the gods Baal, Tammuz/Dumuzi, Osiris, Attis, Dionysus, Mithras, and even the Corn King. From these he concludes that the Christ cult formed by Paul was “a Mystery cult” pure and simple."
- Ehrman (2012), p. 4: "The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist. That is what this book will set out to demonstrate."
- Thompson (2012), §. Comment #4: "I think it is very difficult to establish the historicity of figures in biblical narrative, as the issue rather relates to the quality of texts one is dealing with. I work further on this issue in my Messiah Myth of 2005. Here I argue that the synoptic gospels can hardly be used to establish the historicity of the figure of Jesus; for both the episodes and sayings with which the figure of Jesus is presented are stereotypical and have a history that reaches centuries earlier. I have hardly shown that Jesus did not exist and did not claim to."
- Dykstra, Tom (2015). "Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship". The Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS). 8:1: 29.
As for the question of whether Jesus existed, the best answer is that any attempt to find a historical Jesus is a waste of time. It can’t be done, it explains nothing, and it proves nothing.
- Davies, Philip (August 2012). "Did Jesus Exist?". www.bibleinterp.com. The Bible and Interpretation. Retrieved 29 January 2017.: "The rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear [...] I don’t think, however, that in another 20 years there will be a consensus that Jesus did not exist [the "Jesus atheism" viewpoint], or even possibly didn’t exist [the "Jesus agnosticism" viewpoint], but a recognition that his existence is not entirely certain would nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 9: "[Bruno Bauer] denied the value of the New Testament, especially the Gospels and Paul’s letters, in establishing the existence of Jesus."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 9: "[Bruno Bauer] argued that the lack of mention of Jesus in non-Christian writings of the first century shows that Jesus did not exist. Neither do the few mentions of Jesus by Roman writers in the early second century establish his existence."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 9: "[Per Bruno Bauer, Christianity and its Christ] were born in Rome and Alexandria when adherents of Roman Stoicism, Greek Neo-Platonism and Judaism combined to form a new religion that needed a founder."
- Evans, Craig A. (2008). Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. InterVarsity Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8308-3355-9.
[R. M.] Price thinks the evidence is so weak for the historical Jesus that we cannot know anything certain or meaningful about him. He is even willing to entertain the possibility that there never was a historical Jesus.
- Price (2011), pp. 36, 56, n. 38, §. Jesus at the Vanishing Point – Son of Scripture: "[T]he more apparent it becomes that most Gospel narratives can be adequately accounted for by reference to scriptural prototypes, Doherty suggests [Jesus Puzzle (1999) 79–82, 225–230.], the more natural it is to picture early Christians beginning with a more or less vague savior myth and seeking to lend it color and detail by anchoring it in a particular historical period and clothing it in scriptural garb." [First published: Price (2009), p. 68.]
- Doherty (1999a), §. Was There No Historical Jesus?: "[M]odern analysis of the Gospels has placed them in the category of "midrash", a traditional Jewish scribal and teaching device in which elements drawn from the scriptures are combined and reworked to create new prescriptions for moral behavior and new interpretations of divine truths. Traditional midrash often did this through entirely fictional creations, whose story elements served symbolic purposes, like morality tales."
- Doherty (1997), §. Piece No. 8: The Gospels Not History: "John Shelby Spong (in his Liberating the Gospels) regards the Synoptic Gospels as midrashic fiction in virtually every detail, though he believes it was based on an historical man."
- Bethune, Brian (23 March 2016). "Did Jesus really exist?". Macleans.ca (Macleans March 28, 2016). Rogers Media.
[Richard Carrier notes that per corroborating the New Testament account of Jesus] for a century there are no other Christian witnesses; perhaps more inexplicably, no pagan witnesses (whose references to Jesus would have been mentioned by later Christians, either to celebrate or [to] refute).
- Argument from silence:
- Ehrman (2012), p. 34: "[The basic mythicist position is] the negative argument, that we have no reliable witness that even mentions a historical Jesus, and the positive one, that his story appears to have been modeled on the accounts told of other divinities..."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 165: "[Some Christ myth theorists] make much of the claim that there is little or no credible information about the historical Jesus to be found in first—and second—century non-Christian sources or in Paul, the earliest Christian source. Surely if a miracle-working prophet like the Jesus of the Gospels actually existed, it is argued, Paul and pagan contemporaries would have mentioned his feats and his teachings. Instead, they argue, we find a virtual silence."
- Paul's epistles:
- Lataster (2015a), p. 70, §. Critiquing the Epistles: "Paul’s knowledge of Jesus comes from the Scriptures and his direct channel to the divine rather than first-hand eyewitness accounts, he can almost certainly be written off as a reliable and primary source of evidence for the historical Jesus. New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann (University of Göttingen) agrees: “In short, Paul cannot be considered a reliable witness to either the teachings, the life, or the historical existence of Jesus.” (Gerd Lüdemann, “Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus,” in Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth, ed. R. Joseph Hoffmann (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), p. 212.)"
- Price (2009), p. 63, §. The Traditional Christ-Myth Theory: "[W]e should never guess from the Epistles that Jesus died in any particular historical or political context, only that the fallen angels (Col 2:15), the archons of this age, did him in, little realizing they were sealing their own doom (1 Cor 2:6–8)."
- Price (2006), pp. 66–67: "Why are the gospels filled with rewritten stories of Jonah, David, Moses, Elijah, and Elisha rather than reports of the historical Jesus? Quite likely because the earliest Christians, perhaps Jewish, Samaritan, and Galilean sectarians like the Nasoreans or Essenes, did not understand their savior to have been a figure of mundane history at all, any more than the devotees of the cults of Attis, Hercules, Mithras, and Osiris did. Their gods, too, had died and risen in antiquity."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 33: "Scholars such as [G. A.] Wells, [Earl] Doherty, and [R. M.] Price argue that Paul’s view of Jesus was not anything like the recent, contemporary Galilean figure we find in the Gospels. ...Indeed, the Pauline Christ was actually quite close to the sorts of divinities we find in ancient mystery religions."
- Lataster (2016), p. 191: "[S]ceptical analyses reveal that Paul says nothing about Jesus that unambiguously situates him on Earth in recent history."
- Wells, G. A. ap. Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 203, §. Paul’s Lack of Historical Information: "[Paul’s] letters have no allusion to the parents of Jesus, let alone to the virgin birth. They never refer to a place of birth [...] They give no indication of the time or place of his earthly existence. They do not refer to his trial before a Roman official, nor to Jerusalem as the place of execution. They mention neither John the Baptist, nor Judas, nor Peter’s denial of his master [...] These letters also fail to mention any miracles Jesus is supposed to have worked, a particularly striking omission, since, according to the gospels he worked so many. (G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1982), 22.)"
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 202: "While New Testament scholars agree that Paul has relatively little to say about the life and ministry of Jesus, most grant that Paul viewed Jesus as a recent contemporary. The most extreme legendary-Jesus theorists, however—particularly the Christ myth theorists—deny this. They argue that nothing in Paul’s letters indicates that he believed Jesus was a contemporary of his. Rather, they contend, the Jesus of Paul’s theology is a savior figure patterned after similar figures within ancient mystery religions. According to the theory, Paul believed that Christ entered the world at some point in the distant past—or that he existed only in a transcendent mythical realm—and died to defeat evil powers and redeem humanity. Only later was Jesus remythologized [i.e. historicized] as a Jewish contemporary."
- Wells (1999), pp. 94–111, §. Conclusion: The Origins and Development of Christology
- Wells (1999b). "The Jewish literature describes Wisdom [personified] as God's chief agent, a member of his divine council, etc., and this implies supernatural, but not, I agree, divine status."
- Wells (2009), p. 328. "I have always allowed that Paul believed in a Jesus who, fundamentally supernatural, had nevertheless been incarnated on Earth as a man."
- Carrier (2014), p. 53: "At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other. [...] Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm [not on Earth]."
- Price (2003), p. 350: "This astonishingly complete absence of reliable gospel material begins to coincide, along its own authentic trajectory ...with another minimalist approach to the historical Jesus, namely, that there never was one. Most of the Dutch Radical scholars, following Bruno Bauer, argued that all of the gospel tradition was fabricated to historicize an originally bare datum of a savior, perhaps derived from the Mystery Religions or Gnosticism or even further afield. The basic argument offered for this position, it seems to me, is that of analogy, the resemblances between Jesus and Gnostic and Mystery Religion saviors being just too numerous and close to dismiss."
- Couchoud (1939), p. 33, §. Elements of Christianity. "[Per Numb. xiii. 17, Septuagint xiii. 16, A.V.] Moses called Oshea [the son of Nun, by the theological title] Joshua, which means Jahweh saves. Jahweh [the deity] means when he says of Oshea “My Name is upon him” that one of the names of God is Jahweh saves. ...Joshua in Hebrew, Iesous in Greek, Jesus in Latin, is the personal name of the Son of Man, of the Christ, our Lord. It is the name “which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth” (Phil. ii. 9–10)."
- Carrier (2014b). "[Per the Jewish celestial Jesus] Philo says this being was identified as the figure named “Jesus” in Zechariah 6. So it would appear that already before Christianity there were Jews aware of a celestial being named Jesus who had all of the attributes the earliest Christians were associating with their celestial being named Jesus."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 13. "[G. A.] Wells argues that the Gospels contain much that is demonstrably legendary, and they are directed by theological (not historical) purposes."
- Thompson (2005), p. 3, §. Historicizing the Figure of Jesus, the Messiah. "New Testament scholars commonly hold the opinion that a historical person would be something very different from the Christ (or messiah), with whom, for example, the author of the Gospel of Mark identifies his Jesus (Hebrew: Joshua = savior), opening his book with the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s son.”"
- Lataster (2014), p. 19, §. Raphael Lataster’s Jesus Agnosticism: "[It is] clear that much of the Gospels has been influenced by earlier religions and myths, including some clear parallels with Philo of Alexandria’s Logos figure."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), pp. 314–315, n. 23: "[Per Scholars who classify the Gospels as “fiction”] There is no consensus among scholars within this camp as to what exact kind of fiction the Gospels are intended to be. Candidates include . . . “legend,” (R. M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2003), 21.)"
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), pp. 137–138: "Robert Price goes so far as to argue that every aspect of the Jesus story found in the Gospels fits the “mythic hero archetype, with nothing left over.” With such a strong correspondence between Jesus and universally acknowledged mythic figures, the suggestion that the Jesus story is rooted in history while the other hero stories are not seems highly implausible to some."
- Price (2000), p. 259: "Alan Dundes has shown, the gospel life of Jesus corresponds in most particulars with the worldwide paradigm of the Mythic Hero Archetype as delineated by Lord Raglan, Otto Rank, and others."
- Price (2003), p. 21: "The Gospels come under serious suspicion because there is practically nothing in them that does not conform to this “Mythic Hero Archetype”."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 163: "Christ myth theorists argue that Paul views Jesus as a cosmic savior figure, along the lines of a mystery-religion deity, not a historical person in the recent past. They argue that it was only later, when the Gospels were written, that a fictitious historical narrative was imposed on this mythical cosmic savior figure."
- Wells (2009), p. 15: "What we have in the gospels is surely a fusion of two originally quite independent streams of tradition [...] The Galilean preacher of the early first century who had met with rejection, and the supernatural personage of the early epistles, [the Jesus of Paul] who sojourned briefly on Earth and then, rejected, returned to heaven—have been condensed into one. The [human] preacher has been given a [mythical] salvific death and resurrection, and these have been set not in an unspecified past (as in the early epistles) but in a historical context consonant with the Galilean preaching. The fusion of the two figures will have been facilitated by the fact that both owe quite a lot of their substance in the documents—to ideas very important in the Jewish Wisdom literature."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 69, n. 120: "Those who, over the last two hundred years, have doubted the existence of Jesus have argued that the lack of contemporary corroboration of Jesus by classical authors is a main indication that he did not exist. (See, e.g., The Existence of Christ Disproved (London: Heatherington, 1841) 214. More recently, see Michael Martin, The Evidence against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1991).)"
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 163: "Scholars who fall within the legendary-Jesus spectrum—especially the Christ myth theorists—typically argue that there is little-to-no independent information regarding a historical Jesus to be found in early non-Christian sources."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 32: "[Per the references to Jesus in non-Christian sources, Christ myth theorists] argue that each of these references is historically suspect. Some of the passages can be shown to be Christian interpolations, and those that are not interpolations are merely passing on hearsay—what Christians at the time were claiming about Jesus."
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 13: "[Per Jesus] Wells argues, we need independent corroboration from other, “objective” sources to affirm his existence. He [Wells] minutely examines these proposed other sources, from Tacitus to Talmud, and finds that they contain no independent traditions about Jesus. Therefore, they are not admissible [evidence]."
- Wells, George A. (12 August 2011). "Is There Independent Confirmation of What the Gospels Say of Jesus?". Free Inquiry. Vol. 31 no. 5.
- Wells, George A. (24 May 2012). "Ehrman on the Historicity of Jesus and Early Christian Thinking". Free Inquiry. Vol. 32 no. 4.
Ehrman acknowledges that pagan and Jewish testimony is too late to establish that Jesus lived [...] [But per Tacitus and Josephus] Ehrman seems a little reluctant to surrender these two witnesses altogether, for he reverts to them (97), saying that ‘Tacitus and (possibly) Josephus... indirectly provide independent attestation to Jesus's existence from outside the gospels,’ for they ‘heard information’ about him from informants who ‘themselves had heard stories about him’ from Christians who may in turn ‘have simply heard stories about him.’ Of course there were umpteen stories about him current by the late first and early second centuries; but what they attest to is not Jesus’s existence but rather to belief in his existence.
- Lataster (2015a), p. 75, §. Critiquing the Canonical Gospels: "Richard Carrier also raises the possibility (and perhaps the need to be cautious) that all sources dated after the Gospel of Mark could have been tainted by it, and that this simply cannot be ruled out."
- Carrier (2015), p. 418: "[T]here is no independent evidence of Jesus’s existence outside the New Testament. All external evidence for his existence, even if it were fully authentic (though much of it isn’t), cannot be shown to be independent of the Gospels, or Christian informants relying on the Gospels. None of it can be shown to independently corroborate the Gospels as to the historicity of Jesus. Not one single item of evidence. Regardless of why no independent evidence survives (it does not matter the reason), no such evidence survives."
- Myth of the dying-and-rising-God:
- Bromiley (1982), p. 1034: "[S]ome skeptics have sought to explain the NT [New Testament] witness to Jesus and the rise of Christianity in terms of the Christ-myth theory. [...] His death and resurrection suggest to some minds a variant of the myth of the dying-and-rising god, so popular in the world of ancient pagan religion and represented in the cults of Attis, Adonis, Osiris, and Mithras."
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 30: "Robert Price argues that the ancient Mediterranean world “was hip-deep in religions centering on the death and resurrection of a savior god.” He goes on to catalog a variety of examples to show that the “Christ cult” that arose was just another example of these ancient death-and-resurrection religions."
- Boyd & Eddy (2007), p. 42: "[Per Earl Doherty] the only Jesus Paul knew of was “a divine presence in Christian communities, bestowing revelation and guidance, a channel to God and to knowledge of spiritual truths.” [Jesus Puzzle (1999) 30.] In other words, these considerations suggest that the Jesus of Paul and the earliest Christians was little different from the various deities worshipped and experienced within other ancient pagan mystery religions."
- Ehrman (2012), p. 349, n. 20: "[G. A.] Wells differs from most other mythicists: rather than tracing the invention of the historical Jesus back to the myths about the pagan gods, Wells thinks that it derived from Jewish wisdom traditions, in which God’s wisdom was thought to have been a personalized being who was with him at the creation and then came to visit humans (see, for example, Proverbs 8)."
- Price (2000), pp. 86, 88, 91, §. The Christ Cults – The Kyrios Christos Cult: "The ancient Mediterranean world was hip-deep in religions centering on the death and resurrection of a savior god. [...] It is very hard not to see extensive and basic similarities between these religions and the Christian religion. But somehow Christian scholars have managed not to see it, and this, one must suspect, for dogmatic reasons. [...] But it seems to me that the definitive proof that the resurrection of the Mystery Religion saviors preceded Christianity is the fact that ancient Christian apologists did not deny it!"
- Johnson (2010), p. 241, §. Pauls Ministry and Letters: "Nearly all critical scholars accept seven letters as written by Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. There is almost equal unanimity in rejecting 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Serious debate can occasionally be found concerning 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians, but the clear and growing scholarly consensus considers them to be non-Pauline."
- Paul seems to have followed the earliest Christian community, traces of which can be found in the Pauline epistles:
- Miller, Robert J. (26 January 2017). Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy. Lutterworth Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7188-4477-6.
Paul, whose letters are the earliest available writings about Jesus, wrote that Christ died for sins “according to the scriptures,” and was raised on the third day “according to the scriptures.” In expressing these beliefs Paul insisted that he was merely repeating what he had been told by those who were believers before him (1 Cor 15:3–4).
- Carrier, Richard (11 August 2016). "Dating the Corinthian Creed". Richard Carrier Blogs. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
[The Corinthian creed prologue (1 Cor 15:3–4) etc.] distinguishes Christianity from any other sect of Judaism. So it’s the only thing Peter (Cephas) and the other pillars (James and John) could have been preaching before Paul joined the religion. And Paul joined it within years of its founding (internal evidence in Paul’s letters places his conversion before 37 AD, and he attests in Galatians 1 that he was preaching the Corinthian creed immediately thereupon: OHJ, pp. 139, 516, 536, 558).
- Miller, Robert J. (26 January 2017). Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy. Lutterworth Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7188-4477-6.
- Gullotta (2017), p. 336, §. James, the Brother of the Lord: "[E]arly and widely circulated Christian tradition maintained that Jesus had siblings, one of whom was named James. (See Painter, Just James; James D.G. Dunn, Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity (Christianity in the Making, vol. 3; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015), pp. 512–523; Bart D. Ehrman, Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 168–169; Robert E. Van Voorst, The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish-Christian Community (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989).)"
- James the brother of the Lord:
- Price (2011), p. 343, §. James the Just: "G.A. Wells, following J.M. Robertson, has long held that James as “the brother of the Lord” might simply denote his role as a leading missionary, since there are indications in the New Testament that such traveling preachers were called “brothers" or even “the Lord’s brethren.” (G.A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1988), pp. 167–168.)" [“James the Just: Achilles Heel of the Christ Myth Theory?” was delivered as a paper at the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion Conference: “Scripture and Skepticism” Conference, Davis, CA. January 25–28, 2007.]
- Wells (1986), p. 21: "I argued in HEJ (pp 167ff) that James is given this title [the Lord’s brother] because he belongs to a Jerusalem group which Paul calls the brethren of the Lord (1 Cor. 9:5), a term which is perfectly intelligible as the title of a religious fraternity. Paul complains (1 Cor. 1:11–13) of Christian factions which bore the titles ‘of Paul’, ‘of Apollos’, ‘of Cephas’ and — most significant of all — ‘of Christ’. If there was a group at Corinth called ‘those of the Christ’, there may well have been one at Jerusalem called the brethren of the Lord, who would have had no more personal experience of Jesus than Paul himself."
- Price (2009), p. 66, §. The Traditional Christ-Myth Theory: "Taiping Messiah Hong Xiuquan, a nineteenth-century revolutionary leader: he proclaimed himself “the Little Brother of Jesus.” Obviously he didn’t mean he was a blood relative of the ancient Jesus of Nazareth. . . . James’s title may have implied something like that, especially since that is pretty much the same thing Gnostics meant when they called Thomas the twin of Jesus, though they didn’t think Jesus had been a flesh-and-blood mortal."
- Gullotta (2017), pp. 330–331, §. Paul on Jesus’ Birth and Humanity: "[Per Paul] ‘God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children’ (Gal 4.4.-5). Additionally, Paul claims that Jesus was ‘descended from David according to the flesh’ (Rom 1.3) [...] when Paul writes of Jesus’ coming into the world (Gal 4.4-6; cf. Phil 2.5-8; 2 Cor 8.9; Rom 8.3-4), it is apparent that it should be taken at face value to indicate Jesus being born like any other ordinary Jewish human being, that is, ‘born of a woman, born under the law.’ (See Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), pp. 323–324; James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 203–204. Also see Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1921), p. 171.)"
- Young (2006), p. 14: "[A]nalogies between Christ and the deity of a mystery cult are implicit in 1 Corinthians 10:19–21 and in Justin’s assertion that the devil imitated the eucharist of Christians in the mysteries of Mithras: both rites involved participation in bread and drink, but for Christians this represented the flesh and blood of ‘Jesus Christ our Saviour’. (1 Apol. 66–7.) [...] The earthly life of Jesus was recalled in the context of cultic rites that assumed his divinity. . . . Already in 1 Corinthians (11:23–6), Paul had recalled what happened at the Last Supper as if the story were an aetiological cult-myth, and had insisted that there could be no communion between the ‘table of the Lord’ and the ‘table of the daemons’. Papyri found at Oxyrhynchus reveal invitations to ‘sup at the table of the lord Sarapis’. (P. Oxy. 110 and 523.) The analogies ran deep."
- Mack (1988), p. 98: "Paul was converted to a Hellenized form of some Jesus movement that had already developed into a Christ cult. [...] Thus his letters serve as documentation for the Christ cult as well."
- Price (2000), p. 75, §. The Christ Cults: "By choosing the terminology “Christ cults,” Burton Mack means to differentiate those early movements that revered Jesus as the Christ from those that did not. [...] Mack is perhaps not quite clear about what would constitute a Christ cult. Or at least he seems to me to obscure some important distinctions between what would appear to be significantly different subtypes of Christ movements."
- Price (2000), pp. 88, 92, 94, n. 17, §. The Christ Cults: "[Per] banquets held in honor of the gods, e.g., “Pray come dine with me today at the table of the Kyrios Serapis.” It is no doubt such social events [as these] which trouble Paul in 1 Cor. 8–11, where he admits that indeed “there are gods aplenty and Kyrioi aplenty” (1 Cor. 8:5), but seems to need to remind his Corinthian Christians that “for us there is but one God, the Father, who created all things, and one Kyrios, through whom all things were made” (1 Cor. 8:6). [Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon Press, 1970), pp. 119–152.] [...] Richard Reitzenstein and Wilhelm Bousset were two scholars who did manage to grasp the relevance of these ancient faiths for the study of early Christianity. Their conclusion was a simple and seemingly inevitable one: Once it reached Hellenistic soil, the story of Jesus attracted to itself a number of mythic motifs that were common to the syncretic religious mood of the era."
- Hellenistic Jews:
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 93: "[Per the theory that hellenized Jews developed the divinized Jesus] The most sophisticated and influential version of the hellenization thesis was forged within the German Religionsgeschichtliche Schule of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—now often referred to as the “old history of religions school.” Here, the crowning literary achievement in several ways is Wilhelm Bousset’s 1913 work Kyrios Christos. Bousset envisions two forms of pre-Pauline Christianity: [1. In the early Palestinian community, and 2. In the Hellenistic communities.]"
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 136: "Burton Mack argues that Paul’s view of Jesus as a divine figure who gives his life for the salvation of others had to originate in a Hellenistic rather than a Jewish environment. Mack writes, "Such a notion [of vicarious human suffering] cannot be traced to old Jewish and/ or Israelite traditions, for the very notion of a vicarious human sacrifice was anathema in these cultures. But it can be traced to a Strong Greek tradition of extolling a noble death." More specifically, Mack argues that a Greek "myth of martyrdom" and the "noble death" tradition are ultimately responsible for influencing the hellenized Jews of the Christ cults to develop a divinized Jesus."
- Hurtado, Larry W. (2 November 2005). How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-8028-2861-3.
[Philippians 2] vv. 6-7 refer to Jesus as being in some way “divine” in status or mode, and then becoming a human being. We know that this sort of view of Jesus appeared early […] Indeed, in these verses the use of compact phrasing without explanation (e.g., “in the form of God”) suggests that readers were expected to recognize what was being referred to, which would mean that well before this epistle the idea of Jesus’ “pre-existence” had become a part of Christian belief.
- Loke, Andrew Ter Ern (2017). The Origin of Divine Christology:. 169. Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-108-19142-5.
[Per Christology] ‘Explosion Theories’ (one might also call this ‘the Big-Bang theory of Christology’!). This proposes that highest Christology was the view of the primitive Palestinian Christian community. [...] As Bauckham (2008a, x) memorably puts it, ‘The earliest Christology was already the highest Christology.’ Many proponents of this group of theories have been labelled together as ‘the New Religionsgeschichtliche Schule’ (Hurtado 2003, 11), and they include such eminent scholars as Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, N. T. Wright and the late Martin Hengel.
- vridar.org, Earl Doherty’s forerunner? Paul-Louis Couchoud and the birth of Christ. Doherty: "It wasn’t until the 1920s that Paul-Louis Couchoud in France offered a more coherent scenario, identifying Christ in the eyes of Paul as a spiritual being. (While not relying upon him, I would trace my type of thinking back to Couchoud, rather than the more recent G. A. Wells who, in my opinion, misread Paul’s understanding of Christ."
- Wells (1982), pp. 60, 245, r. 168: "The context in Hebrews [5:7] shows that the author interprets Jesus’ prayer not as a plea to be spared death, but to be delivered from the grave, and that this was granted (when God resurrected him). Roloff is able to say (168, p 146) that recent studies of this passage have shown conclusively enough that the material was not taken from traditions underlying the synoptic gospels, let alone direct from them." [ Cf. Roloff (1975), p. 146 ]
- Price, Robert M. (2006). The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts. Signature Books. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-56085-194-3.
[Per the Toledot Yeshu] One of the chief points of interest in this work is its chronology, placing Jesus about 100 BCE. [...] Epiphanius and the Talmud also attest to Jewish and Jewish-Christian belief in Jesus having lived a century or so before we usually imagine, implying that perhaps the Jesus figure was at first an ahistorical myth and various attempts were made to place him in a plausible historical context, just as Herodotus and others tried to figure out when Hercules “must have” lived.
- Mead, G. R. S. (1903). Did Jesus Live One Hundred B. C. ?. London: Theosophical Publishing Society. pp. 137ff. ISBN 978-0-7873-0603-8.
[Per] a passage found not once but twice in the Babylonian Gemârâ. [...] This famous passage, if taken by itself, would of course fully confirm the hypothesis of the 100 years B.C. date of Jesus.
- [Panarion 29.5.6] "For by hearing just the name of Jesus, and seeing the miracles the apostles performed, they came to faith in Jesus themselves. But they found that he had been conceived at Nazareth and brought up in Joseph's home, and for this reason is called “Jesus the Nazoraean” in the Gospel as the apostles say, “Jesus the Nazoraean, a man approved by signs and wonders,” and so on. Hence they adopted this name, so as to be called Nazoreans."
- Carrier, Richard (2009). Not the Impossible Faith. Lulu. p. 293, n. 10. ISBN 978-0-557-04464-1.
Nasaraeans and Ossaeans: Epiphanius, Panarion 18–19 (the Nasaraeans should not be confused with the Nazoreans, which appears to have been the original name for the Christians (and thus the collective name for Torah-observant Christians): Epiphanius, Panarion 29; Jerome, Epistles 112.13; Acts 24:5.
- Review of Bauckham (2006), p. 225: "[Per Richard Bauckham] all four gospels were written on the basis of carefully prepared and preserved eyewitness accounts. In the case of John, he believes the gospel was written by an actual eyewitness. Further, he maintains that all the gospels were written within “living memory" of the events they describe. "The texts of our gospels," he concludes, “are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus.""
- Bultmann, Rudolf (1926). Jesus. Die Unsterblichen: Die geistigen Heroen der Menschheit in ihrem Leben und Wirken [The Immortals: The Spiritual Heroes of Humankind in Their Lives and Actions] (in German). 1. Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek. p. 10.
[W]ir vom Leben und von der Persönlichkeit Jesu so gut wie nichts mehr wissen können, da die christlichen Quellen sich dafür nicht interessiert haben, außerdem sehr fragmentarisch und von der Legende überwuchert sind, und da andere Quellen über Jesus nicht existieren.
- Bultmann, Rudolf (1934). Jesus and the Word. trans. Jesus (1926) by Louise Pettibone Smith and Erminie Huntress Lantero. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 8.
[W]e can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary; and other sources about Jesus do not exist.
- Bultmann, Rudolf (1926). Jesus. Die Unsterblichen: Die geistigen Heroen der Menschheit in ihrem Leben und Wirken [The Immortals: The Spiritual Heroes of Humankind in Their Lives and Actions] (in German). 1. Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek. p. 10.
- Price, Robert (2009). "Bruno Bauer, Christ and the Caesars, reviewed by Robert M. Price". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
Reading the prescient Bruno Bauer one has the eerie feeling that a century of New Testament scholarship may find itself ending up where it began. For instance, the work of Burton Mack, Vernon Robbins, and others makes a powerful case for understanding the gospels as Cynic–Stoic in tone.... Robert M. Fowler, Frank Kermode, and Randel Helms have demonstrated how thoroughly the gospels smack of fictional composition. Thus, from many directions, New Testament researchers seem to be converging uncannily on the theses that Bruno Bauer set forth over a century ago.
- Doherty (2009), pp. vii–viii: "[The Mythical Jesus viewpoint holds] that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction..."
- Ehrman (2012), p. 44: "And what records from that decade do we have from his reign, what Roman records of his major accomplishments, his daily itinerary, the decrees he passed, the laws he issued, the prisoners he put on trial, the death warrants he signed, his scandals, interviews, his judicial proceedings? We have none. Nothing at all."
- Martin, Michael (1993). The Case Against Christianity. Temple University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-56639-081-1.
[P]agan witnesses indicate that there is no reliable evidence that supports the historicity of Jesus. This is surely surprising given the fact that Jesus was supposed to be a well-known person in the area of the world ruled by Rome. One would surely have supposed that there would have been some surviving records of Jesus if he did exist. Their absence, combined with the absence of Jewish records, suggests that NEP [Negative Evidence Principle] applies and that we are justified in disbelieving that Jesus existed.
- Vermes, Geza (2010). The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-1-4514-0882-9.
The historical Jesus can be retrieved only within the context of first-century Galilean Judaism. The Gospel image must therefore be inserted into the historical canvas of Palestine in the first century CE, with the help of the works of Flavius Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and early rabbinic literature. Against this background, what kind of picture of Jesus emerges from the Gospels? That of a rural holy man, initially a follower of the movement of repentance launched by another holy man, John the Baptist. In the hamlets and villages of Lower Galilee and the lakeside, Jesus set out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God within the lifetime of his generation and outlined the religious duties his simple listeners were to perform to prepare themselves for the great event. [...] The reliability of Josephus’s notice about Jesus was rejected by many in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it has been judged partly genuine and partly falsified by the majority of more recent critics. The Jesus portrait of Josephus, drawn by an uninvolved witness, stands halfway between the fully sympathetic picture of early Christianity and the wholly antipathetic image of the magician of Talmudic and post-Talmudic Jewish literature.
- Jewish angel:
- Garrett, Susan R. (2008). No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus. Yale University Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-300-14095-8.
By the late Second Temple era, the various traditions about angels and about personified divine attributes had coalesced for some Jews into the figure of a chief heavenly mediator. This figure is depicted by the author of Daniel as “one like a son of man,” by the author Philo as “the divine logos,” and by other writers in still other ways.
- Gieschen, Charles A. (1998). Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence. Brill. p. 316, n. 6. ISBN 90-04-10840-8.
Although Paul does not overtly label Christ as “the Angel of the Lord” in any of his letters, Paul does identify Christ as “the Power", “Wisdom”, “the Heavenly Man”, and especially as “the Glory”, all of which have angelomorphic roots closely linked with the Angel of the Lord; see Quispel, “Ezekiel 1.28 in Jewish Mysticism”, 7–13. Segal, Paul the Convert, 35–71. and Newman, Paul's Glory-Christology, 241–247.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (June 7, 2014). "Christ as an Angel in Paul". The Bart Ehrman Blog. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
I did indeed find [C. A.] Gieschen’s argument that Paul understood Jesus as an angel prior to becoming human extremely provocative and convincing. His arguments are supported and advanced in a very interesting discussion of Susan R. Garrett in her book. No Ordinary Angel.
- Garrett, Susan R. (2008). No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus. Yale University Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-300-14095-8.
- Barker, Margaret (1992). The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God. pp. 190–233. ISBN 0-664-25395-4.
Several writers of the first three Christian centuries show by their descriptions of the First and Second persons of the Trinity whence they derived these beliefs. El Elyon had become for them God the Father and Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, the Son, had been identified with Jesus.
- Schäfer, Peter (2011). The Origins of Jewish Mysticism. Princeton University Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-691-14215-7.
It is more than likely that Philo knew the postbiblical Wisdom literature, in particular the Wisdom of Solomon. and was influenced by it. The obvious identification of Logos and Wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon is a case in point. Wisdom (Greek sophia) plays a prominent role in Philo as well and is yet another power among the divine powers that acts as an agent of creation. Whereas the Logos, as we have seen, is responsible for the intelligible world, Wisdom would seem to be responsible for the world perceived by the senses.
- Wahlde, Urban C. von (2015). Gnosticism, Docetism, and the Judaisms of the First Century: The Search for the Wider Context of the Johannine Literature and Why It Matters. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-567-65659-9.
[T]wo currents of Jewish thought—Wisdom literature and the philosophical writings of Philo—influenced by Hellenism, are now thought to be the prime contenders for furnishing the background to the Logos of the Johannine Prologue.
- Price (2010), p. 103, n. 5: "Bolland, De Evangelische Jozua; Rylands, The Evolution of Christianity; Rylands, The Beginnings of Gnostic Christianity; Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, 340, and others similarly held that Christianity began variously among Hellenized Jewish settlements throughout the Diaspora, with allegorized Jewish elements being made almost unrecognizable by their intermingling with gnostic mythemes."
- Price (2002), §. Suitors and Seducers: "The temptations and challenges of the Diaspora only served to increase the diversity of ancient Judaism, a diversity directly reflected in emerging Christianity, which demonstrably partakes of Jewish Gnosticism [Schmithals, 1975; Scholem, 1965], Zoroastrianism [Welburn, 1991], the Mystery Cults, etc.[Walter Schmithals, The Apocalyptic Movement: Introduction and Interpretation. Trans. John E. Steely (NY: Abingdon Press, 1975; Gershom Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. NY: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2nd ed., 1965), esp. chapter IX, "The Relationship between Gnostic and Jewish Sources," pp. 65-74.] [Andrew Welburn, The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1991), pp. 44–51. The identification of the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Adam as Zoroastrian in substance has enormous implications.]"
- Criticism of Ehrman:
- Lataster (2016), pp. 182, 184, §. Ehrman on Angelic/Angelomorphic Christology: "[Paul refers to] divine revelations from a Celestial Jesus (who seems eerily similar to pre-Christian Jewish—and non-existent—figures like the Son of Man and the Logos) [...] Historicists and mythicists both posit a different form of Jesus that preceded the Gospel’s version of Jesus. Unfortunately for the historicist, there is not a single piece of evidence, pre-New Testament, for the mundane Historical Jesus. This is not the case with the Celestial Messiah, who some pre-Christian Jews did honour, as even [Bart] Ehrman now acknowledges."
- Carrier, Richard (13 February 2016). "Can Paul's Human Jesus Not Be a Celestial Jesus?". Richard Carrier Blogs. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
[Per the Logos] Philo in fact says this “heavenly man” is the first created being and viceroy of God, the “image” of God, God’s “firstborn son,” high priest of God’s celestial temple, the supreme archangel, whom God tasked with the rest of creation, and who governs the universe on God’s behalf. Philo says this Being is the Logos. [...] Bart Ehrman “also now agrees that Philo attests a Jewish theology in which the Logos is the firstborn Son of God and the eternal Image of God, the same being Jesus was identified with” in Paul (cf. How Jesus Became God, p. 75).
- Doherty (2009), pp. 16, 717, n. 18: "[Some of Paul's rivals] proclaimed a Christ who was a Revealer Son, an imparter of wisdom and knowledge about God, a different means to salvation. [...] [Per 1 Cor. 1:18–24, Paul defends] his position against those who do not subscribe to his 'theology of the cross' [Christ having been crucified] [...] [This] is a response to the challenge in Corinth from Apollos’ preaching..."
- Doherty (1996), §. Apollos of Alexandria: "Apollos was probably a teacher of revealed knowledge which in itself claimed to confer salvation (Koester calls it a "life-giving wisdom"). And it may be that his preaching represented an evolution beyond earlier ideas in seeing a spiritual Christ as a concrete divine figure who was responsible for this revelation, a Christ who had grown out of Alexandrian traditions of personified Wisdom (Sophia) wedded with the Greek Logos."
- Doherty (2012), §. The Sound of Transition: from Paul to Orthodoxy: "[Per 1 Cor. 1; 2 Cor. 11] Paul is promoting his own version of the Son as a “Christ crucified,” with the strong implication that he is dealing with rivals and other circles of faith which do not believe in a crucified or sacrificed figure, but simply in a spiritual Revealer Son who saves by bestowing knowledge of God (just as survives in the Gospel of John from before the grafting on of the Synoptics’ human Jesus and his crucifixion). This [is a] stream of thought, which probably arose out of the whole intermediary Son/Logos philosophy of thinkers like Philo..."
- Pre-Jesus Christians:
- Price (2000), pp. 79–80, 83, §. The Christ Cults – The Gnostic Christ Cult: "Walter Schmithals [The Office of Apostle in the Early Church. Translated by John E. Steely. New York: Abingdon Press. 1969.] noticed various puzzling inconsistencies in the several New Testament uses of the term “apostle,” as well as certain patterns to those inconsistencies. [...] Schmithals systematically examined all the hitherto suggested possible origins of the Christian idea of the apostles and finally traced it down to Syrian Gnosticism. [...] But whether Paul embraced the Syrian Gnosticism or not, Schmithals’s researches would in any case delineate for us the basis of a pre-Jesus cult of the Christ, one in which the Christ had nothing in particular to do with Jesus the Nazorean."
- Doherty (2000), §. The Roots of an Elevation: "[Per the descending Redeemer of gnostic-style myth] Price sees the Pauline Christ in this same category... Inherent in such a (proto-) gnostic type of outlook is the idea that Christ inhabits the believer, and the apostle who preaches him possesses a highly developed sense of the Christ/Redeemer within himself. Paul, with his "Christ in you" and "all are members of the body of Christ," falls into that line of thinking."
- Wells (1999), p. 97, §. Conclusion: The Origins and Development of Christology: "[Per Philo] Talbert has shown, he [Philo] was allegorizing a myth, already current in Alexandrian Judaism, in which a heavenly redeemer figure, described as Logos or Wisdom among other terms, certainly did figure as a person. From Talbert’s evidence (1976, pp. 421ff), there can be no doubt that a myth of such a “figure who descended and ascended in the course of his/her saving work existed in pre-Christian Judaism alongside first—and second—century Christianity” (p. 430). [Talbert, C.H. 1976. The Myth of a Descending-Ascending Redeemer in Mediterranean Antiquity. NTS 22, 418–440.] The influence of Jewish Wisdom literature on Paul is undeniable: statements made about Wisdom [personified] in this literature are made of Jesus in the Pauline letters."
- Doherty (2012), §. Bart Ehrman on G. A. Wells: "[Per] the Wisdom of Solomon in the Jewish apocrypha, which is usually dated some time early in the first century, during the lifetime of both Philo and Paul [...] Here we have a dramatic presentation of an intermediary entity standing proud beside God in heaven, a dangerously close compromise to strict monotheism. It is cut from the same cloth as Philo’s picture of the Logos. And it bears an undeniable resemblance to similar presentations of the Son throughout the New Testament epistles."
- Couchoud, Paul-Louis ap. Goguel (1926), p. 23, §. Nonhistorical Theories: "At the origin of Christianity there is, if I am right, not a personal biography, but a collective mystical experience, sustaining a divine history mystically revealed." [First published: Couchoud (1924), p. 339.]
- Wells' view on the historicity of Jesus:
- Wells (2004), pp. 49f: "In my first books on Jesus [1971, 1975, 1982], I argued that the gospel Jesus is an entirely mythical expansion of the Jesus of the early epistles. [...] The weakness of my earlier position was pressed upon me by J. D. G. Dunn [The Evidence for Jesus, 1985], who objected that we really cannot plausibly assume that such a complex of traditions as we have in the gospels and their sources could have developed within such a short time from the early epistles without a historical basis (Dunn 1985, p. 29)."
- Wells, G. A. (2000). "A Reply to J. P. Holding..." infidels.org. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
[In the gospels, the historical Galilean preacher of Q is placed in a historical context consonant with the date of the Galilean preaching.] Now that I have allowed this in my two most recent relevant books [1996, 1999] ...it will not do to dub me a "mythicist" tout court. Moreover, my revised standpoint obviates the criticism ...which J. D. G. Dunn levelled at me in 1985.
- Wells (2009), p. 327f: "Eddy & Boyd (2007) distinguish (p. 24f) three broad categories of judgment, other than their own, concerning Jesus: 1. that “the Jesus tradition is virtually—perhaps entirely—fictional.” 2. that Jesus did exist [but with limited historical facts]... 3. that a core of historical facts about the real historical Jesus can be disclosed by research... Eddy and Boyd are particularly concerned to refute the standpoint of those in category 1 of these 3, and classify me as one of them [i.e. category 1], as “the leading contemporary Christ myth theorist” (p. 168n). In fact, however, I have expressly stated in my books of 1996, 1999, and 2004 that I have repudiated this theory, ...I have never espoused this view, not even in my pre-1996 Jesus books, where I did deny Jesus’s historicity. Although I have always allowed that Paul believed in a Jesus who, fundamentally supernatural, had nevertheless been incarnated on Earth as a man."
- Wells (2009), p. 16: "I regarded (and still do regard) [that the following stories;] the virgin birth, much in the Galilean ministry, the crucifixion around A.D. 30 under Pilate, and the resurrection—as legendary."
- Van Voorst (2003), p. 660: "[Per] The Jesus Myth (1999), [G. A.] Wells ...now accepts that there is some historical basis for the existence of Jesus, derived from the lost early “gospel” “Q” (the hypothetical source used by Matthew and Luke). Wells believes that it is early and reliable enough to show that Jesus probably did exist, although this Jesus was not the Christ that the later canonical Gospels portray."
- Wells as myhticist:
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-06-208994-6.
[Among New Testament scholars] The best-known mythicist of modem times ...is George A. Wells.
- Casey, Maurice (2014). Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 10, 25. ISBN 978-0-567-01505-1.
I introduce here the most influential mythicists who claim to be ‘scholars’, though I would question their competence and qualifications. [...] [G. A. Wells] was convinced that there was no historical Jesus, and wrote more than one book to this effect. More recently, he modified his views, especially in the light of relatively recent work on what many scholars call ‘Q’.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-06-208994-6.
- Price, Robert M. "The Quest of the Mythical Jesus". Jesus Project. Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. Archived from the original on April 17, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
There may once have been an historical Jesus, but for us there is one no longer. If he existed, he is forever lost behind the stained glass curtain of holy myth. At least that's the current state of the evidence as I see it. [The Quest of the Mythical Jesus first appeared on the Robert M. Price Myspace page.]
- Price (2000), p. 85, §. The Christ Cults: "I am not trying to say that there was a single origin of the Christian savior Jesus Christ, and that origin is pure myth; rather, I am saying that there may indeed have been such a myth, and that if so, it eventually flowed together with other Jesus images, some one of which may actually have been based on a historical Jesus the Nazorean."
- Price, Robert M. "The Quest of the Mythical Jesus". Jesus Project. Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. Archived from the original on April 17, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
- Maurice Casey (2014). Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. A&C Black. pp. 10, 24. ISBN 978-0-567-59224-8.
I introduce here the most influential mythicists who claim to be ‘scholars’, though I would question their competence and qualifications. [...] [Thomas L. Thompson] was Professor of Theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1993–2009. His early work, which is thought to have successfully refuted the attempts of Albright and others to defend the historicity of the most ancient parts of biblical literature history, is said to have negatively affected his future job prospects.
- Thompson, Thomas L. (2009). "Historicizing the Figure of Jesus, the Messiah". The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David. Basic Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7867-3911-0.
The assumptions that (1) the gospels are about a Jesus of history and (2) expectations that have a role within a story’s plot were also expectations of a historical Jesus and early Judaism, as we will see, are not justified.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins. pp. 11, 15. ISBN 978-0-06-208994-6.
[Per "A Brief History of Mythicism"] ...some of the more influential contemporary representatives who have revitalized the [Mythicism] view in recent years. [...] A different sort of support for a mythicist position comes in the work of Thomas L. Thompson, The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David. Thompson is trained in biblical studies, but he does not have degrees in New Testament or early Christianity. He is, instead, a Hebrew Bible scholar who teaches at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. In his own field of expertise he is convinced that figures from the Hebrew Bible such as Abraham, Moses, and David never existed. He transfers these views to the New Testament and argues that Jesus too did not exist but was invented by Christians who wanted to create a savior figure out of stories found in the Jewish scriptures.
- Carrier (2014), p. 52: "[T]he basic thesis of every competent mythologist, then and now, has always been that Jesus was originally a god just like any other god (properly speaking, a demigod in pagan terms; an archangel in Jewish terms; in either sense, a deity), who was later historicized."
- Doherty (2009), pp. vii–viii: "[The Mythical Jesus viewpoint holds] that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure..."
- Carrier (2014), p. 34. Carrier posits three criteria for his minimal historical Jesus:
- "An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death."
- "This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities."
- "This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod)."
- Carrier, Richard (7 October 2016). "History as a Science". Richard Carrier Blogs. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
[Per the 1970 David Hackett Fischer] survey of the alarming frequency with which all fields of history engage in fallacious reasoning. [...] Historians need to develop, apply, advocate, and enforce an explicit methodology that conforms to proper canons of logic. [...] even attempts to articulate a method are rare in history as a whole. Usually one isn’t even stated. And BTW [by the way], when, as phenomenally rare as it is, historians actually do try to articulate a method by legitimate logic, they tend to be ignored, and their methodological arguments are certainly never taught to historians in graduate schools.
- Joseph, Simon J. (12 March 2015). "The Mythical Jesus – An SBL Regional Report". Simon J. Joseph: History, Religion, and Biblical Studies. Retrieved 29 October 2017.: "[Richard Carrier calls] for a fundamental paradigm shift in Jesus Research and historical methodology..."
- Doherty, Earl (Spring 1997). "A review of a book by Burton L. Mack on the making of the Christian myth". Humanist in Canada. 120: 12–13. Archived from the original on August 30, 2000.
Earl Doherty has published a much expanded version of this review at the following Web site, where he has also reproduced his series "The Jesus Puzzle," which appeared in recent issues of Humanist in Canada: http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus.html.
- Gullotta (2017), pp. 311–312, n. 34: "[Richard Carrier’s name and work has been mentioned on several popular news sites, with mythicism being the headline of the article.] For examples, see Raphael Lataster, ‘Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up’, The Washington Post (2014), para. 1–11. Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/18/did-historical-jesus-exist-the-traditional-evidence-doesnt-hold-up/ [accessed ca. 2015]; Valerie Tarico, ‘5 good reasons to think Jesus never existed’, Salon (2015), para. 1–19. Online: http://www.salon.com/2015/07/06/5_good_reasons_to_think_jesus_never_existed/ [accessed ca. 2015]; Brian Bethune, ‘Did Jesus really exist?’ MacLean’s (2016), para. 1–25. Online: http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/did-jesus-really-exist-2/ [accessed ca. 2016]; Nigel Barber, ‘Jesus Never Existed, After All’, The Huffington Post (2016), para. 1–17. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/jesus-never-existed-after_b_9848702.html [accessed ca. 2016]; Philip Perry, ‘A Growing Number of Scholars Are Questioning the Historic Existence of Jesus’, Big Think (2016), para. 1–13. Online: http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/a-growing-number-of-scholars-are-questioning-the-existence-of-jesus [accessed ca. 2016]."
- Gullotta, Daniel N. (2 February 2015). "Why You Should Read Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus". Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.: "What is also significant about [Richard] Carrier’s body of work related to Mythicism is that it represents the result of a $20,000 research grant from various supporters and donations overseen by Atheists United, which demonstrates the public’s interest in the subject matter. [...] the academic community committed to the study of the New Testament and Christian origins needs to pay attention to Carrier and engage with his thesis (even if they end up rejecting his conclusions); and if for no other reason than that he has the attention of the public."
- Ehrman (2012), pp. 337–338, §. Conclusion – The Mythicist Agenda: "[Some] mythicists are avidly antireligious. To debunk religion, then, one needs to undermine specifically the Christian form of religion. [...] the mythicists who are so intent on showing that the historical Jesus never existed are not being driven by a historical concern. Their agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology. They are not doing history; they are doing theology."
- Michael Grant (a classicist) states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels by Michael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200
- Lataster (2015a)
- Gullotta (2017), p. 310.
- Lataster (2016)
- Van Voorst (2003), pp. 658, 660.
- Burridge & Gould (2004), p. 34.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (25 April 2012). "Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier". The Bart Ehrman Blog. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Ehrman (2012)
- Stanton (2002), pp. 143ff.
- Mack (1995)
- King (2008), p. 70; Behr (2013), pp. 5–6.
- Ehrman (2003)
- Ehrman (2014)
- Powell (2013), p. 168.
- Alanna Nobbs and Edwin Judge ap. Dickson, John (24 December 2012). "Best of 2012: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus". ABC Religion and Ethics. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Ehrman (1999), p. 248.
- Ehrman (2011), p. 285.
- Theissen & Winter (2002), p. 5.
- Cross & Livingstone (2005)
- Lataster, Raphael (18 December 2014). "Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn't add up". The Washington Post. WP Company LLC. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Stout (2011)
- Price (1999)
- Thompson & Verenna (2012)
- Lataster (2014), §. Raphael Lataster’s Jesus Agnosticism.
- Doherty (1995a)
- Doherty (1995d)
- Price (2000), p. 86.
- Price (2003), pp. 351–355, §. Conclusion: The Name of the Lord – The Name Above All Names
- Price (2003), pp. 31, 41–42, n. 14, §. Sources – Spotlight on the Evangelists; Price (2005), p. 534, §. Introduction
- Thompson (2012).
- Doherty (1995c)
- Tuckett (2001)
- Detering, Hermann (1996). "The Dutch Radical Approach to the Pauline Epistles". Journal of Higher Criticism. 3 (2): 163–193. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- Price, Richard M. (2012). The Amazing Colossal Apostle. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. p. viii. ISBN 978-1-56085-216-2.
- Price, Robert M. (2012). "Does the Christ Myth Theory Require an Early Date for the Pauline Epistles?". In Thomas L. Thompson; Thomas S. Verenna. "Is this Not the Carpenter?": The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus. Equinox. pp. 95ff. ISBN 978-1-84553-986-3.
- Price, Robert M. (2011). "Does the Christ Myth Theory Require an Early Date for the Pauline Epistles?". The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems. American Atheist Press. pp. 353ff. ISBN 978-1-57884-017-5.
- Price, Richard M. (2012). The Amazing Colossal Apostle. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. pp. 360–361, 415, 426, 491. ISBN 978-1-56085-216-2.
- Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 202.
- Stout (2011), p. 64.
- Hengel, Martin. The four Gospels and the one Gospel of Jesus Christ: an investigation of the collection and origin of the Canonical Gospels. ISBN 978-1-5633-8300-7.
- Barnett, Paul (2009). "Christ in Pauls Letters". Finding the Historical Christ. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-8028-4890-1.
- Can We Trust the New Testament? by George Albert Wells 2003 ISBN 0812695674 pp. 49–50
- Price (2003).
- Price (2011).
- Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making by James D. G. Dunn (2003) ISBN 0802839312 p. 143
- Jesus Christ in History and Scripture by Edgar V. McKnight 1999 ISBN 0865546770 p. 38
- Jesus according to Paul by Victor Paul Furnish 1994 ISBN 0521458242 pp. 19–20
- Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett 2002 ISBN 0830826998 pp. 95–96
- Carrier (2014), p. 570.
- Wells (1982), p. 175.
- Carrier (2014), pp. 557ff.
- Victor Furnish in Paul and Jesus edited by Alexander J. M. Wedderburn 2004 (Academic Paperback) ISBN 0567083969 pp. 43–44
- Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1 by James D. G. Dunn (2003) ISBN 0802839312 pp. 142–143.
- Worship in the Early Church by Ralph P. Martin 1975 ISBN 0802816134 pp. 57–58
- Paul's Letter to the Romans by Colin G. Kruse (2012) ISBN 0802837433 pp. 41–42.
- The Blackwell Companion to The New Testament edited by David E. Aune 2010 ISBN 1405108258 p. 424.
- Creeds of the Churches, Third Edition by John H. Leith (1982) ISBN 0804205264 p. 12.
- Bouma, Jeremy (27 March 2014). "The Early High Christology Club and Bart Ehrman — An Excerpt from "How God Became Jesus"". Zondervan Academic Blog. HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (14 February 2013). "Incarnation Christology, Angels, and Paul". The Bart Ehrman Blog. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Bart Ehrman, How Jesus became God, Course Guide
- Geza Vermez (2008), The Resurrection, p.138-139
- Maccoby (1986).
- Price (2009)
- See p. 55 for his argument that it is quite likely Jesus did not exist.
- See pp. 62–64, 75 for the three pillars
- Doherty (2009).
- Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus (Kindle ed.). Sheffield Phoenix Press. p. location 34725. ISBN 978-1-909697-70-6.
- Carrier (2014), Chapter 4 and Chapter 11.
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- Peter J. Tomson (2001), If This be from Heaven... Jesus and the New Testament Authors in Their Relationship to Judaism, Bloomsbury
- Dan Lioy (2007), Jesus as Torah in John 1-12, Wipf and Stock Publishers
- Dawkins (2006), p. 97.
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- Price (2011), p. 381.
- Price (2003), p. 347.
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- Translation from Latin by A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb, 1876
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- Martin, Michael (1993). The Case Against Christianity. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9781566390811.
- Weaver (1999), pp. 53, 57.
- Secret of Regeneration, by Hilton Hotema, p. 100
- Jesus, University Books, New York, 1956, p. 13
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The Official Website of Richard Carrier, Ph.D.
- Carrier (2014), pp. 200–205
- Jesus being a preexisting archangel: Phil. 2:5–11
- Jesus was as an angel: Gal. 4:14
- Jesus knew Moses: 1 Cor. 10:4
- Ehrman (2012), p. 349, n. 20.
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- Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity? by Tom Harpur (2006) ISBN 0802777414 p. 163
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- Wells (2009).
- Van Voorst (2000), p. 14-15.
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- Casey (2014).
- Doherty (2009), p. vii–viii.
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- Price (2009), pp. 61ff.
- Price (2000), pp. 15–16.
- Price (2000), p. 261.
- Price (2009), pp. 55ff
- Also see Robert M. Price's review of Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection.
- Price (2009)
- There is no mention of a miracle working Jesus in secular sources. (p. 62)
- The epistles, which were written before the gospels, do not evidence a recent historical Jesus. (p. 63)
- The Jesus story shows strong parallels to other Mediterranean religions that were also based on gods that died and rose again. (p. 75)
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- Scholarly critics
- Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-4368-5.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-220460-8.
- Casey, Maurice (2014). Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. Bloomsbury T & T Clark. ISBN 978-0-5672-9458-6.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Religious Tolerance General outline of range of views on Jesus from classical Christian to Jesus a mere man and Jesus entirely mythical
- Vridar, WHO’s WHO: Mythicists and Mythicist Agnostics
- Demolishing the historicity of Jesus – A History List of Contemporary and Early proponents of Christ Myth Theory.
- Richard Carrier (2012), So...if Jesus Didn’t Exist, Where Did He Come from Then?
- Evangelic critics
- James Patrick Holding (2008), Shattering the Christ Myth. Did Jesus Not Exist?