Talk:Christ myth theory/Archive 19

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Methodological concerns section

I tried to tidy this, but it's mostly OR. It's not clear that the sources say those things exactly, and it's poorly written. I'll move it here until we decide what to do with it.

=== Methodological concerns ===

The church historian Geoffrey Bromiley argues that, while many versions of the Christ myth theory assume that Christianity had obscure beginnings, early Christians appealed to historical events already known to the general public.[1]

While advocates rely on the absence of contemporaneous reference to Jesus,[2] and the relative silence of Paul regarding much of Jesus' life, specialists like R. T. France regard such arguments with deep suspicion, arguing that various sources may not mention Jesus for any number of reasons.[3] Further, while many Christ myth theorists draw parallels between early Christianity and Hellenistic mystery religions, relatively little is actually known about the beliefs and practices of the latter.[4] Scholars like Herbert George Wood have suggested that, given the above issues, the Christ myth theory can only be advocated in defiance of the available evidence.[5] A number of scholars therefore classify it as a form of denialism and compare it to a variety of fringe theories.[6] For example, the |BBC's Today programme once asked N. T. Wright if he would appear on-air to debate Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy concerning the thesis of their book The Jesus Mysteries. Wright, whom Newsweek once deemed "perhaps the world's leading New Testament scholar",[7] declined, saying that "this was like asking a professional astronomer to debate with the authors of a book claiming the moon was made of green cheese."[8]
  1. ^ Bromiley 1982, p. 1034
  2. ^ Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 165
  3. ^ France 1986, pp. 19 ff.
  4. ^ Ehrman 2007, p. 55
  5. ^ Wood 1934, p. xxxiii; Köstenberger 1999, p. 216
  6. ^ Powell 1998, p. 168; cp. Bevan 1930, p. 256; McClymond 2004, pp. 23–24, Perrin 2007, pp. 31–32, McGrath 2010
  7. ^ Miller & Scelfo 2007
  8. ^ Wright 2004, p. 48

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:58, 4 August 2010 (UTC)

I Howard Marshall

Bruce, what do you see this paragraph as adding to Christ myth theory#Definition of the theory that the rest of the section doesn't already say?

However, biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall writes that there are "two views of the historical Jesus which stand at the opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion about him."[1] At one extreme is the view that Jesus never existed, and that the gospels describe an essentially fictional person. At the other extreme is the view that the gospels portray events exactly as they happened, and each event depicted in the New Testament is the literal truth.[2]

The paragraph before it and after it jointly contain the same information. It's also problematic because it's sourced first to Marshall (there are two views), but then to Ruthen to explain what those views are, and I can't find Marshall's views mentioned in the Ruthven book via a Google Books search (which may be incomplete).

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:52, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^ Marshall 2004, p. 24
  2. ^ Ruthven 2004, pp. 77–78
It adds several things. First, I. Howard Marshall establishes what the full spectrum is--Boyd-Eddy does not (they leave off the very extreme fringy "every detail in the Gospels being recorded just as it happened" end of the spectrum). Second, it sets up a transition from George Walsh's excluded middle definition to Boyd-Eddy's spectrum categories (Marshall did not break the spectrum into categories). Finally, it establishes that the spectrum idea is not exclusive to Boyd-Eddy (Remsburg and Barker while notable don't IMHO fit the requirement for reliable)
As for the Ruthven reference that was in the version I went back and got trusting that the editor who added it to my original Marshall reference knew what they were doing. Looking at Ruthven I see what they were doing--presenting an example of just how extreme that "every detail in the Gospels being recorded just as it happened" could get. It isn't Marshall and should be reworded to reflect that.
I think Boyd-Eddy included the fundamentalism perspective: "Finally, there is the position that the gospels are reliable historical sources. The supernatural claims may be mythical, but critical historiography should not rule out the possibility of this kind of occurrence." They may not express it as strongly as Marshall, but they're referring to the same attitude. I agree that we should remove Ruthven regardless. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:53, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, looking at it again I think you're right. It does transition us into the Boyd-Eddy categories. I tweaked the writing a little, and removed Ruthven, but otherwise left it as it is. I hope the tweaking is okay with you. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:05, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
I see you mostly reverted. I think Ruthven is too much, and we shouldn't use "however." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:08, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
The tweeking lost important information ie the "admittedly over simplistic", "ideal-typical", and a "useful heuristic" quotes. One big problem this article has is people think the categories are set in stone or have one and only one definition. I put in the point Ruthven was raising but if you feel it doesn't really fit feel free to throw it out. The "however" needs to be in there because George Walsh's presents an excluded middle definition ie that it is A or B while I. Howard Marshall presents it as a spectrum of idea raising the possibility there are ideas that straddle two concepts--sort of like the issue of "is 484 THz 750 nm red or orange in the visible spectrum?"--it all a matter of how you define red and orange.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:18, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I see your point, but I'm not keen in including that much commentary about ideal typical etc. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:24, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Those are their exact words reflecting exactly what the feel their categories are.--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:44, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
But there's no reason to repeat everything they say. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:59, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
In this case I believe that it is critical spell out using their own words that these categories we keep seeing are not set in stone. The only other sources that talk about the categories are only notable.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:11, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Doherty

I asked this before but it was never resolved. Are Earl Doherty's books self-published? If they are, should we devote a whole section to him? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:47, 4 August 2010 (UTC)

Canadian writer Earl Doherty argues in The Jesus Puzzle (2005) and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man—The Case for a Mythical Jesus (2009) that no historical Jesus stands behind even the most primitive hypothetical sources of the New Testament.[1] He argues that Jesus originated as a myth derived from Middle Platonism with some influence from Jewish mysticism, and that belief in an historical Jesus emerged only among Christian communities in the second century. He further argues that none of the major apologists before the year 180, except for Justin and Aristides of Athens, included an account of an historical Jesus in their defences of Christianity. Instead, he writes, the early Christian writers describe a Christian movement grounded in Platonic philosophy and Hellenistic Judaism, preaching the worship of a monotheistic Jewish god and what he calls a "logos-type Son." Doherty argues that Theophilus of Antioch (c. 163–182), Athenagoras of Athens (c. 133–190), Tatian the Assyrian (c. 120–180), and Marcus Minucius Felix (writing around 150–270) offer no indication that they believed in a historical figure crucified and resurrected, and that the name Jesus does not appear in any of them.[2]

  1. ^ "Perhaps the Q sect at its beginnings adopted a Greek source, with some recasting, one they saw as a suitable ethic for the kingdom they were preaching. In any case, there is no need to impute such sayings to a Jesus; they seem more the product of a school or lifestyle, formulated over time and hardly the sudden invention of a single mind." Doherty 2000?
  2. ^ Doherty 1997

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:47, 4 August 2010 (UTC)

Yes they are self-published but his views are noted in several reliable sources.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:07, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
This is a place where Bruce and I agree—Doherty is self-published, but he's attracted a lot of attention (e.g., the long Wells quote I posted above). So I think he's worth covering in his own section. (See, I'm not always contrary!) --Akhilleus (talk) 03:31, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Okay, I'll restore the section. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:34, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

In cleaning up this article remember that Inline citations are part of Wikipedia's MoS

To all editors I recommend following Wikipedia:Citing_sources#Inline_citations given the way this article gets changed about:

"An inline citation is a citation next to the material it supports, rather than at the end of the article. Inline citations are used to directly associate a given claim with a specific source."

In most cases, an inline citation is required, either in addition to, or instead of, a full citation in the References section, depending on which citation method is being used (see below). Inline citations show which specific part of the article a citation is being applied to. They are required by Wikipedia's verifiability policy for statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, including contentious material about living persons, and for all direct quotations. Inline citations are also mandated by Wikipedia's featured article criteria, where appropriate. An inline citation should appear next to the material it supports." (sic)

In short, Inline citations seem to be the preferred way to do cite things on Wikipedia especially in an article where nearly everything falls under challenged or likely to be challenged having citation within a sentences makes the most sense. I do think the article is growing at a some what frightening rate but am unclear what to do about it." (sic)--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:05, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Inline citations are needed, and they are in the article. But they[1] don't[2] need[3] to[4] be[5] in the middle of a sentence. :) Usually the end of the paragraph is enough, or if it's a long paragraph or a contentious one, the end of sentences. The point is simply to maintain a reasonable degree of text-source integrity. When articles come up at FAC, if there's a lot of unnecessary refs inside sentences, the writers are usually asked to clean up. I'm not hugely bothered one way or the other, but it would be good if it could be avoided if it's not needed. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 11:11, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
"if the material is particularly contentious, the citation may be added within a sentence but adding it to the end of the sentence or paragraph is usually sufficient." Given the way sentences and paragraphs change putting it next to what we are referring makes sence. Otherwise you wind up with orphaned references that sit at the end of sentences and paragraphs that have no relation to what is in them anymore. Besides my field of anthropology thinks nothing of shoving inline citations in the middle of sentences--Look at "Body Ritual among the Nacirema" by Horace Miner for an example. Ironically Michel Grant is another one I actually cleaned up; that (I John 4:2) in the middle of a sentence is actually a Inline citation by Grant!--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:28, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

The people we include in the "development of the theory" section

I want to make sure that we are including examples of proponents—in the "development of the theory" section—whose arguments academics have responded to at some point—either as myth theorists proper, or as people who paved the way by engaging in radical questioning.

My worry is that we have included a few to make the Jesus myth theory seem less serious. But we could include examples of less-serious arguments in favour of Jesus's existence too to make that belief look lightweight. Our job here is to highlight the most coherent, the people serious sources have responded to, or people serious sources have included in the history of the idea. Is that true of all examples? I'm listing below examples of who has discussed whom (discussed might mean just a mention), whether those sources are currently cited in our article or not—and the ones I mention are just examples; most have been cited multiple times.

  1. Charles François Dupuis and Constantin-François Chassebœuf, discussed by Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus.
  2. David Strauss, discussed by James Beilby and Paul Eddy in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, and by Thomas L. Thompson in "The Messiah Myth.
  3. Bruno Bauer, discussed by Beilby and Eddy
  4. Radical Dutch school, discussed by Schweitzer
  5. J.M. Robertson, discussed by Schweitzer
  6. William Benjamin Smith, discussed by Robert E. Van Voorst
  7. Arthur Drews, discussed by Brian Gerrish
  8. Paul-Louis Couchoud discussed by Walter P. Weaver
  9. John M. Allegro, discussed by Michael Martin in The Case Against Christianity
  10. G. A. Wells, discussed by Graham Stanton
  11. Alvar Ellegård, discussed by Matti Klinge
  12. Thomas L. Thompson, discussed by Clyde Edward Brown
  13. Robert M. Price, discussed by Doulas A. Jacoby
  14. Earl Doherty, discussed by Robert M. Price (does anyone know where offhand?)
  15. Albert Kalthoff, apparently discussed by Schweitzer, though I haven't checked that.
  16. Peter Jensen, ditto.
  17. Joseph Wheless, discussed by?
  18. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, discussed by?
  19. D.M. Murdock, discussed by?
  20. Tom Harpur, discussed by?

I've placed in bold the ones it would be good to find secondary sources for, either as explicit myth proponents, or as people whose ideas were part of the development of the movement. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:28, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Schweitzer discusses Jensen on pp. 369-372 of this edition of the Quest of the Historical Jesus; also pp. 432, 435. Apparently Jensen started off by claiming that both Jesus and Paul were mythical figures, and then later allowed that there might have been a historical Jesus; he argued that the NT figure of Jesus was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Schweitzer discusses Kalthoff on pp. 279-283 of Quest. My impression is that Jensen and Kalthoff are not very influential figures, and that if there's cutting to be done in this section, they could be candidates.
I'm pretty sure Bennett discusses D.M. Murdock/Acharya S, but I don't have his book handy. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:48, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Thank you, this is helpful. I'll take a look around for Bennett. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:56, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Bennett's In search of Jesus: insider and outsider images is searchable through google books (found D.M. Murdock under Acharya S), . Looking for some of the others.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:23, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Joseph Wheless, discussed by Bennett
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy --having a problem finding someone who is reliable.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:30, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Grant

I would like to remove this from the definition section:

Historian Michael Grant stated: "This skeptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth. In ancient times, this extreme view was named the heresy of docetism (seeming) because it maintained that Jesus never came into the world "in the flesh", but only seemed to; (I John 4:2) and it was given some encouragement by Paul's lack of interest in his fleshly existence. Subsequently, from the eighteenth century onwards, there have been attempts to insist that Jesus did not even "seem" to exist, and that all tales of his appearance upon the earth were pure fiction. In particular, his story was compared to the pagan mythologies inventing fictitious dying and rising gods. (paragraph break) [sic] Some of the lines of thinking employed to disprove the Christ-myth theory have been somewhat injudicious."[6]

It's just a stand-alone quote with no attempt to summarize his views. It doesn't fit the surrounding text, in that it begins with "this skeptical way of thinking," whereas the previous sentence describes a non-skeptical way of thinking. It adds nothing that hasn't been said already, except the bit about docetism and it's far from clear how that fits in.

I don't know what the "paragraph break" was added for. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:22, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

The (paragraph break) is because Wikipedia doesn't make duplicating the exact format used easy. Here is a fuller quote with everything exactly as it appears in version I am using:
"In reaction against this "criticism conducted under church bells", Wilhelm Bousset has put forward the opposite proposition: "If we believe and honour, we no longer see objectively." According to his view, then, only an unbeliever could write a truly historical record of Jesus; [8] and Schweitzer, who liked a paradox, pointed out that some of the greatest of Jesus' Lives were written with hate. [9] Certainly, some partial measure of scepticism regarding the Gospel stories is inevitable, if historical standards are going to be applied. And it started extremely early, even inside the church. Indeed, it goes back to the new Testament itself, in which Martha commented that Jesus could not possibly raise Lazarus from the dead since his body was already decomposing. [10] In the third century, too, the Christian philosopher Origen conceded to his pagan opponents that some passages in the Gospels were by no means literally true, and indeed both absurd and impossible.


This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth. In ancient times, this extreme view was named the heresy of docetism (seeming) because it maintained that Jesus never came into the world "in the fles", but only seemed to; [11] and it was given some encouragement by Paul's lack of interest in his fleshly existence. Subsequently, from the eighteenth century onwards, there have been attempts to insist that Jesus did not even "seem" to exist, and that all tales of his appearance upon the earth were pure fiction. In particular, his story was cmpared to the pagan mythologies inventing fictitious dying and rising gods.


Some of the lines of thinking employed to disprove the Christ-myth theory have been somewhat injudicious. For example, the student of history, accustomed to the "play of the contingent and unforseen", will remain unimpressed by the argument that the vast subsequent developments of Christianity must have been launched from imposing beginnings, or that mighty religions must necessarily have derived from mighty founders: some, notably Hinduism, have not." (Attitudes to the Evidence cross referenced to (Grant, Michael. Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels. Scribner, 1995; first published 1977, p. 199))
[8] Quoted by G.E. Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism (Hodder & Stoughton, 1970 ed.), p. 153.
[9] A. Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, op. cit., p. 4.
[10] John 11:39.
[11] I John 4:2.
Does THAT help or make things worse?--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:38, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Worse, We still do not have context because you are cutting and pasting together different sections of his writing, and it seems you are promoting a novel synthesis of the material. Hardyplants (talk)
There are a lot of SYN violations (original research) in this article, where people have chosen a factoid here and another one there, and pushed them together. We see a lot of sentences with multiple refs in them. "A argued that X[7]—which is the view that Y is not good[8]—is a better solution than Z."[9] But which source is making which point?
The Grant quote isn't quite as bad as that, but it's heading in the same direction. What is the benefit of including it? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:01, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Personally, I don't think there's much benefit in including this bit. I think SV's proposal to remove it is a good idea. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:02, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
What's the benefit of including it? It shows just how messed up some of the material that defines Christ Myth theory is. Hardyplants as for "cutting and pasting together different sections of his writing" if you has bothered to follows the link you would have seen the final quote is straight from the article with no editing except for formating with everything exactly as it was. While you are at it I suggest you go over to Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_12#Grant:_what.27s_the_full_quote.3F explain how what I did was any different from what Akhilleus did all those years ago.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:13, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I think we should remove it until we can say clearly what the point of it is, and what it's saying. I'm also inclined to remove Marshall, because what he's saying is a little obvious:

However, biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall writes that there are "two views of the historical Jesus which stand at the opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion about him." At one extreme is the view that Jesus never existed, and that the gospels describe an essentially fictional person. At the other extreme is the view that the gospels portray events exactly as they happened, and each event depicted in the New Testament is the literal truth.[7]

Clearly there are two ends of the spectrum, and clearly each end will be an extreme. I wonder whether we really need to point that out. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:54, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Given the on again off again we have had over the years that Christ Myth theory is somehow separate from the historical Jesus idea we really need this. Besides it serves as a good transition between Walsh and Boyd-Eddy, is reliable, and gives a much broader range than Boyd-Eddy.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:09, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The Marshall quote doesn't help with that, though. It just says there is a spectrum and it has two ends (as of course it must). That's what Eddy and Boyd say immediately afterwards, so it's just repetition. What does Marshall say that Eddy and Boyd do not say? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:13, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Well here is how Marshall exactly describes the far historical end: "the Gospels give us a picture of the historical Jesus, every detail in the Gospels being recorded just as it happened." Now contrast that with Boyd-Eddy's far more moderate historical end: "these scholars maintain that historical research can indeed disclose a good deal of reliable information about the historical Jesus". Since Boyd-Eddy is arguing against the other three categories in favor of his remaining category it makes sense that he cut it off before he get to the extreme "every detail in the Gospels being recorded just as it happened" end of the full spectrum. Boyd-Eddy on Pg 32 has our old favorites including Thallus and on page 173 goes into detail. Richard Carrier give two articles regarding Thallus Jacoby and Müller on "Thallus" (1999) and Thallus: an Analysis (1999), as well as R.T. France (Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_14) making me question Boyd-Eddy's reasoning for even trying to use Thallus.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:38, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The Grant/docetism material really only adds more complication to the article, without any particular defined benefit, and could easily be removed. I like keeping at least a reference to the Marshall hypothesis, because it seems to me that the article might benefit from structuring along the lines of the two variations he proposes. The quote itself, however, is a bit redundant and could be shortened or just paraphrased. John Carter (talk) 15:41, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't mind keeping Marshall so long as we tighten the writing. The other bit of tightening I'd like to do is of:

Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd break this spectrum into four categories that they note are "admittedly over simplistic", "ideal-typical", and a "useful heuristic".

I don't see a need to repeat all their thoughts about it, but whenever I've tightened it I get reverted. I would prefer that it say something like: "Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd break this spectrum into four categories that they say are simplistic but useful." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:40, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
How about "Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd break this spectrum into four categories that they say are overly simplistic but a useful heuristic." Keeps the spirit of just how vague the categories are and what their function really is.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:51, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

"A historical" or "an historical"?

We currently say both, so we should choose. My preference is "an historical"; "a historical" always looks like an error to me. But I don't mind so long as we're consistent. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:46, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

IIRC we has a debate on this. Strictly speaking "an historical" is more gramically correct but "a historical" is what is more commonly used:
  • "In some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as "historical," use an:
  • An historical event is worth recording."

In writing, "a historical event" is more commonly used.(Purdue Online Writing Lab)

Personally I think "a historical" could too easily mistaken for or mistyped as "ahistorical" something totally different but as long as it is consistent I don't really care.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:14, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I've always thought that "an historical" was the correct choice. ^^James^^ (talk) 10:48, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Okay, thanks, I'll use "an historical". SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:36, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Isn't this a question of American/British variation? --Akhilleus (talk) 18:50, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
It might be, yes. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:27, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Hardly, I think. Grammars of both varieties mention that both forms are common. I wouldn't even bother enforcing uniformity, it's just natural variation. No preference either way. Fut.Perf. 23:09, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

What real historians study

In a survey of topics covered by historians of the classical period, it is clear that the idea of Jesus being mythical is not even entertained by historians.Tthe historical person is a rich topic of study though. Note a search of [1], which from there website

Bryn Mawr Classical Review publishes timely reviews of current scholarly work in the field of classical studies (including archaeology). This site is the authoritative archive of BMCR's publication, from 1990 to the present. Reviews from August 2008 on are also posted

- A search using "historical Jesus" [2] compared to "Jesus myth" [3] Hardyplants (talk) 09:38, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Bad example as many of the second group of hits are for anything that have Jesus and myth in the text. Examples like "The compares the creation myth of Adam and Eve found in the .... useful and much needed survey of the image of Jesus in Manichaean writing...) show just how messed up this method is. The hit on "historical Jesus" is similarly misleading as one hit is due to this sentence: No references to the Quest for the Historical Jesus are found, and one cannot help but believe that such a topic deserved a little more mention.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:55, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
That is the whole point, historians of the classical period do not even consider it worthy of discussion. They study Jesus and they study myths but not a "Jesus Myth" as in he never existed. Hardyplants (talk)
Actually they do study the "Jesus Myth" as in he never existed as the Gospels portray him. No sane Classical antiquity historian says the Gospels are totally historical accurate the debate is how much is myth and how much is history. Also from a practical standpoint they have to accept some of the Gospel account is historical valid because it is the only thing they really can work from--throw it out as no more historical then Plato's Atlantis and you have nothing to work with.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:21, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Thomas L. Thompson: Christ myther or minimalist

I just noticed the the moving of Thomas L. Thompson from minimalist to Christ mythist (especially as the only Thompson Boyd-Eddy refers to is a Michael Thompson). The inclusion of Thomas L. Thompson and biblical minimalism was not through Boyd (as was spelled out in my original version) but via Bennett 2001, pp. 7, 131; Thompson 2005, p. 8.

The original text read as follows: "Somewhere in between these extremes lies biblical minimalism,[Goguel 1926b, p. 117-118] as expressed by writers such as Rudolf Bultmann and Thomas L. Thompson, who argue that a historical Jesus did exist but that virtually nothing can be known about him, and that many (perhaps all) of the episodes in the gospels are legendary. [Bennett 2001, pp. 7, 131; Thompson 2005, p. 8]"

When I integrated this into Boyd-Eddy categories note the care I took in my original version: "A historical Jesus did exist but that virtually nothing can be known about him represented by Rudolf Bultmann and Mack (ie biblical minimalism with Thomas L. Thompson provided as an additional example by other authors [Bennett 2001, pp. 7, 131; Thompson 2005, p. 8])

I trusted the original citation in putting Thomas L. Thompson where I did--did I err?--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:39, 4 August 2010 (UTC)

Um, I don't think Bennett says anything about Thompson. Maybe I'm forgetting, but I'm pretty sure about that. In fact, I don't think we have any good secondary sources that place Thompson anywhere—arguments on this talk page and elsewhere have been based either on what Thompson says in his book, or on the jacket copy of his book. Having read his book, Thompson doesn't spell out the consequences of his treatment of the NT for the historicity of Jesus, and in fact says that his book isn't about Jesus' historicity—"The purpose of this book is not historical reconstruction. Nor is it centered in the problems of the historical Jesus." (p. 16) The only review of his book that I found in an academic journal, by William Arnal, in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 26 (2008) 175-79 ([4]), doesn't present the work as one that says there was no historical Jesus. Arnal does say that Thompson believes that the NT is literary/exegetical in orientation, not historical, and is therefore useless for reconstructing history, but that's not at all the same as saying there's no history to reconstruct. So I would not put Thompson into the "mythicist" category without some good secondary sources to put him there, or an explicit acknowledgment on his own part that he thinks he belongs in the mythicist camp. --Akhilleus (talk) 15:11, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Do think removing entirely from the Boyd-Eddy categories would be a good idea?--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:03, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Kind of. Boyd-Eddy don't discuss Thompson at all, but I think they do provide examples of people who fit into each category they discuss—so we could just reuse their examples. --Akhilleus (talk) 16:05, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
I removed him until we get better source that explain just what his position is and how they define Christ Myth theory.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:55, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Docetism

I'm wondering if we should remove this from the definition section. It jumps out as unclear, and not obviously related, and is a very old idea.

Historian Michael Grant argues that Jesus skepticism reached its culmination in the position known as docetism (seeming), which maintained that Jesus never came into the world "in the flesh," but only seemed to.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:09, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

The text represents an incomplete and misleading understanding of Docetism. Hardyplants (talk) 05:09, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
"Michael Grant was one of the few classical historians to win respect from academics and a lay readership." Michael Grant The Times October 13, 2004. The independent reliable source The Times labeled the late Michael Grant as a classical historian who had one respect from academics as well as laymen. I used Michael Grant's exact quotes but the somehow they got turned into this misleading mess. I am resorting the original wording I used.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:40, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
I do not have a problem with the source, but with the incomplete quote used. Hardyplants (talk) 07:00, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── We now have an entire quote. It would be good if we could paraphrase. Having to quote at length in this way, with no summarizing text around it, suggests we don't understand what is being said. And indeed it's very unclear.

Historian Michael Grant stated: "This skeptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth. In ancient times, this extreme view was named the heresy of docetism (seeming) because it maintained that Jesus never came into the world "in the flesh", but only seemed to; (I John 4:2) and it was given some encouragement by Paul's lack of interest in his fleshly existence. Subsequently, from the eighteenth century onwards, there have been attempts to insist that Jesus did not even "seem" to exist, and that all tales of his appearance upon the earth were pure fiction. In particular, his story was compared to the pagan mythologies inventing fictitious dying and rising gods. (paragraph break) Some of the lines of thinking employed to disprove the Christ-myth theory have been somewhat injudicious."[10]

  1. ^ x
  2. ^ x
  3. ^ x
  4. ^ x
  5. ^ x
  6. ^ Grant, Michael. Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels. Scribner, 1995; first published 1977, p. 199.
  7. ^ b
  8. ^ c
  9. ^ d
  10. ^ Grant 1995, p. 199

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:09, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

The word Docetism and its blue link are not very helpful to the average reader. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 07:15, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
The link there for people who don't know what docetism is. As for possibly being confusing we have no shortage of those if you go through the archives.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:19, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
My understanding of docetism makes it entirely different from the Jesus of Nazareth never existed theory. Most docetists, I think, would have agreed that people in Gallilee and Jerusalem saw what looked like a human walking and talking as described in the Gospels. They just think it was not a real human body, but a ghostly body made to look like a human body - it could not feel pain for example. E4mmacro (talk) 02:46, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I'd say remove the section altogether. Docetism in effect implies that there was a real perceived Jesus, in some sense, but that that perceived person was not in and of himself a true physical being. A being perceived as being real would be, for all practical purposes, a real person, and thus wouldn't qualify for inclusion here. If it were kept, various forms of monarchianism and other unusual Christologies might be included as well, and there is no real reason to make this article any more confusing and confused than it already is. John Carter (talk) 15:32, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Docetism is no way that simple. Take a look at A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrines: being ... (1877) By Sir William Smith who spend nearly four full pages describing Docetism.
"So far indeed has this gone that there has arisen a sort of modern docetism like that of Drews" The spiritual interpretation of history Shailer Mathews (1917) Page 37.
"The first part contains a denunciatory refutation of the Christ-Myth theory, which is quite wrongly described as "Docetism"" The Congregational quarterly Congregational Union of England and Wales (1934)
"Some skepitic argue that Jesus was a myth. Ancient scholars name this theory "docetism"," Crucify Him: A Lawyer Looks at the Trial of Jesus Dale Foreman (1990) pg 46
"Ignatius's account of Docetism Drews misunderstands Gnosticism teachers are denounced who declared that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh, and taught that his flesh was only a blind." The historical Christ (1914) Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare pg 104
From these sources it is clear that at least at one time the Christ-Myth theory was connected with docetism and at last as 1990 was still viewed this way and Conybeare shows a clue on how this might have come about. Currently Michael Grant is the only clearly reliable source we have at the moment that makes the connection between Christ Myth theory and docetism regardless of how badly worded the passage is.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:25, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
It is true, and has frequently been noted, that Christian apologists tend to associate any number of groups with which they disagree, even if the association is only in the minds of those Christian apologists, by referring to them as "a variation on (whatever)". One of the reasons they tend to do this is, well, laziness. This way they can say, in effect, "We already dealt with this elsewhere. See our criticism of 'docetism' above." Docetism, as it was basically defined, was that Jesus was, effectively, a matter of mass hypnosis; in effect, that he was perceived as "real" by the observers, including the apostles, even if there was, basically, nothing real there. God was effectively hypnotising them. The fact that early apologists who opposed this theory liked being inexact for the sake of brevity is interesting, and saying that the subject has been called a "form" of docetism would be, I guess, acceptable, however inexact that linkage was. And it should be pointed out that the equivocating words in the quote were used as well. However, it is clearly the case that now the two are considered distinct entities, and, on that basis, having the article refer to docetism in a way implying there was a substantive, not "lazy", linkage between the two would be misleading. Also, I think, as the theories (plural) have developed, it has become clearer that the newer versions are very little if at all similar to docetism. As this article is apparently structured to give a somewhat misleading impression that these separate theories are all inherently related, we would be saying that the newer theories, like Baigent's, are also linked to docetism, which they clearly are not.
While mentioning docetism in passing as being something the early versions of the theory were called makes sense, to give it any more emphasis than that minimal amount would be misleading to readers and cast the majority of the content of the article, relating to theories which include several which are not even remotely docetist as docetist, thus clearly not reflecting, and even going against, the majority of the current scholarly view. Now, docetism and the Jesus myth theory are seen as entirely separate things. John Carter (talk) 19:27, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Wells section

I changed the final paragraph of the Wells section to reflect what Akhilleus posted above, regarding what Wells actually said. He didn't mention Price or the others, only Boyd and Eddy. I've edited it to stick closely to what Wells said.

In response to being called the leading contemporary Christ myth theorist by Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd in 2007, Wells clarified again in 2009 that in his books of 1996, 1999, and 2004, he repudiated the idea that Jesus is virtually and perhaps entirely fictional. He writes that he belongs in the category of those who argue that Jesus did exist, but that reports about him are so unreliable that we can know little or nothing about him. For a statement of his position, he refers readers to his article, "Jesus, Historicity of" in Tom Flynn's The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).[1] He writes there that, while he is not as radical as in his 1975 work, he still argues that the story of the suffering and execution of Jesus under Pilate is non-historical.[2]

Refs are:

  • Wells, G. A. Cutting Jesus Down to Size. Open Court, 2009, pp. 327–328.
  • Wells, G.A. in Tom Flynn. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Prometheus Books, 2007, p. 446ff.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 11:50, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

The only problem is this leaves Price, Richard Carrier, and Doherty either still calling or implying that Wells Post-Jesus Legend was in the Christ Myth theory camp. Price and Carrier are a real mess with Can We Trust the New Testament? (2005) with Price commenting that Wells was an "eminently worthy successor to radical 'Christ myth theorists..." right on the back of the very book and Carrier putting the book in the Ahistoricity category with Drews, Doherty, Liedner, Price, and Thomas Thompson in the Handout for the May 30 2006 Stanford University presentation he gave.--BruceGrubb (talk) 12:36, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
That doesn't matter. We can't account for the way everyone views Wells, and they're entitled to view him as they choose, no matter what he has said about himself. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:22, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Ok, you just lost me. Are you saying that we should count him as a Christ Myther as Price, Richard Carrier, and Doherty do or take his challenging of Boyd-Eddy with Van Voorst as support to where his position is?--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:26, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
No, we just repeat what the sources say, without SYN violations. Wells said what he said, so we summarize that without putting words in his mouth. It may be inadequate, in that it didn't mention Price etc, but that was his decision. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:25, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Ok, then do we note that Price, Richard Carrier, Doherty, and Boyd-Eddy put Wells in the Christ Myth/Jesus myther/ahistorial category but that he only corrected Boyd-Eddy on the point?--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:54, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
We do that with devices such as "A says X about Wells, but Wells himself has argued," but when I started adding those, you removed the one for Price, so I stopped. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:11, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Don't remember removing anything to deal with Price. If anything regarding Wells I restored the (Price, Robert M. "Of Myth and Men", Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 20, Number 1, accessed August 2, 2010.) reference that got stomped in one of the clean ups. Must say following the reference is a LOT better, thanks.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:57, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Thank you, and you're welcome. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:05, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Jesus Project

This quote by Joseph Hoffmann seems to have more bearing on our topic that the one used:

Alas, The Jesus Project itself became a subject for exploitation: news stories, promotional material and the reactions in the blogosphere focused on the Big Question: “Scholars to Debate whether Jesus Really existed.” Given the affections of media, the only possible newsworthy outcome was assumed to be He didn’t. Such a conclusion had it ever been reached (as it would not have been reached by the majority of participants) would only have been relevant to the people April DeConnick ( a participant) has described as “mythers,” people out to prove through consensus with each other a conclusion they cannot establish through evidence. The first sign of possible trouble came when I was asked by one such “myther” whether we might not start a “Jesus Myth” section of the project devoted exclusively to those who were committed to the thesis that Jesus never existed. I am not sure what “committed to a thesis” entails, but it does not imply the sort of skepticism that the myth theory itself invites.

[5] Hardyplants (talk) 18:17, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

I was worried about including too much from one person in that section, but you're right that it's interesting. Is this okay? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:36, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, this is probably better. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:41, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure that so much text should be devoted to a project that never produced anything. Hoffman himself might be worth a section, though... --Akhilleus (talk) 18:50, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
That's a pretty good source. Why is the only excerpt under discussion the one paragraph that criticizes the "mythers", as opposed to...
"With due regard to the complexity of evidence surrounding Christian origins—a subject that has been complicated, in a good way, rather than solved by the discoveries of modern scholarship—I no longer believe it is possible to answer the “historicity question. “ No quantum of material discovered since the1940’s, in the absence of canonical material would support the existence of an historical founder. No material regarded as canonical and no church doctrine built upon it in the history of the church would cause us to deny it. Whether the New Testament runs from Christ to Jesus or Jesus to Christ is not a question we can answer.
"Obviously I do not deny the existence of mythic materials entwined with a more or less historical memory of a real individual. But as I have written elsewhere, we cannot point to a stratum of ancient biography where such intertwining does not exist: it is a matter of degree, not genre, and a matter of guesswork, not reconstructive surgery.
"I think the historicity question, as I have said many times over, is an interesting one. But it is not a question that in the absence of a “real” archeological or textual discovery of indubitable quality can be answered. It cannot be answered directly and perhaps not even through the slow accumulation of new sources. The issue is not merely that such a discovery would not persuade die-hard mythers and would not support believers in the divine Christ. It is that such evidence is really not an academic possibility. Not even the unearthing of an unknown archive of the forced and sworn confession of a skilled forger and tale-teller by the name of Rufus, appearing in front of a magistrate in the year 68 CE, would suffice. We already possess material like that, it is forged. Noloop (talk) 19:41, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The first paragraph you cite is in the article. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:26, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
It's getting hard to keep up. My favorite comment of his, because it echoes my view, is the idea that the existence of Jesus is a matter of degree. We think of existence as boolean, but in cases of legend, it isn't. If somebody named Jesus was born to Joseph and Sarah in 56 BC, taught that God is more loving and less wrathful than the Rabbis said, criticized temple life as corrupt, and died of food poisoning in 13 BC....could he be the histoical Jesus? Part of the problem is the lack of any actual historical evidence from the time of Jesus. Part of it is a lack of focus on the essential, definitive characteristics of Jesus. So, Hoffman's idea of degrees seems very important to me. Noloop (talk) 23:40, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I like it because it partly supports two quotes in the abstract and main body text of an article by Fischer in Anthropology of Consciousness I tried putting in this article nearly two years ago. "No quantum of material discovered since the 1940’s, in the absence of canonical material would support the existence of an historical founder." (Hoffmann) echos "It is not possible to compare the above (several quotes regarding Jesus by several authors) with what we have, namely, that there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived." (Fischer) very well and, unlike Fischer, Hoffmann isn't some obscure scholar writing a very hard to read article (for non anthropologists) in a journal at best tangentially connected to the subject at hand; Hoffmann is a well known scholar who has a impressive list of credentials backing him.
Your comment about Jesus being a legend echos my own question of how can historians suggest historical Robin Hoods a full century after the events supposedly took place and yet when a Jesus out side the c4 BCE to 36 CE timeframe the Jesus presented suddenly becomes "non historical" (see Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_11#BruceGrubb.27s_edit Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_21#Christ_myth_theory_definitions, Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_34#Some_input_regarding_the_RFC., Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_36) User:PeaceLoveHarmony also say the Robin Hood connection and to date all we have had is the "Jesus of Nazareth was not an historical person" tap dance. Well now it has been showed that Jesus of Nazareth IS the Jesus of the Gospels then saying that the Jesus of the Gospels (ie Jesus of Nazareth) is a composite character (be definition non historical) you are right back as square one.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:10, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Right, well, I'm suggesting that instead of having a section on a project that never issued any publications and apparently never even managed to have an actual meeting, we have a section on Hoffman, whom I agree has good credentials and an interesting viewpoint. --Akhilleus (talk) 04:25, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

The relevance of the project is that it suggests the non-existence hypothesis is not similar to Holocaust denial or flat-earthism, or quite as fringe as has been claimed. No group of scholars would set itself up to investigate either of those with the instructions to have no pre-conceived ideas. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:36, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Besides the "apparently never even managed to have an actual meeting" part makes me go SAY WHAT?! It says right in the article "Arthur Droge of the University of Toronto made the point directly at the last meeting of the Project in December 2008, perhaps its last meeting full stop..."--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:38, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I was incorrect. The Project had one meeting, after which the participants apparently could not agree on the Project's future agenda, and funding was later pulled. As far as I can see, no publications resulted from this project, which is generally considered a sign of failure in academia. Also, the conflicts that led to the project's collapse seem to have centered around whether the project was to directly address the idea of Jesus' non-existence or not. This piece by Earl Doherty might be interesting reading...among other things, he says:

As it turned out, even before the opening meeting (delayed almost a year beyond the initially scheduled time) the possibility that Jesus’ existence would be questioned by the Project apparently created difficulties, leading to the refusal of some scholars to take part and to a degree of backtracking by those in charge, until it became reduced to little more than another “Quest for the Historical Jesus.” The only difference was that it was stated as part of its mandate that it would not assume the existence of an historical Jesus a priori, but adopt an “agnostic” stance on the question...

After all, media reports surrounding the announcement of the Project had, quite naturally, seized on the existence question as an important and high-profile element of the agenda, but the Project itself did not seem to be ready to follow through. It was apparently too controversial even among a group of scholars who were considered to be the most liberal and avant-garde in the field. Even its co-chair, R. Joseph Hoffmann, who had long been associated with CSH, was now remarking that there was ‘plenty of evidence’ for Jesus’ existence, and that Jesus mythicists were to be regarded as occupying one end of a spectrum of those who would find little or no happiness on the Project (the other end being staunchly conservative biblical exegetes).

...The problem is, with the exception of Robert M. Price, also long associated with CSH and Prometheus Books, no one inside mainstream academia has been seriously questioning Jesus’ existence, and thus there was no one to fill the role of attending to the existence question at Project meetings.

My basic point is that this project didn't do much of anything, did very little to advance the theory of Jesus' non-existence, and seems to have resulted in bad feelings among mainstream academics invited to participate such as April DeConick. I don't really think it's doing the CMT any favors to have a big section devoted to a project that flamed out... --Akhilleus (talk) 04:57, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
We're not aiming to do the CMT any favors. We're aiming to provide to improve the understanding of the topic for our readers. The Jesus Project seems interesting and relevant to me. As for mainstream (secular) academia, the main point is that the topic is largely ignored. Hoffman and some other good sources (e.g. Elaine Pagels) make the point that there is just not much that can be known. It's not that historical Jesus is disputed, so much as not considered a feasible object of research due to a (permanent) lack of hard evidence. Noloop (talk) 05:22, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Right and the Christ Myth Theory at it heart seeks to explain how Christianity could have formed without a definitive flesh and blood founder and some of these very same arguments are used by the minimalist crowd (Remsburg one such notable example Volney might be another). This raises another problem--this article give the FALSE impression that many of the points raised are exclusive to the "Jesus is a pure myth" crowd. As Remsburg shows these very same arguments are also used by the "Jesus existed in the 1st century as a very minor blink and you miss him teacher who preached a few words of wisdom and then drifted off into obscurity" part of the minimalist crowd. That problem with this article has not been addressed--other than the idea Jesus was a pure myth not one argument presented by the Christ Myth Theory group is exclusively their own and is also used by part of the equally fringe minimalist camp.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:51, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

It is not true that this point has been largely ignored by mainstream academica. Meier was a professor at Notre Dame. Sanders at Oxford, and then Duke. Ehrman at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Vermes at Oxford. Fredriksen at Boston College. Oxford is one of the top three or four universities in the UK and Notre Dame, Boston College, Duke, and UNC-NC are among the top-ranked universities in the US. Slrubenstein | Talk 09:45, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Slrubenstein, I think you may have misunderstood slightly. Mainstream academia takes the subject of Jesus' historicity seriously; but mainstream academia does not take the theory of Jesus' nonexistence seriously. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:51, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
No, mainstream academia doesn't take the topic seriously. Meaning, there are few (or none) articles on the subject in secular, peer-reviewed academic sources. Noloop (talk) 19:57, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Too true. Compared to Creationism, New Chronology, or Older Sphinx the study of the the Jesus issue looks like a desolate wasteland. Worse there be little understanding of the cultural mentality of the time--would the idea that Jesus could be a total fiction even occur to the Romans and Jews of the time or were they more accepting of the fantastic then we are? Furthermore no real explanation to why early Church Fathers didn't use documents or passages that would have helped their cause. Why did Paul who supposedly met Jesus own brother seem to know only general concepts about Jesus? And so on.--BruceGrubb (talk) 00:11, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Ehrman's The Lost Christianities is a must read to anyone who believes the fiction that Christianity was ever a monolithic belief or that the faction that got into power in the 4th century didn't systematic try to chuck anything that didn't agree with its version of Jesus down the memory hole. The version of Jesus we got was decided by a group of men with a social-political agenda and not all the other variant Jesus have survived.--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:54, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

None of the historians I have cited have claimed that Christianity was a monolithic belief or that the version of Jesus we have today is either historically accurate or complete. You do not have to read just Ehrman's book, you can read any of the books by these mainstream academics. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:46, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Also, I have read all Ehrman's book, not just that one. No one here that I know of has ever suggested that Christianity was monolithic - any intelligent reader of the Synoptics and the Gospel of John would conclude the same thing. And, with few exceptions, most of the documents "churcked down the memory hole" were by individuals like Cerinthus who had even less first-hand knowledge of Jesus than the Evangelists did, in fact, none at all. Ehrman does say somewhere that Jesus' own opinion of himself was probably (according to scientific minimalism, and assuming he wasn't insane) probably more like that of the Ebionites, who saw him as a prophet of Judaism, not a Godman. The insanity bit is based on the fact that modern people would say anyone who claims to be God is insane. Having worked in a psychiatric facility for a while, yeah, God does seem to get admitted rather frequently to such places, partially because he apparently has serious problems confining himself to a single human identity. And, so far as I know, all the other versions of Jesus were equally driven by a socio-political agenda, some more obviously than the Pauline one. While reading such statements here makes it clear that at least one of our editors is himself at least in part driven by a socio-political agenda, I'm not sure that saying, in effect, "people have agendas" is really such a surprise. Yes, there are some fundamentalist Christians who take every word of the Bible as absolute truth, but the criticism of that belief is already elsewhere, and I don't think that this article should be drafted into being a second platform of rebuttal. John Carter (talk) 19:42, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

John Dickson

We're relying a bit too much on this source. In addition to the problem with Graem Clark, this text doesn't seem warranted: "The theory has been further popularized by the work of New Atheist writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the French philosopher Michel Onfray.[3]" I haven't read The God Delusion, but I don't think the non-historicity of Jesus is a major position of Dawkins'. To say he is a popularizer seems a stretch. Noloop (talk) 05:13, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Changed it to "has come to public attention." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:38, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
An op-ed two years ago doesn't seem like a basis for saying it has come to public attention. . Bertrand Russell is more famous, specialized in the humanities, and has an essay specifically aimed at Christianity. Seems like a better person to use in the lead. Noloop (talk) 06:19, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
That was in 1927. That part of the lead is who is talking about it today. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:48, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I have some objections to the word "popularized". It seems to be implying that the "conversions" to this belief are in substantial part driven by the writings of these individuals and these individuals alone, and I'm not sure an editorial is the best source for such a conclusion. Something to the effect that the authors have helped bring the subject to the attention of people might be more neutral and less leading. John Carter (talk) 19:46, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
A single op-ed piece is pretty low profile. The historicity of Jesus isn't the subject of Dawkins' book. We are risking OR, by saying Dawkins' has raised the profile of the issue. Are there are other sources mentioning Dawkins in this context? Noloop (talk) 20:43, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

The Historical Jesus spectrum and the Christ Myth Theory

Ok, we are starting to go off the rails a bit, again. Look at these two reliable sources:

"We have in effect been looking at two myths in this introductory chapter; two views of the historical Jesus which stand at opposite ends of the spectrum of opinions about him. At the one end is the views that there never was such a person as Jesus; the Gospels are descriptions of a fictitious person. [...] At the other end of the spectrum is the view the Gospels give us a picture of the historical Jesus, every detail in the Gospels being recorded just as it happened." (Marshall, Ian Howard (2004), I Believe in the Historical Jesus (rev. ed.), Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, ISBN 978-1573830195 pg 24)

"To accomplish this, it will prove helpful to break down the wide variety of views regarding the Jesus of history found in New Testament scholarship today into four broad (and admittedly overly simplistic) categorizes. This spectrum of views points is, of course, ideal-typical in nature is offered merely as a useful heuristic" (Eddy, Paul R.; Boyd, Gregory A. (2007), The Jesus Legend: a Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, ISBN 978-0801031144 pg 24-25)

Note what both these reliable sources are saying: the views of the historical Jesus is a spectrum of ideas. Marshall tells us the full range of that spectrum and Eddy-Boyd tells us that this spectrum can be broken up into "admittedly over simplistic", "ideal-typical", and "useful heuristic" categories. At least two other notable authors have also broken up the historical Jesus spectrum into four broad categories: John Remsburg in his 1909 book The Christ and Dan Barker in his 2006 book Losing Faith in Faith on pg 372.

If you examine these categories you will see the definitions don't exactly match and that is our main problem with the article; Eddy-Boyd even explains why. There is a fringe "Christ Myth Theory" category but where the break between it and the equally fringe extreme minimalist position varies from author to author. Walsh's "The theory that Jesus was originally a myth is called the Christ myth theory" causes loads of other headaches as a strict reading would put Wells' current position in the Christ myth theory category which several authors (Price, Dunn, Carrier, Eddy-Boyd) have done. Sure Wells has challenged this categorization but is he and these other authors using the same definition? That question is not really answered.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:02, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think the question is going to be answered, Bruce, because authors are using the terms interchangeably. I notice Eddy and Boyd also introduce a "legendary Jesus" theory. The fact is that the terms are not pinned down as rigidly as earlier versions of this article suggested. There is a flux, as you'd expect, because obviously no academic is going to say categorically that Jesus definitely did not exist, so there is always going to be an element of "well, he might have, but there's no real evidence," which morphs into what editors here have been calling biblical minimalism. But these are false categories and red herrings. The best way forward is simply to report the views of reliable sources who say Jesus should be viewed as myth, not history, and the views of those who argue that it's wrong. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:29, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
On that note, the second sentence says (my bold): "Some proponents argue that events or sayings associated with the figure of Jesus in the New Testament may have been drawn from one or more individuals who actually existed, but that those individuals were not in any sense the founder of Christianity." Is there any proponent, particularly any modern proponent, who doesn't argue that? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:34, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
The Extreme "Jesus is a pure myth with no historical foundation" group with Acharya S, Tom Harpur, and John M. Allegro as kind of poster children. To rework what I said on one of the noticeboards back in March 2009 looking at all the material you effectively get four definitions for Christ Myth theory:
  • Jesus is a pure myth--no more historical than Osiris or Zeus.
  • Jesus started out as a myth myth regardless of connection to any historical person (Walsh)
  • There was a historical Jesus but he lived in a different time.
  • The Gospel Jesus has had so much added that nothing discernible about the actual man remains (The He might as well not existed tack, ala Price).
As for the "reliable sources who say Jesus should be viewed as myth" you run into another point raised in my still being worked on FAQ:
I am confused by the use of myth I am seeing in some of the literature. It seams to mean something other than totally made up story.
Response: Myth to the scholar has many meanings. Biblical studies professor J. W. Rogerson goes into the many definitions in his paper "Slippery words: Myth" (Dundes 1984) but to the layman Remsburg gives what is likely the easiest to understand explanation: "Myths are of three kinds: Historical, Philosophical, and Poetical."
Using modern examples here is a rough break down:
Historical myth: They Died With their Boots on, Little Big Man, and Son of the Morning Star--Battle of Little Big Horn. Washington Irving's story that Columbus sailed west to prove the Earth was round,
Philosophical myth: Mason Locke Weems' story of Washington's chopping down of the Cherry Tree. Death as a person is a pure myth version of Philosophical myth.
Poetical myth: Longfellow's Paul Revere
Now what "Jesus should be viewed as myth" mean in that context ie what version of "myth" are you aiming for?--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:14, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
I think Bruce may have missed the option that Jesus, in some sense, was a historical person about whom a whole mess of legends, none of which may have had anything to do with the historical person, accumulated. However, even with all 4 or 5 options outlined, I can see how they could be broken into two larger classes of theories:
  • 1) Maybe he existed, maybe not, but the evidence that we have is insufficient to support any claims to his existence. (the Jesus maybe never existed option)
  • 2) He did (or probably did) exist, but the stories that have accumulated to him are unreliable. (the Gospels are unreliable option)
Maybe in one way of addressing the article might be to break the content regarding the theories that have been proposed into some types of groupings, maybe the above, maybe others. But such breakdown might make it easier to see how the extant theories relate to each other, and make it a bit easier to read. John Carter (talk) 17:42, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
I didn't miss them as per Boyd-Eddy that would be more along the line of minimalist position something even Remsburg put into a different category back in 1909 and back then he put it as the domain of radical Freethinkers. Remsburg is the closet thing to the view you are looking for and while notable his impact on the scholarly community has been nil though he is a favorite with the armchair researcher and blogger brigade. Here are his exact words on the matter: "Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist." Dan Barker echoes that view with the statement "we need to distinguish the Jesus of history and the Jesus of the New Testament; they were not necessarily the same person" and going on to say that while there is a 5 to 10 percent chance there were a teacher named Jesus in the 1st century the Gospel Jesus did not exist.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:13, 3 August 2010 (UTC)


I really have no idea why this discussion is happening again. Of course there are people who have said categorically that Jesus didn't exist, that the figure in the Gospels is pure myth; Wells used to argue that there was no historical Jesus. He changed his mind in the mid-1990s, but that doesn't mean that the definition of the CMT changed; it means that Wells moved away from denying Jesus' historicity, as he himself says. Here's excerpts from the entry on "Jesus, historicity of" from The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (Prometheus 2007), written by G.A. Wells:

Denying Jesus' historicity means asserting that Christianity is based on a founder figure who is wholly mythical. This was the position argued by Bruno Bauer in 1850 and later; he was supported at the turn of the century by Arthur Drews in Germany, William Benjamin Smith in America, and John M. Robertson in England, among other, in a fierce debate on the subject that was not without some impact even on Christian scholars. Thus in chapters added to the second German edition of his famous history of life-of-Jesus research, Albert Schweitzer allowed that Christianity must reckon with the possibility that it will have to surrender the historicity of Jesus altogether, and must have, in readiness for such a contingency, a metaphysical basis for its belief…by around 1920 nearly all scholars had come to regard the case against Jesus' historicity as totally discredited…Today, most secular scholars accept Jesus as a historical, although unimpressive figure. They are aware that much that is said of him, and by him, in the New Testament is no longer taken at face value even by scholars within the mainstream churches…However, from about 1960 an increasing number of skeptics have come forward with denials of Jesus' historicity. In my first books on Christian origins, I myself denied it, but in works published since 1995 I am not quite as radical…The more radical view that there was no historical Jesus at all is still vigorously defended by a few scholars, notably Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price.

So, Wells plainly says that there are people who have denied Jesus' historicity and argued that its founder figure, Jesus, is wholly mythical. The people who have argued this are Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews, William Benjamin Smith, John M. Robertson, Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, and G. A. Wells (although he became "not quite as radical" after 1995). Furthermore, the denial of Jesus' historicity has been regarded as "totally discredited" since about 1920, and today most secular scholars accept Jesus as historical. This is straight out of Wells' mouth, so there should be no suspicion that it's being distorted by Christian belief. But what Wells says agrees with what other reliable sources are saying, including Eddy and Boyd.

As for this business about a spectrum of opinions, that doesn't prevent us from seeing useful distinctions within the spectrum and writing articles about those distinct positions. The difficulty of defining the subject of this article has been grossly over-exaggerated, for years and years now. Wells gives us a simple definition, he identifies major proponents (including himself), and in this he echoes many earlier sources, including Albert Schweitzer. This really should not be this hard. --Akhilleus (talk) 16:35, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Akhilleus is leaving out the reason provided why the early denial of Jesus' historicity was totally discredited: "However, Robertson and the other of that time made the mistakes of setting aside at interpolation all News Testament passages they found inconvenient and of trying to explain Jesus away in terms of pagan parallels (as simply another Osiris or Hercules), then the Jewish background is clearly of greater importance" ([6]. Also position of Price presented is by the standards of Eddy and Boyd incorrect never mind that back on February 23, 2006 a user named Giovanni33 (the first archive of this thing) quoted Price's Deconstructing Jesus showing his position and in Talk:Christ myth theory/Archive 37#What is the real difference between Christ myth theory and 'Jesus existed but the Gospel Jesus is a myth-fiction' Idea? I quoted some more from the same book. The relevant part of those quotes so you can find them through the amazon link are as follows:
"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 have been based on a historical Jesus the Nazorean." (pg 85)
"As Dundes is careful to point out, it doesn't prove there was no historical Jesus, for it is not implausible that a genuine, historical individual might become so lionized, even so deified, that his life and career would be completely assimilated to the Mythic Hero Archetype. But if that happened, we could no longer be sure there had ever been a real person at the root of the whole thing. [...] The apparent links with Roman and Herodian figures is too loose, too doubtful for reasons I have already tried to explain. Thus it seems to me that Jesus must be categorized with other legendary founder figures including the Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-tzu. There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure." (pg 260-261)
Price clearly is NOT saying there is no historical Jesus the above states but rather that there is so much mythology in the Gospel account that the real man and his real actions have been lost. That is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the argument Earl Doherty presents which is a pure myth variant.--BruceGrubb (talk) 17:47, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
This summary by Akhilleus is not what is said in the quote: the denial of Jesus' historicity has been regarded as "totally discredited" since about 1920 Noloop (talk) 22:47, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
Well kind of. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief [Hardcover] put out these additional quotes Akhilleus also left out of above: "...since then, attempts to reopen the discussion have met witht he responce that that battle has been fought and won by the apologists, and that it would be otiose to fight it all again. [...] However, from about 1960 an increasing number of skeptics have come forward with denials of Jesus's historicity."--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:35, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Yep. I don't think my excerpting altered Wells' meaning at all: he says that circa 1920 the scholarly establishment thinks the theory was effectively refuted, and since then most scholars have paid it no mind. (You can confirm this by looking at Michael Grant's book, among others.) Of course Wells and other skeptics think that the scholarly establishment is wrong, but the point here is that someone who's friendly to the CMT acknowledges that it gets no respect within the academy. --Akhilleus (talk) 13:00, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
This comment, and BruceGrubb's excerpt, are part of the context: "Today, most secular scholars accept Jesus as a historical, although unimpressive figure. They are aware that much that is said of him, and by him, in the New Testament is no longer taken at face value even by scholars within the mainstream churches…However, from about 1960 an increasing number of skeptics have come forward with denials of Jesus' historicity". The language has shifted from terms like "all" and "totally discredited" to describe the 1920's to "most," "unimpressive," and "increasing number of skeptics." Note, btw, that this is simply not language found in reliable sources to describe fringe theories like Holocaust denial and the flat Earth. The labeling of CMT as a fringe theory, in the Wikipedian sense, is absurd. Noloop (talk) 14:56, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't think you're quite getting what Wells is saying. He makes a contrast between the majority of scholars, who say there was a historical Jesus, and the skeptics who deny it. It's still the case that the theory is regarded as "totally discredited" by the vast majority of academia; there is, after all, a reason why Ellegard feels the need to complain that his ideas don't get a fair hearing, and why Wells has said in a different piece that it's customary for academics to dismiss the denial of Jesus' historicity with "amused contempt." Actually, in a 1988 book, Wells said: "the view that there was no historical Jesus, that his earthly existence is a fiction of earliest Christianity—a fiction only later made concrete by setting his life in the first century—is today almost totally rejected." (The Historical Evidence for Jesus Prometheus, 1988, p. 218) --Akhilleus (talk) 15:18, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
Except on the entry for Guignebert pg 372 in The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief we have the Christ myth theory defined: "which held no historical Jesus existed". As shown above Price clearly does NOT believe that and yet Wells puts him in the same category as Doherty and if Wells flubbed that you have to ask what else did he flub in this entry.--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:59, 4 August 2010 (UTC)
But Price does believe that. He writes that, of course, it's possible —how could it not be possible?—but that it's extremely unlikely. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:12, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Take a look as the exact wording used: "The more radical view that there was no historical Jesus at all is still vigorously defended by a few scholars, notably Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price" You just said that Price admits it is possible but unlikely--that is way different from saying "there was no historical Jesus at all" ergo Wells flubbed Price's position. QED.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:52, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
No would argue that it is impossible that Jesus existed. The argument is that there is no reason to believe the Jesus narrative is rooted in history. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:03, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

For the record, here is DM Murdocks "extreme" view: "Although many people believe evemerism to be a "reasonable" position, often expressing that, while they do not believe Jesus was the Son of God, they do believe he was a "real person," the fact is that there simply exists no valid, scientific evidence for this "real person," such as any historical record or archaeological remains. Moreover, when the mythological layers are peeled, there remains no "historical" core to the onion. To paraphrase Massey, a composite of 20 people is no one." [7]^^James^^ (talk) 18:27, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

"Criticism" section

There doesn't seem to be any extant section on the critical responses to the theory/theories in the article. Such a section is generally found in most theory articles, and I'm wondering why there isn't one here. Specifically, Allegro's "Magic Mushrooms" theory received such extreme response that, according to sources, the publisher of the book later "apologized" for publishing it. I would think that that particular matter would be significant and notable enough to be mentioned in virtually any discussion of his theory, but it isn't mentioned here.

Breaking the article into two sections, one of which deals with theories which, basically, accept the existence of Jesus, but none of the material about him, and the other which deals with those who see no reason to accept his existence, would make it easier to break up the critical response into similar sections as well. Alternately, the criticism could be included in the discussion of each proposal, although that would include a lot of repetition. John Carter (talk) 17:51, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

John, the only criticism section we have is Christ_myth_theory#Counter-arguments, which is currently weak. We could perhaps rename is to "Criticism of the theory" to make clearer that that's what it is. I've been asking on this page for help with ideas for how to strengthen it. It needs to be developed (a) so that readers can see clearly why biblical scholars argue there was an historical Jesus, and (b) so they can read the specific objections to the arguments of the Christ-myth theorists.
I didn't quite follow your suggestion about the different sections. Would you mind rephrasing? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:01, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
There seem to be two basic forms of the theory. One is that Jesus may have existed in some form, but that the material available is not sufficient to say anything remotely definite about him. This proposal seems based on the idea that the Gospels as we have them are completely unreliable, but that there is some basis in believing that original, no-longer-known, documents possibly were. The other, stronger, theory, basically says that there is no real reason to believe those hypothetical documents existed themselves, and that all the material we have can be seen as being derived from other already existing material. The former would also tend to add proposals for what the original material about the extant person might have been, while the latter would, basically, say that there never was such a person. John Carter (talk) 15:25, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The original plan (such as it was) was to flesh out the various supporters and eliminate need for thing like an arguments or criticism section. As with a lot of plans that promptly went pearshaped.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:31, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Will Durant argues against the "theory" here [8] [3]

Durant is taking the Gospels as largely historical rather than the oral tradition eventually written down most scholars believe them to be and that creates problems. That is akin to going to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for proof that the Jews people are bent on taking over the world. In terms of historical anthropology it at best comes off as sloppy and at worst ignorant of the basic rules of provenance.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:07, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:07, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Lead in problems, again

Looking at the lead in trying to figure out to better reword it I noticed the beginning sentence uses Walsh (and only Walsh) as the source. As I said before the Walsh definition has loads of problems:

  • 1) it is an excluded middle
  • 2) it conflicts with other more notable and-or reliable sources (Remsburg, Barker, Marshall, Boyd-Eddy)
  • 3) it creates definition problems--Wells' current position becomes Christ Myth while Mead and similar positions (Jesus lived c100 BCE) become historical Jesus

In this case there is the additional problem of Welsh doesn't support everything in the sentence. Here is another attempt to get this on track:

The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory and the nonexistence hypothesis) is part of the historical Jesus spectrum(Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 24.)(Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend. Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25). The term "Christ Myth theory" or one of its synonyms has been used describe the idea:

  • Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community
  • Jesus started out as a myth with Historical trappings added later(Walsh)
  • Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE(Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65)
  • The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition.(Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85)
  • There is not enough to show Jesus existed (Jesus Agnosticism)(Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend. Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25)
  • The Gospel Jesus didn't exist (Doherty)

Yes, I know it is not pretty but enough is enough; there simply is not any one definition for "Christ Myth theory" and the insane instance there is is IMHO just POV pushing. Oh, sorry about the reference formatting but I it looked fine in preview and then went to garbage with the actual post.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:06, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

Is this your suggestion for the lead? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:35, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Essentially, yes it is. It address all the variants that we have sources for. It touches on potentially confusing and conflicting statements for Drews as in on page 230 and 232 in Old Protestantism and the New By Brian Gerrish without trying to shoehorn things into any one definition. Since via several sources have been presented that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jesus of the Gospels, "The Gospels do not record the history of an actual man, but convey the Jesus myth in quasi-historical form." would apply to a composite character Jesus as presented by Price or current Wells as well as a pure myth Jesus. Composite characters by definition are not historical ergo a composite character Gospel Jesus describe a single man who never existed either. QED.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:42, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
I think it would confuse more than it would clarify. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:44, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
The material itself is confusing; it is much like the term "culture" in my field--until you see it in context you have no freaking idea what it really means. As I have shown before the few sources that actually define "Christ Myth Theory" are either vague to the point of telling you nothing really usable or give conflicting definitions. As I said way back what "Christ Myth Theory" means should by NPOV not be a game of pick that source, trying to mix the varies definitions together into some WP:SYN Frankenstein's monster, or ignore those definitions that may cause headaches. My newest attempt at a lead is to be as honest to what we have as is possible.
Let me flat out ask you, just how can we relay the complexity of this topic without confusing the blazes out of the reader?--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:13, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
If that is the proposed lead, word for word, sorry, no way. Way too confusing, although an A for effort. I acknowledge that there is a very real question to be addressed here. Whether the article should be split into multiple articles, discussing each of the types of proposals separately, with this made, as it were, a dab page, is I think still a bit of a valid question. But perhaps saying something in the lead about how the term has been applied to a variety of theories which do not necessarily cohere very well, and perhaps describing the various options outlined above in separate sections of the article might work, or maybe have the first section of the article go into the various forms the theory has taken. I think we all acknowledge the topic is confusing, the question is how to make it less so. John Carter (talk) 19:09, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the A for effort at least. This was (and still is) a rough draft and was intended to be about as "See Spot. See Spot run." as I could get with the material--in essence a skeleton to try and flesh out. As bad as my version is IMHO it is light years ahead of what we currently have; so any ideas on how to make it easier to understand?--BruceGrubb (talk) 05:46, 15 August 2010 (UTC)


Here is another rewrite prototype:

The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory and the nonexistence hypothesis) is part of the historical Jesus spectrum(Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 24.)(Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend. Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25). The term is generally used in reference to the theory proposed by Arthur Drews in his 1910 book Die Christusmythe (The Christ Myth) which said there was nothing in the Gospel account that could not be explained via mythology eliminating the need for a historical Jesus (Weaver, Walter P. (1999) The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1950. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity. ISBN 1-56338-280-6 pg 50) and also said if any insisted there had to be a real person behind the story that we knew nothing about that Jesus. (Drews (1910) Burns translation via Internet archive pg 19)

Because the phrase Christ myth was and is used to describe things other than Drews' book the phrase "Christ myth theory" similarly takes on slightly different meanings sometimes encompassing issues at best only tangential to Drews' original position (yes, I know this somewhat OR but the literature is a mess here):

  • Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community (we have dozens of references for this)
  • Jesus started out as a myth with historical trappings added later (Walsh)
  • Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE (Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65)
  • The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition.(Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85)
  • There is not enough to show Jesus existed (Jesus Agnosticism)(Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend. Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25)
  • The Gospel Jesus didn't exist (Doherty)

(Third paragraph explaining direction and scope of this article would go here)

The first paragraph explain why the thing is generally called the Christ Myth theory as well as using Weaver and Drews himself to present just what Drews was arguing. The second paragraph deals with "The Mess" and the final paragraph would set the scope and direction of the article. Remember this is a rough draft to try and deal with as many problems this thing has had over the years and likely doesn't have the best wording in the world but IMHO it is better than what we currently have.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:09, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Maybe the second paragraph could be replaced with a statement to the effect that the theory has taken a number of forms, all of which share the common belief that the Jesus described in the canonical Christian sources was not real. Then turn the bullet points into numbered sections like (1), with the sources included as footnotes at the end of the numbered sections? John Carter (talk) 19:04, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

If we have dozens of references that say the Christ myth theory is the position that Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the early Christian community, why are we trying to change the lead sentence, which is probably the clearest thing in the entire article? We know that the majority of sources that use the phrase "Christ myth theory" define it this way, and the sources that talk about the line of thought espoused by Bauer-Drews-Wells say that these men argued that there was no historical Jesus. So let's not muddy things up unnecessarily.

The bullet points that Bruce has above all share the idea that there was no historical Jesus. (1) "Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community"—obvious enough. (2) "Jesus started out as a myth with historical trappings added later"—well, all this means is that Jesus was a mythological character created by the Christians, and as time went by, they tried to make him look more historical. Doesn't conflict with #1, and I thought this was a position adopted by some of the people discussed in this article—for instance, Paul conceives of Jesus as entirely a supernatural, spiritual being, and it's only in the Gospels that there are attempts to make him a person who appeared in a definite time and place. (3) "Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE"—this isn't the historical Jesus, this is a different guy. On any standard reconstruction the historical Jesus lives in the first third of the 1st century CE (unless you think he outlived the crucifixion or something). Note that in the reference Bruce gives, p. 65 of Price's contribution to The Historical Jesus: Five Views, Price names both "the early G. A. Wells" and Alvar Ellegard as authors who hold this view. Wells has clearly stated that in his early work he denied that there was a historical Jesus, so this position is clearly not in conflict with the idea that there was no historical Jesus. The basic idea is "the New Testament is not based on the life of the historical Jesus, but a different person who lived in a much earlier time." (4) "The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition." Ok, well, this doesn't conflict with the idea that there was no historical Jesus either, does it? The source Bruce gives for this view is Robert M. Price, so this point blends in with (5) There is not enough to show Jesus existed (Jesus Agnosticism), of which Price is an example. I don't think this fully represents what Boyd/Eddy are saying, because they lump this in with the non-historical position of Bauer, Drews, and Wells—the difference with Price is that he says it's more likely that there was no historical Jesus; he is, in other words, still very much in the CMT camp, but he's using the language of probability rather than certainty. (6) the gospel Jesus didn't exist. Bruce gives Doherty as a source for this, but unless I've misunderstood what Doherty has written on his website about his advocacy of "the non-existence of an historical Jesus of Nazareth", his position is not best summed up as "the gospel Jesus didn't exist." Rather, it's, well, "Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character..." And sure, there's probably more to what Doherty says, but he shares common ground with the other authors covered in this article, in that they all argue that the historical Jesus didn't exist (or, if you want, that it's more likely than not that he didn't exist).

Just to be clear, I think that the lead, and perhaps many sections of the article, don't do a great job of explaining the CMT to the reader. Bruce has raised some matters that need to be more clearly covered in the article. But the bullet points in his post above don't provide support for altering the basic definition of the article.

Also, we have so many sources that say that Drews argued there was no historical Jesus (even Weaver, whom Bruce mentions, said that "Drews would become the most notorious spokesman for the deniers of Jesus' historicity" (p. 49), that we shouldn't soften this characterization based on an editor's reading of Drews himself. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:20, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

The bullet points to not "share the idea that there was no historical Jesus":
  • (2) "Jesus started out as a myth with historical trappings added later" (Walsh)
Those historical trappings could have come from real world events including those involving some 1st century teach whose name may or may not have been Jesus.
(3) Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE (Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65)
"the theory that he was an historical individual is called the historical Jesus theory" (Walsh) A Jesus who lived c100 BCE would still be a historical individual in the same way a Robin Hood that lived 1327-1377 would be historical.
  • (4) The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition.(Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85)
Composite characters can include historical people even if they themselves are nonhistorial. The composite character argument allows for the possible inclusion of a historic 1st century prophet most of whose true historical actions have been lost.
  • (5) There is not enough to show Jesus existed (Jesus Agnosticism)
Boyd Eddy quite clear say that Price is among the "'would back off on this thesis (ie Christ Myth Theory) slightly" so even Boyd-Eddy admit that Price is not in the Jesus never existed camp.--BruceGrubb (talk) 12:33, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
(2) If you take this sentence in isolation, without looking at the other things the source (Walsh) says, I suppose this is a possible interpretation. But Walsh says nothing about the "historical trappings added later" coming from a 1st century figure. What he says is: "The overwhelming majority of scholars hold that Jesus did exist and that we can know at least a few things about him. A tiny, unconvinced minority hold that he never existed and that therefore there is nothing to know about him except that he is the central character of the myth. Some of the reasons for this difference of opinion lie in the ideological premises of the scholars who study the documents, but others seem not to be so motivated…The vast majority of non-Christian scholars hold that Jesus really existed, but a very few professedly Christian scholars have expressed doubt or disbelief about his existence…" (pp. 57-58). In other words, Walsh is contrasting a theory of Jesus' non-existence, held by a "tiny, unconvinced minority," with the opinion of the majority of scholars, who hold that he existed. In other words, Walsh is talking about the same thing as #1.
(3) This is just repetition. I'll repeat myself too: a historical figure who lived ca. 100 BCE is not the historical Jesus, he's some other guy. Again, G. A. Wells is described as holding something like this view in his early work, and Wells has made it plain that in his early work he denied that there was a historical Jesus. Another author mentioned in our article who believed that the Gospels draw upon the life of an earlier historical figure is John M. Robertson, whom many sources describe as someone who said there was no historical Jesus.
(4) Does Price say that he thinks a historical 1st century figure contributed to the NT portrait of Jesus?
(5) Boyd-Eddy still include Price in the same category as Bauer, Drews, and Wells. "backing off slightly" is still slightly. Never mind that Wells has characterized Price as someone who has argued that Jesus never existed... --Akhilleus (talk) 15:10, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
(2) and (3) "My present position is that in the case of Jesus, we simply do not know for certain anything about his biography, not even that he existed." (sic Walsh pg 58) Even Walsh admitted that the evidence for Jesus was poor. Not knowing anything certain about his biography includes when he lived.
(4) "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 have been based on a historical Jesus the Nazorean. (Price Deconstructing Jesus pg 85) provided before by me (see Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_37)
(5) Boyd Eddy says that Price could be part of this group not that he is. This is ignoring the fact Boyd Eddy admits these categories are "admittedly overly simplistic", "ideal-typical in nature" and were "offered merely as a useful heuristic" ie these categorizes are not set in stone as you seem to think.
As seen in The historical Jesus in context By Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison, John Dominic Crossan Princeton University Press pg 3 even the spectrum itself has different definitions going from positivism to skepticism in this case.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:29, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
You're placing far too much emphasis on what Eddy/Boyd say about their ideal-typical categories. They're still happy to use the categories throughout their book, and in his 2009 book G. A. Wells has looked at Eddy/Boyd's categories and said that he doesn't belong in their category 1, he actually belongs in category 2. That is, the categories make distinctions that both Eddy/Boyd and Wells make use of. Furthermore, in the introduction to The Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by Eddy and James Beilby, Price is called "one of the most provocative Christ-myth theorists writing today", so Eddy, at least, seems happy to use the category in a different work.
You're also placing too much emphasis on Eddy/Boyd in general. This is only one of the sources we have about the CMT, and as you've acknowledged many times, the majority of our sources support the idea that the CMT is the idea that Jesus was a fictional or mythical character created by the early Christians.
Something that this discussion has pointed out is that we could add the idea that for many (most?) proponents of the CMT, early Christianity started out with the idea of a purely mythical character, as seen in the Pauline epistles, but the figure was gradually historicized, so that in the Gospels he's given a definite historical setting in the early 1st century. This is something that Price mentions in Deconstructing Jesus (p. 228): "One may suspect that another reason for the eventual triumph of the 'adoptionistic,' evolutionary theory of christological origins is that it was at least not as disturbing as an even more radical view, the pure Christ-Myth theory: that there had never been a historical Jesus at the root of the full-blown mythical Christology. According to the Christ-Myth theorists, Jesus had first been regarded in the manner of an ancient Olympian god; he had supposedly once visited the earth and died and been raised from the dead, like Hercules and Asclepios. The imagined incarnation, death, and resurrection would have occurred in the hazy zone of mythic time…It was only subsequently, says the Christ-Myth theory, that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus was rendered historical, datable, a piece of recent worldly history. Christianity, then would have begun with a 'high' Christology, but with no historical grounding (hence one might call it 'docetic'), whereas the 'adoptionistic' theory of mainstream scholars holds that Christians first held a 'low' Christology, placing Jesus on our level, not God's, only later yielding to a process of mythification of the historical man Jesus of Nazareth. The choice is between a historical Jesus mythicized and a mythic Jesus historicized." That's quite similar to Walsh's statement that Christianity originated in a "myth that was later dressed up as history." On p. 250 Price attributes this view to Drews and Wells, so it's not clear to me why anyone would think this somehow undermines the definition of the CMT.
On your reference to the Levine/Allison/Crossan volume, I think I'm missing your point. Of course there's a spectrum of views about the historical Jesus; there really ought to be more articles about individual positions—each of Eddy/Boyd's categories might merit an article, for instance, and there could be many more. One of the problems with discussion on this page is it underrates just how much reconstructions of the historical Jesus differ from one another—in this subfield of scholarship, the disagreement is over what the historical Jesus was like, not whether he existed. There is increasing skepticism about whether anything much can be known about the historical Jesus due to the nature of the sources, but this is quite different than wondering if he actually existed. The "skepticism" mentioned by Levine has to do with the historicity of the events described in the Gospels, not the existence of the man himself. --Akhilleus (talk) 19:18, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

"Jesus parable"

I've got a question about this edit by SlimVirgin. Adding "mythic-Jesus thesis" is good, since this is a phrase used to describe the idea that there was no historical Jesus, but I'm less certain about "Jesus parable". Can anyone give some examples of this phrase being used to describe the idea of Jesus' non-existence? Normally, it seems to refer to a particular type of story told by Jesus in the NT. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:42, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Yes, it's in the article in the Definition section. John Dominic Crossan prefers to call it the Jesus parable, for the reasons explained in that section. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:05, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. But does anyone use this term as an equivalent to the CMT except Crossan? Unless there are other examples, I don't think it's going to be much help to readers, and in fact it might be confusing, since parable usually means something pretty different. --Akhilleus (talk) 04:16, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
There is much that is confusing here.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:26, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Robert Eisenman

In his 1997 book about James, the above-named author is described by some sources as being evasive about whether Jesus ever existed or whether he was a creation of James, and I think one source specifically states that he does indicate that Jesus was artificial. Would that deserve mention in the article? John Carter (talk) 17:18, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

He definitely is evasive. I wouldn't be in a position to write it without a fair bit of reading, but I'd certainly support it being added if we could source it carefully. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:10, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
I have a copy, and I think John had one also, so sourcing would be no problem, except for the fact that it is best not to quote or cite directly from his book. Almost invariably, as we known from the Ebionism page, this leads most editors who favour his inclusion into gross WP:OR violations, give the labyrinthine subtleties of his primarily philological style of argument. His thesis strongly implies that the historical Jesus is irrecoverable, and that what we know of Jesus is an elaborate overwrite drawing heavily on contemporary oral memories of James, his 'brother', but in conclusion, at least in this first volume, his language suggests Jesus may have existed ('individuals like James, John the Baptist, and presumably Jesus (if he was anything like them),' (1997) 2002 p.962. But Eisenman can only be handled via what we are told in secondary sources authored by competent specialists in that field.Nishidani (talk) 19:08, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree. That was what I meant about sourcing it carefully. We can certainly use him as a primary source to augment secondary sources, but for anything unclear—and that is a lot of it, so far as I can tell—we'll need another source to explain what he was saying. My brief glance at it sees him saying it doesn't matter whether Jesus existed, and that we can't know whether he did, but what is interesting is the myth. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:19, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
'Myth' is the problem there, since he is, exceptionally, someone who appears to think we are dealing not with a myth stricto sensu, but the transposition of a set of narratives from one certainbly attested person to that of another, about whom almost nothing can be known. And this was essentially a Pauline overwrite. I'll look through it to see if he uses that word, but his primary concern is with the transpositional syntax of the hypothetical overwrite, and rewrite he has hypothesized.Nishidani (talk) 19:28, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
What he says here goes to the heart of the sourcing issues we've been discussing:

Readers are encouraged to make judgements for themselves and, where possible, to go to the primary sources directly and not rely on secondhand presentations. ... All too often, a docile public has been easily dominated by a religious or scholarly hierarchy claiming to know more or to have seen more. In religious matters, given the place of scholarly elites in upholding religious ones, this has been the case more often than not. Therefore, almost everything in this book ... will occur outside the traditional or received order. Only a knowledgeable and enlightened public can change this state of affairs.(p.xxxv)

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:39, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
One of the most remarkable examples of a man of extraordinary learning, pitching his argument to the wider reading public over the head of specialists, (populism) while presenting his work in such an intricate manner that only a specialist can work out what he is saying, and the average, even wellinformed reader can probably not make head or tail of it. It is, in itself a form of anti-Gospel evangelism, (his cultural and political, almost programmatic POV is alluded to by the triad of dedicatees, by the way), and like the Gospel evidence, his evidence can never be verified, and his scholarship, like the NT narrative, achieves ironic parity with it as a just-so story, or counterfactual. But this is of course irrelevant to our problem. Just a personal note.Nishidani (talk) 19:52, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
The position that Jesus probably existed in some form, but is unknowable, seems to be very common in secular academia. Increasingly, I see it in the Christian community as well. Consider, for example, a recent article in that hotbed of atheist bigotry, Christianity Today:"The Jesus We'll Never Know Why scholarly attempts to discover the 'real' Jesus have failed." [9]. The need to add qualifiers like "in some form" to the statement "Jesus existed" begs the "define Jesus" question and leads back into Christ myth theory. Ellegard says Jesus is based on an actual historical figure. Why is his theory part of CMT camp rather than the reconstruction camp? The main problem with this debate is the insistence on authoritative answers where only probabilistic ones exist. Noloop (talk) 20:10, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
In response to Nishidani, not all of the confusing aspects are necessarily due to Eisenman. Did you notice the dedication to Michael Baigent, who "assisted" in some of the more complex statements of ideas? John Carter (talk) 20:18, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes John, but in my copy (Acknowledgement page) he only speaks of Baigent being a 'bastion of support'. I don't think guilt by association is fair. In any case, Slim's citation can surely be used to support a passage that explicitly raises the question of bias that Noloop complained of, without however (in so far as I have read this and other threads) providing RS secondary source evidence, as editors have repeatedly requested. I have considerable regard for Eisenman's work. It is a form of fiction but like de Lillo or Pynchon's novels, which influenced him, as much as did Barbara Thiering, fiction often gets to the pith of a problem that the austere praetorians of consensual scholarship (which is a myth, since most of ancient history is vexed by hermeneutic battles) miss, because the historical method denies them the liberty of re-imagining the evidence, and the gaps between its itsy bitsy tales. But Wiki loves, with good reason, its myth of consensus, be it in scholarship (a fiction in many seminal areas of history) or in forums.Nishidani (talk) 20:50, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
In response to Noloop, Ellegard is included by the terms of the definition of this page, as well as those of the Historicity of Jesus page. Because we are not supposed to duplicate material on multiple pages, he fits on the most directly relevant page, this one. I guess. And, yes, several Christians have stated, rather clearly, that there is comparatively little, if any, chance of us ever finding reliable direct contemporaneous evidence regarding the existence of Jesus the man, and, on that basis, conclude, in a way, that Jesus is, ultimately, unknowable. However, most Christians would state that simply because there is no hard evidence to believe that he existed does not mean that he did not exist. As per other comments on this page, there are a lot of figures of history, sometimes even more recent history, who have little if any contemporaneous documentation to support their existence. If the sources we have are reliable, though, even if they are after the fact, they can still be used. This seems to be one of those cases. John Carter (talk) 21:05, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I know why Ellegard is described here more than in Historicity of Jesus--he is conventionally classified as CMT guy. I meant, why isn't his Teacher of Righteousness considered the historical Jesus? It's just a matter of degree. Once it is conceded that there is virtually nothing that can be known about the historical Jesus, suddenly you have to concede that the actual historical person might not be very much like the New Testament figure at all. Noloop (talk) 06:59, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Is there any other ancient figure—with no contemporaneous sources, no extant writings or other work, and almost no sources even in the same century—about whom scholars express certainty that s/he existed and insult people who question it? Forgive my ignorance if there's a comparable figure, but I can't think of one. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:17, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
You've defined the terms in a way that prejudices the argument., esp. by adding 'about whom scholars --insult people who question it.' Most scholars engaged in biblical scholarship don't spend their time insulting disbelievers, learned or otherwise. Nishidani (talk) 21:50, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
You may be surprised at the extent to which they do. Take a look at the last paragraph of an earlier lead of this article and look at the references from 1 to 55. Look at the current section on the theory in Historicity of Jesus, where I think the Bishop of Durham is saying it's like discussing whether the moon is made of green cheese, or words to that effect. It's not me prejudicing the argument; that really is the state of affairs. Can you think of anything comparable? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:31, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
No intent to accuse you of 'prejudicing the argument' at all. I've had months working the Shakespeare Authorhip Question where (a) most mainstream scholars ignore the enormous literature doubting the 'Stratford' man was Shakespeare but (b) those few mainstream scholars, several of the highest authority, are on record as dismissing this as raving lunatic nonsense, out of exasperation at the way poor scholars or outside generalists, or writers, capture the public imagination while scanting the technical rigours of formal scholarship and its methodological caution. Despite these outbursts, it is fair to say, most scholars don't write about the challenge to their Kuhnian paradigm. This is both bad, and thoroughly understandable, in a positive and negative sense. I should add that by 'scholars' here I mean not professors of theology with a grounding in biblical scholarship and hermeneutics, which covers many of the examples in your link, but scholars who actually have contributed original ideas to resolve the cruxes, philological, textual and historical to any field. I don't generally read the former. Unless a scholar is thoroughly grounded in the appropriate languages and textual history, they are not worth reading, since they haven't the basic means of assessing the evidence, and understanding the interpretative cruxes. Nishidani (talk) 10:02, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
No, because, in part, there are no really directly comparable subjects which are of such importance to the Western world, which is where most of us English speakers live. To my knowledge, however, there are no other figures of anywhere near the same level of historic importance whose existence has been seriously questioned, and, on that basis, there will be nowhere near as many parties either seeking to challenge their existence or responding in knee-jerk condemnation of them. But I do wonder how this discussion really relates to WP:TPG. John Carter (talk) 22:37, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
I understand what SlimVirgin is talking about as I tangentially talked bout the same issue in Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_34#Some_input_regarding_the_RFC.. As I pointed out there, Heliocentrism and plate tectonics were examples of theories the establishment claimed were "refuted" and "dead"; as James Burke said in The Day the Universe Changed science has to have a model or structure to even begin to ask questions and that very structure limits what questions you can ask.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:52, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
And there is also the question about how many other historical figures without contemporary evidence have their existence questioned in the first place. There are quite a few who lack evidence, but so far as I know very few have their existence actively challenged. But I think Gautama Buddha is one figure who lacks writings or directive contemporary evidence. The fact that this discussion regarding Jesus has been going round and round for a few hundred years, and, for all the "discussion," nothing has been resolved, is another factor. "Beating on a dead horse," however much it might in this case produce hot selling popular literature, is still beating on a dead horse. John Carter (talk) 22:09, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
I was going to raise him, and Laozi (Laotze), Confucius, Zhuangzi (Chuang tzu) in China, Zoroaster in Persia, Pārśva and Mahāvīra the founders of Jainism in India, almost all the figures in the Pentateuch, from Abraham to Moses to David and Solomon etc., not to speak of early Roman history which is narrated for centuries though Georges Dumézil argued that the keynote of early Roman historiography consisted of the consisted of the transformation of local figures of myth into national secular figures, whom we now take to be 'real' etc. Both the Buddha and Confucius are particularly interesting because Jains, and several historians, on strong grounds, argue that much of his 'life' is moulded from the more certain historical data on his older contemporary Mahāvīra, and with Confucius, good arguments are made that the revered religious teacher we know as Confucius (孔子) is wholly legendary, and what little may be taken, from the earliest strata, as historical actually refers to a warrior noble known as K’ŏng Qīu (孔丘). One can do an Eisenman on many of these figures, and get the same result. I haven't checked the wiki articles to see whether the actual historical work on the mythic construction of all of these figures is represented, but if anyone doubts it, I'll provide the details.
There are two things that strike one in reading this debate. (a) The confusion of high profile popular works pitched to a public by ex-religious scholars, or atheists, with that of the dryasdust inframural scholarship on the Gospels, Ist century Palestine and its history, and textual analysis done by most professional scholars. The controversy is well known, but not accepted, even by most secularists within that field, because it applies standards of scepticism which would generally make all ancient history a mess (b) we are discussing this within the post-Enlghtenment Western tradition of critical scholarship, which has, as is its duty, deconstructed the massive overlays and mystery-mongering of the fideistic world of tradition, whereas this kind of critical muckraking is not yet part of the public imagination, (scholarly controversy tipping over into widespread public debate about a revered figure of national belief). That this controversy has had moments of polemical intensity in Western public discourse, with scholarly backing, in the West uniquely around Jesus does not mean that Jesus, as Slimv suggested, constitutes a distinctive exception. It simply means Western scholarship's relation to the wider public is far further down the road towards thorough secularism than is the case elsewhere, where state power, popular tradition and orthodoxies still have not sorted out their differences with what cutting edge analysis, in the ivory tower, has to say (see, to cite but one example I have recently edited on, what happened to Wendy Doniger when her brilliant book on Hinduism was published). There is no evidence for the contract of Abraham with Ephron the Hittite at Hebron, it is pure myth, but that myth is taken to be the historical warrant for the resettlement of that city, there being a total disconnect between what the best scholars of Judaism know, and what religious orthodoxy and national-popular attitudes affirm. Examples are infinite. Radical scepticism with historical sources can play havoc, as we see with the century-old scepticism that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the poetry and theatrical works associated with him. Some very serious people have espoused this. Nishidani (talk) 09:33, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Can you give an example of the radical skepticism with historical sources you've seen with Jesus, though? I'm seeing quite the opposite in most of the scholarly works I've been advised to read for this, where the usual thing is a nod in the direction of the obvious questions, then moving swiftly on. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:23, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry to be late. This is the Assumption, in Italy, and once is obliged by native rites to eat and drink most of the afternoon. Well, I'll get hit with TLDR if I get into too many details and examples, so, without referring you to the actual detailed studies that tear apart, textual layer by textual layer, the traditions in each ancient account and the accretions that have encrusted these ostensibly historical figures, I'll provide you with just two synthetic judgements by specialists, for two of the Chinese examples, Zhuangzi and Confucius, the ostensible founders of Taoism and Confucianism, deeply revered even today as real figures. (The ostensibly earlier Laozi as a constructed figure, and once thought much earlier than Zhuangzi, is far more well known to be invented).

Regarding the identity of the original person named Chuang, there is no reliable historical data at all. At the end of the twentieth century, virtually all scholars continued to accept the idea that there was a “historical” Chuang, who lived at about the same time as Mencius. Whether scholars at the end of this century will still accept that notion is quite another thing.’Russell Kirkland, Taoism: the enduring tradition, Routledge, 2004 p.34(Kirkland actually in that book makes a parallel with Jesus.

Today, it is possible to read the Analects (Lúnyŭ:論語) and ignore the issue of who Confucius was and whether he ever existed. Indeed, for some purposes, this might be the best approach to the text. (p.134) ‘To be sure, few would disagree with the statement that at the end of the sixth century B.C.E., a man named K’ŏng Qīu (孔丘) lived in China and that his ideas and words were transcribed by those who studied with him. Some of these transcriptions probably survive today, but what makes the enterprise of “knowing” Confiucus so puzzling is that unambiguous standards according to which one can definitely cull out his authentic words disappeared long ago. Although K’ŏng Qīu was not mythical, Confucius-a Latinized name(d.sic) used here to denote persons that come to mind when the name K’ŏng Qīu is invoked- most certainly is.’Mark Czikzentmihaly, ‘Confucius and the Analects in the Hàn,’ in Bryan William Van Norden (ed.) Confucius and the Analects: New Essays,, OUP 2002 pp.134-162, p.134

There are quite a few key figures of early Greek thought who, though believed for millenia to be historical, are now know to be congested images patched up from myths. Orpheus, Pythagoras, Aristeas of Proconnesus, Abaris, and Epimenides, to name but a few (Walter Burkert, Lore and science in ancient Pythagoreanism, Harvard University Press, 1972p.109 writes:'one is tempted to say that there is not a single detail in the life of Pythagoras that stands uncontradicted'. Wonderful, pathmaking book by the way. Highly recommended.)Nishidani (talk) 15:20, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

'a nod in the direction of the obvious questions, then moving swiftly on'

Yes, because the 'obvious questions' cannot be resolved within the terms of accepted historical methodology. Slim, this is the technical objection that explains why most scholars 'nod' in the direction and then turn to their textual and hermeneutic struggles with the conflicting materials on Jesus. A Bart Ehrman, James Robinson or Geza Vermes feels constraints to work weighing the usual probabilities allowed by the material we have, rather than to succumb to the temptation to go beyond what we have. Put it this way, you cannot prove Jesus did not exist, anymore than prove he did exist. But one can legitimately assume that it is more probable, as an hypothesis, that some historical figure like him did exist, since within two generations of his death, both canonical tradition and secular historical sources assume this. (with Zhuangzi, Siddharta Buddha, etc., the sources were written centuries afterwards). Nearly all historical writing for the past preceding Gutenburg is assumptional like this. If you look at the 'Secret History' (Ανέκδοτα ή Απόκρυφη Ιστορία) of Procopius, it is written exactly in the same style as his reliable Wars of Justinian. But, as I learned several decades ago, in a wonderful seminar, much of the pornographic anecdotes about Theodora and Justinian, and Belisarius and his wife, can be deconstructed asliterary constructions based on topoi from earlier classical literature. Most of the speeches in Thucydides are pure artefacts of his imagination, etc. Not for that reason do historians proceed to dismiss these literary exercises as devoid of historical elements, but everything remains contentious and hypothetical. The seekers after certainties with their pyrrhonism can be read as fighting against a complacent cover-up. They can also be read, and usually are, as wounded bulls charging, with vindictive relish, at the toreador of a religion that tormented them earlier. They seek certainty, like their antagonists. Nishidani (talk) 15:46, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Largely agree with the above. The question, most neutrally phrased, would be, to my eyes, "Can anyone think of any other figures who are included in the top 3 of The 100 most influential figures in history whose existence has been questioned, fairly, based on lack of directly contemporary evidence, and who are the subject of now seemingly regular popular books alleging an almost infinite variety of sometimes truly strange speculations, none of which have any more directly contemporary evidence than the existence theory?" I think the answer would be "No." I cannot cannot understand how anyone could be surprised that a bishop of a Christian church is critical of a view that the central figure in the history and theology of his church never existed, particularly when none of those views have any substantive evidence to support them. The fact that now such books seem to surface almost every year or two would be an additional irritant. And, yes, there is the more or less pre-existing explanation of the lack of contemporary sources, which is fairly obvious to most scholars of early Christianity, which none of these exposes seem to understand. It runs something like this:
1) There is no evidence that many, maybe most, of the early Apostles knew how to read. Certainly, it is, I think, broadly agreed that Saint Peter could not. That being the case, those individuals in particular would have no particular rush to see things in writing.
2) According to several sources regarding the early Church, its critics regularly described the membership as, well, "hicks." This is, more or less, consistent with the standard theories of religions of this type, and with the various examples provided in the book Religions of the Oppressed, which indicates that most such religions arise among individuals who did not benefit by changes in their societies. By and large, such people are those who are less able to change, and that tendency is more common among those with the least education.
3) Given the structure of the very early Church, the various apostles went over a broad area to preach the message. One very unreliable myth places Saint Philip in Ireland, but it is about the only myth of Saint Philip's later activities we know of, so it is generally assumed that at least he may have gone there, and another, rather more widely accepted story, has Saint Thomas dying in Bengal. There is a very real question that, even if they had written documents with them describing the life of Jesus, whether they would have done any good in those environments. Factually, these apostles would have not necessarily have had any reason for written texts.
4) There is the almost universally accepted fact that the Apostles almost certainly basically expected the world to end in their own lifetimes. That being the case, taking away some valuable time from preaching and somewhat wasting it on leaving writings for descendants they honestly think were never going to exist anyway is not necessarily the most logical thing they could have done.
5) The writings which are currently seen as being most likely written by Saint Paul are, in general, letters to groups who were already Christians who were deviating seriously from "the way". By this time, a lot of the apostles who had originally evangelized them might have been incommunicado, or dead. Under such circumstances, letters, often accompanied by preachers not among the 12, would be an effective means of communication. And, of course, it really would be only at about that time that it probably occur to people that having something in writing might be a good idea, because, despite their earlier certainty, the world was damnably refusing to end as it was supposed to. The fact that the Pastoral Epistles, which describe the organization of the church along, basically, a Jewish model, seem to have been written about 100 years after the death of Jesus is another indicator that this group was not thinking in the long term.
6) Lastly, there is the very real fact of destruction of documents. If I remember correctly, in Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman refers to a biblical scholar of the 20th century who found that the place which had a large number of valuable early Christian documents which the owner couldn't read was giving some of them out to be used in fireworks. I don't think anyone knows how long that had been going on, but there is very good evidence that historical documents were not held in the same high esteem for most of history that they enjoy today. That being the case, yeah, I would expect most documents to have been destroyed, and be really grateful that we have even a few that weren't. But there is an almost required acknowledgement that a lot of documents have been destroyed, and we have no idea what was in them. John Carter (talk) 16:51, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

There is the almost universally accepted fact that the Apostles almost certainly basically expected the world to end in their own lifetimes.

This is essentially the Marcan as co-Urquelle for Matthew and Luke theory, since this is what you get in Mark. I don't think the Q document reconstruction by Robinson and others would accept that, and many other things, John. Whether this becomes consensual or not remains to seen, probably not in my time. As to bonfires, I'm not familiar with that work by Ehrman, but surely the reference is to Tischendorf's visit to St Catherine's on Mount Sinai in 1844, where he came across the monks with a basket of leaves ripped from a vellum manuscript which they used for lighting fires? He managed in anycase to save the Codex Sinaiticus. The early church, once it had established its canonical version, by about 180 CE., routed out, burnt, and ordered to be destroyed all alternative versions of the past. The crucial Nag Hammadi coptic manuscripts survived that holocaust, hence their seminal importance for alternative reconstructions.Nishidani (talk) 17:18, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
N, I agree with you about the parts of it I'm familiar with, but your argument really doesn't account for the extraordinary rudeness of some of the biblical scholars toward anyone who disagrees with them, reflected in the behaviour of some editors who feel that if the sources are ridiculing other sources, we ought to do the same. That's something I've never seen before, not to this extent, and I think not to any extent. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:19, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
(Multiple e-c's later) Part of the problem is that most of these "disagreeing" parties have little if any clear credentials on the subject, but still think their beliefs, which often include ideas which have been dismissed, sometimes for centuries, are valid, and demand that they be taken seriously by the specialists. I have seen some really really pointed comments about Halton Arp, Erich von Daniken, and a few other dissident scientists, but these comments tend not to get noticed by the general subject, because they are about abstruse subjects. And most biblical scholars are to some extent Judeo-Christians by nature, Price being an obvious possible exception. So, taking into account that these "challengers" are, as often as not, speaking about a subject they don't know that well, are putting forward ideas which have little if any evidenciary support, and in some cases getting more face-time and media attention than other, more "qualified" and reputable authors, yeah, I can understand why. I remember some comments about von Daniken in particular which were about as dismissive. And, of course, a bishop will challenge any unsubstantiated theory which contradicts his belief. Read some of the church fathers and you'll see a number of comments about people they disagree with which go well beyond just "rude".
In direct response to Nishidani, I'm not sure I agree about the Mark as source, because I think he probably picked and chose his material as much as others. And a lot of theories say Q may have been originally oral, maybe each individual's memory of the stories they shared before the dispersal of apostles, which some of the illiterates, like Peter, may well have been able to remember. About the "burn order", I regret the loss of historical documents as much as, maybe more, than a lot of others, but we have to deal with the evidence we got, whether for good or ill. I would love to see some of the original materials about Simon Magus and the like, but we can't always get what we want. John Carter (talk) 18:40, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Robert M. Price has two PhDs in the subject, and yet is still ridiculed. Some (only some) of the sources are very disrespectful, and editors were even posting links to funny pictures of him on the talk page and laughing. One was added to the article. And yet he's more qualified than any of the editors criticizing him, and than many of the other sources. I haven't seen anything like this in any other area of scholarship that I can think of, not to this degree. Just to respond briefly to N's point before: we're not talking learned diatribes, but childishness. One scholar begins a response to Price with "Gosh! So there are still serious scholars who ..." etc, punctuated with comments like "Sad, really." If they think they're being persuasive, they're having quite the opposite effect. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:14, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Take a look at J. R. Cole's 1980 "Cult Archaeology and Unscientific Method and Theory" in Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory. Vol. 3. Michael B. Schiffer, editor, New York: Academic Press, Inc. for an example of how someone argues against a popular point without resorting to the kind of insanity we have seen on this topic. Ironically of the nine categories that existed for Cult Archaeology only Disdain, Indifference, Silver lining, Frustration, Millenarianism, and Intimidation seem to be on display with regards to the Christ Myth Theory. Relativism, Open mindedness and Positivism seem to be have never been on the table and sadly it is the last two that should be on the table.--BruceGrubb (talk) 19:12, 16 August 2010 (UTC)


Is this not an infra-American polemic? Of someone within the ranks who breaks lockstep, and is reviled as a heretic? Reminds me of what happened to figures like Alfred Loisy whose work, when I quoted it as a boy to a Domenican priest several decades ago ago caused him a minor convulsive frown, and occasioned my immediate dismissal as a lost case. Perhaps I am just used to this ostracism. It recurs quite often, and was frequent in the past. But I live in a different world, and in Europe the religious intelligentzia seems far more comfortable in discussing this without conniptions.Nishidani (talk) 20:15, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I think you're right. It's why I've been at pains to make sure Wikipedia discusses the other views without the same sense of contempt, because it does feel as though we're caught in the middle of some religious battle, with believers and heretics. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:47, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

(edit conflict) Slim Have you ever read A.E. Housman's introduction to his edition of Manilius's Astronomicon, or his review essays, or Hugh Trevor-Roper's collected works? Surely the latter. You're severely tempting me to draw up a list of scholars of the first water who habitually use or used violent language against their colleagues, or adversaries, and it would be very long. In Japanese studies, Roy Andrew Miller was a distinguished exponent of what is a genre with deep and respectable roots, the learned diatribe. Mind you, as a matter of discretion, I would summarily exclude from any such article, polemical assaults on the theory by theologians who are true believers and who use that kind of language, and try to restrict the criticism to scholars who are thoroughly versed in Semitic languages and textual studies. That distinction is very important, since Biblical scholars can be divided up into the majority (the boys) and a minority (the men), as with any discipline. The men are those who have a comfortable mastery of the specific historical and linguistic issues that must be decisive in any debate on the historicity of Christ. The others do not, but as often as not, have not got beyond Koine Greek, and are more familiar with a hermeneutics which, unlike Bultmann's school, is theological and assumes far too much. Most of the crucial data for such an argument hinge on quite complex philological analyses, and that is where the real ball-game is played out. Eisenman, though he is a wild card, counts as one of them, a dissident voice in a minoritarian major league battle conducted by men.Nishidani (talk) 18:46, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Housman was exceptionally fractious, even for an age in which scholars regularly vented their spleen upon others. (His diatribes make for enjoyable reading, though.) Scholars are generally more polite, even touchy-feely, these days, which to my mind makes open disdain quite striking. In this case, it's been argued that Price's inclusion in The Historical Jesus: Five Views is an indication of his acceptance by the scholarly community; but if his fellow contributors severely criticize his arguments and show disdain for them, that should be taken as an indication that Price's arguments are not accepted.
Nishidani, I'm inclined to agree with you that philological arguments should be where the real ball-game is played out, but most of the literature I've read by CMT proponents draws very little on philology. Eisenman sounds like an exception in this regard. --Akhilleus (talk) 00:46, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Clearly Price knows the history of the subject, and is erudite. It's just my personal bias, but I only read 'controversial' stuff on these topics if the scholar does something groundbreaking, or idol-smashing with a technically efficient hammer, as Eisenman did (though I'm not persuaded, since, again the theory is unverifiable, unless future sands yield up corroborative proof). Price is rehearsing, very efficiently, arguments one is familiar with, and it seems to me, since you can't prove or disprove anything here (scientific criteria for veracity don't apply to history, because the evidential record is profoundly lacunose), that these polemics are sociological phenomena, lacking any technical interest or originality for the historian of ideas, that repeat themselves, reflecting periods of stress between secularism and faith, and I'm not surprised this is perhaps a big thing in certain American circles, given the rampant politicized fundamentalism in vogue there. Classicists like Paul Veyne, a very great scholar (though one or two of his later books earned occasional critical raps over the knuckles), tend instinctively to recall quite vividly the historical background for these theories. It has all be argued before, and got nowhere. But it is also true that there are a large number of scholars who are more comfortable with vituperative dismissal, a sign they can't handle the technical issues, than with close criticism, esp. when their beliefs are engaged. Veyne was not one of them.Nishidani (talk) 09:12, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

Paul Veyne

I thought editors here might be interested in the following quote from Paul Veyne,Did the Greeks believe in their myths? (Chicago, 1988, trans. Paula Wissing), p. 106 [10]: "He was close, as a matter of fact, to a type of crank that historians who study the past two centuries sometimes encounter: anticlericals who deny the historicity of Christ (which irritates me, atheist that I am) and addled brains who deny the existence of Socrates, Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, or Molière, get excited about Atlantis, or discover monuments erected by extraterrestrials on Easter Island." Veyne, as he says, is an atheist; he is also a classicst, and though he specializes in ancient Rome, the book I've quoted from is one that's influential in the study of Greek mythology. --Akhilleus (talk) 00:30, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

Akhilleus, I've asked this many times before, but can I ask again that you stop all the ad hominem arguments against sources, whether coming from you or other sources? It is getting to be extremely tiresome, and if you think it's persuasive, it's really having the opposite effect. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:46, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Akhilleus has made no ad hominem argument. Akhilleus is quoting from a source. The fact that this disdain exists for Christ Mythers amongst those who deal professionally with ancient history is not Akhilleus' fault. As Veyne's quote suggests the same disdain exists for those who doubt that the Stratford man wrote Shakespeare's plays, or that Socrates existed. Such disdain is, like it or not, rather telling of the acceptance these theories have in mainstream academics. I'm unsure of the basis for your argument against accurately reflecting this aspect of the issue.Griswaldo (talk) 00:59, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I'm sorry, I don't really understand why you're saying this. Veyne is an eminent classicist; he is a source from outside the world of biblical scholarship, and a book published (in translation) by the University of Chicago Press is one that should be considered a high quality source. So, this is an indication of how classicists view the idea that there was no historical Jesus. You've already found one indication of this, by Graeme Clarke (though he's no longer quoted in the lead, I guess); Veyne is another. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:00, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
No matter what I post nowadays, you tell me you don't understand what I'm saying, but I think it's pretty clear. Sources that educate us would be great. Sources telling us that, in that person's opinion, other people are Holocaust deniers, flat-earthers, cranks, insane, addled, gosh, wow, and sad really, aren't helpful. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:06, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Well, I disagree with you on this. Veyne says in the plainest fashion possible that people who deny Christ's historicity are cranks. He's not just some bozo: he's an eminent classicist, and one whose work on mythology is influential. What you seem to be saying, and I hope I've misunderstood, is that you don't think his opinion is useful because it's not polite enough. But why should that be a requirement? The value of Veyne's opinion (which, by the way, I encountered because Robert M. Price refers to it in Deconstructing Jesus) is that it shows an eminent classicist rejecting the CMT out of hand as a fringe theory. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:23, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
That's a preposterous source. It's a personal essay, with a passing reference to Jesus that doesn't even get a whole sentence to itself. It's a clause, parenthetically expressing a contemptuous opinion, and that's it. To suggest that as a source for a factual statement in this encyclopedia is absurd. Noloop (talk) 01:39, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree it's a passing mention, but it's not in a "personal essay." (Perhaps you are being misled by the word "essay" in the subittle?) This is a widely cited and influential book on Greek myth; it's sometimes used in university level courses on mythology. And, sorry to say, I'm not that surprised that when I provided a classicist who not only thinks that there was a historical Jesus, but treats it as a basic fact, that you would find a way to deny the value of the source. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:53, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
A quick search of Wilson Web shows this book reviewed in, History and Theory, Journal of the History of Ideas, Man, Partisan Review, International Philosophical Quarterly, Canadian Journal of History, and Arts Magazine. I'm sure there are many other reviews as well. Hardly a personal essay.Griswaldo (talk) 02:06, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
We were told during my very first philosophy lecture as an undergraduate that it's always easy to pick holes in people's work and insult them, but that the important and difficult thing is to find value in it and move forward with that. Perhaps we could bear that in mind here? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:59, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, I was "misled" by the fact that the author called it an "essay" into thinking it was an essay. More to the point, our subject here doesn't even get a whole sentence in that "source." Noloop (talk) 19:46, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
OK, in the future when you decide to call a source "preposterous" you might consider reading more than the subtitle. Regards.Griswaldo (talk) 19:56, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with SlimVirgin in that the quote by Veyne is ad hominem and will also add that it is Non sequitur (logic) as well as a clear Straw man. Comparing "anticlericals who deny the historicity of Christ" to "addle brains who deny the existence of Socrates, Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, or Moliere pure Non sequitur (logic); those people all have good truly contemporary evidence for their exist while Jesus doesn't. The "get excited about Atlantis" quip make even less sense as until the final acceptance of Plate Tectonics by the scientific community...some three centuries after it had been first suggested was considered possible; The wave that destroyed Atlantis By Harvey Lilley BBC Timewatch April 20, 2007 shows that not all ideas regarding Atlantis are off in the ozone.--BruceGrubb (talk) 05:08, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I could provide you with a large list of articles in the area I once edited, where I tried to apply precisely that principle, only to be consistently overruled by authoritative editors and administrators who insisted on pasting in sections cluttered with dismissive quotes from outside scholars (with nowhere Veyne's standing) or second-rate diatribe merchants, because the RS rules allowed it. An example, which is a disgrace, is Israel Shahak. And the muck stuck. Wiki is full of systemic bias, very much like the world, and the in-house rules provide no way to cope with it.Nishidani (talk) 08:24, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
If you're looking for substantive criticism of the CMT, Veyne is of course not the answer. We have such substantive critique, but it gets rejected out of hand by some editors here as the work of theologians and people who are devoted to promoting Christianity. For instance, there's The Historicity of Jesus by Shirley Jackson Case, originally published in 1912 by the University of Chicago, as it turns out. This particular book isn't cited in the article, though an article by Case is. Case's work was influential in creating the impression in the early part of the 20th century that the arguments of Drews, Smith, Robertson, et al. had been definitively refuted.
If you want an example of someone finding value in the work of CMT proponents, Schweitzer is one place to look. He has lots of praise for some aspects of Bruno Bauer's work, for example.
However, something that gets continually questioned on this page is whether the CMT is fringe, whether it has mainstream acceptance, whether Wells and Price are experts on early Christianity, etc. etc. Veyne is one of many sources that establish that this theory is not mainstream. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:18, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that many of the exact same arguments are used by Jesus didn't exist as a flesh and blood man and the extreme minimalist crowd. The only real difference between them is where they fall on the "was there anything there?" issue--that is it. That is a very questionable foundation to build an entire article on.--BruceGrubb (talk) 19:30, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

In all honesty, it's fairly hard to find substantive criticism of the CMT because the CMT itself isn't substantive. In the end, it all boils down to: "Everything that was ever written by people who came into contact with this person was completely faked, including third-party uninvolved sources who were reporting on Jesus." I know that's a bit of an oversimplification, but it's kind of an absurd theory when you think about it. I doubt you can find a lot of substantive criticism about how the earth is flat, for example. Either way, this cite does go to the issue of whether CMT is a fringe theory (which it clearly seems to be.) Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 21:58, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Actually that is not what the CMT boils down to. It really boils down to: "the Gospel account is so mythological that nothing included that the man described within can be shown to be historical." As for those "third-party uninvolved sources" the Historicity Of Jesus FAQ (1994) by Scott Oser goes over them.
Josephus--Testimonium Flavianum known to have been tampered with and no church father seems to refer to it until the 4th century even if they reference Josephus in other matters. The second passage is thought to be authentic but has syntax problems making it unclear if the Jesus brother of James refereed to became high priest or not. Also Oser neglects the fact that back in the 1900s Historical Jesus supporters were using Hegesippus to present a c69 CE date for the death of James the Just... Josephus indicates a c64 CE death date--a full half decade difference. Even if both passages were entirely genuine in Josephus' eyes this Jesus was just another would be savior who didn't amount to beans--otherwise he would have devoted more space to him.
Tacitus--Written in c116 this at best tells us only what the Christians believed. As early as 1950 it had been suggested that the word was originally "Chrestianos" not "Christianos" and we now have proof that is likely the case. This along with the use of procurator rather than prefect indicates Tacitus was at best repeating hearsay and not checking anything. This is akin to saying papers talking about the John Frum cult prove that John Frum existed.
Pliny the Younger--only confirms that Christians existed c100 CE. Gives not a single detail as to the Christ the Christians revered.
Suetonius--"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome". Since in his Life of Nero Suetonius clearly knew the difference between Jews and Christians, used Chrestus rather than Christus, and implied that this "Chrestus" was instigating these disturbances (ie was alive) this likely has no reference to Jesus and only wishful (or should that be desperate) thinking makes it a reference to Jesus.
Thallus--Why anyone would even use this is beyond me. Supposedly the Histories referenced as the source material went only to the 167th Olympiad which would be only to 109 BCE. What we do have is Syncellus of the 9th century quoting Julius Africanus of the 2nd century who in turn refers to Thallus. So to get things to fit (see Suetonius above) the 167th Olympiad is fudged into the 207th Olympiad or 217th Olympiad. Things just go down hill from there.
And that is the best "third-party uninvolved sources" the supporters of a historical Jesus can point to. Josephus, the best of the "usual suspects", wrote his account c94 CE or nearly six decades after the events--more than enough time for the urban legend mill to crank out a ton of "grain".--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:08, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
How is arguing the merits of the theory a useful project for the talk page? john k (talk) 02:32, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
I stated that I was oversimplifying it a bit, but only to get across the absurdity of the theory to illustrate why cites like Veyne are important. Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 03:47, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
John K, because it show just flawed the argument of those those who attack the CMT can be. The Veyne cite is as I have demonstrated is flawed on Non sequitur (logic) grounds and uses obvious strawmen; it is hard to take it seriously and seems more an example of throw any theory out there in the hope something anything sticks. Take the following from Schweitzer in the 1906 version of The Quest of the Historical Jesus and note how out of context it could be read to imply the exact opposite of what Schweitzer intended (this is regards to reconstructions of Jesus and not in regards to the man's existence):
"There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb."--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:29, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Dumping self-published Usenet FAQs onto this page isn't much help in improving the article. --Akhilleus (talk) 14:37, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Mind explaining just what that has to do with what you are replying to?--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:34, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
It's not useful to dump self-published, non-expert views on ancient documents onto this page. First, because there's a tremendous amount of genuine scholarship published on these sources; second, because discussion of those sources is at historicity of Jesus or the individual articles devoted to those sources (e.g. Josephus on Jesus); third, because talk pages are not for general discussion of the article's subject, but for discussion of how to improve the article. Oh, by the way, the Schweitzer quote you posted above is quite nice, but doesn't really pertain to this article, does it? Could fit in at historical Jesus or Quest of the historical Jesus, if it's not there already. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:37, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Considering these very same points have raised elsewhere your comments still don't make sense. Also my comments were related to Deep Purple Dreams' misunderstanding of the CMT entirely being in the Joseph Wheless mold.
Of the usual suspects Josephus is the one that has been the one constantly called a forgery and when Remsburg presented back in 1909 this he cited Rev. Dr. Giles, of the Established Church of England and Rev. S. Baring-Gould, (Lost and Hostile Gospels) as only two people who point this out.
Even The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide 1998 By Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz Augsburg Fortress Publishers pg 83 admits Tacitus is not that good. The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount 1911 By Gerald Friedlander G.Routledge & Sons, Bloch Pub. is even harsher with Tacitus.
"To these witnesses is sometimes, though rarely, added a fourth, Suetonius, a Roman historian who, like Tacitus and Pliny, wrote in the second century. In his Life of Nero, Suetonius says "The Christians, a race of men of a new and villainous superstition, were punished." In his Life of Claudius, he says: "He [Claudius] drove the Jews, who at the instigation of Chrestus were constantly rioting, out of Rome." Of course no candid Christian will contend that Christ was inciting Jewish riots at Rome fifteen years after he was crucified at Jerusalem." (Remsburg 1909)
I guess all those must be "self-published Usenet FAQs" too even though the Usenet didn't even exist in 1909 or 1911.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:40, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
It's still a blob of useless decontextualized data, full of misleading simplifications and outright errors, outdated sources and I fail to see the point of posting it here. FAQs that quote sources reflecting opinions dating back over a century are guides to historical positions, not to contemporary arguments.Nishidani (talk) 09:35, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, Oser's FAQ largely comes from Michael Martin (philosopher)'s "The Case Against Christianity" (1991). All I was showing with Friedlander and Remsburg was the information Oser presented has been presented before going back over 80 years (ie predating the internet). As for the "misleading simplifications and outright errors, outdated sources": "we do not know whether Thallus actually mentioned Jesus' crucifixion, or whether this was Africanus' interpretation of a period of darkness which Thallus had not specifically linked with Jesus." (France, R.T. The Evidence for Jesus 1986, p. 24) Is R T France recent enough for you?--BruceGrubb (talk) 12:22, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Not really. Virtually everything we think we know in ancient history, in the sense of knowing something to be a 'fact', is a theoretical, or, as Veyne would say, a retrodictive construction, based on a close assaying of probabilities, nothing more. Every element from Suetonius, Pliny the Younger and Tacitus has a long history of contentious exposition, in isolation, and taken together. FAQs don't tell you that, as they do not tell you that an historian, in analysing the evidence of three (or even four if one includes Josephus) sources, will keep in mind the strong probabilities that all three knew each other, were present roughly contemporaneously in the same quarter (north and south) of Asia Minor, and dealt with the same phenomenon, i.e., Christians, who were active in that area, etc. To cite one, in summary fashion, and reductively, then another, then another, is not how the historical imagination works. That's why FAQ sheets are anodynic fools' caps.Nishidani (talk) 12:42, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Any yet when you try to show that complexity people complain that "it is too complicated." When you get down to the basics the "third-party uninvolved sources" often presented all have problems and the two best (Josephus and Tacitus) even if they were totally genuine are so late that even they can be explained through what we would call urban legend. Comments like Paul Veyne's with badly thought out comparisons certainly don't help the pro historical Jesus side.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:40, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Who cares what people think? We write from sources written by scholars who are comfortable with, delight in, complexity. I don't think you will find many specialists in Tacitus, as opposed to generalists, who doubt the genuineness of Annals.15.44. Everything from style, hostility and the survival of the manuscript through Christian scribal transmission which would have found his contextual description repugnant, argues for its genuineness, as does the fact that he, unlike many ancient historians, worked from official archives. 'Urban legends' were not grist for his mill, except perhaps in part in his treatment of Tiberius. The fact, again, that Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius belonged to the elite, friends, and all members of a circle of that elite with formal administrative experience in Christianizing areas of Asia Minor, is what historians call strong circumstantial evidence to corroborate a general thesis. To reply to your earlier query. R. T. Frank is patently a poor witness on this since his thesis is based on a premise that real knowledge of Jesus must be based on the internal analysis of the Gospels and not on pagan sources. In this his method is diametrically opposed, incidentally, to that of a great historian like Paul Veyne, who thought pagan witness, precisely because it was beyond the 'pale' was owed more credibility than Christian sources. He summarily discounts, against the overwhelming majority of Tacitus specialists (check their doyen, Ronald Syme's, Tacitus, Clarendon Press, Oxford vol.2 (1958) pp.468-9), strong secular evidence virtually contemporary with the one of the Gospel writers (John) because he wishes to argue that only the Gospels themselves can provide us with authentic historical knowledge. In doing that, he violates a major canon of historiography (and linguistics). One trusts the specialists on technical questions, not outsiders, and evaluating this, to cite but one example, requires technical expertise that the sceptics listed do not have. Frank's judgement is 'theological', not historical. Nishidani (talk) 16:36, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
This reads like some of the stuff you might get out of McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict which looks good until you examine the information he is presenting.
The fact is Pliny the Younger only confirms the existence of Christians and they believed in a Christ--that is it. The logic there is akin to saying since the John Frum cargo cult exists then there must have been a John Frum.
Suetonius is so vague that it is useless, Tacitus seems to be doing the kind of silliness seen in American Shogun where B-52's are mentioned in regards to MacArthur's overseeing of Japan--one big problem--the B-52 didn't even exist as prototype until 1952 over a year after MacArthur left Japan and didn't enter into actual service until 1955. Tacitus should produce the kind of 'huh?' that talking about Secretary of the Army Robert Porter Patterson would to any scholar of US history but they use it anyhow.
I have no idea who this R. T. Frank guy is; I am referring to R. T. France as in the country between Spain and Germany.--BruceGrubb (talk) 22:19, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for noting the slip. The rest of your remarks show you don't understand how history, or at least ancient history, is written. Nishidani (talk) 22:25, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

What the article is about

Bruce, you seem to think the article is about explaining the Christ Myth theory. The editors have decided the purpose of the artricle is to make sure the reader knows it is a ridiculaous theory in all its forms. But good luck, anyway. E4mmacro (talk) 06:49, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Bruce, rather, seems to think that the talk page is about arguing over the validity of the Christ Myth theory. john k (talk) 16:35, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
E4mmacro, this article should be about explaining the Christ Myth theory not regurgitating out poorly thought out dismissive strawman statements like Paul Veyne's. As for "ridiculous theory in all its forms" even that is not true as there are definitions that that would include ideas that are not off in the ozone. The idea that there was some sort of messiah myth floating around that a historical 1st century teacher was plugged into because he had the same name as the preexisting mythical messiah to form what is essentially a composite character which by definition wouldn't be historical is not "ridiculous"
Another thing to remember many of the ideas used by Christ Myth theory are also used by more mainstream authors. Clinton Bennett in In search of Jesus: insider and outsider images Page 206 shows that both Carl Gustav Jung and Joseph Campbell held there were archtypes behind all hero stories. Regarding Joseph Campbell Bennett states "His The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) advanced the theory that a single myth stands behind the stories of Krishna, Buddha, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus and other hero stories." Note this is not the same as saying these men didn't exist but it does fit Walsh's definition that for the Christ Myth theory the myth was first.
As for defending it which version?
  • Jesus was an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christan community
  • Jesus started out as a myth with Historical trappings added later (Walsh) including an obscure historical teacher (Dodd)
  • Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE (Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65)
  • The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition.(Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85)
  • There is not enough to show Jesus existed (Jesus Agnosticism)(Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend. Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25)
or
  • The Gospel Jesus didn't exist (Doherty)
All these have been used as definitions for Christ Myth theory or one of its supposed synonyms. Are they all equally off the rails? I think not.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:33, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Could references be specific?

Additionally, biblical scholars believes (sic) that relatively early material regarding the historical Jesus is found in the Gospel According to John.[83]'

  • Follow the link read the source, and you find an extensive and intensive discussion of the meaning of the word γράφειν in the Greek of St.John. Bauckham is challenging an interpretation by J.H.Bernard and Gottlob Schrenk, which he admits 'many scholars', indeed 'scholar after scholar', among them one of the greatest Johannine experts, follow, in his view 'uncritically', a view which actually posits the ostensible author had a considerably less direct relation to the writing of that text that would appear to be the case.
  • One author is used to obtain the generalization 'biblical scholars'. The text itself states that many biblical scholars disagree with his position.
  • The sentence startles an outsider reader's eye. The Gospel of St. John is generally regarded as the most unreliable source for information about the historical Jesus, and the impression is disingenuously given here that the contrary is the case, and gathers in the general consensus of historians.
  • This is one example of many, and reason to think that Noloop has a point, which I would rephrase this way. A historical issue should be preferentially or discretionally sourced to works written specifically on historical issues as historical issues, and not from works with a predominantly theological-hermeneutic approach, as is for example the otherwise eminently qualified Richard Bauckham's book above. Bauckham's reasoning in that chapter evolves only to buttress a theological position based on non-historical premises.
  • This kind of editing is an example of the tendentious use of otherwise good RS material to create the impression that the article itself deals with a theory neutral historians regard as untenable.

Nishidani (talk) 17:11, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

I'm going to take this sentence out; not only is Bauckham's position highly controversial, but the material in question doesn't deal specifically with the Christ myth theory. If this "counterarguments" section is going to be in the article (personally, I don't think it should be), it should be limited to authors who have directly addressed the CMT. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:04, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

should be limited to authors who have directly addressed the CMT.

As usual, you phrase the principle better than I have, with no margin for controversy and misunderstandings.Nishidani (talk) 18:16, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

(2)

one or more individuals who actually existed, but that they were not in any sense the founder of Christianity

Doesn't anyone have a feeling that this is grammatically dubious, and stylistically cleft-handed?Nishidani (talk) 10:03, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
I quite like it as a workaround. What's meant is that the composite was not in any sense the founder, but I think whoever wrote it was trying to avoid the word "composite," because not everyone argues that. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:50, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Then

one or more individuals who actually existed, but that none of them was in any sense the founder of Christianity

(_E=mc2_) aka Nishidani (talk) 17:02, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
That's better simply on grammatical grounds. I take SlimVirgin's point that "they" can hint at an idea that a composite figure was not the founder (how could one be, anyway?), but I doubt this interpretation will occur to anyone who hasn't been following this talkpage in depth. So I'm instituting Nishidani's change; if it's important that the article deal with the "composite" point, it should do so directly rather than by implication. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:20, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
That's fine with me. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:18, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
We had composite character in the lead in a long time ago [11] but it got lost in the shuffle of updates. That definition read as follows:
The Jesus myth hypothesis (also referred to as the Jesus myth theory, the Jesus myth, or the Christ myth) brings the historical existence of Jesus into question. It ranges from the idea that figure of Jesus of Nazareth is not a historical figure, but an entirely fictional construct of various forms of ancient mythology, through the idea that he is a composite character created through the transfers from and embellishments on the life of an earlier religious teacher who lived sometime during the 1st or 2nd century BCE, ending with the idea that the Gospel Jesus has had so much added that no details regarding an actual historical person can be determined.
This accurately and directly deals with Drews, going through Mead, to Price. Think this with a little rewording could be reused?--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:36, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Is O'Hair a "New" Atheist?

Why is Madalyn Murray O'Hair included in the section on New Atheism? The latter is (according to our article's definition) a post-9/11 phenomenon, O'Hair died in 1995. Gabbe (talk) 09:33, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

I wasn't keen on that either and was thinking of removing it, along with one of the other names. It was originally added before the New Atheism title, which accounts for that discrepancy, but I think it's still inappropriate as part of a list of atheists who've mentioned that Jesus might not exist—but so what? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:44, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
O'Hair definitely isn't a New Atheist. I don't really understand why she and Dan Barker are mentioned in the New Atheism section, because as far as I can see from the citations they've only mentioned in passing that Jesus might not have been historical. I think they should be removed unless it turns out that they've written/commented extensively on this subject. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:57, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Ditto.Nishidani (talk) 19:15, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Removed. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:30, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
On the "written/commented extensively on this subject" would the chapter "Jesus: History or Myth" in Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith (1992) qualify? It does show that Barker isn't a New Atheist either as his conversion happened long before 2001.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:16, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

RfC to move Christ myth theory to Jesus myth theory

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.
As discussion seems to have petered out, I'm going to close this. I see 14 supports, 10 opposes, and a few general comments. I'll ask an uninvolved admin to reach a decision. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:43, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
SlimVirgin asked for a third party close here and as no one stepped up I have offered to do so, I hope that is kosher. Ok, from reading through the debate the argument is fairly simple; as I read it there are two main counter arguments (barring Google hits, for which there seems to be arguments either way) one is that the historical/scholarly use of the term should take precedent, the other is that the term Christ is honorific and that, in a historical context, Jesus is more appropriate. Taking those as the main arguments the discussion seems to come down just about on the side of move to Jesus myth theory based on the fact that the support arguments appear to be stronger, in greater quantity and have, in some instances, "won over" oppose !votes. --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 21:52, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

This article is about the theory that Jesus did not exist as an historical being. Should it be moved from Christ myth theory to Jesus myth theory? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:13, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Comments

  • Support move. The article was called Jesus myth hypothesis until February 2009 when Akhilleus moved it to Christ myth theory without much discussion; see here. The current title is a little misleading, because it doesn't make immediately clear that we're discussing the historiography of the person, unrelated to the Christian belief in his divinity. Calling it "Jesus myth theory" would make the title more consistent with the rest in the series of articles about the historiography of Jesus: Historical Jesus, Historicity of Jesus, and so on. Both titles are well-represented on Google.
The hits for each are:
  • "Christ myth": Google (38,900), Google Books (7,730), Google Scholar (651)
  • "Christ myth theory": Google (25,200), Google Books (247), Google Scholar (46)
  • "Christ myth hypothesis": Google (59), Google Books (12), Google Scholar (1)

  • "Jesus myth": Google (48,000), Google Books (2,990), Google Scholar (242)
  • "Jesus myth theory": Google (56,900), Google Books (16), Google Scholar (1)
  • "Jesus myth hypothesis": Google (63,400), Google Books (2), Google Scholar (3)
SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:14, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support' Oppose', preferring instead Jesus hoax as most scientifically accurate. Noloop (talk) 05:22, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Just kidding. I'm neutral. Noloop (talk) 16:55, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Changed my mind again, preferring leadership in accuracy over popular misinformation. Noloop (talk) 17:01, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment. Is there a general policy on how to handle it, when the most common name is widely regarded as a misnomer? I think even GA Wells chafed at the term. Ellegard's theory is that there was a historical figure who is the basis for the NT figure. The name is clearly misleading, yet common. The situation doesn't seem like it would be rare on Wikipedia, so I wonder if there's precedent. Noloop (talk) 16:59, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose for now. In Google scholar "Jesus-myth theory" gets 1 hit, compared to 46 for the current title. In Google books we have another ratio favoring the current title - 24 v. 263. It was also my impression that early works espousing the theory that are notable used this term.Griswaldo (talk) 05:28, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Strongly Oppose move If you go back through the archives you will see that I could find only one reference to Jesus myth hypothesis (Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_20) and that was to "Jesus myth" hypothesis (Turner, J.E. (1931) Revelation of Deity Macmillan company (Original from the University of California, originally from University of Liverpool) and as I pointed out back then what he is arguing is confusing as all get out. "Christ Myth Theory" seems to have the largest number of reference and most of the time is in reference to Drews books with in English is titled "Christ Myth" So "Christ Myth Theory" more accurately means "Christ Myth by Drews Theory". THis is all ignoring the fact the first book Wells admits to there be a historical Jesus behind Q is called Jesus myth as well as Jesus myth being the title of a 1971 "Jesus is historical" book by Andrew M. Greeley Furthermore, the phrase "Jesus myth" is like "Christ Myth" use in reference to the myth that grew up around a historical Jesus as well as Jesus never existed as a human being. IIRC, Burton Mack uses "Jesus myth" in this manner. IMHO you're just moving the punching bag and making things worse.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:11, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment Please, in the name of sanity do not get read of "theory". The article is enough of a train wreck with "I see Christ Myth used this way" or "I see Jesus Myth used this way" coming up from time to time without opening the freaking flood gates. On the merging issue I think that Quest for the historical Jesus would be the more logical choice.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:35, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • (EC) CMT doesn't describe what this article is about, since Christ means "anointed one" or whatever (basically supernatural). But, COMMON may mandate it, since JMT doesn't seem to be how people refer to it. There may be no good name. It really should be merged into "Historicity of Jesus", but I don't think that's going to happen. Barring that, we should name it as a spin out of that article. What name, I don't know. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 06:09, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
    • I was asked to take a second look after SV added those stats above. If "Jesus myth hypothesis" really is the COMMON name, then go with that (other than merging). One has to be careful with interpreting google searches, of course. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 06:28, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
      • Oppose. Actually, it's complicated. I think Google Books is probably the best of the various searches, and it recommends "Christ myth". So, that's my final vote until I change my mind. "Jesus myth" is my second choice. It's much more accurate, but much less COMMON, and I think COMMON is more important that accuracy. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 06:34, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
      • Get rid of "theory". It's not helpful. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 06:36, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Because Jesus is being discussed as a historical person, not as "Christ" which is more related to belief rather than history.Civilizededucation (talk) 07:20, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose Both titles are acceptable, no compelling reason for change. Google results suggest "Christ myth" being more commonly used in academic literature, no doubt because of the wording of one of the foundational books proposing the theory. The apparently contrary results on Google web may well be due to the effect of Wikipedia's own (former) choice being mirrored in many places. Retain "theory" as part of the title. Fut.Perf. 08:39, 5 August 2010 (UTC)`
  • Weak Oppose I changed my "oppose" to "weak" given the comments, although in this case I still think Google Books hits are more diagnostic than plain Google hits. Also, it seems to me that this theory calls attention to the crucifiction and resurrection and other (e.g. virgin birth) unnatural elements that are precisely what make Jesus "christ" and not just plain Jesus. Also, speaking personally, while I understand that many have used this theory to argue against the existence of any historical Jesus, it is my sense (and I admit I may be mistaken) that some (including many historians) have used this theory to argue that while a man named Jesus may have preached love and was believed to be a charismatic healer in the Galilee, what is myth is the claim that he was a god born of a virgin who was killed and resurrected, and that this myth was built of out of parts of other Hellenistic/ANE myths (e.g. Mithra), so the theory really is about the "christ" part more than the "Jesus" part. regardless of the number of opposes and supports, the key thing I think is that the article clearly and accurately explain the diverse views.Slrubenstein | Talk 09:28, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Neutral I moved the article to its current title and I think that its the best choice based on the use of "Christ myth theory" in scholarly sources, but "Jesus myth theory" is also used in scholarly sources and pretty widely on the web. Honestly, I don't think it makes much difference either way. Arguments based on a distinction in meaning between "Christ" and "Jesus" don't strike me as compelling, because while these words mean different things to some people, you can find plenty of folks who use the two interchangeably. --Akhilleus (talk) 13:11, 5 August 2010 (UTC) Changed my "vote", see below. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:08, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose Ok, I'm changing to oppose, because of the arguments I'm seeing about why "Christ" is used in the title. It's not used as an honorific; it's used because "Christ myth theory" has been the most common way to refer to the theory that there was no historical Jesus. This is probably because of the popularity of Die Christusmythe (The Christ-Myth), a 1912 book by Arthur Drews, which argued that there was no historical Jesus. This is a basic application of WP:NAME. And yes, I can see that "Jesus myth theory" gets more hits on a plain google search, but like Slrubenstein below, I consider the Google Books/Scholar results more important. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:13, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Actually I would prefer Jesus Christ Legend Myth Hypothesis Theory, since that would get the most Google hits as long as you don't use quotes. (Sorry, just trying to inject some levity into a very serious debate.) PeaceLoveHarmony (talk) 18:13, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment Will it merge back into Historicity of Jesus. Because there is only a tiny part of this about the idea that Christ (the anointed one) is a myth (spiritual, heroic or legendary story not intended to have a historical basis). Elen of the Roads (talk) 21:54, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support move to Jesus myth hypothesis. The use of the word "Christ" probably unintentionally emphasizes the Christological aspects, rather than the historical aspects. Personally, I think the article could be perhaps split into two articles, one about the theories that Jesus is completely mythical, the other that he was either "real" or that there is a "real" person buried in the depth of all the material later added, which also implies that something can be known about the original "base" person, but that is another matter. John Carter (talk) 15:36, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment. The article is vitiated by Recentism, and appears to exist to showcase particular modern books by various hands, most with no independent knowledge of the subject, pitched to a broader public readership. Compare how the unoriginal views by a Swedish student of English literature, Alvar Ellegård, developed in his retirement, are given major explication while the distinguished biblical scholar Thomas L. Thompson's work gets a bare mention. Idem for Earl Doherty, who's not noteworthy. As with the Shakespeare Authorship Question's earlier drafts, one gets a strong focus on authors in the last 20 years,(must take up almost half the article by the looks of it) whose books, on examination, prove to merely recycle in a popular presentation the theories and their details written a century ago. The frequency of the 'Christ myth' term may reflect this bias towards recent usage. In the good old days, in Protestant theological colleges, it didn't really matter if Jesus/Christ existed. From Martin Kähler through to the disciples of Rudolf Bultmann, this was considered not really material to being a Christian, any more than, for a Freudian, it mattered whether Oedipus or Moses were historically real (the myth was existentially, phenomenologically or psychologically real). What mattered, in hermeneutics, was the meaning of the myths we live by, an approach which suspended the rather simplistic idea that something was believable if empirically verifiable.
  • Support, as per Slim, and John Carter, if only because the word 'Jesus' is an historical name, whereas the epithet 'Christos' refers intrinsically to a theology or myth, (unless it was, as it must have been, maliciously misheard by Greek ears attuned to a more uncomfortable meaning (daft). 'Christ' is already instinct with mytho-theological significance, whereas Yeshua/Jesus isn't. Call it my POV prejudice that I hear 'the Christ myth' as meaning, whatever usage, scholarly or popular is, that Jesus was not the messiah. I don't hear it as meaning an historical Jesus is to be discounted as a myth. Nishidani (talk) 16:29, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support move to Jesus myth theory. Fine with Christ myth theory as well, but I don't like Jesus myth hypothesis. —Preceding unsigned comment added by ^^James^^ (talkcontribs) 20:26, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose change per BG and Future Perfect. Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 22:00, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Strong support. Sorry, we're not all Christians here, and sad little attempts at slipping in honorifics like "Christ" instead of the figure's name, "Jesus", are about as acceptable as slipping in honorifics on Wikipedia articles every time we mention Allah, Vishnu or any other deity of a living religion. There is no other justification possible for a move from "Jesus" to "Christ". Take it somewhere else. :bloodofox: (talk) 23:32, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support In my view this article is a POV fork of Historicity of Jesus, and therefore should be merged into it. But while it is separate, the title should be free of religious terminology or adjectives, just like we don't add "the merciful" to mentions of Allah, despite the fact that it's extremely common among the followers of Islam. This article is supposed to focus on a scientific/historical issue, not a religious one, and therefore should use the alleged given name of the person whose historicity is being questioned. Crum375 (talk) 00:50, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment: It's hard to believe that academics have been so sloppy in their terminology not to recognize that Christ-myth and Jesus-myth are two completely different questions: plenty of people accept the historicity of Jesus without accepting his identity as Christ--this is what "Christ-myth" really implies. Still, scholarly preference is an acceptable basis for choosing the title. I'd think as long as there's a redirect in place for the term that doesn't get chosen, it's probably 6 of one.... Aristophanes68 (talk) 03:03, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Not sure it matters: Although I understand and appreciate the reason for wanting to move (as I pointed out above, the "Christ myth" theory has very little to do with the historicity of Jesus), there's already a redirect in place from "Jesus myth" and "Jesus myth theory"; so anyone searching for those terms will be led here anyway. Having both names in the lede is fine for the time being, and the current title seems to follow the course of current scholarship.... Aristophanes68 (talk) 17:18, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support move to Jesus myth theory. şṗøʀĸşṗøʀĸ: τᴀʟĸ 06:55, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose Even if it's a misnomer, we don't use our opinions on that to decide an article title. WP:NAME gives us the guidelines we should follow and when we don't we too often get into arguments like this with the accompanying mud-slinging. Dougweller (talk) 07:29, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment The word Myth is confusing. It has different meanings in academia as opposed to common use. The same is true of Theory. I thought the article would be about how the stories about Jesus changed and grew, and what might be known to be embellishments. A clearer title for the article, given its contents, might be Disbelief in a Historical Jesus. Or something along those lines. Dingo1729 (talk) 20:15, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. Per Slim Virgin, "Jesus..." would be clearer. --FormerIP (talk) 20:41, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose I'm not sure there is any particular name that is clearly more common. Just doing some poking around Google it seems that authors tend to more commonly use the word Christ instead of Jesus when assigning a name to this hypothesis. Granted I think Jesus is slightly more accurate, but accuracy of a title is a secondary criteria for Wikipedia. --Mcorazao (talk) 20:57, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. As per arguments made above. Student7 (talk) 23:25, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
  • RfC response "Jesus" has the edge, according to google, so I support that. Possible compromise: Jesus Christ myth theory. Figureofnine (talk) 15:40, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. Jesus makes it clear that what is involved is doubt that the human being existed rather than whether that human being was "the Christ".Dejvid (talk) 18:12, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. The most meaningful evaluation is the Google Scholar one for "[Christ|Jesus] myth theory." A simple "Christ myth" or "Jesus myth" brings too many irrelevant hits, as you will see if you actually click on the results. In the GS results "Christ myth theory" gets 46 hits and "Jesus myth theory" gets only one. That's overwhelming. Even if we lump the "hypothesis" hits in with the "theory" ones, it's 47 to 4. While some editors have attempted to differentiate "Christ myth theory" from "Jesus myth theory" such a distinction goes against the reliable sources found on Google Scholar, which indeed use "Christ myth theory" to refer to arguments about the historicity of Jesus the person (e.g., [12][13]). See also WP:NOTNEO. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 18:05, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Threaded discussion

(first comment copied from above)

  • Weak Oppose I changed my "oppose" to "weak" given the comments, although in this case I still think Google Books hits are more diagnostic than plain Google hits. Also, it seems to me that this theory calls attention to the crucifiction and resurrection and other (e.g. virgin birth) unnatural elements that are precisely what make Jesus "christ" and not just plain Jesus. Also, speaking personally, while I understand that many have used this theory to argue against the existence of any historical Jesus, it is my sense (and I admit I may be mistaken) that some (including many historians) have used this theory to argue that while a man named Jesus may have preached love and was believed to be a charismatic healer in the Galilee, what is myth is the claim that he was a god born of a virgin who was killed and resurrected, and that this myth was built of out of parts of other Hellenistic/ANE myths (e.g. Mithra), so the theory really is about the "christ" part more than the "Jesus" part. regardless of the number of opposes and supports, the key thing I think is that the article clearly and accurately explain the diverse views.Slrubenstein | Talk 09:28, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually Slrubenstein, what you are running into is the phrase "Christ Myth" being used in a different manner. Remsburg used "Christ Myth" the way you are described in The Christ (1909) saying while there was a 1st century teacher named Jesus the Gospels give us little if any insight to this man. Also Mead and Ellegard with their c100 BC historical Jesuses throw a monkey wrench in the "Jesus didn't exist as a historical person" definitions of Christ Myth Theory as they have been called mythists.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:55, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
SLR, this is a good example of why Christ myth theory is a misleading title. The theory is not about the supernatural aspects being myth (everyone agrees with that, except the fundamentalist category). The theory is that Jesus did not exist as an historical figure. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:15, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually that is one definition largely based on Drews work, there are are others:
  • Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist as an historical figure (to allow Mead and Ellegard with their historical c100 BC Jesuses to fall under the Christ Myth banner. Used by Price)
  • Jesus began as at a Myth (Walsh)
  • The Gospels are to mythologized that all trace of a historical person, if there was ever one was to begin with, has been lost. (Jesus agnosticism-used by Boyd-Eddy)
  • The Gospel Jesus never existed (Doherty's and Holding's definitions)
As you can see from this just what the Christ myth theory is is somewhat of a mess.--BruceGrubb (talk) 10:52, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • In my comment I am thinking of Price and people like him. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:30, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Except your definition covers what Boyd-Eddy called the "legendary-Jesus thesis" which covers far more than most of what most of the material that actually bothers to define "Christ Myth theory" does.--BruceGrubb (talk) 20:38, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
I've been very slowly trying to read about this topic for the last few months so I can edit this article—and it has been slow because essentially I have little interest in the issue, but somehow got attached to it only after it ended up twice at FAC with some very strong language in it, and so my reading has been ponderous—but what is becoming every day clearer is twofold: (a) this article is a POV fork of Historicity of Jesus; and (b) that the Christ myth theory is that we're not in a position to say that Jesus existed, and we ought to stop being so certain about it. That's it.

You can build onto that basic plank that he was really a mythical trace of the Teacher of Righteousness, or that he was really a metaphor for the dying of winter and the coming of spring, or that he was really a dream of Paul's about people who were about to arrive in spaceships. You can also build onto it various conspiracy theories about the greatest lie ever told and how church fathers have deliberately hidden this or hidden that. This article used to focus on the wilder aspects, and still does more than it should, in order to discredit the theory and call it crazy fringe. But the fact remains that the essence of the article is who throughout the ages has argued—and sometimes argued quite sensibly—that there isn't enough evidence to indicate that Jesus existed. That should be in Historicity of Jesus, but if it has to be here it makes more sense to call it the Jesus myth theory, or just the Jesus myth, so that we cut out the religious aspect entirely. There is enough use of all these terms, so we can freely choose which one to use ourselves. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:20, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

If you got that just from reading the article the talk pages on this article are even worse. Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_8 (back in 2007) showed a concern about this being a POV fork by Jim62sch. Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_9 have even more concerns with ThAtSo flat out calling this article a WP:CFORK. In Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_21 User:Dbachmann again raised this issue (2009) and I agreed with him in Feb of that year asking "why does so much of the material on BOTH sides of this issue have problems? As I said elsewhere Creationism and New Chronology get better treatment than this and they are even more off the wall." By Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_22 User:Dbachmann seems to be to the point where nuking the article from orbit seemed to be a good idea. Hans Adler in Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_24 brought up the WP:CFORK issue again, in Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_28 Ttiotsw brought up WP:COATRACK concerns, and then you came on board in Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_30 with your WP:CFORK concerns. The article has improved much since then but as I pointed out in Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_21 many of the problems with this article is in the literature itself. When people bother to actually define it you get conflicting definitions that keep turning this into the monkey house of the week.--BruceGrubb (talk) 00:46, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Price is the only person mentioned in the introduction who has a PhD. that is relevant, and his "Christ myth theory" is just as I described it, the theory that Christ si a literary figure based on mythic elements circulating at the time of his composition. I think this is a fringe theory among historians, but it is not a "crank" theory meant to discredit any skeptics. If, as Slim Virgin claims, the CMT is basically, "we're not in a position to say that Jesus existed, and we ought to stop being so certain about it. That's it," then I would suggest that ALL of the major historians who argue for a historical Jesus would agree with this. The fact is, we cannot be certain that Alexander the Great existed. I am not saying this to discredit skeptics; my point is that ANY sensible historian will be clear that most of what we know about the past is a reconstruction. Frankly, what is more dangerous is when we are dealing with people we can be confident existed (say, Henry the VIII) and with little skepticism reconstruct his biography based on the sources available. In the case of Jesus, I think all historians, including Christian ones, will say that there is no historical proof Jesus existed, but that of people we believe existed two thousand years ago, they think it is likely he was real. Most historians of Jesus are not arguing that Jesus existed. They are arguing that if Jesus existed, "x yz" is a muchmore realistic portrait of his life and acts, to the extent we can say anything at all about them, than what most people think.
In this discussion as well as the AN/I discussion it is increasingly clear to me that two very different debates are getting mixed up at these articles. One is a debate largely between Christians and former Christians over whether Jesus existed. Since both groups seem to think Jesus was a God, to say he existed = to say God exists and to say he did not exist = to say God does not exist. This is a debate that is very important to lots of people but that Jews and other non-Christians can at best find amusing and more likely perplexing. But it is an important debate and it includes theologians and their critics.
The other is a debate among historians that is really about analyzing the Gospels the same way historians analyze many ancient texts that are clearly compounds of multiple views written at different times by people who did not make the same distinctions we do to today. Whit parts of the Gospel fit with what we know of the first half of the first century? Which parts fit with a period when Pharisees and Christians were competing for leadership of the Jews? Which parts really make sense if they were written after Christianity broke with judaism? These are the questions real historians debate, they are all questins over how to analyze old texts. Then they can write a book that basically begins, "If Jesus existed, then this is a more realistic portrait of him than what you think, and this is how things he may have said and may have done mean things you didn't think of, because you are not a first century jew like Jesus was" That is almost all historians writing about Jesus (including Christian ones).
I think NPOV means putting views in their context and a debate between people of faith and people who are anti-religion is a different ball-game than debates among historians; these are different contexts, and views get distorted when you try to take view that is forwarded in one context and put into the other context. Hitchens and Dawkins are not having the same conversation that Crossan and Ehrman are having. BBC or PPS or CBC could even put them in the same studio and try to get them to talk to one another and they will spend most of their time talking past one another because two of them are intent on answering one set of questions and two are intent on answering a different set of questions. This is the kind of situation in Wikipedia that really requires a fork if we are to explain things properly to our readers. Slrubenstein | Talk 15:05, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Wholehearted agreement with Slrubenstein above. I would only add that the main reason "Christians" give for the lack of earlier historical documentation of Jesus is that the early Christian movement honestly believed that the world would end any day now, and, like later millenarist movements, there wasn't a lot of reason to start on something that would take several months to complete when the possible writer didn't believe that there was any good reason to think that the world would still exist in several months. Other later millenarist movements have learned from the mistake of the early Christians, and published earlier, but even they have often told members to not enroll in college, for instance, because the world may well have ended before they get their degrees. John Carter (talk) 15:54, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm not really sure what Slrubenstein is saying. First, I've argued elsewhere that in the interests of NPOV the debate needs to be opened up to all academics, not the hothouse (and usually the Christian hothouse) of biblical scholarship. Secondly, the sources are questioning whether Jesus existed. There aren't lots of ways to do this. They are saying: "We think a good case can be made for Jesus's non-existence; we don't think a good case can be made that he did exist." No one says this about Alexander the Great. Arguments about "oh, but it has to be placed in context," and "they're not really saying what they seem to be saying" are, in WP's terms, OR, and in other terms look like an attempt to undermine their point. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:30, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
"in the interests of NPOV the debate needs to be opened up to all academics" - Why? Where does NPOV require this? Do you really mean "all academics?" An electrical engineer? A molecular chemist? A geologist? Would you include the views of a Bible scholar ... or an English professor ... or a French medieval historian ... in an article on Physics or Astronomy if they have published there own views on the big bang or quantum mechanics? Would you include the views on evolution, held by an expert on the history of English syntax, in the article on Evolution? I bet none of the editors active at those articles would let you unless you have real compelling evidence that these authors had independently established their scholarly credibility in physics, astronomy, or biology. I think you are fetishizing "academia." Just because someone has a PhD - even say in French medieval history (and I just narrowed it down to history) - does not mean someone that person's opinion about 1st century Roman occupied Judea is any more reliable than that of my plumber or electrician, or the taxi driver I used earlier today. A PhD is proof that one can do doctoral elevel research on a specific subject, not that one is suddenly an oracle on everything.
"Arguments about "they're not really saying what they seem to be saying" are, in WP's terms, OR." Yes, I agree, which is why I never said that. "Arguments about "oh, but it has to be placed in context,"" is not OR, in fact, it is essential to represnting a view accurately and is part of our policies. I honestly do not see how you could oppose this criteria. It seems inconsistent. Aren't you appealing to this criteria when you characterize Bible scholars as residing in a "Christian hothouse?" Many of these bible scholars are not Christian. Some are Christian and actually argue that Jesus never existed (like Price). Some ar Christian and argue determinedly against Christian dogma and orthodoxy. Some happen to be Christian and also happen just to be good, serious historians. They view themselves as historians, and they view their views as those of historians, and other historians view them as historians too.
Look, you can say it simply does not matter whether one is an academic; a non-academic has as much expertise as an academic. In some cases (especially several journalists) I would agree with you, but in most cases I would not. Or you could say that someone with academic training in a particular field is a reliable source in that field, an approach that actually sometimes turns out to be wrong but in general I endorse. But to say that an academic who has a PhD on a subject is not an expert on that subject, and an academic who does not have a PhD on a subject is an expert on that subject, is really byond me. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:25, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I would bring a wide range of intellectualls into articles about physics if physicists were doing something that affected the rest of the world, where the issues were too dangerous to be left to a handful of academics speaking in tongues. You and I have had this discussion before, about the importance of the public intellectual. Have you read anything about the history of dissent in this area, and I mean the recent history: people ridiculed, unable to get their PhD theses accepted, unable to find teaching posts? And we saw it here in earlier versions: compared by biblical scholars to Holocaust deniers.
Jesus is a multi-trillion-dollar industry, and we can't allow special-interest groups to frame these articles. We include them, yes, and we make clear what the majority view is, but we don't let them take over. Other academics have spoken out about the the lack of scholarly rigor, rightly or wrongly, and because we're not an academic journal and we have a neutral policy, we include their views. I'm not arguing in favour of vox pop, but I want to include what educated people with no dog in the fight are saying.
I asked you elsewhere whether you'd support an article about Scientology being framed by historians who were committed Scientologists. You said no, but I didn't entirely understand your reasoning. That they're not open? Well, nor is anything really. To educate yourself in biblical scholarship, to the level we keep being told is required (knowledge of Greek, Aramaic, for example), is expensive, as is proceeding through Scientology levels. But take another example, a church that is very open about its history: Mormonism. Do you support WP articles about Joseph Smith being framed entirely by Mormon scholars? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:26, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
No, I would not support WP articles about Joseph Smith framed entirely by scholars who are working for the mormon Church. I would laso hope for work by hisotirans and sociologists, but I would expect them to be historians of religion and sociologists of religion. If some of these happened to be Mormons I would ask whether their work is motivated by theological questions or historical questions? I would exclude (or narrowly use0 the former, and would include the latter without prejudice. Slrubenstein | Talk 20:42, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, one additional point: I'm not of course arguing that people with a PhD in one area are ipso facto experts in others. I'm arguing that doing a humanities PhD teaches you how to read and interpret texts, and when you then devote many years of study to an area, it's a little galling to be told no, sorry, your PhD from many decades ago was completed in the wrong faculty. G.A. Wells has been writing books about Jesus since 1975, but it's still apparently not good enough, because he originally specialized in German literature. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:49, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The criterion for whether somebody is an expert in a field is whether his peers accept him as an expert in the field. The relevant field here, if we want to set theology apart, is History. It doesn't matter whether somebody formally has a degree in history – they may well have become reputable experts over time through other channels. But it also doesn't matter whether somebody has "devoted many years of study" to an area and written books about it. Anybody can do that, and still remain a crackpot. The only reliable criterion for us to decide whether somebody is an expert worth taking seriously in a field is whether their academic environment treats them as such. And this is where peer review and all the related processes of quality control come in. Do the authors you speak about publish in peer-reviewed historians' journals? Do they get invited to historians' conferences? Do they get invited to write chapters for historians' encyclopedias? Fut.Perf. 21:23, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
There are literary critics who have written on the Bible - Harold Bloom for example. I consider his works to be potentially reliable, but I would still want to know how they were received by other scholars. My sense is that other scholars found them insightful although addressing a limited range of issues or having limited value. I would hold the same stnadards to any other scholar Slrubenstein | Talk 20:42, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The issue where religious scholars (scholars of religion with religious beliefs) differ from the rest of academia is the strong ideological component. Physicists aren't born into families who adore E=mc2. They're not sent to E=mc2 schools where E=mc2 becomes the centre of their lives. They don't seek E=mc2-adoring spouses and raise their children as E=mc2 worshippers. They don't believe that the adoration of E=mc2 will give them eternal life.
If physicists were raised in this way, might it not be the case that they would not be the most reliable sources on special relativity? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:34, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Do you concede the possibility that biblical scholars with religious beliefs may not be the best group to ask when examining whether Jesus existed?

No. I concede the possibility that any scholar may not be a good source; we need to see what standing the scholars' work has amng other experts in the field. This is a major headache wt the continual stream of ArbCom and AN/I and mediation efforts involving Race and intelligence. Some people say Rushton, a PhD in psychology teaching at an accredited university, is an authority on race and intelligence. Others say that the specific views he expresses are fringe and not considered respectable by other scientists. As for making any judgments about groups of scholars, I refuse to discriminate against any scholar based on race, creed, color or national origin. I think NPOV requires us to distinguish between mainstream, majority, minority and fringe views; I think we need to do this relative to something else (relative to the general public or relative to other experts) and beyond this I think w have to identify the view by looking at the text (the book or article) first and look at the "contextual" information about the author only after we have determined what view is expressed by the words of the text. Slrubenstein | Talk 02:49, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
You're quite right on that. But a policy wonk will always win out if she or he wishes to stop a G.A. Wells from being considered R.S., since the rules can be read that way. Somewhere in the humongous backpages of WP:RS, I tried, precisely, to make the same point by compiling a major list of, from memory, 16 frontranking scholars in various fields over the 20th century who, though qualified technically in one discipline, make groundbreaking studies in another for which they lacked the appropriate formal credentials. It ran from Joseph Needham(biochemistry), one of the greatest sinologists of all time, and Claude Lévi-Strauss(law and philosophy) to Michael Ventris (architecture), etc. The argument had no impact, and the rule of relevant qualification still impedes outside Phds and their work from being cited on many topics. Someone should raise this at the appropriate policy forum.Nishidani (talk) 19:00, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
One of the things that concerns me about this is that there is nothing in policy anywhere that implies this level of specialization is required. People have somehow assumed it. The sourcing policy has been kept fairly broad; see WP:SOURCES, which is the policy. The guidelines are supposed to be consistent with it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:43, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The men you mentioned have all been recognized as making major contributions to their fields. If Wells' work had had the same impact in New Testament studies, there would be every reason to cite him in the same way that we cite any New Testament scholar. But Wells' work, when it is noticed at all by New Testament scholars, is treated as a curiosity. --Akhilleus (talk) 19:15, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
But we don't have to follow suit. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:43, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Well, this of course depends on what you mean by "follow suit." This article needs to give a full and fair exposition of Wells' views. But it also needs to note that Wells' views, especially the ones he put forward in his earlier work, are not mainstream. In an article like historical Jesus or similar, Wells' views, again, should not be treated as mainstream, and should receive far less weight than those of recognized experts in the field. --Akhilleus (talk) 19:49, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Those three all worked in fields that were in an inchoate state of conceptual and material development. Try to do that in a field that has a centuries' old history of consolidated thinking, in a field where, underneath the austere sobriety of analysis, deep emotional and fideistic commitments exist, forming something of a systemic bias on certain topics, and one will realize that conditions are different. Mind you, I haven't read G.A. Wells, so I am not thinking of him, but of the principle SV enunciated. Suffice a retrospective glance at the subject to appreciate the difference. It took centuries for the obvious to emerge, i.e., that Jesus was born, and died, a Jew, and why that obvious fact could not be faced was that a systemic bias, if not anti-Semitic (which it often was), then certainly highly defensive of Christianity's break existed, in great scholars consciously prepossessed by a sense there was a heuristic need to ride close shotgun on the boundaries with the contiguous faith in order to reaffirm the ostensible or vaunted uniqueness (and soi-disant superiority) of their own Christianity, which happened to be the doctrinal underpinning of the societies in which they lived and worked and had their beans.It has its reflex in the uneasiness some Jewish people have in classifying Jesus as a Jew. He should be ranked as such on the relevant wiki page (Jews), but he never will be. Perhaps they have a point, since his existence cannot be proved beyond doubt any more than Moses' or Abraham's (aside from our much admired and very present administrator by that name) can.Nishidani (talk) 19:25, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
The bottom line is, NPOV requires that we include all significant views. I am sure we all agree that in some areas, what is significant is relative to what larger audience or community the paerson is a part of. Wells can be significant to a popular audience and should be included on those groungs; Meier is significant to a scholarly audience and should be included in those grounds. I am not really concerned with a litmust test for who we include as a source or not. My concern is with th disingenuous way that a host of reliable academic sources are being mislabeled as forwarding Christian points of view. I think we start down a slippery slope when we try to label a person rather than a particular book or article, as we cannot read minds but we can read books and articles. I think Nishidani has not been following this discussion - I have made it plain that someon can become a very well-respected historian of Jesus without having a PhD in history. Nishidani mentions Levi-Strauss and puts law and philosophy as his qualifications, but this misconstrues the history of anthropology; anthropology became established as an academic disipline rather late and the founding fathers in anthropology all had PhDs in other fields. Levi Strauss established himslef as an anthropologist by taking it upon himself to master all the skills and knowledge other emerging anthropologists considered essential, and by demonstrating this to other anthropologists. This is more analogous to Ehrman or Meier, who have doctorates in theology but who are not theologians and who do not publish on theology but who have additionally trained in history, publish history, and are acknowledged by other historians to be historians. This is not however analogous to Wells who is not acknowledged as a historian of 1st century Roman occupied Judea by other historians.
The issue here is not whom we include but how we identify their POV. Normally, we identify a POV because the text itself makes the POV plain. otherwise, we look for reliable secondary sources that say that x isrepresenting a particular POV. If notable historians took Wells seriously as a historian of the time and place he writes about, I would have no problem characterizing his POV as that of a historian of the time and place, regardless of his degree. So far I have not seen any reliabl secondary sources saying that Meier's work as a historian is biased by his Christianity, or that Ehrman's earlier work (before he left Christianty furthers a Christian POV. On the contrary, his earlier work is granted the same respect and significance as his later work.
I have been calling attention to degrees only because Noloop and others were misusing information about people's degrees in order to assign POV. They were misusing it because they are ignorant of how higher education is organized, or because knowing how HE is organized they are bigoted. In any event I wanted to make sure people understand how HE is organized. I do think having a PhD in a particular area does signify a certain level of expertise; gaining employment teaching that material is further evidence. It does not mean tht someone cannot also achieve expertise in a different field, but we would need evidence thatwhat they have written is accepteed (in this case) as expressing a historian's POV and is a significant view among historians of that time and place. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:57, 8 August 2010 (UTC)


  • Comment While it is part of the Historicity of Jesus spectrum there is enough to show that it is regarded a quasi separate category--the problem keep being that there is not a uniform clean constancy about just what the bounties between it and the minimalist position are. This mess sort of reminds me of the chaotic mess old AD&D alignments were--you had clear descriptions of the extremes there too but where the exact boundaries between any two were was anyone's guess.--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:21, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
  • There is no clean boundary between the Christ myth position and other minimalist positions, because they amount to the same thing depending on which words you stress. The search for a clean boundary is fruitless. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:27, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

(first comment copied from above)

  • Oppose Ok, I'm changing to oppose, because of the arguments I'm seeing about why "Christ" is used in the title. It's not used as an honorific; it's used because "Christ myth theory" has been the most common way to refer to the theory that there was no historical Jesus. This is probably because of the popularity of Die Christusmythe (The Christ-Myth), a 1912 book by Arthur Drews, which argued that there was no historical Jesus. This is a basic application of WP:NAME. And yes, I can see that "Jesus myth theory" gets more hits on a plain google search, but like Slrubenstein below, I consider the Google Books/Scholar results more important. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:13, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Note that Akhilleus is the user who moved the article from the original "Jesus myth theory" to "Christ myth theory". Obviously, Christ is an honorific, whether you want to dance around it or not, and the fact that "you're changing to oppose, because of the arguments I'm seeing about why "Christ" is used in the title" says it all. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:22, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it says that I don't like the poor arguments that other users are making. Such as the assumption that "Christ" is an honorific—I doubt Arthur Drews intended it that way, somehow. Neither, I think, does Robert M. Price (although, to be fair, he is a practicing Christian). --Akhilleus (talk) 03:38, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
And for the record, the move was from the original Jesus myth hypothesis to the current title of Christ myth theory, as SlimVirgin correctly noted above. And, as I've said all along, I moved it to this title because this is the name this theory is given most often in scholarship (that is, when it's actually given a name at all). --Akhilleus (talk) 03:49, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
If the crux of your response is my failure to point out that you swapped "hypothesis" for "theory", well, you've certainly got me there, Mr. Akhilleus! As for the actual topic, we're discussing your move, not the usage of Drews or Price, who I couldn't give two figs about for the purpose of the article title. Let's be clear; your odd preference for "Christ" over "Jesus" in this context welcomes votes such as mine and Crum375's, and your spite-vote in response hardly cools the flames. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:28, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
My "odd preference" is for "Christ myth theory" vs. "Jesus myth theory", not "Christ" vs. "Jesus". This preference is based precisely on the usage of Drews, Price, and the secondary scholarship that uses "Christ myth theory" more often than any other name, including "Jesus myth theory", for the idea that Jesus didn't exist. If Drews had named his book Die Jesusmythe, this article would probably be called Jesus myth theory right now. But the fact that he didn't suggests that the firm distinction you see between the meaning of "Jesus" and "Christ" is not one that's always observed. Again, this is a straightforward application of WP:NAME—what is the topic of the article usually called by other sources? --Akhilleus (talk) 04:45, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Therein lies the problem, Akhilleus. Despite the vast amount of literature out there, and despite that SlimVirgin's yield of hits have shown exactly how solidly founded and, for that matter, despite how obviously the usage the potentially mythical "Jesus" over the completely mythical "Christ" is here, you're still fighting for the honorific, hiding behind the smokescreen of your chosen book titles. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:59, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
As often as we don't see eye to eye to on a lot of things Akhilleus and I agree on the title of this should be "Christ Myth theory" as the work that really got the topic noticed was Drews' book which in English was titled Christ Myth. I too argued that Christ Myth was a bad choice Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_22#lists for much the same reason but the reality is when most people talk about this they are talking of Drews. Much like Darwin is incorrectly called "The theory of evolution" when in reality it should be "Regarding a mechanism for Evolution"--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:01, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

(first comment copied from above)

  • Oppose Even if it's a misnomer, we don't use our opinions on that to decide an article title. WP:NAME gives us the guidelines we should follow and when we don't we too often get into arguments like this with the accompanying mud-slinging. Dougweller (talk) 07:29, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • The issue here is that WP:NAME offers no guidance for this case. Both names are used. Jesus myth theory gets over twice as many Google hits, and that's despite WP having spread Christ myth theory. But the latter gets significantly more Google Books hits, so it depends which you want to place more emphasis on. In a situation where both names are well represented, we can decide for ourselves which makes more sense.SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:41, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Be very leery of Google hits especially the web search. You are getting blog, old versions of this pages, etc that mess up the numbers.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:01, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Ah but Google doesn't took for tittles but that text appearing anywhere in the page. Here is the first sentence of this page exactly as it appeared in December 31, 2008:
"The Jesus myth hypothesis (also referred to as the Jesus myth theory, the Jesus myth, or the Christ myth) covers a broad range of ideas all of which question the historical existence of Jesus."
Since "Jesus myth theory" as well as "Jesus myth hypothesis" appears in the above Google presents any page with that text as a hit. In fact, searching for "Jesus myth theory" brings up the current version of this page: The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory and the nonexistence hypothesis) is the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was not a historical person, ..." As I said be very leery of Google hits especially the web search.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:57, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
But that applies to Christ myth theory too, so it evens itself out. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:05, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, since "Christ myth theory" was not part of the Jesus myth hypothesis definition it doesn't even itself out.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:28, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Alexander the Great, Apollonius etc

In my view, using Paul Veyne's quote will make it look like that is a typical refutation of CMT. Since it looks exactly like Veyne's throw-away dismissal has no thought behind it, it might make CMT look better than they thought to some. E4mmacro (talk) 08:11, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

We had that with the comparison with the holocaust denial nonsense. Even comparison with Julius Caesar is not fair as the later being a head of state in the late Classical period would have mountains of contemporary evidence showing he existed. Even Alexander the Great had known (but now largely lost) written contemporary material about him and there are contemporary mosaics and coins depicting him--again far more than is for Jesus. Why not comparisons with Apollonius of Tyana or Sun Tzu? In fact, both of these would make far better comparisons with Jesus than most of the others I have seen.--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:03, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Sima Qian, Sun Tzu's biographer, lived several centuries after him, if he existed. Apollonius of Tyana doesn't fit either, since Paul writes within a decade, and Mark within 40 years of the assumed crucifixion, within living memory, whereas Apollonius's biographer is writing at least 120 years after Apollonius's death, when all contemporary witnesses, if he did exist, were no longer alive.
To be strictly true, you have to say we don't know for sure when Mark wrote; it could have been closer than 40 years, but it could have been after Josephsus wrote, making it 70 years after the reported death of Jesus, when no witnesses would be expected to be alive. Since Paul never gave any biographical details or dates for Jesus's life, there was nothing for anyone to contradict, except perhaps that he had a brother named James. E4mmacro (talk) 06:40, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You seem to ignore that major metropolitan figures are well-covered in antiquity, as one would expect, while events and people on the periphery are not. To compare Caesar and Alexander with marginal figures (from a contemporary imperial perspective) from the backblocks, where little was reported, and only that which concerned security and state administration, is to make a false comparison. Ancient history is written as reported, which means, as Veyne and many others emphasize, we known very little of what happened, and that little is skewed to the interests of literate empires. Any major history of Greece and Rome, covering the first four centuries, will name numerous figures recorded by extant sources several centuries later. The Christ of popular imaginings, the Christ of pious theology and hermeneutics, all these are demonstrable fictions, though of deep analytical interest. The historical Jesus, i.e., the basic figure we try to sift out from the huge mother-lode of lore, legend, and theology, by combing both the internal method, and external witnesses, is a historical probability, assumptional certainly, but so are hundreds of other major figures we habitually treat as major historical agents in antiquity. Try applying the same methods of austere, pyrrhic scepticism here to the wiki page account of Hillel the Elder, particularly against these words in the lead of our article

so far as is known, Jesus (Hillel the Elder) did not write anything, nor did anyone who had personal knowledge of him. There is no archeological evidence of his existence. There are no contemporaneous accounts of his life or death: no eyewitness accounts, or any other kind of first-hand record. All the accounts of Jesus come from decades or centuries later

and you get the same result. In short, the theory treats 'Jesus' as a singularity, whereas, mutatis mutandis, if you suspend the normal methods and hermeneutics of pure historiography, he is no such thing, since a large number of revered religious figures and near contemporaries are known, and accepted as historical figures, despite their being known from sources written centuries after their death. Nishidani (talk) 19:21, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, Apollonius of Tyana had works written about him shortly after his death but not of those works have survived. In the case of Sun Tzu you supposedly hold his actual thoughts (Art of War) in your hands--something not true of Jesus. As for Paul he give no definitive temporal markers showing that the Jesus he is talking about is a recent person. Mark's dating is tradition and could be no more historical than Columbus sailing west to prove the world was round. As Price points out using Irenaeus and his 50+ year old Jesus as an example that there was something really wonky about the Jesus timeline as late as c180 CE. About the only good thing about Irenaeus is his showing that the majority of the Gospels existed around this time.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:39, 20 August 2010 (UTC
  • If you are referring to Damis of Ninevah, we only know of that, a rumour, through the often unreliable source that is Philostratus's life, and a few Byzantine echoes. Many authorities challenge its existence. The same goes for the letters by Apollonius Hadrian is said to have collected.Nishidani (talk) 21:44, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
  • 'supposedly hold'. Yes but you don't, demonstrably, since Sima Qian, his late biographer, says he served with He Lu (闔閭), which puts him around 500, yet 'Sun Tzu' mentions in that text the crossbow, which only begins to be mentioned 150 years afterwards. The conflicts internal to that text are numerous. He mentions armies that are vast arrays at a time when no local warlord or prince could muster more than a few thousand. It's all like the Bible's battles. etc.
  • Paul gives no definitive temporal markers. He talks of Christ 'crucified', and that choice of language and reference is echoed in pagan writers, such as Tacitus (at least Tacitus' s Latin supplicio adfectus strongly lends itself to that, under Pontius Pilate).
  • In sum, I don't think you understand what historical method consists in. It is not taking evidence piece by piece, discussing each item separately. No one does that. The historical method consists of taking all of the evidence, and all analyses of each item in the congeries of evidence, and weighing each piece against the others, in order to come up with a synthesis of likelihood. You rarely have truth in history, you have, as Thucycides argues, likelihood as often as not. I'd have no problems with proof Christ didn't exist, personally. What I find odd, as a pagan, watching Christians, ex-Christians, and atheists battling this out, is that their arguments do not employ generic historical reasoning, but invent specific protocols to prove or disprove something that cannot be proved either way. Historians are less uncomfortable with the fact that all our knowledge of the past is, as here, approximate, based on probabilities.Nishidani (talk) 22:10, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
The followers of Spartacus were crucified so that in itself is not a temporal marker. Also as pointed out by other scholars crucifixion was reserved for crimes against Rome and slaves and but the Gospel account portrays Jesus being tried for blasphemy a crime Rome could have cared less about. As pointed out by others the whole crucifixion account has problems from medical and social political standpoints--death by crucifixion took days not hours and a common aftermath was to leave the body up for the scavengers. So why the exceptions in this particular case and since it was so unusual why no noting by contemporary sources?
Again you repeat the basic methodological error. You treat each datum as a decontextualised item, as if the fragmentary 'disiecta membra' of the mosaic of history were each to be played with, tessera by tessera, without imagining that they are residues of an original whole.
Tiberio imperante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat, consists of two temporal markers, Tiberius being generic, Pontius Pilate being specific, and also fixing the area where the presumed execution took place. A third temporal marker is that he is dealing with events, dated to 64 CE, this from an annalistic historian who used official reports and the Senate archives. Χριστὸν ἑσταυρωμένον ('Christ put to the pale/crucified':Paul,Corinthians1.23) occurs in a text roughly 25 years after the assumed execution. Two reports dated to within a decade of one another (55CE-64CE), though the second is only registered by someone writing 60 years further on. Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger knew each other, had to deal with Christians and wrote at the same time. The conjuncture of independent witnesses counts for much in history, much as the question of who Socrates was depends on assessing the conflicting evidence from Aristophanes' play The Clouds, from Xenophon's account and Plato's theatrical reinvention of him in the dialogues. It is not easy to reconcile those three sources, but together they are accepted as indirect historical evidence, as are Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny jr.
This and other pagan evidence contemporary with them, i.e., Lucian's De Morte Peregrini, interwoven with what the imperial chroniclers just glance at, constitute reasonable 'evidence'. As I pointed out with the example, one of hundreds, from Hillel the Elder, much of ancient history affirms the existence of people for which the evidence is scarce, oral, and registered hundreds of years after the event, often only by true believers.
With regards to the Historical method as pointed out by Charlton in his 1981 "Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnology: Interpretive Interfaces" Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory. Vol. 4 pg 153 quoting Hawkins (1964) "Historical accounts are in no sense empirical data" and yet we seem to see a lot of this.
Veyne and most other historians would underwrite the cliché.
Robert L. Schuyler (1977) "The Spoken Word, the Written Word, Observered Behavior and Preserved Behavior; the Contexts Available to the Archaeologist" in Historical Archaeology: A Guide to Substantive and Theoretical Contributions Vol 10, No. 2 pg 347-360 gave views on how the problems that archaeological, documentary, oral, and enthographical data required the changing of methodology to suit what each was able to tell you eticly and emicly. Don't seem to see much of that here either.
You corrected me on Frank = France. I will return the courtesy and correct the Freudian lapsus or metathesis in your writing 'enthographical' (above and below)for 'ethnographical'. 'Enthographical' to a classicist, sounds like an error for 'entheo-graphical', which means writing about people possessed by a god or spirit.
When researching the Native American epidemics during the contact period I was struck by how 'left hand doesn't not know what right is doing' the literature was with things like disease methodology and ethnographic evaluation of documents out to lunch. I get much the same feeling regarding ethnohistory reading through the historical Jesus material. There are many claims that would fall under historical anthropology regarding what the Jews and Romans would have done but the historical method seems ill-suited to formulating enthohistoric theories. Some of it reads like modern mind in the ancient world with little to no consideration of the different mindset of the time.--BruceGrubb (talk) 00:20, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Of course. The first rule in any anthropological exercise is to master the 'native' language and culture, which most discussants and writers do not trouble themselves to do. I've read most of these threads as an example of American culture's political fixation on religion, which, to a European, seems quite bizarre. I can understand where American sceptics are coming from sociologically, i.e., they are reacting to the diffuse evangelical cults that proliferate and elbow their way into most spheres of public discourse. But I don't think they, or the Hitchens of this world who take this dispute publicly, have the foggiest notion of what life, belief and culture was in Ist century Palestine. They are talking about a modern neurotic refraction of Pauline theology. As to ethnomethodology and history, look at Keith Windshuttle, who made a minor stir for a while because, in recounting the frontier wars, he only accepts documents from the colonizer of a people that lacked literacy, but retained a strong oral culture. The voiceless thus disappear from the sanguinary record, whitewashing the conquest. Rome was the colonizer of a people in Palestine that had high literacy, except for that stratum, the poor, which generated the dissident sect of Judaism that later became known as Christianity. All sources, those close to local authority and those written by bureaucrats of the imperial power, were hostile to it. They customarily practiced genocide, and ethnic cleansing. When the documents of those who were washed over by the tsunami of praetorian tactics were written, they were written in shoddy provincial Greek (as Charles Bradlaugh put called that vernacular), full of legends, tales, and folklore. But while historical anthropologists are very careful about the circumstances of power governing the production of documents in their chosen period, most of the arguments I see here are blithely disattentive to such nuances, or to the strong impression Paul's epistles give that he (a man very well connected to both hostile persecutive parties)is very keen to rig up a version that theologizes so obsessively, it is clear he wishes to decontextualize whatever historicity resides in these legends and traditions, in order to frogmarch the dissidents towards an apolitical, evangelical, pro-Roman quietude. etc.Nishidani (talk) 10:52, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
This is seriously ridiculous. Wikipedia is not an internet forum. If Bruce Grubb wants to debate the evidence for Jesus's historical existence, this is not the place to do it. At least Noloop generally confines his tendentiousness to actually arguing about what should be in the article. john k (talk) 03:52, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
The point you seem to have missed is back when we had an arguments section ([[14]]) all the above was in the article so this is about information the article once had that has gotten lost in the successive edits. We have next to nothing about what the various authors for the Christ Myth theory said about these third party sources--did they dismiss them as forgeries out of hand, did they point out other interpretations that made their support less viable, or a mixture of these.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:41, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
That is not what you were talking about at all. If you want to talk about changes to the article, talk about changes to the article. Dumping paragraphs of text about why the theory is plausible is not helpful; it just encourages debate about the merits of the theory, rather than about the proper state of the article. john k (talk) 16:35, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Jesus! How many of the "Jesus camp" (loosely speaking) editors on these articles are admins? Off the top of my head: Andrew, Akhilleus, Slrubenstein, john k, John Carter. Noloop (talk) 03:39, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

It would seem to me that the above-named journal would be an excellent source for material regarding this subject. I can't address myself whether it appears to take one side or another as a matter of course, but it seems to me that it would be likely to at least discuss these theories with some degree of regularity. WorldCat here indicates that there seem to be quite a few copies available, if anyone is interested. John Carter (talk) 17:10, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Actually, I have seen no articles in this journal that discuss the CMT in any depth, even superficially. I have online access, and have skimmed many of the issues to see if there's anything relevant, and I didn't find anything. This doesn't surprise me, because the CMT is simply not something that's discussed much in academia. This is more evidence to what we already know is the case—that the vast majority of scholars who study early Christianity regard Jesus' existence as a historical fact. --Akhilleus (talk) 19:07, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
You're probably right then. Thanks for checking. John Carter (talk) 19:15, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

"Christian theologian"

In this edit, Noloop characterizes R. Joseph Hoffmann as a "historian" and Graham Stanton as a "Christian theologian." I'd appreciate some explanation of the difference in characterization, since Hoffman has an M.T.S. from Harvard and a Th.M. from Harvard Div School, and a D.Phil. in Theology (I think) from Oxford. Why not describe Hoffman as a Christian theologian, since his degrees are all in theology and his specialty is early Christianity? On the other hand, why exactly characterize Stanton as a "Christian theologian"? The point may be moot, since the edit was reverted, but since this matter might come up again some clarification of the reasoning behind characterizing Hoffman and Stanton differently might help. --Akhilleus (talk) 00:26, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

I described Hoffman as a historian because that's how the source described him. I didn't know about his other degrees. I have no objection to adding them, although there is no question of a Christian bias in his stance. He is emphasizing a need for more agnosticism. Noloop (talk) 05:06, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
So you would object to describing him as a Christian theologian? Why is it that with Hoffmann, there is no question of a Christian bias? I can find you plenty of statements by Christians (not to mention people of other faiths, or none at all) that say that there is a need for objective criteria to assess the historical evidence of the NT. Does this free them from questions of Christian bias? --Akhilleus (talk) 13:45, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
I just said I have no objection. You really just don't read anything I say. Noloop (talk) 14:06, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I am reading what you say closely. Perhaps I'm overinterpreting it; but in your first response above you said you had no objection to adding his degrees. That's not the same thing as saying that he's a Christian theologian, unless you believe that every person with an MTS/Th.M. or D.Phil. in theology is a Christian theologian. The phrase "Christian theologian" is somewhat ambiguous; it could either mean someone who studies the theology of Christianity from a historical standpoint, with no particular faith perspective; or it could mean someone who studies the theology of Christianity and attempts to defend and propagate it. You generally seem to mean the latter when you speak of theologians. --Akhilleus (talk) 18:27, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Also, in at least, admittedly online, university here, it is clearly possible to get a masters degree in theology in a subject which, actually, has little or anything to do directly with Christianity. John Carter (talk) 19:30, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Global Ministries University is "accredited" by the Accrediting Commission International which itself is not recognized by either Council for Higher Education Accreditation (C.H.E.A.) or the United States Department of Education making this accreditation meaningless. If that wasn't enough to throw out this example Quackwatch, Walston's Guide to Christian Distance Learning By Rick Walston pg 87 and several others indicate that Accrediting Commission International is simply the accreditation mill International Accrediting Commission with a name change and in a neighboring state after the Attorney General of Missouri shut IAC down. Small wonder the theology degree is wonky.--BruceGrubb (talk) 20:24, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
It was not so much "acceditation" I was concerned with, but rather whether the degree is necessarily Christian, and that example I think clearly indicates it isn't. The fact of non-Christian degrees really shouldn's surprise anyone, though, as some new-agers like to have degrees too, and several of those groups are not what most people would call Christian. And, of course, just because they are unaccredited degrees doesn't mean people refer to them, or that some editors would perhaps challenge their neutrality based on having that degree. John Carter (talk) 22:04, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Some might query their competence based on that qualification for reasons entirely unconnected with their religious affiliation!! Does one actually have to turn up to classes, or is a cheque in the post sufficient.
Actually John Carter's example shows nothing really useful because it has all the markings of a possible diploma mill such as where Kent Hovind got his degrees from. That alone should send up a red flag against using it as example of what real theology degrees are like.--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:05, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
How much money ya got? On a more serious note, I have encountered Christian ministers who honestly have, in effect, "purchased" their degrees. In at least one case, he was administered a test which was how that school determined you qualified and passed it the first time. I dunno what the requirements for passing were though. (He had a master's in computer science, so he weren't dumb, just not formally educated in the field.) And, particularly for evangelicals/charismatics, their "licensure" can be just, so far as I remember, passing a background check and paying some money for it. A lot of churches don't have any sort of theology schools, and in some of those cases I think the churches actually slightly encourage their ministers to get any sort of degree as it can help the church's attendance and reputation. And there are some schools which offer their master's/doctorate's in things like "pastoral care and counseling," "biblical studies," and other matters which, in at least some cases, aren't even necessarily Christian-specific. A lot of churches which don't have theology schools will take degrees from other churches, or from diploma mills, if that's what their ministers can get. John Carter (talk) 23:14, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
In terms of being a pastor I would have thought several key components were not really things that could be taught. I once knew a guy - lovely chap, very strong regular-style Christian faith, life experience (lost his son to cancer at the age of 14), really excellent at helping folks through when life hit them with the shite end of the stick - who tried several times for the Anglican ministry, and got turned down because he didn't meet the academic requirements. However, in terms of being a reliable source of scholarly information, I would have said graduates of the degree mill must rank somewhat lower than Oxbridge professors. Elen of the Roads (talk) 23:25, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Agreed, just so long as we remember that a degree in "theology" does not necessarily mean that the material the student studied really relates particularly well with the concept of "theology" as we understand it. The Doctor Laura situation can arise in this regard as well. John Carter (talk) 23:29, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

biblical scholars, classical historians, etc.

After this edit summary earlier today, I was disappointed to see a series of back-and-forth reverts with almost no discussion on the talk page. I suppose I'll live.

At any rate, the lead needs to clearly state the mainstream consensus on Jesus' historicity in academia. Despite comments on Wikipedia talk pages, the study of early Christianity is an academic endeavor, and professors at Oxford, UNC Chapel Hill, and so on are good authorities for common opinions in the field. Ditto for classical historians at Oxford, the Australian National University, and so on. I read the discussion at Talk:Christ_myth_theory/Archive_37#POV-section_.2F_RE:_The_theory_remains_essentially_without_support_among_biblical_scholars_and_classical_historians..5B2.5D and I can't find a good reason why any of the material objected to there was removed; most of the objections seem to boil down to "all these guys are Christians." Which is not a valid reason to remove material. I notice that some users are complaining that Wells is being portrayed as if he doesn't support the CMT; this is not the case. He's being quoted, from his entry on the historicity of Jesus in the New Encyclopedia of Disbelief, where he says that most secular historians accept Jesus as a historical figure. This is an acknowledgement of mainstream consensus which doesn't carry the implication that Wells opposes the CMT. Although in his most recent work he says that there was a historical Jesus (though not one that would look familiar to most scholars) and in his 2009 book he says that he has repudiated the theory of Jesus' non-historicity.

As for the objections lodged today (not discussed on the talk page), all we have is Noloop's edit summary, "This is a comment made over the phone related anecdotally in an op-ed by the founder of a company with the self-described mission of promoting Jesus." This relates to John Dickson's piece in the Sydney Morning Herald which quotes Graeme Clarke as saying that no ancient historians doubt the historicity of Jesus. I see no evidence that the comment was "related anecdotally"; it was made in a telephone interview, a normal procedure in journalism. The author of the piece, John Dickson, is personally acquainted with the scholar quoted, Graeme Clarke, because Dickson himself has a PhD in ancient history and knows Clarke through his studies. Dickson describes himself as "promoting the public understanding of the Christian faith," sure, but it's unclear to me why this would mean that he's quoted Clarke inaccurately, or that Clarke is wrong. (And, as often seems to be the case, Noloop ignores the fact that a source is a scholar, with a PhD in ancient history and relevant publications.) The piece is not classified as an "op-ed", but an article; I don't really see why this matters, however, since another sentence in the lead is using the liveblog of Christianity Today as a source. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:20, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

I studied under Graham Clarke. That he would make any judgement like this influenced by 'Christian' prejudices is sheer nonsense, and would make those who know him laugh.Nishidani (talk) 20:12, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
Nobody said he made any judgement influenced by any prejudice. Noloop (talk) 21:26, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
There is no "mainstream consensus." There is a Christian consensus (surprise!). The vast majority of sources we can find supporting your "mainstream consensus" are Christian theologians and priests, and a disproportionate number of them are publishing in Christian presses. The vast majority of them are publishing without peer-review, and none of them are publishing in secular, peer-reviewed journals. That's not what "mainstream consensus" looks like. If these articles do accurately represent the scholarship, the scholarship is predominantly religious. If they don't represent the scholarship, we need to change the way we represent the scholarship. Noloop (talk) 15:29, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
Vermes, Fredricksen, and Ehrman are not Christians. I'm sure there are others. If we want to look at those three, plus the Christians Meier, Sanders, and Crossan as our leading scholars, their books are all published by mainstream academic publishers. There is no requirement that wikipedia articles must be based on journal articles at the expense of books. You have yet to explain what a "secular, peer-reviewed journal" is. When an article by Fredriksen in a prominent journal was referenced, you evaded admitting that she was talking about Jesus as a historical figure. This conversation goes on forever without accomplishing anything because you don't seem to even try to understand what your interlocutors are saying to you. john k (talk) 00:44, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Bullshit. When an article was Fredriksen was referenced, I didn't "evade admitting" that she was talking about historical Jesus, I stated as a fact that she was not. The article is a textual analysis of a narrative; that is how it describes itself. It concerns a dispute over the best interpretation of a part of the New Testament. Assuming the Journal of New Testament Studies is, in fact, secular, then it is concerned strictly with a text--the New Testament. The only way to get a different interpretation would be to assume that the New Testament is assumed to be a factual historical account--at which point the journal is certainly not secular. The only response I was given was contradiction. The argument goes on forever because YOU don't try to understand what anybody else is saying to YOU. That is shown in your response above, which didn't address a single thing I said. Noloop (talk) 02:40, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Nope, you're not understanding what I and others are saying, since you can't even get the basic points of Fredriksen's article right—even though it's been repeatedly pointed out to you that she's writing about history. What's more, you don't understand the use of textual evidence at all. One can study the NT as a historical source without assuming that it's "a factual historical account"—by which you seem to mean taking it as literal history, which very few of the scholars cited in this article, or any of the other articles where you comment, do. Thanks, though, for providing an example of how you decide whether a journal is secular or not. You apparently think that if a journal publishes articles that deal with the NT as historical evidence, it's not secular—which is complete and utter nonsense. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:49, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Even ignoring your continued misunderstanding of Fredriksen and your ludicrous assessment that treating the New Testament as a historical source means a journal is not secular, which Akhilleus has already addressed, you are full of it. I specifically addressed your contention that the majority of scholars on the historical Jesus are "Christians and priests" by mentioning three very prominent scholars who are neither Christians nor priests; I addressed your contention that they are publishing in Christian presses by noticing that they, and other prominent scholars who are, to one degree or another, Christians, are publishing in mainstream academic presses (Examples: Oxford University Press, Yale University Press). john k (talk) 03:51, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
A little logic would go a long way. You don't address a point that a majority of scholars are X by finding three that are not X. If you'd like to do more than repeat over and over that Fredriksen is making factual historical claims, I'd be happy to listen. You wonder why I don't agree with you. It's because you argue by repeating yourself, instead of developing reasoning. Every time I engage with certain editors, I spend more time correcting their distorted strawman characterizations of what I said than actually conversing.Noloop (talk) 16:52, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Wow. I argue by repeating myself, instead of developing reasoning? To quote a non-factual, non-historical non-account, Physician, heal thyself! john k (talk) 22:28, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Please tell me why someone who is a Christian isn't representative of the mainstream consensus. Please tell me why someone who was the Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University isn't a mainstream academic. While you're at it, please explain to me why publishing a book with the Oxford University Press is "publishing without peer-review", and with a Christian press. --Akhilleus (talk) 17:20, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
Why? I said none of those things. The exception is the question about books. It seems that you don't understand peer-review. Books are rarely peer-reviewed. If you have evidence that a book was peer-reviewed, please present it. Noloop (talk) 18:40, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
If you said none of those things, why the complaints about Christian theologians? As for peer-review, you seem unaware that academic presses generally send book manuscripts to at least two referees before accepting a work for publication; see e.g. [15]. That's peer-review. In any case, Oxford is one of the most prestigious academic publishers there is, if not the most prestigious, so complaints about peer-review are a bit off; the press has a reputation for publishing high-quality academic work. --Akhilleus (talk) 19:33, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
I've explained it a hundred times. I explained it above. If you don't get it now, you're not going to get it the 101st time. If you know a source is peer-reviewed, give the evidence. Just saying it's a book published by a university doesn't cut it, and that wouldn't address the main point anyway. Noloop (talk) 21:26, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
Your explanations never provide any good reasons why scholars like Stanton don't tell us what the mainstream consensus is. I know that a source is peer-reviewed because it's published by a university press; I also know that your objections are moot anyway, because university presses are considered high quality sources (see WP:SOURCES). If you know a source isn't peer reviewed, perhaps you should give some evidence. --Akhilleus (talk) 00:24, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
For the most part, books from academic presses are not peer-reviewed in the sense that articles in academic journals are. As I understand it, a book will be sent to an editor, who will have knowledge in the field but not necessarily expert knowledge of the specific subject matter. Nonetheless, major academic presses have considerable academic reputations, well known professors will generally be involved in choosing which books get published, and they try not to release books without academic merit, as it would embarrass them. Furthermore, those books are subject to reviews in "secular, peer-reviewed journals," and they would not be cited as leading works in the field if they were received poorly. john k (talk) 00:50, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
It's not necessarily the same double-blind peer review system that many (but not all) academic journals use, but the subject editor sends the book manuscript to outside referees, who are generally academics specializing in the field of study that the book covers—the referees will sometimes know who the author is, and in many fields the number of researchers is small enough that it's possible to figure out the author even when the peer review is formally blind. So the book is examined by experts before it's published, and referees have the option of recommending revisions or that the book not be published if it's not up to snuff.
From our article on peer review I see that if a press is to be a member of the American Association of University Presses, it "must have a committee or board of the faculty that certifies the scholarly quality of the books published through peer review." Oxford University Press is a member of AAUP, as is Cambridge U. Press and a host of other presses, including Mercer University Press, which I think has been mentioned on one of these pages before. So books published through Mercer are peer-reviewed, though perhaps some may wish to debate whether it's secular—I doubt, however, that the same argument could apply to Oxford or Cambridge. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:57, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
That's not what is meant by peer-reviewed in the context of academic journals. I can certainly believe OUP editors and sometimes outside readers evaluate manuscripts. But who cares? What does this have to do with the point? Noloop (talk) 02:27, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
The use of outside readers is common at academic presses; the books they publish have been reviewed by experts in the field before publication (the blurbs on the back of the book often come from the readers' reports). This is peer review, and its purpose is exactly the same as the peer review processes employed by journals—to ensure that published work meets standards of quality. The point is that you are wrong when you assert that books like Stanton's are published without peer review. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:40, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
You've completely derailed the original point, which concerned the pattern of sourcing. For the record, I actually referred to "secular, peer-reviewed journals" and now you know what I meant by "peer reviewed" in any case. Noloop (talk) 02:46, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Nope. From my perspective, books published by OUP are just as secular and peer-reviewed as articles in journals. I was going to use Past and Present as an example here, but, hey, they don't employ blind review! Just normal editorial review and outside readers, I guess. This is, of course, relevant to your point about the pattern of sourcing—we're citing leading scholars who publish through normal, high-quality academic presses. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:56, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

OK, how about the phrasing I just used, "most scholars who specialize in the history of Christianity". I think we need to be more specific than just saying "biblical scholars and classical historians" as both of these fields are much broader than the history of Christianity, and one could be a biblical scholar and/or a classical historian and never spend any time considering the historicity of Jesus. I think both NoLoop and Akhilleus have some valid points, and we should try to find a phrasing that everyone can agree on. PeaceLoveHarmony (talk) 21:15, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

PLH, I disagree with your phrasing for a couple of reasons. First of all, someone whose work focuses on the Avignon papacy or the counterreformation is someone who specializes in the history of Christianity, but this person probably wouldn't spend much time considering the historicity of Jesus—so by your reasoning the phrasing isn't optimal. However, the reason why I want the article to say "biblical scholars and classical historians" is because this indicates that scholars from two different academic fields agree that Jesus is historical. Furthermore, this echoes the phrasing that the sources themselves use—"nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the Gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence..."; "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." I don't see why we should stray from the wording used by the sources. The whole point is that they, as experts, are making statements about the consensus of historians, not just stating their own opinion about Jesus' historicity. --Akhilleus (talk) 00:24, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

This is totally insane

Noloop has demonstrated again and again that he is completely incapable of contributing constructively to any article dealing with these issues. These discussions go absolutely nowhere, because Noloop is completely immune to discussion. Everything always comes back to "secular, peer-reviewed Journals." No actual journal that deals with the subject area appears to satisfy noloop's criteria for being a "secular, peer-reviewed journal," because he apparently defines this term as meaning "journals which do not consider the New Testament to be a historical source." He betrays a complete lack of awareness of the historical profession by his apparent belief that "the gospels are useful historical source, even if deeply flawed and fictionalized," means the same thing as "the Gospels are the literal word of God, true in all respects." Furthermore, he dismisses the fact that books on the historical Jesus, etc., are published by mainstream, secular publishers like Oxford, Cambridge, Yale - why? I have yet to even begin to grasp his objections on this score. It appears to be because they are not "secular, peer-reviewed journals." This is simply begging the question, though, as Noloop has never established why "secular, peer-reviewed journals" should be the standard used here. This is all outrageous and ridiculous, and discussion in this line is obviously completely futile. Some sort of proceedings need to be started towards the goal of getting Noloop a topic ban. Until that happens, nothing useful is going to happen with this and related articles. john k (talk) 04:02, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

At least you didn't call me an vile, despicable, ignorant, POV-pushing bigot. That's progress. The rest of your sarcastic rant has little to do with what I said. I didn't say "secular peer-reviewed journals" are the standard. I pointed out we don't have any, nobody can find any, and that's odd. I didn't dismiss books published by mainstream secular publishers. Your characterization of what I said about the New Testament is dishonest. What I actually said is that it's not secular to assume the New Testament is a factual historical account. Last I checked, the RFC at Historicity of Jesus has more support than opposition; supporting that is the main view I've advocated. It's the view that caused a certain group to call me a vile bigot and try to topic-ban me. Why don't you topic-ban everybody voting for it? Noloop (talk) 05:02, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Of course nobody can find any when you define any such source out of existence. As for example, the Fredriksen article, which is absolutely published in a secular, peer-reviewed journal and absolutely treats Jesus as a historical figure. As for "it's not secular to assume the New Testament is a factual historical account," this is nonsense. It is not secular to assume the New Testament is the inspired word of God. You seem to think it's not secular to think that there is any historical value in the gospels at all. This becomes completely circular. "We know that it's not secular to treat the New Testament as a useful historical source, therefore this source which does treat the New Testament as a useful historical source can't possibly be secular. Isn't it odd that there aren't any secular sources that treat Jesus as a historical figure?" john k (talk) 12:20, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
You're right. An account of divine birth, exorcism, walking on water, and resurrection should be treated as a factual historical account. However, I would appreciate it if you would stop lying about what I say. The description "factual historical account" is not equivalent to "has any historical value at all." The Illiad has historical value, it is not a factual historical account. Statements made about Troy in the Illiad are not statements about a historical Troy. Noloop (talk) 16:45, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
No serious scholar thinks the gospels are "factual historical accounts" in the sense that everything related in them is literally true. However, many scholars (not all of them Christian) believe they have more historical value than you seem to think they do. In particular, most think that at least some of the quotations attributed to Jesus in the Gospels go back to words he actually used, and many think that they provide accurate details about some events in Jesus' life - in particular, his baptism, his mission, his trial and death. These scholars write books in which they try to assess how much of the gospels can be treated as historical material relating back to the historical Jesus, and how much is legend that accumulated later. There is general consensus that some things - the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, for example - are wholly fictitious, and considerable debate about other aspects of the gospels. You basically dismiss all such scholars as Christian apologists, because they are willing to treat the Gospels as sources with more historical value than the Iliad. The point isn't whether you or they are correct; the point is that you have basically decided a priori what the acceptable level of historical value to be assigned to the gospels is, and then judge any scholar who disagrees as insufficiently secular. There is no way to ever satisfy your demands because your viewpoint is completely circular - any scholar whose account of the historical Jesus treats the gospels as, in your judgment, "factual historical accounts" cannot be trusted, and your definition of "factual historical accounts" is apparently sufficiently broad as to exclude virtually every scholar who has ever written about the historical Jesus. john k (talk) 17:01, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Beyond that, I'm sick of the way the debate constantly has to resolve around terms that you yourself have introduced and defined yourself. "secular, peer-reviewed journals" and "factual historical accounts" are terms whose importance and purport is only available to you. I assume that in your next reply you will once again attack me for twisting your words, but all I'm trying to do is understand what you're actually saying. Repeating the same opaque watchwords over and over again makes it almost impossible to understand what you are actually saying. You say you want "secular, peer-reviewed journals," and people point out to you that there are numerous books published by secular, well-regarded academic publishing houses that say the same thing, and that there's no particular reason to prefer journals to them. You respond by saying that that isn't what you're talking about, and repeating the demand for "secular, peer-reviewed journals." You say that certain accounts can't be accepted as secular because they represent taking the gospels as "factual historical accounts." When it is pointed out that that is not what they are doing at all, they are simply treating the gospels as historical sources like any other, you contend that this misses entirely the point of your argument, and simply repeat the accusation. This is no way to argue. john k (talk) 17:05, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
I think Noloop does have a point, which is that the article relies almost entirely on religious scholars. I don't see the key point as Christian, but as religious in general. Academics with religious beliefs are more respectful of the religious positions of others, and this is something I see throughout the scholarship. I'm not giving examples for BLP reasons.
I disagree with Noloop that sources have to be peer-reviewed; that's nowhere implied in the policies. I also disagree that books published by mainstream academic presses aren't peer-reviewed. They are, in some sense, and sometimes rigorously.
The point I'm not clear about is what Noloop would like to see as a resolution of his concerns. Could you expand on that here, N? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:32, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
even if it is true that scholars with religious beliefs are more respectful of the religious positions of others, it's irrelevant. We should reflect what the consensus of scholars who have written about the historical Jesus say. If most of those scholars are Christian/religious, well, I don't see how that's particularly relevant; we should still report what a consensus says. Nor am I particularly impressed by the fact that you're unwilling to give any examples of this supposed phenomenon due to "BLP reasons." At any rate, while most of these scholars are, I suppose, religious, that absolutely does not mean that their religious views play a role in their interpretation of the historical Jesus. It certainly might, but we should not assume that; "BLP reasons," as well as general principles of verifiability and NPOV, would suggest that we can only make such claims if there are reliable sources making them. There are reliable sources which state that there is a consensus among scholars in the relevant fields that Jesus was a historical figure. As far as I'm aware, no reliable sources have yet been presented which dispute this, or which argue that this consensus results from religious bias. john k (talk) 18:14, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
There is a bit of a problem in saying that religious scholars are respectful of the religious positions of others, unless that statement can be really taken to mean most religious scholars are such, and I don't think that is true. A lot of Christian and Jewish religious scholars consider the myths of Hinduism, like those about Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva, well, hogwash. While it may well be true that, for individuals who are considered "roughly" historical, like maybe Jesus and Buddha and some of the recent prophets of Oceania and Africa from non-literate societies where the stories haven't had a lot of time to change, there is a bit of a tendency to agree to mutual acceptance of what might be called moderately dubious personages, but even there I'm not sure how strong the tendency is. And, I think fairly clearly, like in any other religious conversion, individuals who converted from Christianity or whatever to atheism or agnosticism or whatever for perhaps reasons other than purely rational/philosophical ones are possibly going to have as much irrational "missionary zeal" as other types of converts. I would love to see what sources there are from predominantly non-Christian cultures about this subject and what they say, but I'm not sure how many there are or how well informed they are about the matter. Anyone know any? John Carter (talk) 18:41, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
I think the best thing now is to ask Noloop to make a concrete proposal for action within the policies, then we can debate it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:49, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
These articles cannot exist in their current form without disproportionate reliance on Christian sources. The reader should know that. It is interesting. It is relevant. On a related note, I asked for discussion of the sentence on Hoiffman that you just deleted. Please discuss before, or at least at the same time as, deleting. Noloop (talk) 22:22, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
On what reliable sources do you base this claim that the reliance on "Christian" sources is "disproportionate"? john k (talk) 22:24, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
(ec) It's true that the articles have to rely heavily on religious sources, but there's nothing we can do about that. Even introducing non-religious ones won't change the preponderance, because much of the scholarship (but not all) is produced by people with religious beliefs. Regarding your next point, we're having an RfC about in-text attribution and the extent to which we can identify whether someone holds a position within a church or similar. That's all we can do, and that's ongoing.
Your final point about Hoffman: he didn't say what you were attributing to him, not in the way you were attributing it, and it was taken out of context. Plus, the source was a blog, so it's not clear that it added anything that was clearly accurate or well-sourced. I see you restored it; I think it should be removed again. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:28, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Also, whether it is interesting or relevant or not, it has to be sourced as well. If someone could find a reliable source which says something to the effect of scholarship on this subject is primarily based on religious sources, it would be worth considering adding some text reflecting what that source says. But, without that information, it is unsourced and we aren't supposed to allow unsourced information into articles. John Carter (talk) 22:51, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
That's essentially Ellegard's point. If you look at his paper he might expand on it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:54, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
If you're referring to the issue of Scandia, and I'm guessing you are, this statement by Bertil Albrektson on page 183 probably comes closest to that: "Of course it is true that a great majority of academic theologians are believers, closely connected with religious communities. And this clearly involves considerable risks: it is as if almost all political scientists studying Marxism should themselves be dedicated Marxists." He goes on directly with the following on the same page: "But we must not forget EllegArd's own warning against "a very common pseudo-argument: namely, the argumentum ad hominem, i.e. attacking the person, not what he says". Ellegard's accusation against Christian biblical scholars - that the main reason for their standpoint is that they feel their beliefs threatened - is a kind of argumentum ad hominem as long as he has not shown how this alleged bias has distorted their arguments or made them disregard certain facts." John Carter (talk) 23:13, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
There's a sense in which it's ad hominem, and a sense in which it's valid, as Albrektson implies. We just report what people say, we don't judge. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:16, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
I was only adding the rest of the paragraph, not trying to imply anything by it. But there might be arguably a problem with saying that most religious people who review this subject are theologians. Church history and theology are generally thought to be somewhat different subjects, and it's possible that a lot of the people who have examined the life of Jesus are more historians than theologians, I honestly don't know. But, like I said earlier, I don't have any objections to adding something somewhere to the effect of the quotes above if people can agree that it belongs in the article and agree to the particular language. Particulars of phrasing on stuff like this ain't my strong point, so I doubt I'll be much involved in that part. John Carter (talk) 23:24, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
  • (edit conflict) In-text attribution is a good idea. My first toe in these waters was in-text attribution [16], and I was immediately attacked on ANI, nominated for a topic ban, and called a bigot. I suppose I should get over it. The language of attack has subsided a bit, but the underlying attitude behind those attacks hasn't changed.
  • I don't want to list every possible response to the predominance of religious sourcing, because I'm not omniscient and can't anticipate every possible recourse. If I give a list, and then have some new or modified ideas, certain editors will scream that I'm "moving the goalposts," call me tendentious, and demand a topic ban. In addition to in-text attribution, we can acknowledge that there is a lot we don't really know, and, well, just settle for saying less in the articles. Often, editors want their articles to be authoritative. Sometimes, there's just a lot of mystery about a subject, and authority isn't possible. It seems to me there is no clear mainstream consensus on the existence of Jesus. There is not even a clear definition of historical Jesus. If there were a clear mainstream consensus, we would be able to find many secular sources. By definition, a mainstream consensus doesn't have to be sourced primarily to members of one religion.
  • I discussed Hoffman above, in the section on Ellegard. I'd like to avoid fragmenting the discussion, especially since this section lacks a constructive title Noloop (talk) 23:26, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

It's baffling to me why the religious faith of those cited should even be an issue. Are we going to assume that because someone is religious, they're too biased? Should we not cite white people on the white people page for that same reason? It's ridiculous, honestly, in a very literal sense of the word. Also, given the fact that most people in the world are religious, I don't see why this should come as a surprise that many scholars are religious. It seems like a weak collateral attack to insinuate that highly-regarded scholars are part of some religious conspiracy to suppress the truth. Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 03:25, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Christ myth Theory is fringe but just WHAT is it?

Ok, the talk page is getting really messy again with the idea somehow the Christ myth theory is mainstream (it isn't--it is fringe) while avoiding the main issue that just what it is is about as clear as mud and that is where the problem is. The literature is no help as you get a patchwork quilt of different definitions that don't seem to fit together and nothing that tells you how they fit together:

  • There is nothing in the Gospel account that could not be explained via mythology eliminating the need for a historical Jesus and if anyone insisted there had to be a real person behind the story we know nothing about that Jesus. (Weaver, Walter P. (1999) The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1950. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity. ISBN 1-56338-280-6 pg 50) (Drews (1910) Burns translation via Internet archive pg 19)
  • Jesus is an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community
  • Jesus began as at a Myth (Walsh) with historical trappings possibly including "reports of an obscure Jewish Holy man bearing this name" added later (one reading of C.H. (1938) History and the Gospel under the heading Christ Myth Theory Manchester University Press pg 17)
  • The Christ Myth theory may be a form of modern docetism (Grant, Michael. Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels. Scribner, 1995; first published 1977, p. 199)
  • Jesus was historical but lived c100 BCE (Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65)
  • The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character and therefore non historical by definition.(Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85)
  • The Gospel story is so filled with myth and legend that nothing about it including the very existence of the Jesus described can be shown to be historical. (Jesus Agnosticism) (Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25)
  • The Gospel Jesus didn't exist and GA Wells Jesus Myth (1999) is an example of this. (Doherty)

Throw into the above mess things like Bromiley's "This view states that the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology, possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes,..." (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J Page 1034) and is it any wonder this article is a unending train wreck? One can easily point to American Tall Tales and Dime novel as examples of stories of people who really existed but were "possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes". That Bromiley, in the very sentence right after Lucian criticism regarding the Jesus story being being a pale imitation of Apollonius of Tyana, goes into the idea how the death and resurrection story is similar to those of Attis, Adonis, Ositis, and Mithras certainly doesn't help in clarifying just what point he is making. Apollonius was supposedly flesh and blood while Attis, Adonis, Ositis, and Mithras were not.

I say we work on a history of the Christ Myth theory first and then from that try and figure out if we can hammer out something resembling a sane definition from the above.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:20, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

You post this over and over again. I reply over and over again that each one of these quotes relates to the same thing: the idea that there was no historical Jesus. What's more, your readings of many of these sources are simply wrong. In the past I've posted long excerpts from "Bromiley" showing this, and it has simply no effect—you're basically posting the same stuff you've been posting over and over since 2007. As you yourself have said in the past, the majority of references support the definition as "Jesus is an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community", so I don't understand why you keep trying to do this. --Akhilleus (talk) 13:41, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
Define "historical Jesus." Noloop (talk) 15:41, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
Apparently, if Akhilleus is correct in his assessment of what the quotes refer to, it would be that Jesus is not a historical person, that is to say, a person who existed as a human being in a historical era. If, as Akhilleus says, the majority of references support the definition he has in quotes, then I would think that might be sufficient to include in the lead. I haven't myself necessarily seen word for word, quote for quote, on the various sources however. God knows that there are any number of possible variations on a given theme in any matters of philosophy or religion. In fact, honestly, if there is the remotest chance of someone somewhere proposing a variation on any theory, however preposterous, you can safely bet that someone will do so if the topic is given sufficient time and attention. If it is true that a sufficient majority of the possible variations on the theory can be fairly and reasonably summarized in a single short sttement, I can see no reason not to do so, and add maybe a "Variations" section later. The question would be how big a majority is a sufficient majority. John Carter (talk) 15:57, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
Agree with this. -FormerIP (talk) 16:22, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand it. Ellegard proposes that the Jesus of the Gospels is based on a person who actually existed. Yet, he's a Christ Myth theorist. Noloop (talk) 16:54, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
You ain't the only one who has trouble understanding this subject, buddy. ;) I think the question relates to how much of the extant Jesus "myth" actually relates to a real person. I guess it might be counted as being more or less like saying Joseph Bell was Sherlock Holmes, or whether the latter is a myth based in part on the former. John Carter (talk) 17:11, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
The problem with definitions like Bromiley's is that Greek and Norse mythology have a host of theories attached to them ranging from myth as "primitive" science (Allegory and Personification) to legends (Euhemerism) and they are all not of the same stripe. The stories of Hades and Persephone, Heracles, and the Trojan War are not at the same level. The first is your standard myth as "primitive" science story to explain the seasons but Eusebius in Preparation of the Gospel [portrays Heracles as a flesh and blood person who was later deified]. "Most scholars believed that Troy had never existed. One historian comments about amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann's search for Troy "When Schliemann began excavating at Hissarlik in 1870, probably about half of the scholars...would have said Homer's Troy was a figment of his imagination and that to seek its location...was folly" (The history puzzle: how we know what we know about the past By Susan Provost Beller pg 80). Norse mythology is much the same way. This is why Bromiley's definition is problem--it covers just not the pure myths of the gods but the myth-legends of the heroes.--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:17, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

I'm always surprised that people find this so confusing. To understand, you have to start with the mainstream position—that the Gospels provide historical evidence about the life and deeds of a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, who was born ca. 4 BCE, executed by crucifixion ca. 30 CE, whose activity gave rise to a community of followers (sometimes called the "Jesus movement" by scholars) that led to the development of Christianity. If you say, as did Arthur Drews, that Christanity developed out of a pre-existing cult of a god named Yeshua, and that the Gospels convey the myth of this Yeshua in quasi-historical form, you're saying that there's no historical Jesus behind the Gospels. If you say, as Ellegard does, that the figure of Jesus in Paul is based on the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, whom Ellegard dates to "probably the second or early first century BCE" p. 171, you're saying that Paul doesn't write about the historical Jesus; he writes about a historical person, but a different one than people usually think. (It seems that Ellegard thinks that the Gospels are about a Jesus that is entirely made up.)

The question 'how much of the extant Jesus "myth" actually relates to a real person' is a related one, but could be understood to be a question about how much of the Gospels actually happened, and that, I think, is material for historical Jesus, not this article. This article is about theories that there was no historical Jesus at all. --Akhilleus (talk) 20:01, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

The 'two Jesuses' theory (as espoused by Dire Straits: "there's two men say they're Jesus. Well, one of 'em must be wrong." Industrial Disease). Basically that there is one guy who wandered about, had some followers, and got done in by the Romans, and one guy who wrote a load of really good stuff, but is a shadowy figure never involved in any kind of movement, and the two of them got conflated. The walking about and murdered by the Romans guy is the one buried under Hadrian's Temple of Venus. No-one knows what happened to the other one - he could have died of old age 100 years before the walking about dude was born. Elen of the Roads (talk) 20:11, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
(ec)Actually, Akhilleus, I think you need to start a step further back than that, by asking "what is the mainstream position". It is not that "the Gospels provide historical evidence about the life and deeds of a human being". Even most Jesus scholars do not appear to take that position and those that do are taking a predominantly theological view.
The question 'how much of the extant Jesus "myth" actually relates to a real person' is the central one here, I think. Bruce's point is that there are very different positions which have variously been labelled "Jesus myth" and that the article seems to portray an overly fixed and blinkered notion of the topic it is dealing with. --FormerIP (talk) 20:14, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
FormerIP, "the Gospels provide historical evidence about the life and deeds of a human being" is something that Graham Stanton, cited in the lead, would agree to, as would Michael White, cited in the "Context" section. Why don't you think that's the mainstream position?
I know what Bruce's point is. I also know that it's not correct, at least not the way he's putting it. CMT proponents have many different ideas of how Christianity originated and how the NT material about Jesus was formed; the article doesn't do a good job of explaining these differences. On the other hand, the proponents in this article have in common the idea of Jesus' non-historicity... --Akhilleus (talk) 20:21, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
I can't actually speak for Graham Stanton, but the quote from him in the footnote, whilst uncontroversial AFAICT, does not appear to support the idea of the idea of the Gospels providing "historical evidence about the life and deeds of a human being", only that they contain "evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically". The Gospels are non-contemporaneous and written for evangelic purposes. They are, of course, incredibly valuable texts to a historian. But, according to the normal standards applied by historians, they would not be considered strong sources from which to draw reliable biographical details about historical figures. To suggest otherwise would be a strong claim, and it would require strong sourcing. In terms of Bible scholars who appear to be clear that they do not see their work on Jesus as providing "historical evidence about the life and deeds of a human being", I cited Mack, Meier, Hamilton, Arnal and Dunn on another talkpage. Happy to regurgitate that here, but I don't want to provide a wall of text straight off.
Your second paragraph above may be a fair summary. If you agree that "the article doesn't do a good job of explaining these differences", then maybe it would be a constructive way forward for editors (not putting the burden on you alone, of course) to work on improving this? I'm pretty sure you are right that "the proponents in this article have in common the idea of Jesus' non-historicity", but in terms of criticism of the general position, I think Bruce's concern is that everyone should not get tarred with the same brush.
All that said, I think this article does a much better job that the other Jesus articles which touch on similar subjects.--FormerIP (talk) 21:51, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
FormerIP, I think that's a very good suggestion. At the very least, the article should separate out those claims that the foundations of Christianity go back into a previous religion (other than its obvious ties to Judaism) from theories that there wasn't one person called Jesus who said all the stuff in the Gospels. Elen of the Roads (talk) 22:39, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
The problem is there are confusing and conflicting definitions and lists out there. As I explained over in Talk:Historicity_of_Jesus#Understanding_fringe Wells is the poster child of just what is wrong with some of these definitions and lists. Why did everybody seemingly drop the ball when Wells went to his "possibly mythical Paul + historical Q = Gospel Jesus" position with Jesus Legend (1996)? Related to this problem is there are some minimalists use some of the same arguments as the CMT with the only difference being they feel there is just enough to show there is a historical man involved.
Adding to the confusion is that before Drews "mythist" could have a very different meaning. "In relation to the rejection of miracles, the English and Scotch deists, the rationalist Paulus, and the mythist Strauss, all stand on the same ground." (The Christian examiner 1847).--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:08, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
I think the last point may be a little wide of the mark for the article. But, that aside, what is keeping some of this info from being worked into the article? --FormerIP (talk) 23:16, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
The last sentence was to show how confusing the material can be. As I and several other noted the use of "Christ myth" preceded Drews' book. The Christ myth By Elizabeth Edson Gibson Evans from 1900 is one such book.
Looking around for even more information on Drews I ran into a 1911 review of Christ Myth that had this curious bit: "It may be remarked, however, that even if it were in the highest degree probable that there was a pre-Christian deity worshiped in Palestine and called Jeshua or Jeshu, it would still be possible that there was a great teacher and healer bearing the same name, who was confounded with that supposed deity." (The Hibbert journal, Volume 9, Issues 3-4 pg 658).
"Drews further suggested that primitive Christianity constituted a syncretistic religion which attributed previously existing religious cult forms to a historical personage whose existence was doubtful." (In His name: comparative studies in the quest for the historical Jesus : life of Jesus research in Germany and America Elisabeth Hurth (1989) pg 231)
Some other books useful for their general details are Modern Christian Thought: The Twentieth Century By James C. Livingston, Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Sarah Coakley pg 25 goes over not only Drews but Troeltsch (who we both saw in Old Protestantism and the New By Brian Gerrish a ways back)
Modes of faith: secular surrogates for lost religious belief By Theodore Ziolkowski pg 147 is another interesting source as it gives a kind of ethnohistory into Drews and the times right after him.
The Monist (21) by Edward C Hegeler (2009) Page 254 gives another review of Drews going over the book in great detail showing there the reviewer felt Drews was essentially right and where he fells Drews was horribly wrong.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:22, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Hoffman

Noloop, this is not a good use of a source. A newspaper said of the Jesus Project, started by Hoffman:

Even so, the Jesus Project is proceeding from point zero, billing itself as "the first methodologically agnostic approach" to the question of Jesus's historical existence." [17]

You added to the article:

Historian Joseph Hoffman has argued that "a methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus' historical existence" would be a "first".

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:15, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

That wasn't my wording. PeaceLoveHarmony modified my initial edit. That's very collaborative, you know: If you have concerns about the wording of something, try to improve it rather than just deleting. Nonetheless, I don't see what's wrong with the current wording. If the Jesus Project would the first X, then it follows that doing X would be a first. Noloop (talk) 23:29, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
He didn't say it though; whether he meant to imply it we don't know. The way it's written makes it sound like an insult: "if such a method existed, it would be a first, snort." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:54, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
Logical summaries are what we do. Unless you want an article to consist entirely of quotations, most of what a source says is not, literally, what we say. What is wrong with what was written, as a logical summary of what the source said? Please propose something better. Otherwise, some editors will have just have to add rewrites and hope you agree with them, which is a bit disruptive. My initial proposal is in the Ellegard section above. Is it better? Noloop (talk) 02:53, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
It isn't a summary, it's playing around with his words. I can't see your initial proposal. Can you post it here? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 02:55, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

The section is Talk:Christ_myth_theory#Alvar_Ellegard_in_the_lead, the initial diff is here [18]. Noloop (talk) 03:01, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

"Historian Joseph Hoffman questions whether there has been a 'methodologically agnostic approach' to the historical existence of Jesus." He doesn't really say that either. It could be included but it would have to be written differently, and probably just added to the section on the Jesus Project. Divorcing it from its context could make him look as though he said something he didn't intend. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:04, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, I think I understand your concern about my wording, but I really was trying to capture accurately what was said from the source that I provided. I had not really considered that the reader could interpret the quotes around "first" as a sort of sarcastic commentary, and I see the problem since you pointed it out. Here is the relevant portion:
Historian R. Joseph Hoffman, Chair of The Scientific Committee for the Study of Religion (CSER), the Jesus Project's sponsor, describes the group's intent and operating principles on its website. "The Jesus Project, as CSER has named the new effort, is the first methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus' historical existence." [[19]].
I was trying to capture his intent, without introducing too much detail about The Jesus Project in the lead, but I definitely do not want to imply that he said something he did not intend. PeaceLoveHarmony (talk) 14:30, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
The wording seemed fine to me. I don't understand SlimVirigin's reason in deleting (and proposing no improvement). If you say you're going to be the first to do X, it is a fair summary that you don't think X has been done before. It belongs in that paragraph because it concerns reasons for skepticism about the prevailing scholarship. Noloop (talk) 15:39, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

How about: "According to historian Joseph Hoffman, there has never been a "methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus' historical existence." ? I can't say I understand the objections to any of the versions that have been added or proposed.Noloop (talk) 18:08, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Are there really biblical scholars who have no religious leanings?

(title added by Elen of the Roads (talk) 01:00, 1 September 2010 (UTC) )

Outside this triangle of sceptics, accommodators and apologists there is another group of men and women who number in the thousands, whose works fill the academic libraries and journals of the world and yet whose views are rarely considered in popular discussion of this topic. I am talking about professional biblical historians: not professors of theology in religious institutions but university historians specialising in the language, literature and culture of the biblical period. Be they Christian, Jewish or agnostic, such scholars shun both overreaching scepticism and theological dogma. They approach the Gospels not as zealous fabrications or divine scripture but as texts comparable with any other from the period. All texts have blind spots and points to prove. If historians waited until they found a source with no angle, they would have nothing left to work with (ancient or modern). The goal is not to discover an agenda-less source but to analyse every source in light of its discernible commitment. This is how scholars read every ancient text, including the New Testament. They do not privilege the Gospels, but nor do they come to them with prejudice. Christians may be unsettled by this objective historical analysis of their sacred texts but there is no comfort here for the dogmatic sceptic either. For while mainstream scholars disagree on many things about the life of Jesus, there is a very strong consensus that the basic narrative of the Gospels is historically sound.

from [20] Hardyplants (talk) 00:25, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Note who the author of this polemic is (it's at the bottom of the page)Dr John Dickson is the director of the Centre for Public Christianity (www.publicchristianity.org) and an honorary associate of the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. His documentary The Christ Files airs on Channel Seven at midday. As Mandy Rice Davies put it "well, he would say that, wouldn't he".Elen of the Roads (talk) 01:00, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
So we're allowed to quote atheist sources as fact (G.A. Wells) but not religious ones? Flash 01:02, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
Its not so much that he's religious. This was an extended pitch for a tv show, in the Sydney Morning Herald. His job is to advertise/promote Christianity. You would hardly expect him to say anything different to what he does say, but in this case, I would argue that it's more advertising puff than scholarly statement. --Elen of the Roads (talk) 01:07, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

He has a Wikipedia page: "He is also co-founder and director of the Centre for Public Christianity, a media company that seeks to "promote the public understanding of the Christian faith". This is the source for the Graeme Clarke bit as well. Noloop (talk) 01:56, 1 September 2010 (UTC)


@ReaverFlash I'm not trying to say he is being in any way deceitful - indeed, the eye he turns on the apologists is a scholarly one. I believe Dickson correctly portrays the stances of all the people he quotes, pro and con. But of course he did not pick the people he quoted out by sticking a pin in a list of everyone who has written on the subject. To support his contention that the 'factual' components of the Gospels are indeed factual, he quoted scholars who believe this is the case. This is not improper, but we have to recognise that sources can have a POV (ask anyone trying to write articles on the history of the old Soviet bloc!!!) and we have to factor that in. To be honest, I wouldn't accept a vague "most scholars believe..." statement from anyone on this subject. Elen of the Roads (talk) 09:40, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

But the article currently cites GA wells as fact. Is this not a double standard?

although even mainstream Church scholars agree that information about him contained in the New Testament should not be taken at face value.[4] is directly copied from G.A. wells Flash 11:40, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Personally, regarding the title of the section, I find it impossible to believe that any biblical scholars would not have some religious leanings, considering they are expected to have opinions about the subject they study, and the bible is religious. However, it may well be possible that those beliefs are such that they are independent of archaeological or historical evidence, or lack of same, and that on that basis they may well be capable of being objective. John Carter (talk) 16:18, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm not really sure what the question being raised here is, so let me know if I'm missing the point. In the quote above, Dickson seems to be making a case for listening to the views of people "whose views are rarely considered". He's entitled to do this, but shouldn't WP be interested instead in the views of people who are considered experts and whose writings are regularly published? --FormerIP (talk) 16:46, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
Hmm, I wasn't aware that the language was copied directly from G.A. Wells. If it's in the article, though, it should be stated like: "G.A. Wells claims that even mainstream..." or whatever. Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 19:29, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
What's your reasoning for that? We don't always need to attribute sources (if we did, Wikipedia would generally read very oddly). --FormerIP (talk) 20:26, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
According to WP:CITE: "Opinions, data and statistics, and statements based on someone's scientific work should be cited and attributed to their authors in the text." This would fall under opinion (or data, depending on how true you consider it). Either way, it seems to fall under this. Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 20:56, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
It depends what he means by basic narative structure of the Gospels being true. There may be a consensus that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptits, that he made some public statement against the temple, probably did some teaching, and was crucified by the Romans. This guy sounds like he wants you to believe a lot more than that. E4mmacro (talk) 04:59, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Citing Wells for the claim that mainstream scholars believe something is problematic, because it implies that Wells is a reliable source on what mainstream scholars believe. The statement itself is fine, but it'd be better to have an actual mainstream scholar to cite for it. john k (talk) 18:02, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

@E4mmacro (welcome, btw. If I've missed your previous comments, apologies. Always good to see new contributors) you're quite right. Dickson in this particular article is claiming that the consensus is that the 'miraculous' events happened, but had non-supernatural explanations. While I generally favour the search for the rational (I always remember an acquaintance who took over a property reputed to be haunted, who observed that the new double glazing seemed to have thwarted the spooks), I believe that the 'supernatural' accounts in the Gospels are not down to mistaking natural phenomena for miracles. Indeed, the Greek interlinear (I don't speak biblical Greek) translation of the Virgin Mary's response to the Angel Gabriel from Luke's Gospel highlights this. Angel: "you will conceive and bear a child." Mary "oh yeah. How's that supposed to happen. Cos I ain't never been with no man."Elen of the Roads (talk) 20:49, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I think when Dickson is talking about miracles, he's talking about healing, casting out of demons, the resurrection of Lazarus, and the like. Despite the interpretations attached to these miracles by many Christians, it's a scholarly commonplace to point out that there were many miracle workers in the ancient world (not to mention many who claim to be miracle workers in the modern era), and a lot of the stuff Jesus does isn't that special in this context. I don't think Dickson is asserting that there's scholarly agreement about the virgin birth. If he is, he's obviously mistaken; Geza Vermes and E.P. Sanders, the scholars Dickson mentions when he's talking about miracles and the resurrection, are not people who treat the angel's appearance to Mary as a historical event. On the other hand, Dickson might be exaggerating the degree to which scholars think "somthing remarkable happened" with the empty tomb, etc.—isn't it Crossan who says that Jesus' body was most likely eaten by dogs and crows? --Akhilleus (talk) 00:12, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
No, I don't think he's asserting the Virgin birth is widely believed (and reading my comment above, it's far from clear what I meant), but I do think he's saying that most scholars think something happened that had a rational explanation. I suspect because the 'rational explanations' could include fraud, sleight of hand and body dumps (a conjuring trick with bones, as Jenkins described it), I've noticed a general tendency to shy away from commenting on the supernatural aspects. A number of the "Jesus Quest" scholars seem almost to assume that the miracle stories were added later, as misunderstandings of symbolic teaching. Or at least that's the impression they give me. I'm not saying Dickson is out of order, just that I wouldn't take this as a reliable source for the level of consensus about whole content of the gospel accounts that ReaverFlash wanted it to support. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Elen of the Roads (talkcontribs)
"conjuring tricks" may be right—with the caveat that the conjurers believed that their tricks were real. Faith healing might be a parallel—some of these cases are deliberate deception, but in others both the "healer" and the "healed" sincerely believe that there's genuine healing going on. I agree with you that Dickson may be exaggerating the consensus about the historicity of the Gospel accounts, but I don't think his general point—that there are many NT scholars who think some history can be recovered from the Gospels—is wrong. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:04, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Akhilleus that "many NT scholars ... think some history can be recovered from the Gospels". The issue is about which pieces of the gospels are history, which are belief-driven wishful dreaming by the original scribes, and which are later additions by the early church fathers and others of like POV. If we were going to keep this as a separate article then the change in name would require a rewording, as the scholarly support for "some sort of Jesus" is overwhelming, whereas the scholarly support for "some sort of divine Christ" is much more diluted. Wdford (talk) 17:41, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

saying "most scholars" misleading

The fact is, CMT is rejected by the vast majority of scholars, who treat it with disdain. See the FAQ page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bill_the_Cat_7/CMT_FAQ#FAQ_Question_.232

And yet, the lead section only mentions it as being rejected by "most scholars", a clear mis-representation of the extent CMT is rejected. Flash 00:37, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Yes, it certainly does misrepresent the level of acceptance per WP:Fringe. But for some reason, there are a bunch of people who have done everything to keep it from being labeled "fringe". I mean, if the CMT is not fringe, then the word has no meaning. Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 00:57, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Bill the Cat 7 here. While the definition of CMT in a few places is a little wonked it fits even the broader of definition of WP:FRINGE that is being kicked around Wikipedia_talk:Fringe_theories. The thing we must remember is that while CMT is fringe not every fringe part of the large "Historicity of Jesus" spectrum is CMT. The idea that the Gospels striped of their supernatural trimmings are totally historical with ad hoc theories like Herod the Great and Publius Quinctilius Varus were so incompetent in running something so basic as a census that wonderful multitasker Quirinius who was fighting a war some two provinces over had to be called in to oversee the mess being used to explain how Matthew and Luke could be talking about the same time period for Jesus birth is just as fringy as the idea that Jesus is some sort of repackaged sun deity. Seriously the handwaving to get Matthew and Luke to agree is sad when you realize that by Occam's razor that throwing out Matthew's date is the logical course of action.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:54, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
"A clear mis-representation of the extent CMT is rejected" - this looks like original research. Clearly, there are significant examples of scholars who support CMT (ot JMT as we now appear to be calling it). --FormerIP (talk) 10:44, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
"Most scholars" do agree that neither account of the Nativity is reliable, as they are completely different on many points of fact. However, it is tough to decide which one is least incorrect. This (and other issues) casts grave doubt on how much of the gospel material is believable. While "most scholars" do still agree that Jesus existed, the extent to which the gospels provide useful information about Jesus is debatable. Without the gospels, there is very little info available on Jesus at all. This is not the "CMT" as it is generally portrayed, but it certainly should be a major component of the "Historicity" article. Wdford (talk) 10:52, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
The phrase "vast majority" is an example in the article on weasel word. (The alternatives don't actually seem much better to me.) It's also clear that the context of these remarks should limit the scope to "scholars who have published on it" rather than the unadorned "scholars." When the vast majority of scholars believe something, you aren't forced to cite mainly Christians to support it. Noloop (talk) 15:30, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
How many quotes from scholars saying that the CMT is not accepted by the vast majority of scholars do you need to convince you? I can even give you quotes from proponents of the CMT that say so in no uncertain terms (bold-italic added for emphasis):
  • [T]he view that there was no historical Jesus, that his earthly existence is a fiction of earliest Christianity—a fiction only later made concrete by setting his life in the first century—is today almost totally rejected.
G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1988) p. 218
  • It is customary today to dismiss with amused contempt the suggestion that Jesus never existed.
G. A. Wells, "The Historicity of Jesus," in Jesus and History and Myth, ed. R. Joseph Hoffman (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986) p. 27
  • "New Testament criticism treated the Christ Myth Theory with universal disdain"
Robert M. Price, The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-Four Formative Texts (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006) p. 1179
These quotes make is quite clear where the CMT stands among the vast majority of scholars. Also, can you provide any quotes from scholars that say that the CMT is considered by mainstream scholars as being simply a minority viewpoint? Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 00:33, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
But those quotes can be interpreted in a number of ways. One thing I would note is that the contempt and rejection is in the present tense in the mid to late eighties, and in the past tense by 2006. --FormerIP (talk) 00:38, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
While they can be interpreted in many ways, it would certainly be possible to use the quotes directly in the article. I think that it is fairly clear that in each case they are saying that the theory has been largely dismissed, particularly when the subject is "New Testament criticism", like in the last Price quote, which fairly clearly indicates the field of academic criticism of the New Testament, which is the relevant area of Biblical criticism for this particular topic. John Carter (talk) 00:47, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the quotes could be used in the article, but what I am saying is they can't be used to insert into the lead the synthesis that the CMT is fringe. --FormerIP (talk) 00:51, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
But even that particular quote from Price could presumably be used in the lead as a description of the academic opinion regarding that subject. While it is possible to (I think) bend over backwards to interpret it as not saying NT scholarship treats the idea as a fringe theory, with "universal disdain", I doubt many would. As long as no words not used by the source are themselves added, I don't think it would be seen by even most policy wonks as going against WP:WORDS. John Carter (talk) 00:58, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Such a strong claim would need clear sourcing. A source that says something similar but puts it in the past tense doesn't cut it. --FormerIP (talk) 01:10, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
You're making far too much out of tenses. What's the evidence that anything has changed since 1986? Has biblical criticism started treating the CMT more seriously since 2006, the date of the last Price quote? --Akhilleus (talk) 01:33, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't think I am Akhilleus. The source is phrased in the past tense. You can't take a source that says something was the case and use if to prop up a POV that something is the case. --FormerIP (talk) 10:47, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Aside from not having the context for the Price quote (always a problem when people argue about isolated sentences rather than reading the whole thing), you seem to be arguing that something has changed recently? Is that right? Do you have a reason for thinking so? Or is it just that you want to stick closely to the wording of the sources? --Akhilleus (talk) 14:46, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
That would be original research. What I'm saying is we shouldn't misrepresent the sources. --FormerIP (talk) 14:53, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification; I think it's a good idea to follow the sources closely. --Akhilleus (talk) 14:56, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Nobody is going to be convinced by the quote-spamming of Bill the Cat 7. You seem to think editorial research should begin and end with your personal FAQ. The fact is, the only actual majority that we can find is not among mainstream scholars, but among Christian ones, including those who suggest the Resurrection could be historical fact. Sounds objective, huh? Mainstream scholarship agrees the Earth is spherical and--guess what--that view doesn't have to be sourced primarily to scholars of one religion. Mainstream scholarship agrees the moon landings happened and--guess what--that view doesn't have to be sourced mainly to scholars of one religion. Nor do such views have to be sourced to people who hold such views as a matter of faith rather than logic and evidence. These articles on Jesus could not exist in their current form without the majority of sources being Christian. Therefore, it misleads the reader to present the scholarship as mainstream. The context makes the meaning clear: skepticism about the existence of Jesus is "almost totally rejected" by Christian scholars. Gee, what a surprise. Purely secular and academic treatment is rare, and that is interesting information the reader should know. Noloop (talk) 01:02, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
What on earth is the justification for saying that scholars who are Christian aren't mainstream? --Akhilleus (talk) 01:33, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Not what was said. Noloop (talk) 04:21, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Then there should be no problem using a source like Graham Stanton as evidence for the mainstream view. BTW, what's your evidence that Stanton, or any other source, holds their views "as a matter of faith rather than logic and evidence"? --Akhilleus (talk) 13:54, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm trying to remember a time you've ever understood what I said, or given the impression of trying. Noloop (talk) 14:22, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm trying all the time, Noloop. When you say things like "the only actual majority that we can find is not among mainstream scholars, but among Christian ones," it sure looks like you're drawing a distinction between mainstream scholars and Christians, such that Christians cannot be used as evidence for a mainstream view. How have I misunderstood you? --Akhilleus (talk) 14:39, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I've explained it 100 times. You are making no effort, you are looking for ways to blindly disagree with what you oppose. The group, Christian scholars, is not equivalent to the group, mainstream scholars. Nonetheless, a Christian can be in the group of mainstream scholars. One is a subset of the other. There is an additional problem in expecting any group to be objective and scientific about that which it worships. Noloop (talk) 15:42, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Super. Aside from the fact that I don't think your lumping together of the scholars cited in this article and others as "Christian scholars" is valid, you have (at last!) clearly stated that they could be in a subset of mainstream scholars. Now that we've got that clear, why do you think that a scholar from the group you've labeled Christian scholars is not a good source for the mainstream consensus in the absence of other sources that say the consensus is something different? --Akhilleus (talk) 02:52, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Not what was said. Noloop (talk) 16:40, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── But that is what you're saying—"the only actual majority that we can find is not among mainstream scholars, but among Christian ones," so you think those scholars don't represent a mainstream consensus. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:11, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Yes, but that's different from what you said before. The first was singular, the second was about the group. The group "Christian scholars" isn't identical with the group "mainstream scholars." That doesn't mean a Christian can't belong to the mainstream. Noloop (talk) 03:40, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

All rhetoric aside, it's clear from these quotes that even the CMT proponents agree that it's a fringe view. They might think it's the truth, but they do admit that it's almost universally rejected. Just looking at the plain language of the quote tells us this. I'm convinced that this is a good foundation for putting something in the lead describing how widely the CMT is rejected. Deep Purple Dreams (talk) 14:56, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Robert Price sees Wells as having rehabilitated the CMT. On this view, it may have been fringe when Wells was writing, but Wells himself changed that. Price may not be an entirely neutral witness in this regard, but it seems plausible and I don't see any other evidence to contradict this view. --FormerIP (talk) 16:21, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
You don't see any other evidence that contradicts which view? That the CMT is no longer considered fringe by the mainstream? Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 00:14, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that's it. --FormerIP (talk) 00:41, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. I'm at the end of a long week and am on my 5th bottle of beer, so I wasn't sure.  :) At any rate...the latest information I have is that the mainstream still doesn't consider the CMT any less fringy than it was 20 years ago. Does anyone have any quotes that say that the mainstream consensus about the fringiness of the CMT has changed? Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 01:34, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
I may have missed it, but I don't see any evidence that Price thinks Wells has rehabilitated the CMT in the eyes of mainstream scholars. Perhaps he rehabilitated it in Price's view, but that's not the same thing. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:53, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Purely secular and academic treatment is rare, and that is interesting information the reader should know.
I agree, but how do we present that information without resorting to original research? Removing claims to a consensus among academics could be part of it. Narrowing it down to scholars who publish on the matter could be too. Maybe a quote like the one by Perrin I mentioned on Talk:Historical Jesus could work too. Martijn Meijering (talk) 17:16, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't agree, and this is not an assumption that should be shaping this or any other article without strong evidence in the form of reliable sources saying that purely secular and academic treatment is rare. --Akhilleus (talk) 02:09, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Well, then at least we agree that pointing out that most scholars who publish on the matter are theologians and clergymen would be original research without substantiation from a reliable source. I think we're on more solid ground if we question the statement that the mainstream regards the CMT as fringe. Dawkins believes there may well have been a historical Jesus but contends that a plausible case can be made for the CMT. I think Dawkins is prominent enough to disprove the CMT is considered a fringe theory. There might still be a consensus among scholars who write about CMT or early Church history that it is a fringe theory. I would put that down to bias, you would not. In such cases it is not for Wikipedia to take sides, and we should report both points of view neutrally. Martijn Meijering (talk) 12:21, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Wow, are there a lot of people who can't get past their longstanding biases to understand that NPOV policy covers all views, not just ones you want to promote. "Most scholars" is objective wording and not inflammatory. Anything more than that is just over the top agenda-pushing. Considered objectively and in a world-wide view instead of just going with what Christian authors have to say there's NO WAY this topic would be considered a fringe theory. DreamGuy (talk) 18:05, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

The choices are not 1) Assert that secular academic research is rare and most scholars are Christian, or 2) Assert that there is a consensus among mainstream scholars. We can alert the reader to the possible bias by judiciously mentioning the religious background of sources and letting the reader make up his/her own mind about whether the the religious background of the majority of our sources matters. We can refrain from relying too much on sources whose business in the promotion of Christianity--Eerdmans, priests, etc. Noloop (talk) 03:47, 6 September 2010 (UTC)