( After some discussion, it has come to my attention that the original title "Christ Myth Theory is False" was not very accurate to this essay , so I changed it to better reflect the intention of this writing.)
Recently I have seen this notion being pressed that the historicity of Jesus is simply not supported. Now please understand I am paraphrasing, so if I do not cover every single aspect of this 'theory' in great detail then forgive me, as I do not want to wright a novel.
I want to look at the claims made by proponents of the Christ Myth Theory ( From here on simply CMT) and compare them to claims made by biblical scholars to see if the proponents of CMT hold up to scholarly scrutiny. The basics of the CMT are as follows:
The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism or simply mythicism) is the hypothesis that Jesus of Nazareth never existed; or if he did, that he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels. Different proponents espouse slightly different versions of the Christ myth theory, but many proponents of the theory use a three-fold argument first developed in the 19th century:
1.that the New Testament has no historical value
2.that there are no non-Christian references to Jesus Christ dating back to the first century
3. that Christianity had pagan and/or mythical roots.
Some prominent figures in support of CMT include:
Volney and Dupuis
The beginnings of the formal denial of the existence of Jesus can be traced to late 18th-century France, and the works of Constantin François Chassebœuf de Volney (1757–1820) and Charles-François Dupuis (1742–1809)olney and Dupuis argued that Christianity was an amalgamation of various ancient mythologies and that Jesus was a totally mythical character
In 1835, German theologian David Friedrich Strauß (1808–1874) published his extremely controversial The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (Das Leben Jesu). While not denying that Jesus existed, he did argue that the miracles in the New Testament were mythical retellings of normal events as supernatural happenings.
Richard Cevantis Carrier (born December 1, 1969) is an historian, atheist activist, author, public speaker, and blogger. He has a doctorate in ancient history from Columbia University where his thesis was on the history of science in ancient antiquity. He is a leading proponent of the Christ myth theory.
American New Testament scholar and former Baptist pastor Robert McNair Price was a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of writers and scholars who study the historicity of Jesus and who argue that the Christian image of Christ is a theological construct into which traces of Jesus of Nazareth have been woven.e was also a member of the Jesus Project. Price believes that Christianity is a historicized synthesis of mainly Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek mythologies.
Now that I have given credit where it is do, and shown that this is not just some collection of average Joes offering claims on no authority at all . I will move onto addressing specific points made by proponents of CMT, I.E the three points I have posted above.
1. the New Testament has no historical value.
While the authorship of some of the Pauline epistles is largely undisputed, there is no scholarly consensus on the authors of the other books of the New Testament, which most modern scholars acknowledge as pseudonymous autographswritten more than a generation after the events they describe.Prior to the 19th century, textual analysis of the Bible itself was the only tool available to extract and evaluate whatever historical data it contained.
The past two hundred years, however, have seen a proliferation of new sources of data and analytical tools, including:Other Near Eastern texts, documents and inscriptions
The material remains recovered throughout the Near East by archaeological excavation, analysed by ever more sophisticated technical and statistical apparatus
Historical geography, demography, soil science, technology studies, and comparative linguistics
Anthropological and sociological modelling
the Apocrypha, or non-canonical texts.
2. there are no non-Christian references to Jesus Christ dating back to the first century.
There are three mentions of Jesus in non-Christian sources which have been used in historical analyses of the existence of Jesus.
Jesus is mentioned twice in the works of 1st-century Roman historian Josephus and once in the works of the 2nd-century Roman historian Tacitus.
Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93–94 AD, includes two references to the biblical Jesus in Books 18 and 20. The general scholarly view is that while the longer passage, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or forgeryf the other mention in Josephus, Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman has stated that "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus' reference to Jesus in Antiquities 20, 9, 1 and it is only disputed by a small number of scholars.
3. Christianity had pagan and/or mythical roots
Here we see a claim that in fact has some ;legitimacy:
Early Christianity and Early Rabbinical Judaism were significantly influenced by Hellenistic religion and Hellenistic philosophy. Christianity in particular inherited many features of Greco-Roman paganism in its structure, its terminology, its cult and its theology. Titles such as Pontifex Maximus and Sol Invictus were taken directly from Roman religion. The influence of Neoplatonism on Christian theology is significant, visible for example in Augustine of Hippo's identification of God as summum bonum and of evil as privatio boni. Striking parallels between the New Testament account of Jesus and classical gods or demigods such as Bacchus, Bellerophon or Perseus were recognized by the Church Fathers and termed "demonic imitation" by Justin Martyr in the 2nd century.
Now that I have covered those points as best I could. I will now cite the opinions of Biblical scholars on CMT:
Historicity refers to the question of whether alleged past persons and events are genuinely historical, or merely mythical. The study of whether the Jesus mentioned in the Christian New Testament was a real person is covered in the article Historicity of Jesus.
In general, modern scholars who work in the field largely agree that Jesus himself did exist historically, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus, and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate
Christ Myth theories find virtually no support from scholars. According to New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman, most people who study the historical period of Jesus believe that he did exist, and do not write in support of the Christ myth theoryEhrman also notes that these views would prevent one from getting employment in a religious studies department:
These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.
Maurice Casey, theologian and scholar of New Testament and early Christianity, stated that the belief among professors that Jesus existed is generally completely certain. According to Casey, the view that Jesus did not exist is "the view of extremists" and "demonstrably false", and that "professional scholars generally regard it as having been settled in serious scholarship long ago".
Writing in 1977, classical historian and popular author Michael Grant concluded 'modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. IIn support of this, he quoted Roderic Dunkerley's 1957 opinion that the Christ-myth theory has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars'.
At the same time he also quoted Otto Betz's 1968 opinion that in recent years 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus' — or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.'But such claims of abundant evidence often fail to stand up to scrutiny.
R. Joseph Hoffmann, who had created the Jesus Project, which included both mythicists and historicists to investigate the historicity of Jesus, wrote that there were problems with the adherents to the Christ myth theory. They were asking to set up a separate section of the project for those committed to the theory, which Hoffmann felt signalled a lack of necessary skepticism. He noted that most members of the project did not reach the mythicist conclusion.
I must end it there. The sources I used are listed below.
From Jesus to Constantine. A Early History of Christianity- Professor Bart D. Erham. Professor of New Testament studies at UNC Chapel Hill.
Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.
Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.