Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

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Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#1  Postby Shrunk » Nov 05, 2015 12:12 pm

I should know better than to start a thread on this subject, but here goes:

Jerry Coyne recently blogged about a BBC poll showing 40% of British people do not believe Jesus was a real person, in which he wrote:

What’s more galling is that the BBC is taking what “many scholars believe” as the gospel truth—pardon the pun—despite the fact that close scrutiny gives virtually no extra-Biblical evidence for a historical Jesus. I’m still convinced that the judgement of scholars that “Jesus was a real man” comes not from evidence, but from their conviction that the Bible simply couldn’t be untruthful about that issue.


This prompted another blogger, Bible scholar James McGrath, to accuse Coyne of engaging in "denialism."

Larry Moran then responded to that on his blog, and a spirited discussion between the two has ensued which is still ongoing there.

So is the evidence in favour of an historical Jesus so strong that someone holding the contrary position can justifiably be called a "denialist"? (If you want my opinion, I'm the commentator named "lutesuite" on Sandwalk.)
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#2  Postby Sendraks » Nov 05, 2015 12:15 pm

How is this thread supposed to deliver something different to the dedicated thread already on this subject. Given that the claim that "the evidence favours a historical Jesus" is going to be roundly debated six ways from sunday.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#3  Postby Shrunk » Nov 05, 2015 12:20 pm

Sendraks wrote:How is this thread supposed to deliver something different to the dedicated thread already on this subject. Given that the claim that "the evidence favours a historical Jesus" is going to be roundly debated six ways from sunday.


Fair enough. Just take this thread as an invitation to read the interesting discussion going on at Sandwalk, then.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#4  Postby Thommo » Nov 05, 2015 1:48 pm

I don't think of it as denialism, history is not an exact science and if you look at the amount of evidence for, say, the holocaust (as something that we use the word "denialist" about in a standard fashion) compared to the evidence for Jesus they aren't even on the same planet, let alone in the same ballpark, there is and must always be quite a bit of uncertainty about 2,000 year old events with virtually no contemporary evidence supporting them.

I still just take the academic consensus that there likely was a person on which the Jesus myth is based as the most likely though, I lack both the expertise and the interest to challenge it.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#5  Postby Cito di Pense » Nov 05, 2015 1:51 pm

The spectre of 'denialism' is just a staple of a certain kind of discourse about topics that cannot be resolved, and within which on both sides of an issue are true believers who swear up and down they're making a rational inquiry. If they were rational, they'd understand the issue could not be resolved, so they must have some other reason for getting so worked-up about it.

Amazingly, people who understand global warming (or at least large scale climate change) is happening still resort to using this sort of language in response to people who don't understand the facts. This is a different problem, because some problems that can be resolved are too complicated for some people to resolve.

The bottom line is that people who have specific interests in the resolution of some questions should state what those interests are.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#6  Postby Animavore » Nov 05, 2015 1:58 pm

The real life Jesus of the likes of Ehrman is far more cohesive than the usual myther Jesus which usually relies on some conspiracy. Or they say Apollo and Zeus aren't real, why Jesus? But Jesus doesn't do anything too spectacular and most of his miracles are of the type claimed and believed by contemporary cult leaders today. Add in a When Prophecy Fails-type scenario and you have yourself a plausible story.

Richard Carrier has some plausible scenarios too, but who really knows? I can't agree mythers are denialists like creationists. Even if some of their rather elaborate theories are a bit of a stretch. I don't think history is subject to Occam's razor in the same way as science.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#7  Postby Cito di Pense » Nov 05, 2015 2:06 pm

Animavore wrote:The real life Jesus of the likes of Ehrman is far more cohesive than the usual myther Jesus which usually relies on some conspiracy.


That's right, Ani. Everybody likes a good cohesive story with an interesting plot. Nobody wants to think that a big chunk of 1500+ years of history in a major part of the world is based on a pure sham. This is not to argue any position that's being addressed in the other thread, which is dominated by a myopia far beyond what can be expected of normal humans. It's the entire conception of history as a 'coherent' narrative that's getting rattled, here, and it's that upon which the myopia (lol) is so focused (lol, lol).
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#8  Postby Thommo » Nov 05, 2015 2:21 pm

Animavore wrote:The real life Jesus of the likes of Ehrman is far more cohesive than the usual myther Jesus which usually relies on some conspiracy. Or they say Apollo and Zeus aren't real, why Jesus? But Jesus doesn't do anything too spectacular and most of his miracles are of the type claimed and believed by contemporary cult leaders today. Add in a When Prophecy Fails-type scenario and you have yourself a plausible story.

Richard Carrier has some plausible scenarios too, but who really knows? I can't agree mythers are denialists like creationists. Even if some of their rather elaborate theories are a bit of a stretch. I don't think history is subject to Occam's razor in the same way as science.


Good post, the only point of contention would be talking about history as a single discipline. Ancient history, sure. But if someone denied that Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the UK in 1981 it would be a different proposition.

It's all about weight and quality of evidence, and (following the original link) it is extremely trite to compare the evidence for Jesus with the evidence for the French revolution, or evolution as James McGrath does.

There's a lot more evidence for people from the 16th century than the 1st, yet people still are free to speculate about the "real" identity of William Shakespeare, again in a way that they really can't with Margaret Thatcher - at least without being imbecilic.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#9  Postby chairman bill » Nov 05, 2015 2:22 pm

Given that the very texts that make the claim of this Jesus can't agree on many things, and the absence of any contemporaneous accounts, I think it reasonable to conclude that we've an absence of evidence for this person. That doesn't mean he didn't exist, it's just that Brian might have done too.

My take, having read a fair bit of the literature over the years, is of a composite character, made up from accounts of more than one wandering rabbi/essene rabble-rouser, doctored to fit with the pre-existing Judaic prophecies of a messiah. In other words, a myth. Those asserting his real existence, without the evidence to support such a claim, are the denialists - denying the more reasonable assumption to be drawn on the matter. :-)
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#10  Postby Briton » Nov 05, 2015 2:25 pm

chairman bill wrote:Given that the very texts that make the claim of this Jesus can't agree on many things, and the absence of any contemporaneous accounts, I think it reasonable to conclude that we've an absence of evidence for this person. That doesn't mean he didn't exist, it's just that Brian might have done too.

My take, having read a fair bit of the literature over the years, is of a composite character, made up from accounts of more than one wandering rabbi/essene rabble-rouser, doctored to fit with the pre-existing Judaic prophecies of a messiah. In other words, a myth. Those asserting his real existence, without the evidence to support such a claim, are the denialists - denying the more reasonable assumption to be drawn on the matter. :-)


Exactly. There's basically no real evidence to deny. I don't think he did exist as a single individual but I'm not denying he did.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#11  Postby Shrunk » Nov 05, 2015 2:27 pm

Thommo wrote:But if someone denied that Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the UK in 1981 it would be a different proposition.


Yes. That would be called "wishful thinking."
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#12  Postby Cito di Pense » Nov 05, 2015 2:31 pm

Shrunk wrote:
Thommo wrote:But if someone denied that Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the UK in 1981 it would be a different proposition.


Yes. That would be called "wishful thinking."


If you think history is mainly about what-happened-when, then you badly misunderstand the charges of 'denialism'.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#13  Postby Shrunk » Nov 05, 2015 2:56 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:If you think history is mainly about what-happened-when, then you badly misunderstand the charges of 'denialism'.


You may be correct. I don't know much about McGrath, so I'm not sure how much I should read into the fact that he carefully parses his statements so as to make clear that he is making the specific and narrow point that historians are not able to determine whether Jesus' miracles actually took place, which leaves open the broader question of whether he believes they did take place.

And even if he doesn't, I guess it's worth noting that I've never heard the term "denialist" used against someone who believes King Arthur was entirely a mythical figure. Because the evidence in favour of a real King Arthur is so much less than that for a real Jesus? Or because people just don't get so worked up when it is suggested there never was an Arthur? McGrath's distinction between "conservative" Christians, and the other kind of Christian (of which I suppose he is one) may be germane to that.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#14  Postby Cito di Pense » Nov 05, 2015 3:30 pm

Shrunk wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:If you think history is mainly about what-happened-when, then you badly misunderstand the charges of 'denialism'.


You may be correct. I don't know much about McGrath, so I'm not sure how much I should read into the fact that he carefully parses his statements so as to make clear that he is making the specific and narrow point that historians are not able to determine whether Jesus' miracles actually took place, which leaves open the broader question of whether he believes they did take place.

And even if he doesn't, I guess it's worth noting that I've never heard the term "denialist" used against someone who believes King Arthur was entirely a mythical figure. Because the evidence in favour of a real King Arthur is so much less than that for a real Jesus? Or because people just don't get so worked up when it is suggested there never was an Arthur? McGrath's distinction between "conservative" Christians, and the other kind of Christian (of which I suppose he is one) may be germane to that.


Details, details. Myth Jesus vs Walking Talking Jesus is a proxy for something else. Why would we even care if there was a human being at the center of the story? I'll tell you why: It's because the story is so fun, just in case any of it (we know not what) might be true. That means that Ancient History owns this one as well as a bunch of other stuff that goes into our version of What We Are. You know, ontologically speaking. What an incredible pile of crap, just to say that there is an Official Version of What We Are. You know who stands to gain from anything like that: The sort who say "we were here first".

Meanwhile, over in the Israel threads, people are proposing an N-state solution because somebody was there first. Ha ha ha. Don't imagine for a moment that it's unrelated, although you can't tell the players without a pogrom.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#15  Postby chairman bill » Nov 05, 2015 3:49 pm

Shrunk wrote:... Or because people just don't get so worked up when it is suggested there never was an Arthur?


I suspect that has a lot to do with it
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#16  Postby Nicko » Nov 05, 2015 4:39 pm

Animavore wrote:The real life Jesus of the likes of Ehrman is far more cohesive than the usual myther Jesus which usually relies on some conspiracy. Or they say Apollo and Zeus aren't real, why Jesus? But Jesus doesn't do anything too spectacular and most of his miracles are of the type claimed and believed by contemporary cult leaders today. Add in a When Prophecy Fails-type scenario and you have yourself a plausible story.

Richard Carrier has some plausible scenarios too, but who really knows? I can't agree mythers are denialists like creationists. Even if some of their rather elaborate theories are a bit of a stretch. I don't think history is subject to Occam's razor in the same way as science.


I'm slightly familiar with Carrier's view on this topic.

I agree that it seems unreasonable that, given all the "sons of God" who died and were resurrected that were floating about in the local mythology only to be Euhemerised at a later date, we should simply believe that Jesus is the one who actually existed.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#17  Postby proudfootz » Nov 05, 2015 8:20 pm

Shrunk wrote:I should know better than to start a thread on this subject, but here goes:

Jerry Coyne recently blogged about a BBC poll showing 40% of British people do not believe Jesus was a real person, in which he wrote:

What’s more galling is that the BBC is taking what “many scholars believe” as the gospel truth—pardon the pun—despite the fact that close scrutiny gives virtually no extra-Biblical evidence for a historical Jesus. I’m still convinced that the judgement of scholars that “Jesus was a real man” comes not from evidence, but from their conviction that the Bible simply couldn’t be untruthful about that issue.


This prompted another blogger, Bible scholar James McGrath, to accuse Coyne of engaging in "denialism."

Larry Moran then responded to that on his blog, and a spirited discussion between the two has ensued which is still ongoing there.

So is the evidence in favour of an historical Jesus so strong that someone holding the contrary position can justifiably be called a "denialist"?(If you want my opinion, I'm the commentator named "lutesuite" on Sandwalk.)



No, the evidence isn't very strong.

But if everyone who rejects claims based on weak evidence is a denialist, then I am also a Creation Denialist, an Ancient Astronaut Denialist, and a Continent of Atlantis Denialist (among many other things).

I think McGrath and Ehrman trivialize the Holocaust when they try to make rejecting a weak case like the existence of an obscure person a couple thousand years ago equal to rejecting a strong well-documented one like the mass murder of gypsies, homosexuals, slavs, jews, and others by the Nazis.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#18  Postby chairman bill » Nov 05, 2015 8:22 pm

Yes, but rejecting Jesus is the greatest sin of all. Well, apart from denying the Holy Spirit
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#19  Postby dejuror » Nov 06, 2015 5:22 am

Shrunk wrote:

So is the evidence in favour of an historical Jesus so strong that someone holding the contrary position can justifiably be called a "denialist"? (If you want my opinion, I'm the commentator named "lutesuite" on Sandwalk.)


The very people who argue for an historical Jesus DENY the evidence is strong.

It is those who argue for an HJ who should or must be called denialist.

They have DENIED the 'history' of Jesus of Nazareth from conception to ascension.

Christians of antiquity have PUBLICLY declared and documented their Jesus was born of a Ghost and was God Creator.

It cannot be DENIED that Jesus of Nazareth was a Myth/Fiction character as described by the very Christians writers of antiquity.

HJers must be in DENIAL.

It is completely reasonable and justifiable to called HJers denialists.

Origen has ALREADY written that those who DENIED the history of THEIR Jesus would INVENT their own fiction.

Against Celsus 1 attributed to Celsus
It was to be expected, indeed, that those who would not believe the miraculous birth of Jesus would invent some falsehood.


Why do HJers REJECT almost everything in the NT about Jesus from conception by the Ghost to Ascension in a cloud but STILL use the NT as history for HJ?

HJers MUST be or ALWAYS were in DENIAL.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#20  Postby dejuror » Nov 06, 2015 5:37 am

Nicko wrote:
Animavore wrote:The real life Jesus of the likes of Ehrman is far more cohesive than the usual myther Jesus which usually relies on some conspiracy. Or they say Apollo and Zeus aren't real, why Jesus? But Jesus doesn't do anything too spectacular and most of his miracles are of the type claimed and believed by contemporary cult leaders today. Add in a When Prophecy Fails-type scenario and you have yourself a plausible story.

Richard Carrier has some plausible scenarios too, but who really knows? I can't agree mythers are denialists like creationists. Even if some of their rather elaborate theories are a bit of a stretch. I don't think history is subject to Occam's razor in the same way as science.


I'm slightly familiar with Carrier's view on this topic.

I agree that it seems unreasonable that, given all the "sons of God" who died and were resurrected that were floating about in the local mythology only to be Euhemerised at a later date, we should simply believe that Jesus is the one who actually existed.


Which Jesus actually existed?

The one in the NT?

Jesus of Nazareth in the NT was born of a Ghost and was God Creator.

There is NO other Jesus of Nazareth who is documented to have ACTUALLY existed by any contemporary writer of antiquity.

HJers are in DENIAL.

They argue that their Jesus was an OBSCURE character while using Tacitus Annals 15.44

Tacitus Annals does not mention or identified any OBSCURE character called Jesus of Nazareth.

HJers MUST be denialists.

THEIR HJ is undocumented in and out the Christian Bible.
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