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Talking Sense about Jesus’ Historicity

January 28, 2014

I thank Steven Jake for notifying me of the interview he has posted with Prof. Dale Allison (a fellow NT scholar high on my admiration list) on questions arising in the relatively-recent re-appearance of the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was a mythical figure (another of the “zombie” theories that I’ve mentioned:  ideas that get killed off with solid reasoning and evidence but then pop back up after a while when people who don’t know the history of scholarly debate hear it for the idea for the first time).  I suspect that my posting this will elicit a torrent of inadequately-informed comments (and abuse), but . . . what the hey.

Allison’s stance is likely representative of scholars, not just scholars in NT/Christian Origins, but also other historians of antiquity.  We’ve heard it all before.  It didn’t convince then, and it doesn’t now.  As he says, however, the new factor is the internet, which allows (for better or for worse) such ideas to be floated without first having to pass muster with appropriate critical testing.  (And, then, there is now also the “X-Files” mentality:  If the experts say something, it’s because they’re in a conspiracy and so “the truth is out there” somewhere else.  Sigh!)

Anyway, the link to the Allison interview is here.

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7 Comments
  1. J.J. permalink

    I like your “zombie theory” analogy.

    I think of mythicism as the “emperor’s new clothes.” They present themselves adorned in critical thinking superior to the masses… but if they only knew how naked they appear…

  2. Jonathan M. Bowman permalink

    Reblogged this on Messy Jesus and commented:
    Thank you Larry Hurtado!

  3. There’s always Bart Ehrman’s book as a refutation of mythicism.

    Just mention it to mythicists , and they will quake at the ideas and arguments and evidence that Ehrman presents.

    It is devastating to mythicists, who cannot find a single criticism worth pursuing.

  4. Eric Cramb permalink

    Hurtado writes: (And, then, there is now also the “X-Files” mentality: If the experts say something, it’s because they’re in a conspiracy and so “the truth is out there” somewhere else. Sigh!)

    I don’t know any mythicist who says this. Price? Thompson? Carrier? Brodie? Doherty? Wells? What is the source for this assertion? What mythicists have said this? The only one I can think of would be Acharya S and her followers, but I don’t believe she is taken seriously even by most serious mythicists and she is certainly not representative of them. It seems to me that this assertion is an ungentlemanly and unscholarly slur.

    • Eric: One has only to read comments to some previous postings here and elsewhere to see the “X-files mentality” to which I refer. I mean no slur to anyone. It’s simply a fact that there are now people whose response to statements that “most scholars think or don’t think X” is to dismiss this as “authoritarianism” and some sort of crypto-religious conspiracy.

  5. John Bavington permalink

    Great Comment Larry. I offer this encouragement in the hope your positive responses will counteract the inevitable negative ones. Thank you so much for your blog, which I find very helpful. In the twitter / facebook encounters I have with atheists, I find the attempt to mythologise Jesus and the gospel stories continually rearing its ugly head, and I think our task must just be to maintain as high a profile as possible and hold out for logic and reason and a humble faith. Your blog helps me to do this.

    • Well, John, my primary aim is simply to try to engage historical matters about Christian Origins as sensibly as I can. I’m aware that there is some sort of swirling controversy on this or that matter by people with faith or anti-faith concerns, but, honestly, I just want to try to get at the best historical understanding of things. Sometimes, I’ll upset some people of (certain kinds of) faith, and sometimes anti-faith people. I’m an equal-opportunity offender, I guess.

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