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“The Real Jesus”in National Geographic

December 11, 2017

I noticed when making a hurried visit to a local supermarket last evening that (just in time for Christmas) the current issue of National Geographic (Dec 2017) has its cover story: “The Real Jesus.”    “Mythicists” will be disappointed, as the author (Kristin Romey) dismisses the option in one paragraph.

She writes: “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is pure invention?  It’s an assertion that’s championed by some outspoken skeptics–but not, I discovered, by scholars, particularly archaeologists, whose work tends to bring flights of fancy down to earth” (pp. 41-42).  Ouch!!

Or how about her quote of Eric Meyers (archaeologist and emeritus Professor in Judaic Studies, Duke University):  “I don’t know any mainstream scholar who doubts the historicity of Jesus.  . . The details have been debated for centuries, but no one who is serious doubts that he’s a historical figure” (p. 42).

And then she cites Byron McCane (Florida Atlantic University), and John Dominic Crossan (co-chair of the Jesus Seminar) to the same effect.

This, of course, is more a journalist’s report on scholarly views, not an original judgement.  But it reflects what many of us have been saying when asked about the “mythical Jesus” claim.  No real traction among scholars.

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  1. The rest of the article reviews the archeological evidence that has confirmed the accuracy of the gospels in describing first century Judea and Galilee, often surprising the archeologists. The gospels keep getting more aligned with the facts that can be ascertained today. The authors had at or near the source of the events described.

  2. Somewhere out there, Bob Price and Richard Carrier just knocked over a newsstand carrying that issue!

  3. That is a pleasant surprise coming from NatGeo. During recent years I have seen quite a bit of “weird” shows produced by them and Discovery Channel concerning e.g. Early Christian communities/doctrines etc. In fact, at a certain point I even told my students that in the eventuality of becoming a millionaire, I shall establish a TV network called “National Theologic”, in which I will only produce and disseminate worldwide documentaries and shows apparently related to geography. And, of course, perhaps as a result of some divine revelation, I shall purposefully represent volcanic rocks and mountains as being “folded”, shall label “limestone” as “granite”, “basalt” as “anthracite” etc., just to give them a bit of work, because they certainly have been giving me some over these years, especially since contemporary students prefer the 45-minute wonders of celluloid as opposed to the old-fashioned books with hundreds of boring pages in them (mostly devoid of pictures!), and come “well informed” to your lectures. Could it be possible that I can now finally become a millionaire without actually having to throw money out just to irritate people (following the advice of the Monty Python boys), and spend it on charity instead? What a relief!

  4. I like what Jonathan Bernier said on his blog.

    “Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads).”

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