Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why Isn't Jesus Mythicism Taken Seriously In The Field?

According to Dr. Richard Carrier, the history of the mythicist debate is relevant:

  • Over the last 100 years there have been many terrible and outright crank arguments that Jesus was a myth. They were often logically fallacious or they had uncorroborated fact claims, and so many scholars in the field have simply dismissed new arguments as being of the previous kind and have assumed that they've already dealt with all such claims and that they've all been debunked.
  • Much of the push back has come from scholars in the field who are either Christian, so they cannot accept that Jesus didn't exist for the obvious reasons, or they're in secular schools that are integrated into the Jesus studies academic network and they're relying on grants and donations that are heavily controlled by Christian donors and cannot concede mythicism or historicity agnosticism for that obvious reason. 
  • Scholars can get punished by their colleagues, and there are some historicity agnostics who will not go on record out of fear of losing their jobs. 
  • For example, in the 1970s when Thomas Thompson argued that Moses didn't exist, some of his colleagues tried to forcibly remove him from conferences and tried and get him fired. Now Moses mythicism is the mainstream view among scholars and Thompson has been vindicated. Jesus mythicism might be the same way in the next few decades.
  • In the last 10 years or so, many new effective arguments have developed that have cut out the bad arguments completely using new evidence scholarly methodology and have gone through peer reviewed academic standards. Dr. Carrier's book On The Historicity Of Jesus includes them and has been peer reviewed by a major academic press.

Are we on the cusp of a major revolution in biblical studies on the historicity of Jesus in the same way we were on the historicity of Moses and the patriarchs 40 years ago? Only time will tell. My prediction is that we are, and that once the good arguments get their due and the field of biblical studies changes such that scholars do not have to worry about their career if they become agnostic, we will see more and more scholars accept the arguments. And this will further facilitate Jesus mythicism among lay people, as we're already starting to see, and as a result Christianity will continue to perpetually decline, much to the dismay of Christians.

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