Saturday, July 30, 2005

Some interesting develops in the land of the Jesus Myth.

Richard Carrier, the closest that the Internet Infidels have to a resident scholar, has announced his conversion to mythicism. Exactly why remains unclear but it is related to the old canard that you can reconstruct the New Testament with the Old Testament and thus there is no need to posit any underlying historical facts in the Gospels. While there is undoubtedly a lot of OT influence in the Gospels, I find the idea that Mark's artless and rather poorly executed hodge-podge of episodes is actually a devilishly clever retelling of many different bits of the OT rather unconvincing. Mark's Gospel reads like the recollection of lots of stories that the author has heard, thrown together into something approaching a narrative, which is exactly what church tradition says it is. Mark as the literary and creative genius just won't wash in the face of a text that was patently not written by anyone of the kind.

On the other hand, GakuseiDon has written a telling critique of Doherty's use of second century Christian apologists. Doherty likes to claim that many of these writers didn't believe in a historical Jesus and thus the idea that Jesus never existed was accepted in parts of the early church. GakuseiDon analyses the relevant texts and refutes Doherty's suggestion. But is it fatal to Doherty's entire thesis? Probably not. The dividing line that he can always point to (assuming he does retreat from his second century examples) is the Jewish revolt ending in 70AD. Aside from Paul, getting back before that is always hard (although Hebrews is a big help here), and the only way to kill mythicism is to prove that Paul knew of a historical Jesus. Given almost all scholars (all until Carrier's so far unexplained conversion) already think this is proven, the argument is unlikely to develop. What we need is someone very good at Greek to carefully analyse the relevant Pauline passages with all the critical apparatus that is available. Then we will see where we are. I suppose the advent of computerised texts does make this much easier, though.

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