Over the last four years, I have called myself a mythicist. However, according to the current, if not outmoded, accepted vernacular definition of the term, I have not really been a mythicist for the last two of those four years at least. I do not ascribe to any of the current popular mythicist theories. I think the movie Zeitgeist is a work akin to shows where aliens are portrayed as the builders of the pyramids, I think authors like Acharya S are shoddy in their scholarship and often make hyperbolic or indefensible arguments, and, perhaps only with the exception of Earl Doherty (but I have not read his new book, so I am not certain how much his arguments have improved since his last book), there is no suitable book on the position that I find remotely accurate enough to support. And here is my dilemma.
At a recent lecture a few weeks ago when someone brought books out during the Q&A session by Freke and Gandy I immediately denounced them and expressed caution and concern towards trusting anything in them without extensive further investigation and research. One member at the lecture informed me that by distancing myself from these books, I was committing character-suicide within the freethought and humanist communities because there are so many individuals who accept these books and media as fact, to which I responded that my concern was not my image so much as it has been fighting misinformation. If anything, I would add now in retrospect, books like these and movies like Zeitgeist continue to earn negative reception in the academic community and with good reason. If anything, accepting the current mythicist media is really akin to committing career suicide, especially if you work (or have plans to one day work) in any field of Biblical studies or religious studies.
That is my point. I have given up mythicism as it is currently defended and defined; to be blunt, I find myself wondering if it is not time that we reexamine the definition currently in use and come up with more acceptable definitions that conform to the modern state of academia. However I stress that I don’t want to work against modern scholarship to achieve this end. Instead, I would like to work with them, including one of the main detractors of mythicism, James McGrath (indeed, I have an open invitation to him requesting a new bloggersation about this very issue). The goal is to come to an understanding with historicists, to come up with an adequate definition which will, for better or for worse, be acceptable to the Academe. James has already suggested we establish a definition that differentiates those positions which are better expressed by Jesus agnosticism and minimalism. After some consideration, I agree, and the best way to distinguish between these elements is to first have a better grasp of ‘Mythicism proper’. And the first order of business, in my opinion, is to break it down and start with clearly defining what ‘myth’ means. So my next blog on this subject will follow with how I feel myth is currently defined, how it relates to New Testament, and what implications it has towards redefining and understanding mythicism in a new and more useful way.
UPDATE: James McGrath posted a few remarks here: http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2010/10/defining-mythicism.html