Defining Mythicism: My Struggle with the Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus

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

21 Responses

  1. Thanks for doing this Tom. Although I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to really contribute to this, I appreciate what you’re proposing, and have posted a link here with a few thoughts, encouraging others to chime in on this.

  2. Wow, speaking of “hyperbolic or indefensible arguments,” there are no “aliens” or pyramid builders mentioned in Zeitgeist part 1. And, you still haven’t actually read anything by Acharya S so, I’m not sure why you even mention her except, of course, to sling more smears as per usual.

    Dr. James F. McGrath is too much of an intellectual coward to discuss her work on mythicism as well. McGrath just removes any mention of her from his blog even though Acharya S has already created a mythicist position almost 2 years ago. I’m sure it’s where you and McGrath got the idea too. McGrath does have a Ph.D. however, the only thing I’ve seen from him regarding mythicism on his blog has been derogatory remarks and ridicule so, it should be no surprise that you two get along so well.

    The Mythicist Position – video

    What is a Mythicist?
    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/mythicist.html

    The History of Mythicism
    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/mythicism.html

    For further explanation see, The Evemerist vs. Mythicist Position
    http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2160

    Zeitgeist Part 1 & the Supportive Evidence
    http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2997

    The New ZEITGEIST Part 1 Sourcebook (2010)
    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/zeitgeistsourcebook.pdf

    I fully expect you to respond with the “fanboy” name-calling crap as usual but, it may be wise to read up on what your hero Carrier has been up to as well as other prominent atheists plagiarizing Acharya’s work and trying to pass it off as their own.

    Richard Carrier on Zeitgeist part 1
    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=20752#p20752

    American Atheist Plagiarizes Acharya’s Work?
    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=21268#p21268

    As someone else pointed out:

    “If Acharya is so wrong then why are highly respected atheists such as “Edward Kagin,” who is a lawyer and member of American Atheists’ Board of Directors plagiarizing her work and trying to pass it off as their own? Doesn’t this fly in face of those atheists who are so rigidly against Acharya and her work?”

    Yes, it most certainly does.

  3. You really need to pay more attention to what you read. I didn’t say Zeitgeist mentioned aliens or pyramid builders. I said that the movie was akin to a program that made those sorts of claims. In other words, Zeitgeist is a lot of sensationalist, hyperbolic, incredible claims which are not supported by solid data or actual argumentation. It’s a lot of “well ‘a’ is similar to ‘c’, therefore assume what ‘b’ is and force the evidence to equal causation.” Also, why would you assume I haven’t read anything by Acharya S? You have access to my personal library, do you?

    As for your links, I found none of them helpful. Not one. It’s a lot of parroted comments from people who have little or no understanding about historical methodology, cultural milieux from antiquity, current trends in academic thought, new studies about cultural identity, etc…. Essentially it’s a lot of people sitting around complaining about not being taken seriously, but you don’t present anything worth being taken seriously!

    Further, James is far from an “intellectual coward.” You seem to equate “people with whom I disagree” with “people who are intellectually cowardice.” It’s a cheap shot at best and, what’s more, it is ignorance at its worst. You are fast to accuse me of not reading anything by Acharya S, but have you read any of James’ books? Have you read his arguments? He holds an academic position of some great import and I would add that his credentials are quite solid. I don’t see you drumming up useful arguments with any critical thought against any position he has raised against mythicism.

    And if I call you a ‘fanboy’ it is because you fit the definition. It isn’t meant negatively or derogatorily, but it is a true statement. You eagerly await any sort of negative comment about Acharya and swoop down like a vulture or some other type of carrion-eating bird of prey and defend, without the slightest shred of civility, the honor of Dorothy Murdoch. Look, I get it, this is what you do. But it isn’t what I do. I think for myself, I analyze the evidence–and more importantly, I know what constitutes evidence, which is something upon which you desperately need to become educated.

    I also find that thread, where you argue Richard Carrier is ‘bias’, to be a back-patting session where someone does nothing but post publishing information as evidence of “thorough sources” or whatever. This is a testament to your ignorance, if nothing else. The weight of an argument is not in the publisher of the source citation (I know a lot of books published by solid academic presses that are quite worthless), it’s in the content. If Acharya says something like “most scholars agree this pharaoh ruled during this dynasty” and cites a source from Brill, that does not mean (a) the source has bearing on her case for mythicism as it only is useful about a certain statistic dealing with a dynastic ruler of Egypt and (b) cannot be considered part of the overall evidential source citations because it does not support an argument (it supports a statistic which is only related to the argument). Her arguments are supported primarily by her own work or by dated sources from generations ago which are no longer relevant.

    There is a reason why scholars cringe at the thought of citing their own work more than a handful of times in an academic paper or book. In fact if you bother to pick up a book by say Crossan, or McGrath, or any of these ‘intellectual cowards’ (as you would probably dub them), you’d notice that they rarely, if ever, draw from their own material. They might have 279 sources or more, but they may only cite themselves once, twice at best, or they might cite an edited volume that they put together, but the actual citation will be from an essay someone else wrote. That Acharya felt the need to cite herself as much as she does is simply horrid and a little egotistical. Scholarship is not a one-woman show. The Academe is a large body of scholars, with varied backgrounds, from around the world which make up different fields from all sorts of sciences and if Acharya can’t find a source beyond her own material to prove a point, there is probably a very good reason for it. It is not that she found 78 cases of ignorance, mishap, shoddiness, or misconduct with translations–it is more likely that the arguments she makes run counter to the evidence and data we have or, being that she makes hyperbolic claims, the statements she makes argue for a position that reaches beyond what we can and cannot say about the evidence because we simply don’t have enough to make an honest positional claim about it.

    Finally, I am sorry you feel the need to claim that Richard is my hero. This is clearly a projection on your part, a reflection of your feelings about Acharya and I can appreciate that, and I can also shrug it off just as easily. Richard is a colleague, indeed a good friend, but he and I disagree on more than a few items related to historicity, the value of ancient history, and so forth. I, unlike you, do not have a desire to google search or blog stalk anyone who has a dissenting opinion of Richard; he’s a more-than-competent scholar who can easily defend himself. He’s a grown man, doesn’t need me baby-sitting his good name. He handles criticism quite well without me. I barely have the time to keep up with my own problems and my own life. If Acharya has a problem with me, the things I say, or the things Richard says, or the things James says, she can handle it like every other scholar or academic–create a blog and say so herself. Or, better yet, publish a dissenting article on an online journal like Bible and Interpretation, or even do the professional thing and write a book or a paper and work towards publishing it academically. It’s not easy, but it would gain her more notoriety and respect than simply writing irritable messages on a message board, isolated from the rest of the Academe.

  4. Writers from a variety of backgrounds are mentioned in one breath with mythicism. If the term were to be given a restrictive definition, it should be reserved for a definable school of thought rather than an arbitrary collection of books written by mavericks and eccentrics. (Freke and Gandy, Acharya S, and Zindler can hardly be seen as representing a school.) The main proponents of mythicism are remembered today almost exclusively because they are mentioned in Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus. Mythicism, in this restricted sense, started with Bruno Bauer and ended shortly before World War II.

    I have often wondered whether or not the timing was coincidental. The death of mythicism marks the beginning of a new era of dialogue between Christianity and Judaism. The Christian complicity in the Holocaust made biblical scholars realize that, if Christianity were to survive as a morally credible religion, a climate of reconciliation had to be established. Guarding the historicity of Jesus against mythicist attacks may have been seen as a critical factor for keeping the dialogue with Judaism open. After all, searching for the historical Jesus is the same as searching for the Judaic roots of Christianity. Baseless rumors that Soviet scholars were keeping the mythicist case alive in the 1950s made the choice even easier. Finally, Arthur Drews, the most prolific mythicist of the 1930s, was in many ways a prejudiced man.

    What I am trying to say is that mythicism, as a term, should probably be reserved for Bruno Bauer, the Dutch radicals, etc. Present-day mythicism could be referred to as a “minimalist” approach to the New Testament. When dating the earliest Christian writings, we should begin where we can be certain that the literature existed, and after that we should proceed with our quest for a possibly earlier date. A late date would be compatible with the mythicist case.

  5. Michael, I find I agree with much of what you said. You make some great points and raise some interesting concerns, many I share. The one that has troubled me is that the term is so dated; when you say ‘mythicist’ to a modern scholar, they do think about Bauer and Drews. That is a concern. Of course, I find historicism to be similar, in terms of recollection and association, as I can’t help but think of Schweitzer and Reimarus and Bornkamm and Conzelmann. I believe minimalism is probably the more appropriate terminology to use, especially when describing myself, but this is part of redefining the terminology and deciding what to do with it. Thank you for your thoughts; if you have any additional comments or ideas, please express them!

  6. “why would you assume I haven’t read anything by Acharya S?”

    Because you admitted it over at the RRS forum. Your “brief review” blog about Acharya S is pure intellectual dishonesty as you have never read the book “Suns of God” you pretended to be reviewing.

    “Her arguments are supported primarily by her own work or by dated sources from generations ago which are no longer relevant. ”

    Thank you for the inadvertent admission that you have NOT read her work. You clearly have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about here at all. Acharya S has several books and she cites numerous highly respected scholars throughout them and that’s what she cites – because she already covered it. You’d already know this if you read her work. You’re just parroting Carrier without any clue what you’re talking about and it was thoroughly addressed in that thread.

    Oh, Carrier also says we shouldn’t listen to anyone unless they have a Ph.D. All you have is a high school education yet, use to claim you were a “Historian, bible and ancient text expert,” remember? So, according to Carrier nobody should listen to you at all. You are not skilled in “historical methodology” so don’t even pretend like you are. You seem to have a habit of this:

    Rook Hawkins “Historian, bible and ancient text expert”
    http://www.rookhawkins.com/1.html

    “I am sorry you feel the need to claim that Richard is my hero. This is clearly a projection on your part, a reflection of your feelings about Acharya”

    LMAO!:

    Pissed…Submitted by Rook_Hawkins on August 26, 2006

    “In fact, when Richard Carrier … (He’s my hero.)”
    http://www.rationalresponders.com/pissed

    http://rationalresponders.blogspot.com/2007/11/rook-hawkins-review-of-acharya-s.html

    “Richard is a colleague”

    Carrier does not consider you a colleague at all.

    “If Acharya has a problem with me…”

    No, no Rook, it’s YOU who have the problem with her. Acharya S has never done anything to you but you have been smearing her for years even though you’ve never read her work. Don’t try to blame everybody else for you own issues. Her work is far superior to anything you will ever do and that really pisses you off. You’re just jealous of her and you always have been, same as Carrier.

  7. I don’t know whats more pathetic, your delusions about me or the fact that the only response you could come up with is to drudge up comments (quote mining) from over four years ago. In case you haven’t noticed, I have not been a member of the RRS for at least two and a half years (more like three years) and it is no longer 2006 or 2007. In fact we’re heading into the home stretch now; 2010 is almost over. A lot happens in four years. For example, I no longer agree with many of the positions I once held. I also no longer use a pseudonym (so you can put aside the snide, ignorant, cocky usage of ‘Rook’ as if you somehow know me–Tom is fine). Unlike you, I have decided to stop hiding behind anonymity; I take responsibility for what I say and what I have said, which is what honest people do. I also no longer call myself a historian nor do I call myself an ancient text expert. I’m back in school working towards a degree so I can earn those titles. So while you might think you’re clever (clever, by the way, is often the antithesis of ‘right’), pulling out things I said from when I was younger, more immature, during a time when I made some bad decisions, is just an indication that you have no real argument and, instead of actually presenting something substantial, you would rather attempt to assassinate my character. Good luck. You’ll find I have pretty thick skin. But don’t whine that you’re not being taken seriously. Nobody likes a crybaby who throws tantrums in the middle of a supermarket.

    Also, you assume way, way too much and about things for which you clearly have no understanding. An example; you claim that (a) Richard would say not to take me seriously and (b) that he would never consider me a colleague. That’s a rather amusing statement. In fact it was so amusing, I had to call Richard up and laugh with him about how silly of a statement it is, before we moved onto other, more important subjects. Richard and I have been friends now for some time (since at least 2005 or so) and, in fact, have been exchanging relevant information about our books since their conceptualization. When my book comes out, he’ll be citing it in his. So whoever you’re getting your information from is lying to you, or you’re making it up and are just delusional.

    Richard would also never state that “we shouldn’t listen to anyone unless they have a Ph.D.” You might be falsely inferring this, but Richard clearly would be contradicting himself if he had said that (and I know for a fact he hasn’t–not since I’ve known him). He regularly promotes Doherty’s work, for example, and Doherty doesn’t have a PhD. In fact he’s been promoting his book for the last, what, ten years? So you’re simply wrong. Now, he does criticize certain individuals who don’t have PhD’s, or he might say, for example, that people with PhD’s are certified as proficient, and are reliable, but he always clarifies his statements. Since you didn’t provide a link or a quote from Carrier, it’s obvious you couldn’t find something to quote mine. Once more you’re either being lied to, or you’re delusional.

    But here is the deal. I have been patient with you. This will be the last comment of yours I allow on my blog, unless you (a) start using your real name (and I expect some level of verification you are who you say you are) because I disapprove of anonymous comments–it’s childish and I’ve learned the hard way that it’s dishonest (which is why I no longer post anonymously), and (b) you start participating in the discussion rather than hijacking it for your fanboy agenda. Nobody important cares about what I said or did when I was younger; I’ve worked hard to make amends for my past, including being very open about my past mistakes. So if you can’t do those two, simple, civil things, then you’re not welcome to post here. I hope that’s clear.

  8. Hi Tom, I’m been working along these same lines of thought as you. I’ve written two books that I think you would find quite agreeable.

    I often find myself quite at odds with many “mythicists”, due to many of the same reasons that you note.

    My position is based on a lot of my own research, and is that the Jesus cult began as an evolution of earlier Jewish messianic and apocalyptic movements and writings from 2nd century BCE-1st century BCE.

    Whereas the more typical Jewish view was of a human messiah, the Jesus cult is fundamentally based on the concept of a heavenly messiah, which is why we have the whole notion of the messiah coming to destroy the world,etc., the notion being that the material world is hopelessly corrupt.

    We see this in Paul.

    I contend that every single account of the “life and deeds” of Jesus is based on the “Gospel of Mark”, which was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE, as an intentional allegorical fiction. This was a work written as fiction, intended to be read as fiction.

    We can tell this is fiction due to the extensive use of literary allusion in the work. The use of literary allusion to the Hebrew scriptures was interpreted by others as “prophecy fulfillment”, and the work became believed as reality within a very short time. All other accounts of the “life of Jesus” stem from this initial fictional story.

    In about a month I’m going to start work on a new article covering the origins of Christianity and its texts and going up through about the 6th century, trying to weed out the truth from the fiction in the works of the early Christians. What happened was this fictional account became accepted as “history”, and it also became a template for many more fabrications. Virtually all of the stories about the early saints and the so-called disciples are also fabricated and can pretty easily be shown as such, and that’s what ‘ll get into.

    My analysis of Mark:
    http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/gospel_mark.htm

    Overall argument against historical existence:
    http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

    You can read the preview of the “Jesus a Very Jewish Myth” here, which pretty much lays out the thesis:
    http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/jesus—a-very-jewish-myth/2079912

  9. You may want to hold off on writing anything about the subject until the collection of essays I’m coediting comes out sometime this year. There are some great contributions in there that you might want to discuss or cite in your work. Just a suggestion, of course. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Hello Tom
    Many thanks for sharing your comments about the intellectual struggle surrounding the historicity of Jesus and the debate over mythicism. It’s great that you are encouraging scholars to question the philosophical assumptions within theology.

    I was rather surprised to read your suggestion that Acharya S is a shoddy scholar. I have read a number of her books and have been extremely impressed by the wealth of knowledge and attention to detail she brings to the analysis of Christian origins. I would agree there is room for debate about specifics in her writing, but you should see that her pioneering work on myth is breaking open a new paradigm to set Christian religion within a more authentic frame of its emergence from a milieu of spiritual ferment. The links to Egypt have been highly controversial since ancient times, as Giordano Bruno found to his cost.

    I see your point though that “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.” To get ahead in the world you have to conform to existing orthodox authorities rather than listen to radical outsiders. It was ever thus, as even Jesus points out in his conversations with the Pharisees.

    I can’t help but feeling that your interest in myth will lead you to a reappraisal of Acharya’s contribution.

    Kind Regards
    Robert Tulip

  11. You and I are going to have to disagree on a lot of what you said. Acharya does not actually examine the cultural milieux of the time but creates a fictional one of her own means; the truth is that there is not just one cultural milieu. Her work on astrotheology demands something from antiquity which never truly existed–a societal monolith perspective about the stars and spirituality. It is also not the link between Judaism, Christianity, and Egypt which is controversial (in fact most scholars would agree with the link, just based on books presented by Hellenistic scholars for generations; see Barclay, Tcherikover, Bickerman, Hengel, Schwartz, Collins, Gruen, and the like)–the controversial part is in her parallelism between Jesus and Isis and Horus, and also in her links between Jesus and the far East. These links are only made through shoddy means and misinformation. So I can never reappraise Acharya’s work or her contribution–if she has made a positive one at all is even in question, as far as I’m concerned–as long as she continues to argue for astrotheology and parallelism.

    But that aside, I do appreciate your tone and your civility. I would disagree with your notion that “you have to conform to existing orthodox authorities”–that is spoken by someone who, forgive me, is far outside the fields of the Academe. In truth, controversy is part of being a scholar (and, unfortunately, so is drama and politics). The so-called ‘Orthodox authorities’ have not had control over the flow of the Academe since at least the 1830’s, though more officially the 1950’s (if memory serves) when, at a ecumenical council, the Catholic Church accepted the new scholarly frontier that had been advancing for decades previous.

    The issue with Acharya and other more popular lay-mythicists is that they simply refuse to go through with legitimizing their publications, their perspectives. The point of having academic publishers, of having peer review, is so that everyone in the Academe has a chance to respond–especially those whose niche fits the field you are writing about. This allows other experts in your field to judge the work you write and offer comments, compliments, or critiques. You will, of course, have a chance to respond to all of them; the value of this is so that if your ideas are correct, other peers will see this and adopt it and utilize it. If they are wrong or incorrect, you can change your perspectives or advance new ones based on more information. This is not just a tedious process to undertake–it is an academic responsibility. It keeps scholars honest and thinking. To ignore this process is to permit your work to be shunned, to be ignored, and with good reason. You’re essentially saying that “my work doesn’t deserve to be accepted into the academic forum” when you refuse to publish academically. And whats more, why should a scholar, between writing his many lesson plans, grading papers, submitting papers for presentations at conferences, editing manuscripts for publications (in some instances, looking over grant proposals), along with other academic and life responsibilities, take the time to read a book, proposing a consensus-defying perspective, if the author didn’t have the integrity to publish it through an appropriate press? More often than not, the scholar will go with a work, that might be just as controversial and consensus-defying, which has been published through appropriate means and will use that. Most scholars will use their school libraries, where academic books are easily available and where Acharya’s books will most likely not be found. Do you see why it is important? Do you see its necessity? It has nothing to do with ‘orthodox authorities’ and everything to do with personal integrity. Part of that is using a pseudonym. She should have dropped the faux name before she published her books. Academics have an extreme distaste for people who use pseudegraphical names instead of their real ones because it implies that the author does not want to take responsibility for their own words.

    Anyway, I’ve said enough on this subject I think. Thank you again for your comment. I hope you offer more on the discussion as it continues to move forward.

  12. Thanks Tom. To clarify, what I meant by ‘orthodoxy’ was not dogmatic Christian faith but rather the existence of a prevailing consensus that despises and rejects contrary views. I think this is exactly the situation with regard to mythicism, which is excluded from debate by both the atheist and the theist camps because it seeks to build a bridge between them. The shunning of writers such as Earl Doherty and DM Murdock has more to do with the content of their research than their process of publication. Both have tried to participate in dialogue with the academic establishment, but have encountered such censorious narrow dogmatic attitudes that they felt going through mainstream channels would be like selling their souls to the devil in a Faustian pact. In order to maintain their integrity and academic freedom they have insisted on the right to control their own writing. This was the context of my comment about Jesus and the Pharisees. He condemned the religious leaders as hypocrites for relying on the appearance of honesty while actually being totally dishonest.

    The problem with mythicism is that it exposes the feet of clay of orthodox faith by subjecting Christianity to the same evidentiary criteria as any normal subject. You are correct that the Roman Catholic Church and its allies no longer exercise formal control of the boundaries of heresy in academic discourse. However, there are still informal cultural means of control, as you alluded in your comment about career suicide. In Christian terms, anyone with the radical honesty to examine the truth of the origins of the Bible is walking the path of the cross, defying the establishment with a kenotic sacrificial attitude that puts their own reputation as of less account that bigger questions of integrity and truth. If Jesus Christ were alive today he would be a mythicist.

  13. Forgive me, but I think you’re mistaken. How many papers have you tried to publish academically? How many journals have you read? Monographs? I respect your opinion and your right to it, but you are misrepresenting the Academe here to a degree that is problematic.

    Does the field have problems? Yes, certainly. Are there those in the Academe who disregard consensus-defying perspectives? Are there those who shun the works of scholars with whom they disagree? Oh yes, of course there are. But there are many more scholars, certainly more than half of the Academe, spanning all sorts of fields which deal with the Bible (be it Religious studies, or Theology, or Biblical studies, or New Testament, or anthropology) who would rightly be offended by your denouncement of them in this way.

    The truth is, Robert, that you have to really try hard not to get published. You’re probably right; Acharya S avoids the Academic circles–but it is not because her views would not be welcome! If anything, she is hurting herself more and more by shunning the other side and labeling them as “dogmatists” or “orthodoxists” or whatever she wants to call them. If her perspective is correct, scholarship will have no choice but to side with it. It won’t happen over night, but with one published paper comes many. And after a while what started will grow into an inferno. This is how change occurs in academia.

    I’m sorry but what you’ve offered here is not a solid reason; its an excuse. She either recognizes that her contributions are flawed, inaccurate, or unworthy–she knows that her conclusions will crumble the second they come under scrutiny–or she is simply cynical and callous. If its the latter, she need not be. The world is far different than it was a few decades ago. But throwing stones will not bring her friends quickly; she risks completely isolating herself and, while that is fine for people who presume to ignore the vast leaps that scholars are continuing to make throughout the Academe, for those of us who are a part of it, her self-exile is for the best. If she doesn’t feel like she belongs here, it is probably because she doesn’t. I still wait for the day when she will prove me wrong and submit a paper on her parallels, or on astrotheology, or on the influence of the far East, to a journal for publication.

  14. I wish you were right Tom that universities are searching objectively for truth. Unfortunately, I fear that the politics of conformity to the status quo makes it very difficult for dissenting voices to be heard.

    You make an excellent point that dissenters face much greater onus to present their arguments in a simple and persuasive way. I think this may be part of the problem with the writing of Murdock, that she has a vision of an alternative cosmology (which I largely share) but she has not engaged sufficiently in dialogue to find what it is about her ideas that people find preposterous.

    It raises the philosophical problem of whether astrotheology exposes deep assumptions in mainstream thought. To date, we see that mythicists have assembled building blocks for a critique of conventional Christian cosmology, but have not provided a persuasive or compelling explanation of how those building blocks fit together.

    When the implication is that people should abandon long held and cherished ideas about the historical Christ, the burden of proof for mythicists must go beyond an intuitive sense that Jesus is a myth to the articulation of a new logical framework for theology.

  15. I just don’t see how you make the logical leap from “ideas that people find preposterous” to “astrotheology exposes deep assumptions in mainstream thought.” The truth is, it makes no sense historically. I have raised this issue over and over again on my blog already. It presupposes things about ancient society which make absolutely no sense. It makes judgments and presumes cultural climates which never existed! The reason Acharya S doesn’t have the support in this area is because she is simply wrong. It has nothing to do with exposing “deep assumptions.”

    Further, you’re wrong about mythicists (and try not to combine them all under one umbrella). Cosmology doesn’t fit into Christianity as whole; only a few sects of Christianity follow(ed) some sort of astrological or cosmological flow, and these sects have long since died out or were pushed out, and they weren’t ever that big (the very fact that scholars are aware of these sects and accept this shows the err of your perspective). Whatever New Age Christianity exists today which follows this sort of mentality does not make up most Christians and certainly cannot be said to predate modern Orthodoxy. So I am not sure why one needs to create a fictional social structure to Christianity; it doesn’t exist now and doesn’t need to exist. This is part of the trouble with astrotheology; you have to create entire social constructs and religious constructs which were never there to begin with.

    As for a new logical framework, how many other mythicists have you read? Astrotheology doesn’t articulate an existing framework, it creates one ex nihilo! If you want a good theological articulation for mythicism, focus on real scholars like Richard Carrier or Thomas Thompson who provide more logical, socially-realistic explanations for mythicism than anything Acharya S could put out on the subject.

    Finally, your cynicism of the Academe seems like a personal grudge, or perhaps you are just misinformed (like I believe to be the case). But your presumption that the status quo makes it difficult for dissenting voices is false. Have you been paying any attention to the recent (for lack of a better term) uprising against SBL’s attempt to censor a scholar’s paper because of the word “sausage?” The innuendo produced by the title of the paper caused some to try to suppress it and bring it more in line with the status quo…and scholars everywhere are fighting it. They might not even agree with the paper, but the Academe will not sit by and allow a fellow to be swept under the rug. And this is true for many subjects, including mythicism. You don’t give academics enough credit. And your cynicism is only blinding you to the truth.

  16. Thanks again Tom, I appreciate your views.

    My opinion is that the Great Year of precession of the equinox provides the basis for a new paradigm in which astrotheology will be validated.

    An essential idea is that the movement of the equinox from the sign of Aries to the sign of Pisces at the time of Christ provided the basis for the myth of Jesus as the alpha and omega. I see this idea as the scientific foundation for astrotheology.

    I would like to to strip away all the speculation and error that have beset this area of study in order to examine how this alpha and omega theme provides the most parsimonious and elegant explanation for the origins of the Christ myth as a story about the stars.

    By this theory the line in the Lord’s Prayer ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ is a hope that the observed heavenly motion from the alpha age Aries to the omega age Pisces is reflected in a literal historical story of events on earth. This mode of interpretation provides a compelling basis for naturalistic reading of the entire New Testament.

  17. This is not a theory you present; its a hypothetical based on no evidence except your own imagination. I’m sorry but speculation is not helpful. But good luck with trying to gain acceptance for it.

  18. Tom, this blog is not the place to present the argument for mythicism, and your reactions show how easy it is to brush off such claims when presented in summary, so I don’t propose to continue the debate further here, except to make the following concluding comments.

    The psychological, cultural, political and historical case for the fictional construction of the Jesus character should be persuasive to those who approach the evidence with an open mind. The framework of the Great Year of precession of the equinox provides a compelling natural basis for the Christ Myth hypothesis, but this framework has been so mixed up with unscientific views that dialogue has been stymied. My ambition is to show that this natural precessional cosmology provides the most likely explanation for the emergence of Christianity.

  19. I’m not dismissing it; I haven’t heard a solid case for it yet. You’ve given me a summary and your opinion of the conclusion. But until an actual paper can be presented or published, I can’t make an informed decision on the evidence. Once again, I wish you luck and look forward to seeing your argument laid out, in detail, in an academic journal sometime in the near future.

  20. […] quite apposite parallels with creationism. (And for
    the avoidance of doubt, I do not include Jesus agnostic or
    minimalist positions in this […]

  21. […] My Struggle With the Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus […]

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