I am enjoying James’ discussion of Doherty’s book, and have largely left myself out of the conversation as I have stopped defining myself as a mythicist and more a historical Jesus agnostic. But I would like to highlight a problem I see continuously in James’ critique, as interesting as it has been. He writes:
Obviously mythicism is unlike the various forms of creationism in that it is saying “Somebody did it” and not the much more scientifically/historically/academically/intellectually problematic “God/aliens/an Intelligent Designer did it.” But as always, that has not been the point of my comparison. Doherty’s mythicist “case” is like that of creationists in more important ways. It offers a “solution” to unsolved historical/scientific mysteries that is not completely satisfying, and at best “possible” without clearly being preferable.
This is an unfair analysis. The truth is that historicists don’t offer a solution either. In fact often historical Jesus scholars will speculate on parts of the narrative in ways which are hypocritical or otherwise promote double-standards in exegesis, in most cases asking the reader to ‘beg the question‘ along with them.
This is not an attack on historical Jesus scholarship, but rather an elevation of a continuing problem in Jesus research. That is to say, everyone points at earlier research or new research and calls it out as ‘unsatisfying’ or ‘insufficient’ but while consistently ignoring the thorn in their own eyes. I haven’t read James’ books on the subject, but I suspect from what arguments I have read from James that James does in fact make the same sorts of insufficient judgments that Doherty makes, he just makes them in different ways, about different parts of the text (and that shouldn’t be read as ‘better ways’ or ‘correct parts of the text’). Methodology is the problem, because that influences the exegesis. And that stands true for all historical Jesus research, from mythicists and historical Jesus scholars, and everyone in between.
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