Joel Watts recently wrote:
One cannot easily deny their association with a group if they spend all of their time defending the ‘quality’, ‘truth’ claims, or ‘validity’ of said group.
Pick a side, Tom.
But I refuse to do so. The only honest position in this whole debate is on the side of doubt and agnosticism. Does he not know that the reason I am agnostic is because I am not convinced by arguments for historicity? It just so happens I think that some (please note: some–not all, not most) mythicists have sounder arguments about the state of the evidence (because historicists will often take that evidence for granted). That doesn’t mean I agree with their conclusion about historicity. Has Joel never cited a work or spoke praise of an argument from someone whom he didn’t agree with on everything? Or does he only cite someone with whom he completely agrees with on every point?
I think this is a logical fallacy latent in certain parts of scholarship. Just because I agree with certain arguments about the status of the evidence does not mean I agree with other conclusions. I don’t believe all the evidence is in and thus I remain unconvinced that Jesus did not exist. I also remain unconvinced that Jesus did exist. Frankly I find the whole question useless and currently unanswerable.
However, I do think that Ehrman makes a ton of mistakes and ignores a lot of relevant scholarship and as a result Carrier comes out looking the better because he doesn’t ignore that scholarship. I do not like ANY position based in presupposition. And frankly Carrier is more agnostic about historicity than any other mythicist I know.
Finally, I agree with a lot of historicists on subjects unrelated to historicity (like with mythicists). I like Crossley’s work, I like Crossan’s work (I really, really love Crossan’s work) and I think that Thomas Brodie’s arguments are outstanding. And all of these individuals are historicists. I also find a lot of what James McGrath says to be on the money about the socio-cultural world of second temple Judaism.
So Joel’s assertion that I disagree with historicists is just silly. I don’t agree with them on historicity–and I don’t agree with mythicists on that point either. But I have yet to see a historicist make a sound and reasoned argument without drawing on very crappy criteria and old data. I am hoping that Casey’s forthcoming work is better and more sound and from what I hear it will be. But Ehrman’s book is anything about good work.
Finally, I am surprised by Joel’s hypocritical suggestion that I ‘pick a side’ since he agrees with me! He finds the whole question unanswerable and irrelevant (though he believes in a historical Jesus, he argues we can never find that individual). And I say hypocritical since he sides with tons of historicists and never once makes even a passing agreeable comment about an argument from a mythicist! if his response is ‘well I just don’t find them convincing’, then he knows why I am not in agreement with historicists currently. That doesn’t make me a mythicist, however.