Four Tactics of Jesus Mythers

With people like Richard Carrier, Robert Price and a few others, the Jesus myther crowd will always have its adherents. But the reality is the internet is the real reason there are still some mythers out there. I tend to not debate the existence of Jesus anymore. Anyway, here are some common tactics I see by the Jesus myther crowd.

#1: There are no contemporary sources outside the New Testament that speak about Jesus!

Most people that make this assertion either assume the New Testament is biased (which means the authors are lying and making up the story), because it was written by the ‘insiders.’ Hence, we have to punt to what we have outside the NT. And hopefully if we do have anything written about Jesus outside the NT, they are written by non-Christians which equates to pure objectivity and no propaganda. In this case, let’s take a little quiz:

#1. What is the earliest record for the death and resurrection of Jesus? If you answer that it is somewhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, you guessed wrong.

#2. Louis Reichenthal Gottschalk says the following:

“Written and oral sources are divided into two kinds: primary and secondary. A primary source is the testimony of an eyewitness….A secondary source is the testimony source is the testimony of anyone who is not an eyewitness-that is, of one who was not present at the events of which he tells. A primary source must thus have been produced by a contemporary of the events it narrates. It does not, however, need to be original in the legal sense of the word original-that is, the very document (usually in a written draft) [autographa] whose contents are the subject of discussion-for quite often a later copy or a printed edition will do just as well; and in the case of the Greek and Roman classic seldom are any but later copies available.” (Understanding History, 53-54).

So having read this, what are the primary and secondary sources for the life of Jesus?

#3. What type of  genre of the Gospels? Yes, that does matter.

#4. What would the word “eyewitness” mean to the NT authors and how would it be used in the NT?

#5: If the New Testament authors are lying, please point out the motivation for lying and where they are lying. And does this mean this is some sort of deliberate falsehood? Or, are they just deceived?

Need help: See here:

#2: You can’t trust anything Josephus and Tacitus says about Jesus!

Response: First, this another assertion and not based on solid research. See our resource page here:

Also, even though Josephus does mention many things in the NT, we are not dependent on his work and Tacitus to establish the reliability of the NT.

#3: The abuse of Arguments from Silence: By the way, this one gets really old! One of the most common tactics about Internet mythers is the abuse of arguments from silence. In another words, if a source does not say anything about Jesus or something in the NT, the case is closed. It probably didn’t happen!

Response: First, see When an Argument from Silence Becomes Utterly Meaningless by Craig Blomberg.

Second, did you know there are no contemporary sources outside Josephus that says He (Josephus) existed? So is it possible Josephus didn’t exist? Also, Josephus who was a Pharisee doesn’t mention Paul (who was a Pharisee) at all. So maybe Paul didn’t exist? The Teacher of Righteousness that has come to us in the Qumran writings is not mentioned by Josephus or Philo. Maybe he didn’t exist? He was invented? Rabbi Hillel, the founder of the school of Hillelites is never mentioned by Josephus. But Josephus is a devout Pharisee. Maybe Hillel did not exist? Bar Kochba, the messianic leader who led the Jewish revolt against the Romans is not mentioned by Dio Cassius in his account on the revolt. I could go on and on. The point is that appealing to arguments from silence is a tricky thing. Be careful!

#4: Religious Plagiarism:

Once upon a time there was what was called The History of Religions school. In this school of thought, scholars in comparative religion attempted to collect parallels to Christian beliefs in other religious movements, and some thought to explain those beliefs (including belief in Jesus’ resurrection) as the result of the influence of such myths. Sadly, the internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are examples of religious plagiarism. The same old dying and rising god theme myth just gets rehashed over and over. What is even more problematic is the people who hold to this view automatically assume the New Testament witness to Jesus is false. Then they punt to the myths/mystery religions to explain the problems in the New Testament. So this method is something has plagued the internet and continues to do so.

Once again, see our resource page here: or see our post A Challenge for the Jesus Mythers and the Religious Plagarism Charge

Or, see J.W. Wartick’s post here: Method or Madness? A reflection on Jesus, the Titanic, and Parallelomania

Conclusion

In the end, as long as the internet exists I suppose these four tactics swill carry on. I am also aware that Richard Carrier has his following.

Speaking for myself and others,if you can’t get to the place where the Jesus Seminar is at on the topic (they agree Jesus was a historical figure and was crucified in the first century), or where Bart Ehrman is, there is no discussion. Life is short! Study hard!

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16 thoughts on “Four Tactics of Jesus Mythers

  1. Thanks for this really excellent post, ‘chab123’! I think you’re spot on with these tactics, and it is something that we need to be aware of and quick to correct. The counter-counter-apologetics you provided here is very helpful and insightful. I’ll be sharing this as much as I can.

    Perhaps you could think about a “sequel” to this post that features more tactics, such as parallelomania (something I discussed here: http://jwwartick.com/2012/06/04/parallelomania/). It’s a way to “sink the Titanic,” as it were. I would love to read more.

    • J.W. Your post – the Titanic issue has been under our section- The Existence of Jesus/Answering Jesus Mythers and Parallelomania in the Historical Epistemology page for along time.

      • Thanks! I think it would be a good way to expand yours into a series. I’m not trying to say “you must do this,” but instead saying I enjoyed this one so much I’d love to see more from it. I could see you also possibly drawing links to how “myther” thought leaks into other areas to try to deny evidences for Christianity.

        Thanks again for this thoughtful post.

  2. A google search for nearly any supposed evidence for Jesus, along with “Richard Carrier” will show why the historicity claim does not stand. He also explicitly opposes the fallacious methods of many other mythers. He does not merely assert that Josephus etc are not proper sources for this, he gives reasons why those passages are unreliable (I think there is evidence that the Josephus one was added later). He also debunks false claims of similarities between religions, but shows that there are true similarities to many similar religious innovations that occurred before christianity, and how it follows a trend.

    • Hi Brian, no, contrary to the internet, Carrier has done nothing to show Jesus didn’t exist. He has even admitted with a debate with Marc Goodacre that the burden of proof is on him to show he didn’t exist. Carrier is in the minority (and with about 9 others) who actually say Jesus probably didn’t exist. It is a fringe position. We don’t need to use the historical criteria used by Jesus scholars to show he did or didn’t exist. Basic tests of historicity will do fine. Carrier is also wrong about Josephus. I have responses to Carrier under the section of our source page- The Existence of Jesus/Answering Jesus Mythers and Parallelomania – it under this link https://chab123.wordpress.com/what-can-we-know-about-jesus-resources-on-the-historical-jesus-and-historicity-of-the-new-testament/.

      In the end, I suggest you don’t solely rely only on Carrier to discover what we can and can’t know about Jesus. Btw, there is plenty on that link on the comparing religious claims issue. To say a bunch of Second Temple Jews borrowed from a bunch of myths and make up a guy named Jesus just shows no understanding of that period. In the end, I don’t debate the existence of Jesus anymore. If you don’t think he at least existed and was crucified and that his followers at least think he saw him rise from the dead, there is no discussion.

      • “Hi Brian, no, contrary to the internet, Carrier has done nothing to show Jesus didn’t exist.”

        I didn’t say he has shown the mythicist view to be correct. Read what I said. I said that he has shown that the historicist position cannot stand, by which I mean that it is a conclusion currently standing on methods that have been shown to be invalid. This doesn’t mean the conclusion is false, only that it does not stand (it is not supported by good method).

      • “In the end, I don’t debate the existence of Jesus anymore.”

        Then read no further, my words are not for you, but for anyone else following along here.

        “Btw, there is plenty on that link on the comparing religious claims issue.”

        I also notice that there is creationism at that link.

        As to what writing there is about the comparing religions thing, I don’t see them provide any good trains of logic, they’re rather muddled.

  3. There’s a reason Carrier does not teach at an accredited university and is not cited at all at the SBL and why biblical scholarship does not take him seriously.

    Keep in mind, Carrier is the great maker of such arguments as “Women have large breasts, therefore God doesn’t exist” and “If something isn’t flying out of my butt, that’s a good reason to think it isn’t real.”

    Putting all your eggs in the Carrier basket for history is like putting all your eggs in the Ken Ham basket for science.

    Of course, on a humorous note. http://www.rightreason.org/2012/does-richard-carrier-exist/

  4. Brian, not sure what you are talking about regarding creationism. How much have you studied the Second Temple period? As far as showing the methods as being invalid to show whether Jesus existed or not, if that’s the case, than please apply the same methods to anyone else in antiquity and see what you come up with. Good luck. It would help you to read the sources which I list here. The first one #1 (the Boyd Eddy book) deconstruct the myther method. In the end, that’s all it boils down to an issue of method. Carrier’s work won’t make a dent in academic circles. He may make a nice impression on his following, but that’s about it. http://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/what-can-we-know-about-jesus-10-suggested-readings/

    I along with someone else have responded to Carrier’s myth position. http://chab123.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/responding-to-richard-carriers-myth-hypothesis/

    • “As far as showing the methods as being invalid to show whether Jesus existed or not”

      …you are confusing methods with conclusions, as you did in your first reply to me. Maybe you can’t grasp that we don’t have to conclude the mythicist position true just because we can’t conclude the historicist position is true. It is possible for the matter to be inconclusive.

      Also, both of Carrier’s books PH and OHJ, along with their citations, answer Boyd and Eddy. On his blog he also has so many more responses to other people.

      I saw the Adam Tucker series, briefly. Just long enough to read several arguments that were all bad.

  5. Brian likely thinks the creationist position is silly. That’s fine. I have no dog in that fight.

    But there are more PH.D. scientists in the world who hold to a YEC position than there are Ph.D.s in ancient history that hold to Jesus mythicism.

    If creationism is a joke, mythicism is far more of one.

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