Battles have been raging online over the last month or so with regards to Ehrman's treatment of mythicism in his last book (Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, cobbled together from his debates, I believe) which was summed up here in his outspoken Huff Post article:
Carrier responded to this with gusto in his excellent piece here:
Which then opened the floodgates. EVERYONE has been talking mythicism on the blogosphere. Carrier read Ehrman's book in full and produced this:
Theologian Alister McGrath stepped in: (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/03/responding-to-richard-carriers-response-to-bart-ehrman.html)
to which Carrier replied:
And so it goes on.
The thing is, Carrier really does know what he is talking about. He IS a historian, and he HAS just written a book on the historical method using Bayes’ Theorem ( http://www.amazon.com/Proving-History-Bayess-Theorem-Historical/dp/1616145595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335279297&sr=8-1 - the reviews are very good so far. On amazon.com, the one star is from an evangelist who doesn't have a clue, and the three star is from JP Holding whose only gripe is that Carrier won't let him know who peer reviewed it). His second volume is about applying the methodology to the case of Jesus.
Where do I stand? (as if anyone really cares?!)
I too, like many atheists, am marginally agnostic over the historicity of Jesus. However, on balance, I do think it more probable that a real person existed to somehow form the backbone and raison d'etre for the Christian cult movement. How many cults have existed whereby the leader is entirely fictional?
I think the historical Jesus is so far removed from the biblical Jesus as to make it effectively synonymous with a mythical Jesus. Yet I do think that that historical Jesus existed *in some way*. it just seems more plausible.
That said, Carrier's work I have immense respect for. His speeches at the Skeptikons (available on youtube) especially Skeptikon 2, have been superb (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX4LvKvIWJw). I am very much looking forward to his Proving History book which is out next month in the UK. I rate his Not The Impossible Faith very highly and thought he eviscerated Holding. While I may disagree with his ultimate conclusion, it has made me doubt my own conclusion, and there are heaps of questions that need answering which are left hanging in the air after such research.
I don't think mythicism warrants being hand-waved away condescendingly when being dealt with so robustly by people like Carrier. I believe that it is an important question for everyone to talk about. If it turns out that Jesus did exist in some historical manner, then the questions that arise from such voracious debate and research will no doubt further distance the real Jesus from the biblical one. Of that I have no doubt.
In : Religion
Tags: mythicism "richard carrier" "bart ehrman" "alister mcgrath"
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