New Book Critiquing Jesus Mythicism

Another bad day for the Zeitgeist crowd.

Prof. Larry Hurtado (Emeritus, University of Edinburgh) alerted his blog readers to a new book by Prof. Maurice Casey (Emeritus, Nottingham University). The title is Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?

Hurtado writes:

It will be apparent from the title that Casey (along with practically every scholar who has considered the matter) doesn’t buy the “mythicist” case.  He is a long-time acquaintance and a well-published and noted scholar in NT.  Because identifying a person as a traditional Christian is sometime invoked (by self-styled “sceptics”) as an excuse to ignore whatever he/she says about Jesus or anything to do with Christian origins, I’ll also mention that this hardly applies to Casey.  He doesn’t argue with a view to trying to protect Christian belief or believers.  Whatever the strength of his arguments, he’s not doing apologetics!


From the publisher’s website:

Did Jesus exist? In recent years there has been a massive upsurge in public discussion of the view that Jesus did not exist. This view first found a voice in the 19th century, when Christian views were no longer taken for granted. Some way into the 20th century, this school of thought was largely thought to have been utterly refuted by the results of respectable critical scholarship (from both secular and religious scholars).

Now, many unprofessional scholars and bloggers (‘mythicists’), are gaining an increasingly large following for a view many think to be unsupportable. It is starting to influence the academy, more than that it is starting to influence the views of the public about a crucial historical figure. Maurice Casey, one of the most important Historical Jesus scholars of his generation takes the ‘mythicists’ to task in this landmark publication. Casey argues neither from a religious respective, nor from that of a committed atheist. Rather he seeks to provide a clear view of what can be said about Jesus, and of what can’t.


9 thoughts on “New Book Critiquing Jesus Mythicism

  1. I fail to understand the argument over a historical Jesus?…Given the scant but nevertheless extant contemporaneous non-biblical accounts about the man Jesus, i.e., the Talmud, Josephus, etc, as well as the New Testament itself with its earliest epistles being authored around 50 A.D. by the Apostle Paul, a mere 20 years after His death, how can one, then, make any kind of convincing argument that the man did not exist?…Using the same standards these liberal academics are using for the existence of the man Jesus, if we were to apply those same standards to others from antiquity, we would have to doubt the existence of such important and influential men and women as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra VII, etc?…

      • Constitution Fan,

        There are at least 4 non biblical pieces of evidence that a modern, neutral person might construe as pretty strong evidence Jesus had “supernatural power”.

        1) Ancient Jewish writings testified to it in the Talmud and they assigned the power to the devil, the same thought expressed by Jesus’ foes in the Gospel accounts. It’s among the other nasty comments, you’ll find them.

        2) Ancient Roman pagan writings in opposition to the Jesus movement also corroborate this.

        3) 99% all researchers agree the eyewitnesses “believed” Jesus to be resurrected. The sole dissenter is a “mythicist”.

        From a forensic view, it is impossible to explain all the “offspring” of that if He was not resurrected. Good book on this by a former atheist, Chicago detective, “Cold Case Christianity, a Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels”. Pretty compelling.

        4) Paul and James, Jesus’ little brother. Both were murdered insisting Jesus is alive and neither believed until they saw Him alive post crucifixion. Josephus documented the murder of James in Jerusalem in the first century in his “Antiquities”.

        • Patrick, none of that is “strong” evidence.

          Many religions and cults and traditions throughout the world and History offer equivalent ‘evidence’ which is no more nor less convincing than the ‘evidence’ from the Abrahamic faith traditions you offer. They each make faith claims that contradict all the other traditions’ faith claims.

          I see nothing more plausible to a genuinely neutral observer in the tradition you’ve chosen to believe than in any other.

    • Those three examples are probably bad ones, because there is more evidence for them, including writings from many of them.

      But you’re right in principle. The evidence for the existence of Jesus is better than the evidence for the existence of plenty of figures whose historicity is not doubted, such as Aesop, Pythagoras, and Siddh?rtha Gautama.

  2. “Casey argues neither from a religious respective, nor from that of a committed atheist.”

    I am a ‘committed’ atheist/agnostic, but I also find an actual historical Jesus to be the most persuasive hypothesis. I just don’t find sufficient evidence anywhere that this historical Jesus had any actual magic powers, or that the god this historical Jesus believed in was/is real.

      • I don’t think it’s a matter of honesty or dishonesty. The people who hold with Jesus Mythicism are probably completely honest about their conclusions. They could even be right, for all I know, although I currently doubt that in the absence of seeing convincing evidence or argument myself.

        The existence of a historical Jesus is simply so far the most plausible explanation for me. The future may provide evidence that changes my mind, or it might not.

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