New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, well known to non-specialist readers as a critic of evangelical views of Jesus (Ehrman is an atheist) recently published a book entitled Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Ehrman’s answer is that he did. His book therefore provides a succinct overview of the evidence for a historical Jesus. It also serves as a succinct critique to the “Jesus Mythicists” (think Freke and Gandy here), folks who, in the spirit of the Zeitgeist movie (is that a tautology?), deny Jesus ever existed. Needless to say, they aren’t happy that a scholar of Ehrman’s stature would dare affirm the historicity of Jesus, even if (perhaps “especially since”) he has no faith in what the New Testament writers say theologically about Jesus’ divinity or Savior status. The same can be said for the way Jesus Mythicists have turned apoplectic over the Jesus Family Tomb controversy (if it is the tomb of Jesus, they’re wrong — he existed).
Ehrman’s book was recently reviewed by a scholar named Richard Carrier. Carrier’s review is exceptionally nasty and, frankly, not befitting intelligent discourse. (One would have thought the review was by Don Rickles — dating myself there, I know — or Bill Maher). At any rate, Ehrman has responded at length to Carrier. I recommend his response (and it is indeed very long) to PaleoBabble readers. It’s clear and unpretentious.
(Hat tip to Tim for this item).
I’d like to alert PaleoBabble readers to Jason Colavito’s series on the modern myth of precession. Here are the first and second posts.
For those to whom the term “precession” is new, as Jason notes, it is the idea that our lives are controlled by the mechanical movements of the stars caused by the wobble in the earth’s axis and, further, that history is propelled by this cycle, the proof of which is recorded in human myth and religion, as all of that “records” precessional movement via the cycling of the constellations.
Confused? Understandable. Here’s a better and more detailed explanation of the astronomical phenomenon of precession and the idea that it contributed to ancient religions.
I’m currently in Chicago attending the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (along with satellite meetings by scholarly organizations like the American Schools of Oriental Research). These meetings are also attended by dozens of major academic publishers. Consequently, there are hundreds of books available here at “once a year only” discounts that help those of us who care about data and coherent thinking battle paleobabble. I came across what apparently looks to be an important one today, “Jesus: Evidence and Argument, or Mythicist Myths” by Maurice Casey (T & T Clark, 2013).
Yes, that’s 2013.
You won’t find the title in Amazon in any form. However, Professor Casey has published other items on Jesus as a historical figure. I’m guessing this work will be something of an update or perhaps fuller presentation. The book will be important because Casey is not what anyone in the academy would call an evangelical or “Bible believer” in the pop religion sense. He’s a high profile scholar of New Testament and Christian origins.
For those Zeitgeist fundamentalists out there, Casey’s work will likely take its place alongside that of atheist New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman (Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth), who also thinks the claims of Zeitgeist are nonsense.
Anyone who has seen the internet video Zeitgeist likely recalls this assertion about New Testament theology. Those in academia know that Zeitgeist’s content is deeply flawed, but that hardly matters, since most of the people who but into its ideas aren’t scholars or anyone else working in the fields of New Testament Studies or Egyptology.
Toward exposing this truckload of paleobabble, I submit this article by Nicholas Perrin entitled, “On Raising Osiris in 1 Corinthians 15.” It’s a scholarly piece, but I think it’s readable for the non-specialist. It exposes the problems with this popular correlation.