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.
I recently came this post on Ben Stanhope’s Remythologized blog: “Bart Ehrman Spanks Acharya S’ Christ Conspiracy.” It really does reflect the attitude of mainstream scholars toward the über skepticism of the Jesus-myther school (the wacky Zeitgeist conspiratorial hermeneutic). Ehrman of course describes himself as an near-atheist agnostic, so he’s no friend of conservative thinking about Jesus. But he knows nonsense when he reads it.
I’ve had the personal experience of being at academic conferences and dropping specific names of PaleoBabblers that multitudes out there on the internet presume know what they’re talking about only to have scholars laugh (literally). Real scholars are aware of the nonsense out on the web about Jesus being an amalgam of pagan gods, ancient astronauts, and [fill in the blank with some other point of nonsense]. They think it hilarious, not threatening. They don’t write about it because they consider it beneath them or a waste of the time they want to devote to publishing.
One of the members of the Boston-based rock band, Metaphor for Everything, sent me the link to a new single, accompanied by a note that the song was inspired by my Zecharia Sitchin site. Apparently the site convince one of the band members to leave the ancient astronaut fold. I got a chuckle out of it; some clever lyrics. I also liked the swipe at Harold Camping in it.
And for those ancient astronaut fundies out there who take that material too seriously, the song is a parody of the Sitchin/Nibiru/2012 hysteria — it’s not a suicide anthem.
Okay, I know — it’s beating a dead horse. But, I was reminded of the Bible Code today by this recent rehearsal of the nonsense at the Skeptophilia Blog. And since we’re beating dead horses, I should remind readers that I wrote a short book debunking this many moons ago (from the perspective of manuscript transmission and the history of the Hebrew OT text). It’s 100 pages or so and available as PDF.
Had to direct you all to this succinct list of spurious material that many of you have probably heard from a pulpit or on the radio. Kudos again to Todd Bolen for alerting me to this. Here are some that made the list, along with some links for more detail):
The “eye of the needle” is a city gate.
The high priest had a rope tied around his ankle. (See Todd Bolen’s post here.)
Scribes washed before and after writing the name of God.
Gehenna was a perpetually burning trash dump. (See Todd Bolen’s post here.)
NASA scientists have discovered a “missing day.” (See snopes.com on this one)
It reminded me of my days as an undergrad in a historiography class. I went to a school that required a Sunday Vespers attendance, and it never seemed to fail that Monday morning our professor would express some point of (righteous, in my view) indignation over some item in the Vespers service lacking historical merit (or any sort of theological propriety given the school’s traditional Christian orientation). It was entertaining listening to him dissect a chosen hymn, illustration, or ancient anecdote and demonstrate its fallacious or ill-chosen nature. One of my favorites was the session where the professor really went off on how Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic (“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”) was glorified for its theological weightiness. Howe was a transcendentalist Unitarian deist — all ideas that the school would have opposed. What fun.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the crystal skulls before. They are allegedly ancient Mayan artifacts capable of mysterious powers, like inspiring a terrible Indiana Jones movie. Turns out they aren’t ancient (I know–what a shocker). But look on the bright side. Maybe George Lucas will retire from script writing now.