“As a former graduate student in religious studies and author of classics, it is deeply regrettable that the scholarship of the academy does not go further and that century-old myths no longer have any substantial importance in university studies. still have public influence.”
Eter Clarke’s recent essay on the mythism of Jesus is filled with many misleading perceptions about contemporary religious scholarship and the place and understanding of Jesus within it. While one may ponder the statistics on the cultural declination of Christianity and the sad general public misperception of religious scholarship, few scholars adhere to the mythical disposition, and no one in any historical-religious studies department. critics read such obscure and spooky texts. Equipment. Moreover, the continual association of Jesus with mythical figures and religion of late antiquity reinforces – often unknowingly – the anti-Semitic origin of these ideas seeking to separate Jesus from his Jewish context.
The recourse to the arguments of Richard Carrier, for his part, is problematic. Carrier is not a respected scholar in the field, and his work is debunked by most historical critical scholarship. This, however, does not alter Carrier’s presuppositional bias (no amount of evidence will) that lurks under the veil of critical inquiry while pushing conspiracy. Richard Price, though he has an academic pedigree, isn’t exactly on the usual New Testament reading list either in any department of historical and critical religious studies. Academic pedigree does not necessarily imply respectability; we know many graduates from prestigious schools today whom we don’t take seriously because we know they peddle nonsense outside the mainstream despite their credentials. Also, David Fitzgerald is a big digital entrepreneur, like Carrier, but not an academic. The works of all three do not stand up to the thousands of books and articles of historico-critical scholarship.
Moreover, the comparisons of Jesus with the dying and rising gods of the Near East are hardly similar upon close examination. Almost all scholars know that the similarities are but bare and the differences enormous in their peculiarities; assertions of similarities are based on overarching universal archetypal assertions without paying close attention to specificity and particularity. I will return to this point in a moment.
Additionally, as mentioned, the ancient myth-akin Jesus account is a product of anti-Semitic scholarship in the early 1900s that sought to separate Jesus from his Palestinian Jewish background to give Jesus a more Hellenic-Aryan transformation and offer anti-Semites the ability to preserve a Christian heritage with their new philhellenism (this is still a point of view found in recent studies such as that of Ethelbert Stauffer). This is often forgotten by contemporary mythicians who have no knowledge of the intellectual origins of the movement of which they claim to be experts. In its most extreme form, Jesus as a mythical figure turned into a denial of his historical veracity (an obscure view then as now) which is why the movement is now famous.
Since the 1960s, and especially since the publication of EP Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism and Jesus and Judaism, contemporary biblical and religious studies regarding the nature of Jesus are firmly in favor of Jesus in his first-century Jewish context, which was an era of intense Jewish religious innovation leading to beliefs in Covenant nomism as well as apocalypticism eschatological, the latter of which Jesus preached and belonged. Finally, the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as a dissident Jewish rabbi have nothing to do with the other gods of the Near East to whom he is often, and ignorantly, compared – for they did not preach about love. neighbor, reconciling forgiveness or the imminent eschaton. Nor does it include the fact that the dying and mythical hypotheses are over a hundred years old and woefully outdated by contemporary studies.
I will now return to the claims that Jesus is akin to mythical figures with the example of Osiris in the so-called comparative dying-rising similarity. Osiris is murdered, cut up, his body parts scattered, only to be restored; Osiris then descends to the dead to take his place as “lord of the underworld”. The murder and dismemberment of Osiris is due to the jealousy of his brother, Typhon, who gives the dismembered body parts to his followers so they can be blamed and face the wrath of the gods. Isis and Horus, hearing the news, take revenge and kill Typhon (Typhon’s plan backfires). Isis goes out and collects the dismembered body parts herself, buries them, from which they reassemble and Osiris – devoid of a phallus – takes his place in the underworld like all; there is nothing unique about him going to hell after being buried. Even a cursory knowledge of the realities of the Osiris story reveals dissimilarities in the “dying-rising” narrative: Jesus was not murdered by a jealous brother-deity; his body was not dismembered and stretched out to implicate others in the crime; and several deities did not take revenge in his name for the murder. Finally, the death of Osiris meant nothing in a sacrificial worship system; The death of Jesus, from the point of view of his disciples, did.
Moreover, Jesus, in Paul’s writings, is a character located in history. That it isn’t is just a talking point of Carrier and other mythicists with no support in the wider academic community that they employ to ignore real academic research because it’s inconvenient to their beliefs. The Gospels are not “mythological” in nature, but biographical and, therefore, belong to a genre of historical hagiography which is no different from contemporary hagiographical biographical stories. We do not consider these historical biographies to be “mythological” then or now (although we are supposed to be aware of the authors’ intent). Mark’s source material is widely accepted as coming from many witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus; it is the Q source in modern New Testament scholarship which is hardly, as some commentators have quoted after watching a debate, “a disputed source”. Likewise, the Gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke are widely accepted as coming from independent witness sources (called the L and M sources and are hardly “disputed” in historical critical scholarship). Millions of pages of scholarship have been spilled on these subjects, hundreds of doctorates granted (but this is of little interest to mythicians who simply reject scholarship because it does not correspond to their presupposed ideology). Even the conclusion of the gospel belonging to the Johannine community, attributed to Saint John, mentions that many other stories are not contained in scripture but exist among the many who knew Jesus of Nazareth.
The impetus of the gospel writers was to preserve the first-hand accounts of the generation that lived and knew Jesus as they grew old and died; soon there would be no more witnesses to listen to, so the gospels were written. These were not “embellishments” as the mythical claim, for the New Testament writers did not write the “sacred scriptures” as we conceive of them today – it was not until long after their writings were written and proliferated, and long after their death their writings were canonized. by the early church.
Also, on a relevant note for those of us deeply committed to the classics, Alba Longa was not an “obscure” town as passively claimed (apparently by Carrier in a podcast). It was the principal city of the Latin League before the rise of Rome (and according to Roman histories, whatever credit one gives them, the first city supposedly settled by Trojan refugees). The fact that Romulus and Remus were born there was a Roman way of giving Alba Longa and the conquered Latin tribes and cities a place in the Roman political history of expansion and inclusion (not to mention the inclusion of those prominent Republican families who originated in the city and achieved Roman political prominence). The memory of Alba Longa’s ancient relevance and importance was why many Roman heroes had their lineages descended from a well-known and once populated city. It was barely “dark” as if it were a remote unimportant town. It was once a thriving and powerful city razed to the ground by the Romans after decades of warfare and archaeological finds show that Alba Longa was once a great city before its destruction.
As a former graduate student in religious studies and author of classics, it is deeply regrettable that the scholarship of the academy does not go further and that century-old myths no longer of any substantial importance in university studies have yet another public influence. It’s both an indictment of the academy, as well as popular writers and social media influencers whose prominence is due to polemic and creative editing, not to mention a very selective reading. superficial, rather than a studious scientific substance. While I have written about the universal appeal of mytho-religious archetypes in the stories of The College Conference today and why I regard them as important, even essential, in the teaching of religious studies, serious scholars on this subject are always careful to note the difference between archetypal universals and historical particularity.
If the mythism of Jesus is becoming widespread, it is not because Jesus was not a real historical figure, or that the historical sources are weak (non-Christian historians like Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny all refer to Jesus), or that “mythical science”” is persuasive, it will be because scholarship ignorance and scholarship misinformation are so prevalent and are spreading on the internet, creating a large-scale public misperception, which is Advanced Instinct Confirmation Bias now readily available with a click. Listening to a few lectures and podcasts on YouTube does not make you a scholar or an expert, and it does not replace years of formal study and tens of thousands of pages read (hundreds of thousands, even at the doctoral level) on a serious scholarship. — without forgetting training in ancient languages and familiarity (and sometimes direct experience) with archaeological material. If misperception and misinformation are a problem, we all have a role to play in addressing these issues. Broadcasting them, under the guise of critical inquiry, is not part of it..
Paul Krause is the editor of VoegelinView. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love and has contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He can be found on Twitter @Paul_jKrause