Yes Maclean’s, Jesus Really Did Exist

MacLean'sJust in time for Easter, Maclean’s magazine ran an article called Did Jesus Really Exist? written by Brian Bethune. It is a bit of strange article, blending theories by Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier. There have been some heated discussions between Ehrman and Carrier and they definitely don’t see eye to eye. To use Ehrman in support of an article questioning the existence of Jesus is strange as Ehrman wrote a book called Did Jesus Exist? that refutes the mythicist theory of Carrier. The only thing that really holds this article together is that it highlights skepticism about the traditional understanding of Jesus.

There are all sorts of problems with this article. I have not read Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels, but I will say there are some issues with the examples that are shared in the article. The examples of modern problems with memory do not have much to say about the reliability of the oral traditions about Jesus. The oral culture of first century Judea was much more conducive to reliable transmission of traditions than modern examples.

As for what Ehrman says about explanations of why there are slight differences in detail between the Gospel traditions, the explanation of “there must have been two visits to the (unlucky) child” is not how most evangelical scholars respond to these things. While one of his teachers might have said something like that, Ehrman is setting up a straw man and he knows it.

As for Carrier, unlike Ehrman, he does not hold as respected of a place in scholarship. Most of his ideas are rejected by other scholars. Osiris is mentioned as an “Egyptian god who displays close parallels to Jesus in his life, death and resurrection.” This is simply untrue. The only thing they have in common is that they both died (under very different circumstances).

Carrier continues with the Jesus myth mantra that Paul never speaks of the historical Jesus:

The letters mention Jesus, by name or title, over 300 times, but none of them say anything about his life; nothing about his ministry, his trial, his miracles, his sufferings. Paul never uses an example from Jesus’s sayings or deeds to illustrate a point or add gravitas to his advice—and the epistles are all about how to establish, govern and adjudicate disputes within Christianity’s nascent churches.

Again, this is simply not true. I point you to this article that I wrote about the historical Jesus in 1 Corinthians.

Basically, Bethune’s article is simply a carrying of the tradition of sharing skeptical ideas of Jesus at Easter time to get people to read. Since I read the article, I guess it worked.

If you are interested in learning more about the Jesus Myth Theory, I recommend the book I co-wrote with Stanley Porter: Unmasking the Pagan Christ (USA) (Canada).

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4 thoughts on “Yes Maclean’s, Jesus Really Did Exist”

  1. Thanks for the article, Stephen. 🙂 And thanks, especially, for not spending too much time on your response. It definitely did not warrant much. I’m often astounded at what can be published at a religiously charged time of year in order to bring attention to sidelined issues and unwarranted controversies.

    1. Thank you. Enough people talked to me about it that I needed to respond but there really was not much substance to the article. I felt it was enough to point to the weaknesses.

  2. Thanks, Stephen, for responding to this. I get irritated at how the major magazines often have skeptical and provocative articles at Christmas and Easter. Of course they have freedom to do this and we don’t need to feel threatened or be defensive about it. However, it’s the inconsistency that bothers me. Would they dare have a cover article entitled, “Did Muhammad Really Exist” during Ramadan? I doubt it.

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