Decoding the Jesus Myth

CNN recently republished a 2012 article Decoding Jesus: Separating man from myth, written by John Blake. It is another rehashing of the Jesus myth, the theory that Jesus never existed.

There is nothing much new in this article but it is worth responding to because these questions keep coming up. I’m not going to answer every statement in the article but I will tackle the ones that stood out for me.

Fringe Scholarship

Blake comments: “Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.” What is meant by this is that mythicists resent the fact that by far the majority of scholars reject the theory and don’t consider it worth responding to. The same kind of comment could be made by flat earthers. Is the problem with those who see the logical conclusions of the evidence or those who hold to a radical skepticism that doesn’t take the evidence seriously. It is worth noting that it is not just evangelical scholars who accept a historical Jesus. Conservatives, liberals, Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheist scholars almost universally accept the evidence for Jesus.

The “Evidence” Against Jesus Existence

Blake offers these three pieces of evidence as being a problem for a historical Jesus:

  • The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.
  • No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.
  • The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.

There is so much that can be said about this. First, the only thing that is uncanny is that people actually believe there are parallels between the pagan myths and Jesus. Mythicists look at a story where a god or hero is conceived through sexual intercourse and they call it a virgin birth. They see a god or man who dies and remains dead but reigns in the underworld or whose body does not decompose and they call it a resurrection.

As for there being no credible sources outside the Bible, there is a problem with rejecting the biblical evidence. There is no good reason why the Gospels should be ignored. Being included in a canon of scripture does not diminish historical value. Beyond the Gospels, mythicists are too quick to reject Josephus. It is true that there is Christian corruption of the passage but scholars of all stripes have been able to reconstruct what Josephus said.

Is it true that the Apostle Paul never refers to the historical Jesus? Not at all. I will simply send you to my article Paul and the Historical Jesus.

Can We Know?

Blake concludes with some quotes from Albert Schweitzer.

And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?
Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question. He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.
The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.

This would seem to suggest that Schweitzer was agnostic about whether Jesus was real. What did Schweitzer actually think about the historical Jesus?

When we have once made up our minds that we have not the materials for a complete Life of Jesus, but only for a picture of His public ministry, it must be admitted that there are few characters of antiquity about whom we possess so much indubitably historical information, of whom we have so many authentic discourses.

Perhaps we need to read Schweitzer a bit more carefully.

If you want to learn more about the Jesus myth, get a copy of my book Unmasking the Jesus Myth.

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