The Jesus Myth and the Appeal to Authority

Critics of the Jesus Myth Theory often point out that by far the majority of historians and biblical scholars accept the historicity of Jesus. They also state that most Josephus scholars accept the Testamonium Flavianum as originally saying something about Jesus even if it was later tampered with.

But is this just the fallacy of appeal to authority? Are Christians simply relying upon people with authority to support their traditions?

We need to be clear what the fallacy of appeal to authority. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The ad verecundiam fallacy concerns appeals to authority or expertise. Fundamentally, the fallacy involves accepting as evidence for a proposition the pronouncement of someone who is taken to be an authority but is not really an authority. This can happen when non-experts parade as experts in fields in which they have no special competence—when, for example, celebrities endorse commercial products or social movements. Similarly, when there is controversy, and authorities are divided, it is an error to base one’s view on the authority of just some of them.

This would be a problem if Christians were relying on the opinions of scholars of Shakespeare or microbiology. But we aren’t. Critics of the Jesus myth look to scholars trained in relevant fields, both Christian and non-Christian.

Nor are the authorities divided. I would say more than 99% of scholars in relevant fields oppose the Jesus Myth. As far as I know, the only proponents of the Jesus Myth a PhD in a relevant field are Richard Carrier and Robert Price. While that doesn’t prove the Jesus Myth is false, it should be taken into account.

But speaking of this fallacy, it cuts the other way. One of the most influential of the Jesus Mythicists was G.A. Wells. Wells had a PhD but it was in German Literature. I’m sure he was an intelligent man but his education didn’t give authority to his position. Another example would be Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who did his PhD in Theosophy.

If Jesus Mythicists want to defend their view, they better do it with evidence and not the fallacy of the appeal to authority.

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