Saturday, 15 August 2015

Not to be Mythed

A couple of soon-coming events on-line that I've marked on my calendar.

A "Disdate" (something between a discussion and a debate that may include a certain amount of politely restrained dissing) on Jesus Mythicism between David Fitzgerald (taking the mythicist corner) and Daniel Gullotta (taking the consensus position). Not the two debaters I'd most like to see - what a missed opportunity it was when the much awaited event featuring Ehrman and Price fell flat! - but it could still be interesting. I've never been particularly impressed by Fitzgerald, and Gullotta, while wonderfully confident, is not exactly a voice of experience. Gullotta writes on his blog:
Fitzgerald and I [were] invited to be involved in a recorded debate hosted by the Miami Valley Skeptics, where we would discuss the historicity of Jesus and why the two of us have come to us radically different readings of the evidence. The show is designed to be a question and answer style debate... There will be questions throw at David and I, in which we will be given space to answer, but also time given so we can respond and offer criticism or insight. The show will be published on the 24th of August.
The podcast, when it's available, will be posted at

But wait, there's more!

John Shuck is interviewing Don Cupitt on an upcoming Religion for Life podcast (available sometime Sunday US time). Evangelicals and fence-sitters in mainline churches tend to loathe Cupitt. Moderate Baptists have been known to tear his books apart while foaming at the mouth - and that after only a few pages. I must admit that it took me a while to get used to the irritating Oxbridge accent and the writing style, but now I'm something of a fan. Julian Baggini in his Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2003) comments:
Cupitt finds himself under fire from Christians and atheists, who both think he is actually an atheist after all and should just admit it, but I think his attempt to save something distinctive from the wreckage of religious belief is admirable and has lessons for believers and atheists alike. 


  1. Hey, I'm a pretty moderate Baptist, and while have not read much Cupitt for the last twenty or thirty years I have never been known for foaming at the mouth or tearing books apart. Though I may have occasionally done the former when I used to buy sherbet dabs on the way home from school. Cupitt is quite interesting, though seems to miss the point of faith and settle for mere religion.

    1. In the interests of both clarity and accuracy I want to indeed confirm that I have never seen, neither separately nor concurrently, Tim foam at the mouth or tear books asunder - whether slender volumes of philosophy or weighty telephone directory-sized theological tomes, and without qualification I'm prepared to take him at his word that he never has, except possibly under the influence of sherbet, which surely qualifies as an extenuating circumstance, regardless of denominational affiliation.

      (I think I just broke my 'longest sentence' record.)

  2. Did Jesus ever exist at all? I'm not sure what that even means. In those days there were many itinerant preachers who had disciples. And in those days there also were many people getting crucified, no doubt including some of these itinerant preachers. Perhaps the Gospels were loosely modeled after one of them- or an amalgam of two or more of them. So in that since, perhaps Jesus did exist.

    Did anyone exist who did ALL the things the gospels say Jesus did? Of course not, that would be impossible. The stories are conflicting and cannot all be true. So in that sense, Jesus did not exist.

    Did the god who created the entire universe have a son, whom he sent down to be killed and then resurrected? Would doing this really accomplish anything?

    Conclusion: SOMEBODY existed, or more than one person, and stories were written claiming he did certain things, some of which he probably did and others of which were exaggerated or fabricated. Does this mean Jesus existed?

    1. How do we really know that Warren G. Harding really existed? After all, none of us has ever seen WGH in the flesh. All documentary evidence could be trumped up by people who want us to believe that WGH actually existed. If two historians wrote up the 1914 election in two different ways doesn't that prove that WGH was fictional? There were many presidents and elections back in those days - maybe the fictional WGH was modeled after one of them.

      We commonly accept the fact of the existence of a historical figure based on authority. Josephus and Herodotus aside, Judaism is one of the substantial witnesses to the historicity of Christ. The Jews had every reason to promulgate the idea that Christ was fictional. Instead, to the Jews he was real (and they had trusted representatives there when it all happened) - they just reject what the real person said. Certainly, you can find some Jew somewhere who will say Christ was a fiction but this is not the main historical thrust of Judaism.

      Personally, I don't believe Donald Trump exists. At least, every day I hope.

      -- Neo

    2. Are you truly making the case that the evidence for Jesus' existence and the evidence of Harding's existence are equal? You undermine your own credibility my friend.

    3. Yes, epistemologically, the existence of WGH and Christ are understood by people who came later through reference to the same classes of evidence. Further, all these classes of evidence can be rejected by those who wish to. I knew a man who was a member of the WCG who stood up in Spokesman Club and declared firmly that no Jews had ever been exterminated in concentration camps during WWII. It was all a fabrication. We were all astonished. He was an educated, well-respected man. I spoke with him later and discovered he was an anti-Semite. His understanding of history was filtered through his anti-Semitism. I recall he believed in a bunch of conspiracy theories. (Once in a while you would encounter these people hanging around the WCG. Armstrongism and conspiracy theories have always, for some reason, made good bedfellows.) He believed, no doubt, that WGH existed. He just did not believe that the Holocaust ever happened. If he had been taken to visit Buchenwald, no doubt he would have had an alternate explanation for it. Wisdom is justified of her children.

      -- Neotherm

    4. Geez, they're testing Warren Harding's DNA as we speak. How can the evidence be equal? Have you no sense of proportion or dimension? Preponderance of evidence? Do you really think a Warren Harding denier = a Jesus Christ denier = a Holocaust denier? I'm starting to think I'm a bigger fool, for continuing this discussion. Am I?

  3. Fitzgerald posits that the Philippian Hymn - Christianity's oldest document - implies that the name Jesus did not exist during his 'kenosis', only after the 'exaltation' (I see the passage as referring to office, not name). Ehrman, Hoffmann, Crossan, Gullotta... would see an historical person (itinerant apocalyptic magician) who clashed with Roman administrative authorities (not a wise thing to do).