The Jesus Myth? A Response to Richard Carrier (Part 1)
by Adam Tucker*
On Feb. 21, 2013 I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Richard Carrier, popular author and internet atheist, for the second time at UNC Greensboro. The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics club invited him to present his case for why the historical Jesus never really existed and is actually only a myth. In Dr. Carrier’s defense, I understand that he could not present a solid and complete case for his thesis in an hour long presentation. While much of what Dr. Carrier said sounds completely farfetched, and indeed would not be taken seriously by virtually any scholar in the field, sans those on the very fringes, his ideas still need a response. This particular response will certainly not be the best one you can find or possibly present yourself. Nonetheless, I have been wanting, and promising, to offer my thoughts for a while now. I appreciate those who have studied this area of scholarship in much more detail than myself and who have shared their thoughts, many from which I will be gleaning.
The interesting thing about Dr. Carrier’s argument is that he does not think Christianity simply copied other pagan religions. Such a notion is very popular right now, and Dr. Carrier rightly points out that those arguments are fairly easily refuted. Rather, he argues that Christianity is simply
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another mythology that followed the same developmental lines as other mythologies and pagan religions. Hence, I think Dr. Carrier’s argument requires a slightly different response than a response to something like the Zeitgeist viral video which takes the more popular copycat theory approach (good responses to this video can be found HERE and HERE).
Dr. Carrier’s main thesis is, “Jesus was the name of a celestial being, subordinate to God, with whom some people hallucinated conversations. The Gospel began as a mythic allegory about the celestial Jesus, set on earth, as most myths then were.” He compares Muhammad’s alleged “hallucinations” of the angel Gabriel which resulted in Islam and Joseph Smith’s alleged “hallucinations” of the angel Moroni which resulted in Mormonism to the stories of Jesus interacting with the disciples. He claims Jesus was originally a “celestial being” like Gabriel or Moroni with which people “hallucinated” experiences. Later, the Jesus stories were placed in the setting of earth, Jesus was said to be a physical person on earth, and people eventually started to believe these stories were true.
Why should we believe this is the case? According to Dr. Carrier, his thesis is credible because Christianity conforms to four trends of pre-Christian religion thus showing the same progression of other myths…
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*Adam Tucker is the director of the Ratio Christi Chapter at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.