I’ll eat a page from my Bible if Jesus didn’t exist
By John Dickson
Contrary to recent atheist claims, Jesus did live. I will eat a page of my Bible if someone can find me just one full Professor of Ancient History, Classics, or New Testament in an accredited uni who thinks otherwise, writes John Dickson.
There may be good reasons to give up on traditional Christian belief, but today’s overreaching sceptics haven’t yet stumbled onto them.
Brian Morris, the director of Adelaide’s sceptical society “Plain Reason”, recently provided a case against Christianity that was neither plain nor reasonable. I don’t just mean his pastiche of lines out of the atheist playbook – the barbarity of the crusades, the Inquisition, etc.
As a longtime student of ancient history, my interest was piqued by his enthusiasm around an apparent “wave of contemporary historians” who “question the authenticity of Jesus”, who reveal “an endless seam of pious fraud in the Gospels”, and who conclude that “the entire Jesus narrative is factually flawed”.
Even allowing for a little rhetorical flourish from the head of a club for atheists, almost everything Morris says is either grossly exaggerated or plainly false.
The inspiration for Morris’s piece is the recent publication of Richard Carrier’s book On the Historicity of Jesus. Carrier is well known to atheist apologists and Christian apologists alike – the two groups are often the mirror image of each other – as the man who earned a PhD from a good ancient history department and has since devoted himself to debating evangelical Christians. His new book is a first (at least for a while): a publication in a peer reviewed context arguing Jesus never lived.
Carrier’s thesis is that Jesus started out as a “celestial figure” of religious visions, only to be dressed up in historical garb by the later Gospel writers, after which people began to believe he was a real person. This, too, would be a first. Scholars are used to the myths of, say, Romulus and Remus, the “founders” of Rome. Their legends first appear around 300BC, three or four hundred years after the actual founding of the city.
Carrier is asking us to think that a similar process of the historicization of myth happened to Jesus…
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