“Why doesn’t Professor Tertius deal with the ‘Jesus Never Existed’ debate?”

Why don’t I?  For the same reason why I don’t spend my time debating the people who claim that the following issues are “important controversies and worthy of debate”:

“Chemtrails are a secret and dangerous government program to control citizens.”

“AIDS is a germ-warfare creation of the government, which is withholding the cure while eliminating the targeted groups.”

“The World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition using ‘super-thermite’.”

“The Apollo 11 moon landing was an elaborately staged, government hoax.”

I’ve had people tell me that each of the above claims is “well-known among top scholars.” In fact, proponents for each theory listed various “experts with valid PhDs” who could provide “overwhelming evidence” for their claim.  Fans of each of these claims (and many others like them) can point to Internet websites and discussions forums filled with people who enthusiastically support their favorite conspiracy theory. What they can’t point to is widespread agreement from the Academy, the scholars who settled these questions long ago.

Yet, the fact that, at least, 99 out of every 100 professors in the relevant fields of study at universities throughout the world have little regard for their claim, call it utterly unsubstantiated by the evidence and clearly untenable, that doesn’t faze them in the least.

So, seeing how that’s also the case with the “creation science” of Young Earth Creationist origins mega-ministries, why do I spend my after-hours researching and writing on YECism’s claims of a 6,000 year old world and denials of The Theory of Evolution?  Of all of the best-known common conspiracy theories, the YECist claims that “science has been hijacked” (Ken Ham’s words) by evil atheist scientists (aka “evilutionists”) fascinates me above all the others. Moreover, as a retired educator, I like to develop and experiment with various approaches to educating the general public, including the naysayers, about the ways that evolutionary processes diversified life on earth and about the massive piles of evidence which tell an absolutely amazing, thoroughly gripping story.

What does all of this have to do with the “Jesus never existed” debate?  A lot.  To summarize my reactions whenever someone presumes to tell me, “Leading Biblical scholars have proven that Jesus never existed. No such man by that name founded or inspired the Christian religion”, I find myself recalling (if not actually quoting out loud) renowned agnostic scholar of Christian history and texts, Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

“These [Jesus never existed] views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land one in a bona fide department of biology.”

Of course, much like the “true believers” in 9/11 controlled demolition theories who have lists of physicists, chemists, architects, metallurgists, and even structural engineers who have published detailed “proof”, the Jesus Mythers have their favorite experts, some with valid PhDs in relevant fields. The fact that their memorized list of scholars (chosen not for their academic caliber but solely for the fact that they happen to say what they want to hear) represent less than 1% of the Academy does not phase them in the least!  And in that regard they remind me of every Young Earth Creationist “creation science” fan I ever met. (The only significant difference is the “creation scientists” can muster much longer lists of scholars who agree with them–and still can’t reach 1% of the Academy.)  After all, find a rabid Internet YEC and a rabid Internet Jesus Myther, and you have found a pair of ideologues whose agendas are as angrily driven as they are fanatical. The “creation science” uberfan will sometimes admit it. And so will the Jesus-denier.

We all know the next line of the script, whether it’s a Young Earth Creationist or a Jesus Mythicist: “Truth is not determined by majority vote!”  No, it isn’t.  Scholarship is not settled by Arguments from Authority.  The Academy reaches conclusions–and publishes textbooks–based upon compelling evidence and analysis.  Ideas that survive peer-review and impressively compel the consensus of the Academy win on their own merits.

Of course, when such an idea–whether it be “Evolution never happened and the world is young.” or “Jesus never existed!”–fails to survive peer-review due to inadequate evidence and an appalling lack of compelling analysis, that’s when the peanut gallery of the Internet whines about bias and world-wide conspiracy theories. (You can also expect additional complaints of “The burden of proof is on the other side!” After all, that’s a whole lot easier strategy than refining your hypothesis, gathering more evidence, and writing much better papers which win over the scholars of the Academy to your hypothesis.  Needless to say, if they really wanted to understand how the prevailing consensus already met the burden of proof, there’s textbooks and libraries aplenty–and yes, even Internet resources to bring them up to speed. Even so, cheer blocks aren’t known for investing time and effort learning from anyone but the home team. After all, strawmen make easier foes. And you can make your own in less time with even less effort.

Nobody is stopping Jesus Myth scholars from researching and publishing their claims. Indeed, I used to sit through a few of their papers at the annual AAR/SBL Conference when I felt like getting away from conference crowds. (Meeting rooms are assigned on the basis of likely audience size. The American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature joint conference attracts professors and other scholars from universities, graduate schools, and other academic institutions from all over the world in numbers as high as 10,000+. The best papers fill the largest auditoriums with standing room only spilling into the hallways.)

Just as “creation scientists” and IDers can earn acceptance for their ideas by publishing overwhelming evidence and compelling analysis, Jesus Myths have every opportunity to win over the historians and religious studies scholars of the Academy.  After two centuries of Jesus Myth scholarship, the Jesus-deniers have enthusiastic followers on Internet chat rooms and discussion forums but are still barely on the radar where it actually matters. Yes, they get some media attention—for the same reason that “Man Bites Dog” gets more coverage than “Dog Bites Man.”  Even so, to call them a tiny minority on the “fringe” of the Academy would be a generous dose of recognition.

My late colleague from the University of Nottingham, Maurice Casey, used to put it very simply: “The Jesus Myth position is the view of extremists and demonstrably false. It was settled by all measures of evidence long ago.” and “If the Jesus deniers have a case to make, they will have to do a lot better than what we’ve seen up to now.”  Considering that “up to now” covers about two hundred years, I’m not holding my breath. Nor do I give it much more thought than I give most other conspiracy theories from other types of fringe denialists.  But evolution-deniers? Now that interests me.

Meanwhile, fringe denialists find enthusiastic fans on-line and there’s money to be made selling books to the general public and getting an agent to arrange a speaking tour. And cable TV news networks just love to stage those “hard-hitting” six-minute debates. (It doesn’t pay much but it’s great publicity.) The public’s fascination with fringe scholarship rarely wanes. It worked for 9/11 controlled demolition conspiracy theories. It worked for “creation scientists” and Intelligent Design IDers.  It’s working for the “Jesus never existed” club.

That said, there’s little more that I need to say. I give the Jesus Mythers the same challenge I give Ken Ham and Ray Comfort: Good scholarship wins out through peer reviewed publication, not Internet discussion forums and pep rallies.  Come back when you’ve got a much, much better track record from peer-reviewed, compelling arguments based upon evidence.

Of course, “true believers” always claim “….but my pet theory is not just another conspiracy theory. Mine is really true!”  Right.  You bet.

“As to debate invitations from Creationists and Jesus Mythicists?”

“Remember: Just Say No.  (It would only encourage them.)”

Meanwhile, everybody knows that doctors found a cure for cancer long ago—but the Cancer Industrial Conspiracy realized just as long ago that doctors and the medical mega-industry can make much more money treating cancer, right?  I saw it on the Internet.  And I can quote famous M.D.s and medical industry CEOs who gleefully declare how much money they’ve made for shareholders. Connect the dots. Everybody knows it’s true. It’s one big conspiracy. Again.

(c) 2015. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum
All rights reserved.



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11 responses to ““Why doesn’t Professor Tertius deal with the ‘Jesus Never Existed’ debate?”

  1. TomS

    Excuse me, but I think you’ve misspelled “fazed” (“phased” meaning “introduced by phases” as well as its Star Trek meaning).
    BTW, what do you know about the doubt about the reality of Laozi (Lao Tze)?

    • Yes indeed, TomS. Substituted homonyms are undoubtedly my most common typo. It no doubt arises from my composition process of taking dictation from the voice in my head. So unless I reduce my typing speed to a crawl, I tend to type the homonym that is used more often.

      I’ve often wondered how much research has gone into the study of typos as a means of understanding how the brain stores information. Considering that “phase” related morphemes are a lot more common than “faze” morphemes, this kind of typo is unsurprising if the “hearing the voice inside one’s head” method of composition is used. Yet there are times when my typos appear to involve word substitutions where the words have a similar shape–like what you see in those Internet illustrations of how researchers made such shape-based substitutions throughout an entire paragraph of text and yet most readers read the paragraph as if it had been left intact. (Of course, this also explains why some educators have promoted the “look-say” method of reading instruction over the slower, traditional phonetic method.) But the faster I type–I tested at over 100 words-per-minute in my youth–the wider the variety of substitution types I notice in my types. I’ve wondered why the category types of my typos are not more consistent.

      Whenever I think of this topic, I’ve also wondered why some people report thinking in general in terms of hearing a voice in their head speaking words aloud—while I think wordlessly, as my brain sequences strings and groups of ideas. (Only when I’m composing at a keyboard or in long-hand does the “internal voice speaking the sounds of words” begin.) In casually surveying people about this in small groups, it’s been interesting to watch people react to their realization for the first time that not everybody maintains the same kinds of “internal, mental dialogues” with themselves in the same ways.

      I’ve also wondered if brain imaging will soon be precise enough (and simple enough) that scientists could observe typos in the brain in real time–and perhaps see neurons “firing” in distinguishable ways when substitutions like “their” for “there” take place. (Obviously, at slow speeds implementing basic grammar knowledge comes easily as one navigates their/there, too/to/two, through/threw, its/it’s and other homonym groups. Yet, the faster one types, the more likely that accuracy deteriorates. I’ve not investigated how various kinds of types might be related to whether both sides of the brain have to coordinate more carefully.)

      Unfortunately, my curiosity about questions involving such tangents sometimes diverts too much time from my priority projects.

      • I can’t help but ask: Does everybody grapple with homonym-substitution typos?

        Obviously, proofreading one’s texts could easily catch such errors but I find it so tedious and boring. And if that leads to my reading more quickly, I can reach a reading speed where such substitutions become invisible to me. So the same errors which arise at high typing speeds seem to occur similarly at high reading speeds. Reading and checking word-choice and grammar at the same time feels as easy as walking and chewing gum at the same time–but running and chewing gum at the same time has its hazards. So it is with reading and checking for subtle typos…at least for me it is.

        Perhaps it’s yet another foible that I can attribute to my aging process.

  2. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum extends a tip of the hat to Bud Arlington and Tammy Gray and members of the Creationist vs. Evolutionary Thought group on Facebook for bringing this recurring topic to our attention.

  3. Prof T asks, “I can’t help but ask: Does everybody grapple with homonym-substitution typos?”

    Between ewe end me, the weigh eye sea it, there won of the hardest things out they’re.

  4. Bruce Grubb

    Let’s be HONEST about the RANGE the Christ Myth theory REALLY is.

    The Christ myth is) “the theory that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition.[31] “In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity” – Ehrman, Bart (2012) Did Jesus Exist? Harper Collins, p. 12

    “This view (Christ Myth theory) states that THE STORY OF Jesus [NOT the man himself] is a piece of mythology, possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes…”[33] There are modern examples of stories of known historical people “possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes” – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J 1982, 1995 by Geoffrey W. Bromiley

    George Washington and the Cherry Tree; Davy Crockett and the Frozen Dawn; Jesse James and the Widow to mention a few. King Arthur and Robin Hood are two more examples of suspected historical people whose stories are most likely fictional in nature.

    Christ-myth theories are part of the “theories that regard Jesus as an HISTORICAL but insignificant figure.” – Wood, Herbert George (1934) Christianity and the nature of history MacMillan (New York, Cambridge, [Eng.]: The University Press pg 40

    When the pro-historical Jesus is TRUTHFUL about what the Christ(jesus) theory really is there can be a reasonable discussion. But as long as they hid behind the LIE of it being EXCLUSIVELY the ‘Jesus Never Existed’ debate?”

    As for the “Ideas that survive peer-review and impressively compel the consensus of the Academy win on their own merits.” well here is a doosy:

    “there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived” – Fischer, Roland (1994) “On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind” Anthropology of Consciousness. Dec 1994, Vol. 5, No. 4: 16

    A recognized professional journal (by the American Anthropological Association) that is published by Wiley (one of the top names in academic circles) and yes it peer reviews its articles.

  5. Bruce Grubb

    Considering Richard Carrier’s 2014 _On the Historicity of Jesus_ passed peer review and is published by Sheffield Phoenix Press whose university who in 2011 was ranked 11th in the UK and 66th worldwide this twaddle of “Jesus never existed!” not surviving peer-review is a LIE. It has been a LIE since June 2014 if not earlier.

    The if not earlier refers to Fischer’s peer reviewed 1994 article which flat out states in both the main text and its abstract “there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived”. The Anthropology of Consciousness is a professional peer reviewed journal recognized by the American Anthropological Association and published by Wiley so we could state that the claim “Jesus never existed!” not surviving peer-review has been a lie for 21 (!) freaking years.

    • SYSADMIN SAYS: Sorry, Bruce Grubb. WordPress has been a bit strange lately. I didn’t get a Moderation request on your post until today. My apologies.


      You’ve raised some questions which interest me a lot. And I have some lectures notes which are pertinent.

      I can’t speak for the senior fellows and emeriti (is that correct?) here but the misunderstanding may have resulted from the difference between:

      (1) surviving the editorial process of peer-review which leads to publication in a given peer-reviewed journal, and

      (2) surviving peer-review in terms of winning general support from the academy. Lots of controversial claims are published as papers in peer-reviewed journals and may be presented at academic conferences. But if very few scholars of the academy are impressed with the significance and quality of evidence and/or arguments, the academy does not find the paper or article a game changer. In other words, the idea fails to impress during the broader peer-review process. It fails to win out in terms of general peer review.

      So when you said, “so we could state that the claim “Jesus never existed!” not surviving peer-review has been a lie for 21 (!) freaking years.”, you have confused #1 and #2. Peer review does not end when an academic journal decides to publish an idea.

      We can all agree that denials of the historicity of a first century Jesus have not received much support through the peer-review process by the academic community. Peer-review approval for publication is not the same thing as peer-review acceptance of a bold new idea, a process which often takes several years. Sometimes, many years.

      Einstein’s Theory of Relativity passed the peer-review process for publication in an important academic journal.
      With time, the theory also convinced the academy that Newton’s science was incomplete and that an important discovery had been made. Years of peer-review where falsification testing produced published conclusions led to a very successful peer-review acclamation of Einstein’s work.

      In contrast, Carrier and Price certainly made bold claims but so far they have yet to make significant inroads within the academy. Few have been impressed by their claims. They remain on the fringe of the academy. I caught the last half of a departmental colloquium where a visiting scholar gave an overview on the topic of why Jesus-historicity denial has failed to win over the academy. The Q&A went on for a long time.

      Claiming there is no evidence for a first century Jesus is a false statement. If someone wants to claim that the evidence has flaws, that would probably get more respect. That’s what I gathered from the lecture. At the point I walked in, there was a general discussion of “conspiracy theories” in how the Internet has produced so many claims that “All of the scholars are wrong. We’ve got it right.” There was a discussion in the Q&A of how creationist and Jesus-denialism share that same trait in common: years and years of scholarship is suddenly assumed wrong and a few “Messiahs” for example, Ken Ham, Richard Carrier have brought us the “right answer.” The contrast between Ham and Carrier was intentionally outrageous, so that the differences could get mentioned but then the commonalities were all the more remarkable. The point was made that whenever some idea becomes an Internet meme, a lot of people have a major, I forget the term used but it was something like emotional investment. She said said that Richard Carrier fans defend him just as passionately as Ken Ham’s fans defend him. She had statistics she had compiled on phrases/arguments like “you only say that because_______” and “everybody know that ______” for various sides of controversies and showed that they were remarkably similar. Oh, other ones were 9/11 controlled demolition, GMOs, anthropogenic climate change, and chemtrails.

      My academic concentrations aren’t in history so I can’t help much more than that. Sorry for the delay. WordPress keeps changing their programming and several blogs have been talking about it. However, I should have been more vigilant under the circumstances.

      Best regards,

      Saito S.
      System Admin

      • Bruce Grubb

        Several things here. First in terms of peer-review this spilt definition nonsense is IMHO only a fig leaf that somebody didn’t do their research in saying “Of course, when such an idea–whether it be “Evolution never happened and the world is young.” or “Jesus never existed!”–fails to survive peer-review due to inadequate evidence and an appalling lack of compelling analysis, that’s when the peanut gallery of the Internet whines about bias and world-wide conspiracy theories. ”

        The *base idea* DID pass peer-review; twice.

        More over WHICH “Jesus never existed!”? As Remsburg (who despite seeming the darling for every form of armchair Chris myther out there felt there WAS a man behind the story) said “Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the *Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist.*

        Also from the STANDARD application of the historical method there IS no evidence; it the problem of the theory driving the data that the anthropologist Horace Miner satirized back in 1956.

        Guiart, Jean (1952) “John Frum Movement in Tanna” Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177 is online and gives a detailed view of the John Frum cult up to about 1951 from both Emic (internal) and Emic (researcher) POVs.

        Guiart’s 1952 Oceania paper also shows the complexity involved regarding determining if Jesus was a man or a celestial being. In the article we are given the ideas (a mere 11 years after the John Frum movement become noticeable by nonbelievers) that:

        * John Frum is simply another name for Karaperamun (the High god of the region)
        * John Frum is name of another supernatural being that a native named Manehevi had posed as and others followed his examples with “sons” of John Frum showing up in 1942
        * John Frum is the name of another native who had escaped and “was still at liberty.”
        * John Frum movement or idea actually goes back 30 more years to the 1910s with its founders true identity lost.

        Interestingly, until the 1950s John Frum’s identity varied from Melanesian native, to black serviceman, to white navy serviceman before more or less settling into the literate white US serviceman view seen currently though remnants of these older variants can still be found.

        By the 1960s, the natives were carrying around pictures of men they believed to be John Frum. In 2006, when asked why they still believed in his coming after some 60 years of waiting, the Chief said “You Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for Jesus to return to earth, and you haven’t given up hope.”

        If we go with the idea that Manehevi was the “original” John Frum then in terms of oral tradition he was effectively wiped from cultural memory in about 15 years…that is about the SAME time between the latest Jesus supposedly preached (36 CE) and when Paul started writing (c 50 CE for First Thessalonians) and WAY before the first non Christian works even mentioning Jesus (Josephus is so iffy that anyone presents it just shows the desperation).

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