Thursday, June 20, 2013

How To Diss Mythicists

On pages 5 and 6 of The Jesus Legend,the mythicist G A Wells lists 11 "guidelines for hostile writing" to be used against mythicists such as himself: 1) Question the mythicists' qualifications. 2) Avoid rebutting their arguments, and instead condescendingly describe their positions as already discredited. 3) Affix distasteful labels to them, as the label "Hegelian" was attached to Strauss and Bauer. 4) Lump one writer together with discredited ones, and if he himself has criticized the others, don't mention it. 5) Represent minor slips as indications of total incompetence. 6) Make objections to the mythicists' cases as if they themselves had not addressed them. 7) Falsely claim that the mythicists rely on a priori dogmas. 8) Call a mythicist's failure to mention a certain work a "serious omission." 9) Instead of producing arguments, appeal to authorities; also, accuse the mythicists of appealing to outdated authorities. 10) Misrepresent their work, being careful to avoid lengthy quotations which might tend to give your readers an accurate impression of that which you are misrepresenting, and 11) Discuss propositions irrelevant to their work. Wells describes each of these tactics at greater length than I have here; then he goes on, on pages 6 through 9, to show how they all have been used against him.

All in a book Wells published in 1996. It is downright depressing to see how current Wells' list is, and how accurately it describes the average downright rude dismissal of mythicists by most academically-credentialed biblical scholars and theologians who mention them today. And not for the first time, let me object to the very term "mythicist," even though some writers attach it proudly to themselves. I object to the term because it implies people who are asserting, positively, than Jesus was a myth, not a real person, while it is applied to just about every one who is less than certain that Jesus was a real person, and just about everyone who wants to investigate the question of Jesus' existence as if it were not already closed.

Although not every attack upon mythicists -- although I object to the term, I'm not going to act as if it is not the term being used -- follows all 11 of Wells' guidelines, it is depressingly rare to find a description of them --of us. I would like to investigate the question as if it were not already closed -- by a Biblical scholar or a theologian with a PhD, let alone tenure, which does not follow any of them. The latest depressingly crude and insulting such attack of which I am aware, Joel L Watts' screed published in the Huffington Post yesterday, follows a few of them, and invents the new one of not mentioning one single mythicist by name, as if we were not important enough for Watts to name any of us, and as if we were all the same anyway. Watts' article is a beautiful example of 2) and 9) : there is nothing in it even remotely resembling the suggestion of an argument, neither a mythicist argument to be poo-pooed, nor an historicist argument of any kind whatsoever. Jesus was real and mythicists are as stubbornly irrational as young-earth creationists. That is all ye know, and all ye need know.

Well, there's actually one more thing ye might be interested to know. It's something I already assumed, but I don't assume that all of my readers follow such publishing-industry details as closely as I do. It's the reason that Joel Watts is bothering to publish such crude and egregious insults of us in places like the Huffington Post to begin with: because he has a new book out.It's not just insults and intellectual dishonesty -- it's also advertising.


  1. Joel Watts only spoke the truth in that article. If you are a mythicists you are denying academia, simple as. What makes you any better then a young earth creationists? Nothing.

    1. First of all, Daniel: sorry it took me 3 years to get back to you. What makes me better than a young-Earth creationist is that the academic field of Biblical Studies is different than the academic field of geology.