Jesus Mythicism: Ehrman and Price

I hate being salt in the wound, but one of the more funny things to do, as someone with a background in biblical studies, is watching the flailing and blind waffling of Jesus mythicists.

Mythicism is what happens when untrained, undereducated (in the particular subject being discussed), ideologically naive people gather into walled off groups and discuss the fanciful while pretending they are circumventing the ideology of the academy at large (assuming NT studies is corrupted by Christian practitioners).

Because of the bizarre nature of such debates, I decided I had to stay up until midnight (London Time) on October 20th to watch a nearly three hour event, a debate between Bart Ehrman and Robert Price. At times I was intrigued, but mostly I knew perturbation. That feeling probably peaked when Price had the gall to suggest that Paul didn’t write Galatians. What?!

I, obviously, had a side. I’m a Pauline scholar with a background working on, particularly, Paul and his reception and possible uses in political philosophy and critical theory. Because of this, I do often find myself in a strange spot where I rely on biblical studies and defend it, while still occupying a marginal space on the boundaries of the discipline.

But, I am also aware of the limitations in method for the work on the historical Jesus. These have been pointed out by plenty, including Ehrman, Crossley, R. Myles, D. Kirkman,  and scores of reasonably skeptical scholars (who note problems with, for instance, criteria like “embarrassment” or dissimilarity)

Because of this, I actually was looking forward to some interesting pushback, either through Price’s grappling with Ehrman, or through the audience Q & A. Instead, I found myself messaging a friend, lamenting that I had stayed up so late (he felt mutual). I also paid £6. I could have gotten 3 beers from Tesco and had enough change leftover for candy. Probably would have resulted in a more fun night.

Every point brought up by Price was easily countered by Ehrman (though he did make some mistakes, and acted a bit authoritative on points that aren’t quite concrete, like the ethnicity of Mark). The audience questions, likewise, were just silly. The type that could easily have been cleared up by reading a few surveys instead of getting one’s feet wet in the subject by  picking up mythicist literature.

Here, then, we can come to the crux of the issue. This is purely ideological, through and through. It isn’t really about scholarship, or finding Truth, or some other romanticized notion. It’s about forming scholarship that finds its guiding touchpoints through the broader cultural form of certain types of atheism.

There was, however, an enjoyable breakdown of the evening with scholars on an online podcast, consisting of James McGrath and James G. Crossley. This was the highlight of the night as they were given chance to discuss the some of the details of the debate. Several minutes in a mythicist joined the ranks, so at times it felt like a second mini-event. This was, perhaps, the saving grace of the evening. 


8 comments on “Jesus Mythicism: Ehrman and Price

  1. Reblogged this on Blogging Theology and commented:

  2. Griffin says:

    The accepted religious view of Gnosticism is wrong. Essentially it is Platonistic hierarchical dualism. So its roots go all the way back to 350 BC. You can see it in Heb. 8.5 most obviously.

    – Griffin Gaddie PhD

    • Hello Griffin, thanks for the comment. I am wondering, however, what this is in response to within this particular post?

      • Griffin says:

        Price or others are often accused by McGrath of seeing Gnosticism as coming too early, among other alleged errors. However, if Gnosticism is really just a version of Platonism, then this and other objections disappear. Much of Gnosticism appeared with Plato, c. 350 BCE. And it was rather different than what many in religious studies think.

        Here indeed, a little knowledge of philosophy changes the picture considerably.

        Though to be sure, I haven’t heard the debate yet, I suspect this will vindicate Price and Doherty somewhat.

        Or did you notice a different problem in Price’s characterizations?

        By the way, Religius Studies is every bit as hermetic as mythicism. And just as lacking in relevant training. Not only philosophy, but also history and mythogenesis.

        With no graduate secular History courses at all, usually, they don’t hesitate to say that Jesus is “historical.”

    • ‘Christian’ Gnosticism is by definition a heretical Christian movement, and thus could not actually predate Christianity. All the Christian Gnostic texts only appear within the second century AD, and therefore it is quite evident that the Christians probably hadn’t any gnostic sects around them in the first century AD, let alone before the Gospels as espoused by Robert Price. One simply cannot claim the ‘accepted’ (consensus) view is wrong and leave it at that. What is your PhD in?

      The Book of Hebrews is anything but gnostic, let alone Hebrews 8:5. Gnostics deny the death and incarnation of Jesus, but those two are right there in Hebrews 2:9. Thus, the Book of Hebrews is not a gnostic next, nor does its theology have any compatibility with Gnosticism. Gnosticism did not rise with Platonism, although its second century inception was definitely influenced by Platonism.

  3. Good post. I’ll try to find that podcast on the debate.

    • Thanks very much! If i find it before you, I’ll post it here. Also, if you are interested in watching it, the debate has finally been made available online:

      • I watched the debate several weeks ago because some person I know (err, not exactly know) found a link of it on dailymotion or somewhere. Price will went into madness at some places. Paul not writing Galatians, LOL. I also found 2nd century composition of the gospels funny as well. Didn’t Clement of Rome, a first century author, quote the gospels? Hard to quote something that wasn’t written yet, if I do say so myself.

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