Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Jesus Fight...And What It Means for the Jews

Religious historian and humanist R. Joseph Hoffmann has declared war on Jesus mythicists:
This little rant (and it is a rant, I acknowledge and I do not apologize for it: somebody’s got to do it) will be followed  next week by three essay-length responses to Richard C. Carrier’s ideas: The first by me, the second by Professor Maurice Casey of the University of Nottingham, and the third by Stephanie Fisher a specialist in Q-studies. We will attempt to show an impetuous amateur not only where he goes wrong, but why he should buy a map before starting his journey. Other replies will follow in course, and we invite Carrier, his fans, and anyone else interested in this discussion to respond to it at any stage along the way.
As you can see, Hoffmann's main target is Richard Carrier, a Ph.D. in ancient history, author/speaker, atheist, and mythicist. Hoffmann aims to show both Carrier and his atheist applauders that the Jesus-as-myth view is probably untenable.

But it's important also realize everything that's at stake in this war on mythicism:
  • What are viable ideas in scholarship versus crankery and crack-pottery?
  • Who are scholars and what does it mean to practice responsible scholarship?
  • What authority do consensus views have?
  • What consideration should be given to marginal and fringe views?
  • What status is given to non-professionals, hobbyists, and scholars in outside disciplines?
  • What roles do tradition, bias, ignorance, innovation, and personal ideology have in scholarship?
  • What methods work in historical and humanities scholarship, and how do we know they work?
  • Where should scholarly debates be conducted, and in what forms?
I don't know this list is exhaustive, but it is accurate and reflects a timely angst about today's hyper-traffic in ideas and opinions.

I look forward to Hoffmann and cohorts bringing in solid data and arguments. I also eagerly await Carrier's replies. I hope we'll get to see whether mythicism withstands scrutiny or not. Most of all, I hope to see how all sides of the debate directly and indirectly wrangle with the issues I've listed.

This is, folks, an important moment.

Yes, you might say, but is it good for the Jews? (i.e., we begin the humorous part of the post.) Consider this:
  • The outcome of the debate will not likely stir up antisemitism, unless people walk away thinking Jesus was a myth perpetrated by the Jews to make them look foolish.
  • The debate may turn out to be high impact. American and world evangelicals could get stirred up regardless of mythicism's standing afterwards.
  • The Jewishness of Jesus and his first followers should be one recurring item. Some, of course, will repress the idea.
Therefore, this debate may turn out not so good for the Jews. The best case scenario for the Jews is that Jesus is concluded to have probably existed and we all return to our regularly scheduled fantasies.

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