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Welcome to the hub page for the first Tekton Building Blocks series book, Shattering the Christ Myth, which officially came out July 3, 2008. Here we'll provide descriptions of each chapter, plus whatever links are necessary for further discussion and news on each of these chapters. This will include links to discussion forum threads, answers to any attempts at rebuttal, and any new information about what is discussed in the chapters.
Unless otherwise indicated, chapters are authored by James Patrick Holding.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The Extra-Biblical Evidence
- Chapter 1: Firmly Established by Josephus: What an Ancient Jewish Historian Knew About Jesus by Christopher E. Price of the Christian CADRE. Exhaustive treatment of arguments relating to Josephus' two reference to Jesus in the Antiquities. Additional articles by Mr. Price about the Jesus Myth and early Christianity are available at his Virtual Office, here.
- Chapter 2: Nero's Scapegoats: Cornelius Tacitus' Annals 15:44 as a Reference to Jesus. Exhaustive treatment of arguments relating to Tacitus' reference to Jesus in the Annals.
- Chapter 3: The Testimony of Lucian and Pliny the Younger. Arguments for the usefuless and value of references to Jesus in Lucian's Passing of Peregrinus and Pliny's letter to Emperor Trajan.
- Chapter 4: Papias' Testimony to the Existence of Jesus by Jake O'Connell. Argues that Papias provides indiputable evidence for the historicity of an earthly Jesus. O'Connell is currently pursuing a B.A. in Theology at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has several articles and book reviews forthcoming in various scholarly journals including the Tyndale Bulletin and Expository Times.
Part 2: The Christ Myth, Thesis One: The "Silence" Thesis
- Chapter 5: Refuting "Remsberg's List". Answers the charge that Jesus ought to be mentioned in the works of various ancient authors.
- Chapter 6: The Silence of Silence. On the premise that "silence" about details of Jesus' life in the NT epistles supports a mythicist thesis.
- Chapter 7: Shadows and Subordinations. On the claim that the NT's use of the OT to describe history proves the mythicist thesis, as well as a look at theological misunderstandings associated with the mythicist thesis.
- Chapter 8: The Life Markers of Jesus. On how silence mythicists handle clear references to an earthly Jesus in the NT epistles.
- Chapter 9: Earl Doherty's Christianities by Kevin Rosero. On the lack of witnesses to the beliefs that Doherty attributes to the earliest Christians. Rosero's blog is located here.
- Chapter 10: Jesus Didn't Exist in the 21st Century. A future researcher shows that a modern hymnal proves that people of the 21st century did not believe in an earthly Jesus.
- Chapter 11: Leo's Line. Did Pope Leo X really say that Christ was a "fable"?
- Chapter 12: Trypho's Terror. Does Justin's Dialogue with Trypho contain early evidence of a Christ myth?
- Chapter 13: The Silence Mythicists. Profiles of G. A. Wells and Earl Doherty, and an analysis of why some think they are more effective than they are.
Part 3: The Christ Myth, Thesis Two: The "Copycat" Thesis
Part 4: The Christ Myth Goes Hollywood
- Chapter 22: The Zeitgeist Heist by Jonathan Brown. A detailed refutation of the popular Internet movie. Brown is a student of religion and philosophy at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. His online presence is found here.
- Chapter 23: The Director Who Isn't All There. A profile of Brian Flemming, creator of The God Who Wasn't There.
Part 5: Additional Material
- Chapter 24: Did Nazareth Exist? Addresses the claim that Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jesus and specifically refutes Rene Salm's The Myth of Nazareth. For this chapter I consulted with Dr. James Strange, author of the Anchor Bible Dictionary entry on Nazareth and other items on the subject. You can read this as a sample chapter here.
- I have publicly challenged Salm to answer for some of his clear examples of dishonesty and his errors on a thread at TheologyWeb here. He has not answered emails challenging him, but has corrected a couple of minor issues on his page as a result of our challenge.
- See now also the May/June 2009 issue of the Tekton E-Block for an update on how Salm has responded to scathing criticism of his thesis in an archaeological journal.
- Chapter 25: The Story of Jesus by Jake O'Connell. Argues that the mythicist thesis is rendered implausible by the improbable depiction of Jesus in the NT.
- Chapter 26: The Academic Mythicists. Profiles of Robert Price and Richard Carrier.
- Chapter 27: The Internet Mythicists. Profiles of Kenneth Humphreys of "jesusneverexisted.com" and Greg Kane of Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth. Now listen also to our debate with Humphreys on Premier Christian Radio here.
- Chapter 28: The Tale of William Tell. Compares evidence for the legendary William Tell to that for Jesus. Available in November 2008 E-Block.
Reviews of Books
Here, we'll note reviews of the book, and link to reviews of books concerned with the Christ myth. Listings are alphabetical by author.
Reviews of Shattering the Christ Myth
- July 2008 -- By one of those strange coincidences, this book arrived by the same post as John Earman’s philosophical classic Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument against Miracles [a work which might well have been called: Shattering the Hume Myth].
In his Introduction, Earman writes: "... the interesting questions are whether the assertion merits belief, and whether the enterprise is conducive to producing well-founded belief." He goes on to note that :The answers ..can only be reached by careful, case-by-case investigations [which] ...are often unrewarding, and can be downright tedious. Charles Berlitz’s The Bermuda Triangle (1974) sold several million copies [whereas] Larry Kusche’s The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle – Solved (1986) was never a best-seller ... [it] shows that there is no mystery at all..."
There is a lesson here for all those who work hard to rebut the sensationalist and ignorant views that the public seems to lap up, while paying little heed to the many careful rebuttals. How else could one account for the huge sales of works like The Da Vinci Code and the relative neglect of the various good answers to such pernicious mendacity? It was ever thus: as scripture says [2 Timothy 4.3f.]:
For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
It is to the itching ears of those who would rather believe any old nonsense than face the authentic Gospel of Christ that this work is chiefly directed. Whether or not they are prepared to hear is another matter – but the Editor, JP Holding, and his team of co-authors, has done a superb job here in combating the egregious errors of those who would have us believe that Jesus never existed, and that there is no reliable historical evidence that he did. Anyone with a decent education would know that such views are risible. But alas, a decent education is something we can no longer take for granted – on either side of the Atlantic. The industry and civility of these authors is a monument to their cheerful obedience to the apostolic injunction [1 Peter 3.14f.]:
Do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.
Our authors have more patience than most; and I am astonished that Holding should devote so much time and energy to rebutting the ignorant nonsense produced by Earl Doherty, to name but one. After this we can forgive his jeux d’esprit in Chapter 10.
I should perhaps declare an interest here. I was once on friendly terms with G.A. Wells, and read four of his later books in manuscript. In three of these he acknowledges my assistance. But I found him reluctant to admit to serious flaws in his arguments; and his highly arbitrary seizing on any material which offered his views the slightest support, while rejecting major objections, became increasingly hard to take. I thus now have to agree with Robert van Voorst, who writes [in Jesus Outside the New Testament, 2000, p. 15f.] that Wells has "advanced the non-historicity hypothesis, not for objective reasons, but for highly tendentious, anti-religious purposes." The same purposes are even more apparent in most of the other Jesus-Mythers critiqued here.
The Introduction, by Dr James Hannam, gives a concise history of Christ-Myth theories, and chapters 1-4 deal in turn with the extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus provided by Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Pliny and Papias. Here one can single out the excellent and very thorough treatment of the Josephan evidence by Christopher E. Price. While he argues very properly – along with the majority of Josephan scholars - for the substantial authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum, perhaps he concedes too much to the opposition by using the word 'tampering' for the minor but obvious later Christian interpolations in the text. 'Tampering' can suggest dishonest manipulation and bad faith, whereas there is a plausible and simpler explanation for at least some of the insertions which does not imply bad faith. It is well documented that readers of ancient texts [including the NT] sometimes added marginal annotations which, when the work was copied, were incorporated into the body of the text by the scribe, probably from entirely innocent motives. Thus the phrase 'He was the Christ' [unless it was actually Josephan, and perhaps intended ironically] could have been added as a marginal note by a reader and subsequently incorporated into the text quite innocently by a copyist. Such things did happen. The Chapter on Papias by Jake O’Connell is also very good, and quite rightly draws heavily on the ground-breaking recent work on eyewitness testimony by Richard Bauckham.
Chapters 5 through 13 cover those whose case against the historical Jesus rests wholly or mainly on arguments from silence, including Wells and Doherty. These are mostly by Holding himself, and many originate with articles posted on his Tektonics Website. One can only admire his tenacity. Kevin Rosero also adds a useful chapter on Doherty. Part Three (chapters 14-20) cover the authors who seek to discredit Christianity by invoking [largely imaginary and anachronistic] pagan parallels. Part Four – just two chapters – one by Jonathan Brown and the other by JP Holding – deal with the anti-Christian films Zeitgeist and The God who Wasn’t There. And in the supplementary material there is an up-to-the-minute demolition of the silly attempts by Rene Salm to 'prove' there was no place called Nazareth in the time of Jesus.
The Christ-mythers emerge in this comprehensive study as a bunch of amateurs who imagine they know better than serious scholars; and though some of them have bona fide academic credentials, they are almost always in irrelevant disciplines. The Foreword, by Michael Licona, mentions the egregious Rook Hawkins, a 24 year old internet self-publicist with nothing more than a high-school diploma, who styles himself an "ancient texts expert:! In a world where academic excellence meant more than it seems to today, such miscreants would be treated with the disdain they deserve. But increasingly we seem to live in the virtual reality of cyberspace and internet chutzpah where anything goes. The post-modern chickens are coming home to roost.
For all my admiration for this work, two things depress me. One is that it was needed at all; and the other is those who most need it may be the least likely to heed it. But Christians are bidden only to proclaim the truth and correct error. Not all will want to hear it; but those who actively subvert it will, we believe, get their just reward.
Daniel O'Hara has an honours degree in Christian Theology from the University of Nottingham ,
and a Master of Divinity, cum honoribus, from the Philadelphia Divinity School .
- On Amazon, P. J. Porvaznik has posted a highly positive review, with one minor complaint that the book is oversized. Regrettably, with the word count where it was, Xulon's only option for trim size was the one I ended up using. I would have liked a smaller size too, but that wasn't an option.
Books in support of the Christ myth:
Books useful for debunking the Christ myth may be found in this bibliography of books on the historical Jesus
December 2008: I had a debate with Frank Zindler, head of American Atheists, on the Christ myth.
May 2009: I had a debate on Premier Christian Radio with Ken Humphreys of the fringe website jesusneverexisted.com which you can listen to here.