Raphael Lataster, an Australian doctoral student in religious studies, has published a book recently, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists, examining the debate over the historicity of Jesus by focusing only on what atheist and agnostic experts are saying, and not Christian believers—regarding the latter as too biased to consider; since any good arguments they have should be as convincing to experts who aren’t believers anyway, so really we should only be looking at the debate among atheists.
It’s a good point. Unfortunately, atheist academic monographs defending historicity don’t exist. The only two so far written this century, by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey, were neither published by academic presses, nor underwent any formal peer review. But Lataster works with what the academy has given him. And so he surveys the merits of those two books anyway. And compares them with mine, On the Historicity of Jesus, which was published by an academic press and did pass formal academic peer review. His own result is historicity agnosticism. And a lot of serious criticism of how the academy has handled this debate, judging by the only two books it has produced so far in defense of what the academy often claims should be so well demonstrated as to be irrefutable.
I was commissioned to write a foreword and afterword to the book, and to read the manuscript and provide any advice I had towards its improvement or the correction of any obvious errors or omissions. Lataster operated independently. He did not necessarily heed all of my advice. Whatever remains in the book is now his responsibility to defend. But I will make some comments on the matter below. In particular, I discuss in his book’s afterword what I expected critics will attempt to do, like attack its tone rather than its content—or lie about its contents. That process has already begun… [Read more…]