Brian Bethune has published a good article on the historicity question for Macleans, a leading Canadian magazine. Titled Did Jesus Really Exist?, his article presents a pretty fair assessment of the debate (after summarizing recent developments in the field calling into question the reliability of memory). He doesn’t delve into the deeper levels (principally, what did Paul mean by “Brothers of the Lord” or being “made of a woman” or “of the sperm of David”?). But he summarizes where things stand. And like me ten years ago, he finds the historicity defenders have a surprisingly, indeed perplexingly weak case.
Around the same time, doctoral candidate in religious studies Raphael Lataster published a peer reviewed journal article summarizing the case in more detail. Titled It’s Official: We Can Now Doubt Jesus’s Historical Existence, and published in Think (by The Royal Institute of Philosophy), Vol. 15.43 (Summer 2016), pp. 65-79, it’s a good summary of his book Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists. None of his more speculative stuff is in there. Every point he makes is entirely correct.
In both cases, the truth of what they report significantly rests with the extremely poor responses of historicity defenders. Once again it’s starting to look like they have no good responses to make (this became evident even in my debate with Craig Evans in Georgia a few weeks ago, which I’ll blog about soon). Ehrman seems not to have given Bethune any good answers. And the only books the entire field has produced in defense of historicity really do phenomenally suck—and in all the ways Lataster documents.
The responses to these two articles so far are absurd. They even make the defense of historicity look embarrassing and ridiculous. Which shouldn’t be so easy to do. But alas, two authors definitely accomplish said marvel… [Read more…]