Book Plunge: Unmasking the Jesus Myth

What do I think of Stephen Bedard’s book on Jesus mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Stephen Bedard for sending me his latest book on this topic. Bedard is one Christian who still wants to give time to Jesus mythicism and addressing it. I do as well, but it is becoming less common mainly because when we meet anyone who is a mythicist, we tend to see them as beyond reasonable discussion. The rules of historiography are changed to allow for this.

Bedard has put together a small book that you could read in a couple of hours on the topic so you can be familiar with it. He has put some of the most important information in there such as stories of the pagan gods that Jesus is said to be a copy of. He also points out that this is not a scholarly debate at all. Instead, it is a debate that is largely taking place on the internet. If you meet someone who says academics in the field don’t even know if Jesus existed, you have met someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Of course, at this, someone is going to say “Richard Carrier!” Yes. Bedard talks about him as well and Robert Price as lone exceptions to the rule of scholars in the field. Note that these are exceptions. They also do not teach at accredited universities. There’s a reason for that. Mythicism is just not taken seriously.

Still, since Carrier is mentioned, I do wish Bedard had spent more time talking about Carrier’s hypothesis about Jesus being a cosmic being who was supposedly crucified in outer space and that the accounts eventually became historicized. The dying and rising gods idea is still out there and still needs to be addressed, but this is an approach that a lot of people are not familiar with and can lead to some people being caught off guard.

In fact, this is the real ultimate problem with mythicism. It is not that the arguments are so powerful. It’s that they’re so bizarre. Many would have a hard time answering them for the same reason they’d have a hard time answering objections to the idea that we really landed on the moon. Moon landing conspiracy theorists have outlandish claims that a man on the street will not be familiar with and even if you read scholarly literature you will not be familiar with. Mythicists tend to take this strange ideas and run with them thinking they’re gold. When you listen to a mythicist talk, you will often hear unaccepted claim after unaccepted claim in a sort of shotgun approach. (I was there when Craig Evans debated Richard Carrier. I saw Carrier doing just this.)

Still, Bedard’s book is a good summary of the situation. If you have read extensively on this topic, you won’t really find anything new here, but if you aren’t familiar with it, then Bedard’s book can be a really good place to begin. While it is short, it is indeed filled with important information to help you counter the claims of mythicists.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/18/2015: Stephen Bedard

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, apologies on the show not getting up as it should be. I have been awfully busy around here, but I am trying to get that taken care of. If you do not know, April is Autism Awareness Month and we have been looking at the subject of autism. This week, we’re going to have my friend Stephen Bedard come on to talk about his book How To Make Your Church Autism Friendly.

So who is Stephen Bedard?

StephenBedard

According to his bio:

Stephen Bedard has a BBA from Brock University, Mdiv, MTh, MA degrees from McMaster Divinity College and is a current DMin student at Acadia Divinity College. He is a chaplain in the Canadian army reserves and an adjunct instructor at Emmanuel Bible College.

This is a personal field for Bedard as well as he has two children with autism. This book that he has written is a labor of love. Also, if you’re someone who doesn’t have much time for reading of this sort, then you will be in luck again. The book is incredibly short. I read it on a flight from New Orleans to Knoxville and even then still had plenty of time left over. Yet this book is packed with great information and short stories that will open your eyes to the reality that is autism. Bedard was fortunate to find a church that was autism friendly and did indeed treat his children well.

Bedard and I will be talking about these matters. Are there some things that the church is doing that is really turning off people who have autism? Naturally, churches cannot do everything as random people in the church might not be as familiar, Still, there are things that churches can do to play their part. More and more families are being affected by the realities of the autism spectrum and these are situations that need to be addressed. As more and more people are diagnosed with autism, churches will indeed have to adapt to this so they can meet the needs of this rising demographic, including their spiritual needs.

Do children’s groups need to get equipped to be autism-friendly? Children who are on the spectrum will behave different than children who are not. Will other parents need to be aware of this? What about events in the church? What happens if a child with autism is in a church service and suddenly starts to act up. How should a good pastor handle this situation? Will some times be more frightening for people on the spectrum?

These are important topics indeed and we will be talking about more of them, including Bedard’s own personal experience with this reality. It is my hope that in hearing this, you will realize how important it is that your church be autism-friendly and that you will also really consider getting Stephen Bedard’s book and letting your pastor have a copy of the book as well.

I look forward to this interview and I hope you’ll be watching your podcast feed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Unmasking The Pagan Christ

What do I think of Porter and Bedard’s book? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Unmasking

Unmasking The Pagan Christ is a response to the book of Tom Harpur’s called “The Pagan Christ.” It’s important to note that the reason authors like Bedard and Porter are spending time on this topic is not because the idea of Harpur’s is a serious debate in the academic community. It’s not. They wrote it for the same reason I had my recent debate¬†with Ken Humphreys. It is because this is affecting the rank and file of the church and instilling doubt in them. This is also because we as the church have been doing an abysmal job at equipping Christians to answer challenges so much so that even the craziest of theories has an impact.

Such is the case with Harpur’s book. Harpur’s idea is that Jesus wasn’t a historical figure. Instead, he’s a sort of mishmash of varios pagan deities, though especially Horus and Osiris. He wants to go instead with a sort of Cosmic Christ. A universal Christ as it were. Yet to do this, the historical figure must simply be banished.

Thankfully, there are people out there like Bedard and Porter who are doing the work to make sure that this kind of material is dealt with. A large number of scholars have had the right attitude towards mythicism ¬†(This is nonsense) but had the wrong response. (Therefore if we ignore it, it will just go away.) This is especially so for Christian scholars who ignore this not at their peril, but at the peril of their fellow Christians who aren’t as equipped.

Of course, atheistic scholars and others have a role to play in this as well. There are atheistic scholars out there who are frankly quite embarrassed by how many atheists are jumping on the mythicist bandwagon, as they should be. For atheists who complain about Christians arguing against them on evolution without studying science (And they are certainly right to do so!), it looks like too many atheists are jumping on this idea without really studying history.

Bedard and Porter take us through a course in what Egyptologists really say about Horus and Osiris and how what Harpur says just doesn’t match up. They also demonstrate that Harpur relies on outdated scholarship like Massey and Kuhn, that quite frankly wasn’t even taken seriously in its own day. One aspect I think quite helpful in the look at Egyptology is to point out that the word KRST that shows up in Egypt does not mean Christ, but rather refers to burial. This is commonly cited by mythicists.

The authors use the work of actual Egyptologists who reference what the original works about Horus and Osiris themselves say. They then demonstrate that the parallels that Harpur claims to see are more forced and read into the text instead of being read out of the text. They do demonstrate that there are some parallels, but these are parallels we can expect from all religions. (It’s not much of a shock if many religions use water as a means of cleansing, have people share food together in a meal, etc.)

Along the way, the authors also give us a look at Mithras, another favorite of the pagan copycat crowd. They point out that if anyone dies and comes back in the story of Mithras, it is not Mithras, but rather it is the bull that he kills. Those who claim Christ is a copy of Mithras have likely never read any real scholarship on Mithras.

After that, we get to a more positive case. What is the evidence that Jesus existed? Here I think the authors do a fine job, though the arguments will not be new to people in this field. The authors point out how Harpur misunderstands sayings of the church fathers and does not deal adequately with the extra-biblical evidence.

I am thankful that books like this one exist and I hope more do come. Mythicism cannot be ignored at this point. It is not because it is a powerful theory. It is not. It is because it is a theory that leads away people from doing sound and real history. It results in a conspiracy theory thinking that is extremely anti-intellectual and anti-historical. It is my hope that scholars of all worldviews and positions will start to deal with this and give it the deathblow and humiliation that it deserves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters