There are a couple of notable elements I’d like to point to here about Fitzgerald’s chapter. He writes:
- In his letters, Paul often rages and fumes that his rivals are evil deceivers, with false Christs and false gospels so different from his own true Christ and true Gospel, that he accuses them of being agents of Satan and even lays curses and threats upon them! … The evidence is clear; there were many different gospels, Jesuses, and Christs being preached by different groups in the first century (and even into the early second century, when the Didakhê was likely written). No single individual Jesus made an impact on history, but many different ones made an impact on theology—at least on the cultic fringe.
- (W. Loftus, John; M. Price, Robert. Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? (p. 24). Hypatia Press. Kindle Edition).
This is interesting and would certainly make sense in a mythicist framework where everyone was basing truth on personal hallucinations of Jesus, though a single figure who birthed many factions certainly could have happened with a historical figure who died since the authority is dead who could have resolved disputes.
Fitzgerald goes further that the Jesus story seems to emulate the dying-rising god myths:
- our Jesus is a Jewish version of the other rebooted mystery faith savior deities that dominated the ancient Hellenistic world, and our Gospels all derive from the original “Mark’s,” a blatantly allegorical story written far from and generations after the place and time it describes. This is not from dogma or wishful thinking; if the evidence could be shown to warrant it, I’d be happy to change my mind back to Historicism, and still be a perfectly contented atheist. After all, it’s not like Christianity is suddenly going to start making sense if it turns out Jesus was real.
- W. Loftus, John; M. Price, Robert. Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? (p. 38). Hypatia Press. Kindle Edition.
The point about secularism is important because Christianity isn’t more likely to be true if Jesus really existed. Fitzgerald provides the following critique, regardless of whether Jesus existed or not:
- I find myself constantly quoting Price’s apt observation that whether or not there ever had been a real Jesus, for all intents and purposes, there isn’t one anymore—because everything we think we know about that elusive figure comes to us from a handful of much later, deeply problematic writings that have no connection to anyone who actually lived in the first century. And again, this is the case, whether a real Jesus ever existed or not, even whether Christianity is true or not.
- W. Loftus, John; M. Price, Robert. Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? (p. 39). Hypatia Press. Kindle Edition.
I tend to lean toward the idea that we can provide a compelling defense of the historicity of Jesus, and will do so as this review continues. Next time:
Chapter 2: Jesus Christ by Barbara G. Walker