My Final Post On The Christ Myth Theory

I hope you enjoyed my posts on Jesus Mythicism. If you are interested in the topic, I encourage you to check out the Tim O’Neil interview I linked to previously. That’s a good starting point.

One last thought. One of the core methodological approaches of mythicism is to point to typology to bracket the question of the historicity of various New Testament story units. So, since Matthew’s Jesus infancy narrative (and much more) recapitulates the story of Moses, an argument can be made that this is just historical fiction presenting Jesus as the New and Greater Moses. What I would like to show, though, is that such typology method can sometimes be used to argue for the historical existence of Jesus. How?

Our earliest source for the crucifixion, Paul, understands Jesus being hung on a tree/crucified (Galatians 3:13) pointing to Deuteronomy: everyone hanged on a tree is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23). Conservative evangelicals want this to mean that innocent Jesus bore our sins on the cross, but this is probably not what the passage means. Daniel R. Streett comments that:

  • (1) When Paul says that Jesus “became a curse,” he is saying not that God cursed Jesus but rather that Jesus condescended to the humility of the cross, was executed by his countrymen in a miscarriage of justice, and was considered by his people to be under a divine curse.
  • (2) When Paul cites Deut 21:23, he does not intend to say that all crucified victims are de facto cursed. Rather, for Paul and his contemporaries, the charge and its validity matter. Because Jesus was innocent, he was not under the curse of Deut 21:23. Paul likely cites the passage to explain how Christ’s death brought special humiliation in the eyes of the Jewish people.
  • (3) Finally, I have argued that Gal 3:13 is not intended to explain the mechanism of atonement, that is, some behind-the-scenes divine transaction. Rather, the text is meant to emphasize the extent of Christ’s suffering in order to redeem his people. The mechanism of redemption is more properly sought in other passages, most likely those that refer to the work of the Spirit in baptism, uniting believers to Christ in his death and resurrection. (Streett, 2015, p. 209)

Also, on three occasions, Acts refers to Jesus’ crucifixion as ‘hanging on a tree’ (5.30; 10.39; 13.29), a phrase alluding to the proscriptions for displaying an Israelite convicted of a capital crime (Deut. 21.22-23).

What does this all mean? For Paul, the cross refers back to Deuteronomy in the special sense of someone who was lawless as guilty of a capital crime in the eyes of the world. This is exactly what we would expect if Jesus was a historical person, fitting in perfectly with the gospels, and not what we would expect if Jesus was a celestial entity killed by sky demons in outer space!

So, I hope these posts have whetted your appetite to look into the Christ Myth Controversy. Who knows, maybe you will learn enough from the mythicists to use their own arguments against them?