Re: Helping the Historicists Get it Right: What is Mythicism?

A link to a blog by Thomas Verenna and my discussion with him from the comments section:

Helping the Historicists Get it Right: What is Mythicism?

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm “More recent mythicist arguments deal with exegesis, Gospel genre (if the Gospels weren’t written for the purpose of “telling what happened” but rather “telling a good story” there clearly is reason to doubt the historicity of Jesus Christ), intertextuality (the models used by the authors of the Gospels to create narrative—and how much of the Gospel can be traced back to models), Jewish socio-cultural studies in the Hellenistic and Roman periods (did the Jews of the original “Christian” sect expect a historical savior or a spiritual one?), religious-meme change (how quickly did religious trends change and how much could they have changed over that period of time—for example, euhemerizing a legendary figure of Jesus into a historical setting), and proto-Christian origins (was there a “Christianity” before the first-century CE and where did it originate?) . Clearly April would be correct if the mythicist position was reliant only on pagan myth parallels. It’s a good thing then that modern mythicists generally do not rely on pagan parallels whatsoever.”

I agree with you about mythicism not being reliant only on pagan myth parallels. On the other hand, I disagree with how you seem to be rather critical of those who point out those parallels such as Acharya. It isn’t a matter of either/or thinking. I’m not a defender of Acharya, but I am an interested party who seeks out all viewpoints. I’ve read a variety of mythicist theorists and I think all of them have something useful to add.

Anyways, Acharya doesn’t simply rely on pagan parallels. If you dismiss Acharya based on this assumption, then you are falling into the same trap as the historicist scholars. She goes out of her way to consider the subject from multiple perspectives. There is no need to try to smash Acharya’s head down in your attempt to climb the scholarly ladder of peer respectability. In case you didn’t know, both Doherty and Price have given positive reviews of Acharya’s work.

Tom Verenna Says:
April 6, 2009 at 3:58 pm I agree with you about mythicism not being reliant only on pagan myth parallels. On the other hand, I disagree with how you seem to be rather critical of those who point out those parallels such as Acharya. It isn’t a matter of either/or thinking. I’m not a defender of Acharya, but I am an interested party who seeks out all viewpoints. I’ve read a variety of mythicist theorists and I think all of them have something useful to add.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but that’s a rather naive opinion. Not all scholars have something useful to add. Some have nothing useful. Some have a lot to offer while others have a mix of useful and unhelpful points that, overall, make their contributions mediocre at best. Acharya S does not have anything useful to add (in my opinion–others are welcome to disagree). I’ll give my reasons for thinking this below.

Anyways, Acharya doesn’t simply rely on pagan parallels. If you dismiss Acharya based on this assumption, then you are falling into the same trap as the historicist scholars. She goes out of her way to consider the subject from multiple perspectives. There is no need to try to smash Acharya’s head down in your attempt to climb the scholarly ladder of peer respectability. In case you didn’t know, both Doherty and Price have given positive reviews of Acharya’s work.

My problem with Acharya S is more than just pagan parallels. She uses grossly outdated source material. Here are a few examples:

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/sources.htm

Gerald Massey, John Remsburg, Albert Churchward, Edward Carpenter, Franz Cumont, and so on. None of these individuals lived past the middle of the twentieth century. Their scholarship is so dated that using them can only hurt her points, not help make them. This is the underlying problem with Acharya S; she does not adequately research modern credible sources–only dated sources. If only dated sources can be used to make her points, then she needs to reevaluate her points. To give you an analogy of how horrific it is to use dated sources in academia, it would be akin to using a science book from the nineteenth century to back up a new model for the theory of relativity–without using anything that Albert Einstein, or any contemporary era physicist, had written. Her whole astrotheology perspective which she promotes comes from these sources–comes from parallelism that is dated and useless–and thus her usefulness is nil. That may be a hard criticism, but its one she should take to heart and consider.

Despite what you may have read or think you know, my criticisms of Acharya S have nothing to do with me “climbing the scholarly ladder”. It has everything to do with individuals such as yourself, who are trying to do honest research into the question of mythicism, who get sidetracked by this garbage–passed off as academia (of which it is not). The fact that you think she has something useful to say at all is evidence that you’ve bought into her deception. But how can you know, as a layman, what is credible and what isn’t? You have to have done an extreme amount of research to fact-check her claims to know she is full of it. If you haven’t done the research because you think she is an authority (I’m not claiming I am, either, by the way), then you’re the person I’m trying to reach. It is because serious intellectuals like you want to be educated that I come down hard on her–you need to know that what she has to say is severely flawed.

I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I don’t use sources that are from the 1880’s. Unlike Acharya S, I change my opinions to fit the facts (she is stubborn about changing her opinion and has not retracted anything she has been wrong about, not that I’ve seen or read anyway). I want my readers to be able to fact-check me and be able to raise contentions with what I write if they need to. Acharya S, on the other hand, has a group of fanboy cronies who she sends out from her message board to attack any dissenter. Often times these cronies spam other message boards and blogs with more garbage in a trollish and annoying fashion. I wouldn’t hold Acharya S responsible for her fan base, but she sends them out.

Now I’m not attacking Acharya S personally. I don’t know her personally. I can only judge her material. And I’m not the only one. While Bob Price and Earl Doherty speak of her kindly (which is their right), Richard Carrier and others have been outspoken about her inaccuracy. So just because two scholars speak favorably does not mean the whole community of experts agree. And while I respect Earl Doherty a great deal, I am dismayed that he uses her for source material and, unfortunately, he is also guilty of using dated material as well. (Doherty is far better at using modern sources for his material than Acharya S is, however, and overall Doherty’s work is substantially more credible)

To be clear: I would, in fact, be quite interested if Acharya S dropped her pseudonym (as I did) and start using her real name, started revising her theories to conform to existing, relevant, current data, and published academically or, at least, had a group of scholars review her work and offer suggestions (which she should consider, at least). I would read that book and, if it were credible, I would even promote it. But as of yet, that is a future I do not see her ever attaining. Not because she can’t, but because she has no desire to.

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm You can call my opinion naive if it makes you happy. By my comment, I didn’t mean one should be undiscerning about what one reads. I was just implying that all perspectives should be considered in order to grasp a more comprehensive understanding.

If your main source of info about Acharya is from Zeitgeist, then that explains a lot. She only consulted on that project once it had already begun, and she didn’t agree with all of the details.

BTW she wrote a supplement that can be obtained as an e-book that was intended to supply more supporting evidence for the Zeitgeist claims, and she then wrote a nearly 600 page book to flesh it out (Christ In Egypt). Also, she does now go by her real name (D.M. Murdock) which is the name on her recent book.

In Christ In Egypt, she attempted to synthesize all of the scholarly work that has been done so far that relates to the connections between Horus nd Jesus. She references works never published in English before and works never published at all before (such as the academic journals of a German scholar). She probably references Egyptologists more than any other type of scholar, but she does reference other contemporary mythicists (G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, and Richard Carrier).

In particular, she has a whole section where she describes a disagreement with Carrier about the Luxor inscriptions. I’m sure Carrier claims she is inaccurate, and Acharya claims he is inaccurate (http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/luxor.html). If you want to see a neutral viewpoint (by someone they both respect), check out Doherty because he discusses this disagreement on his site. I noticed that Carrier considers Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle to be the best presentation of the mythicist position.

She intentionally uses a wide range of scholars from older to newer, from Christian to non-Christian, from academia to the Catholic Encycopedia, etc. She does this so people like you have no basis to simply dismiss her claims. Anyways, before criticizing older scholarship, I’d recommend you read this article by Robert M. Price:

http://www.atheistalliance.org/jhc/Pricejhc.htm

How can I, as a layman, know what is credible or not? I guess I do it like anybody else who seriously studies a subject. I read a wide variety of authors, and I debate the issues with other informed individuals.

As for her being stubborn about her opinion, I don’t specifically know what your talking about. If you could detail your allegation, I would gladly research it for myself. As for her defenders, I always advise looking at the argument and the evidence rather than the person presenting it. Too often mythicists get dismissed by mainstream scholars who haven’t read their work, but it is even more shameful when other mythicists do this as well.

The last issue you bring up, I can’t speak for her. But, as I said, her theories do take into acount “existing, relevant, current data”. I don’t know if she plans on publishing academically and I don’t know what scholars may or may not have reviewed her work. I do know that Price wrote a foreword to her book Who Was Jesus?, but I can’t say if he reviewed it. One of Acharya’s sources is Massey and he is often dismissed even though his work was reviewed by some of the best scholars of the time (http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/who-is-gerald-massey.html).

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm

In case that wasn’t adequate, I’ll give a some of the modern Egyptologists she references: Rudolf Anthes, Jan Assman, Hellmut Brunner, Claas J. Bleeker, Bob Brier, Henri Frankfort, Alan H. Gardiner, John Gwyn Griffiths, Erik Hornung, Barry Kemp, Barbara Lesko, Bojana Mojsov, Siegfried Morenz, William Murnane, Margaret A. Murray, Donald B. Redford, Herman te Velde, Claude Traunecker, Reginald E. Witt, and Louis V. Zabkar.

I’ve noticed many mythicists use Hornung as a reference. Another interesting scholar (from an earlier time) is Wallis Budge. Acharya/Murdock along with other mythicists reference him. I was having a discussion with an apologetic NT scholar recently, and I noticed in a peer-reviewed article by him that he had also referenced Budge.

2 thoughts on “Re: Helping the Historicists Get it Right: What is Mythicism?

  1. He commented back and it turns out he is just another ignorant asshole. I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. Here is my reply to him:

    My intentions are simply to have a discussion, but you’ve been dismissive and aggressive towards me. What is your issue? You say, why not be upfront and honest? So, now you turn to ad hom attacks? Calm down.

    It is dishonest to post information in more than one place? Explain how that exactly works. Did you actually think you’re the only person I’ve ever had this discussion with? I’ve been having numerous discussions in different forums and blogs about this subject for years. And I happen to be reading Christ In Egypt at the moment,. So, it has come up in these discussions. What is odd about all of this?

    What are you even talking about with your comment about references and sources? I know what the words mean, but your gibberish is confusing me. I really don’t care what you do with sources. I was talking about Acharya/Murdock. Have you read her recent books? She uses newer and older scholarship, and she uses primary sources. If that isn’t good enough for you, then that is your personal issue which has nothing to do with me.

    You state once again, in ignorance, that she backs up her conclusions with dated sources. The modern Egyptologists I mentioned are just some of the scholars she cites in Christ In Egypt. The bibliography is about 40 pages long. Do you seriously expect me to list every scholar she has ever cited? The only thing shameful here is your juvenile behavior.

    Did you read the article by your “friend” Price? You admit to referencing older sources as does Murdock. She references many sources (including newer) to support her conclusions. Why do you feel a need that Murdock must be wrong and you must be right? Have you considered being more inellectually humble?

    Yes, I sometimes read articles from academic publications. I read interesting info where ever it is to be found.

    And, no, I never claimed Hornung cited Budge. Calm down and read more carefully what I actually wrote. I merely was making an observation that Budge is a source that many people reference even though they come to different conclusions. It was just a friendly comment, just a casual observation. I wasn’t trying to make a detailed argument about anything.

    As for Zeitgeist, the producers did use some of her material, but she claims that she was only consulted personally at the last minute. I don’t care about your constant allegations based on limited info. If you want to argue with Murdock, then go to her forum or her blog. Or if you want to disprove her, then read her work first. I’m merely requesting intellectual honesty. Is that too much to ask?

    It really doesn’t matter to me if you agree with her or not. I just prefer that it be based on knowledge rather than ignorance, but it’s your personal choie.

    Also, if you disagree with Murdock, then ask Price and Doherty why they respect her work. Price is the most intellectually honest and intellectually knowledgable New Testament scholars I know of. There must be a reason he would support her scholarship by writing a foreword. Maybe, unlike you, Price and Doherty have actually studied her scholarship carefully.

    Good luck!

  2. Everything has become clear. In another blog about the Jesus seminar (http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2009/02/jesus-seminar-jesus-is-bankrupt-post-4.html), Thomas Verenna was quoted. someone in the comments pointed out that Tom Verenna is “Rook Hawkins” from the Rational Response Squad (www.rationalresponders.com/). Rook Hawkins is well known across the internet as a faux scholar and generally annoying and whiny person.

    I wouldn’t have responded to his blog if I had known who he was. There should be warnings when enter blogs of people like him… something like “please don’t feed your comments to the idiot”.

    It goes to show you that even without knowing who he was I was able to tell what a pretender he was. It was rather obvious even to a simpleton like me.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s