In Defense of "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism"

I knew this anthology of ours would suffer from the criticisms of the uninformed and the informed. So let me share the back-story of how it came to be, and how it was envisioned, in order to stave off some unjustified criticisms. Here's a link that introduces the book, which includes the contents, blurbs, and something about the authors. Here's an Amazon link to it.

Robert M. Price and I had talked about doing such a book earlier, and I knew he had been working on it with other contributors. Then he shot me an email on Nov 23, 2019, saying:
Now that the Miracle book is out, I know you don't want to slow down!

As it stands now, I have in hand Michael Lockwood's essay on Buddhist origins of Christianity, Stephan Huller's on Jewish mythological origin, Earl Doherty's on the Sacrifice in Heaven, Barbara G. Walker's article on Jesus, my own "Jesus: Pre-existent and Non-existent" and "The Mythic Power of the Atonement", and on the Sacred Mushroom theory by Michael Hoffman. I await Joe Atwill's essay on the Flavian origin theory, and Derreck Bennett's on the dying-and-rising god, my theme. Both of these should be here very shortly. Another on Astro-origin theory should be here by Christmas! Gonna be great!



Wowzer! Tell me what you want me to do. If you want me to co-edit it with you, I would be very honored!



Of course! I always figured we'd be co-perpetrators!



I take it all you want to do is write your chapters. I can do all the rest, contact the authors, get a publisher, email essays back and forth, write the introduction, get one or two reviews at the end, acquire blurbs, publicize it all over the web, and the other everyday stuff I do on anthologies.

Is that correct?



If that's okay with you.


So I worked on it by getting in touch with the authors. Bob added a few more authors. I wrote the Preface and got David Fitzgerald and R.G. Price to write chapters. I also included Robert Price's own criticisms of Ehrman from his debate. I then procured a signed contract with Hypatia Press on 2/14/20. When I proposed it I said: “When it comes to editing the chapters I want you to deal directly with each author, by-passing the editors. I will also insist on a proofreader!” I did this because Hypatia blamed me for the typos in The Case against Miracles and I wanted to take that excuse away from them should it happen again.

Finalized chapters were due by March 2020. There was no involvement from me during the copyediting phase, per my request. I was busy writing and editing my final anthology, God and Horrendous Suffering. Finally, I got some blurbs and a fine Introduction by Richard C. Miller.

This was Robert Price's book, not mine. He basically handed it to me. He didn't even care whether he was considered a co-editor or not. I insisted though. So I shouldn't be considered much more than a glorified secretary, a literary agent, a promoter. Now in all honesty, I still have not read several of the chapters, although I know what each of them argues with regard to Jesus. I know these theories having read them or about them previously. It's not my issue. The content is not mine. I am a debunker. That's what I do. I don't see this issue changing the minds of Christians anyway. It's the very last thing that believers will consider (although there are exceptions). I don't care much at all with how the Jesus character originated. What I know is that the Jesus in the four gospels did not exist. I said so in my Preface. I was helping my friend Robert get his book out there for others to consider, and I got paid for it, sharing the meager royalties with him.

I respect the Biblical scholarship of Robert Price. Plus, he's a friend of mine. He wanted these authors in the book. I did as he wanted. I like the content that I added to the book with my Preface, along with two additional authors. If anyone wants to fault me for promoting a few chapters and authors by calling them "amateurs" and "cranks" then let me respond by frankly saying why I don't give a damn.

First, if anyone thinks it's easy to get the right authors with the best scholarship and newest research he has never tried getting together an anthology of authors willing to write fresh chapters based on their research. It's really tough. We can only get the authors we can get. No one claimed our book represented the best authors, or the best chapters. It's even a bit obnoxious when the very critic is one who didn't write a chapter! Second, I find Robert Price's Introduction credible where he ends with the phrase "let a hundred flowers bloom!" He said:
As this book will make absolutely clear, there are just as many Mythicist theories. Some believe that Jesus was a fiction devised by the Flavian regime in order to pacify Jews who had the nasty habit of violently rebelling against Rome. Others argue that Jesus was a Jewish/Essene version of the equally mythical Gautama Buddha. Another option is that Jesus was, like the Vedic Soma, a mythical personification of the sacred mushroom, Amanita Muscaria. Or perhaps Jesus was a historicization of the Gnostic Man of Light. Was Jesus a Philonic heavenly high priest figure? And there are more. I believe you will find yourself surprised and impressed by the cogency of these hypotheses. Once you probably regarded all these theories (if you ever even heard of them!) as equally fantastic. After you’ve finished The Varieties of Jesus Mythicism, you may very well find them equally plausible. And who says you have to settle on any one of them? It’s worth the mental effort to grasp and weigh each one. I say, let a hundred flowers bloom![Emphasis Loftus]
Third, I consider each and every one of these theories of Jesus mythicism to be possible. That's my starting point. Possibility is good enough. Theories like these can be possible and not yet probable, because the evidence is not available at the present time. It might be unearthed in the future by better researchers than our authors, or because the evidence might surface. I know this is not a good enough reason to adopt a particular theory, but the fact they're introduced in our book might cause better researchers to find that evidence. Remember, Jesus Mythicism is undergoing a resurgence among people, so it's a good idea to put out the various coherently argued theories for others to take upon themselves to research.

Take for instance Frank R. Zindler's essay, A New Paradigm for the Study of Christian Origins: Replacing the Dendritic Model, where he preposes there's a little truth to each of these mythicist theories. It was inspired by our book! Who knows where this research will lead unless we allow it to proceed? Slamming the door in our faces is counter-productive to a search for answers.

Fourth, since I think Christianity is bunk, having no objective evidence for any of the miracles in the Bible, I don't mind throwing up a bunch of smoke to confuse believers. If objective evidence is not there on the one side, then why does the other side have to be held to that same standard? Persuasion matters because people do not think according to reason and evidence.

If brain studies mean anything, we know that people are persuaded into thinking differently. They aren’t just reasoned into it. Persuasion counts when reasoning doesn’t. Spock doesn’t exist in reality. He never did. None of us are like him. So we shouldn’t treat people as if they are like Spock, especially believers who believe for other reasons than having good solid evidence. We must use reasons and tout the objective evidence whenever we’re dealing with believers who can reason with us on an issue or two. But we can also seek to persuade them if we want to effect change in their lives, change for the good. So in the interests of persuading believers, rather than continually driving down one dead end road after another to chase them down, sometimes I try a different tactic, a reasonable one based on solid evidence that believers do not reason about their faith. People can claim what they want to about this tactic. It’s just that I can better persuade my opponents by using several different ways of seeing the same truth, rather than following them down the rabbit hole where we will not agree in the end anyway, even ridicule!


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. As an Amazon Associate John earns a small amount of money from purchases made from Amazon. Buying anything through them helps fund my work here, and is greatly appreciated!