Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse


This volume moves beyond the mainstream scholarly scepticism over the Christ of Faith and considers if there is sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the more mundane Historical Jesus. Using the logical tools of the analytic philosopher, Lataster finds that the relevant sources are unreliable as historical documents, and that the key method of those purporting that the Historical Jesus existed is to appeal to sources that do not exist. Considering an ancient hypothesis suggesting that Jesus began as a celestial messiah that certain Second Temple Jews already believed in, and was later allegorised in the Gospels, Lataster discovers that it is more reasonable to at least be agnostic over Jesus’ historicity.

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Raphael Lataster, Ph.D. (2017), University of Sydney, is an associate lecturer at that university. He has published monographs and articles on God’s existence and Jesus’ existence, including The Case Against Theism (Springer, 2018).
 1Which Jesus?
 2A Debate among Atheists
 3The Problem
 4The Philosopher’s Probabilistic Approach

Part 1: The Case for Historicity

1Ehrman’s Dual Approach towards the Gospels
 1A (Mostly) Wonderful Start
 2The Gospels and the Folly of the Hypothetical Source
2Beyond the Gospels
 1The Problem of Paul
3Casey’s Superfluous ‘Scholarship’
 1Poisoning the Well
 3Why the Gospels Ought to Be Trusted, but Only When We Feel like It
 4After the Case
 5Even Worse than Ehrman: Offensive and Facetious
 6Crossan’s Brief Attempt

Part 2: The Case for Agnosticism

4Inadequate Methods
 1History Concerns What Probably Happened
 2Criteria for Authenticity
 3Faith and Inconsistency
 4A Bayesian Alternative
 5The Criteria vs. Bayes
5Inadequate Sources
 1The Silence of the Primary Sources
 2‘Other’ Christian Sources
 3(Non-Christian) Extrabiblical Sources
 6Thallus (and Phlegon)
 7Pliny, Suetonius, and Mara Bar Serapion
 8The Talmud
 9The Less Interesting Books of the New Testament
 10The Canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, and John
 11Mark’s Burden
 12The Genre of the Gospels
 13Burridge’s Take on the Gospels’ Genre
 14Mark’s Failure
6The Problem of Paul
 1The Docetic/Marcionite Jesus
 2The Earliest Witness’ Sources
 3Paul’s Minimal, Unquotable Jesus
 4Paul’s Cosmic Christ
 5Philo’s Pre-Christian and Pre-Pauline ‘Celestial Jesus’
 6The Evolution of Jesus
 7Fictitious Founders
 8The Revelation of/from Paul
 9Agnosticism is Rational

Part 3: The Case for Mythicism

7Prior Probabilities
 1The Problem
 2The Hypothesis of Historicity
 3The Hypothesis of Myth
 4Background Knowledge (Christianity)
 4.1Elements of Christian Origin
 4.2Elements of Christian Religion
 5Background Knowledge (Context)
 5.1Elements of Political Context
 5.2Elements of Religious and Philosophical Context
 5.3Elements of Literary Context
 6The Prior Probability
8Consequent Probabilities
 1Primary Sources
 2Extrabiblical Evidence
 3The Evidence of Acts
 4The Evidence of the Gospels
 5The Evidence of the Epistles
 1Carrier’s Calculations
 2Alternative Calculations
 3Devil’s Advocate
 1The Glory of Agnosticism
 2Mainstream Scholars Already Agree with Us
Those dissatisfied with the crypto-theological conclusions of parochial New Testament scholars and are ready for a ‘fresh’ approach, the sort of minimalism now widely accepted in Old Testament research.