Did Jesus Exist?

My Review of "Did Jesus Exist?"

Part Three

In the last post of my review of "Did Jesus Exist?", we saw Ehrman tried to claim that the church fathers were lying when they claimed that they knew of elements of the mysteries of the dying-and-rising gods. So, for example, when Justin the Martyr said, "The devils, accordingly, when they heard these prophetic words, said that Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and gave out that he was the discoverer of the vine, and they number wine [or, the ass] among his mysteries; and they taught that, having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven," this excuse for why pagan resurrection predated the resurrection of Jesus was completely unnecessary. Of course, one is apt to ask how we could possibly know about pagan resurrection if people from their own time didn't know? Well, it turns out, Ehrman tells us that we actually don't know if there was any pagan resurrection. Thus, as is so well put in this response to Ehrman from Doherty: “Not only must any dependence on the mystery cults be refuted on Christianity’s own turf, the war has been carried further afield in an attempt to eliminate even the alleged sources. Thus, the armies of Christian independence are dispatched to the enemy’s home territory, there to destroy its own precepts.” But why would mythicists just take unsupported evidence and come up with the exact same conclusion about dying-and-rising gods that the second century apologists happened to take? Apparently, much like Justin's devils, who supposedly took the idea of Perseus being born of a virgin from Isaiah (despite Isaiah not mentioning a virgin), mythicists have stolen obscure passages from the Old Testament and perverted them so as to create false gods for the sole purpose of mocking Christianity. In our final part of this review, Ehrman dons his crusader helmet and does battle in pagan territory against the virgin birth, atonement, and resurrection:

“When Christians said that Jesus was born of a virgin, for instance, they came to mean that Jesus’s mother had never had sex. In most of the cases of the divine men, when the father is a god and the mother is mortal, sex is definitely involved. The child is literally part human and part deity. The mortal woman is no virgin; she has had divine sex.” (214)

In my Catholic junior high school, my religion teacher once said that the difference between the Greek demi-gods and Jesus was that Heracles or Perseus was half man and half god, whereas Jesus was all man and all God. Both of these explanations appear to be carefully constructed literalist rationalizations of differentiation that leave not a figurative inch of imaginative variation. I could bring up Perseus’ mother, who was impregnated by a shower of golden light, as a counterexample to the point about “divine sex,” but really the whole argument misses the point. The motif of virgin birth, from Heracles to Perseus to Gilgamesh is symbolic of single motherhood. The Jewish tradition, as handed down by the Talmud, the Toledot and Celsus make a great deal about Jesus being a bastard, and this in turn is implied by the single motherhood in Mark, the four women of questionable purity in Matthew’s genealogy, and the saying recorded by the Gospel of Thomas: “Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore.”

“In other cases the parallels are simply made up. Where do any of the ancient sources speak of a divine man who was crucified as an atonement for sin?” (214)

As Carrier points out, this is a straw-man argument. Most mythicists do not claim the savior gods were crucified as an atonement for sin. Crucifixion and resurrection is close enough. However, it would not be at all surprising if some kind of blood atonement were involved in most of them. The “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16:8 that is allowed to “e-scape” bearing the people’s sins is called “azazel,” and the Book of Enoch has the fallen angel Azazel, who shows men how to make weapons and women how to use makeup, and then is cast out of heaven for doing so. This parallels Prometheus, who created man out of clay, gave a mysterious box (apple) to the first woman, Pandora (Eve), who unleashed all the evils on the world, stole fire from the gods for humans, and then was bound to a rock and tortured eternally for it by Zeus. The “classic” conception, from Hesiod to Enoch, is that Prometheus or Azazel was to blame, but by the 400s B.C., this dynamic became transposed, as in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, which portrays Zeus as evil and Prometheus as the benefactor of humanity. The Sumerian version of Prometheus was Enki, the god who created humans out of clay and had the ark built during the flood. Enki was usually portrayed in a positive light, even after the rest of the elder gods were replaced by Ba'al. Enki's city was Eridu, the first city in Sumer, and although later depictions made him out to be a bull god like Enlil (the Canaanite El the Bull), the earliest statuettes found of deities in Sumer are that of snake-men. Enki, is elsewhere portrayed as creating a garden paradise with bubbling streams coming up from the ground, as in Genesis 2:6. Both Enki and his son, the dying-and-rising god Dumuzi were said to been born from the oldest deity, the “Mother Dragon of Heaven,” Nammu. In the Babylonian Enuma Elish, Ea (Enki) puts the primeval deep-water god Apsu to sleep, Ba'al Marduk slays the monster Tiamat (Nammu) and creates the world with her corpse. Marduk also slays Qingu, a second consort to Tiamat, and mixes his blood with clay to create humans. Since Enki’s temple is called the House of Abzu, the deep-water god Apsu can be seen as an older version of Enki, with Tiamat/Nammu an older version of Inanna, and Qingu the sacrifice most likely a subsumed version of Dumuzi. The earlier Akkadians, whose language was Semitic, also had blood mixed with clay in the Epic of Atra-Hasis. The caduceus, a symbol of a serpent wrapped around a pole referenced in Numbers 21 and linked to resurrection in John 3:14, goes back to Sumerian culture, most famously on a cup dedicated to a virtual clone of Dumuzi named Ningishzida, and may go back to the early snake-cult of Enki as well since he was known as a healing god. The Mesopotamian Myth of Adapa also has the Kassite version of Adam (who in this myth is the first priest rather than the first man) dies at sea and is told by Ea (Enki) that in order to get into heaven, he must show sympathy for Dumuzi and Ningishzida, who both take the role of St. Peter as guardian of the pearly gates. Adapa then fails to eat and drink the bread and water of eternal life given to him by the god of heaven, Anu, based on false instructions from Ea that it is the bread and water of death. The conflict between Cain the shepherd and Abel the farm/city-dweller likewise parallels a Sumerian myth where Summer the shepherd god argued with his brother Winter the farmer god, both of them being ancient symbols of antagonism between the nomadic shepherds and city farmers. The “Asherah poles” that the “good” kings of Judah repeatedly tore down and destroyed were symbolic Trees of Life associated with the same cult, only their names were called Tammuz (Dumuzi) and Asherah (Inanna). Ezekiel complained about women ritually weeping for Tammuz at the temple in Jerusalem, proving that many women associated Yahweh with Tammuz. The mythic killing of the primordial goddess and her young lover in the Enuma Elish likewise symbolizes the same desire in the Babylonians to replace the vegetation god with the national war god. Just as Marduk slays Tiamat, Ba’al Hadad slays Lotan and Yahweh slays Leviathan. Thus the concepts of good and evil being tied in with elements of creation through clay, divine blood as sacrifice (atonement?) for mankind, the Tree of Life, a garden paradise of immortality, a forbidden fruit/box, defeat of the serpent, fire and civilization, brotherly strife, a Deluge of heavenly destruction, resurrection, entering heaven by sympathizing with the sacrifice of the dying-and-rising god, and eternal life all have ancient precedents.

Ningishzida cup
The caduceus and the snake from Genesis may date back to a snake-cult in Mesopotamia

“There is another place where I seriously part company with Price. It simply is not true that all the stories in the Gospels, and all the details of stories, promote the mythological interests of the early Christians. The claim that Jesus had brothers named James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, along with several sisters, is scarcely a mythological motif; neither is the statement that he came from the tiny hamlet of Nazareth or that he often talked about seeds.” (217)

Wait a minute. What did Ehrman say back on page 197? “The historicity of Jesus does not depend on whether Nazareth existed. In fact, it is not even related to the question. The existence (or rather, nonexistence) of Nazareth is another mythicist irrelevancy.” Funny how this “mythicist irrelevancy” is one of the first things Ehrman brings up when he’s trying to think of historical elements that cannot be explained as mythological motifs. As we’ve seen, the names of the brothers relate to famous Galilean figures of the first century, the name of Nazareth is most likely a recent addition to Mark based perhaps on Nazarene, Nazarite, etc., and as Robert Funk points out, even those who believe in the historical Jesus recognize that “sowing and harvesting were figures commonly used as analogies in hellenistic rhetoric for pedagogical failures and successes. The only question was whether the parable was borrowed from that lore or whether Jesus was its creator.” (The Five Gospels 478).

The early story-tellers shaped their stories about Jesus according to the models available to them, making up details—and sometimes entire stories—or altering features here and there. But the fact they did so does have any bearing on whether Jesus really existed. That has to be decided on other grounds.” (218)

I’m still waiting for what those grounds could possibly be.

“Or to put the matter more correctly: what if it were true, historically, that the followers of Mithras portrayed him as having been born on December 25, as wearing a halo, and as having followers who were headed by a pope on Vatican Hill? What does that have to do with whether there lived a Jewish preacher from Nazareth named Jesus who was crucified by Pontius Pilate?” (218)

Jesus could have been a Jewish preacher or a dying-and-rising god, or both, but he cannot have been neither of them. Therefore, establishing connections between Jesus and other dying-and-rising gods is relevant to the question "Did Jesus Exist?"

“Having read Mettinger’s book carefully, I do not think that it will provide much support for the mythicist view of pagan dying and rising gods. For one thing, even though Mettinger claims that such views were known in Palestine around the time of the New Testament, he does not provide a shred of evidence. He instead quotes from the Old Testament (his field of experience): Ezekiel 8:14; Zechariah 12:11; and Daniel 11:37. But you can look at the passages yourself. None of them mentions the dying and rising of a god. So how do you prove that such a god was known in Palestine?” (224)

Since when does the Old Testament ever go into great detail about the rival gods Yahweh was so jealous over? Ezekiel complained about the women of Jerusalem “weeping for Tammuz” over his death at the Jerusalem Temple, the same god Daniel calls “the one beloved by women.” The name Dumuzi itself means “True son,” he is often referred to as a shepherd, and in one kingly incarnation, he is called a fisherman. The Sumerian love poem “The Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi,” a genre which directly inspired the Song of Solomon, speaks of a sacrament involving Inanna serving Dumuzi bread and water. This would be more convincing if it were bread and wine, but Dumuzi’s sister Gesthinanna, who helps him escape from the demons chasing him, was herself a wine goddess. In Inanna's descent to the nether world, Dumuzi’s wife went down into the netherworld to confront her sister Ereshkigal and was “turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook. After three days and three nights had passed, her minister Nincubura… made a lament for her in her ruined (houses)” Dumuzi’s father, the Promethean god Enki, sends spirits to bring her back, but she must provide a substitute, which turns out to be Dumuzi, who is sitting on his throne beneath “the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba.” The demons attack and Dumuzi gets away when the sun god turns him into a snake, but the demons eventually bring him down to be hung as substitute for Inanna. Inanna weeps for Dumuzi, matching the ritual weeping of the women at the Jerusalem Temple, but then is able to find him and work out a deal where he would return to life for half the year. “You for half the year and your sister for half the year:” that is, Dumuzi would go to the netherworld on the Winter Solstice (Christmas) when all the vegetation died, and would rise during the Spring Equinox (Easter) when the vegetation returned. The story, which goes back to the third millennium B.C., has a direct parallel with the Greek myth of Aphrodite (Inanna) and Presephone (Ereshkigal) taking turns with the Adonis after he dies. As for Zechariah, the verse shows the same kind of ritual weeping for Hadad-Rimmon. In the Epic of Ba’al, found in Ugarit just north of Galilee and dated to around the 1400s B.C., the god Hadad is called “Rider of Clouds,” equal to that of Yahweh in Psalm 68:4, crushes the sea god Yamm just as Yahweh crushes Leviathan in Psalm 74:14, enjoins a festival of bread and wine, then ascends a mountain and establishes his temple just as Yahweh does in Psalm 68:18-29. Mot, the god of death and sterility says of Hadad that “I shall put Him in the grave of the Gods of the earth.” After that, “Baal is found dead in the fields of Shechelememet, in the land of Deber. The news reaches the ears of El, Father of Shunem. First the father god El and then Baal’s wife, the “Virgin” Anath cry out: “Baal is dead! Woe to the people of Dagon’s son! Woe to the multitudes of Athat-Baal! I shall go down into the earth!” Like Inanna, Anath “weeps for him and buries Him. She puts Him in the grave of the Gods of the earth.” She then seeks out Mot, who tells her “I met Aliyan Baal; I made Him like a lamb in My mouth. Like a kid in My jaws was He crushed.” But after a dream she realizes that “Aliyan Baal is alive” and the sun goddess Shapash “descends into the underworld. She enters the relm of Sheol. Upon her return to the world above, she carries Great Baal with Her” so that “Baal returns to the throne of His kingship.” Thus, Baal escapes the god of death just as Psalm 68:20 reads: “This God of ours is a God who saves; from Lord Yahweh comes escape from death;” (NJB). Mettinger and others agree that the god descending and ascending are connected to the seasonal changes, but try to make a distinction between “dying” and “descending to the underworld” as well as “resurrecting” and “rising to heaven,” yet even this literalist diversion by semantics does not hold up to the primary sources. Ritual mourning was for the dead, not the hidden. Sumerian iconography of Dumuzi clearly shows him rising from the grave. “Hadad is dead” and then “alive.”

Dumuzi and Tree of Life
No rising from the dead here! Just a friendly game of hide-and-go-seek.

“Can anyone cite a single source of any kind that clearly indicates that people in rural Palestine, say, in the days of Peter and James, worshipped a pagan god who died and rose again? You can trust me, if there was a source like that, it would be talked about by everyone interested in early Christianity. It doesn’t exist.” (224)

Jerome writes that “From Hadrian’s time [135 A.D.] until the reign of Constantine, for about 180 years…Bethlehem, now ours, and the earth’s, most sacred spot…was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, which is Adonis, and in the cave where the infant Messiah once cried, the paramour of Venus was bewailed.” Ehrman can hardly claim that Jerome was making up a parallel between Tammuz and Jesus to show they were similar. Jerome makes no mention of the fact that Adonis or Tammuz are death and resurrection gods and claims that pagans profaned the originally Christian grove and replaced it with their own god. More likely, the reverse was true and that it had always been a shrine to Tammuz. The name Bethlehem itself can mean either “House of Bread” or “House of Lahmu.” (Lahmu was Enki's temple gatekeeper.) Hadrian himself created a new cult in 130 A.D. dedicated to the rebirth of his lover Antinous after the youth drowned in the Nile, associating him with both Osiris and Bacchus and modeling it after the Eleusinian mystery cult that they were both members of. As shown by Kenneth Humphreys, a fourth century stele from Antinoopolis, Egypt shows him naked holding a cross and wine-grapes, his face an almost perfect likeness of a sixth or seventh century Coptic stele of Jesus holding a cross with wine-grapes. Not long afterwards, Hadrian put down the last Jewish revolt, exiled all Jews from Jerusalem, and rebuilt the city as a Roman colony name Aeila Capitolina, a name the Greek Christian bishops of the city preferred to Jerusalem. Julian the Apostate’s arrival in Antioch on July 18, 363, coincided with a festival in which people mourned for Adonis’ death in the streets. Augustus himself funded two temples to the Great Mother Cybele, whose Ara Pietatis relief shows the dying-and-rising god Attis. The talisman of Orpheus-Bacchus crucified on a cross below seven stars, dated to the first or second century Rome, is on the cover of The Jesus Mysteries. Another relief of Orpheus on a sacramental bowl in Romania, dated to the 200s or 300s A.D., shows Dionysus holding a fisher’s net and staff, wheat and grapes growing above his shoulders. Then there’s the 2,000-year-old necropolis accidentally discovered in 2006 underneath the Vatican’s foundations showing a mosaic floor of Dionysus and sarcophagi exhibiting carvings of both Christian and pagan iconography, such as an egg symbolizing pagan rebirth in one and the carving of man praying like a Christian on another. The Victorian scholar Reverened Sabine Baring-Gould wrote in his book Curious Myths of the Middle Ages that the tenth century Mesopotamian named Ibn Wahshiya “the Chaldean” confirmed that the Nabataeans, who controlled Damascus when Paul was said to have had his vision on the way there, were still “weeping for Tammuz” up until they adopted Christianity in the 300s. The Arabic Book of Rolls describes the mourning ritual of Tammuz as still being practiced in the city of Harran during the month of Tammuz in the 900s A.D. Sumerian statues of Inanna also have unmistakable artistic qualities – large breasts held by tiny hands, huge hips moving down to pinprick feet, and a beaded, faceless head – that connects it with the Venus of Willendorf and other primordial mother goddesses who have been dated as far back as 29,000 years ago.

AntinousCoptic Jesus
The naked one is Antinous.

Orpheus with staff and fishers net
Walking staff? Check. Fishing net? Check. Bread/wheat? Check. Wine/grapes? Check.

“It is worth emphasizing that even Mettinger himself does not think that his sparse findings are pertinent to the early Christian claims about Jesus as one who died and rose again.” (224)

Funny how Ehrman keeps complaining about mythicists not being Biblical scholars, but when he delves into the Classicist’s foray, he looks up another Bible scholar.

“The Jewish notion of resurrection is closely tied to a world-view that scholars have labeled Jewish apocalypticism… When the earliest Christians claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, it was in the context of this Jewish notion of the soon-to-come resurrection.” (225-226)

A future historian might look back at us and say Jesus’ resurrection could not have been celebrated every Easter because it was connected to apocalypticism. Baldr is another vegetation god whose death and resurrection was both seasonal (he was shot by a mistletoe, a parasitic plant that survives on tree branches during the winter) and also connected to the Norse apocalypse, Ragnarok (his death triggers a string of events that eventually leads to the end of the world).

“[From Mettinger:] In the first case the deities return but have not died; in the second case the gods die but do not return. There is no unambiguous instance in the history of religions of a dying and rising deity.” (227)

Mettinger must have a really loose definition for the word "unambiguous."

“With respect to ancient reports of the Greek Adonis, for example, there were in antiquity two forms of the myth, which only later were combined into a kind of megamyth. In the first form two goddesses, Aphrodite and Persephone, compete for the affections of the human infant Adonis. Zeus (or in some of the myths Calliope) decides in Solomon-like fashion that Adonis will spend part of each year with each divinity, half the year with Aphrodite in the realms above, with the other gods, and the other half with Persephone, the goddess of the underworld. There is nothing here to suggest either the death or resurrection of Adonis. Part of the year he is in one place (the realm of the living) and part of the other (the realm of the dead). The other more familiar form of the myth comes from the Roman author Ovid. In this account the young man Adonis is killed by a boar and is then mourned and commemorated by the goddess Aphrodite in the form of a flower. In this version, then, Adonis definitely dies. But there is nothing to suggest that he was raised from the dead.” (227)

Wait a minute. So in one myth Adonis moves in a seasonal rotation between “the realm of the dead” and the “realm of the living,” but that doesn’t suggest “either death or resurrection,” and then in the other myth, Adonis dies, but there’s no resurrection, so neither counts? The situation seems very similar to the Pauline Epistles and the Gospel of Mark. The Pauline Epistles has Jesus descending and rising between the heavens and the lower planes but does not give actually give a full description of exactly how and why Jesus died and the Gospel of Mark gives a full description of Jesus’ death but does not technically show Jesus’ resurrection, having only implied it. So too with the story of Adonis being gored by the boar: Aphrodite sprinkles nectar into Adonis’ blood and flowers spring up as a symbolic resurrection. Orphic Hymn #54, which is either from the late Hellenistic period or early Roman period, says: “At stated periods doom'd to set and rise, with splendid lamp, the glory of the skies. Two-horn'd and lovely, reverenc'd with tears, of beauteous form, adorn'd with copious hairs.” Is Adonis really being “doom’d to set and rise” and be “reverenc’d with tears” without actually dying and resurrecting?

“It is only in later texts, long after Ovid and after the rise of Christianity, that one finds any suggestion that Adonis came back to life after his death. Smith argues that this later form of the tradition may in fact have been influenced by Christianity and its claim that a human had been raised from the dead.” (228)

So Ehrman admits that Adonis moved between the underworld and the heavens, and that Adonis died, but his worshippers needed to copy the idea of the resurrection part of that equation from Christianity, that tiny Jewish peasant religion that Ehrman says no one could ever invent because its central precept of a crucified Messiah was too abhorrent. You know, because Hades=Death :: Heaven=Resurrection is just too complex a concept for those Adonis worshippers.

“But his wife, Isis went on a search to recover and reassemble them, leading to Osiris’ rejuvenation. The key point to stress, however, is that Osiris does not—decidedly does not—return to life.” (228)

So Osiris is not resurrected, but “rejuvenated” from being hacked into pieces!

“The same can be said, in Smith’s view, of all the other divine beings often pointed to as pagan forerunners of Jesus. Some die but don’t return; some disappear without dying and do return; but none of them die and return. Jonathan Z. Smith’s well documented views have made a large impact on scholarship. Mark Smith is a scholar of the ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible who also opposes any notion of dying and rising gods in the ancient world. Mark Smith makes the compelling argument that when Frazer devised is theory about dying and rising gods, he was heavily influenced by his understanding of Christianity and Christian claims about Christ. But when one looks at the actual data about the pagan deities, without the lenses provided by later Christian views, there is nothing to make one consider them as gods who die and rise again.” (228-229)

So mythicists, who are overwhelmingly represented by atheists, are looking at it through a Christian-viewed lens, and those who defend a historical Jesus, who are overwhelmingly represented by theologians and Bible scholars, understand the meaning better in Classical terms?

“The majority of scholars agree with the views of Smith and Smith: there is no unambiguous evidence that any pagans prior to Christanity believed in dying and rising gods, let alone that it was a widespread view held by lots of pagans in lots of times and places.” (230)

When Ehrman says scholars, does he mean Biblical scholars or ancient religion scholars?

“One passage mythicists appeal to, however, may on the surface seem to suggest that Paul, writing before the Gospels, understood Jesus as God who died and rose again (comparable to dying and rising deities). This is the much-debated “hymn”—as it is called—found in Philippians 2:6-11… Even though mythicists typically treat it as unambiguous evidence of their views, the reality is that there is almost nothing unambiguous in the passage. Every word and phrase has been pored over and debated by scholars using the most sophisticated tools of analysis that are available. And still there is no consensus on what the passage means. But one thing is clear: it does not mean what mythicists typically claim it means. It does not portray Jesus in the guise of a pagan dying and rising god, even if that is what, on a superficial reading, it may appear to be about.” (233)

Translation: “Hey, we may not have an answer for this one, but we still worked a lot harder than the mythicists in trying to come up with something other than what it appears to be.”

“Another option is that this is describing Christ as a preexistent angelic being… In these cases, though, the angels may appear like God (in the “form” of God), but they are not actually God. It is striking that a number of Jewish traditions speak of an angel being exalted to the level of God, sitting on a throne next to that of the Almighty.” (237)

That is Metatron, ascribed to Elisha ben Abuya, which the Toledot identifies with Paul.

“And so the speeches of Acts, which must date well before any of our Gospels, and almost certainly predate the writings of Paul himself, indicate that it was at the resurrection that Jesus was made the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 2:36; 13:32-33). This is the view of the creed that Paul quotes in Romans 1:3-4 as well. Some Christians were not content with the idea that Jesus was the Son of God only at his resurrection, however, and came to think that he must have been the Son of God for his entire public ministry. And so we have traditions that arose indicating that Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism. That may be the view still found in our earliest Gospel, Mark, who begins his narrative with Jesus being baptized and hearing the voice of God from heaven declaring him his son.” (238)

Here, Ehrman has a point. The problem is its inconsistent. Romans 8:29 says that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 says: “Indeed, even though there are many so-called gods in heaven and earth… yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Jesus is also declared the Son of God at his death in Mark by the centurion.

“Jesus is called Christ in Paul, Mark, M, L, John, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, and so on. It is important to remember what this term meant in ancient Judaism.” (240)

Marcion’s version of Luke, which I believe is the earlier version, instead used the term “Chrestus” or “Righteous One,” a term that may have some relation to the “Teacher of Righteousness.” Josephus also refers to Honi the Circle Drawer as “righteous” and Tacitus also uses the term “Chrestus,” not “Christus.”

“For one thing, while it is true that Paul calls Jesus the Wisdom of God in I Corinthians, that is not the normal way that he refers to him and is certainly not the way he first thought of him. There is no reason to privilege this conception over the many others that can be found in Paul.” (244)

The same could be said for arguing Paul only saw the Son of God as incarnate after the crucifixion.

“It should not be objected—as Wells does—that the poetic passage in Colossians that I quoted at length shows that Paul understood Christ as Wisdom incarnate. There is a fatal objection to this view. Paul almost certainly did not write the letter to the Colossians. It is one of the forgeries in Paul’s name, written after his death, as critical scholars have recognized for a very long time. And to argue that the passage derives from a pre-Pauline tradition is problematic. Colossians is post-Pauline, so on what grounds can we say that a passage in it is pre-Pauline?” (245-246)

It seems when Biblical scholars debate whether Colossians is Pauline – with their “sophisticated tools of analysis” – then there is “wide agreement that the passage appears to be poetic—possibly some kind of hymn (that is what everyone used to think) or a creed (this is more plausible)—and that Paul appears to be quoting it rather than composing it. But even this is debated…” (235). But when a mythicist refers to the exact same quote, it suddenly becomes a unanimous decision that Colossians is a forgery that “critical scholars have recognized for a long time” and even the idea that it might be based on something earlier is “problematic.”

“This is the kind of weak assertion that Wells typically makes. He provides no solid ground for thinking that Paul imagined Jesus to have lived in the remote past—certainly nothing to suggest that his life ended during the reign of King Jannaeus.” (248)

Wells refers to the Talmud, which explicitly states it. Apparently, Ehrman did not really read much of Wells or the Talmud.

“What occasion did Paul have to mention something that everyone knew?… The reason the passage [I Corinthians 15:3-5] is highly relevant to our discussion here is that Paul gives no indication at all that a hundred years or more passed between Jesus’ resurrection and his appearance to the apostles.” (249)

So an obscure peasant being recently crucified is something “everyone” would know, but the time period between Yeshu’s death and the present would had to have been known and referenced?

“It is hard to believe that Paul would have such a radically different view from every other Christian of his day, as Wells suggests. That Jesus lived recently is affirmed not only in all four of our canonical Gospels (where, for example, he is associated with John the Baptist and is said to have been born under the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus, under the rulership of the Jewish king Herod, and so on); it is also the view of all the Gospel sources—Q (which associates Jesus with John the Baptist), M, and L—and of the non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus (who both mention Pilate).” (251)

And what Christians would those be? Most of early documents that were not Proto-Orthodox have been lost and, as with the Gospels of Marcion and Cerinthus, typically presumed by Biblical scholars without debate to be late and historically worthless. The Jesus of Mark and Matthew could easily have been a fictional character used to allegorize the church, Luke and John were not referenced until the 170s-180s, and Acts says that the name Christian only came up in Antioch after Barnabas and Saul started teaching there. And it’s not true that all the gospels date Jesus’ birth to King Herod: Luke dates Jesus’ birth to a Roman census following Herod’s death. In fact, that can be seen as a highly symbolic date for the birth of Jewish Messianic beliefs because that is when the Romans took direct control over Judea rather than controlling it through the puppet king Herod. The John the Baptist passages are relegated to the third layer of Q – really only because they are not in Mark – and they do not include John baptizing Jesus. M and L are even weaker alibis for a first century Jesus: what evidence is there that places Jesus in the first century A.D. in those? In fact, L includes Jesus speaking to a “legal expert” who quotes the first century B.C. religious teacher Hillel. The verse in Luke 7:40 where Jesus tells “Simon the Leper” to leave the woman anointing his feet alone (the same context from Mark in which Judas betrays him) and Luke 22:31 in which Jesus warns Simon of Satan taking him over may have a better context in which Simon is Jesus’ enemy rather than his disciple, which fits more into the role of Simon Ben Shetach’s hostility to both Yeshu and Honi the Circle Drawer. But far more convincingly, Burkett’s book From Proto-Mark to Mark has shown that the story of Stephen being stoned to death in Acts was taken from a Passion source that was also used for Jesus’ death in his gospel, which means L very likely had Jesus stoned to death by rule of the Sanhedrin without the Romans, just as he is in the Talmud and the Toledot.

“These sources, I should stress, are all independent of one another; some of them go back to Palestinian traditions that can be readily be dated to 31 or 32 CE, just a year or so afte the traditional date of Jesus’s death” (251)

What proof is there that any of those sayings sources go back to 31 or 32 CE? These dates are obviously based on the assumption of Jesus’ crucifixion and so the premise is entirely based on circular logic.

“He quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis.” (252)

Since when do you have to agree with everything a scholar says in order to quote them? Everyone knows that mythicists are in the extreme minority and it’s not like he’s trying to insinuate otherwise.

“Like Wells before him, Doherty refuses to allow that I Thessalonians—which explicitly says that the Jews (or the Judeans) were the ones responsible for the death of Jesus—can be used as evidence of Paul’s view: it is, he insists, an insertion into Paul’s writings, not from the apostle himself. (Here we find, again, textual studies driven by convenience: if a passage contradicts your views, simply claim that it was not actually written by the author.)” (253)

This view is shared by Helmut Koester, Burton Mack, Paula Fredriksen and Hyam Maccoby, each of whom believe in the gospel Jesus. In any case, the verse is equally problematic for those who believe in the gospel Jesus because it makes no mention of the Romans but lays the entire blame on the Jews, something that would be hardly acceptable in its historical context. It is also especially hard to date before the 70s since it speaks of some all-encompassing retribution. Ehrman should know this is a controversial verse, so it seems dishonest to insinuate that it is only questioned by mythicists.

“It is true that Plato and his followers had a certain view of reality where, roughly speaking, this material world is but a reflection of the world of “forms.” But Platonism was simply one of the ancient philosophies popular at the time of Christianity. Also popular was Stoicism, with a completely different, nondualistic sense of the world; Stoicism lacked the notion that this realm is an imitation of the higher realm. So too did Epicureanism, which thought in fairly modern fashion that the material world is all there is. Why should we assume that the mystery cults were influenced by just one of these philosophies? Or for that matter any of them? What evidence does Doherty cite to show that mystery religions were at heart Platonic? Precisely none.” (254-255)

Is Ehrman trying to say that Plato wasn’t really that influential? Western philosophy is typically divided between the pre-Platonic and post-Platonic eras. It’s often been said that all of Western philosophy is “just a series of footnotes to Plato.” William Blake said: “If Christianity were morality, then Socrates is the Savior.” Cynicism is heavily interrelated with Platonism (with many ancients attributing its founding, perhaps falsely, to Socrates’ other student Antisthenes) and Stoicism was heavily interrelated with both Cynicism and Platonism. The Stoics saw the cosmos as a spherical continuum of matter held together by the power of God through the causality of the spirit that pervades it, which fits well with the conceptual landscape of the Pauline epistles. And the third century Stoic Plotinus did in fact espouse metaphysics based on three hypostases reflecting emanations from the One that are in imitation of the higher realm. Tertullian said the Valentinian cosmology “was of Plato’s school” and that “Marcion’s better god, with all his tranquility, he came from the Stoics,” a statement I fully agree with, but is odd coming from him since Tertullian believed their versions of the gospels, John and Luke, had material deleted (not added!) from them. If you take all of the Hellenistic apologetics about the Old Testament out of the Pauline Epistles, then you are mostly left with is a heavily spiritualized form of Stoicism. And it is widely believed that Plato took many of his ideas from the Orphic mysteries, such as the belief that the soul is entrapped in the body, although Plato criticized them for proselytizing door to door and offering atonement for sin. Like Zoroastrianism and Egyptian beliefs, the belief in heaven and hell was also an important part of Orphic teachings, which relates to the epistles’ heavy emphasis on salvation.

“When, in his second edition, Doherty admits that we do not know what the followers of the mystery cults thought, he is absolutely correct. We do not know. But he then asserts that they thought like the later Platonist Plutarch... Very rarely do common people think about the world the way upper-class, highly educated, elite philosophers do... The entire enterprise of philosophical reflection on ancient mythology was rooted precisely in the widely accepted fact that common people did not look at the world, or its myths, in the same way philosophers did. Elite philosophers tried to show that the myths accepted by others were emblematic of deeper spiritual truths.” (255)

...unlike those stupid Gnostics who literally believed Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus but didn't understand biology.

“I hardly need to emphasize again that the early followers of Jesus were not elite philosophers. They were by and large common people. Not even Paul was philosophically trained. To be sure, as a literate person he was far better educated than most Christians of his day. But he was no Plutarch. His worldview was not principally dependent on Plato. It was dependent on the Jewish traditions, as these were mediated through the Hebrew scriptures… There are no grounds for assuming that Paul, whose views of Jesus were taken over from the Palestinian Jewish Christians who preceded him, held a radically different view of Jesus from his predecessors.” (255-256)

Other than calling the whole of the Jewish Law a curse and getting into a disagreement over eating kosher foods with Cephas and James in Antioch?

“Paul tells us about his background. He was raised a highly religious Jew, and he was a Pharisee. Were Pharisaic Jews influenced by the mystery cults? Did they spend their days plumbing the depths of the myths about Attis and Osiris? Did they look deeply into the mysteries of Isis and Mithras?” (256)

Hyam Maccoby makes a good case that the Pauline epistles better reflect Gnostic theology than Pharisaic teachings. I believe the core of the Pauline epistles is Gnostic, with an early version of 1 Corinthians perhaps originally being used by the Pentacoastal-like tongue-speaking Montanists and Galatians originating as the centerpiece theology of the anti-Old Testament Marcionites.

“The Law was given to the Jewish people not as some kind of onerous burden that they had to bear—as so many Christians today seem to think—but for the opposite reason: to provide guidance to God’s people about how they should worship him and relate to one another in their communal lives together.” (273)

What gave Christians this idea that the Law is an onerous burden? That “highly religious Jew” with the Pharisee background.

“So the stories about Jesus the miracle-working five-year-old who could wither his playmates when they irritated him—as found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas—are not historically reliable, since those stories serve a Christian purpose of showing that Jesus was a powerful Son of God even before his public ministry” (291-292).

That’s not the criterion of dissimilarity. That’s the criterion of basic common sense.

“We saw how the story that Jesus was crucified created enormous headaches for the Christian mission because no Jews would have expected a crucified messiah. This tradition clearly passes the criterion of dissimilarity. Given the additional fact that it is so thoroughly probable that in fact Jesus was crucified. That is far more probable than an alternative claim, for example, that he was stoned to death or that he ascended without dying or even that he simply lived out his life and died as an old man in Nazareth, none of which is ever mentioned in our sources.” (292)

So Jesus being stoned to death is about as historically likely as him ascending into heaven without dying? Using the criterion of disimiliarity against the mythicist argument entails the assumption that anyone inventing the idea could invent anything and chose what to invent based on the least headaches it would evoke to future Christologies? This whole attitude that anything dissimilar to Orthodox Christianity and Judaism must go back to Jesus was dropped after the Second Quest and the adoption of Form Criticism. Besides that, why would a Messiah being stoned to death be any easier to deal with than a crucified Messiah?

“Or take the details of Jesus’s life. The idea that he had brothers does not serve any clear-cut Christian agenda. It is simply taken as a statement of fact by the early authors who mention it (Paul, Mark, John, Josephus).” (292)

It is not just given as a statement of fact in either Mark or John. Both Mark and John use the brothers to make hostile theological statements against some group, Galilean zealots for Mark and probably the James’ sect in Jerusalem for John.

“Conversely, the likelihood of Jesus entering into Jerusalem straddling two donkeys and with the crowd shouting out that he was the messiah is decreased by the circumstance that had such an event really happened (unlikely as it is on its own terms), Jesus would no doubt have been arrested by the authorities on the spot instead of a week later.” (293)

Here, Ehrman actually makes a good point. The Toledot also echoes this tradition; only it gives details the gospels do not, such as having 310 probably armed disciples with him. Had this event happened in the first century B.C., then the explanation that the authorities did not arrest him because they were afraid the crowds would riot becomes far more plausible.

“Archaeological work on Nazareth indicates that it was a small hamlet with no evidence of any wealth whatsoever... After he began his public ministry, we have reports that the people of his hometown had trouble understanding what happened to him, how he could suddenly seem so wise and insightful into the religious traditions of Israel (Mark 6; Luke 4). This suggests that he was not a wunderkind growing up but an altogether average person. (295-296)

The story in Mark sets up a wisdom saying about all prophets not being accepted in their homeland, which probably reflects the author’s time period rather than Jesus’. It hardly qualifies as evidence of what Jesus’ childhood was like.

“But if, as seems probable, Jesus was widely seen among his followers as an expert interpreter of the Torah, this may suggest that he could read and study the texts.” (296)

What is this based on? The childhood story of Jesus teaching the scholars at the temple that Luke stole from Josephus’ autobiography?

“Jesus is best understood as an apocalyptic preacher. But students wish that I would also present “the other side.” I sympathize with the concern, but I also recognize why it is a problem. The semester lasts only fifteen weeks… I could present the evidence that other scholars offer for seeing Jesus as something else. But which other side would I choose: that Jesus was a political revolutionary? A proto-Marxist? A proto-feminist? A countercultural hero? A Jewish holy man? A Jewish Cynic philosopher? A married man with children?” (298)

“Political revolutionary” and “Jewish Cynic philosopher” should both be addressed. The semester isn’t that long. “Proto-feminism" might not be a bad subject to touch upon in the context of Montanism and the Pauline verse about "neither male nor female." One wonders why Ehrman didn’t bother to write an entire book against the idea of Jesus the first century married man with children since even Dan Brown seems to outrank the Christ-Myth hypothesis. If Ehrman had chosen that topic, maybe he wouldn't have felt the need to add so much filler. Actually, the Toledot does say that Yeshu was married (not to Mary Magdalene) and that his sons were with him during the Triumphal Entry, which unlike the mention of Jesus' family in Mark, really is an anecdote that has nothing to do with the plot of the narrative or can be construed symbolically. This is a far better fit for the criterion of dissimiliarity than the gospel story about Jesus’ hometown not opening up to Jesus’ message.

“The Law was a central component of Jesus’s teaching… From Q: Jesus states that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for a single dot of the Law to pass away... I should stress that some of these multiply attested sayings appear to pass the criterion of dissimilarity. For example, in the first passage mentioned (Mark 10:17-27), when a rich man asks Jesus how to have eternal life, he tells him to “keep the commandments.”... The early Christians maintained that a person had to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for eternal life... So why is Jesus portrayed in this passage as saying that salvation comes to those who keep the Law? Because that is something he actually said... Unlike certain Pharisees, Jesus did not think that what really mattered before God was the scrupulous observance of the laws in all their details.” (309-310)

When the story came out that Hebrew Nation meat products were not “100% kosher,” Jon Stewart of the Daily Show joked, “Or as it’s known to Jews: not kosher!” How can Jesus have said that that not “a single dot of the Law” could “pass away” yet at the same time not believe in “the scrupulous observance of the laws in all their details”? Those two statements are in complete contradiction. Furthermore, Ehrman just got finished explaining how since John the Baptist was apocalyptic before Jesus, and Paul was apocalyptic after Jesus, then Jesus must have been apocalyptic as well. But assuming everything Ehrman believes is true, if John believed in a strict observance of the Law, as suggested by his complaint that Herod broke an obscure law about marrying your brother’s x-wife (a particularly strict interpretation of Lev. 18:20), and if Jesus’ brother James had a strict interpretation of the Torah, as described by Josephus, then by that logic doesn't that mean Jesus’ interpretation of the Law was also strict, in contradiction to the gospels? Mark has Jesus allowing his disciples to pluck corn on the Sabbath and denying all kosher laws by saying nothing put into the mouth can make you unclean. Keeping the Ten Commandments for salvation may seem Jewish, but in contrast to keeping all the Torah laws, it's rather lax. Plus, in Acts 15:20, the second James decides that Gentiles would only have to abstain from things like polluted from idols, fornication, strangled animals, and blood, which correlates to the “Noahide Laws” for Gentiles in the Talmud, rules that are roughly equivalent to the Ten Commandments except that they don't contain prohibitions against worshiping another god, the Sabbath, and coveting. These rules are more universal but still somewhat ritualistic. If Jesus taught that ritualistic laws were unimportant for Jews, why would James enforce rituals on Gentiles? And if Jesus taught the Ten Commandments were necessary for salvation, why would the Jerusalem Church cite Pharasaic Law for Gentiles in its stead? In fact, if you read on, Mark goes out of order and lists the commandments against [#6] murder, [#7] adultery, [#8] stealing, [#?] defrauding, and [#5] dishonoring ones parents. Mark has notably added a new commandment against fraud but has skipped having no other gods, graven images, and the Sabbath, all of which are particularly problematic for Christians both then and now (It doesn't look like Mark himself worshipped Jesus as God, but assuming the Christ-Myth is right, he may have known others who did, especially if his reference in 9:38 to John trying to stop other Jesus sects from preaching meant he was aware of the Johannine Tradition). An observant Jew would never had written such a thing. Since dishonoring one’s parents as the “first” commandment would stick out like a thumb, that one was relegated to the end so that the more universal laws take their place according to where they “should” be: with murder being the most egregious sin. Thus, Mark appears to be trying to convert the concept of the Ten Commandments, which Jews have always believed had been given not to all mankind but only for them to follow, into a universal code very similar to the way conservative Christians today attempt to claim that Western Civilization is based on the Ten Commandments while at the same time not accepting the plain interpretation that worshipping Jesus breaks the first commandment, kneeling at a cross or wearing a crucifix breaks the second commandment, and working on Saturday breaks the fourth commandment.

“”Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the new world, when the Son of Man is sitting on the throne of his glory, you will be seated—even you-on twelve thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28) That this saying probably goes back to Jesus himself is suggested by the fact that it is delivered to all twelve disciples, including, of course, Judas Iscariot. No one living after Jesus’s death, who knew that he had been betrayed by one of his own (as reported in all our early sources), would have made up a saying in which the betrayer would be one of the rulers of the future kingdom.” (318)

Yet Ehrman has no problem with the statements from 1 Corinthians that after Jesus was “betrayed”/”handed over,” he appeared to Cephas and then to “the twelve.” Ehrman says this was immediately after Jesus’ death and yet they have already replaced the twelfth disciple? Why would the disciples recruit a twelfth disciple before they saw the resurrected Jesus? According to Acts, they recruited Matthais, but that was because they had already seen Jesus’ resurrection and even his ascension. The Twelve were not disciples of Jesus, but preachers of Jesus, and the names from the gospels were only added later to symbolize certain sects with the Jesus movement. Thus there’s no reason to believe this verse in Matthew had to go back to a historical Jesus.

“We do not have any indication that Jesus entered into direct conflict with the Essenes, although it should be clear that his interpretation of the apocalyptic realities that were bearing down on the world was very different from theirs. Whereas they believed in separating themselves from the rest of society so as to maintain their personal and communal purity, Jesus believed in spending time with the impure, the “tax collectors and sinners,” who would be the ones to be brought into the kingdom. Jesus’s views would have been anathema to the Qumran community.” (320)

We don’t really know if all Essenes were as strict as the Qumran community, and by the time Mark was written, the Romans had already destroyed that community. Its surviving members probably would have ended up destitute and living off handouts on the streets of neighboring towns with no more authoritarian figures enforcing Qumran’s strict rules on purity. Thus it wouldn’t be too hard to envision Qumran Essenes gradually losing their strict puritanical outlook.

“The idea that [Jesus] would personally destroy the Temple does not, of course, pass the criterion of dissimiliarity: Christians who considered him the all-powerful Lord may well have given the sayings that twist in order to show that after his death, he “got even” with Jews by destroying the Temple. Neither does it do well by the criterion of contextual credibility: it is hard to imagine Jesus as a one-man wrecking crew able to demolish entire buildings. Similarly problematic is the notion, found only in John, that when Jesus talked about the Temple being destroyed and raised in three days, he was actually speaking of his body (John 2:21)… One might be tempted to push the criterion of dissimilarity a bit further and claim that since the Temple was in fact destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, none of the predictions of Jesus can be safely trusted as actually going back to him—that is, that later Christians put predictions of its destruction on his lips to show his prophetic powers. Most scholars, though, consider this an extreme view since the predictions of the destruction on one level or another pass all of our criteria: (a) they are multiply attested (Mark, John, Acts, and Thomas); (b) in one respect at least, the earliest form of these sayings appears to pass the criterion of dissimilarity since Jesus’s claim in Mark that not one stone will be left upon another did not in fact come true, as you can see yourself by visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem today; if anyone actually knew the details of the destruction, they wouldn’t have invented this verse; and (c) just as important, the sayings are contextually credible. For we know of other prophetic figures throughout the history of Israel who maintained that the Jewish people had so strayed from God that he would enter into judgment against them by destroying their central place of worship.” (324-325).

It’s ironic that Ehrman not only denies that prediction about the Temple’s destruction is based on after-the-fact knowledge, but assumes most scholars take to the same idea. On page 48 he dates Mark to 70 (and Matthew and Luke to 85, and John to 90), following the majority of Biblical scholars, but the reason they date Mark to 70 is because of the predictions to the Temple being destroyed (and John to 90 because of it’s believed to be a reaction to the hypothetical Council of Jamnia, whose very existence, not to mention the link to John’s gospel, is based on very weak evidence). So Ehrman's claims that we have evidence for a historical Jesus from first century gospels is based on evidence he doesn’t even believe in. Some scholars set the dating back to 65 to allow for Mark to have predicted the Temple’s destruction based on the rebellion. In fact, Ehrman in his other books uses that same range: 65-70. Mark probably did not know the full details of the Temple’s destruction, but while the “not one brick” statement is definitely an exaggeration, it does reflect the historic reality of seeing something amazingly large utterly demolished.

“As surprised as I was at the meeting of humanists to hear so much about religion, what I was not surprised to learn was that a good number of people there—at leat the ones I talked to—are either mythicists or leaning towards mythicism... By staking out a position that is accepted by almost no one else, they open themselves to mockery and to charges of intellectual dishonesty. But to accomplish their goals (about which I will say more in a moment), this is completely unnecessary. Of course, for mythicists, it goes without saying, belief in Jesus is a problem.” (333-334)

Finally we reach the pinnacle of Ehrman’s self-importance in his conclusion: Mythicists open themselves up to being labeled intellectually dishonest because no one would adopt such an unpopular position. Well, not unpopular at the humanist meeting Ehrman went to in order to receive an award, but unpopular among the people who matter: Biblical scholars like himself.

“It is no accident that virtually all mythicists (in fact, all of them, to my knowledge) are either atheists or agnostics.” (337)

This is somewhat true. There is a large undercurrent of anti-theism that fuels the Christ-Myth movement. However, there is also a large undercurrent of religious faith that fuels the biases of theologians and Biblical scholars. Taken in the form of a Hegelian triad, we could say: Thesis: Most theologians and Biblical scholars believe in a historical Jesus and are either Christians or former Christians. Antithesis: Most of those who argue for a mythical Jesus are either atheist or agnostic. Synthesis: Robert Price, a former Baptist minister, is the only theologian and Biblical scholar who is also a mythicist, as well as the only writer who refers to himself as a “Christian atheist.”

“Their agenda is religious; and they are complicit in a religious ideology. They are not doing history; they are doing theology… But neither issue—the good done in the name of Christ or the evil—is of any relevance to me as a historian when I try to sacrifice the past in order to promote the worthy cause of my own social and political agendas. No one else should either. Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not.” (339)

Frank Zindler is part of an atheist group and writes against Christianity. Earl Doherty published his book under the name “Age of Reason Publications.” But Robert Price, G.A. Wells, and Alvar Ellegard do not really fit the mold of the tireless anti-theist. Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, and G.R.S. Mead have extremely positive attitudes towards Gnostic Christianity and belong or belonged to Gnostic-like groups. I know a former monk who was very open to the Christ-Myth theory because it implied that Christianity could be understood as a universal religion. Considering that the Sumerian Dumuzi is so closely connected to a goddess cult that survived for 25,000 years in all of Eurasia, such a concept might not be so far off. I myself believed in the historicity of the gospel Jesus for many years, although I still thought Biblical scholars were doing a disservice to their subject by ignoring Christianity’s relationship to the mystery religions and the problems inherent in the epistles. It was not until I learned of the existence of the first century B.C. Jesus in the Talmud and the Toledot that Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle and Ellegard’s Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ suddenly fell into place. I of course enjoy reading other hypotheses on the historical Jesus and weighing in on them and I respect scholars with different opinions, but I do not like scholars like Bart Ehrman and Joseph Hoffmann who throw out more insults than facts. Mythicists may be made up of amateurs and Classicists, but Ehrman hardly proves his side the most professional in what has got to be the most error-ridden scholarly work I have ever read in my life. The fact that Ehrman takes such an extreme reaction towards mythicists– making their arguments out to be less relevant than Dan Brown conspiracy theories while at the same time focusing so much more vitriol on them than anyone else– gives a pretty good indication of who is letting their emotions get the better of them. Even if the parallels between dying and rising gods and the resurrection of Jesus were all just a coincidence, the mystery religions would still be relevant as a parallel psychological motif. Ehrman does not use the language of a scholar who desires a dialogue with mythicists. He appears to have sought out to learn the bare minimum necessary to write a book, filled in the bare bones with material he’s written about before, and then turned it into a personal attack on their intellectual integrity. Ehrman calls mythicism a religious agenda, but it is Ehrman's crusade against the dying and rising gods of the foreign lands of classical mythology that exhibits the true zeal of the pagan minimalist.