Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Pt. 10
Listening to the Sounds of Silence
COVERED IN THIS POST:
- Silence: Why did no-one until modern times deny the existence of Jesus?
- - Does anyone on the early Christian scene deny the existence of the Gospel Jesus?
- - Ignatius’ letters the first to show support for the Gospel story
- Sounds in silence: Or were they?
- - Does 1 John reveal the first dispute over an historical Jesus?
- - Should we expect Celsus to be a New Testament exegete?
- - Trypho’s “groundless report”
- - Sound of Silence: Ehrman fails to hear
- Golden silence of the Rabbis
- - Silent rabbis on Jesus’ non-existence
- The silence of Irenaeus, Tertullian and their heretics
- - Why do 2nd century apologists not attack the Christ cult of Paul as a heresy?
- The sound of transition: From Paul to Orthodoxy
- - The process of transition from a heavenly to earthly Christ
- The sound of diversity: A Logos religion
- - The Logos religion of the 2nd century apologists
- Silence complete: Revisiting Josephus and Tacitus
- - Ehrman’s unsupportable assumptions
* * * * *
Evidence for Jesus from Outside the Gospels
(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 94-97)
Later Sources from Outside the New Testament
Silence: Why did no-one until modern times deny the existence of Jesus?
Ehrman spends a few pages at the beginning of his Chapter Four on the old canard which too many historicists seem to think is a knockout blow against the mythicist theory: that no one in all the documents we possess from the earliest period right up to the 18th century ever suggests, or deals with an accusation, that Jesus never existed. A moment’s reflection ought to reveal why this might be the case. (There are in fact a handful of notable exceptions to this silence that I will go into shortly, which puts the lie to Ehrman’s sweeping statement.)
First of all, if an earthly Jesus did not exist for Christians of the Pauline variety of faith in a sacrificed Savior through almost the first hundred years of the movement, how would we expect to find a denial that he had? No one would have been claiming it.
We also have to ask, who would have been in a position to know that Christians were claiming something that was false?
When do we first see that claim surfacing? One can’t point to the Gospels themselves because the very issue in question is whether there is any support for their presentation of a supposedly historical figure and set of events; and their traditional dating is dubious.
The first direct reference by a Christian to an historical man who was crucified by Pilate is found in the letters of Ignatius, which if authentic can be dated no earlier than 107 CE, or if forgeries, some time after that. Is anyone going to be around in Antioch in 107 or later who had been alive in Galilee or Jerusalem three-quarters of a century earlier—with the upheaval and destruction of the Jewish War occurring in the interim—someone who knew everything that happened there in the 10-year period of Pilate’s governorship and was thus in a position to verify that such a figure never existed? A preposterous idea. Christians themselves show no sign of being familiar with the Gospel story, let alone that it had any circulation outside their circles, before the time of Ignatius. (more…)