In the Afterword to Raphael Lataster’s latest book, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists, Richard Carrier addresses the Academic Biblical Academy: “With this book, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists, Raphael Lataster has certainly demonstrated at the very least one thing; the entire field of Biblical Studies should be taking this question seriously; yet they have not. This has to stop. They need to either build a more defensible case for historicity, one that does not violate logic or rely on non-existent evidence, or they need to officially recognize, at the very least, that historicity agnosticism is a credible response to what little evidence there is. The Academy needs to stop lying about the evidence or about the argument of peer-review experts who challenge historicity. They need to address those arguments as actually made, and the evidence as actually presented. And Lataster has shown that this isn’t what the experts are doing. So what should they do?” (Quoted from Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists, p. 417)
In my opinion, nothing will defeat a thesis faster than uncertainty. For example, if a graduate student presented a master thesis or a doctoral student defended a dissertation with the rhetoric “I believe . . .” (I simply have faith that . . .) or that after hundreds of hour of study (for a masters) to years and thousands of hours of study for a doctorate, the PhD candidate defended his dissertation with, “I just don’t know . . . ., I believe . . . ; I just don’t think I’ll ever know . . . , I’m am uncertain (an agnostic) about my research.”; then one thing would be certain, there would be no graduate degree conferred upon such a poor student who, after years of research, didn’t know anymore than the average person on the street. Yet this is exactly how many atheists approach the existence of a Historical Jesus! We just don’t and will probably never have enough data to prove Jesus did or did not exist, but I believe Jesus did exist at one time. This is just what one finds in Bart Ehrman's book after years of research on the Historical Jesus (Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, HarperOne, 2013).
I’m lead to the conclusion that Ehrman remains a believer in a Historical Jesus because his mentor, Bruce M. Metzger, was himself, not only a Historical Jesus believer, but a practicing Christian (an ordained Presbyterian clergyman) I know of one occasion at The Evangelical Theological Society where Metzger not only participated, but read a paper supporting The Society’s conservative Biblical and theological doctrines by reading a paper on the how the Greek New Testament could be trusted textually as preserving and linking the modern Church with Early Christianity and its Historical Jesus (Metzger was on the editorial board of all 4 editions of the United Bible / American Bible Society’s Greek New Testament).
Thus in my view, the fact Ehrman had a believing mentor (Metzger) who he idealized along with the fact he once was an Evangelical Christian himself and to avoid the social stigma of wondering around at the annual meetings of Society of Biblical Literature / Academy of Religion as a known Mythicist, a position at odds with most scholars attending (most teaching in either a Christian university or seminary), it’s in Ehrman’s best interest to fall in line with the majority of this liberal Biblical Academy all of who, more or less ,have stripped Jesus of his miraculous Gospel biography down to a simple historical man; a witty man who dazzled the general Roman Palestine Jewish population with his new readings of the written Torah via his reformulations of the Oral Torah. Thus, like Ehrman, many scholars are also theological atheists, yet remain Historical Jesus believers.
Thus, to avoid the appearance of weakness, atheists should be willing to take a firm stand by doing original research and applying objective systematic thinking to defend - scholastically - their thesis that there was never a Historical Jesus since all known facts point to the conclusion he never existed!
When a Mythicist gets an objection, then he or she needs review the pros and any cons of their thesis point by point. If a Mythicist is presented with evidence that has not been considered, they should be honest enough to do more research; get familiar with the facts, the sources, the logic and avoid the academic psychological bandwagon by dogmatically citing scholar’s names and simply riding on their coattails or, in other words, letting scholars do your thinking for you (It’s easy to float down the river of popular opinion, but it’s hard to swim upstream).
Finally, tomorrow night I’ll put into practice what I’ve discussed above by debating a Historical Jesus atheist -believer, Tim O’Neill who has a blog dealing with what he thinks are the facts that prove Jesus existed and who has strongly contested my post on Josephus .
I will present my thesis in outline form as to why Tim O’Neill (and all Historical Jesus believers) have failed to present a logical apology by applying a new logical methodology to their evidence.This will, I trust, be an informative discussion / debate and I’ll let you judge if Jesus never existed.