Mythicism, again, this time for keeps

There is a debate raging between Mythicists (those who think Jesus of Nazareth did not exist) and Historicists (those that think Jesus of Nazareth did exist). Richard Carrier is a great example of a scholar with quality credentials who has written a great book with tons of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth could well be a myth. Bart Ehrman wrote a good response to the rise of Mythicism, giving his evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Most NT scholars, most critical scholarship, maintains that Jesus of Nazareth is based on a real human who lived in the early first century. Given just Carrier and Erhman, I would hedge my bets on the side of the historicity of Jesus, mostly because everything, gospels and Paul, seem to converge near this date of 30 CE.

However, I have found something that changes that equation, so that I am now completely a mythicist. Jesus was an ancient Jewish mythology, and the gospels are based on those ancient Jesus tales.

The names Joshua and Jesus are artificially separated by Martin Luther. Starting in the 1500’s Martin Luther began translating the OT from the Maseretic, which is in Hebrew. So now the OT Jesus would be called “Joshua”, transliterated from Yehoshua or Yeshua. And the NT character remained “Jesus.” Prior to that the sixth book of the Bible, the book right after Deuteronomy, was the book of Jesus!

In this book of Jesus (Joshua), chapter 10, Jesus son of Nun kills the king of Jerusalem, hangs his body on a tree, takes the body down at evening, puts the body in a cave, and puts rocks in front of the cave. It seems obvious to me that this is a partial basis for the end of Jesus of Nazareth.

I have found 85 instances in the 16 chapters of Mark where Mark explicitly reuses Jesus stories from the OT, and made a slideshow I posted on YT.

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While your points are interesting, I think they suggest a false dichotomy . . . as there are, perhaps, other possibilities besides myth or historicity.

In other posts, I described how–in my lifetime–a scam involving a supposed haunted house blew up and spawned over 60 movies and many, many, books (ie: “The Amityville Horror”).

So, I believe that a reformed rabbi named Joshua (or Jesus, or Yeshua, etc.) probably existed, and legends, exaggeration, and tale tales became attached to him until we have a supernatural figure replacing a real person in gradual increments.

We’ve seen a similar process with the legendary “John Henry” who died defeating a steam-powered tunneling machine. There does seem to be historical evidence of a real John Henry (a former slave, who was also incarcerated at some point) who died young from silicosis . . . and this supposed contest happened only about 160 years ago or so in fairly modern times.

So, a third possibility is that Jesus represents a gradual replacement of fact with myth.

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Thank you for responding, and yes, I used to believe the same.
However, these myths about Jesuses PREDATE the Jesus of Nazareth. There were guys named Jesus who inspired the next edition of the mythology -Jesus of Nazareth (Mark’s early edition).
Jesus Nun - preaching the Law to the people with 6 representatives of the people on each side. (Jesus 8) - Jesus of Nazareth speaking to the people with the 12 disciples

  • Killing the king of Jerusalem, hanging his body on a tree, taking the body down at evening, putting large rocks in front of that cave (Jesus 10)
  • Matthew’s expansion put guards in front of that cave - Jesus put guards in front of that cave earlier in Jesus 10.
    -Jesus Nun complaining to Moses of elders prophesying in the camp (Numbers 11)- disciples of Jesus complaining of others throwing out demons in his name
    -Jesus Nun is rejected by the people, they threaten to stone him, Jerusalem falls 40 years later - Jesus of Nazareth is rejected by his town, and Jerusalem falls 40 years later (Jeremiah is also rejected by the people of Anathoth, and Jerusalem falls 40 years later).
  • Jesus Jehozadak is asked who gave him authority to build the temple, in the response a decree by Darius proclaims whoever violates the temple will be strung up on a beam (Ezra) - Jesus of Nazareth makes a ruckus in the temple, is asked by what authority he does these things, and is crucified
  • Jesus Jehozadak stands in for the people of Israel as his rags are traded for clean linen (Zechariah 3)…
    If we found myths of a John Henry competing against, for example, the telescope as invented by Galileo, wouldn’t you stop thinking there is a basis for a John Henry to have actually lived to compete against the steam engine? What if we found not only John Henry vs the telescope but also John Henry vs the diving bell, and John Henry vs the fire extinguisher? Wouldn’t we have to admit John Henry was a literary trope that is AT LEAST not based on a person who lived in the era of “John Henry vs Steam Engine?”
    Logically, if Jesus of Nazareth’s story is almost completely a compilation of previous Jesus stories, then it would seem the idea of there being an actual person it was based on would go away (it won’t).
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Like yourself a student of the Joshua/Yeshua/Jesus stories, my conclusion is that a very human, but charismatic, Jesus figure may have lived in the first third of the 1st century. It is possible.
The Jesus figure, divine, undead and miracle worker as described in the gospels is utterly improbable.

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No doubt a person named Jesus could have existed then (it was supposedly the fifth most popular name). A person named Jesus could have been executed by crucifixion. An apocalytpic preacher could have roamed the Galilean hillside. these are all possibilities.
However, EVERY aspect of Jesus of Nazareth’s gospel according to Mark is either: based on prior Jesuses (and Absalom Son of David), or on Homeric epics.
Saying an apocalyptic prophet named Jesus of Nazareth was probably crucified near 30 CE is akin to saying a teen named Peter Parker roamed Queens, NY, in the late 1990’s when we have stories about Peter Parker roaming NY in the 1970’s.
Dennis MacDonald uses this same logic to discredit the stories of Jesus of Nazareth that he can reliably say come from Homeric epics. (Robyn Walsh says they are more Virgilic than Homeric, though Virgil used Homer). You COULD hand wave that away as stories (legends) that accumalated to the historic core of an actual JEsus.
However, it seems odd to claim the same about my OT Jesuses theory.

  1. I can eliminate 90% of the gospel of Mark to prior Jesus stories (plus Absalom), and
    2)most of these incidents are not comparable to any other OT character, just to a guy named Jesus (plus Absalom). Sirach even suggests that Jesus is a name to be expected of a savior, so it seems to me there was a accepted mythology of a Jesus hero swooping in to save Israel from time immemorial.
  2. The time frame of 40 years, from message to destruction of Jerusalem tells me this is about the destruction of Jerusalem and the role of those who reject the MESSAGE of relative inclusivity preached by the Jesus character (which dates back to Jesus Jehozadak’s descendants in Ezra and Nehemiah)
    Robyn Walsh also goes against the idea that there was anything new in the message of Jesus
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Joshua/Yeshua/Jesus stories.
There are two other main sources. One I would argue is a Jesus, recognized by the readers of that era, Elisha. Elisha is short for Elishua, which means “El saves” instead of “YHWH saves.” This may seem like a random equivocation, but his master’s name means “El is YHWH” so I think the name is changed (he is a second Jesus Nun) with some purpose in mind. Another name change with similarity is one of the last kings of Judah, Eliakim is changed to Jehoiakim in 2 Kings.
Elishua heals a dead child, heals the blind, heals a leper, and receives the spirit at the Jordan (as does Jesus Nun and Jesus of Nazareth). He feeds a multitude and cures water that was making people sick.
Absalom Son of David is not in any way a Jesus. Its hard to explain why he is included unless the gospels are about rebelling causing destruction, which I think they are. Absalom dies hanging in a tree, and his location is exposed by a common soldier to the captain Joab. Joab says the soldier would have received ten shekels of silver if he had just killed Absalom on the spot. Joab then spears Absalom as he is hanging in the tree. Absalom’s top advisor dies as Judas died in Matthew, by hanging himself. Absalom’s captain Amasa dies like Judas in Acts, by his gut burst open and wallowing in a field. Amasa had been gutted by Joab, who fooled Amasa with a kiss of greeting.
Nowhere else in the bible does a person hang himself, wallow in a field with his guts burst open, or use a false kiss to fool anyone. These are story elements only shared between the Rebellion and the gospels.
There are other high level similarities as well. For example, David returns to Jerusalem by crossing the Jordan, and all Israel comes out to greet him. While crossing, David forgives those who transgressed against him.
(There is also one element of the Rebellion that may have been congruent to the Jesus Nun and Elishua narratives, in that David may have miraculously crossed the Jordan in the original. Notice the parallels of David crossing the Kidron to the Jesus Nun story of parting the Jordan with the Levites prominently carrying the ark and all the people passing in front. After crossing the Kidron with such pomp and circumstance David pops over the Jordan rather nonchalantly. However, I don’t think this element would have made it a “Jesus tale.” I just think it points to a mythology of Jordan being much more sacred than we give credit. The Rebellion may have been simply included because of the senseless violence led to the death of so many in Israel, because the savior was supposed to be a “son of David”, or perhaps because the story is used to fill out Zechariah 8-14, and so conflated with Jesus Jehozadak in some way.

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As I have not studied that particular section of the Hebrew legends I really could not say whether your arguments are persuasive or not. Makes an interesting read though.

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Another even more recent example: until shortly after WWII the Japanese people literally believed their emperor was a god.

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