Mythicism – What is it?

As applied to discussions of religion, mythicism is the belief that the man Jesus Christ, described in the Bible, did not exist in any meaningful sense. Some mythicists claim any first-century person named Jesus had nothing to do with Christianity. Others declare no such person ever existed, at all, and so the person described in the Bible is entirely fictional. Both of these versions of mythicism are rejected by the scholarly community, including—quite pointedly—by secular and even anti-religious sources. As such, mythicism is more closely related to pseudoscience and conspiracy theories than to legitimate religious skepticism.

Mythicism relies heavily on two primary premises: that the New Testament is completely worthless as a record of any real-world events, and that there are insufficient mentions of Jesus in "secular" sources to establish His existence. Another very common plank of the mythicism platform is the suggestion that Christian beliefs about Jesus were directly adapted (stolen) from other, older mythological stories.

Secular scholars often disagree on the extent to which they accept particular claims of the New Testament. They likewise debate the usefulness of certain extra-biblical references. And, of course, not all secular scholars agree on what extent—if any—prior myths would have had on the development of Christianity. However, the extent to which mythicists take such suggestions is rejected as absurd by the overwhelming majority of historians.

As with conspiracy theories, the pseudoscience of mythicism can be difficult to discuss rationally. The simplest way to debunk such claims is to simply apply mythicist logic to other figures of ancient history. As even secular or atheist scholars have pointed out, such an approach would require mythicists to doubt the existence of countless thousands of other historical figures whose lives are actually less well-attested than that of Jesus.

As such, mythicism occupies an interesting, embarrassing place in conversations about religion. This is a criticism of Christianity so lacking in empirical support, and so thoroughly disproven, that even professors and authors considered hostile to Christianity dismiss it as foolish. This has not stopped it from maintaining a small, dedicated trove of supporters, few of whom demonstrate interest in deeper discussions of such issues. Objections grounded in mythicism are among the few which can, essentially, be dismissed out of hand as faulty and irrational.

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