Joe Carter has a review up of a new documentary called The God Who Wasn’t There, by Brian Flemming, which takes the rather audacious position that there was no man called Jesus at all, that the Jesus of the bible is entirely fictitious and invented out of whole cloth. I’ve not seen this movie yet, but a was contacted by a publicist for the film who asked me if I would like to receive a review copy of it. I replied:
“While I wouldn’t mind having a review copy, I can tell you that you’re fighting an uphill battle with me. I think it’s unlikely in the extreme that Jesus never existed. I think it’s telling that not a single classical scholar takes such a position (the closest is GA Wells, and he is a professor of German literature, not a historian). Still, I’m certainly willing to listen to the arguments and the rest of it sounds like it would be of definite interest to me.”
She said she’d send me a copy of the film for review despite my disclaimer, but I have not received it yet (it may well be in my mailbox right now, but I don’t feel like walking through the snow to check at the moment). I don’t really write much about the bible and Christianity directly. Most of what I write is about political or scientific issues where those things play a role in one side of the conflict. But I’ve had my own journey in this regard, from president of the local Youth for Christ as a teenager to rather annoying atheist to mild-mannered (I know, but play along) deist today. And I spent many years studying the historical record in great detail, though most of that material now sits in boxes and hasn’t seen the light of day in many years.
I obviously don’t believe that the gospels or the Bible in general are reliable, at least in regard to the central question of divinity; if I did, I would be a Christian. But there is a reasonable position to take against those things and an unreasonable one, and I consider the notion of an entirely fictitious Jesus to be quite unreasonable. I think it is reasonable to view Jesus as both real and mythologized. In that, I am not only joined by most classical scholars in the world, but by many liberal Christian scholars as well. But I do think it’s telling that not a single classicist, even skeptics like Gerald LaRue, takes the position that Jesus was entirely fictional.
I tend to agree with Jeff Lowder, one of the founders of the Internet Infidels, that while there is good reason to doubt many of the supernatural claims found in the gospels and the Bible in general, there is a strong prima facie case to be made for the historical existence of Jesus. And I just don’t think the notion of an entirely fictional Jesus is a credible or compelling position to take. Nonetheless, I look forward to watching this DVD and providing a review of it in the near future.
Update: Well I got up the gumption to shovel off my deck and make a path to the mailbox (we’ve got about 3 inches of snow and still coming down hard) and sure enough the DVD is there. I probably won’t get to watch it until this weekend, but I’ll post something on it then. Today, there is basketball to watch.