Mythicism is the general position that Jesus was not a historical person but a legend and that the gospels were therefore written as a work of fiction. Much the same as William Tell, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood and King Arthur are generally considered non-historical, mythicists argue that Jesus should added to the list. The reasons for mythicism is typically an argument from silence and the parallels to other known myths.
- There is no contemporary evidence such that Jesus existed.
- The story of Jesus resembles the stories of other generally fictional characters.
- The onus is on those individuals who claim there was a historical Jesus to back up this positive claim.
- One should not believe in a historical Jesus.
There is no contemporary evidence for Jesus
- The Gospels
- The writings of Paul
- Paul may have been writing about a divine figure rather than a historical one. Even if not, Paul never met Jesus. All he did was hear a voice and see a light. Without any other evidence the claim is problematic at best and ridiculous at worst. If Christians accept this, then they should accept the stories of Joseph Smith and Mohammad.
- Christian apocrypha
- Stories about the stories do not qualify as historical evidence, any more than additional books about Superman prove the existence of Superman.
- There are good reasons to assume the relevant passages in Josephus are a forgery.
- In reporting on the execution of Jesus, Tacitus provides no evidence he was doing any more than echoing the story as it was told by early Christians. Tacitus was not himself a contemporary to Jesus, and gives no indication he drew his information from those who were.
- Suetonius: As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome
- Chrestus is a common Jewish name, not one specially reserved for Jesus alone. Given the reference was made 20 years after Jesus is said to have died, the passage in unlikely specifically in reference to him.
- Pliny the Younger: Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
- The passage refers to Christians being annoying rather than a historical Jesus.
- Many early Christians died for their beliefs, and they wouldn't die for a lie.
- Their willingness to die shows that they believed firmly in their religious ideal, not that they believed Jesus was a real person. The religious ideal could easily have been considered a worthy cause, whether or not its founder were invented.
- If they did in fact die specifically for holding to the claim that Jesus was real (which has in no way been demonstrated), that indicates that they believed it, not that they were correct.
The story of Jesus resembles other myths
- Those stories are invented by the devil.
- A lot of parallels are stretches.
- For example Horus is said to be born of a virgin, when he was born (in one telling of the story) of Hathor and the reassembled body of Osiris.
- Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces showed a general outline for myths, even without the myths being inter-related. A notable amount of the argument for mythicism is that the early Christians stole the God ideas from other groups rather than invented them outright. This is not necessarily the case.
The burden is on those who argue there is a historical Jesus
- It is generally accepted that there is a historical Jesus.
- The places in the Gospels exist.
- Homer's Odyssey describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. If in the future, archaeologists travel to the once-was New york City and discover comics off Spiderman, does that mean Spider-man was a historical person?
- Mythicism is a fringe position.
- In the weak form — "we shouldn't believe in a historical Jesus or actively disbelieve the proposition" — it is hard to argue that a character should be accepted as due to the lack of good evidence of historicity. Keeping this in mind, it becomes progressively harder to accept a divine one if there doesn't exist the grounds for a historical one.
- Even experts have to give evidence for their beliefs, their opinions are based more on assumption and tradition than a thorough survey of the evidence.
- Nonetheless, there are still scholars that are mythicists such as theologians Robert M. Price, Thomas L. Thompson, and Tom Harpur, as well as historians Bruno Bauer, Edwin Johnson, and Bertrand Russell