In preparing for the next book in my series (dealing with Jesus as he appears in ancient authors outside the New Testament), I have done some preparation not just by reading the books by various Jesus mythicists, but also in checking websites that cater to the mythicist crowd. While I expected to find much in the way of poor material, I have been astonished by the vast wall of sheer ignorance one finds in such quarters. Oh sure, I began with low expectations from that crowd but the reality is even worse than I imagined
As my first example of such ignorance, there is a video I was directed to by some guy on Youtube named Dusty Smith who has a channel called “Cult of Dusty.” His shtick is to insult Christianity and Christians in between random bits of profanity and poor reasoning concerning the same. The only way I can describe him is as the Bill Maher for atheist rednecks. One supposes he might actually find that a compliment … it isn’t.
Take for example, a video he did titled Jesus Never Existed. Like most who support this position, he seems to take it as “rational” despite just about everyone who might be considered an expert on the history of religion from every perspective (including atheists) believing it is a crank viewpoint left to ideologues and crackpot conspiracy theorists. Even more revealing than using a belief with less scholarly support than the Psychic Friends Network as a sign of clear thinking was his own tale of how he came to this revelation.
He begins by stating he was a Christian and he wanted to “shut these atheists up” about Jesus not existing. From how he describes his interaction with these atheists, he was likely an ignorant Christian debating with one or more ignorant atheists and he later switched sides without doing much to cure his ignorance. In the next few minutes, his complete lack of anything resembling historical knowledge becomes quite clear and he accomplishes little apart from exposing himself as a complete fraud who knows nothing of what he speaks.
For example, at one point, in the midst of a rant, he states (foul language omitted):
…there were scholars in the area he supposedly was during that time who kept track of all the cults in the area and not a single one of them mentions him – period. In fact there’s no Roman records at all that Pontius Pilate put him to death… it doesn’t exist.
I challenge Dusty or any of his fans to give the names of these supposed scholars who were in Galilee and Judea at that time keeping track of various religious groups. Notice he never gives an actual name. There is a reason for this: he cannot. No such scholar existed.
Yes there were lots of groups in that area and there were also occasional would be messiahs who arose and were crushed by the Romans. We know about these men from the time of Jesus and earlier through a single source: Josephus. No Roman writer ever mentioned them at the time or later. They just did not care about Judea except when it presented an imminent threat and even then the references were to the Jews as a group rather than individuals.
As for the Roman records, he is correct that there are no Roman records of Pilate executing Jesus. However, there are no Roman records of Pilate executing anyone. In fact, there are no extant records from Judea in that period. So even here, his accusation means absolutely nothing.
He then goes on to state that no one wrote anything about Jesus for decades which is also false. It has been known for quite some time by scholars that the Gospels were compiled from earlier traditions and documents. In fact, the same can be said about parts of Paul’s letters as he quoted hymns and credal statements in use by Christians at the time.
Dusty then goes on to state the first historical evidence is Josephus. Actually, it is the letters of Paul which predate Josephus by decades. He then claims Josephus is not historical evidence – it is at best hearsay. This again proves that most Jesus mythicists have no idea what constitutes historical evidence. There is this assumption among them (that they only apply to Jesus) that Jesus did not exist unless you have proven words from someone who knew him. By that standard, there were maybe a few hundred people alive at the time in Judea because we sure do not have much of any such evidence.
The fact is that this is not a criminal trial where one has to prove something beyond a shadow of a doubt. History is done merely by the preponderance of the evidence. And if someone talked to those or read the writings of those who knew of this Jesus, then the preponderance of evidence is that he existed. It does not mean he rose from the dead, but if this troublesome group of Christians were worshiping someone who did not exist, then Josephus would have been in an ideal position to know this and would have certainly mentioned it.
The next assertion is that “we now know” that the passage is a total forgery by the fourth century church father Eusebius. Really?? And how do we know this?? By reading the books of crackpot conspiracy theorists that no scholar takes seriously? If Dusty ever read the academic literature on the subject, he would find that, far from knowing such a thing to be true, the consensus of scholars is that the passage is largely authentic but altered later by a Christian hand to affirm Christian beliefs. It is not just that someone like this guy believes this nonsense – he is entitled to disagree with the aforementioned consensus – but that he has absolutely no clue that what he is stating as “known” is considered a fringe opinion.
He later goes on to state that all Tacitus said was that there was this cult of Christians. What Tacitus actually stated was that these Christians followed someone from Judea they called Christ who was executed during the reign of Tiberius Caesar by Pontius Pilate. As one can see, that is a lot more than just saying there were some Christians worshiping some amorphous figure.
Astonishingly, someone who spews this sort of ignorance on a regular basis has over 85,000 subscribers. This is the world of the New Atheism.