Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why the Consensus of Historical Jesus Scholars Fails to Impress Me

When I express my doubts about the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, I am frequently confronted with arguments based on the consensus of scholars. If the overwhelming majority of scholars trained in the field have reached the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical human being, isn't it rational to think that there is probably some good evidence for his existence?

My answer is no, not when well respected scholars like N.T. Wright offer stupid reasons for believing Jesus worked miracles. "Jesus attracted large crowds. A thousand little features of the stories put this beyond doubt. When we ask why, the gospels all say it was because he was healing people. The link between healing and crowds is made in all the sources."  Simply Jesus, A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Slightly circular I would say.

From what I can tell, Wright has the appropriate training and credentials and some of his work would be considered mainstream even though he is known to engage in conservative apologetics from time to time.  That he makes arguments like the one above makes me wonder whether the training and peer review in the field of New Testament studies isn't doing it's job.   It would be like a tenured professor of history arguing "We know that the Yellow Brick Road was real because all the sources tell us that Dorothy used it to get to the Emerald City."

One of my problems with appeals to scholarly consensus is that I am never certain about just who that consensus includes.  Just how many of them are willing to forsake logic when necessary to preserve the tenets of their?  

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