Say What I Want to Hear!

I think that, although Jesus Christ is clearly a mythical figure, it is quite likely the myth coalesced around a real historical figure, with whom there is a direct chain of familiarity to key figures in the early church. Thus I am not a Mythicist, but would lie on the minimalist end of the academic consensus on Jesus. I am, for example, rather skeptical of the applicability of many historical ‘criteria’ when applied to individual features of the Jesus evidence. In this I would have been outside the mainstream a few years ago, but am now somewhat more in line with the changing wind of NT scholarship (c.f. this recent conference).

I recently reviewed a book by Richard Carrier, a figure often associated with Mythicism (though his specific beliefs are a little mercurial, I find). Because my review was criticial, I got linked to from various sources who defend the academic consensus against Mythicism, who presumably agree that Carrier is wrong. Similarly Carriers response, was linked to by those supportive of mythicism, and he received favourable comments for dismissing my criticisms.

I am not a professional NT scholar (I make my living doing algorithmic research and development mainly for big software companies), though I have a degree in theology (specialising in original languages) and have been studying the NT for 20 years. So really my views on the historical Jesus should probably not have much weight. But I suspect it is those views, rather than any mathematical expertise I may have, that determine whether someone accepts my analysis.

The tribal linking patterns are even more amusing since I made clear in my review that Carrier voices many of my own skepticisms on the utility of criteria (he is more skeptical than I think is warranted, but it is only a difference in degree). So perhaps, if I’d written a review that wasn’t concerned primarily with the math, then the linking patterns would have been reversed.

It is interesting just how biased we all are towards people in our tribe. I am just the same.

I wonder just how much crap I’ve assimilated over the years, because it has been spouted by folks who I have filed under the ‘I agree’ tag.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Say What I Want to Hear!

  1. “It is interesting just how biased we all are towards people in our tribe. I am just the same.

    I wonder just how much crap I’ve assimilated over the years, because it has been spouted by folks who I have filed under the ‘I agree’ tag.”

    Refreshing candor.

  2. TWF

    “Hooked on Confirmation Bias” worked for me!
    I does seem like it is more difficult than it should be to read something completely objectively instead of clinging to the matching stuff and disregarding the rest.

    Perhaps this was evolution’s way of helping to maintain peaceful unity within the tribe.

  3. Ian

    @TWF, welcome to the blog! “Hooked on Confirmation Bias” – love it!

    Yeah, I wonder how the strong bias came about.

    @Doug, thanks.

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