Tat Tvam Asi wrote:
A big reason that I prefer the model of Jesus as a doomsday cult leader is that I don't need to read the New Testament any less literally than the fundamentalist Christians.
Ok, so you're an evemerist then. The problem that I've found with evemerism (I've gone from believer, to evemerist, to mythicist) is that both the believer and the evemerist depend on faith based conclusions. You have to accept on faith that such a person as Jesus Christ as described in the NT ever existed in the early first century at all. He may have. But it's entirely unprovable at this point in time. To stay entirely honest, I think it's best to set out skeptical of the historical claim until proven otherwise. If proven otherwise then so be it.
If Erman the evemerist is claiming to provide such radical new evidence for the historicity of Jesus then I'm interested in seeing what he thinks is so concrete....
You can think of it as evemerism, though I normally don't. Most of the time, evemerism would be little more than speculation. I think evemerism is fully justified when we have direct evidence in the earliest traditions identifying the disputed historical character as a mere human being and a non-god. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." It is only the gospel of John, written thirty years afterward, where Jesus is quoted as saying, "The Father and I are one," and of course that became the orthodox Christian belief. The quote in the gospel of Mark was interpreted as mere humility. I don't think we should let orthodox Christian tradition frame the debate, but the debate should be all about making the most probable sense of the evidence.
A big part of my case for the probability of the human cult leader Jesus is the seeming historical/social pattern--that reputed-human figureheads of cults are always based on an actual cult founder of roughly the same biographical profile (name, family, friends, mentor, language, religion, hometown, cause of death, and so on). If Jesus was NOT a human being (i.e. no more than a myth), then it would make early Christianity a one-of-a-kind cult, because nothing else like it has ever happened anywhere on the planet Earth as far as we are aware. Reputed-human cult figureheads are always the actual-human cult founders. I don't believe that Christianity needs to be a special case. If we can explain Christianity in terms of what is historically normal, then why not? If the evidence expects the theory, then it fulfills the criterion of "plausibility." Explanations are more probable if they are more plausible.
On top of that, the evidence is very much what we expect if Jesus was a historical-human doomsday cult leader and founder of Christianity. We have doomsday predictions centered on Jesus in all of our earliest evidence (Mark, Q and Paul), and we have excuses for the failed doomsday deadline in John 21:20-23 and 2 Peter 3:3-8. We have miracles attributed to Jesus by the cult, fully what we expected for a human cult founder, as we see with Pythagoras, Apollonius of Tyana, Prophet Muhammad and Joseph Smith. We have teachings of Jesus strongly reminiscent of a cult founder, such as absolute adherence, separation and hatred of one's family, division with the world, radical teachings and doomsday predictions. And we have positive spins of otherwise-embarrassing details of the life Jesus in our early texts, such as his hometown of Nazareth, his baptism by John the Baptist, his division with his family, his betrayal by one of his own twelve, and his crucifixion. If the theory expects the evidence, then it fulfills the criterion of "explanatory power." Explanations are more probable if they have greater explanatory power.
My model has both strong plausibility and explanatory power, seemingly much more than all competing theories. Therefore, it is probable that Jesus was a historical human doomsday cult leader.
All of the evidences are the earliest Christian writings. I think a lot of people hear that and they think, "faith," but I think of it as explaining the evidence with probability. It is neither about trusting the evidence nor about distrusting the evidence, but it is about making the most probable sense of the evidence.
That isn't to say we can't be uncertain and skeptical. Like any conclusion of ancient history, it is best to be uncertain. But, I do think that this conclusion has sufficient advantages over rival hypotheses that we can accept it as sufficiently probable. When another theory with even more plausibility and explanatory power comes along, then the model of Jesus as a doomsday cult leader should be discarded, like the theory of evolution or any other theory.