Religion and the PhD: A Brief History
There are several very important things you need to be made aware of about academia regarding religion. It's not the same as the hard sciences like physics or engineering that are testable and falsifiable as so much of religion is open to interpretation, which can easily be subject to biases. The cliff-note version of what you will learn in this thread is how most of our oldest universities, institutes of higher learning and colleges were church affiliated from the start. In the past, you couldn't get a PhD without also studying religion. So, we're interested in how that has influenced religious courses throughout academia, and how that influence still exists to this very day. The fact is, nobody is even looking at this issue at the level it should be and certainly, nobody is doing anything about it.
New Testament (NT) scholars are so narrowly focused on the NT that they don't spend much time in comparative religion to investigate parallels, 'borrowing' or syncretism from other pre-Christian religions. It's also significant that it's not a requirement for New Testament scholars or students to examine the case for mythicism or the Mythicist Position
in order to receive a PhD. Don't believe me? Here it is straight from the horses mouth:
"Writing Did Jesus Exist was an interesting task. For one thing, before writing the book, like most New Testament scholars, I knew almost nothing about the mythicist movement. I think mythicists themselves find this very frustrating, that their work is not taken seriously – in fact is not really even known – by precisely the scholars they would most like to convince. But that’s just the way it is."
- Dr. Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist as Part One
Learn more here: Over 80 Rebuttals to Bart Ehrman's Anti-Mythicist Book 'Did Jesus Exist?'
So, NT scholars simply are not reliable or credible sources on the subject of mythicism. In fact, anyone who admits that Jesus may never have existed and may be a mythical figure are labeled "fringe
" and treated as such by academia even though that's precisely what the credible evidence shows. A professor or teacher acknowledging that Jesus is a myth is likely to be fired. Many reputations and livelihoods have been ruined for merely telling the truth and it needs to be exposed as it is an epic disservice.
First, a little background on how the Ph.D. began:
"Its roots can be traced to the early church when the term "doctor" referred to the Apostles, church fathers and other Christian authorities who taught and interpreted the Bible."
- Wikipedia: Doctor (title)
Beginnings of Doctoral Education in the United States:
"For the greater part of the 19th century, most institutions of higher learning were small and church affiliated
and provided a classical education in the liberal arts, producing ministers and other professionals."http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf06319/chap2.cfm
"The doctorate dates back to the ijazat attadris wa'l-iftta ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") used in the medieval Madrasahs around the 9th century. Initially limited to law, the doctorate was later extended to philosophy in the European universities of the Middle Ages, which at the time grouped all academic disciplines outside the fields of theology, medicine and law under the broad heading of "philosophy". Until the 19th century, in fact, doctoral degrees could only be awarded in theology (Th.D.), law (J.D.), or medicine (M.D.)."http://www.dtic.upf.edu/~alozano/PhD/index.html
Wikipedia: Doctor of PhilosophyThe History of the PhD Degree
"Prior to the nineteenth century, professional doctoral degrees could only be awarded in theology, law, or medicine."Doctor of Philosophy
"...many scholars these days are so specialized that they do not cover the broad diversity of subjects involved in this particular field of research. Scholars in past eras were less specialized - and they did in fact make these connections within comparative religion, as my research demonstrates...."http://tbknews.blogspot.com/2008/04/zei ... d-not.html
"As Massey stated, many individuals of the past have been bibliolaters first and scholars second. The toning down or omission of anything that might offend Judeo-Christian sensibilities, has clearly led to censorship of important information —and this censorial pressure has often created a pronounced divide between religious scholars and others such as, in this case, Egyptologists, with the result that the twain has rarely met, leaving us to make the connections ourselves in what at times amount to Herculean efforts."
- Christ in Egypt
"Scholars in general can also be notoriously cautious, particularly when it comes to stepping on the toes of mainstream institutions, especially those of a religious bent—and there have been many such establishments, including major universities like Yale and Harvard, both of which started as Christian divinity schools.1 Numerous other institutions in the Christian world were either founded specifically as Christian universities and colleges or had seminaries attached to them. As stated on the Princeton Theological Seminary website, regarding early American education:
"Within the last quarter of the eighteenth century, all learning…could be adequately taught and studied in the schools and colleges, nearly all of which were church initiated."2
- CIE 505
1. See the Yale Divinity School website: “Training for the Christian Ministry was a main purpose in the founding of Yale College in 1701.” (“History of Yale Divinity School.”) See also the Harvard Divinity School website: “The origins of Harvard Divinity School and the study of theology at Harvard can be traced back to the very beginning of Harvard College.” (“Harvard Divinity School–History and Mission.”) http://www.hds.harvard.edu/history.html
2. “About Princeton Theological Seminary–History of the Seminary.” http://www.ptsem.edu/About/mission.php
There are countless other colleges and universities besides Yale, Harvard and Princeton that began as some sort of religious institution or organization. Such as Columbia for example:
"Controversy preceded the founding of the College, with various groups competing to determine its location and religious affiliation ... Anglicans prevailed"
"In July 1754...the first classes in a new schoolhouse adjoining Trinity Church"http://www.columbia.edu/about_columbia/history.html
Just check any college or uni website by reading the "about," "history" and Wiki page.
I have yet to see any serious investigation into how assorted religious institutions and organizations have influenced various academic theological courses with their funding, grants, donations and other influences; and to what degree it continues to this very day. Here is a recent example of what's wrong in academia still to this day. We have professional archaeologists publicly saying that other archaeologists are "bending science to prove a Biblical heritage
" ... with "generous funding, from religious groups
"Archaeologists have given up many of their best practices in order to answer the continuing demands of mainly political actors," says Raphael Greenberg, an Israeli archaeologist from Tel Aviv University, who has worked in Jerusalem.
"says some archaeologists cater to financial donors like Elad, which seeks to establish Biblical roots and develop tourism"
"Over time, when you're funded by these people in huge sums, and we're talking millions of dollars, you become part of the machine," argued Greenberg, who has been speaking out for some time over his doubts about archaeology in the holy city.
Jerusalem archaeologists feel pressured on all sides.
"I'm being looked at by religious extremists on all sides, the municipality, and the Antiquities Authority. Everybody is pushing his side," says Ronny Reich, an archaeologist from the University of Haifa in northern Israel."
- Researchers dig up controversy in Jerusalem
Courses in theology, biblical and NT appear to be quite compartmentalized. As soon as one becomes skeptical of a historical Jesus, for example, they are suddenly written-off as "fringe." They are looked down upon by the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and others. The peer pressure keeping most scholars from speaking their minds questioning the status-quo is still there even today. It just demonstrates how out of balance academia still is to this day regarding religion. They assume, a priori, that Jesus must have existed and work from there without ever substantiating the claim first. Meanwhile, they have no problem accepting that Egyptian, Sumerian, Phoenician, Indian, Greek, Roman and other godmen, are all presently accepted as myths, rather than historical figures. So, they're all mythicists EXCEPT when it comes to Jesus
There remains an entire field of study with a mountain of evidence kept out of these courses which may help explain many gaps in our current understanding. Those gaps are precisely what Acharya/Murdock's work and other mythicists cover. Astrotheology of the AncientsThe Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ
"Over a century ago, renowned British Egyptologist Sir Dr. E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934), a Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum, as well as a confessed Christian, remarked that a study tracing the "influence of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs and mythology on Christianity" would "fill a comparatively large volume." Since Dr. Budge's time, for a variety of reasons, including the seemingly irreconcilable academic gap between historians and theologians, no one has taken up the call to produce such a volume—until now."
- Christ in Egypt, Preface
Over the years, many people have brought us an endless supply of credentialism
, which is an argument that essentially claims only those with PhDs are worth listening to. The credentialism fallacy is often used when the subject of Jesus mythicism is raised. It is imperative to keep in mind that there are no mythicists with Ph.D's because there are no courses teaching it and there's not any type of "Department of Astrotheological and Mythological Studies"
for them to teach in or receive a Ph.D. and scholars know this fact. So, this argument couldn't be any more fallacious! This quote from Dr. Bart Ehrman is a prime example:
"... there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world."
- Bart D. Ehrman, "Did Jesus Exist", Huffington Post
, March 20, 2012
Ehrman raises a straw man here because he knows there is no such course teaching the case for mythicism and mythicists are not typically going to be hired, in fact, if anybody comes out of the mythicist closet they're more likely to be fired - for example: Fired for Saying Adam and Eve Mythical? A news report about a professor at a community college in Iowa who claimed he was fired for stating in class that the biblical Adam and Eve were mythical.The "No Serious Mythicist Scholar" Fallacy
Acharya S modeled her own education after that of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson by studying Ancient Greek Classics/Civilizations, languages and archaeology. She can read the Old Testament and the New Testament in their original languages as well as the languages of many Pagan sources. Had Bart Ehrman actually read her books he would already know that fact. This is what we mythicists have been dealing with for centuries now - Institutionalized Tyranny
across academia! This is how they keep mythicism out of academia!
Other fallacies used are argumentum ad baculum
for which examples are given in section F
of the Mythicist Challenge Petition
and the fallacy of argumentum ad populum
for which examples are the quotes below:
"Few scholars question Jesus' existence"
"No serious historian believes that Jesus didn't exist"
"No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus as an historical figure"
scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus"
scholar questions the existence of Jesus"
scholar questions the existence of Jesus""Contrary to some circles on the Internet, very few scholars doubt that Jesus existed, preached and led a movement.""I don't know any serious scholar who questions the existence of Jesus.""No serious ancient historian doubts that Jesus was a real person really living in Galilee in the first century""I unhesitatingly affirm that there is not a genuine scholar in the world today who denies the historical existence of Jesus. Every freethinking scholar worthy of the name accepts the existence of Jesus as the founder of Christianity. No one with common-sense could possibly deny it.""Evidence for Jesus as a historical personage is incontrovertible.""Jesus Christ really and truly lived as a human being in Palestine 2000 years ago. No serious historian doubts that.""Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the oldest Palestinian community."
"No person with a PhD thinks Jesus wasn't historical"
(The above comment is completely unprovable, because no one knows what every person with a PhD thinks, and, in fact, we know some people with PhDs who do
think Jesus was NOT historical.)
We've read or heard those or similar comments many times over the years but, sadly, it may be closer to the truth than you think, for it appears to be an unspoken requirement that New Testament (NT) scholars accept a historical Jesus. They assume, a priori, that Jesus must have existed and work from there without ever first substantiating the claim; academia has not only allowed this to happen they insisted upon it.
Let me just point out the obvious for a moment: NT scholars, historians and other scholars are not automatically immune from biases, prejudice, faith & euphoria related to religious beliefs. They can be still be biased devotees of a particular faith. To assume that someone with a PhD is instantly completely devoid of biases is false as demonstrated by many books written by them. They are SUPPOSE to be as non-biased as possible and many are, but one should never just assume that to be the case.
How can scholars be considered credible if they fail to ask the most basic questions? Theists claim god to be the omniscient, omnipresent, all powerful creator of the universe. So the burden of proof rests in theist hands yet, they've never substantiated their claims with credible evidence. If there were valid scientific evidence in support of supernatural religious claims, faith, would not be the main requirement. After 2,000 years little has changed in that regard.
The truth is, any scholar who claims with certainty that Jesus existed has lost all credibility due to the fact there is no credible evidence to substantiate such claims. So, why do all these scholars make such claims? I have some quotes of my own:"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
- Upton Sinclair
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."
- Christopher Hitchens
"...As for this tiresome business about there being "no scholar" or "no serious scholar" who advocates the Christ Myth theory: Isn't it obvious that scholarly communities are defined by certain axioms in which grad students are trained, and that they will lose standing in those communities if they depart from those axioms? The existence of an historical Jesus is currently one of those. That should surprise no one, especially with the rightward lurch of the Society for Biblical Literature in recent years. It simply does not matter how many scholars hold a certain opinion.... "
- Dr. Robert Price, Biblical Scholar with two Ph.D's
by Earl Doherty
"Why is it that no individual scholar or group of scholars has undertaken a concerted effort in recent times to discredit the mythicist position? (The brief addresses that have been made to it in various publications are outlined in my Main Article "Postscript".) In the heyday of the great mythicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a few valiant efforts were offered. However, both mainstream scholarship and the mythicist branch itself have made dramatic leaps since then. Biblical research has moved into bold new territory in the last several decades: unearthing a wealth of ancient documents, arriving at a new understanding of elements like Q, the sectarian nature of early Christianity, the Cynic roots of the great Gospel teachings, and so on; an almost unprecedented "critical" dimension to New Testament scholarship has emerged.
And yet the mythicist position continues to be vilified, disdained, dismissed. We would condemn any physicist, any anthropologist, any linguist, any mathematician, any scholar of any sort who professes to work in a field that makes even a partial bow to principles of logic and scientific research who yet ignored, reviled, condemned largely without examination a legitimate, persistent theory in his or her discipline
. There are tremendous problems in New Testament research, problems that have been grappled with for generations and show no sign of getting closer to solution. Agreement is lacking on countless topics, and yesterday's theories are being continually overturned. There is almost a civil war going on within the ranks of Jesus study. Why not give the mythicist option some serious consideration? Why not honestly evaluate it to see if it could provide some of the missing answers? Or, if it turns out that the case is fatally flawed, then put it to rest once and for all.
Doing that would require one essential thing: taking it seriously, approaching the subject having an open mind that the theory might have some merit. Sadly, that is the most difficult step and the one which most critics have had the greatest difficulty taking. It is all in the mindset, whether of the Christian believer whose confessional interests are overriding, or of the professional scholar who could never consider that their life's work might be fatally compromised."http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/ChallengingDoherty.htm
Political Correctness and Comparative ReligionPreachers, priests quietly embrace the Christ mythWhy I Am a Mythicist
"...I have known for a long time that traditions are conservative and self-interested, but what is coming home for me in a very real way is just how much the traditions are safe-guarded by the dominant group - be it the mainstream churches or the academy - and how far the dominant group will go to protect them. The interests and preservation of those interests often become the end-all, even at the expense of historical truth. The rationalizations, the apologies, the 'buts', the tortured exegesis, the negative labeling, the side-stepping, the illogical claims accumulate until they create an insurmountable wall that preserves both church and academy, which remain (uncomfortably so for me) symbiotic.
The entrenchment of the academy is particularly worrisome for me. Scholars' works are often spun by other scholars, not to really engage in authentic critical debate or review, but to cast the works in such a way that they can be dismissed (if they don't support the entrenchment) or engaged (if they do). In other words, fair reproduction of the author's position and engagement with it does not seem to me to be the top priority. The quest for historical knowledge does not appear to me to be the major concern. It usually plays back seat to other issues including the self-preservation of the ideas and traditions of the dominant parties - those who control the churches, and the academy with its long history of alliance with the churches..."
- April DeConick
, Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University, historian of early Jewish and Christian thought
"Your scholarship is relentless! The research conducted by D.M. Murdock concerning the myth of Jesus Christ is certainly both valuable and worthy of consideration."
- Dr. Kenneth L. Feder, Professor of Archaeology
Review of Acharya's book "Christ in Egypt"
"I can recommend your work whole-heartedly!"
- Dr. Robert Eisenman
"I've known people with triple Ph.D's who haven't come close to the scholarship in Who Was Jesus?"
- Pastor David Bruce, M.Div, North Park Seminary, Chicago
"...I have found her scholarship, research, knowledge of the original languages, and creative linkages to be breathtaking and highly stimulating."
- Rev. Dr. Jon Burnham, Pastor, Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX
"I find myself in full agreement with Acharya S/D.M. Murdock"
- Dr. Robert Price, Biblical Scholar with two Ph.D's
Review of Acharya's book "Christ in Egypt" here