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. This credentialist fallacy is often used when the subject of Jesus mythicism is raised.
I’ll start with a few quotes:
“Few scholars question Jesus’ existence”
“No serious historian believes that Jesus didn’t exist”
“I don’t know any serious scholar who questions the existence of Jesus”
“No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus as an historical figure”
“No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus”
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 scholars accept a historical Jesus. They assume that Jesus must have existed a priori and work from there without ever first substantiating the claim. Academia has allowed this to happen.
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.
It’s important to realize that in the past one couldn’t obtain a Ph.D. without also studying religion. In fact many universities and colleges began as religious institutions or had seminaries attached to them such as for example; Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
It’s also very curious that it is not any sort of a requirement for a New Testament scholar to examine case for mythicism or the Mythicist Position in order to receive a PhD.
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 theological courses with their funding, donations and other influences. And to what degree it continues to this very day.
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 understanding. Those gaps are precisely what Acharya/Murdock’s work covers.
Religion and the Ph.D.: A Brief History