Early Christmas morning, the Washington Post thought it would be wise to stick its thumb in the eyes of those celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Its official “Post Opinions” Twitter account tweeted “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”
Many commented on the provocative timing. Publisher of Encounter books and well known author Roger Kimball said that the Post’s tweet was “Really, all you need to know about that pathetic publication.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted “Why is this necessary today? Why insult people of a certain faith on the day they most cherish? It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of simple courtesy. #Rude”. (He added a ruder hashtag as well.) Many others were affronted.
The gibe was deliberate. It’s not that the story the Post touted was new, containing “breaking” news of some scholar unearthing new historical evidence. After all, the link in the Post’s tweet was to a four-year old already-debunked story of the same name they published in December, 2014.
The article was by Raphael Lataster, with subtitle “There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence.”
What “good reasons” does he have? Lataster claims that there are a “lack of early sources” about the life of Jesus. What about the Gospels? He dismisses those because, he says, they
all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity — which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources — which they also fail to identify.
Should we dismiss Lataster’s (and, tacitly, the Washington Post’s) argument because he is eager to promote atheism? The fallacy is obvious. As is the intimation that because the authors of the Gospels were not professional historians familiar with modern footnoting techniques, they can’t be trusted. If we applied this criterion equally, we’d have to toss out nearly all ancient literature.
About non-Christian, but early professional historians, like Josephus and Tacitus, Lataster is equally disparaging. The excuse he uses for casting these men aside is to call their writings “controversial” and to say their work has “obviously been changed by Christian scribes”.
His argument can thus be boiled down to this.[…]
Lataster does himself no favor at all by leaning on the wild-eyed arch-atheist and Jesus-denier Richard Carrier (who recently “came out” as “polyamorous”). Carrier’s behavior and litigiousness is so outré it annoys even his fellow atheists.
Doubting the doubters
And why are they appearing especially when the crank “mythicist” theories printed by the paper have been debunked repeatedly in scholarly works?
The Post’s mysterious motivation