The Fourth Quest: A Critical Analysis of the Recent Literature on Jesus’ (a)Historicity


  • Raphael Lataster University of Sydney


There has been some recent scholarly discussion on the reasonableness of questioning Jesus’ historicity. While generally avoiding the question, this analysis seeks to compare the methods of those who assert Jesus’ historical existence (historicists), and those who are less certain (mythicists or agnostics). Examples were taken from four recent authors on the topic. It was found that the recent defences of historicity by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey lack lucid and competent methodologies, rely on highly questionable documents, and further make use of sources that no longer exist, if they ever did. They also seemed polemical, were occasionally vulgar, and often resorted to cavilling, focussing on tangential arguments of the more amateurish mythicists. My own case for agnosticism is largely grounded in the skepticism over the relevant sources necessitated by sound historical approaches, and has been well received by critical scholars. Richard Carrier’s case for outright mythicism lays out a clear and transparent historical method, incorporating much relevant background knowledge that many mainstream scholars would be largely ignorant of. Despite arguing for the more controversial hypotheses, these more sceptical scholars are employing superior methods.