How Matt Dillahunty makes a brilliant argument against Jesus myth scholarship
I recently attended the Holy Trinity Down Under presentation and was struck by the rhetorical power and persuasive abilities of the speakers, particularly Matt Dillahunty. One of the ways Matt is so persuasive and effective as a communicator is his ability to relay complex concepts in simple, easy to understand ways. No doubt his communication ability has contributed to his global influence and success.
I was struck by one particular illustration that he used near the end of the Q&A time (video link). He was responding to a question and got talking about the credibility of the scholarship of Young Earth Creationist scientists. He conceded that there were scientists with PhD’s who believed in a young earth. He then asked us to put all those scholars together in a group which could be represented by his little finger. Then he proposed a comparison saying that all the scientists who didn’t believe in a young earth would stretch across the road (compared to the little finger).
This vividly and correctly identified the disparity in the ‘argument to authority’ when it comes to issues that shouldn’t really be controversial. (As a matter of full disclosure, I do not believe in a young earth and the reason Matt pointed out – i.e that there are compelling reasons which convince the majority of experts in the field, is one of the convincing reasons)
I think precisely the same analogy can be applied to historical Jesus studies and the ‘controversy’ surrounding the existence of Jesus. I drew a similar comparison in my discussion on John Oliver and Climate Change. There really isn’t an academic “controversy” about the existence of Jesus amongst experts in the field (Ancient history professors and NT scholars). We can be certain that Jesus existed.
Now, utilising Matt’s analogy, there are scholars with PhD’s who reject the existence of the historical Jesus and the number of scholars with PhD’s who reject Jesus existence could be represented by my little finger. Then the rest of the relevant scholars (historians and NT scholars) who think he did exist would stretch over the road. So it is permissible to entertain the suggestion that Jesus never existed, but you do so against the weight of almost the entire academic community (and the arguments that have convinced them all).
Hence if you want to entertain the proposal that Jesus didn’t exist, you also have to entertain the suggestion that Young Earth Creation scientists who have PhD’s might also be right!!! I think Matt’s analogy makes a brilliant argument against Jesus myth scholarship.