Sunday, 15 August 2010

Did Jesus exist?

A group of self-described "Jesus mythicists" have announced a $1,000 prize for anyone who can write an essay proving the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. The 2011 Historicist Prize will be awarded to the author of any essay demonstrating that Jesus lived--in the opinion of the judges. Who are those judges? Members of the Mythicists' Forum, the creators of the prize: Earl Doherty, Robert M Price, René Salm, Frank R Zindler.

The caveat is that you must pay $50 to enter the competition. "If no submission demonstrates the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, then there will be no Real Jesus Challenge Award (Historicist Prize)."

This is bizarre. Who would want to pay to have their essay judged by an institution whose existence depends on disagreeing with the conclusions of the essay?

The obvious-but-flawed comparison would be with the JREF, the skeptical institute headed by James Randi, which offers a $1 million prize to anyone who can show evidence of a "paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event." In their case, however, participants agree to the conditions of the test and its outcomes in advance, and the claims are tested according to scientific principles and judged by independent scientists.

The Mythicists' Forum, on the other hand, will judge the winner itself and on its own principles. The prize stems from a corresponding Mythicist Prize, which awards $1,000 to the winner of an essay that "sheds light on the origins of Christianity and, at the same, time, supports the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist." The first such competition was held in 2010, and no one won, although two participants were given honourable mentions.

I propose another challenge. Pay $50 and demonstrate to a panel consisting of Lee Strobel, Dinesh D'Souza and Ravi Zacharias that God does not exist. If they agree, you get the prize. If they disagree, they keep the money. Deal?

1 comment:

  1. You're right it's bizarre.

    It is only recently I have come across such Jesus Mythicists, it is a strange pursuit and seems entirely unnecessary. It can be reasonably be argued that the Jesus of History is a million miles away from contemporary conceptions and hence this Jesus never existed but to actually question the existence of a historical figure seems silly rather than just assign a measure of inscrutability into the mix - it can equally kill off a historically grounded religious faith.