How You Can Tell Maurice Casey’s Book About Mythicism is Good

Richard Carrier is quite the character, and he has written what he calls a “critical review” of Maurice Casey’s recent book about mythicism, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. Anyone who is used to reading his “reviews” will know what to expect – they are typically lengthy attempts to discredit, picking at minor details which can be criticized in the hope that none of his blog readers will ever read the book and find out what the substantive points of the work are, or if they do, will be so biased against it as a result of reading his “review” first that its points will fail to persuade. If that is what you are expecting, you will not be at all surprised by what is in this one. The entire thing is a combination of insults and complaints that even though Casey has shown that mythicists get lots of things wrong, that does not prove that they are not right – the “fallacy fallacy.”

Perhaps we need to add to the list of explicitly articulated logical fallacies the “fallacy fallacy fallacy.” While it is true that showing that most or all one’s opponent’s claims and arguments are fallacious does not show them to be incorrect, it does mean that until they make a non-fallacious case, their claims are not only unworthy of being taken seriously, but incapable of being taken seriously by scholars, for whom the starting point is the articulation of a legitimate case for a conclusion. And Carrier presumably knows this, since he points out the fallacies of others – including Casey. But since in this case, Casey is defending a view that thousands of scholars have articulated at least in part, Carrier ought to have accepted that he himself has committed the “fallacy fallacy.” Even if all of Carrier’s complaints – from the opening “you suck” to the “crazy uncle” – were valid, that would not mean that the entirety of mainstream historical scholarship about Jesus is undermined. Unless – as seems to be the case – Carrier has committed the fallacy fallacy fallacy.

Carrier works hard to make the case that it was not impossible for ancient Jews to believe that someone could be descended from David, crucified, buried, and raised in the heavenly realm. Even if that is granted, no mythicist has shown that that is what most Jews thought, or that one can assume that that is what Paul meant. And if Paul’s readers cannot be shown to have assumed that that was where such things transpired in the life of Jesus, then his claim that there are no references to anything that can be understood as a reference to the life of a historical Jesus in the letters of Paul is revealed to be bogus several times over.

Several times Carrier complains that works which appeared in print subsequent to the manuscript’s completion (it has been a slow process to see it finally polished and in print due to Casey’s poor health) are not mentioned. It is almost as though Carrier does not read enough scholarly monographs to realize that such time lags between completion of writing and appearance in print are par for the course. And Carrier seems to adopt the view that, because not all mythicists do certain things, somehow Casey’s criticisms of those who do are shortcomings of the book.

The root of the problem is presumably Carrier’s exaggerated sense of self-importance and of his own insight, a problem which plagues many if not indeed all mythicists to varying degrees. He writes:

I will say there are two reasons to get and read the book: (1) I very much want you to read his book, after reading my book On the Historicity of Jesus–because historicity will be well done and dead once you see the difference between how I make a case for mythicism (and what an organized, careful, thorough work of scholarship looks like), and this bizarre quasi-fundamentalist travesty of a defense for historicity…

And then he has the audacity to claim that Casey is behaving “like an elitist child”!

Carrier makes clear throughout his “review” that he does not grasp ancient Jewish history (or for that matter anthropology) sufficiently to discuss the details with a scholar like Casey in an informed manner. For instance, he writes:

Another example of not paying attention is when Casey accuses Thompson of being incompetent because Thompson says Mark 7 is about “hygiene” when in fact it’s about purity laws (7-5869). Except that it’s obvious to anyone who actually reads the passage in question that Thompson meant spiritual hygiene, in other words, purity laws.

He also calls Casey’s arguments for the authenticity of some material a selective acceptance of Biblical inerrancy.

Right…

I will be interested to hear what other professional scholars make of Carrier’s post, especially scholars who have actually read Casey’s book, and ideally those who have read Carrier’s own scholarly publications and are thus well poised to see not only Carrier’s treatment of scholarly arguments in the manner of an apologist, but also his unjustified sense that his own work provides what everyone else is lacking.

What seems most ironic to me is that, in the very best case scenario, Carrier is doing precisely what he accuses Casey of doing, namely latching on to flaws and problems about some details and using them to try to get people to ignore substantive points unaffected by those issues. I remember when I read an early draft of Casey’s book, I too found some claims problematic and even self-defeating. But none of those changes the fact that the majority of the book is an insightful, detailed, and persuasive case for the view that remains the overwhelming consensus of historians and scholars who work in the relevant fields: that there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Gabriel

    A review on a review which someone will obviously review ad nauseam. This is one of many reasons why comparing the study of evolutionary biology to the so called studies of the historicity of Jesus is so obviously wrong. And that is why Hector Avalos was so relevant when he wrote “The End of Biblical Studies”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m not sure what your point is. Have you read any biologists’ blogs, dealing with Intelligent Design “reviews” of biology books?

    • Matthew Jenkins

      It’s not “oh so wrong” to compare for example: evolutionary biology or the age of the earth to the historical Jesus. Jesus mythicists are just as wrong as Young-Earth Creationists. They both use the same tactics to try and persuade others that the the evidence we have is not reliable. They both approach the evidence with a pre-supposition that it’s false.

      Anyone who denies that Jesus existed is either a)lying b) delusional c) doesn’t care about the evidence.

      I pray that one day Richard Carrier would stop lying to his bloggers about the evidence.

      • Tim Bos

        “Anyone who denies that Jesus existed is either a)lying b) delusional c) doesn’t care about the evidence.” Aren’t you forgetting a fourth option, “correct”? Or do you presuppose that mythicism can not possibly be correct?

        • Matthew Jenkins

          Yes, I presuppose that mythicism can not be correct. Simply because it’s not correct. Just like it’s not correct that the earth is only 6000 years old.

          • Tim Bos

            So when you accuse mythicists of presupposing that the evidence does not show that Jesus probably existed, you’re not actually putting them down for that?

            • Matthew Jenkins

              I’m not trying to make fun of them. I’m simply saying they’re wrong. Mythicism was disproven 100 years ago… There is much evidence against it, and much evidence for Jesus being a real historical figure.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Carrier makes clear throughout his “review” that he does not grasp ancient Jewish history (or for that matter anthropology) sufficiently to discuss the details with a scholar like Casey in an informed manner. For instance, he writes:

    Another example of not paying attention is when Casey accuses Thompson of being incompetent because Thompson says Mark 7 is about “hygiene” when in fact it’s about purity laws (7-5869). Except that it’s obvious to anyone who actually reads the passage in question that Thompson meant spiritual hygiene, in other words, purity laws.

    How is that an instance of Carrier failing to grasp ancient Jewish history? It shouldn’t take a PhD to figure out whether Casey is misreading Thompson, should it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It doesn’t necessarily require a PhD to notice when someone is making things up which are blatantly anachronistic, or using terminology that poorly fits our understanding of the data. But it may take significant reading in the relevant field. Are you familiar with Mary Douglas’ work on ritual purity?

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        I have no familiarity whatsoever with Douglas’ work on ritual purity. Do I need any in order to determine whether Casey mischaracterized what Thompson wrote?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You would need to know something about ritual purity in order to tell whether it is appropriately described in terms of “spiritual hygiene.” Or whether any other statement about it is appropriate or not. Wouldn’t you? I mean, if you do not know anything about a subject, is there any way to assess competing claims than to inform yourself about the subject?

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            The issue isn’t whether or not Thompson described ritual purity appropriately. The issue is whether he knows the difference between ritual purity and biological hygiene, and which is implicated in Mark 7. I think that might be ascertained by someone with little background knowledge of ritual purity. I can tell that an author is discussing a concept even if I lack the expertise to critique his conclusions.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              The issue I was addressing was whether ritual purity was appropriately described by Carrier as “spiritual hygiene.”

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                How is that an issue? Carrier is using “spiritual hygiene” to describe Thompson’s discussion of Mark 7, rather than to describe the general practice of ritual purity. The issue is Thompson’s original use of the word “hygiene” for which Casey accused him of incompetence in not understanding that Mark 7 is about ritual purity.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  And Carrier is trying to salvage what Thompson wrote by saying that ritual purity is spiritual hygiene.

                  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                    No, he’s not. He’s trying to rebut Casey’s charge of incompetence. Carrier’s point does not depend on whether “hygiene” or “spiritual hygiene” are appropriate metaphors for ritual purity, just on whether Thompson was using “hygiene” in a metaphorical sense. Carrier is arguing that it is clear from the context that Thompson does in fact understand that Mark 7 is about ritual purity.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Well, I don’t think the suggestion that when Thompson wrote “hygiene” he meant “spiritual hygiene” is plausible. But if Carrier is right, then that makes Thompson’s view look worse, not better.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Well you can find it on page 69 of the Messiah Myth where Thompson begins a paragraph with “At the heart of his chain of miracle stories, Mark presents a discourse about hygiene.” As far as I can tell from Google Books, that is only place in the whole book that Thompson uses the word “hygiene.” Later in the paragraph, he refers to it as “Mark’s discourse on purity” and he ends the paragraph with “The kingdom’s positive reversals of destiny are repeatedly evoked by a miracle, turning the unclean to clean and the unholy to holy.”

                      I suspect that Thompson used “hygiene” instead of “cleanness” just to vary the vocabulary as a stylistic choice. I don’t think that he is offering it as a synonym for ritual purity or the most accurate description of the concept. Nevertheless, as he explicitly states that he is using “clean” in the sense of “holy,” I think it is absurd to suppose that he doesn’t understand that Mark 7 is about ritual purity.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But “hygiene” is a modern term with connotations that do not fit the ancient terminology, based on a misunderstanding probably connected with the use of “clean” and “unclean” to denote what is or is not kosher in English translations, and the mistaken idea that that has something to do with “cleanness” in the modern sense.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      So what? Don’t you ever try to find different words to describe familiar concepts just to make your writing less repetitive? Even if the word doesn’t fit perfectly, it helps to keep the reader from falling asleep. A fresh word might even cause the reader to give a little thought to a concept that he would otherwise take for granted. I know that it will be a long time before I forget that the “hygiene lecture” is found in Mark 7.

                      Since Thompson explicitly says that he is using “clean” and “unclean” as synonymous with “holy” and “unholy,” I cannot see any justification for supposing that there is some misunderstanding on his part. Nor do I see any danger that anyone will think that he is talking about dental floss and hand sanitizer.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you want to treat it as an attempt to make what he wrote more memorable by using an inappropriate word that reflects a popular misunderstanding of ritual purity, without offering any correction to that popular misunderstanding, you are free to do so. It isn’t clear to me why you would choose to do so. But I obviously cannot stop you.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      And if you want to be deliberately obtuse by taking a single word out of context in order to justify the most uncharitable reading you can of a scholar who disagrees with you, I obviously cannot stop you. However, it is sadly quite clear to me why you would choose to do so.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      And it seems clear to me why you and Carrier would like to justify this. I suspect that, if someone criticized a young-earth creationist for using a term that is inappropriate to the academic study of biology in a manner that reflects popular misunderstanding thereof, you would not consider it inappropriate for them to draw attention to it.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      So you think Casey is justified in calling Thompson “incompetent” based on a single use of the word “hygiene” in a 300-page book?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I wouldn’t make such a sweeping statement based on a single word, and I do not appreciate your trying to change the subject. What I said is that the use of “hygiene” was inappropriate and problematic, but that Carrier’s attempt to construe it as “spiritual hygiene was downright ridiculous.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      I don’t think I am changing the subject, which is the passage from Carrier’s review that you quoted in which he charges Casey with misreading Thompson. I think that Casey’s characterization of Thompson (at least as reported by Carrier) is relevant to that.

                      Since the passage clearly demonstrates Thompson’s understanding that Mark 7 addresses ritual purity, I think it perfectly reasonable (and charitable) to interpret his use of “hygiene” as metaphorical, which I think “spiritual hygiene” captures adequately.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      Casey’s description of Thompson, justified or not, is plainly not based on a single use of a word. Casey actually describes it as a mundane mistake.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Casey does use the word “mundane,” but when you read the whole paragraph (as one should also do to understand Thompson’s use of the word “hygiene’), you can see that Casey implies that Thompson is “ignorant” and that the mistake is inexcusable. Therefore, although Casey’s criticism is not limited to the use of the word “hygiene,” I think it fair to say that he is citing it as evidence of Thompson’s incompetence.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      I think it fair to say that he is citing it as evidence of Thompson’s incompetence.

                      Indeed it is. But that’s not the point I was making. My issue was with your above comment :

                      So you think Casey is justified in calling Thompson “incompetent” based on a single use of the word “hygiene” in a 300-page book?

                      This suggests that this is Casey’s only justification for calling Thompson incompetent, which is simply not true. He cites numerous errors made by Thompson or examples of where his points are irrelevant to the question of Jesus’ historicity. I assume you’ve read Casey’s book, so you know that already?

                      In a thread where you seem to be suggesting that Casey has misread or mischaracterised Thompson’s work, I think you should be careful to avoid making that mistake yourself.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      I just started reading Casey’s book last night. I had only read Carrier’s review and the relevant passage from Thompson on Google Books at the time I posed the question. My intent was not to suggest that was Casey’s only criticism, but to inquire of McGrath whether he thought that criticism alone justified a charge of incompetence.

                    • Jonathan Burke

                      What you’ve just shown is that Carrier is wrong; Thompson uses ‘hygiene’ to refer to hygiene, and not to ‘spiritual purity’. It is clear to me that Thompson is saying the passage speaks of hygiene, NOT of ritual purity.

      • David Hillman

        I suggest you make yourself familiar with Mary Douglas work on ritual purity (purity being an English word of course, not in the original text) and try to understand how she herself uses the word hygiene (on page 2 and throughout) as a good entrance to the understanding of ritual taboos.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I think I remember the passage, with the point being made that some of our notion and terminology of “dirt” probably being rooted in an era before modern hygiene, and thus having more to do with what something’s appropriate place is than concern with germs. Is that the section you are talking about?

          The point in Casey’s discussion is not whether one can use reference to modern hygiene as a way to help people to understand concepts of ritual purity that may otherwise be foreign to them, but whether a scholar ought to know better than to use the English word “hygiene” as though it conveys to most readers the same sense as ritual purity.

          And of course, my own point was that depicting ritual purity as “spiritual hygiene” seems even further from an accurate, anthropologically-informed undersanding of ritual purity.

          • David Hillman

            She is arguing that the yeuk factor, the propensity for disgust that we are born with, though its particular concrete manifestations are as culturally different (just as different langages manifest a universal language using ability) and individually different in intensity (she herself not tending to be overthreatened by mess and disorder or things seemingly out of place) can be felt viscerally and emotionally (from children over fussy with food to the taboos of religion) and therefore can be strongly intertwined with other kinds of disgust (moral,racist,and so on), that though such taboos can become conventional, achieving a certain amount of autonomy from bodily disgust, so that their achievement can become a challenge to follow rules only because they are God’s rules, and may therefore mark out an elite or caste in a power relationship, yet they arise from natural human fear of becoming dirty.In this sense she argues that the idea of hygiene is a good start to understanding religious taboos. My own understanding is different than Douglas but I think she is on to something in linking the origin of such rules with our primitive somatic instinct for hygiene. Of course it would be over rationalising to seek practical logical reasons for every well established evolved taboo (as many commentators on for example Hesiod or Philo have shown), Certainly the writers of Leviticus would not have been concerned at any level of consciousness with literal hygiene, purity, cleanliness, but on Israel showing itself to be a holy people – yet I see no harm in calling these rules hygiene laws or purity laws just as an abbreviated description and let any intelligent reader understand the laws to which he is referring. (I like writing long sentences sometimes).

  • Jim

    I looked at the Carrier review and thought, am I really going to read this? Usually experts in a field can state their point(s) both clearly and concisely. Useful content along with efficient document length are what many journals stress as prerequisite to submitting manuscripts for publication (but I suppose if you have your own page, you are totally free to write articles that never end).

    But I did have a look at the last line of Carrier’s review to decide if it is worth skimming the previous material: “I recommend Casey’s book for comparative or entertainment purposes only” I would guess that Carrier might say something like this about any useful science or history textbook too.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      I would guess that Carrier might say something like this about any useful science or history textbook too.

      -Why?

      • Jim

        Again, it is just my guess based on some of his articles. My perception is the RC has not understood much of the work/evidence presented by credible scholars (both agnostic and Christian). I admit that a historical reconstruction is based on probabilities, but the consensus is that there is a high probability that a historical Jesus of Nazareth existed. To me, arguing against this without any clear proof to the contrary is a lot like disputing the contents of a well established textbook in a scholarly field.

        Now it is a totally different thing to argue “who” Jesus actually was. There are no historical techniques that can clearly establish the reported miracles in Jesus life (virgin birth, resurrection appearances etc.). The presentation of Jesus by the 4th century may have been influenced by other god-like figures, and similarities have been noted. That area seems to be wide open for scholarly investigation if one wants to pursue those lines of research.

        I acknowledge that RC is totally free to pursue what ever direction he wishes, just as I am free to pursue a flat earth. Neither is supported by scholarly consensus, and so it should be no surprise to encounter scholarly resistance.

        Again, just my opinion.

  • Neko

    So far only two contemporary books have been written in defense of the historicity of Jesus (nothing properly comparable has been published in almost a hundred years). They both suck.

    Let’s just say Carrier won’t be getting any calls from The New York Review of Books.

    • Matthew Jenkins

      I can’t wait for Zeba Crook to beat Carrier in the upcoming debate over the Historicity of Jesus.

      • Neko

        I was unaware of this debate, thank you for mentioning it. Carrier is more palatable in debate than in print because 1) the clock and 2) he must then keep his poor behavior in check.

        • Matthew Jenkins

          Your welcome:)… Yeah I remember for example his debate with William Lane Craig over the Resurrection. Carrier kept trying to come up with extremely implaussible theories about the disciples and women who were witnesses to Jesus tomb,etc. He tried to say that they were somehow myths that were used from the OT… And then he brought up his Mythicist attitude.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaUd234Q3GU

          Craig took a bulldozer and demolished Carrier’s wacky Mythicist assumptions.

  • Matthew Jenkins

    Richard Carrier has sunk to an all-time low. Attacking someone’s character is not being scholarly, but instead he’s being a bully. It’s unfortunate he uses sophomoric tactics to try and win arguements….:(

  • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

    I very much want you to read his book, after reading my book On the Historicity of Jesus–because historicity will be well done and dead once you see the difference between how I make a case for mythicism (and what an organized, careful, thorough work of scholarship looks like), and this bizarre quasi-fundamentalist travesty of a defense for historicity

    That made me laugh out loud. Carrier comes across as a ghastly little man. Glad he’s gone for a career in pseudohistory instead of somewhere in the real world where he could do some actual harm.

    • Matthew Jenkins

      Richard Carrier has way too much pride…. Just like the Bible says in Proverbs 16:18
      “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

    • Neko

      That cracked me up as well. On his blog Carrier describes himself as “renowned.” Too funny.

      And what about this one!

      And you’ll get a headache trying to endure its tedious, rambling, child-like writing style, splattered with repetitious bouts of emotionally bitter pomposity.

      Physician, heal thyself.

    • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

      As an atheist who’s disturbed by the unremitting nastiness of the celebrity nonbelief brigade, I can’t help but laugh. Carrier is an antisocial twerp, and he deserves to be shilling pseudohistory.

  • R Vogel

    non-sequitur: I linked to Amazon and read some of the intro. I am not familiar with the ‘son of man’ problem. Can you give me a 5 sec primer? Google offered no help.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The expression “son of man” is an Aramaic idiom that means “human being.” It is rendered literally into Greek in the Gospels in many places as “the son of the man” rather than simply as “human being” or “someone.” And in some instances in the Gospels, it doesn’t clearly – or clearly doesn’t – mean “someone.” Casey is one of a number of scholars who has devoted significant attention to the question.

      • R Vogel

        Thanks for the reply!

        I was aware of the former, but not the latter. So the ‘problem’ is the ambiguous usage?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The problem is why the phrase is rendered literally into Greek, and why it is used in ways that do not naturally fit the meaning of the underlying Aramaic idiom.

          • R Vogel

            Got it. Sounds interesting, if not a bit tedious. Thanks!

  • beallen0417

    Casey believes that the Gospel of Mark was written in 40 CE, just like a fundamentalist. He thinks that Matthew inscribed wax tablets with Jesus’ actual words, just like a fundamentalist. He thinks that Mark was written before any of the Pauline epistles, just like a fundamentalist.

    Carrier, on the other hand, thinks that Mark was written after 70 CE, just like Allison, Crossan, Ludemann, Dunn and Goodacre, that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses in agreement with mainstream scholarship and that the Pauline epistles predate the gospels in agreement with mainstream scholarship.

    Which of them is correct on those particular points, Dr. McGrath?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Who is correct in biology on the matter of punctuated equilibrium? Presumably the consensus. Definitely not those who quote representatives either of the consensus view, or a minority view, to try to claim that all of them are wrong about evolution itself.

      • Geoff Barrett

        It’s fairly annoying when evolution is brought into this discussion. The analogy presented here betrays an absolute lack of understanding of the theories of gradualism, one of which is punctuated equilibrium. In other words, while there either was or wasn’t a “Jesus, son of Mary from Nazareth,” punctuated equilibrium and traditional gradualism are not mutually exclusive. Both are based on small incremental changes over vast periods of time.PE is a natural extension of the logic of gradualism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          As I have said before, it is an analogy. A greater degree of certainty is possible in many matters of natural science than in most matters of ancient history. The analogy is between the conclusion in each field – that evolution occured, that there was a historical Jesus – and the possibility of disagreement about details, which fringe critics often point to as though it indicated something favorable to their oddball claims.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Oh, this is funny – Carrier’s response to my post is to say that I am a Christian apologist! http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4282#comment-154815

    Of course, someone could more easily note that Carrier is earning his living as an atheist apologist. But surely that is a fallacy…

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      But you are always defending the Bible’s value to society — how it’s all so consistent with evolution and only old-earth (not young-earth) creationism is true and Paul advanced modern values of inclusiveness etc etc — This is exactly what liberal apologists do. Defend the Bible’s authority and value for the world today. Of course you’re an apologist for liberal Christianity and the Bible. You rationalize the Bible at every turn to make it fit with modern values and science.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        The above comment from Neil Godfrey shows either a failure to understand most of what I have written here, or a deliberate misrepresentation. If appreciating the Bible’s historical and cultural importance while being open to criticizing its contents is being an apologist for the Bible, then presumably all professors of literature are some sort of apologist. And appreciating those who choose to adopt a form of belief that embraces science, advocating that as preferable to the rejection of science, when the views in question are not my own views, suggests that I am an apologist for the acceptance of science, not for old-earth creationism.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          McG wrote: “If appreciating the Bible’s historical and cultural importance while being open to criticizing its contents is being an apologist for the Bible”

          Oh Jimmy do stop it! You know very well that’s not what I said and you know you do far, far more than “appreciate” the Bible’s importance (importance in what sense, by the way?) and criticize it’s contents. You have posted over and over how Paul is always consistent with modern inclusivist humane values and how Genesis is consistent with modern science — come on, be honest with yourself.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I would love to know whether any of the people who have actually read my posts have misunderstood them in the way Neil Godfrey seems to have above. It would be useful to figure out whether he simply doesn’t read what I write (he is under no obligation to, although then he shouldn’t try to describe my stance), or is deliberately misrepresenting it, or whether it is actually possible for someone to read my blog and think the above comment is a fair summary.

            The main reason I am skeptical that this is a misunderstanding is because I am pretty sure this is a repeat of a conversation we had once before…

            • stuart32

              I would like to invite Neil Godfrey to join us here in debating creationists. Perhaps he thinks we’re doing it so badly that we’re secretly encouraging them :-)

            • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

              James, is there anything at all good or right about anything I say or in any motive in your view or is EVERYTHING about me bad? If the latter, don’t you worry that you do not have a normal human perspective of a fellow human being?

              What is wrong with being an apologist for the Bible? I quite well respect the work of a number of apologist scholars. I like it when scholars are open and honest with their biases and I can always read them with that allowance. I learn from some apologists sometimes too.

              It is true, though, is it not, that you do argue that Paul and Jesus are relevant in their messages for today and that their views were such that had they continued to live through to modern times and especially in the Western world that they would have come to support the fundamental views of liberal Christians such as yourself with respect to inclusiveness for gays and equality for women in the church?

              If I am wrong then instead of just accusing me of having horns and a tail and carrying a pitchfork then simply be upfront and show me where I have misunderstood?

              Is that really too hard?

              • stuart32

                What makes you think that James is an old-earth creationist?

                • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                  Evolutionary theory does not permit any guidance at all. That is at the core of the theory, not an optional extra. James believes the universe was created by God and for God — and man was guided by God to evolve to have a relationship with him. That is nothing but another version of Creationism — not literally but in effect saying little angels guided every critical step to make sure it all turned out right. That’s not evolutionary theory. Mankind is not the ultimate; we may well vanish and intelligent life could well end its little foray in the universe and it would mean nothing. All James has done is reject the YEC theory and replace it with an OEC theory and call it evolution.

                  • stuart32

                    I’m not aware that James has said that evolution had to be guided to lead to our existence. But if he did say that there would still be the question of how much guidance. If he believes that virtually everything that has happened in evolution is the result of natural processes but that very occasionally God has intervened to bring about a particular end I would not call that creationism.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I’m not aware that I have said the things Neil Godfrey claims I did either.

                    • stuart32

                      Well, Neil wanted to clarify any misunderstanding. This would be a good opportunity. I will be interested to see if he can justify applying the label “creationist” to you.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I am pretty sure I have had a discussion of this very topic with him in the past, and yet here he is making the same claims again, despite past clarification. This is one reason why I no longer interact with him directly on my blog.

  • Tim Bos

    “Anyone who is used to reading his “reviews” will know what to expect –
    they are typically lengthy attempts to discredit, picking at minor
    details which can be criticized in the hope that none of his blog
    readers will ever read the book and find out what the substantive points
    of the work are, or if they do, will be so biased against it as a
    result of reading his “review” first that its points will fail to
    persuade.”

    It would be helpful, in terms of balancing things out, if you could briefly summarize some of Casey’s “substantive points” that Carrier does not address.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I have wanted to do that, and at this point found myself at a slight disadvantage, having read the manuscript in an early stage in early 2012. It is not as fresh in my mind as I would like, to be able to sum it up. I probably ought to have written a review then, but since books change in the process, I didn’t want to assume that it would remain the same.

      I did point out that focusing on Ascension of Isaiah being early second as opposed to late first century is really beside the point. I take it that didn’t change. I wrote in a note to myself, “In section on Ascension of Isaiah, perhaps note that a scholarly argument for a LATE FIRST to early second date has been made.There is no need to focus on late first century being too early, when early second century is not much later, and it is still post-Pauline and does not mean what Doherty claims.”

      In connection with chapter 5, I wrote, “wonderful treatment of why things not found in Paul’s letters should not be there for obvious reasons. Rightly blasts Doherty’s view of Paul as someone who ought to have been interested in relics. Shows lens of later Catholicism.”

      In connection with chapter 6, I wrote, “Exposes Murdock’s false claims, and that the assertion that Apollonius was known as “Nazarene” comes from a spiritualist and hollow-earther, not historical evidence!”

      What I considered most significant, as I recall, was the attention to detail, the evidence that Mark drew on Aramaic sources, whether written or oral, which reflect the dialect spoken in Galilee and which are unlikely to have been invented by someone writing in Greek in another part of the world, and are less likely to have been accurately forged by such an author than remembered.

      I am hoping to reread the book now that it is released and do a proper review.

      • Tim Bos

        Thank you for this. By the way, you should probably know that Carrier does actually address each of these points (except for the point about Murdock) in his review. Whether he does so satisfactorily is of course up to debate, but it seems somewhat misleading to imply that Carrier does not address any of Casey’s more substantive points in his review, when the specific points you mention are actually discussed in his review. Not trying to start an argument here – just thought you should know. Again, thank you for the response.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Yes, there are other more substantive things, which overlap with Casey’s earlier book Jesus of Nazareth which I have also been reading. I will blog about both, eventually, and dive into the details. In the mean time, you can see some of my blogging about Doherty’s book a while back here on this blog, if you are interested.

          • Tim Bos

            I look forward to reading your future blogs on this topic. But just so to be clear: right of the top of your head, you can’t think of any substantial points made by Casey that Carrier does not address in his review?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              As I said, I read it in early 2012, and while my recall is good, I am hesitant to rely on memory after so much time to discuss the details, especially as I may be running together his treatment of a topic in his other book with this one. But I also think that some of the points Carrier mentions are much too strong to be dismissed summarily in a blog post. Casey’s argument that actual recollection of precisely what Jesus said is to be found in Mark on occasion is cogent. Whether it is deemed likely to be correct or not will require long-term scholarly discussion and analysis, not a quick dismissal in a blog post.

              Looking back over the draft, Casey does a good job, I think, of showing that most of the blogging mythicists – like Doherty, Godfrey, and Carr – are not accurately representing mainstream scholarship, when for instance they claim that mainstream scholars working on the historical Jesus do not use generally accepted methods of historical study.

              He has lots of useful details that those outside of the field often miss, which can contribute to a misestimation of the situation – for instance, when he notes that Constantine’s order that multiple Bibles be copied at his expense, that amounted to a grand total of 50 copies. Often times, modern people assume that Christians, and even state-sponsored Christian activities, were more substantive and numerous than they were, expecting ancient Christianity to be rather like today’s. And so the numbers and dates of manuscripts that we have may seem small and late by today’s standards, but significant when considered in their ancient context.

              His exploration of the Jewish context, which really doesn’t fit with the divine/celestial figure that mythicists make Jesus out to originally have been (Carrier’s statement about Michael the angel doesn’t give the impression that he is really familiar with the Judaism of the period), is also important.

              And while few will accept Casey’s argument for an early date for the Gospel of Mark, when combined with the evidence of Aramaic sources behind our Greek text, the view that we have some very early sources is again, not something that can be dismissed, not least by someone whose acquaintance with the relevant language and sources is either superficial or non-existent.

              Part of the problem is that Carrier is dismissing Casey’s criticisms of other mythicists, distancing himself from the latter when necessary, but Carrier has not yet offered his own case for us to see in detail how much or little of Doherty’s nonsense he actually relies on.

              I hope this helps, at least a little. Please do also do a search for posts about Doherty on this blog, to see my treatment of some of his claims in detail.

              http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/?s=Doherty

              http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/overview-of-part-one-of-earl-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man-with-baloney-detection.html

              • Tim Bos

                Thank you for the continuing dialogue. I see what you are saying with regard to Carrier’s criticism of Casey, and perhaps you are right. However, what I was asking about was your claim that, as usual, Carrier ignores substantive points and focuses on trivialities. When I asked about substantive points that Carrier ignored, you came up with a list of points that he in fact discusses. Again, whether Carrier is correct about these substantive points is an open questions, and you may be right to say that he is not. But to say that he ignored substantive points in favor of trivial matters seems to be misleading. Clearly, Carrier’s review did address substantive claims made by Casey.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I probably could have expressed myself more clearly in my original post. In many instances Carrier does indeed touch on some detail related to a substantive point, in a manner that suggests that he has adequately dealt with and dispatched the issue, when the criticisms are largely superficial or relate to specific details but do not do justice to the extent of Casey’s treatment of the various aspects of the topic in question.

                  • Tim Bos

                    That does clarify things a bit. Honestly, it kind of seemed as though maybe you had not actually read the review!

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I often go back and forth about what to do when I feel something is worth mentioning or discussing on the blog, but I don’t get to write the whole post at once, or have to bring in something that I read quite a while previously. Sometimes I’ll simply leave the topic and come back to it when I have time to write more, and reread a book that is mentioned, or whatever. Other times it seems worth offering a relatively quick response, even if it means drawing on memory. That’s the nature of blogging – it is possible to offer something that aims to be close to an academic review or article, and it is possible to offer something quicker and rougher. If it were agreed upon that blogs ought never to contain the latter, I would have to blog less frequently, and some blogs would have to shut down entirely! :-)

                    • Tim Bos

                      I understand. Academic blogs needn’t attain to the higher standards expected for academic publications.

          • Tim Bos

            [edit:] I look forward to reading your future blogs on this topic. But just
            to be clear: right off the top of your head, you can’t think of any
            substantial points made by Casey that Carrier does not address in his
            review?

            • Paul D.

              I too would like to know what these mysterious “substantial arguments” are that Casey made and Carrier overlooked.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                See below [and now it seems to be above]. I mention a few of them (Tim’s comment got repeated twice for some reason). The detailed work on evidence for Aramaic sources behind Mark is something that Carrier would have to do significant language work before being able to assess it, obviously. That is certainly not at all unreasonable – scholars regularly need to acqure new languages for new research.

              • Matthew Jenkins

                You really believe Jesus of Nazareth never existed?

            • stuart32

              On the subject of Paul’s silence about the details of Jesus’ life and teaching Carrier mentioned one argument that Casey made, which is that in a high context culture it wasn’t necessary to go into detail. However, he didn’t mention another argument that Casey made, which is that Paul had a particular reason for not wanting to talk about Jesus’ life and teaching.

              Paul believed that everyone is saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection and that because of this the Law has been rendered obsolete. This was particularly significant for Paul because he was solely concerned with the gentile mission and he was adamant that gentiles didn’t need to follow the Law.

              During his life Jesus was a slave to the law like all Jews and it was his death and resurrection that freed everyone from the Law. So Paul had a particular reason for not wanting to talk about Jesus’ life. The life that Jesus led was the life of a slave and the only thing that mattered for Paul was how Jesus escaped that slavery and allowed everyone else to do the same through his death and resurrection.

              I thought that this was a very interesting point and I’m surprised that Carrier didn’t address it because Paul’s silence is such a big issue for mythicists.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                Although he doesn’t acknowledge that argument explicitly, I think Carrier makes a couple of points that are relevant to it:

                Even if Casey could explain why there are no clear references to a historical Jesus in Paul, there still would be no clear references to a historical Jesus in Paul. And you can’t argue for historicity from evidence that doesn’t exist. This is crucial when it comes to issues where the only evidence we have for some detail is the Gospels: we cannot presume those are true, when we lack corroboration from earlier, less fictionalized sources.

                The prior probability of something getting mentioned equals the sum of the prior probabilities of all possible things Paul could have occasion to mention, or even be compelled to mention, because he had to defend himself against them, or employ them to win authority for a point, teach his congregations a point, or prove that his knowledge of Jesus warranted his claims to authority. And therefore the probability of some mention of anything, in general, is far greater than the probability of any hyper-specific over-elaborate statement like Casey fabricates.

                I find both these points persuasive, although I don’t think that either of them warrant more than agnosticism.

                • stuart32

                  Yes, it isn’t an argument for historicity, but it is an answer (in my opinion) to an important argument against historicity. So I definitely think it needed to be addressed. The point that Carrier makes in the second paragraph that you quoted relates to what we were discussing on the other thread. If Casey is right then there is a reason for Paul not to mention *anything* about Jesus’ earthly life, so that negates the claim that Paul’s silence becomes increasingly inexplicable when you consider all the things he could have mentioned but didn’t.

                  Perhaps you could raise the issue on Carrier’s blog?

                  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                    I’m not sure that it negates it. I can imagine reasons why Paul wouldn’t have wanted to mention it, but I can also imagine lots of ways that things related to Jesus’ life could have arisen as vital issues in Paul’s communities that needed to be addressed.

                    If Paul was specifically avoiding any mention of Jesus life and teachings while the gang in Jerusalem was presenting his life and teachings as providing the norms by which all Christians should live, would the disputes and disagreements referenced in Paul’s letters have played out in the way that he describes them? My offhand guess is no, but I think I am going to have to reread all Paul’s letters with that dynamic (and a couple others) in mind.

                • Neko

                  self-deleted

  • Paul

    Maurice Casey’s book “Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?” is the worst book I’ve ever seen on this subject. This book utterly ruins the crediblity not only of Maurice Casey, but also, the publisher, Bloomsbury T&T Clark, for publishing such crap. The book should be pulped and retracted by the publisher. It really is that bad.

    Casey misrepresents the mythicist arguments and is consistently dishonest. This book is a true waste of paper/trees. Jesus would never approve of such a dishonest and libelous book.

    Bloomsbury T&T Clark
    http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/company/contact-us

    Send them Carrier’s review too:

    Critical Review of Maurice Casey’s Defense of the Historicity of Jesus
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4282

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Right, because academic publishers, having submitted manuscripts for peer review before deciding to publish them, will pulp them because an internet commenter says they don’t like it.

    • Matthew Jenkins

      As compared to what…Richard Carrier’s “shoddy” books? Casey is not misrepresenting anybody or anything…. It is Carrier who is dishonest in his work.

  • Eric

    Richard Carrier has the ego the size of a planet, and he is an angry boy. Real men don’t talk down to people because of a disagreement. I am not referring to his stature in size (He might be tall.), but his personality is that of someone who has napoleon complex. He seems so bitter at historicists because they disagree? He seems like a sociopath who has no conviction of his rudeness and ad hominems. Maurice Casey is a respected scholar and he has health problems so calling him names is not cool. I think Richard has produced SOME fine scholarship on some issues, but he has a serious ego. He acts like the historicist position is ultimately dead and that he’s the great genius who has refuted it. It’s laughable to me that Richard wants call historicists like Bart Ehrman an armchair scholar, but then will advertise some of Bart’s books. Richard is a joke in my eyes because he can not get past his own self importance. I asked him awhile back when his book finished peer-review process that did it convince any of the scholars who reviewed it, and he replied “Ask me that question in 10 years.”. I am guessing that’s a no.

    • Matthew Jenkins

      It seems like Richard resorts to name-calling because deep down inside his heart, he knows that Jesus Christ of Nazareth existed, but he just won’t admit it.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The Internet has brought us great things, but it’s also where ideas that previously would’ve been relegated to the fringe go to survive and reproduce like rats in a sewer . . .anti vaccination fear mongers, Illuminati conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers, and Jesus mythicists being a few examples.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    And for more on the fallacy fallacy, here’s the comic “The Adventures of Fallacy Man”: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/9

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Unless – as seems to be the case – Carrier has committed the fallacy fallacy fallacy.

    -But Carrier never conflates the entirety of HJ scholarship with Casey’s book. So this allegation is unjustified.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Here is what Carrier wrote:

      I say those are his only two arguments for historicity because all his other arguments are rebuttals to certain arguments for mythicism, and it would be the fallacy fallacy to claim that because the case for mythicism is fallacious, therefore mythicism is false.

      Scholarship is never done in isolation from the wider field, and Carrier’s claim that Casey’s and Ehrman’s books are the only two to address the historicity of Jesus, is like saying that only a handful of biologists (Miller and Coyne and Dawkins and a few others) have addressed whether evolution has occurred. The truth is that the latter have written some attempts to address criticisms and explain the evidence from the whole field. But what they bring together is the evidence from the numerous studies which look at individual pieces of evidence relevant to the question, and whose work contributes to the prevailing theory in the field. And so there is a real sense in which Carrier does indeed suggest that Casey and Ehrman are the only ones who have addressed this – not that I think that affects the point that I was making, which was that, just as Carrier can object that pointing out fallacies in mythicist writings does not show them to be wrong, then neither would Carrier’s accusation that Casey commits the fallacy fallacy have any bearing on whether he is correct. :-)

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        Well, Carrier did explicitly say

        Which is annoying, because it should not be hard to write a good book in defense of historicity. And to be “good” I don’t require that it be successful, or convincing (though I would welcome that!), just worth reading, honest, accurate, informative, well-organized, well-sourced, giving mythicism the best shot possible, and being as self-critical as anyone would want mythicists to be. But alas, what we have are two travesties.

        This is not the argument of a capable or objective scholar. And this is certainly not the way to defend historicity.

        -So, my point in my previous comment stands. I think the above quotes from Carrier imply Carrier thinks that “[the fact that] Casey commits the fallacy fallacy [does not have] any bearing on whether he is correct”.

        Scholarship is never done in isolation from the wider field

        -Undeniable.

        is like saying that only a handful of biologists (Miller and Coyne and Dawkins and a few others) have addressed whether evolution has occurred.

        -Nope. It is like saying that “So far only several dozen contemporary books by Ph.D. biologists have been written in defense of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis”, which would be accurate.

        And so there is a real sense in which Carrier does indeed suggest that Casey and Ehrman are the only ones who have addressed this -

        -I don’t think so.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Well, the reason there are defenses of the historicity of Jesus is the same reason that there are defenses of evolution – because voices at the margins of and for the most part outside the academy require them. There are more about evolution because those marginal voices have done serious damage to science education. But all these subjects are treated in textbooks. And all the treatments by mainstream scholars are based on detailed work on specific pieces of evidence in articles and monographs.

          And all that work is subjected to hatchet job blog posts like Carrier’s no matter how sound they may be within the framework of the discipline.

          And so if Carrier wants to do mythicism any favors, he should stop behaving publicly like a creationist, and spend more time publishing legitimate scholarship, acknowledging (as he does in his previous book, but you wouldn’t tell from his recent blog post) that the onus is on him to unseat the consensus.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            And so if Carrier wants to do mythicism any favors, he should stop behaving publicly like a creationist, and spend more time publishing legitimate scholarship, acknowledging (as he does in his previous book, but you wouldn’t tell from his recent blog post) that the onus is on him to unseat the consensus.

            -I think you’re right that more non-historicist scholarship is required for non-historicists to gain any significant credibility among the general public and atheist community. I do not, however, see how Carrier is behaving publicly like a creationist. Publishing long blog posts does not necessarily preclude publishing detailed papers.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              It wasn’t the length of the posts I was referring to.

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                Then, what was it?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  His belligerent and insulting tone and vocabulary, calling people with greater expertise, publications, and research time in at least certain aspects of this area fools and incompetents. It is possible to disagree in a respectful manner, and it is usually only those who find themselves unable or unwilling to make their case through scholarly channels who resort to calling most scholars names.

  • stuart32

    Although mythicism has survived attacks from Ehrman and Casey its days may be numbered. A decisive argument against mythicism has been made by a scholar whose competence certainly can’t be questioned. This scholar is Richard Carrier. In his essay “The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb” Carrier shows that the first Christians believed that the body of Jesus remained in the tomb and that Jesus was given a new body. This is Carrier’s “two body” theory of the resurrection. Carrier makes a clear distinction between the physical, corruptible body that Jesus had on earth and the new spiritual body that Jesus was given. It is clear that this distinction could not apply if Jesus had only ever lived in a celestial realm. Carrier says:

    “So the earliest Christians would have believed that Christ had really been raised, and raised bodily, even as his earthly body continued to rot in the tomb.”

    Referring to the ideas of Philo he says: “And since heaven was celestial anyone who lived there had to be celestial too, leaving behind all earthly substance.”

    Turning to Paul’s idea of the resurrection he says: “Paul goes out of his way to deny continuity, emphasizing instead how different the resurrected body will be.” According to Carrier, “Paul emphasizes that our resurrection will fundamentally resemble [Christ's]. So what Paul says about our resurrection body applies equally to Christ’s.”

    Carrier goes on to explain why the Corinthians had doubts about the resurrection: “However, if the corpse of Jesus remained on earth, it is easy to see how some might come to believe that his resurrection was peculiar.”

    I wonder what made Carrier change his mind about all of this.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
      • stuart32

        Thanks, James. I thought this issue was worth highlighting.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The reaction by him on his blog is telling. I am less disturbed by his inability to see that Doherty is not doing genuine scholarship, than I am by his apparent inability to realize that his tone on his blog is not appropriate for interaction with other scholars, even ones whom one considers to be badly mistaken. In my experience, if I have ever begun to think that most of the scholars who disagree with me are ignorant fools, it meant that I’ve probably missed something important myself.

          • stuart32

            Yes, I’m amazed by the sheer amount of abuse. I wouldn’t normally go in for psychoanalysing people but it’s rather tempting in this case.

  • Kevin

    Carrier says that Casey’s work is “tedious, rambling, child-like writing style, splattered with repetitious bouts of emotionally bitter pomposity.” I wonder if he realizes that is exactly what some people think of his own ramblings on his blog.

    • Jeremiah J. Preisser

      The fact that he engages more prominent scholars(which is virtually everyone) than himself in such a distasteful fashion is a testament to his wankery.

      • Neko

        I wholeheartedly agree. But…

        I’ve read Casey’s Introduction, in which he lays the foundation for his argument that mythicists are a bunch of amateurs motivated by fundamentalist anti-religious fervor who also happen to be spectacularly wrong about the historical Jesus. Much as I hate to admit it Carrier has some basis for disgruntlement. First, to impute motive is a risky business. Second, parts of the Introduction read like an inside-baseball extension of various online debates, as if Casey had just returned from grabbing a beer in the fridge to resume fighting his antagonists. Third, he makes sweeping and inappropriate judgments about people.

        For example, Carrier mentions Casey’s proposal that “[Neil Godfrey] has had two conversion experiences, and this means that his contempt for evidence and argument as means of reaching decisions about important matters is central to his life.” What? Even if it were legitimate to describe a turn to atheism as a “conversion experience,” how on earth does the process imply contempt for evidence and argument? I don’t know Godfrey’s deconversion story or read his blog much, but Casey is making a pretty presumptuous claim about what the process “means” that led Godfrey to abandon faith.

        Richard Carrier is the very last person who should throw stones. Still, Casey is not above a bit of mudslinging himself.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    McG writes: ” And Carrier seems to adopt the view that, because not all mythicists do certain things, somehow Casey’s criticisms of those who do are
    shortcomings of the book.”

    McG, isn’t that a dishonest way of putting it? You know very well that Casey lumps all mythicists as saying those things- – he is lying about what mythicists as a whole say (even Steph who fed him the info knows this is a lie). I take it you don’t think lying is a shortcoming in a book.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I trust that most readers of Casey’s book will be intelligent enough to recognize that, when he mentions a particular author’s view, it is not appropriate to assume that other authors mentioned in the book hold the same view. And I trust that most readers will be able to check what Casey wrote against the blogs and books by various mythicists and assess the accuracy of his criticisms. Most of them should have no problem working out why mythicists are engaging in frantic attempts at damage control, and working hard to convince people that Casey’s book is not worth reading. When an important criticism of Intelligent Design is published by a mainstream scientist, it is exactly what you see on the ID blogs and in comments elsewhere.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Casey writes:

        We have seen that one of the most extraordinary features of the mythicist position is the attempt to date all four canonical Gospels much too late. I have noted that Murdock declares that ‘all of the canonical gospels seem to emerge at the same time – first receiving their names and number by Irenaeus around 180 AD/CE …

        I would expect any reasonable person to interpret that as a claim that late dating is a typical, if not essential, mythicist position, and that Murdock is simply one example.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          As Robert Price’s contribution to the Thompson-Verenna volume shows, that the Gospels were written very late has been the typical position, although Murdock’s view is extreme. Price’s argument was quite entertaining, since it amounted to an attempt to say that mythicism is compatible with any dates, from very early to very late. It is as though no evidence can contradict it…

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Perhaps, but I can’t see how that is any less true of historicity. I recall Ehrman writing that the non-existence of first-century Nazareth wouldn’t be relevant because it would just mean that Jesus was from somewhere else.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              If a person is attested as historical, and we find no evidence of their purported hometown having existed, then it would make little sense in most instances to say that because the place is undocumented, the person’s existence must be dubious too.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                In most instances, but not in this one. The problem is that one of the frequently cited attestations of historicity is that no one would have invented a person from that town. Therefore, if the town didn’t exist, then the person isn’t as well-attested as previously thought.

                This is one of those points where I think Ehrman fails to appreciate the difference between “relevant” and “dispositive.” The existence of Nazareth may not be dispositive of historicity, but it is relevant.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Your point is a good one, on the general level. But since we find some embarrassment in our sources concerning Jesus’ connection with Nazareth, if it turned out to be so insignificant that we could not find any sign of occupancy in the time of Jesus (which of course is not the case), that would not be incompatible with the embarrassment in the sources, would it? Presumably only actual evidence of the concoction of the village altogether would constitute evidence against historicity in such a case?

                  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                    That sounds reasonable. Too much evidence of its existence and the mythicists would argue that its not embarrassing because obviously its not really a podunk town.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Sorry, McGrath, but that’s not what Casey does in his book. Did you really read it? He says mythicists — all of them — date the gospels ludicrously late. He specifically says I do. Yet he only quotes a passage of mine referring to manuscripts and he ignores my many, many statements that I use the standard dates of the Gospels. Most of my arguments and posts about Mark are all built on a date soon after 70 CE. Doherty also dates Mark and the gospels in the first century.

        So how is the average reader going to know from Casey’s book that he is making false claims about the way mythicists date the gospels and how will they know he is misquoting them?

        • Matthew Jenkins

          Whether or not Casey mistakenly misrepresented you doesn’t affect Casey’s book…The fact is, many mythicists do over-exaggerate the dates of the gospels and NT.

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            Casey says “all” mythicists date the gospels ludicrously late — p. 133. Doherty doesn’t. I don’t (and I’m supposed to be a mythicist — though I’ve never argued Jesus was a myth so I don’t know why); Thompson doesn’t, Widowfield doesn’t (he’s also said to be a mythicist by Casey though he’s not); Carr doesn’t (another pseudo-mythicist), Carrier doesn’t, Zindler doesn’t as far as I know, Verenna doesn’t (is he really a mythicist anymore anyway?), Wells never did, Droge doesn’t, Noll doesn’t, —

            At a glance Casey only cites one mythicist’s name in his section on dating the gospels very late — Murdock/Acharya — and the quotes he provides from her only prove that she says their current form dates from very late, not the originals.

            So do tell me who these “many” are. Please.

            • Matthew Jenkins

              Alright maybe I was wrong about mythicists with regard to their dating methods… but I can name a few who think that

              1.Alvar Ellegard: Former Professor of English at the University of Gothenburg
              2. DM Murdock

              Anyways, It doesn’t really matter because most of the people you mentioned are not scholars who are releveant in the field..or scholars at all but self-published.

              • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                Ellegard did not argue Jesus was a myth but he identified him differently in history.

                Murdock does argue her reasons for dating the gospels late, but she does not date them according to the manuscript evidence as Casey falsely accuses, and she makes plain that her argument is “extreme” as a hypothesis and she is asking readers to consider it in that context. I am far from being a Murdock supporter, but I do believe in at least trying to be honest in the way we argue against those we don’t like.

                • Matthew Jenkins

                  Alright, I believe we should be fair. I’m just saying that you really shouldn’t buy into this psuedo-scholarship from people who are looking to make money(DM Murdock and Earl Dohert, Richard Carrier,etc).

                  Also, btw, Acts is Historical Bedrock and not fiction:-)

                  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                    How can you possibly lump together Murdock with Doherty and Carrier? Murdock does not follow scholarly argument or methods at all. I am not interested in her views. I don’t buy into McGrath’s review of Doherty’s work because nearly everything McG said Doherty wrote or did not write was false. I’m not saying McG was lying. I really believe he has such hostility he cannot bring himself to clearly read the pages — he said many, many things that were blatantly false. He said Doherty did not touch certain important questions when in fact D. wrote many pages on them. If you can give me clear evidence for your assertions I would be forced to re-look at Doherty and Carrier.

                    As for Acts, I don’t think you have read very much of ancient literature of the day or anything of the wider scholarship on Acts. Acts follows all the conventions of Hellenistic novels loosely shaped to look like history. I have demonstrated this at length in many posts — citing mainstream scholars.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Mainstream scholars don’t think acts is entire historical fiction.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    Jesus never rose from the dead; it is purely a fable. The disciple Thomas sets the example for rational people to doubt. He proves there is no reason to believe the fable, even if it were true, until presented factual evidence.* If you’re worried about your doubts being judged worthy of hellfire on Judgment Day, Thomas and I will be representing folks pro bono. I’ll be the fellow in a sweaty cowboy hat.

    P.S. It will help your case if you send a bottle of water via UPS or Priority Mail to a member of every Christian sect whom you think has an informed opinion on how Judgement Day goes down, because however judgment goes, you’ll get your reward.** Just remember to keep your receipt.

    ______________

    * “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” ~John 20:25

    **And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” ~Mt. 10:42

    • Matthew Jenkins

      You can believe Jesus never rose from the dead, and the fact’s leading up to his Resurrection that Mainstream scholars hold are false. Such as the Burial, the empty tomb, the bodily apperances, and the origin of belief in disciples… but your doing so without Justification.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

        “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

        • Matthew Jenkins

          Point? There’s no reason to be an atheist. Atheism can’t establish it’s own worldview. No atheist has ever shown how God is logically incoherent.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            If your Platonic faith is purely reasonable, then it isn’t a faith. Also, neither I nor Jefferson are an atheist. Go to the atheist channel and debate them if you want to bang on about that.

            “…I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists,* who call me infidel, and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what it’s Author never said nor saw. they have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man…” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816

            * Gregory Knittel (1993) The Euthanasia of Platonic Christianity: Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Religion and Human Freedom. San Jose State University. scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/689/

            • Matthew Jenkins

              So your agnostic?

              • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

                I am a real Christian.

                Jefferson’s Religious Beliefs
                monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersons-religious-beliefs

                I worship “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” (If that sounds familiar, it is in the DoI.)

                David Voelker (1993) Who is Nature’s God? The Hanover Historical Review. history.hanover.edu/hhr/hhr93_1.html

  • William J E Dempsey

    It is not necessary for mythicists to show that “many” Jews might easily believed that Jesus died and was crucified. It is only necessary to show that a few would.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I see you have changed your name – is this your real name, or the one your previously used, or neither?

      I hope you will not be up to your old trollish tricks.

      Your comment doesn’t seem to be on point as written, but if your point is that mythicists would need to show that there were some Jews that did not find it at all awkward to believe that someone was the awaited Davidic king despite being executed by the foreign overlords, then yes, that is something that they need to do before their view can be felt to be at least plausible. It still would not show it to be likely but at least they would have made a start.


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