Richard Carrier’s Dishonesty

It is ironic that Richard Carrier’s blog post which accuses me of lying about his work blatantly misrepresents what I wrote. No one who has read things I’ve written – or listened to things I’ve said – would ever believe that I claimed that the Gospels have no symbolic stories in them, when I have so often said the opposite. The infancy stories (which I’ve discussed before) in the Gospels are just that – and are much like the infancy stories told about other historical figures besides Jesus.

But people who have read what I have written are presumably not Carrier’s intended audience.

I’m guessing that the criticisms I’ve offered in my recent articles must be too damaging to mythicism for Carrier to respond to them in a manner that is professional, scholarly, and fair, so that instead he is resorting to deception and expletives. But goodness me, if you can’t deal with criticism in a rational and mature manner, you really shouldn’t try to produce something that even pretends to be scholarship, never mind the actual thing.

It has been an interesting day – two people have ranted about me online, with fundamentalist complaints, yet from opposite sides of the spectrum!

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  • John MacDonald

    It’s amazing how Jesus mythicists and Jesus historicists can have such diametrically opposed interpretations of the same texts (each thinking the other incompetent), but it just goes to show, as Derrida said, that multiple interpretations arise because texts are open to more than one meaning.

    • Mark

      ‘Mythicism v. Historicism’ isn’t a dispute about the interpretation of texts, but about the explanation of their existence, and of all the later phenomena of ‘Christian’ development. The mythicist account is typical 18th c historiography: it’s all priestcraft, an ecclesiastical plot, etc. The existence of priestcraft itself is implicitly imputed to permanent features of the cosmos, on the model of a demonology, I guess. Actual history, by contrast, supposes it has to explain the slow coming-into-being of the later ecclesiastical mechanisms that so-called mythicism presupposes.

      • Geoff B

        I don’t think you have a firm grasp of what mythicists believe. I am not familiar with 18th century historiography as it relates to the Jesus question, but what I have seen is mythicists raise serious and important questions about the source material and whether that source material is all inclusive (for example, should the writings of Philo be considered as proto-Christian and, if so, what would that imply about the origins of Christianity?).

        What I see mythicists proposing is an evolution of a Jesus-belief that started as a celestial figure, presupposed in Jewish texts (Daniel, Isaiah, Wisdom of Solomon, Philo’s writings), and evolved into the belief that “Jesus” referenced an actual person, much like Euhemerus (Carrier explicitly references Euhemerus) did with Zeus.

        To me, this explains a lot of anomalies in the standard theory. For example, the apostle James is referred to as the Brother of the Lord by Paul, but James the apostle in the Gospels is not the brother of Jesus. In a disputed non-Christian source, the writings of Jesus, a James is identified as the brother of Jesus Christ but is depicted as a Jewish leader, not a Christian, who is murdered by a rival Jewish priest. There is no mention of this event in Acts of the Apostles (another anomaly).

        If, however, we consider Carrier’s view that the “brother of the Lord” is not a reference to a blood brother of the man Jesus Christ, then pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. The epistle said to be written by James makes no mention of the author being the brother of Jesus. It makes sense that “James” was an early Christian, identified by Paul as such by the title “brother of the Lord,” who wrote an epistle, making no claim to be the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. James, Christian leader, was not murdered by Ananias and such legends arose later, based on confusions of later writers. This is the most important piece of evidence establishing Jesus as being on Earth at a certain period of time. And yet, it is not certain and I believe there is an explanation that is at least as plausible as the standard theory. This has nothing to do with ecclesiastical conspiracies.

        • Ian

          James the apostle in the Gospels is not the brother of Jesus

          GMark explicitly differentiates two Jameses, so which one do you think this contradiction applies to? And given this, why do you assume that Paul is referring to either of them, when GMark also identifies that, of Jesus’s four brothers, one is named James?

          • Geoff B

            Do you mean two James? In Mark, one James is clearly not an apostle. So is it your opinion that there were two apostles named James? One who mostly disappears, though he appears as a core apostle in the Gospels, and the brother James who then replaces the disappeared James in later versions? Or are you saying that Galatians refers to two different James as well? Here:

            Mark 14:33He took Peter, James and John along with him

            Galatians 2:8-9 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James,Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars,

            Peter and John are the same as in Galatians, but James is different?

            Instead of multiplying apostles named James, isn’t the easier solution to say that Paul in Galatians is not referencing a blood brother?

          • Ian

            [I did mean two Jameses, yes, I’ve edited my typo.]

            I’m not multiplying anything. GMark has two different Jameses who are apostles and also a different James who is Jesus’s brother.

            So the easier thing to say is that the James referred to as Jesus’s brother (and is not called an apostle) in Galatians is the James referred to as Jesus’s brother (and is not an apostle) in Mark.

            I’ve no idea why you think the fact that Mark’s clear references to three different Jameses is somehow confusing when the references are entirely consistent with Galatians and James is such a common name of the time and place.

          • Geoff B

            Mark mentions no James, brother of Jesus who is a follower of Jesus. James the brother of Jesus in Mark thinks Jesus is off his rocker.

            You haven’t cleared this up: in Galatians, the pillars are Cephas, James, and John. Which James? The Brother of Jesus or the disciple? Who wrote the epistle James, the brother of jesus or one of the disciples? How did James the borther of Jesus become involved in a priestly succession rivalry? Which James sent his people to spy on Paul? Is James the Just the brother of Jesus and if so, how is he allowed into the Holy of Holies, if he is a leader in the persecuted Christian church?

            Try not to misrepresent my point. The confusion isn’t limited to Mark’s mention of 3 Jameses. The confusion of Jameses proceeds outward from that point to later legends about James which are then read back into Galatians. So let me see if I have your position straight on this:

            James, the brother of Jesus, believes Jesus is crazy, reported by Mark.

            Then, at some point in time, James the brother of Jesus converts (possibly sensing the potential financial bonanza?). There is no hint in Mark that James the brother of Jesus will ever play any important role in the history of the early Church, even though by the time of Mark, the history of James’ life would already be written. Right? There is no hint in any of the Gospel mentions of Jesus’ brothers that one, James, will become a pillar of the church, even though they were all written in an era when that would have been perfectly clear.

            James the brother of Jesus replaces James the disciple as one of the primary leaders of the early Church, a pillar, in fact. So now instead of Peter, James (the disciple), and John, there is Cephas (Peter), James (the brother of Jesus), and John.

            James the brother of Jesus and Paul square off over circumcision and table rituals, according to Paul, but according to Acts, not really.

            James, either one of the disciples or the brother of Jesus Christ, writes an epistle. He doesn’t mention in the epistle that he is the brother of Jesus Christ, a fact that could help establish his authority and credibility.

            James the brother of Jesus just fades from view in Acts.Both Jameses the disciples have long since vanished from our narrative.

            At the same time that James the brother of Jesus and pillar of the persecuted Christian community, he is also viewed as the revered James the Just who spends night and day on his knees entering the Holy of Holies.

            James the Just, Brother of Jesus, is seized and executed by the High Priest Ananias, causing an uproar (why? if he was the leader of church whose founder had also been executed), leading to his removal and replacement by someone coincidentally named Jesus.

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

            The names Jacob and Joshua were both very popular in this period. When precisely Jacob/James may or may not have found his brother’s activities compelling is hardly relevant, is it?

            That Acts seeks to present the church as more harmonious than it was is well-established, is it not?

            But what is the point about all this? There are different depictions of Pilate in sources from this period, and yet that does not provide evidence for his non-existence, but rather of the biases of authors, especially the early Christian ones.

          • Geoff B

            Yes, well, you’ve missed the point.

          • Ian

            Mark mentions no James, brother of Jesus who is a follower of Jesus.

            You appear to be arguing this:
            1. In GMark, Jesus has three disciples he is particularly fond of: Peter, and the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee.
            2. In GMark, Jesus has a separate brother James, mentioned when Jesus’s mother sends all the other children to bring him home.
            3. Paul mentions that key figures in the Jerusalem church are James the Brother of Jesus, Peter and John.
            4. It is a amazingly unlikely coincidence that James the Brother of Jesus would become a prominent church leader, and at the same time James the Son of Zebedee wouldn’t, that we should assume they are the same character.

            I just don’t buy it.

            Which James? The Brother of Jesus or the disciple?

            Since it clearly says, ‘the brother of Jesus’ your point is rather obtuse.

            Who wrote the epistle James, the brother of jesus or one of the disciples?

            Why would it be either? You think mythicism prevents you having to deal with pseudonymity?

          • Geoff B

            It says nowhere the brother of Jesus. If it did, you would have a good case to make. But alas, it does not.

            What you think I seem to be arguing, I am not arguing. What I am arguing is that there is a Confusion of Jameses that even the early writers got tripped up on.

          • Ian

            there is a Confusion of Jameses that even the early writers got tripped up on

            You’ve not demonstrated that conclusion w.r.t. Mark and Galatians, it is your conclusion.

            It says nowhere the brother of Jesus.

            That was tendentious wording on my part, sorry.

            But

            1. Mark identifies two disciples called James, and one James who is Jesus’s brother.

            2. Paul mentions a James the Brother of the Lord.

            3. You ask “Which James does he mean? The Brother of Jesus or the disciple?”

            I’m not sure the change in wording makes it any less obtuse.

          • Ken Scaletta

            Well Paul never says the word, “disciple,” but he does say James was an Apostle. None of the Gospels say that any of Jesus’ brothers were ever disciples or Apostles.

          • Mark

            All references to Mark here are red herrings. If you want fraud then fine, find it in Mark, an anonymous work of transparent story-telling. Now attempt to interpret the text of Paul as we know it stood in, say, 70 AD. Paul is referring to one of the hundreds of Ya’akov’s in Jerusalem as the brother of the Lord. It doesn’t matter how many Ya’akov’s pop up later and what stories people are telling about them. What we are reading is an actual communiqué between early Jesus-messianists that far predates all this story telling.

        • Mark

          “Euhemerism” is the opposite of what you think: Euhemerus posited a ‘historical Zeus’, some sort of king or the like, in the remote past; he was, if you like, an anti-mythicist about the figures in Greek myth.

          There isn’t anything ‘proto-Christian’ about Philo, since there isn’t anything messianic or apocalyptic about him; presumably his sort of standpoint was characteristic of (Greek-) diaspora ‘Judaism’. The apocalyptic, messianic, catastrophic atmosphere of early Christianity has Eretz Yisrael written all over it. The form of religious feeling that is characteristic of it also shows itself a half-century later in the febrile madness of the Jewish War. (This remark is of course vague and somewhat speculative.)

          Josephus’ name is Josephus, not Jesus.

          All of these paragraphs about “James” overlook the fact that James=Jacob=Ya’akov was one of the most popular Jewish names of that, and indeed every, period. Thus the need for distinguishing epithets. The problem with the interpretation “brother of the lord” = “fellow Christian” is that it doesn’t make for a distinguishing epithet. That’s why Carrier doesn’t adopt it, and instead posits a small group in Jerusalem who were called ‘Brothers of the Lord’ in some special sense. Even if this were true, the hypothesis that this select group were called Brothers of the Lord because they were brothers of the Lord, would seem natural.

          The blather about how many Ya’akovs there are in Acts and the Gospels is irrelevant, since the question is about Paul’s reference to ‘James the brother of the lord’, which predates all these references by decades – and has the special advantage of coming with the personal name of the author attached. It and the other James reference are from undisputed pieces of correspondence from the middle 1st century, not later story-telling.

          • Ignorant Amos

            “Euhemerism” is the opposite of what you think: Euhemerus posited a ‘historical Zeus’, some sort of king or the like, in the remote past; he was, if you like, an anti-mythicist about the figures in Greek myth.

            Perhaps you’ll let Carrier explain what it means himself….

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/8161

          • Mark

            I wasn’t attacking Carrier’s usage but yours. Carrier makes it clear that he is practicing reverse-Euhemerism by imputing ‘Euhemerism’ to an unknown and unneeded ecclesiastical entity circa 100 ad. Euhemerism in the sense of a rationalistic attempt to explain divine beings as the traces of memory of historical individuals, is well attested in the history of religious skepticism. Carrier-Euhemerism, in the sense of pious myth-inflation by super-addition of past mortal historical individuals, not so much. John Frum might be an example, though one suspects a witty dissenting mockery of Christianity in his cult. By contrast, real messianic enthusiasms are a dime a dozen. One might as well say that the rising sun is new every morning, and a miracle, as say that this or any other messianic enthusiasm happened without a messianic figure to precipitate it. It happens all the time.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I wasn’t attacking Carrier’s usage but yours.

            Really?

            Where did I use it?

          • Geoff B

            “Euhemerism” is the opposite of what you think: Euhemerus posited a ‘historical Zeus’, some sort of king or the like, in the remote past; he was, if you like, an anti-mythicist about the figures in Greek myth.”

            This is exactly what I mean (and notice I said a process similar to). My point is that Jesus was viewed as a heavenly, divine figure first, then a person who existed in history on Earth. Zeus was a God first, then Euhemerus posited a historical background. See the similarity?

            “There isn’t anything ‘proto-Christian’ about Philo, since there isn’t anything messianic or apocalyptic about him;”

            Really? Read up on this here:

            http://www.iep.utm.edu/philo/

            “He may have influenced Paul, his contemporary, and perhaps the authors of the Gospel of John (C. H. Dodd) and theEpistle to the Hebrews (R. Williamson and H. W. Attridge). In the process, he laid the foundations for the development of Christianity in the West and in the East, as we know it today. Philo’s primary importance is in the development of the philosophical and theological foundations of Christianity.”

            As far as James is concerned, I am not overlooking anything. I say explicitly that later writers are confused about which James is James. When it comes to Galatians, I am trying to sort out if James, the brother of the LORD (note, he doesn’t say Jesus, or Lord Jesus) means a blood brother or a title. I do not think that the author of Mark attributes any blood relation to James of Galatians due to his treatment of James in his Gospel.

          • Mark

            Here’s the author you’re quoting. http://www.socinian.org/about.html Obviously a master of late 2nd temple Judaism. I think it isn’t really conceivable Paul was influenced by Philo, but don’t pretend to know. It isn’t known how widely Philo’s work was known at the time, and Paul doesn’t show many signs of that kind of ‘philosophical’ education. Philo does seem to show up as an influence later, and of course it is the ‘church’ that preserved his works, not e.g. the rabbis. The importance of Philo in the comprehension of the material is that if we couple it with the later rabbinic material (which presumably has many of the 1st c antecedents it claims) and the wacky material in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so on, we get a completely different picture of the range of “Jewish” ideas that prevailed in the period up to the destruction of the temple. The most fundamental documents in this reconstruction are the authentic letters of Paul, which are the most revealing expression of Jewish religiosity we possess from the first century, and in many ways must be quite characteristic, despite his having opted for what, from a later Jewish point of view, was very much the wrong messiah.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Because like your Al Mohlers, Carrier is not on a mission of scholarship but a mission of conversion. Both are jack-a $$es.

  • Joel Sassone

    Orrrrr you could just provide some evidence for the historical Jesus hypothesis? You’d be the first person to do so.

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

      No, I most certainly would not be he first. I take it you are completely new to this academic field? Or have been listening to denialist sources, which can sound quite plausible if one doesn’t have more mainstream academic sources of information?

      This is a good place to being, as far as my blogging on the topic is concerned: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/round-up-of-mythicist-blogging.html

    • Gary

      Good enough for me!

      http://youtu.be/o4q3WlM9rCI

      • Geoff B

        I see Ehrman really struggling here. His evolution analogy is severely flawed, there is overwhelming evidence for the theory of evolution and abundant falsifying evidence against creationism. Creationism or Intelligent Design have failed to find an explanation for evidence such as the distribution of species, the molecular similarity between species, the fossil evidence, etc. In fact, all the things supporting evolution are exactly what we miss in the historical Jesus debate. Ehrman’s key evidence is exactly the point of dispute: Paul does mention a “brother of the Lord” but he never mentions a Peter who knew a pre-risen Jesus. Carrier has an explanation for Paul’s description of “brother of the Lord” that actually fits with Paul’s works and other characterizations of both Jesus and human relations with Jesus much better than Ehrman’s (that Jesus was the blood brother of James).

        Other than that single point, Ehrman references no evidence to support his contention. The rest is: lots of scholars agree with me against Carrier, assertions that “trust me” the evidence exists, and an assertion that atheists are doing themselves “a disservice.” The last point is irrelevant. Jesus mythicism isn’t about atheism at all. One can dispute the existence of Jesus and not be an atheist.

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

          You seem to be missing the point of the analogy. No one is suggesting that ancient history and modern biology deal with the same sort of evidence and provide the same sorts of degrees of certainty. The point of the comparison is that denialists in both domains use the same tactics to deny what experts in these respective fields consider to be overwhelmingly more probable than the alternatives preferred by the denialists.

          • Geoff B

            No, that’s my point. “Denialists” of Jesus HIstoricism point to the lack of evidence of an actual Jesus. “Denialists” of evolution only have faith in a story. Creationists refuse to apply the scientific method. This is similar to historicists refusing to apply actual historiographical methodology when it comes to the question of Jesus. As I have said many times, historicists skip the process of source analysis. The Gospels cannot count as credible sources and not because they contain obviously supernatural events, but because there is no way to establish the credibility of the sources. There are no independent, reliable sources to confirm that the stories in the Gospels are based on history.

            You and other historicists continue to make the claim that just because one thing or maybe many things in the Gospels are clearly not true, there could be truths contained therein. For example, there was a Pilate. As I just posted on Vridar, in the novel Little Big Man, there is Custer and Wild Bill Hickok and a number of actual historical events. That doesn’t mean that Jack Crabbe existed. So sure, there could be truths, that doesn’t mean that any datum about the man “Jesus” can be derived from them, even including his baptism and crucifixion, both of which are clearly derived from Old Testament sources.

            I would deny that most NT scholars are experts in historical studies. I do not believe that in any other area of historical research would we accept sources like the Gospels as reliable.

            I am in a field that also has its share of false paradigms, so I have to completely disagree with your analogy. IN one case, there is a lack of evidence and reliable sources. In the other case, there is an abundance of evidence, multiple lines of evidence from very different fields (paleoanthropology, biochemistry, genetics, etc) all arriving at the same conclusion. There is no warrant to make the claim that Jesus studies is anywhere in the same neighborhood.

            Nice try though.

          • Geoff B

            Maybe if I put it like this, you would see the shallowness of this analogy:

            Is the likelihood of Jesus actually having existed as likely as the common ancestry of all life on Earth?

            In the latter case, I think we are nearing certainty, but it is possible actually that life could have come into being more than once. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say 9 of 10.

            Historicists claim absolute certainty, “without a doubt,” “all sane people,” etc. Really? The truth claim of historicists is more likely true than that of evolutionary biologists?

            If not, then how much room for doubt is there? Before 1912, Wegener was probably given less than 2 in 10 probability of being correct. What is it now?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Actually, Douglas Theobald did a study of this question. He estimated that the probability of multiple origins of life was 1 in 10^2860.

          • Ian

            “Denialists” of Jesus HIstoricism point to the lack of evidence of an actual Jesus. “Denialists” of evolution only have faith in a story.

            I don’t think you’ve spent much time with creationists. Denialists of evolution deny the evidence. They’ll tell you there are no transitional fossils, DNA cannot create information, mutations are always deleterious, and many other things that we have actual evidence of. And if you put forward the evidence they’ll explain why that evidence is not valid, why it can’t be used to support the conclusions scientists make, and why scientists only think it does by starting with an assumption of their conclusion.

            The Gospels cannot count as credible sources

            Exactly like that.

            This approach is ass-backwards in both creationism and mythicism. In both cases we have a body of evidence, the NT is evidence. The question is not ‘was Jesus real’ (a question only maniacally important to Christian and atheist apologists), but ‘what happened to give us the evidence we see’.

            The problem is, both Creationists, and mythicists, imagine this situation in which scholarship is concerned with the question of ‘is X true’. Where that is, at best, a secondary and narrow question, in the service of ‘what happened’. I’ve had creationists appalled at how little time I spent, in my research (evolutionary math was my PhD topic) wondering whether evolution was true. I see exactly the same frothy mystification aimed at biblical scholars who, almost entirely, are unconcerned with the question the amateurs think is critical. The exception being those who engage the denialists (there are biologists who do the same).

          • Geoff B

            Ok, Ian. Let’s walk through source criticism of the Gospels. Let’s start with Mark.

            Let’s just use a standard model, found here on Wikipedia:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method

            When was the source, written or unwritten, produced (date)?

            We think probably around 66-80. I tend to think later, but will accept this.

            Where was it produced (localization)?
            We don’t know for sure. There are different theories.

            By whom was it produced (authorship)?

            We don’t know.

            From what pre-existing material was it produced (analysis)?

            We don’t know.

            In what original form was it produced (integrity)?

            We’re not sure, but it does seems likely it was produced as document written in Greek, but it is possible that parts of it existed prior to its complete and final form. For example, some scholars believe that a Passion Narrative existed prior to the writing of Mark.

            What is the evidential value of its contents (credibility)?

            It is a document that is filled with supernatural events and is fundamentally a religious document. It has high credibility in some contexts for example for insight into the religious beliefs of the first or second century. Many scholars have noted that there are curious mistakes in the text, for example, mischaracterizing the Pharisees. There are some geographic problems, but I personally wouldn’t be too concerned about that, it could tell us something about where it was written though if the author was not familiar with the geography. but overall, we aren’t using this document for geographical research.

            The wiki article lays down a general rule that for each particular datum, we have to balance that against the credibility of the author. Ok. So what is the credibility of the author of GMark? We don’t know. We have no other works to compare to. We know that GMark reports events that can’t have happened, so the author cannot be entirely reliable. What about the central claim that Jesus Christ was crucified by Pilate? The curious thing about this is that the author appears to be following a narrative of another Jesus that was contemporaneous to the writing of the gospel of Mark. In Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, there is a story of a Jesus who disturbs tabernacles, pronouncing “woe” on Jerusalem, is arrested by Jewish officials, flogged, taken to the Roman governor, and eventually killed. Also, while the broad outline of the narrative seems to have been derived from Josephus, the particular details are derived from the Old Testament.

            So even on the critical and central datum: Jesus Christ from Galilee was crucified by Pilate seems entirely derived from other sources. We have no knowledge of the author or the author’s purpose. We don’t know the sources the author used (although I would say he used Wars of the Jews as one source). I think we’d have to take either a pass or a negative view of the author’s credibility. Do you disagree?

            So given that state, how are we to derive factual information from the Gospel of Mark?

          • Ian

            Why did you ignore my point and just repeat yours? If you want to debate with yourself, you can try a mirror. It’s quicker.

          • Geoff B

            Why do you assume I ignored your post? Could you perhaps give me some slack and understand that I might have missed it. I am not even sure which post you are talking about.

          • Ian

            I made two points.

            1. All denialists claim there is no evidence. They claim that any evidence that scholars claim, is weak, untrustworthy, misunderstood, or tendentious. You appear to be addressing this point by asking me to go through the evidence. I’m trying to get you to show some basic self-awareness, since the first post I responded two was where you naively attempted to differentiate your position from creationism based on the approach, rather than quantity of evidence;

            No, that’s my point. “Denialists” of Jesus HIstoricism point to the lack of evidence of an actual Jesus. “Denialists” of evolution only have faith in a story.

            2. The question of whether Jesus existed is backwards, when the question should be what processes led to the pattern of evidence we have. Getting the question backwards merely allows a person to shift the burden of proof away from themselves. You appeared to address this by stepping through why the evidence is too weak to support conclusions about Jesus’s biography. It would be nice if you could see the problem, at least. Again, this is not uncommon in my experience. It is a very common tactic among people opposing academic consensus.

          • John MacDonald

            The fact that ancient writing contained stories of miracle and magic does not make it useless from the point of view of history. Carrier, in “Why The Resurrection Is Unbelievable” identifies a number of miracle stories in the writing of Herodotus, but still claims Herodotus was “an educated man, (and) a critical historian (The Christian Delusion, 292).”

          • Geoff B

            I haven’t said that. I have said that you have to evaluate the credibility of the author. The fact that Mark is heavily embued with supernatural elements is something to consider. Historians do not accept everything written by Herodotus and believe that much of what he wrote was hearsay but he reported it as if he had first-hand knowledge. Carrier says that Herodotus is a critical historian because he discusses his sources and critically comments on them. This is what historians do. Mark does not even tell us his sources. Mark is not written as a history or in the genre of history. You are just simply not dealing with the subtleties and complexities of these issues dealing with sources.

          • Geoff B

            “Denialists of evolution deny the evidence.”

            Yes, but because they start with their explanation as an article of faith. The evidence of evolution cannot be true because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Therefore, they have to deny the evidence.

            My point is that there is no evidence for mythicists to deny. The evidence does not exist. You say, well, we deny the evidence found in the Gospels. I challenge you to establish the credibility of the Gospels as sources of information on the life and existence of Jesus Christ, using standard historical methods. Find an acceptable method of source criticism and apply it to the Gospels. Use methods acceptable to non-biblical ancient historians, that’s fine.

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

            If written sources are not evidence, then there is little we can say about ancient history. But please don’t just listen to mythicist claims. Read what secular historians, and indeed any scholars using secular historical methods, have to say on this subject. You will find there to be an overwhelming consensus. And I do not think that any of the explanations for that consensus which mythicists appeal to – incompetence, conspiracy, or anything else – are more probable than the alternative, which is that we have studied the evidence and find it points in a particular direction.

          • Geoff B

            Please. Again, you don’t understand source criticism and have a very unsophisticated understanding of using sources. Nowhere have I argued that “written sources are not evidence.” Can you show me where I said that? A written source can be a credible source in one context, but not another. Oliver North’s memoirs might be accurate for what Oliver North claims, but might not be credible for determining Reagan’s awareness of the arms for hostages deal. To determine that, we would have to consider North’s overall credibility and his possible motives for either telling the truth or not. However, for example, North’s handwritten notes of meetings making mention of arms for hostages are credibile evidence in the sense that he created the document at the time of the meeting with no intention of it someday becoming public knowledge. You see how this works?

            This is the sort of naivete that I see from bible scholars who pose as historians. They don’t really understand historical methods.

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

            Then you did not convey your stance clearly. I think your example in the comment above is helpful, since asource not being accurate about a particular figure’s actions or motivations does not mean the person did not exist.

          • Ian

            My point is that there is no evidence for mythicists to deny. The evidence does not exist.

            Which is exactly what creationists have said to me. There is no evidence for them to deny, because there is no evidence.

            You’re lack of self-awareness is rather conspicuous.

            Which isn’t surprising, it’s a human foible. But it is surprising how many people who are ardent opponents of an overwhelming academic consensus, don’t see the commonalities. I’ve a friend who is strongly opposed to the consensus on relativity and the existence of quanta, he can’t see that he uses the same arguments as creationists either. He just claims there is no evidence for modern physics. What the physicists claim as evidence is just tendentious.

          • Geoff B

            Really, Ian? You think that Jesus historicism has anywhere near the level of credibility that evolutionary biology does? As far as I can tell, the entire argument for Jesus existing relies on a single passage in Galatians. Without that, there is almost no case for an historical Jesus. What other evidence do you have?

            You continually refuse to walk through source criticism with me as a first step to establishing our evidence. This is typical of historicists, it’s been my complaint in this discussion. Bible scholars skip source criticism or do it then ignore it. The baptism of Jesus supposedly is one of two certain events. What degree of certainty would you assign this item? What are your sources for it? What is the credibility of the author? Who is the author, even? Do other claims made by this author ring true? What is the genre? When you read the passage itself, you can’t help but notice the clear references to Elijah/Elisha. Could there be a symbolic meaning here? There are clearly fictional aspects to the story, so how do we know with certainty that any of it is true? Yet your consensus that you appeal to will say that it is one of two absolutely certain facts we know about Jesus.

          • arcseconds

            If you think there’s only one piece of evidence, you either are ignorant or dishonest.

            You either have no idea of what the case for historicism is, or you are pretending you don’t in order to make it look stupid.

            If you are ignorant, then please drop the arrogance and condescension, and go and inform yourself, and come back when you can at least give a short precis that an actual scholar would recognise as being a summary of the case for historicity.

            If you are being dishonest, either stop it immediately, or leave. No-one here wants to deal with someone who engages in such underhanded tactics, and if it becomes apparent that you are in fact being dishonest, you will be banned.

            Note that being unable to fairly summarize the mainstream case is another thing you have in common with creationists.

          • John MacDonald

            As you say, there is no reason to think there is any historical truth about the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. The narrative at this point is scripture fulfillment: Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so forth).

          • John MacDonald

            And further, as Price points out, the heavenly voice at the baptism (bath qol) speaks a conflation of three scriptural passages. “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11) combines bits and pieces of Psalm 2:7, the divine coronation decree, “You are my son. Today I have begotten you;” Isaiah 42:1, the blessing on the returning Exiles, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my
            chosen, in whom my soul delights;” and Genesis 22:12 (LXX), where the heavenly voices bids Abraham to sacrifice his “beloved son.” And as William R. Stegner
            points out, Mark may have in mind a Targumic tradition whereby Isaac, bound on the altar, looks up into heaven and sees the heavens opened with angels and the
            Shekinah of God, a voice proclaiming, “Behold, two chosen ones, etc.” There is even the note that the willingness of Isaac to be slain may serve to atone for
            Israel’s sins. Here is abundant symbolism making Jesus king, servant, and atoning sacrifice. In view of parallels elsewhere between John and Jesus on the one hand and Elijah and Elisha on the other, Miller also sees in the Jordan baptism and the endowment with the spirit a repetition of 2 Kings 2, where, near the Jordan, Elijah bequeaths a double portion of his own miracle-working spirit to
            Elisha, who henceforth functions as his successor and superior.

          • Jim Little

            Referring to denialists of a proposition, without adequately arguing for the proposition, is disingenuous. I don’t think arguments for Christ have ever met a suitable standard of burden of proof.

          • Ken Scaletta

            The use of the word “denialist” is a cheap polemic tactic with no valid analogy to creationism. Doubting the existence of a historical Jesus does not involve the willful denial of overwhelming evidence. The evidence for a Historical Jesus is,at best, circumstantial and minimalistic. Appeals to consensus are fallacious, and when it comes to believers, usually quite selective. Do you agree with every other consensus in contemporary Biblical criticism?

            I’ve read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of HJ by scholars of every stripe and the one thing that strikes me every time is that while the almost all agree that some kind of HJ existed and was crucified, they agree on almost nothing else about him.

            The best way to refute mythicism would be to prove historicity. yet that’s where the evidence seems thin. The case for history is tenable, but far from certain, and I think there is some question-begging involved even in trying to define what counts as “Jesus.”

            I think the real denialism lies in the assertions of certainty put forth by historicists. I would call myself a “historical minimalist,” not a mythicist, but the strength of the historicist case is greatly oversold, especially since even a real Jesus probably never said or did the majority of things attributed to him anyway.

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

            Historical minimalism is a viable stance in relation to the evidence. Mythicism takes the little that is reasonably certain and insists on trying to make it uncertain, in implausible ways. And so I don’t think the term “denialism” is at all inappropriate.

          • John MacDonald

            Maybe one day historical minimalism will make its way into the churches. lol

          • Ignorant Amos

            And so I don’t think the term “denialism” is at all inappropriate

            That’s because you like the pejorative.

            In human behavior, denialism is exhibited by individuals choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth.

            That minimal Jesus existed is not an uncomfortable truth and the point is, it might not be a reality. It is not that important to the debate on Christianity for the non believer other than interest. Even Carrier is agnostic on the issue, so hardly denialist.

            The question is whether it is historical revisionism or negationism? I don’t think it is the later because the so-called facts are not indeed facts but open to interpretation.

            Questions. Do you believe the resurrection to be an historical fact? How many NT scholars and Christian historians think it is?

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

            Well, it does seem to me that for some people, the dismissal of the Jesus they were once taught about altogether is simpler than the more nuanced “he probably existed, but was a failed messianic claimant who mistakenly thought the kingdom of God was about to dawn, who was later encrusted in dogma and myth.” I would not underestimate the level of discomfort some people have with Jesus. Most historical revisionism – whether about Jesus, the early Puritan setters, the Founding Fathers – at least on a subconscious level fits an overarching viewpoint in a particular worldview.

            There is no sense in which the resurrection can appropriately be called a historical event. I think you will find that, on the one hand, there are not just plenty of scholars but also plenty of scientists who believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. But you will be hard pressed to find anyone who claims that you can argue to that using historical tools of inquiry anywhere except in conservative seminaries and other such sectarian institutions.

            If you or anyone else is interested, I wrote a little book on this very topic: https://www.amazon.com/The-Burial-Jesus-History-Faith-ebook/dp/B0077SP5SU/ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=KWHIJQY656RQQXN3&creativeASIN=B0077SP5SU

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            You wrote, “but the strength of the historicist case is greatly oversold, especially since even a real Jesus probably never said or did the majority of things attributed to him anyway.”

            But as a literature teacher and reader of textural criticism and mythicism, I fail to see what mythicism achieves.

            All scholars (except fundamentalists) doubt that many of the events in the NT happened as portrayed. All historians agree that the Gospels aren’t biographies, etc.

            So what if the person who spoke such parables as The Good Samaritan and “love your enemies” in reference to Roman soldiers, etc. wasn’t named Jesus.

            Someone did say those things whether his name was Jesus, Eoshoa, Tom, Dick, or Harry.

            Let’s say there was no Jesus and he didn’t get crucified by the Romans, someone still said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

            What we do have is the text.

            The question of exactly which Jew or Jews spoke such and such phrases, while intriguing from a antiquarian historical point of view, seems to be unimportant to us today.

            Who gives a rip?

            Yet “No Jesus” writers seem obsessed with putting forth their hypothesis.

            To me it seems more like they have an anti-religion ax to grind than any scholarly interest.

            It’s like the minor debate among Shakespearian scholars whether or not Shapespeare wrote his plays. A few scholars think that he didn’t, but that Marlowe or Bacon or someone else did.

            Well, it’s an intriguing thought, but does it really matter in the 21st century?

            Will it help you understand Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet better if know whether Shakespeare or Marlowe wrote them?

            I doubt it.

            Then you wrote, “The best way to refute mythicism would be to prove historicity…”

            Heck, nothing can be proven historically. There are probabilities, no more.

            I’ve read many thousands of tomes on history in the last 55 years. And took American Intellectual History at university. One can’t prove much even about Thomas Jefferson, let alone about figures (mythical or real) of ancient antiquity.

            Many scholars disagree about the Vietnam War, even the Iraq War and we have millions of records and hundreds of thousands of photographs, and audio recordings, etc.

            History is based on hypotheses and educated guesses and, even, biases.

          • John MacDonald

            In terms of the historical Jesus, I wonder what would happen to the church if “historical minimalism” started being taught to the masses?

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            It would be the death-knell of lots of fundamentalist/evangelicals, but I doubt that mainline churches, liberals, etc. would be affected at all, since actually that is exactly what happened
            in the past in the U.S. in the 1920’s–the huge Modernist versus Fundamentalist controversy.

            It split denominations, created thousands of new denominations and led to years of fighting amongst Christians.

            Mainline/modernist/liberal/progressive/–whatever you (or others) want to term the non-fundamentalists–
            have been emphasizing secular scholarship for many years. There’s the Jesus Seminar, the infamous leaders such as Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, etc.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But aren’t the liberal Christian Churches haemorrhaging members while the conservative Christian Churches grow?

            Any informed observer of American religious life would know that these trends are not new–not by a long shot. The more liberal Protestant denominations have been losing members by the thousands since the 1960s, with the Episcopal Church USA having lost fully one half of its members over the period.

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            I meant that mainline churches wouldn’t be troubled by minimalist historical views.

            As for why mainline denominations “have been losing members,” that is a very complicated answer, lots of reasons, too long to go into here.

          • Richard Carrier

            I’ve actually explored that in Q&A several times. In a sense, it is a question already answered by the theologies of Spong, Brodie, etc. (it’s all the message, not the history: the existence of Jesus is no more relevant than the existence of Adam or Darth Vader, to the use of their stories for salvation) and in another sense (almost) by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (as their theology could remain intact on the original creed: that Jesus revealed what happened to him from above; because they believe Satan is real, the mythicism thesis can easily be accepted as real fact, without harm to any of their remaining teachings, except perhaps insofar as they are literalists, but allegorical reading of the Gospels is a simple matter to embrace once you need to). Other adaptations are possible. The only sects that could not survive are the same ones that can’t survive evolution being true either, or the non existence of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, etc.

          • Ken Scaletta

            What mythicism would “accomplish” is the same thing that any historicist model would accomplish, and that is to explain the origin of Christianity.

            Most of the sayings attributed to Jesus do not actually come from Jesus, and maybe none of them did. If Goodacre is right and there was no Q, then the most significant sayings attributed to Jesus are simply Matthew’s own fabrications, and so the author of Matthew is the real “Jesus” if you want to define him simply as the author of those sayings.

            It’s fine to say historicity is beyond real proof, but I’m hard pressed to even see more than marginal probability, and although I do think the probability is there, I think the Jesus of the Gospels is still almost entirely a literary/theological creation. Whatever real Jesus existed has been so subsumed by the myth that’s it’s probably impossible to recover anything certain about his personality. I have personal opinions about what I think he taught (all well within academic conventions, nothing kooky), but I have difficulty finding any specific fact about HJ which I feel complete certainty about other than maybe the crucifixion (and even that’s not 100%. 99% maybe).

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            You wrote, “It’s fine to say historicity is beyond real proof but I’m hard pressed to even see more than marginal probability…”

            Well, first off, I am not an ancient textural Greek scholar, but a literature teacher and writer. So I am speaking as an interested reader, not an authority. Based on all of the scholars I have read, it seems a good educated guess that a Jesus figure did exist in history.

            So we disagree.

            As for Q, I think it is an interesting hypothesis, but based on my own reading, that is all it is. It’s too speculative to be reliable.

            Then you wrote, “I think the Jesus of the Gospels is still almost entirely a literary/theological creation.”

            ? Of course! That is what almost all secular scholars think to one degree or another. Heck, even Christian scholars such as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, etc. think that many of the stories are literary creations, not actual occurrences.

            Crossan thinks not only are the birth stories fiction, but even that there were no 12 apostles! And he’s a Christian.

            Then you wrote, “Whatever real Jesus existed has been so subsumed by the myth that’s it’s probably impossible to recover anything certain about his personality.”

            ? Again, yes, all secular scholars think this and many Christian scholars too.

            This isn’t where they disagree with mythicists. They think mythicists are incorrect in claiming that Jesus never existed as an historical figure.
            And most secular scholars think that mytthicists who claim Jesus was a created figure who lived up in the heavens and was crucified up there
            are totally incorrect.

            Based on what I do know about ancient texts, mythology (which I used to teach), etc.,
            I agree.

            What I’ve read by mythicists up to this point has been weak, error-ridden, and highly improbable.

            But I haven’t read Richard Carrier’s huge tome. And I am not an authority on this.

            Thanks for the discussion.

        • Cecil Bagpuss

          If you think that Carrier has an adequate explanation for the term “brother of the Lord”, then you are deluding yourself. For one thing, Carrier isn’t even sure what his explanation is. He argues that all early Christians were brothers of the Lord, but then he suggests that although all Christians were brothers of the Lord, only a select group might have been called brothers of the Lord.

          But what is most striking about his treatment of this is how the language of “prior probability” can be dropped when it proves to be unhelpful. How many other groups do we know of whose members called each other brother of X, where X is a celestial being? If we can think of no other examples then we must obviously approach the question by being very sceptical of Carrier’s explanation.

          • Geoff B

            Cecil,

            The problem is, though, the character “James” who shows up in several sources seems to change hats several times. You can argue that, well, there are two of them. Ok, so Peter, James, and John in the Gospels are not all the same who are referred to as “pillars” by Paul. Ehrman once published a paper arguing that Peter and Cephas were two different people, but has since distanced himself from that view. So it is possible that Peter, James the disciple, and John in the Gospels have become Cephas, James the blood brother of Jesus Christ, and John, with only James the disciple being replaced by James the blood brother of Jesus. So what happened to James the disciple? Who is the James in Acts? How does James the blood brother of Jesus become involved in a priestly succession rivalry reported by Josephus? Which James (the disciple or brother) wrote the epistle? How did James brother of Jesus and pillar of the persecuted Christian Church become known as James the Just, entering the Holy of Holies on his knees?

            You have plenty of problems to clear up here. All neatly packaged if we accept all of that as accumulated legend and that Paul referred to James the Brother of the Lord as a title, not a blood relative.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Geoff, I think that is a classic example of the way that Carrier tries to exploit anomalies in the evidence. Since you have also been discussing evolution, you will appreciate a comparison with the tactics of creationists. Because of the inherent implausibility of Carrier’s interpretation, I would need to see direct evidence to substantiate it. Someone would actually have to *say* that the term meant what Carrier claims it meant.

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

            Geoff, aren’t there often questions in history, owing to the nature of our sources?

            Of course, you can always wave a magic wand and say “well if none of this happened we don’t have any problems”, but would you accept the same logic applied elsewhere? Conflicting stories about how Cyrus the Great died? Well he didn’t exist – hey presto! Not sure exactly where the Battle of Hastings took place? Well, there was no such battle – ta-daaa!

            Also – would you agree that supposing that James was not the flesh and blood brother of Jesus just raises a whole new bundle of questions? For example… If Jesus was a mythical being why was he given a “historicised” flesh and blood brother by who shared a name with a prominent Christian leader? Wouldn’t that just have confused people? Is the James in Acts the same as the James in Paul? Who is the author of the epistle of James (still, because your solution doesn’t actually solve that problem)? If the “brothers of the Lord” were some kind of group of Super-Christians, why are they forgotten by all other Christian sources until mythicists remembered them 1950 years later? Similarly, why isn’t this exploited by Christians when the idea of Jesus having full brothers starts to become problematic for Christians (e.g. the non-canonical infancy gospels?)

            No doubt you can suggest answers to some of those questions, my point is that the mainstream view about Jesus isn’t persuasive because it leaves all possible questions answered (are there any areas of history have no unanswered questions? I don’t see how…), it’s persuasive because it makes by far the best sense of the evidence available.

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

            That much later sources say implausible things about an individual has no bearing on their historicity. The attempt to turn “brother of the Lord” into a title simply doesn’t work well in the context. All of this has been discussed here before countless times and it is disingenuous to pretend that it hasn’t. For instance:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/11/james-the-lords-brother.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/03/mythicism-and-james-the-brother-of-the-lord-a-reply-to-richard-carrier.html

        • Gary

          I think he did an excellent job in answering a short question with a short answer. He wasn’t giving an hour lecture in response to a question from the floor. Best suggestion, read his book, if you want more than his single point. Available in most public libraries, so no need to buy it.

    • Jonathan Bernier

      The existence of the historical Jesus is a hypothesis in the same way that evolution and gravity are hypotheses. Strictly speaking they should be referred to as “virtually certain,” in that there is always a possibility that reality might utterly unlike what all evidence indicates to be the case, but evidence is such that any person who seriously argues that they are untrue immediately puts her or him self in the “CIA sends me communications from our lizard-man overlords through the television” crackpot category. That’s not an ad hominen, but rather a vivid description of the degree to which such a person must actively distort or overlook every shred of evidence. Such arguments take the form of reason whilst denying its power.

      • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

        Do you know what the words “is a hypothesis” mean? It doesn’t look like you do. Either way, there area already some people in the field who admit that the evidence for a historical Jesus is weak, and even some who believe there was a historical Jesus accept that this is a topic worth exploring more, very much unlike evolution denial.

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

          Actually, if you are familiar with the “dissent from Darwin” list, you can find more scientists who reject evolution than historians who think Jesus unlikely to have been historical. You seem to be poorly acquainted with both evolution and ancient history.

          • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

            I’ll check it out. I’m very acquainted with evolution, though I’m not familiar with that list or how similar it is to this situation.

          • Geoff B
          • Geoff B

            There are more scientists than historians. Also, the list includes “scientists.” How many evolutionary biologists maintain that evolution is false? How many historians of ancient /western Civ maintain that Jesus existed with near absolute certainty. On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your certainty that Jesus existed?

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

            I won’t pretend (unlike some) that assessments of historical probabilitiy are easily quantifiable in mathematical terms. But you will find more individuals like Michael Behe working at the fringes of what can just barely be called the academy, than you will find individuals like Richard Carrier working just beyond the fringes. But the point is that in neither case ought the general public to accept a fringe view when the proponent has not been able to persuade academics in the relevant field.

      • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

        While I agree that a historical Jesus probably did exist, I think claiming this sort of level of certainty is unwarranted and ultimately counter-productive for anyone making the historicist case.

        Because of Jesus’ status as a minor sect leader in a relatively undeveloped corner of the Roman Empire, he didn’t leave a great deal of historical evidence, and what little evidence there is about him has been filtered through his later followers. That allows mythicists to come up with plausible alternative explanations for these pieces of evidence. The fact that an explanation is plausible doesn’t mean that it’s the best one available, but if historicists make a habit of claiming certainty or near-certainty, then they put themselves in the position of having to show that the Jesus-myth theory is not merely unlikely to be true, but actually impossible or nearly so.

        If we just ask people to look at the mythicist and historicist explanations for the available evidence, and decide which seems more likely to be true, then I think the historicists have a much better case. If we start saying that one is near-certain and the other is certainly false, then merely coming up with a vaguely plausible-sounding alternative to the historicist case is enough to undermine it.

        • Geoff B

          “Because of Jesus’ status as a minor sect leader in a relatively undeveloped corner of the Roman Empire, he didn’t leave a great deal of historical evidence, ”

          This is a standard ad hoc explanation for the lack of evidence. It is not an argument for the historical Jesus. We shouldn’t expect aliens from outerspace who don’t really want to be known to be known, either. Thus no evidence. The woods are so big that we really shouldn’t expect to find evidence of Big Foot, after all new species are discovered all the time, therefore, is it reasonable to posit that Big Foot exists? I see historicists hiding behind this all the time. It is a circular argument: Jesus is not found in the evidence because Jesus was obscure and therefore we can’t expect him to be found in the evidence.

          Where is the rule that Jesus was obscure? IT’s a tautology. We declare him obscure because of the lack of evidence.Which, then again, the TF must be false, right?. IF it is true that Jesus was obscure, then the TF must be false because it explicitly says Jesus was not obscure. If it is false that Jesus was obscure, then we should see more evidence, evidence that is not disputed. We don’t see those things. It is a fundamental problem with the argument from obscurity.

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

            It isn’t an ad hoc explanation. It is what the evidence suggests. The likely original form of the Testimonium Flavianum does not suggest otherwise.

          • Geoff B

            You mean it is what the lack of evidence suggests. The lack of evidence can also suggest that there was no such person. In fact, the later evidence suggests Jesus was not so obscure. Paul is writing to churches spanning the Roman Empire. If the early Jesus cult originated with an obscure preacher in Galilee and a handful of illiterate followers, how is it that churches are springing up around the Roman Empire?

            Why do you think there was a likely original form of the TF? Why can’t the TF just be original as written?

            These are all ad hoc explanations. The problem is that the paradigmatic theory is not tested by the evidence, instead you all are fitting the evidence into the paradigm.

            Maybe there was a Jesus, maybe there wasn’t. You cannot apply standard historiographical methods and make a determination one way or the other.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            It is not an argument for the historical Jesus.

            It was never intended to be. It is an argument against excessive claims of certainty about a figure like Jesus.

            Where is the rule that Jesus was obscure?

            Jesus was a person without political influence or wealth, living in a time and place that was not extensively documented. Such people tend to be obscure.

            Which, then again, the TF must be false, right?

            I don’t see why you think that should be a problem for the theory. The idea that the Testimonium has been at least exaggerated by Christians isn’t exactly new and radical.

          • Mark

            There is not much textual evidence independent of the later church for any of the Jewish personalities of 1st c Palestine. Look into the manuscript tradition of even Josephus and you’ll see we only have it because of a tradition of monastic reproduction. Rabbinical references to 1st c. personalities barely antedate the third century. They’re all obscure. Take a figure like Gamaliel. Acts mentions him twice I think but presumably on your principles this should be bracketed as potentially mere ecclesiastical fraud. In Josephus there is a reference to what appears to be a son of his, but there is no reference to Gamaliel himself. So he’s obscure. Of course, a century or so later, the rabbinical corpora begin to mention him, he’s immortalized in the haggadah and and on and on. I guess you could think that the rabbis bought into the Christian Gamaliel myth. Similarly, since the corpus adverts to Jesus you will have to think that the rabbis bought into the historical Jesus myth, but just didn’t buy into the historical-Jesus-as-messiah myth. There are a million tiny connections like this. Viewed from a secular and historical standpoint the phenomenon of Christianity is clearly a typical illustration of Jewish messianic enthusiasm gone awry; if you want to comprehend it from a mordant and skeptical angle, I highly recommend e.g. Scholem on Sabbatai Sevi. That the gospels are full of fabrication, suspicious symmetries, cross references to hebrew scripture, etc etc. is only to be expected; check out the sacred songs of the Donmeh – basically liturgical documents, same as the gospels are. Even if we only had these and the screeds of Nathan of Gaza, it would be perfectly clear what had happened — though we would have precious little knowledge of the historical acts of Sabbatai, apart from the apostasy — same as it is perfectly clear what happened with Jesus. To doubt that either existed historically is to posit a miracle.

          • Geoff B

            You miss the point. The point is that historicists try to create an end around the necessity of having evidence by claiming Jesus was obscure, thus no evidence. That isn’t an argument that supports the existence of Jesus. It is an excuse for having no evidence but still making a positive claim. If you have no evidence, it doesn’t matter why you have no evidence. Believers in Bigfoot also have no evidence and have their explanations for why they have no evidence. Their lack of evidence is not a positive argument.

            Here is the main problem with your position and one you simply cannot get out of: If Jesus was so obscure that he left no evidence behind, then you cannot really know if the stories told about him later were based on a real person or a developing legend.

            You can bring in all the other alleged historical characters you want. In this discussion we are talking about a fellow named Jesus Christ said to have lived in Galilee in the early first century, not Gamaliel.

          • Mark

            The “evidence” for the secular ‘historicist’ is the existence of early Christians and their literature, not the content of their literature, which is of course fabulous from a secular point of view. We have to do with a Jewish messianic enthusiasm — a phenomenon familiar from contemporary and later Jewish history, but also later Christianity and Islam. It always ends badly — what do you expect — and in some cases generates a spectacular system of myths in the disappointed. As far as I know, all messianic enthusiasms have a messianic figure at the center of them. It is to be expected that what the believers say about their messiah will be a lot of miraculous nonsense, but we need to posit the actual messiah in order to explain the nonsense. The treatises of Nathan of Gaza and the songs of the Donmeh are full of cabalistic frippery about Sabbatai, but even if we had no other evidence, we would need to posit Sabbatai in order to explain their existence. This has nothing to do with credulously acceding to the texts themselves.

            The point about Gamaliel was, do you think we should be skeptical of his existence? From a Jerusalem point of view, he was clearly famous, but our evidence for his existence is from explicitly religious documents from decades later.

          • Geoff B

            Mark,

            “early Christians and their literature,”
            This can exist without Jesus Christ existing.

            “We have to do with a Jewish messianic enthusiasm”

            Why would there be enthusiasm over an obscure failed messiah?

          • Mark

            Yeah, it is conceptually possible to have the enthusiasm without the messiah; similarly thunder without lightning is logically possible, but I would suspect the motives of anyone who said ‘Maybe there was no lightning’ because none of us saw it.

            > Why would there be enthusiasm over an obscure failed messiah?

            Why indeed, but it happens all the time. Google e.g. “mahdi” and, say, “occultation” for a few hundred awesome examples …

            Menachem Schneerson is quite dead, but the Chabad hysteria is growing basically exponentially. Folks can feel his presence; surely his parousia is just around the corner. This is happening now; the laws of messianic development in the face of apparent failure are given to directly to the senses in any major city, yours perhaps included. Rational people are not tempted to doubt the historicity of Schneerson, and not just because the read about him in the Times.

            Similarly with Sabbatai. Of course most fell away right away with the apostasy, but Sabbateanism is all over the place for another couple of centuries. The Dönmeh went on into the past century, contributing mightily to the founding of the Turkish republic. Attaturk is said to have attended a Dönmeh school.

            What is distinctive of Christianity among specifically Jewish messianic fervors is the escape of the messianic enthusiasm into the gentile population. There it had a bright future ahead of it, following a transparently exponential growth path until it was all over the Roman Empire. How this was possible, how it happened is a deep question, but is independent of the question of origin.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ever hear of Nedd Ludd?

          • Mark

            Yes, but we don’t need General Ludd, the mascot, to comprehend the origin of the Luddites, since we see worker self-organization happening all over the world all time and are familiar with the principles of its origin and development. It is transparently different with messianic enthusiasms. We are also familiar with the laws of development of these, they are just as ordinary and well-understood … and they require a human being as focus.

          • Neko

            You wonder:

            Why would there be enthusiasm over an obscure failed messiah?

            Because of the belief that he rose from the dead?

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            Study various religious movements of the last few thousand years. Repeatedly, followers in the movements re-imagine and re-write their faith when expected events don’t take place, and no matter what happens.

            According to Joseph Smith the end of the world was supposed to take place in the 1800’s and be centered in Missouri. Never happened.

            But has that bothered most Mormon academics and millions of followers?

            No.

          • http://cultofsundries.com SK

            This is a standard ad hoc explanation for the lack of evidence. It is not an argument for the historical Jesus. We shouldn’t expect aliens from outerspace who don’t really want to be known to be known, either. Thus no evidence.

            Yet, most arguing this exact point will also glibly assert that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

        • Jonathan Bernier

          You are welcome to think that this degree of certainty is unwarranted; however, as it turns out, you think wrongly. We know that is the case because no mythicist has yet presented an even vaguely plausible-sounding alternative. The intellectual convolutions through into which one must oneself in order to support the idea that Jesus did not exist must toss reason out the window. No ostensibly reasoned argument that requires assent to the patently unreasonable can be described as plausible.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            Your level of certainty about this is about as fringe as mythicism itself. Even in this thread, McGrath has pointed out the different degrees of certainty provided by ancient history vs. natural sciences (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/09/richard-carriers-dishonesty.html#comment-2250664222 ), and I expect most historians would agree. I don’t deny that mythicists are unlikely to be correct, but they are simply not in the same league as your example of a belief in lizard-man overlords.

            Your position on this requires that we accept that inferences from mythological writings constitute evidence of the same quality as the evidence for evolution or gravitational theory. Making such a gross exaggeration of the evidence will only make the historicist position seem less sensible than it actually is.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            No, my certainty is a not fringe position. I can count on one hand the number of persons with any formal qualifications as New Testament scholars who have thrown in their lot with mythicism.

            Inferences from ancient textual (and also non-textual) material are epistemologically precisely the same as inferences from physical phenomena: each is a form of empirical data, and the task of the historian is precisely the same as the scientist, namely to find the best hypothesis to account for the data. Each is working with a generalized empirical method. And one of the things that competent scholars working with an empirical method have concluded by and large is that, contrary to the language used a century or so ago, the gospels are not best described baldly as mythological but rather as instances of something akin to ancient biography or history. As such, no, my position (which is also known as how New Testament scholars actually do our work) does not require that I treat mythological texts as I do the evidence for gravity or evolution as I am not treating mythological texts, but if I were, yes, I would treat them exactly as one should treat any empirical data.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            Do you or do you not agree with McGrath’s claim that “No one is suggesting that ancient history and modern biology … provide the same sorts of degrees of
            certainty”? If you disagree, then you are on the fringes; if you agree, then it means that evolution is more certain than the historical Jesus, and disputing the existence of a historical Jesus is therefore less irrational than disputing evolution.

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

            I really don’t see the point of such comparisons. Is anti-vaccinationism more or less irrational than 9/11 trutherism? Should the proponents of one that is slightly less irrational than the other take comfort from that fact?

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            I admit that it probably does seem a bit nitpicking for me to quibble like this over exactly how wrong mythicists are, since we agree that they are wrong. But I think it is beneficial to openly acknowledge the limits on what evidence we have or can expect to have about a minor 1st-century cult leader. If we set the bar high by claiming certainty about the existence of Jesus, then even the smallest doubt will undermine the historicist case in the minds of some laymen. If we merely ask people to assess the relative likelihood of mythicist and historicist explanations, then the superiority of the historicist case is clear.

            I also think the comparison to creationism, conspiracy theories etc. is a little strange when mythicism tends to be more well-informed, less crazy and less obviously similar to creationism than the average Christian’s beliefs about how Christianity started.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Are you suggesting that the level of evidence pro and con is of the same level for each? Are those levels of evidence pro and con consistent with that of HJ and MJ? If you think they are you are barking mad.

          • Pofarmer

            Ophis actually made a valid comparison, and you turned it into snark. Why? Do you think there are no legitimate questions or do you think they are below your paygrade? Do you see yourself and the consensus as infalliable in this issue?

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

            Ophis made a questionable comparison, and you responded to my comment with silly nonsense. No one who deserves to be taken seriously is suggesting that the consensus on any matter is infallible. What we are suggesting is that it should not be tossed aside because someone proposes an alternative that no one with expertise in the field finds persuasive.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            Let us think things through for a moment. Let us imagine that the statement that you (partly) quoted above excludes the possibility that one can on principle be virtually certain about anything in the ancient past. What would that look like? We could not be virtually concern about the existence of the Roman Empire, the existence of ancient Judaism, the existence of the mythologies to which Carrier appeals as parallels to the gospels, the existence of the gospels as ancient texts (thus making it difficult for Carrier to make such comparisons), the existence of the early Christians who created these texts, so on and so on. The result is nonsense: if you are to carry through your argument *as an argument from theory* then you essentially destroy any epistemic preconditions for thinking about the ancient past. And not just the ancient past, because one has to ask what epistemically shifts when we hit the Middle Ages (broad swathes of which actually provide us with less data than the ancient world) or the modern age. Can we be virtually certain about anything that Isaac Newton did, or even that he existed? What about Galileo? So and so on. No one, including either Prof. McGrath or Richard Carrier, actually thinks that or operates as if there is nothing about the past, ancient, medieval, or modern, for which we cannot be virtually concern, and as such the person who would argue as if that is the case is by definition the person on the fringe. Absent explicit repudiation from Prof. McGrath himself his statement must be interpreted in light of the recognition that the possibility of virtual certainty is presupposed in theory or practice by all persons who think about the past.

            Now, if your point is that the data is such that we cannot be virtually certain about the existence of Jesus then, again, you represent the fringe position here. It’s not even an issue among qualified NT scholars. That’s why mythicists, much to their bewilderment, do not find biblical scholars wringing our hands over the issue: because there is no issue over which to wring our hands. No reasonable person, adequately familiar with historical method and the actual, empirical, data could dispute the existence of Jesus. It really is that simple, and that (not anything said by pseudo-historians operating almost entirely outside the bounds of the discipline) is precisely the virtual consensus of the discipline of NT studies.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            Is the evidence for Jesus comparable to the evidence for Newton, Galileo etc., or the evidence for the Roman Empire? Do you think that archaeological evidence, or access to a person’s own writings, or contemporary writings from a person’s rivals, does nothing to increase our certainty? If such evidence does make us more certain, then the absence of such evidence in the case of Jesus implies that the certainty about him is correspondingly less.

          • Kris Rhodes

            You know, I think I’d be happy if those who typically participate in this blog on the pro-historical side of the argument would go ahead and just say, for the record, “I am less certain that Jesus existed than I am that the Roman Empire existed.”

            That’d be something at least!

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

            I have said that in the past and I suspect that anyone else here would say the same. Are you not more certain that the United States exists than that I exist?

          • Kris Rhodes

            I’m about equally certain actually in that particular case, but I know what you mean.

            It seemed like some people in this comment thread were saying that we can be as certain of Jesus’s existence as we can be of any established historical fact. Maybe I misread.

          • Paul E.

            This puts an entirely different spin on the whole “a _certain_ James F. McGrath” discussion.

          • Neko

            I am less certain that Jesus existed than I am that the Roman Empire existed.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            You’re shifting the goal post here. You identified the issue is about the quality of evidence related to the *ancient world* as a whole, relative to that of, say, biology, and indicated that the nature of the former is such that it cannot achieve the same level of certainty as the latter. Under those conditions it is irrelevant to compare the evidence for Jesus’s existence to that of the Roman empire: I need only demonstrate that you can achieve virtual certainty in the realm of ancient history, which is in the empirical sciences properly speaking the highest possible degree of certainty.

            Now, as you have shifted the goal post let us consider. The question is not whether there is more evidence for this or that. That again is irrelevant to what we were discussing. The discussion is about whether there is sufficient evidence to be virtually certain about all the matters at hand, including Jesus’s existence. The answer is “Yes.” You can tell that’s the case because any attempt to demonstrate even that there is room for reasonable doubt must employ blatant empirical falsehoods and logical fallacies. Once one must strain against reality and reason to substantiate an argument you demonstrate that the argument is insupportable.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            I thought that I had responded to this. Apologies.

            The difficulty here is that we are operating at a level of certainty in which “more” makes no sense. In any properly empirical and probabilistic discipline “virtual certainty” is the highest degree of certainty that one can reach. It is the humanistic equivalent of “infinity.” As such if Jesus’s existence is virtually certain and so is that of the Roman Empire to say that one is more virtually certain than the other is to say that one infinite is more infinite than another. That makes very little sense. The question is that of sufficiency: if the evidence in the case of Jesus is sufficient to judge that his existence is virtually certain then the level of certainty is the same as that of any other entity likewise judged.

            The tests for sufficiency are to consider what, given the evidence, would have to be the case for a proposition to untrue, as well as what would follow if it were untrue. Carrier et. al. have thought about what would have to be the case, i.e. what conditions would have to met. They’ve tried to demonstrate that those are met. They have spent less time thinking about what would follow, and seem to fail to recognize that would follow would actually vitiate the conditions that would have to be met. For instance, Carrier will argue that Paul’s words do not necessitate belief in a historical Jesus. The problem is that he assumes that Paul was the first of all Christian writers. This is based upon a chronology that is established on the basis of Acts and Gal. 1-2, on the one hand by working forward from Jesus’s crucifixion and on the other by the reference to Gallio in Acts 18. But if Luke is a mythical fiction then what confidence can we have that Acts, its supposed sequel, is suddenly history? Suddenly we don’t know that Paul was the earliest Christian writer. In fact, we don’t know if he existed at all, as surely if the Christians could make up Jesus they could have made up Paul, and since we know that not every letter attributed to Paul was actually written by Paul we have to rule out the possibility that none of these were written by him. So the Pauline evidence for mythicism disappears, both as early or even reliable. So *on mythicism’s own terms* it is quite conceivable that the gospels are earlier than the Pauline material, in which case Carrier’s genealogy of Jesus-belief is seriously disrupted. And that’s the problem: radical skepticism is like yeast, a little bit leavens the whole loaf. Carrier will soon find himself without a place to stand as he has taken them all away from himself.

            That’s how you know that sufficiency has been met: when the evidence is such that affirming the alternative leaves one without any capacity to talk about the real world. Sufficiency is really the statement that “Either this hypothesis on the matter is true or no hypothesis on the matter can be affirmed true.”

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            The difficulty here is that we are operating at a level of certainty in which “more” makes no sense.

            I don’t think that’s true in this case. The non-existence of the Roman Empire would require a huge amount of European history to be rewritten, and would mean that a large quantity of evidence would suddenly make absolutely no sense. Wandering around modern Rome, surrounded by the remaining signs of an apparently fictional ancient civilisation, would become a strange and bewildering experience. Conversely, most of even early Christian history would be unchanged by Jesus being mythical rather than historical. It would need a bunch of odd coincidences (e.g. a series of surprising interpolations in Paul’s writings), but it wouldn’t result in history suddenly being completely incomprehensible, as the non-existence of the Roman Empire would. The beginnings of Christianity would be surprising, but still explicable. By that standard, I think it makes sense to say that the existence of Jesus is less certain than the existence of the Roman Empire.

            I won’t bother to defend Carrier’s ideas, as I think that they are probably wrong. However, I think we should take seriously the possibility that “no hypothesis on the matter can be affirmed true” when speaking about the details of the beginnings of Christianity. When, as you point out, a change in the interpretation of Acts could mean that much of the rest of our knowledge becomes unreliable, then I think that talk of “certainty” is unwarranted.

            (Apologies for the delay in replying recently.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Exactly…the historicist’s insist on this false equivalence without realising how daft it makes them look. Like the erroneous use of the denialist label.

            Evolution denialists, holocaust denialists, moon landing denialists, AGW denialists all fly in the face of overwhelming unambiguous evidence. The same is not the case in Christ myth theory. Historical Jesus is reliant on a dodgy consensus and interpretation of texts.

          • Pofarmer

            And it relies on a consensus mostly created by folks who also think Jesus was divine and beleive and argue for supernatural parts of the story. I think that’s relevant. As even Ophis points out, the evidence we have is nothing like the evidence for evolution, or heliocentricity, or even something as abstract as the Big Bang, etc. What we have are texts, writeen by believers in this figures identities, passed down and copied and changed by other believers in ways that we can only ascertain by the most arcane sluething. We know much literature was forged. We know certain figures, like Eusebius, likely changed documents to favor their position. And so we have experts arguing that documents that were DESIGNED to show the divinity of an individual can be used to positively identify the historicity of that individual. You might as well be arguing Harry Potter, frankly.

          • Neko

            Why shouldn’t theological propaganda be considered evidence for an historical person? Anyway, that’s not the issue. The issue is: what best explains the appearance of this particular theological propaganda? Practically the entire profession of NT scholars supports the position that an historical person best explains the 1st-century Jesus texts. Mythicists counter that a mythological figure who later assumed historical status best explains the same texts. Setting aside Carrier’s debunked probabilistic application, the problem is that the mythicist argument is more far-fetched than the historicist, violating the principle of “parsimony” (as I understand it). It offers some imaginative alternatives to the traditional narrative, but does it offer the most parsimonious, persuasive explanation? Please inform me of any NT or ancient historian who finds that Carrier’s one-two punch created for them more doubt that Jesus existed.

            And if the consensus is so dubious, why has there not been a revolt among scholars of ancient history to expose this massive fraud? Or are they all captive to Christianity as well?

          • Pofarmer

            You would do well to lose the hyperbole and exaggeration.

          • Neko

            What hyperbole and exaggeration?

          • Pofarmer

            “The issue is: what best explains the appearance of this particular theological propaganda?”

            What beat explains the appearance of Judaism, or the Cult of Isis and Osiris, or Islam, or Mormonism, or scientology?

            “why has there not been a revolt among scholars of ancient history to expose this massive fraud? ”

            Because most of them work in very specialized areas?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I would say that the existence of Mormonism is explained by the theory that it was founded by an actual historical figure called Joseph Smith. On the other hand, I would not explain the cult of Osiris by postulating an actual historical figure of that name. So which of these two is analogous to Christianity?

            I think we can answer that question by considering some of the things which are true of Jesus but not of Osiris. We don’t have letters from the ancient world which talk of the death of Osiris as if it were a recent event. We don’t have biographies of Osiris which were written only decades after his alleged life and place him in a historical context in a convincing and plausible manner.

            So I would say that Jesus was more Joseph Smith than Osiris.

          • Pofarmer

            There is one other thing true of Greek writers though. They often put their Gods and Heros in contemporary settings, so you need to rule out historical fiction.

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

            Since we are not dealing with Greeks or gods, what is the relevance of this point?

          • Pofarmer

            Because we’re dealing with Greek literature about a God.

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

            I’m not. I’m dealing with literature written by Jews, in Greek, about the person they believe to be the Davidic anointed one. Or are you referring here not to the references to the person named Joshua/Jesus, but to the references to the one God they, as Jews, believe in?

          • Pofarmer

            But, you’re dealing with literature written with a Greek chiastic structure, using mimesis of older OT narratives, among others. It’s true, you’re not dealing with specifically Greek literature, but you’re not dealing with traditional Jewish scripture writers either.

          • Neko

            Oh have you been brushing up on your koine and Hebrew?

          • John MacDonald

            To be fair, some scholars posit that the Greeks may have influenced The New Testament. For instance, Dr. Dennis MacDonald of Claremont argues that the story of John the Baptist’s martyrdom matches in all essentials the Odyssey’s story of the murder of Agamemnon (3:254-308:
            4:512-547; 11:404-434), even to the point that both are told in the form of an analepsis or flashback. Herodias, like Queen Clytemnestra, left her husband, preferring his cousin: Antipas in the one case, Aegisthus in the other. This tryst was threatened, in Clytemnestra’s case, by the return of her husband from the Trojan War, in Herodias’, by the denunciations of John. In both cases, the wicked adulteress plots the death of the nuisance. Aegisthus hosted a banquet to celebrate Agamemnon’s return, just as Herod hosted a feast. During the festivities Agamemnon is slain, sprawling amid the dinner plates, and the Baptizer is beheaded, his head displayed on a serving platter. Homer foreshadows danger awaiting the returning Odysseus with the story of Agamemnon’s murder, while Mark anticipates Jesus’ own martyrdom with that of John. The only outstanding difference, of course, is that in Mark’s version, the role of Agamemnon has been split between Herodias’ rightful husband (Philip according to Mark; another Herod according to Josephus) and John the Baptist.

          • Neko

            Your first response is a deflection. Your second assumes historians are isolated from developments in related fields. Why would you make that assumption?

          • Pofarmer

            It’s not a deflection. It’s a lead in to this.

            “Practically the entire profession of NT scholars supports the position that an historical person best explains the 1st-century Jesus texts. “.

            Practically the entire profession of NT scholars are also Christians,which, I dunno, might hamper their objectivity?

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

            The mainstream study of the historical Jesus has never come to conclusions conducive to traditional dogma. It finds a Jesus who was not divine and who was mistaken about the end of history being about to arrive. Would you really have me believe that most of the scholars drawing such conclusions are really thinking, “If I say these things, maybe they will let me hold onto his actual existence”? I do not find that any more plausible than the other things mythicists claim.

          • Pofarmer

            And yet, the vast majority of NT scholars are Christians. Are you saying they are all Christians who don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus?

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

            That may well be. Historical Jesus has been much more of a liberal Protestant sphere of work than something that conservatives tend to get involved in, and the few who do are at seminaries and faith-based institutions and so largely irrelevant to our discussion here about those working with the tools of secular historical inquiry.

          • Pofarmer

            An, Liberal Protestants. I used to sort of be one of those, and guess what, I believed Jesus ressurected, well, sort of, so he must be real right? There are other sources for information about him, right? Guess what I found? All we have are texts. Texts that we know have been corrupted in ways we know and ways we probably don’t. Texts where the earliest we know describe a heavenly Jesus who’s going to come to earth and kick some ass. Earliers texts with only a very small handful of passages which can be used to support a historical Jesus, and many of those are either known to be added or suspected of being or added easily enough. I find in the later texts, that aren’t outright forgeries, contradictions and competing claims. I find many stories and works obviously plucked from OT stories and prophecies. I find many things, when they are historically testable, never happened. Then I hear these scholars, saying, oh, we’ll parse these texts and find the historical parts and get to the real Jesus at the bottom of it. But they can’t agree on even who or what this real Jesus was. And we finally get to this nobody peasant rabble rouser who’s followers made up some tall tales about him after he died, as the most plausible explanation for the “evidence”. To me, it’s about as useful as looking for the historical Sackets from the Louis Lamour novels, and just about the same Genre when you read it. It’s fiction, and whether it’s fiction based loosely on a real person, or fiction created out of whole cloth, we’ll never know. What I do know, is that history is replete with fictional charachters set in the near past as a plot element. What I also know is that history is chock full of stories of heavenly Gods, sometimes coming down to Earth in human or near human form. What I’m told is that the Jesus story “breaks the pattern”. Why, he was mythologized the wromg way to not be real. Why, Paul had to know about a real flesh and blood Jesus, even though he never mentions or quotes or knows anything about him. Why, why, why, we’ll just unpack this tool kit and spend literally entire lives trying to unpack literature written in a dead language that we’re just certain, certain that has to be about somebody. See, when I was deconverting, I stumbled on a lot of folks. i stumbled on Matt Slick who actually sped me along. I stumbled upon Robert M. Price, Robert G. Price. Andrew Dickson White. Remsberg, and who knows how many others. I looked at it all with fresh eyes? And ya know what I realized? It’s all bullshit. The Exodus? Bullshit. Noahs ark? Bullshit. Job? Egregious bullshit. Abraham? Bullshit. What did I find? A religion that was literally fabricating it’s own history. Embellishing and changing it to the point that most of what might have been historical was lost in all the fabrications. Why in the world, following the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and losing that war, should Jesus be any different? Once preached as a “coming messiah” he’s now the scape goat. “See, the Messiah came and you killed him, but he’ll come again.” So, I see just another made up Jewish religious trope. It does have a history.

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

            You can’t have been much of a liberal, if the things you found out about the Bible surprised you. But your story illustrates well the big problems with mythicism. You found your way to fringe rather than mainstream sources and embraced their contents uncritically, and you treat the Bible as a whole rather than a collection, and so you assume that if ancient Israel’s retelling of the Utnapishtim story is just that, and we have no way of knowing whether there was ever a historical Abraham, then Jesus must be in the same category as one or both of them. Historians do not approach the matter as you do, as an exercise in dealing with a problematic religious upbringing, but as something to be dealt with taking each piece of evidence on its own terms and asking what the evidence suggests is likely.

          • Pofarmer

            You should really try not mindreading.

          • arcseconds

            Where is he mindreading? He is basically repeating what you said.

          • arcseconds

            Thanks for sharing this autobiographical note.

            This seems to be quite common with mythicists. You’re not the only one who had a traditional Christian background, repudiated that, and decided it was easier to chuck everything out than bother looking to see what was historically supportable.

            You’re also expressing another common mythicist reaction, which is frustration that the area of Biblical studies even exists.

            It’s understandable, I suppose, that when you find out that you’ve been taken for a ride you lose patience with the whole tale you’ve been told, and any part of the tale irritates you, and so does anyone who takes any of it seriously or looks at all like those who told you it in the first place.

          • Pofarmer

            This I agree with mostly, except what I started out to d was specifically find what was historically suportable. I got nuthin.

          • arcseconds

            OK, so maybe this is a good opportunity to step back from the conversation, because as usual it is going nowhere.

            At least one of the sides in this debate is not reasoning about the matter appropriately, most likely due to deeply-held biases about this particular matter, or things closely related to it (there are other possibilities, which are even more difficult to deal with, but this seems the most likely).

            Everyone involve in this discussion has had it before, probably multiple times, so if they were wrong in a way they could easily accept and correct, they would have done this by now.

            Each side, of course, maintains that it is the one that’s reasoning appropriately about the evidence, and it’s the other that’s beleaguered by reasoning-crippling biases.

            So it seems that whoever has the biases appears to be entirely unaware of their existence, or at least their magnitude. Maybe someone is putting on a brave front but is starting to waver inside, but there’s no outward sign of this.

            And the magnitude must be pretty great. Neither side thinks this is a matter about which reasonable people can disagree.

            One way out of this impasse is if the party with this crippling bias starts to suspect they might have it, and starts casting light on it themselves.

            And beyond this debate, it should be concerning to everyone (everyone who’s at all concerned at being epistemically responsible, at any rate) that they might have such a huge and crippling bias, so everyone ought to reflect on whether they might be the one with the bias.

            Inspection probably isn’t going to work, of course, because whomever has the bias clearly can’t see it. I suppose if someone were to look over what they’ve said and thought and how they came to their beliefs with brutal honesty they might work it out, but there’s a good chance they would merely think that they’re being brutally honest, because the chain of thought that leads them to their position just looks so much like reason to them.

            But maybe there are some other, external signs that we can look for to indicate to ourselves whether or not we’re the one habouring such a bias?

          • Kris Rhodes

            One indication that one has a bias is that one fights to defend that bias.

            One indication that one has overcome a bias is that one had (or has) that bias, but subsequently comes not only to entertain but actually endorse, views incompatible with that bias.

            I took Pofarmer to be describing such a case, but I wasn’t sure. What I am sure about is my own case: I was a liberal protestant Christian with a charismatic/evangelical background. I got involved in an argument with a typical silly internet atheist type about what the historical Jesus was like and what he taught. That atheist never suggested that Jesus didn’t exist, but he and I deeply disagreed about what could be known about what the historical Jesus taught. (Our main point of contention was that he believed any liberal Christian must be lying to him or herself about what the Christian scriptures teach, and I disagreed.)

            It was something I’d thought a lot about before, and nothing this atheist said perturbed me much, but it did get me interested in reading further into the issue. Still a liberal protestant Christian, I read a lot of stuff among it Carrier’s _Proving History_ and _Not The Impossible Faith_.

            These provided something of an “oh shit” moment for me. I had picked them up as part of a mental project to learn about (and really, if I was being honest with myself) _shore up_ my own beliefs about what the historical Jesus was like. I came away with a realization that I had absolutely no reason to think I knew even the first thing about who Jesus was or what he was like.

            My bias was against this notion. But I came to accept it anyway.

            It was just a hop and a skip from there to my current view which is that mythicism itself at least just barely has the advantage on the logic of the arguments. At the very least, I think we should all be acknowledging that it is very reasonable to suppose Jesus didn’t exist.

            Again: At the time, this was _counter to my bias_ as evidenced by my own then-recent behavior in arguments with atheists, and my own motivations in picking up books like this as part of a wider reading project in the first place. Ahistoricism, and then mythicism, came upon me _despite_ my biases, because I knew well enough how to logic things out that I was able to think in ways contrary to my biases and do some evaluation of these ideas on their own merits.

            So yes, it does happen.

          • arcseconds

            Thanks for the interesting response.

            In general I’m inclined to agree with you, that if you’ve come to accept something that went against your bias, that you’re more likely to have accepted the better argument.

            However, this is still an internal validation.

            And the situation is still much the same: you and Pofarmer are on one side of the debate (to different extents, perhaps, although I think Pofarmer is also more of an agnostic than a committed mythicist?). McGrath and I (say) are on the other. Both sides think the other is really quite mistaken.

            So you’re still in the situation that either you have biases that are affecting your reasoning in ways of which you are unaware, or I do (or possibly we both do). And of course you don’t think you’re the one with the biases.

            Your story doesn’t of course give us any guarantee that you’re not the one operating with strong biases.

            I’m not going to get into the business of diagnosing anyone right now, but I will point out that the bias you discuss is towards the content of the belief. But biases don’t have to be about content, they can be about methodology, as well, or even about one’s preferred epistemic circumstance, or for that matter about one’s preferred social role.

            To illustrate this, note that there are many examples of people converting from one extreme position to another. For example, converting from Christian fundamentalism to a dogmatic, anti-religion atheist (I believe there are also cases of it happening the other way around), or from a staunch marxist to a libertarian.

            In terms of content they have adopted a diametrically opposite belief. But in other respects they have actually adopted a very similar belief: one that admits of moral and epistemic certainty, one that pits them against mainstream society, one that has a clear recipe for the improvement of society, one that gives them clear enemies, one that maybe allows them to continue playing dominance games, etc. — the exact details will depend on the person involved, of course. So we can see here that far from eliminating their bias towards marxism (say) they are actually just continuing to be driven by their strong bias towards a black-and-white position yielding crystal-clear solutions.

            Plus of course we always have to be a bit suspicious of internal validations. Not that they’re necessarily less reliable than anything else, but just that we’re inclined to trust them too much. Descartes’s clear and distinct ideas have a lot to answer for!

            There are plenty of psychological experiments that show that people confabulate the way they came by a particular belief, and there are some famous examples of people giving accounts of how they came by a belief that are demonstratably wrong.

            (I don’t have any reason for thinking you’re wrong about your bias towards a historical Jesus, by the way, I’m just saying that the account isn’t necessarily immune to doubt)

            So once again, I’m wondering whether there are any external signs that might indicate who is being overly directed by bias?

          • Kris Rhodes

            I think you’re right about something like a bias toward a particular methodology making it possible for people to come to apparently radically different beliefs than they had before, and this probably applied in my case. Luckily for me the methodology I’m biased towards is the best methodology out there. 😉

          • arcseconds

            As no-one’s biting, I’ll tell you the external situation that indicates that someone might be working with huge and unacknowledged biases that I had in mind.

            It’s probably not going to be too much of a surprise.

            If one finds oneself sure of a particular belief in an area where one is far from being an expert, and finds that one is going against not just one expert, and not just the majority of experts, but the consensus of experts, and finds oneself more inclined to doubt the competency of the experts than to doubt the belief, then that really ought to be a warning sign that the belief and its strength are a product of bias more than reason.

            This circumstance should raise alarm bells because statistically it virtually never works out. In fact, I can’t think of a single case in the last 200 years where relatively uninformed amateurs have toppled a consensus. Even if it has happened, it’s extremely rare, and the amateurs being just plain wrong is vastly more common.

            (There are, of course, a small number of cases where a very well informed amateur has outshone the experts, such as Michael Ventris and Linear B (no consensus was toppled here, though), and a few cases where laypeople have made chance discoveries that precipitated a change, but even these are quite rare. )

            If I found out I was in this position, I think that would worry me. I’ve toned down the confidence with which I express a belief in the past on less dramatic conflict with experts, and this might induce me to keep quiet about it, or at least express it in a very circumspect manner (a personal opinion which i know is not shared by the experts, maybe). If the issue was really important to me, I’d be trying to find someone with relevant expertise (in a related field if I really felt the experts were untrustworthy) to discuss the matter with.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Pofarmer, I find it curious that you would question the integrity of the entire profession. But if you reject the consensus, what would you put in its place? The alternative, after all, is 700 pages of prattling, pseudoscientific drivel, spawned by the twisted mind of an egomaniac.

          • Pofarmer

            I question what certainly seems to be a field heavily influenced by assumptions related to the religiousity of many of it’s participants. Ie. I don’t trust Chriatians to be objective about this.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            But would you trust Carrier to be objective? Consider this recent comment:

            McGrath has so consistently misrepresented my arguments… that I can no longer believe he is insane. He is a liar.

            Does this strike you as the sort of comment an objective man might make? Those who have been accused by Carrier of being lunatics or liars form an impressive club. Unfortunately, the sense of exclusivity is somewhat undermined by the sheer size of the club.

            According to Carrier, Jesus was commanded in the Ascension of Isaiah to go to the firmament and die. If this is a statement of objective fact, it should be possible to find the exact passage in the Ascension where this command is given. Perhaps you can tell me where it is, because I still can’t find it.

            Carrier’s lack of objectivity seems pretty obvious to me.

          • Neko

            You wrote:

            According to Carrier, Jesus was commanded in the Ascension of Isaiah to go to the firmament and die. If this is a statement of objective fact, it should be possible to find the exact passage in the Ascension where this command is given. Perhaps you can tell me where it is, because I still can’t find it.

            Wow, really! IIRC Maurice Casey was furious with indignation over mythicist dating of the Ascension of Isaiah (though it might have been directed at Doherty), but if Carrier is pushing interpretation as citation that is pretty brazen!

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Yes, the Ascension of Isaiah simply doesn’t say what he needs it to say. But even if it did I don’t think that would provide evidence for mythicism. A death in the heavens would obviously be a piece of apocalyptic imagery, and we know that the ancient Jews used apocalyptic imagery to represent actual historical events. So someone who knew that Jesus was a real person who had lived recently could easily write an apocalyptic text in which Jesus dies in the heavens.

            But the point is moot because the Ascension doesn’t actually say that.

          • Neko

            So what’s your excuse for the agnostic, atheist, Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian scholars who also support the position that Jesus existed?

            I know for a fact you’ve been around Patheos for years and have been exposed to some of the most painstaking, elegant explanations and arguments for the existence of Jesus, and you’re still rolling out this Christian-captive bs? Wow.

          • Pofarmer

            Lol. Bs. You are correct. I have, in fact, been around Patheos for a number of years, and in that time I’ve heard many arguments for the historical Jesus, and all of them have the same dissembling qualities, well, “if you parse these passages just so like we were taught in Ph.D school, and you combine that with the work of this dude over here, you can know absolutely nothing about this dude that absolutely must have walked around but had none of these amazing properties that were attributed to him.” Funny thing is, the historical Jesus proposed, to be realistic, is almost exactly like the mythicist Jesus.

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

            No, what is interesting is that creationists and cdesign proponentsists respond much in the same way, complaining that it is the imposition of the lems of scholarly methods that leads to conclusions, whereas if one looks at the evidence from their supposedly less ideologically-biased perspective, one may see other things.

            Why should it surprise you that scholars suggest that it is not reading the evidence in a modern English-speaking context, but against the background of its first-century Jewish context, that is most historically appropriate?

          • Pofarmer

            What us also interesting, is that the way you respond to questions, is more like an apologist than a scholar. You attack any ideas different than your own, even bynthose qualified to hold them, and denigrate anyone who might think differently. I’ve learned plenty, for instance, at Bart Ehrmans site. I’ve even discussed mythicism with him and seen others discuss it there. I’ve not seen it devolve to the level of apologetics as it does here.

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

            What is it that makes me an “apologist” for the overwhelming consensus of secular scholarship on this subject? The fact that I keep trying to explain to you that you are misrepresenting what Paul and others say? The fact that I am pointing out that your all-or-nothing approach is inappropriate to the scholarly study of history? If defending mainstream scholarship from misrepresentation by denialists and cranks makes me an “apologist,” so be it – I will assume that you are using the term in its historic rather than its modern internet sense.

          • Pofarmer

            All or nothing? I’m not the one claiming “certainty.”

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

            Are you going to try to misrepresent what I have said explicitly and emphatically, over and over again, in this thread, and suggest that while you are not, I supposedly am?

          • Neko

            Really? Were you wearing sunglasses all those years?

            You wrote:

            Funny thing is, the historical Jesus proposed, to be realistic, is almost exactly like the mythicist Jesus.

            Except for the historical Jesus existing, I see your point.

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

            Are not practically the entire population mythicism proponents atheists of an anti-Christian bent? Does this not, I dunno, hamper their objectivity?

          • Pofarmer

            Actually, not really. I suppose by definition someone who doesn’t believe Jesus existed probably isn’t a Christian , at least. There is a who’s who of Mythicists at Vridar.org.

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

            If it’s the who’s who I remember reading then Godfrey (as ever) was completely distorting the evidence. From everything I’ve seen, mythicism is upheld by people with a far narrower range of beliefs than the mainstream view. Even on this thread, mythicism has been criticised by people who (either here or on previous threads) have stated that they are conservative Christian (x1), Liberal Christian (x1), agnostic (x1), and atheist (x3).

          • Pofarmer

            So, when do the Christians try to smuggle in the historicity of the ressurection using the same criterion?

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

            I really don’t get your point.

          • Pofarmer

            I figured.

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

            So how about you restate it for me a little more clearly? Hey, it’s nice to be nice.

          • Pofarmer

            I mean that as soon as you turn your head, NT scholars and apologists try to smuggle in all sorts of things using the same methodology you use to defend the historical Jesus.

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

            Really? How much NT scholarship have you actually read? I mean if you worked your way through the reading list of an introductory NT course at a secular university, how many of the books would smuggle in defences of the reality of miracles, or the incarnation?

            I’ve read books on Christianity written by Christians, Buddhism written by Buddhists, Islam written by Muslims, Marxism written by Marxists, Animal rights written by vegans, Irianian feminism written by Iranian feminists, and ironman triathlon written by ironman triathletes. Personally I don’t that’s necessarily think any of those are problems. A good writer will either try to set aside their bias, or will offer interesting perspectives precisely because they are coming from a different point of view to me.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I think James has made the position on this clear. For the historian, miracle claims are simply set aside. What is interesting, though, is how often in these debates mythicists will raise the question of the supernatural. And that seems to take us to the heart of the matter. Mythicism is a weapon that certain people hope to wield against Christianity – that is their agenda. The campaign to debunk Christianity would achieve its ultimate victory if it could be shown that Jesus never existed.

          • Pofarmer

            At this point, for Christianity, it’s really immaterial if Jesus existed or not, most sects would just switch to the idea of a celestial messiah in Heaven anyway, which is what they primarily worship. It would cause some turmoil in others. For this atheist, I’m worried about what can be proven. As Matt Dillahunty says, I 2ant to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. I haven’t seen where the evidence that’s even available is enough to establish the existence of whatever Jesus you imagine as a true thing. So, there’s that.

          • Neko

            People tend to be dismissive of scholarship that conflicts with their beliefs. It’s impossible to “prove” the existence or non-existence of Jesus, so any notion that some triumph of mythicism would be the death knell of orthodox Christianity is sheer fantasy. If anything (as Dr. McGrath noted elsewhere), historical Jesus scholarship is the greater threat, and it doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent in Christian belief.

            You persist in fretting about what can be “proven,” even though it’s been pointed out time and time again that Jesus historical research is concerned with probabilities and plausibility, not proof. Your hyper-skepticism has simply made you indiscriminate, and if you want to “believe as many true things and as few false things as possible,” that’s a problem.

          • Jim

            Just curious as to why miracles/resurrection/virgin birth/etc. always make their way into the HJ (heavy on the H) discussions. Our host has made it explicitly clear that serious HJ historians do their best to move these things to the side (i.e. that are not provable scientifically/historically) while carrying out HJ studies.

            Hopefully one can appreciate that this is a difficult task that is made even more difficult because of the need to uncouple the purely religious components, the nature of the documentation, etc. To add to this complexity, the serious HJ scholars have to face constant chirping from both sides of the fence (who have both taken the much easier all or conversely none stances).

            So does one say that since the evidence for abiogenesis is currently extremely poor, then subsequent evolution is unbelievable? Building a knowledge base takes time, both in science and in historical studies, each fraught with their own types of difficulties.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I suppose by definition someone who doesn’t believe Jesus existed probably isn’t a Christian , at least.

            Like Robert Price?

            Or that Jesus was not divine….Don’t tell those Christian atheists though.

          • Ignorant Amos

            One of it’s key proponent’s and qualified scholar, is still a church attending Christian…Robert M.Price…

            After some years teaching in the religious studies department of Mount Olive College in North Carolina, Price returned to New Jersey to pastor First Baptist Church of Montclair, the first pastorate, many years before, of liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. Price soon enrolled in a second doctoral program at Drew, receiving the Ph.D. in New Testament in 1993. These studies, together with his encounter with the writings of Don Cupitt, Jacques Derrida, and the New Testament critics of the Nineteenth Century, rapidly eroded his liberal Christian stance, and Price resigned his pastorate in 1994. A brief flirtation with Unitarian Universalism disenchanted him even with this liberal extreme of institutional religion. For six years Bob and Carol led a living room church called The Grail. Now, back in North Carolina, he attends the Episcopal Church and keeps his mouth shut.

            http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/bio.htm

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

            Price describes himself here as an atheist an says he doesn’t go to church anymore. I think someone else on this thread describes Price as a Christian atheist.

            http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/zblog/?p=625

          • Ignorant Amos

            Could be I suppose. I was under the assumption that atheist Christian’s were historicist’s. That is, that Jesus was a wise sage imparting unique platitudes, just not divine or supernatural in any way. I Could be wrong though.

            Price could well believe that the words assigned to Jesus by the textual witnesses that wrote the scriptures are worthy of note. Even if he thinks the vehicle for those words a myth. He may also find that reason enough to attend a church environment with the spiritual ambience that lends to said words. Or he could just be keeping his family company.

            Whatever his stance, I find it surprising that such a scholar who clearly would want the evidence to point conclusively to an historical Jesus finds that it does not.

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

            I don’t know much about Price ‘s views or indeed Christian atheism.

            Actually the very term annoys me. Like people who say “I’m a vegetarian but I eat chicken”.

          • Ignorant Amos

            yeah….the No True Scotsman Fallacy get’s on my wick too!

            Like the claims of “I’m a member of the Ferrari drivers club” from some dick head who has never driven a Ferrari ya mean?

            Ah get ya.

          • Jim

            Robert Price is someone who I greatly respect because he is very professional in his behavior, lays out his case clearly and doesn’t consider that just because he wrote something in a previous chapter that it has now become pure fact. But hey that’s just me, and maybe those three qualities aren’t all that important to others.

          • Jim

            Also, don’t a large number of cosmologists believe in physics?

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

            More problematic assertions which illustrate well why pretty much no one well-informed about the study of ancient history finds mythicism compelling. We have reason to doubt the authenticity of letters attributed to Paul precisely because we have reason to conclude that some of them are genuine. We have reason to conclude that material was concocted about Jesus precisely because of how it compares to material judged genuine.

            Comparing the study of ancient history to the natural sciences on the one hand, and modern fiction on the other, does nothing to help your position.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            Comparing the study of ancient history to the natural sciences on the one hand, and modern fiction on the other, does nothing to help your position.

            Isn’t “comparing the study of ancient history to the natural sciences” exactly what you and others have often done by repeatedly bringing up comparisons to creationism? When you make this comparison, it suggests that the certainty of the falsehood of mythicism is similar to the certainty of the falsehood of creationism.

            Neko’s comment (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/09/richard-carriers-dishonesty.html#comment-2260683491 ) is a great example of how the case for mythicism should be made. Isn’t it better to plainly state the superior parsimony of historicist explanations, without bringing up misleading comparisons to issues in biology or other sciences?

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

            How many times am I going to need to repeat this? The tactics of denialists are very similar, across fields which are very different. Surely you can see this? Denying the Holocaust and denying evolution involve fields with very different methods. But can you not see the similarities between the two sets of denialists?

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            In both of those cases, there is overwhelming evidence. In the case of the historical Jesus, there are inferences made from religious propaganda written a generation later. Disputing the implications of religious propaganda is a lot easier than disputing archaeological evidence, living witnesses, and records from thousands of people with wildly varying views, which is what is necessary to deny the holocaust.

            Every comparison you have made involved theories for which the evidence is huge. What evidence is there for the historical Jesus, which is remotely comparable to the evidence for the holocaust?

            Don’t you think it’s counter-productive to claim certainty, when what we have is probability? And if you do not wish to claim such certainty, why keep making comparisons that imply certainty?

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

            Well of course there is better evidence for more recent events than for ones longer ago. Even so, we are not “certain” in the sense that alternatives are impossible in any strict sense. They are just incredibly improbable.

            Historians deal with propaganda all the time. A Stalinist may not be trustworthy in what they say about Stalin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to doubt his existence because the source that mentions him is biased.

            No one here is claiming “certainty,” unless by that you mean the probabilistic sort of “certainty” that one has when the evidence points clearly and consistently in one direction, and attempts to interpret the evidence in other ways are highly implausible.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            No one here is claiming “certainty,” unless by that you mean the
            probabilistic sort of “certainty” that one has when the evidence points
            clearly and consistently in one direction, and attempts to interpret the
            evidence in other ways are highly implausible.

            And this important point is obscured by some of the exaggerated language used. When Bart Ehrman, or Jonathan Bernier in this thread, claims that Jesus’ existence is “certain” or “virtually certain”, readers will assumed that “certain” means the same thing as it does in every other context, such as when we use it to talk about evolution or the holocaust. When you or others describe mythicism and mythicists as being like creationism or creationists, or holocaust denial, readers will assume that it means that Jesus mythicism is as conclusively and finally disproven as creationism or the faking of the holocaust.

            Then if those readers dig a little further and find out what the evidence for Jesus actually is, the historicist case will seem to be based on exaggerations. That won’t happen if we express the case in terms like those used by Neko in the comment I linked to previously.

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

            No one at all familiar with the study of history will misunderstand, any more than someone familiar with science will misunderstand “theory.”

            I am sorry that you misunderstood me to be suggesting that biology and history to be similar, rather than science-denial and history-denial. I hope that now you have understood the point, which should have been clear all along.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            If you are only writing for those already familiar with the study of history, then that’s fine. But the scale of public misunderstanding of your subject is enormous, and if you have any interest in changing that, then you need to avoid making statements that may be misleading to laymen and amateurs. It doesn’t matter if other people familiar with the study of history know what you mean; those people are not the ones falling for ideas like mythicism and Biblical inerrancy.

          • Pofarmer

            So, are you denying that the vast majority of NT scholars, probably over 95% according to Bart Ehrman are also Christians? I’m not comparing the study if ancient history to modern fiction. What I’m asking is, if you were reading ancient fiction,mhow would you know? The best fiction is written to be plausible, and ancient Greek authors routinely wrote stories that incorporated their Gods into contemporary settings.

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

            Please don’t repeat the same point in multiple comments. I trust that my responding in the two other places you said the same thing will suffice.

          • Ignorant Amos

            My point indeed.

            Scientists may believe the resurrection of Jesus is an historical event, but that idea usually gets checked at the lab door when the white coat is donned. Compartmentalisation is employed.

            Bible scholars and NT historians that hold to a historical resurrection have to view the data in a biased way. That a lot of the consensus is made up of such people means the consensus is built on ropey foundations. I read somewhere that circa 80% of scholars in the field are Christians, but we are expected to believe that their Christianity is not going to impact on how they approach the subject at hand?

          • Ian

            Of the other 20% (assuming your statistic, for the sake of argument) who do not identify as Christians, ‘basically’ all of them are historicists. To my knowledge the current person with the most established NT studies credentials who has put forward a mythicist argument also identifies as a Christian.

            We should believe that everyone’s beliefs impact their approach to the subject, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan (to name some beliefs I’m aware of among scholars). So when you have a consensus across the full range of scholars from differing traditions, it is probably a good sign that the beliefs of one group are not unduly biasing the whole.

            Bible scholars and NT historians that hold to a historical resurrection have to view the data in a biased way.

            Way to beg the question.

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

            +1 To what Ian said.

            Also – the basic terribleness of this argument is shown by the fact that Simcha Jacobovici employs almost exactly the same logic. He claims to have found Jesus’ tomb and says that anyone who doesn’t see the evidence the same way as him must be suffering from some “theological trauma”.

            Of course, Simcha’s claims are completely incompatible with mythicism (i.e. if Jesus was buried in Talpiot, he can hardly have not existed), so the fact that the same argument is made to advance two irreconcilable claims shows that the argument must be bogus.

            PS: Even if I accepted that the international brotherhood of NT studies was hopelessly theologically compromised (which I don’t), the case for the Jesus family tomb, while pretty weak, still seems miles stronger than mythicism.

          • Pofarmer

            Which is more irrational, believing that the charachter of Jesus was made out of whole cloth, or believing that the charachter of Jesus was the Son of God, who is also God, impregnated into a virgin, to kill himself as a sacrifice to himself. I don’t personally think the two are on the same level, but no one here seems to really want to answer………..,

          • Neko

            No one wants to answer, because your question is irrelevant. The issue is whether Jesus existed, not whether he was divine.

          • Pofarmer

            Its relevant to the state of mind of those making the claims.

          • Neko

            Who?

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

            Because no one here thinks that there is any benefit to comparing the relative degrees of nonsense promulgated by apologists in opposing camps, both of whom reject what mainstream scholars say when it suits them.

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            This sounds like the Either/Or Fallacy. And your question is dealing in two different categories.

            No, or almost no, secular scholars such as Bart Ehrman think that either of your choices is rational.

            There are far more possibilities about the figure of Jesus. The view of Thomas Jefferson and other Enlightenment figures, the views of “progressive” Christians, the views of Arian Christians, the views of Unitarians, the views of Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, etc.

            Besides, I was a devout Christian for 60 years, (at first a fundamentalist, then an Evangelical, etc.)

            BUT never did I think Jesus “is also God.”

          • Pofarmer

            “BUT never did I think Jesus “is also God.”

            That’s kinda the point of the whole trinity thingy.

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            However there are many Christians throughout history and now who don’t believe in the trinity.

            Roman Catholic doctrine in the Creeds was only the dominant view, backed up with weapons.

          • Pofarmer

            I’m just asking for a comparison between the categories.

          • http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/ Daniel Wilcox

            Trying to compare two different categories–one historical, the other theological and speculative is very difficult.

            For instance, which is more irrational, believing that the character of Thomas Jefferson was made out of whole cloth or believing that the character of Thomas Jefferson was a true Christian.

            See the difficulty. The first one can be checked based on historical methods (even if one has to make an educated guess), but
            the other is extremely difficult because one has to delve into speculative theology, philosophy, make judgments about very different worldviews, (while probably one doesn’t believe in any of it to begin with) etc.

            Then one also has to define “irrational.”

            In historical study, one doesn’t have to define “irrational.” Historians aren’t trying to figure out what is irrational about Greeks or Jews or Romans, but only
            seeking to figure out the facts.

            If my life depended on it:-) and I went with my own biased philosophical view, I would say that the historical view that there in fact was a Jewish man (maybe named Jesus (Eoshoa, Yeshua) is far more likely than
            any theological abstractions. Someone had to write the Good Samaritan, etc., otherwise we couldn’t read them.

            But the idea that a finite primate living in first century Palestin could be the Ultimate Reality of the cosmos sounds totally bonkers.

  • Cecil Bagpuss

    Carrier says:

    And I don’t just demonstrate, and show that countless peer reviewed experts have also demonstrated, that allegorical-symbolic structure exists in the Gospels…

    And what exactly has been demonstrated, Mr Carrier? Have you demonstrated that allegorical-symbolic structure exists in the Gospels, or have you done this:

    Obviously I can continue with example after example, exhausting every scene in Mark, proving it either is more likely fiction than history, or as likely as not.

    There is a difference between showing that allegory exists in the Gospels and showing that *every* scene in the Gospels is fiction. Is Carrier being economical with the truth here? He needs to decide which of the two quotes actually represents his position. Of course, the latest ranting blog post is further evidence of what I have said about his state of mind.

    • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

      Um his article (and book) literally deals with exactly what you just complained about. You apparently didn’t read it.

      • Ignorant Amos

        There seems to be a lot of that about.

    • Richard Carrier

      Read my Chapter. You can’t understand what I argue, if you haven’t even read it. Especially since McGrath does not tell you what the argument actually is.

      • Cecil Bagpuss

        My dear Carrier, if I haven’t read the chapter how do you suppose I came by the quote? The second quote is from your chapter on Mark.
        Your comment is not a helpful one, but I won’t complain too much. At least you haven’t started talking about your sex life yet.

        • Neko

          One can hope.

        • Richard Carrier

          That you know how to mine a quote does not mean you read the book. And your argument shows you did not, because you have not correctly described how I arrive at that conclusion. It does not even appear that you know at all the premises that I establish, which lead to that conclusion.

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

            Richard, given that you claim to have read my article, and yet misrepresent what I say in it, it seems as though you ought not to complain at this point about others allegedly misreading what you wrote, when the worst case scenario is that their reading comprehension is no worse than your own.

          • Richard Carrier

            I still don’t see you demonstrating a single case of what you claim.

            I proved you made false claims about my book: in some cases, you said I said the opposite of what I actually said or not what I said, in others you concealed things I said in the book that refute or undermine what you claim I said. Several cases were demonstrated. Show that even one of those cases is incorrect. Seriously. Show me one instance in which you correctly reported what my book says when I said you didn’t, or one instance in which what you omitted doesn’t undermine what you claimed my book says when I said it did.

            Waiting.

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

            As I have already said, you seem unable to distinguish between your having claimed something and having demonstrated it, while somehow you have the reverse problem with the cases made by others. You likewise seem unable to deal honestly and respectfully with those who disagree with you. Until such time as that changes, I see no point in further interaction.

          • Richard Carrier

            Sigh. One more time.

            Identify one false thing I said. Present the evidence that it is false.

            Why do you keep refusing to do this?

          • Jan Steen

            “McGrath is pretending I didn’t say exactly what he is saying, and pretending that therefore he has a legitimate critique of what I said.”

            Yep, that is false, as has been shown here several times now.

            Singing “Lalala, can’t hear you” doesn’t work, you know.

          • Richard Carrier

            Oh, I’m sorry. Where does McGrath address the cumulative nature of the criteria? Where does he mention that the criteria come from mainstream mythography scholarship? Where does he respond to Godfrey’s demonstration that he gets all three criteria individually wrong?

          • Jan Steen

            Wait. You were claiming that McGrath said exactly the same things as you did (while he was also “pretending” that you had not said those things), and now you seem to be saying that McGrath got it all wrong. So he didn’t say exactly the same things as you did after all.

            You should really try to stick to one lie at a time. Otherwise you get confused.

            But let’s look at each of the points you raise here:

            Where does McGrath address the cumulative nature of the criteria?

            He doesn’t need to. If all three criteria fail simultaneously their cumulative nature is irrelevant.

            Where does he mention that the criteria come from mainstream mythography scholarship?

            Why would he mention this, if you yourself wrote this:

            McGrath complains that when I define three criteria that are markers of
            myth writing, I’m making a big mistake because no one of them is
            sufficient to entail a text is a myth

            ?

            See? You write: “when I define three criteria.” You seem to claim ownership of the criteria here. At least, you didn’t mention the ‘mainstream mythography scholarship’ yourself. Why then should McGrath do so?

            Where does he respond to Godfrey’s demonstration that he gets all three criteria individually wrong?

            Maybe because he was responding to your piece, not to Godfrey’s?

            Can you now finally admit that you lied when you wrote:

            McGrath is pretending I didn’t say exactly what he is saying [about the three criteria, J.S.], and
            pretending that therefore he has a legitimate critique of what I said.

          • Richard Carrier

            James, I do not just make claims in my post, I list evidence. You are the one making claims, and not listing evidence. And I have asked for this evidence numerous times now. Why are you refusing to provide evidence for any of your claims? Why are you claiming I didn’t provide evidence, when I did? Why are you not addressing my evidence?

            The dishonesty does not appear to be coming from me in this exchange.

          • John MacDonald

            Now why would you sarcastically say “waiting?”
            If you were giving a paper at an academic conference, and someone asked a question, you wouldn’t give them an answer and then sarcastically say “waiting” as they came up with a follow up response.

          • Richard Carrier

            I have been asking for evidence over and over again. Still none has been presented. You can’t deflect that fact with false analogies like this. You made a claim. You should already have the evidence for it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            FFS….sarcasm? Really? Is that what is happening here? Seriously? Are you comparing this zoo of a blog with an “academic conference”? The shortest verse in the bible is so applicable in this instance.

          • Mark

            Carrier, don’t worry, we’ve read your book. If you want to call Cecil a moron, then by all means do so; but the ‘you haven’t read my book’ maneuver is simply out of place here. It’s just not true that Cecil has not read the book.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Then it boils down to a reading comprehension issue in that case.

          • Richard Carrier

            If he has read it, then why does he not know what it actually says?

            Are you now calling him a liar, someone who knows what it really says, and is deliberately not stating it correctly?

          • Mark

            My only proposition was: Cecil has read the book. Cecil asserts that proposition, and not its negation. So I cannot be ‘calling him a liar’. If you care whether your sentences are true or false, the way you will express yourself is “Cecil, you totally misunderstand my book, for I …” It is only on condition that you don’t care whether your sentences are true or false, that you will be willing to say that Cecil hasn’t read the book, or that he is a liar, or that I am saying he is a liar.

          • Richard Carrier

            I do not believe someone who says they read a book, and then cannot explain anything correctly about what it says, and acts as if it didn’t say things it repeatedly and clearly did.

          • Mark

            He read the book; you are dealing with your actual readership. I generally figure I didn’t express myself clearly enough when someone misunderstands my book or an essay I’ve written. I also consider the possibility that I’m not understanding the discourse that at first seems to be a complete misunderstanding. Of course outright things like stupidity or a meretricious refusal to understand are also possible.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            My dear Carrier, If I had to summarise your argument I would do so as follows. You analyse the Gospels scene by scene. As you demonstrate that one scene after another has a symbolic purpose, so the prior probability that the next scene is symbolic rises. This means that if you eventually encounter scenes that do not appear to be symbolic – i.e., the consequent probabilities favour a non-symbolic function – you would still conclude that those scenes are more likely than not to be symbolic because of the high prior probability that has been established by the earlier scenes.

            It has been the prerogative of the crank through the ages to claim that his critics do not understand his arguments. It never occurs to the crank that his critics may simply not accept his arguments. You have now clearly established yourself as a troll in addition to your other well-documented failings.

          • Richard Carrier

            If someone demonstrates a conclusion follows necessarily from deductive logic, and then someone does not accept the conclusions of formal logic, who is the crank in that scenario?

            The procedure I use is logically valid. I explain why in the text. You have no rebuttal to it. You don’t even seem to understand it, or how probability works in general. If the Gospels are so full of myth that we can’t know what in them is historical, then that’s simply what is the case.

            The fact remains, the effect of the Gospels (apart from the material employed in Chapter 6) on the probability of either historicity or myth is nil, because we cannot show any passage uniquely about an earthly Jesus in the Gospels is more likely than not to be true. No one has produced any logically valid argument to the contrary.

            “There might be some” is not an argument to the contrary. It simply restates the conclusion I myself reached.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Mr Carrier, my last comment was not an invitation to continue the conversation. As far as I am concerned, you are discredited. When you encounter someone who disagrees with you, you are automatically trying to decide whether that person belongs in the category of lunatic, liar or ignoramus. I tend to find that this is not conducive to a fruitful discussion. The fact that you are still claiming I don’t understand your argument shows that you are a fraud. I have no further wish to engage.

          • Richard Carrier

            So, I present evidence for every claim, and show the logic; you present none, and refuse to do so when asked. Got it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah, but you are not the only person reading this thread. So, while you are afraid to engage, there are others here that are interested in your comments being rebutted.

            You can take your prerogative to not engage, but you don’t get to demand others not to reply to your comments. There are lurkers interested in what Richard Carrier has to say here.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            When someone accuses me three times in a row of not understanding the argument, I see no point in pursuing the discussion. But let me put it to you. I have given my summary of Carrier’s argument regarding the Gospels. I challenge you to summarise the argument in your own words.

          • John MacDonald

            You seem to be confusing deductive logic as it is used in math with inductive logic as it is used in hermeneutics.

          • John MacDonald

            For example, if someone’s interpretation is that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet, they have gathered the information from the relevant sources that agree with their interpretation (and explained away any seemingly recalcitrant evidence). They make an “inductive inference” from the relevant evidence to make the “conclusion” that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. “Deductive inferences” in math don’t add anything to the “premises” but simply explore what is “implied” in them. In this regard, Richard, your approach to hermeneutics where you claim you’ve “proved this” or “demonstrated that” is a “category mistake (that many people make)” of applying language concerning “deductive conclusions” when in fact you are making “inductive conclusions.”

          • John MacDonald

            Therefore, you (a) “demonstrate” a mathematical proof, while you (b) “argue for” an interpretation. The level of certainty for the two are not even in the same ballpark.

          • Richard Carrier

            Wrong. You do not seem to understand what my argument even is in Chapter 10. Either you can show that a pericope is more likely historical than mythical, or you can’t. Once you realize you can’t, nor the contrary, it’s then 50/50. The conclusion of Chapter 10 then follows from that discovery necessarily.

            It’s not even clear that you even know what that conclusion was. For example, I do NOT find the Gospels support mythicism over historicity. McGrath certainly never discusses my actual conclusion, or the actual way I arrive at it, nor does he ever rebut or even mention the actual argument I make in that chapter: that it’s 50/50 and no one has shown otherwise for any pericope. McGrath certainly didn’t. And yet that’s the only way to rebut the conclusion of that chapter. As I explain in that chapter. Repeatedly.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Question: how frustrating is this for you? Blood pressure through he ceiling in total exasperation stuff I expect?

          • Richard Carrier

            John, induction is just a fancy term for arguing to a probability. I’m talking about probability theory. The actual deductive apparatus by which any inductive conclusion is reached. You do not seem to realize this.

            It’s all about probabilities: what you believe they are, and why. Note how McGrath never once discusses probabilities or what they are and why, neither what I said they are and why, nor what he thinks they are instead, nor why he thinks his probability beliefs are correct.

            You would know this, if you would please just read the chapter. Please. Please. Please read the chapter. And address what it actually says.

          • Richard Carrier

            Actually, you are confusing them.

            If you start with certain premises about probability, the conclusion follows as a matter of deductive, not inductive logic (Bayes’ Theorem is a formula in deductive logic: its conclusions follow necessarily from its premises).

            I show that the premises, at their most generous, you cannot deny (so the inductive part is settled already). The conclusion then follows necessarily.

            That’s the argument. And McGrath nowhere addresses it. Nor do you seem to be aware of what my argument was.

            Would people please actually read the book before criticizing it? Do you not recognize that as your moral responsibility as a scholar?

          • John MacDonald

            In hermeneutics, a conclusion (like the interpretation that Jesus is a failed apocalyptic prophet ) is drawn by gathering evidence that “seems” to agree with this interpretation, and explaining away recalcitrant evidence that “might” disagree with the interpretation. There’s no sense in which the conclusion (that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet) “necessarily” follows from the evidence.

          • Richard Carrier

            If you have no evidence supporting the source as historical less or more than mythical, the odds are 50/50. If you can prove otherwise, you do. If you can’t, you can’t. What then follows from that fact, follows necessarily by the laws of probability. Which have been deductively proved (they are formal proven theorems in mathematics). You seem not to understand what my argument even is that you are arguing about. Please make an effort to actually understand how I use probability theory in Chapter 10, and what my conclusion in that chapter actually is, and how I arrive at that conclusion there. Please.

          • John MacDonald

            I like how you said “please.” See how easy it is to be polite? Now people will want to dialogue with you, lol

          • Richard Carrier

            So, does that mean you will read Chapter 10 of OHJ? And start discussing its actual argument, its actual inputs, and its actual conclusion?

          • John MacDonald

            Sounds like a plan. I’ll re-read it and share my thoughts.

          • Ian

            If you have no evidence supporting the source as historical less or more than mythical, the odds are 50/50.

            Nope.

            1. The odds are the prior probabilities of the two categories. It is almost incomprehensible that they be equal.

            2. Lack of information about a likelihood (e.g. a prior probability) does not imply its probability distribution is uniform.

            3. Categories are very unlikely to sum to one. If they do, it is a good indication that the cases exclude the middle.

            These kinds of mistakes are indicative of someone (i.e. a student, in my experience with people training in statistical and probabilistic methods in a grad school science program) who does not genuinely understand the difference between Bayesian and frequentist interpretations of probability. Or, perhaps, someone who ‘cheekily’ thinks they’ve unified the two.

          • Richard Carrier

            All of this is discussed in my two books. Don’t pretend it wasn’t. Proving History passed peer review by a university professor of mathematics.

            I am tired of people claiming I don’t address things that in fact I have, and then not rebutting anything I actually said about them.

            It would be one thing to debate the issues. It’s another to pretend I never said anything about them or that there is nothing to debate.

          • Ian

            I didn’t claim you didn’t ‘address’ this in your book. I pointed out you said something here, in that comment, that is incorrect.

            I’m aware that PH (I’ve not read OHJ) contains a discussion of priors sufficient for you to understand why your comment was wrong, at least from my first point. It is interesting, therefore, that you respond defensively rather than just admitting your mistake.

            We all cock-up sometimes. Elsewhere in this thread I made a comment that Galatians referred to James the Brother of Jesus. It was incorrect and assumed my conclusion: it was a mistake due to lack of care, rather than ignorance. But it demonstrates a lack of ‘internalisation’ of the issue. I think this is largely because I am an internet amateur when it comes to the NT.

            That was my sense with your comment, hence the last part of my response. I’m not a wannabe amateur when it comes to probability and statistics. My mortgage often depends on it, and quantitatively, not just narratively. Of course, talk is cheap, and anyone can claim expertise. I could be full of crap, or a liar, or whatever, so I don’t want to have a ‘argument from authority’ pissing contest. You have quite enough resources to know your comment was incorrect, it would be instructive to see you admit it.

          • Richard Carrier

            You are you aren’t addressing anything I actually said, about anything. You are still just giving excuses for not discussing or debating any of my actual arguments, neither in PH nor in Chapter 10 of OHJ.

            If you want to debate my actual probability assignments in Chapter 10 of OHJ, or the merits of iterating from a neutral prior, or present a case for any probability in that chapter to be definitely higher in favor of historicity than I assign, then great! Until then, you are just avoiding my arguments, not answering them.

          • Ian

            You are you aren’t addressing anything I actually said

            I’m addressing this thing you actually said:

            If you have no evidence supporting the source as historical less or more than mythical, the odds are 50/50.

            which is false, for the reasons I gave.

            So why are you trying to avoid just acknowledging a mistake?

            I have a problem with ‘iterating from a neutral prior’ too, but that wasn’t what I was responding to. Even if that were a viable strategy, your comment would still be incorrect.

            Your inability to acknowledge a simple careless mistake is disturbing.

          • Jan Steen

            That is the peerless Dr. Richard Carrier PhD for you. How dare you doubt that he is infallible! How could a mere expert in probability theory teach a PhD in ancient history something about probability theory? Don’t you see the error of your ways? It is all in his book. Read the bloody book already!

          • Ignorant Amos

            In the immortal of Forrest Gump….”stupid is as stupid does”….simples.

            Slagging off of scholarly credentials, abuse of what is the consensus, personal incredulity and intellectual dishonesty, all taken into consideration, then ya make yer bed.

            Not forgetting the most important bugbear with most commenter’s here….the tone issue….”you are are a fucking x,y,z or whatever applicable pejorative and never mind the real argument, focus on Richard Carriers what-ever-ta-fuck-annoys-one” as opposed to addressing the the real gurn.

          • Richard Carrier

            He who cares about tone and not evidence, does not care about evidence.

            If that’s the story you want of you, that’s your own doing.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That’s the game I’m witnessing. No one want’s to tear apart the arguments with convincing evidence.

            Erhman’s atrocious effort left me with a bad taste in my mouth and cynical doubts about the veracity of his previous work which I had enjoyed. Your reassurance that his books prior to DJE? were sound went some way to restoring some sort of confidence.

            Apparently the strength of ones argument is dependent on ones manners, with some around these parts anyway. Robert Price doesn’t get the same castigation, but he is a nice guy.

            What amazes me is the number of folk that feel it their place to engage in a debate on the contents of books, without actually having read the books.

            Then there is the “peer review” malarkey. Mythicist books cannot be taken seriously because none has past the peer review process. Now that one has did exactly that, the goalposts are moved and it is the peer review process that comes under fire. Or should I say, the process used on one particular occasion…yours. Highlighting the fact that the book passed peer review is being slated as being narcissistic grandstanding which ‘sploded my irony meter given the demand from the HJ fraternity. Ya just can’t win with some people.

          • Richard Carrier

            You do realize that it is the critics of mythicism who were dismissing it because, in their words, it had never passed peer review. So now we meet their demand, get a version of sufficient merit to pass peer review, and they want to denigrate our having done what our critics asked?

            That is the behavior of someone dead set against accepting the truth…to ask for X before taking it seriously, then when given X, attacking the fact that you were given X, rather than taking it seriously as promised. Notice how it is impossible for anyone to win against that standard.

            Therefore, it is impossible for them to ever accept the truth with that standard.

            We should start caring about evidence and evidence quality. And stop this nonsense about making excuses to not do so.

            Don’t you agree?

          • Neko

            That is the behavior of someone dead set against accepting the truth.

            Er, you’re not making a truth claim for mythicism, are you? Because otherwise this sounds like recrimination from the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

          • Richard Carrier

            I don’t follow you.

            I said asking for X then attacking the person who provides you with X is, as a general rule, going to prevent you ever knowing what is true, because you have built a system whereby you reject everything.

            That is a universal truth. Example “I won’t believe in vaccines until you publish a study of their safety under peer review. [Scientist gets evidence of vaccine safety through peer review]. Why do you keep mentioning that? Your constant mentioning of peer review is narcissistic grandstanding.” That is a method of approaching the debate that will prevent ever accepting anything.

            Meanwhile, obviously I make truth claims about the origins of Christianity. They are probabilistic. Like all truth claims, including competing truth claims that feature a historical Jesus.

            I don’t see what that has to do with Catholicism. It’s just epistemology 101.

          • Neko

            This marginal dispute over peer review, which I think was forwarded by one of your more vociferous critics, is hardly an occasion for overblown appeals to “the truth.” The issue arose because of your frequent and unconventional references to peer review, but even James McGrath considered the circumstances surrounding your peer review to be of minimal importance. Not a single person here refuses to engage your ideas over unease with your peer review! Yet you elevate this minor commotion to the level of willfully resisting truth.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You do realize that it is the critics of mythicism who were dismissing it because, in their words, it had never passed peer review. So now we meet their demand, get a version of sufficient merit to pass peer review, and they want to denigrate our having done what our critics asked?

            I do indeed. McGrath did that very same thing on his blog here back in 2012,

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/mythicism-and-peer-review.html

            The very point I made to Jan Steen when we got into it on this issue last week further up the thread.

            That is the behavior of someone dead set against accepting the truth…to ask for X before taking it seriously, then when given X, attacking the fact that you were given X, rather than taking it seriously as promised. Notice how it is impossible for anyone to win against that standard.

            Which seems to me to be the reason why the system of peer review as used by Sheffield-Phoenix is being rubbished by Jan Steen and others here. Of course they are also suggesting that you rigged the panel and are in cahoots with an academic publishing house to circumvent the process in some nefarious way. And they are calling us conspiracy theorists…ya hafta laugh sometimes don’t ya?

            Therefore, it is impossible for them to ever accept the truth with that standard.

            When people have too much of everything invested in something, it can be mission impossible to convince them they might, just might have got it wrong.

            We should start caring about evidence and evidence quality. And stop this nonsense about making excuses to not do so.

            Don’t you agree?

            I do indeed, 100%. And the sooner the better.

          • Jan Steen

            Is there somebody out there who believes that you really had two “major professors” peer review your monstrosity of a manuscript? I have a bridge to sell to that person.

          • Jan Steen

            “He who cares about tone and not evidence, does not care about evidence.”

            Wow, that is deep. “He who likes pancakes and not strawberries, does not like strawberries.” One can see that we are dealing with a real peer-reviewed philosopher here.

            Besides, I have actually seen very few complaints about your tone here. People do complain when you call other scholars “liars” or “insane”. But that is not a matter of tone. Those are factual statements that are in dispute.

          • John MacDonald

            By the way Dr. Carrier, I loved your article “Why The Resurrection Is Unbelievable” in “The Christian Delusion” for the comparison of stories of magic in the writings of Herodotus with The New Testament. If we don’t believe it in Herodotus, why should we believe it in The New Testament? Damning stuff. Well done.

          • Richard Carrier

            Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to say that.

            Just FYI, you might have noticed, that entire chapter is a Bayesian argument (the math is in the notes; stated colloquially in the text).

            I would hope you give the same time to reading my Chapter 10 of OHJ and correctly stating its actual conclusion, and the logic by which I arrive at that conclusion, and the premises I use as inputs. Then we can debate the inputs. Like we should be doing.

          • Jim

            I suppose that importing inductive hermeneutical logic into math formulas that are designed for deductive mathematical input can lead to some fascinating conclusions. Hey John, maybe we should collaborate on a book. :)

          • John MacDonald

            The problem with Carrier’s approach is that he makes claims that he has “proved this or that,” while his presentation has not reached anywhere near that level of certainty.

          • John MacDonald

            For example, the many instances Carrier cites of New Testament narratives being mythical because they allude to Old Testament stories, far from being certain, are speculative at best.

          • Richard Carrier

            Inductive logic entails probability theory. The conclusions of applied probability theory are conclusions of deductive logic. Once you agree on the premises. As I have been saying.

            Hence I assigned premises so generous to the opposition that they cannot reasonably be denied. The conclusion therefore follows necessarily. Unless you want to be unreasonable about what the inputs should be. But you don’t even seem to realize this is what it is about. Neither you nor McGrath have yet to even mention what my inputs are, why I arrived at them, why I think they are generous, or how you would begin to prove they are different, and different enough to get a different conclusion.

            Until you can change the inputs on any reasonable argument, the conclusion follows necessarily. That’s what the debate should be about. But McGrath didn’t tell you that. So you’ve been off on an argument thread that completely ignores what we are supposed to be talking about. Because he didn’t tell you what my chapter is actually arguing.

            So please read the chapter. Address what it actually says.

  • Brazilian

    Dr.McGrath, Did you expect anything different from such an impolite man? Typycal of bigots. Creationists and Mythicists are they same: they see those who disagree with them (basically everyone relevant on the respective field) as enemies.

    When you reviewed the first part of his book, I wrote (link at the end of the post):

    “Great and fair review. Now I expect the “Carrier pentalemma” as Richard Carrier’s responde to your review: liar, insane, dishonest, illogical or ignorant (usually comes as “doesn’t understand math”). ”

    Guess I was right.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/10/did-jesus-die-in-outer-space.html#comment-1674010494

  • John MacDonald
  • SocraticGadfly

    When has Carrier ever been professional? To update Twain: “Lies, damned lies, and Bayesian statistics!”

    • John MacDonald

      I think some of Carrier’s animosity toward the academy stems from the fact that no one was hiring when he did his PhD. Sour grapes and all that.

      • SocraticGadfly

        And what, 10 percent of PhDs in the social sciences get tenure track academic jobs? If that? He can stand in line.

      • Jim

        Carrier blames the job market, however there may be more to the story as to why he didn’t land a faculty position (or maybe it’s just activation of my conspiracy theory gene).

        When someone receives their PhD, there are hard core formalities like successfully defending your thesis in front of an examining committee who sign off on your defense as meeting academic standards. Although not written in stone, it is also understood that the bearer of the Doctor of Philosophy will in addition, always behave professionally in academic discussions relating to their field of expertise (excluding discussions taking place in a bar/pub). I think RC has clearly demonstrated that he can’t do this. Now this doesn’t necessarily detract from his capability of undertaking good academic level studies, but if you were on an academic hiring committee, would you want to hire someone who behaves so unprofessionally to teach students?

        I have purchased OHJ (but haven’t yet read it), and as a paying customer (along with having read several of posts on his site over the past year), I think I have a right to say that Richard Carrier is a total butt-burger. I think I’m just going to walk over to the garbage can and turf my purchased copy of OHJ. Now I realize that I’m only a single customer voice, but life is too short and I think I’ll restrict my readings to academics who behave professionally. Again, just my opinion (as a paying customer).

        • John MacDonald

          Be creative. With the size of OHJ, it could always make a good door stop.

          • Jim

            Good though, I just ran out of toilet paper …

            But I personally think that RC really blew a big opportunity. There is nothing wrong with challenging a current consensus if one can lay out a good case and defend it professionally (both at the academic level and with respect). That’s how knowledge progresses, and there have been times where new insights have (with much scrutiny and debate) overthrown consensus.

            But if one goes that route, the first step is acknowledging and respecting the consensus view and all the work that has been undertaken to establish the current consensus. This is not just for butt kissing purposes, but it also establishes credibility that one actually understands the field in depth before proposing any fundamental change. That is one of those unique aspects of credibility.

          • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

            He does acknowledge the current consensus. He also acknowledges and respects all of the scholarly review of the methods used so far to construct that consensus, that show them to be fallacious etc.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Good though, I just ran out of toilet paper …

            I use the bible for the same purpose. I hear it also makes decent roll up paper for a spliff when the Rizla runs out too, but I wouldn’t know about that…ahem. Then again, I have never paid for a bible, there are so many folk giving them away. I don’t think Richard Carrier would give a flying feck what folk do with the book as long as the royalties are paid. Paying for it and not reading it is just silly pants though.

            But I personally think that RC really blew a big opportunity. There is nothing wrong with challenging a current consensus if one can lay out a good case and defend it professionally (both at the academic level and with respect). That’s how knowledge progresses, and there have been times where new insights have (with much scrutiny and debate) overthrown consensus.

            You show no sign of having read OHJ, so I don’t believe you own a copy.

            But if one goes that route, the first step is acknowledging and respecting the consensus view and all the work that has been undertaken to establish the current consensus.

            Seriously? Consensus is a means not an end. I have no respect for something that is, or could be, wrong. Acknowledging it is a whole different kettle of fish. If you had the book and read it, you’d be in a far better position to comment on Carrier’s position on consensus. The consensus has been proven to be wrong on numerous occasions in the past.

            Many in academia seem to believe that “peer-reviewed” research guarantees impartial, sound and independent assessment. It does not. Mavericks can be marked down and dismissed by their consensus-minded peers. Dissension is rarely popular.

            This is not just for butt kissing purposes, but it also establishes credibility that one actually understands the field in depth before proposing any fundamental change. That is one of those unique aspects of credibility.

            Hmmmm! I feel a meter explosion coming on.

          • Jim

            Quick response;

            Regarding your application of using your Bible as toilet paper, I use mine as a coaster to put my beers on.

            Either you are perceptive or you read my comment to John above where I stated that I haven’t read the book. On your comments related to OHJ, one thing I personally don’t do is make snarky comments about any author’s book until I have at least purchased the authors work. I agree that an author deserves royalty for his/her efforts whether I agree with them or not. But once I’ve purchased a product ….

            The version I actually have is the Kindle version (buttwipe jokes don’t work well with this version), so if you need to test if I have a copy, you can select any chapter and paragraph with say the first few words, and I will type out the complete sentence as proof.

            Btw it’s not Prof McGath’s bibleinterp.com article that convinced me that I shouldn’t have bought OHJ, but a few other online reviews that contained actual excerpts from the book. Reading these excerpts convinced me that I should have invested in a case of beer instead.

            Regarding your comment on the nature of “peer review”, I think it’s pretty well understood that peer review status refers to a publication/research that meets most of the criteria for scholarly publication and does not necessarily mean endorsement by the reviewers. Obviously, sometimes politics are involved. Have you ever refereed any publications submitted to a journal?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The version I actually have is the Kindle version (buttwipe jokes don’t work well with this version), …

            And yet you did all the same, ah well.

            …so if you need to test if I have a copy, you can select any chapter and paragraph with say the first few words, and I will type out the complete sentence as proof.

            If you say you have the book then you have it…but that’s not the same as having read it though is it? I have loads of books on my Kindle I’ve not read and quite a number of audio books I have yet to hear.

            Regarding your comment on the nature of “peer review”, I think it’s pretty well understood that peer review status refers to a publication/research that meets most of the criteria for scholarly publication and does not necessarily mean endorsement by the reviewers. Obviously, sometimes politics are involved.

            I’m not claiming different, but some conspiracy theorists on here are claiming the process used by Sheffield Phoenix on this occasion is flawed….without providing evidence that it is, which is kind of ironic don’t ya think?

          • Mark

            The evidence is Carrier’s statement. It is so remarkable one can only suppose he is sneaking it in so that it is not uncovered later. It does indeed seem to be the standard practice at the defunct press resurrected as ‘Sheffield Phoenix’ as is attested, if only indirectly, by the hostility of the press employee quoted in the thread. No one is suggesting a conspiracy, I think. The interest of the matter would be nil if it weren’t that Richard Carrier PhD weren’t forever making like it carried massive epistemic weight.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The evidence is Carrier’s statement.

            His statement is evidence of what?

            It is so remarkable one can only suppose he is sneaking it in so that it is not uncovered later.

            That, Mark, is conspiracy theory epitomised.

            It does indeed seem to be the standard practice at the defunct press resurrected as ‘Sheffield Phoenix’ as is attested, if only indirectly, by the hostility of the press employee quoted in the thread.

            Do you hear yourself. An esteemed university publishing house of scholarly work? Do you actually believe that Sheffield Phoenix would jeopardise their credibility and risk getting caught fudging the peer review process over a mythicist book? Really? And you suggest there is no conspiracy theorists at play?

            No one is suggesting a conspiracy, I think.

            Yes, they really are.

            The interest of the matter would be nil if it weren’t that Richard Carrier PhD weren’t forever making like it carried massive epistemic weight.

            FFS, how many times already. Who said…

            So what are the options regarding mythicists and peer review? Either mythicists have not had their work subjected to peer review because they have been too foolish to submit it, or they in fact have had their work subjected to peer review and rejected, and are not acknowledging the fact. Or they have been talking about peer review without understanding the concept.

            Whichever turns out to be the case, a consideration of this doesn’t make mythicism seem like a perspective that is to be taken seriously – and it doesn’t make its proponents look good either.

            Any idea’s?

            Now that a mythicist has actually got a book through the peer review process by a respected university publisher and he has had the audacity of making that point, you lot are moving the goalpost’s. Or decrying the process. What a pathetic joke. What is it that you are all frightened about on this issue?

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

            I do not think anyone ought to be insulting Sheffield as a publisher. The issue is that publishing a peer-reviewed work is the start of the scholarly discussion, not the end. And I assume mythicists must know that, since they do not view the abundance of peer-reviewed publications in support of the historical Jesus as definitive. And so perhaps we can shift the focus from such side issues to more central matters?

          • Mark

            I’m not sure about this. Dissing academic presses and journals is the most ancient of all academic traditions. I guess I agree that the present venue is not particularly appropriate.

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

            It is indeed a venerable tradition, but not one that always contributes constructively to a debate of this sort. :-)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Exactly!

            The very point Carrier makes himself.

            Just a pity some of your fan base don’t think the same.

          • Mark

            The people who are criticizing your irrational interventions are not ‘McGrath’s fan base’ ; this is just a device of self-protection.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Spoooooing!

          • Mark

            No one is saying they fudged anything. There are no rules governing this process that presses must obey. There’s nothing to fudge. The only suggestion was that the Sheffield Phoenix press seems to have amazingly feeble internal rules, not that they contravened these rules.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry….youse lot are not reading from the same hymn sheet.

            Carrier’s bloated tome wasn’t peer reviewed by any meaningful standard of peer review.

            See: http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=300975#p300975

            Wait, what? Dr. Carrier selected and approached the reviewers himself? That’s a fucking travesty. The peer review process goes right out the window here. There was no editor to select the reviewers; there was no editor to gauge the adequacy of Dr. Carrier’s response to the requests for revisions.

          • Mark

            Yeah, I’m not reading from anyone’s hymn sheet, I’m an actual human being.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Oh for goodness sake…

            (idiomatic, of two or more people) To make the same or similar statements, especially to express the same opinions in public as a result of a prior agreement.

            Deal with it, suck it up, and stop with the obfuscation already.

            There are more than one on this site erroneously dissing the peer review process as carried out in the case of OHJ. In other words, the implication is they are fudging: to tamper with; falsify.

            There are no rules but there presses own rules…which are feeble….in the opinion of you and your cohorts. At least they are now that a mythicist book has passed. A publisher managed by academics for academics.

            Look, I get it. That a mythicist managed such a feat in your minds MUST mean the academy is flawed. Well that’s been the position of mythicist’s all along. So now you can see it from the other side, it doesn’t sit so well any more. That caveat has been removed and you need to find some excuse…“amazingly feeble internal rules” will do as good as anything else.

            So can we leave this nonsense now? Because it is becoming incredibly tedious. And quite frankly, it makes you out to be wanting. Not a good image for the side that claims not to be.

          • Mark

            Uh, ok.

          • Mark

            By the way, a ‘conspiracy’ involves the coming together or two or more minds, but the sentence you quote was a surly hypothesis about Carrier’s own motives and no one else was mentioned. It is excluded a priori that such a sentence could epitomize ‘conspiracy theory’

          • Ignorant Amos

            By the way, a ‘conspiracy’ involves the coming together or two or more minds,…

            There is at least three commenting on this thread that are hung up on the Carrier’s-peer-review-process-is-in-some-way-suspect hypothesis.

            … but the sentence you quote was a surly hypothesis about Carrier’s own motives and no one else was mentioned.

            The sentence I quote was not mythicist specific, though the OP was referring to Docherty. Here, read the whole thing…

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/mythicism-and-peer-review.html

            The conspiracy is the coming together of two or more minds on this site is that a conspiracy exists between Richard Carrier, in cahoots with his publisher, that in some way managed to circumvent the peer review process and the scholarship failed to notice or take appropriate steps to report such nefarious antic’s.

            I noted your comment that you are fine with dissing an academic publishing house…without evidence. Somewhat hypocitical methinks.

            It is excluded a priori that such a sentence could epitomize ‘conspiracy theory’

            Do you believe, like others here, that there is something wrong with the peer review process as carried out by Sheffield Phoenix Press and Richard Carrier, yes or no? Explain where their system failed?

          • Mark

            No, there are no official standards anywhere, so there is nothing for there to be something wrong about. At all times I and everyone I can see on this site was merely struck by the extreme lameness of what appeared to be the Sheffield Phoenix procedure.

            Your confusion is completely systematic, and arises from the belief that there is a single universal procedure used everywhere, and that anyone surprised by what Carrier says there must be thinking he and the editors were somehow involved in ‘conspiracy’. This is your own invention and was from the beginning. The suggestion was only ever that it seems like it must be a pretty lame press. This was obvious anyway from the catastrophic lack of editing throughout Carrier’s book.

          • Jan Steen

            Since you now accuse me of promoting a conspiracy theory (it’s a miracle you haven’t called me obsessed yet), let’s quickly recap the facts.

            1. Carrier took the initiative to have his book peer-reviewed
            even before he had a publisher. [“My own effort to line up formal peer reviewers (which I started before I got a publisher in order to speed up the pipeline to publication) was to find peers who held diverse opinions of the thesis”]

            2. He personally approached four “major professors,”
            of whom “one was sympathetic to the thesis, one was undecided as to its merits, and two others were actively opposed to the thesis (but not irrationally).”

            3. Two of the major professors “returned their reports,
            approving [sic] with revisions.” [My guess is that these were not the ones who were opposed to his thesis.]

            4. Carrier claims he made the necessary revisions. He doesn’t tell if the revisions were approved by the reviewers.

            5. He will not disclose who the major professors who “approved” his work are, because they will have to fear for their career if Bart Ehrman found out. [There’s your conspiracy theory right there, but not where you wanted
            to find it. My conclusion: his reviewers can’t have been “major professors” if their reputation was as fragile as he suggests. It is more likely that Carrier just asked some of his sympathizers to do the reviewing. Besides, which professional academic has the time to review a 1,000 page manuscript?]

            6. Carrier doesn’t claim that his publisher also performed
            an independent peer review. Is it likely that he would have kept it quiet, if he had passed a second peer review? Come on

            I stand by my conclusion: Carrier is being dishonest and misleading his readers when he calls his book peer-reviewed, which implies a process involving an editor and anonymous reviewers not chosen by the author.

          • Pofarmer

            “Explain where their system failed?”

            Well, that’s simple. It allowed something to be printed they disagree with.

          • Jim

            Btw, explosions typically reveal internal content. :)

          • Ignorant Amos

            I know, I’m an ex military engineer, who comes from Belfast. I have some experience in the art of bomb making, demolition and explosives.

        • Ignorant Amos

          So….you do know that Mike Licona lost his job because Licona questioned the interpretation of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27, and suggested the possibility that it might be apocalyptic imagery>/i>, right? And Licona is on the same team.

          Although not written in stone, it is also understood that the bearer of the Doctor of Philosophy will in addition, always behave professionally in academic discussions relating to their field of expertise (excluding discussions taking place in a bar/pub).

          Whaaaaa? You mean like the lying WLC does for example? How civil does one need to be when someone continuously misrepresents ones position and gets caught out at it?

          I think RC has clearly demonstrated that he can’t do this. Now this doesn’t necessarily detract from his capability of undertaking good academic level studies, but if you were on an academic hiring committee, would you want to hire someone who behaves so unprofessionally to teach students?

          Tone troll? This is the internet. How do you suggest one deals with someone erroneously trashing years of work? Who is the one being unprofessional?

          I have purchased OHJ (but haven’t yet read it), and as a paying customer (along with having read several of posts on his site over the past year), I think I have a right to say that Richard Carrier is a total butt-burger.

          Of course that’s your prerogative, but it is just silly pants and an ad hom.

          I think I’m just going to walk over to the garbage can and turf my purchased copy of OHJ.

          More silly pants.

          Now I realize that I’m only a single customer voice, but life is too short and I think I’ll restrict my readings to academics who behave professionally.

          Which will exempt you from the debate which is just more silly pants.

          Again, just my opinion (as a paying customer).

          Good thing opinions are subjective then. Your opinion to bin the book will negate your opinion of the book. Even more silly pants.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            At first I thought that Ignorant Amos might be an ironic nickname like Little John. But apparently not. Carrier’s incoherent ramblings may appeal to his credulous and sycophantic fans, but they don’t impress scholars. If his fans wish to regard Heb. 5:7 as a reference to what happened when Jesus was “abused by demons in outer space”, they may do so. Please don’t expect anyone else to take it seriously.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah…but what about a rebuttal? You know, the way debate is supposed to take place?

            Bagpuss? Really? An animated pink stripped stuffed toy. a saggy old cloth cat with fluff in it’s head. See how easy it is to ad hom? Dufus.

          • Geoff B

            “Carrier’s incoherent ramblings may appeal to his credulous and sycophantic fans, ”

            See? How is one supposed to take this other than as an insult? I have tried to be respectful and use substantive examples and questions to further dialogue, but then am I a “sycoophantic fan” because I think Carrier makes some good points?

          • Jim

            Regarding the issue of Licona losing his job (and WLC etc.), these examples involve institutions that require signing off on faith statements as part of the employment agreement and are not a totally free academic environment. I don’t know about you, but I personally would take that into consideration before reading any of their published material.

            So one question that comes to mind related to silly pants; does the situation of the fundiegelical scholars that you refer to as having to kiss their institution’s butt (so to speak) mimic in any way, the comparable situation of your enthusiasm in supporting RC and OHJ as your dogma? :) Also in your view, are there any reasons why NT scholars have not shown much interest in OHJ?

        • Neko

          Ha ha. You are right about collegiality. It is an important factor in hiring. I remember thinking, after reading Carrier’s review of Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?, that he was going to have a hell of a time getting an interview. (Not sure, but Carrier might have called the jovial Ehrman “insane.”)

    • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

      wow, that’s all you bunch have, isn’t it?

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    He must think extremely highly of you and your influence to react so violently.

    • Gakusei Don

      Dr Carrier is carving out his own reputation for vituperation, to be sure. On a recent podcast, Daniel Gullotta, arguing against mythicism, said (perhaps slightly seriously) “I have a journal article coming out on Carrier and I’m terrified what Carrier will say about me.” You could make it a drinking game: take a shot whenever Carrier accuses his reviewer of lies, dishonesty, insanity, etc. It might even make a good bingo game!

      Over the years, I’d swapped emails with Carrier and corresponded with him on the IIDB forum, and he had always responded kindly and in length to my questions. But he has certainly changed that approach in the last 5 years. It isn’t just his reaction to criticisms of mythicism either. He has blasted critics of Atheism Plus and Social Justice Warriors in the same way: charges of lying, dishonesty, etc. He has very much taken an ‘in your face’ attitude in recent times, as Ophelia Benson knows. :) Sad, but entertaining also.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Well, I don’t believe in a historical Carrier. I believe he is the compilation of articles and myths around the Internet about him.

    • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

      Is that really all you have?

  • arcseconds

    If you’re pissing off both parties in equal measure it probably means you’re doing something right :-)

  • Gakusei Don

    I posted the following on Dr Carrier’s blog:

    >>McGrath leads with the shamelessly false claim that “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain.”<>Barr was arguing against Biblical literalists, not mainstream scholars, and pointing out that not only is literalism unscholarly, but that even the literalists were using “theological” and “typological” interpretations which were actually in fact allegorical, so that even the literalists agree with him, they just won’t admit it. How does any of this support McGrath? It doesn’t. And that looks like scholarly dishonesty to me.<<

    Doesn't that in fact support McGrath, though? Barr, like most modern NT scholars, disdains such an allegorical approach by Christians. The argument is that the use of allegory to "prove" one's interpretation of texts is a slippery slope. I think you are being unfair to McGrath here.

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

      Thanks so much for taking the time to do that!

    • Geoff B

      No, GDon, once again you are very confused. James said this in his review:

      “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain.”

      Cannot be more clear than that. James then cites Barr’s criticism of Christian use of allegory:

      “Allegory is also notoriously unconstrained, allowing one to find in the text just about anything one wishes to.[1]…

      [1] See James Barr, “Allegory and Typology” and “The Literal, the Allegorical, and Modern Biblical Scholarship” chapters 26 and 27 in Bible and Interpretation: The Collected Essays of James Barr, vol.2, ed. John Barton (Oxford University Press, 2014).”

      I do not have this volume, but I am familiar with Barr’s work and he was generally critical of Bible fundamentalism and literalism. Carrier’s characterization of Barr’s work rings true:

      “Barr was arguing against Biblical literalists, not mainstream scholars, and pointing out that not only is literalism unscholarly, but that even the literalists were using “theological” and “typological” interpretations which were actually in fact allegorical, so that even the literalists agree with him, they just won’t admit it. How does any of this support McGrath? It doesn’t. And that looks like scholarly dishonesty to me.”

      So it appears very clear that James has contradicted himself:

      “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain.”

      “No one who has read things I’ve written – or listened to things I’ve said – would ever believe that I claimed that the Gospels have no symbolic stories in them, when I have so often said the opposite.”

      Well, it seems that James is perfectly capable of making arguments either way with no memory of what he said in the past. Right? That’s the only way I can reconcile his position and still believe he has a shred of intellectual integrity.

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

        It isn’t clear what you are trying to say here, which makes it hard to figure out what you misunderstood.

        • Geoff B

          Try harder, I guess. Maybe not clear to you. Ok, here:

          JM:
          “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain.”

          RC:
          “Your first sentence, James, says the method of symbolic interpretation is despised. You nowhere in your review of my book say you use or approve of the method. That is dishonest. That you actually do use the method elsewhere is precisely why it is dishonest.”

          JM:
          “No, not what I wrote, as anyone can see if they actually read the article, as I trust they will.”

          That you can’t see the problem with this is problematic.

        • Giuseppe Lettieri

          1) New Testament Scholars typically despise allegorical interpretations of NT.

          2) You are an NT Scholar, but you don’t despise symbolic interpretations of the NT.

          It is not strictly a contradiction, because of the “typically” and the switch from “allegorical” to “symbolic”.

          Nonetheless, it does make one wonder what is the point you are trying to make.

      • Gakusei Don

        Geoff B, it seems clear to me that what Dr McGrath means is that NT scholars disdain the allegorical interpretation of Christians whom have agendas. In isolation, McGrath’s opening sentence could be read the way that Dr Carrier and you have read it, but it would then contradict the context established in his very next sentence plus his reference to Barr, plus McGrath’s own use of allegorical interpretation elsewhere.

        Michael Nugent, of the Atheist Ireland group, had a run-in with Carrier recently over Nugent’s comments about PZ Myers. As Nugent writes (link below):

        “Richard Carrier has just published some of the most vacuous and insulting of the recent smears against Atheist Ireland, Hemant Mehta and [Nugent]”.

        Link is here. http://www.michaelnugent.com/2015/04/17/richard-carriers-latest-smears/

        One commenter at the link gave the following quote by Carrier from one of Carrier’s earlier books. Carrier had written:

        “For all readers, I ask that my work be approached with the same
        intellectual charity you would expect from anyone else…. [O]rdinary
        language is necessarily ambiguous and open to many different
        interpretations. If what I say anywhere in this book appears to
        contradict, directly or indirectly, something else I say here, the
        principle of interpretive charity should be applied: assume you are misreading the meaning of what I said in each or either case. Whatever interpretation would eliminate the contradiction and produce agreement is probably correct. So you are encouraged in every problem that may trouble you to find that interpretation. If all attempts at this fail, and you cannot but see a contradiction remaining, you should write to me about this at once, for the manner of my expression may need expansion or correction in a future edition to remove the difficulty, or I might really have goofed up and need to correct a mistake.”.

        Carrier’s appeal to “intellectual charity” and “principle of interpretive charity” is a noble one, though I question his application of it in more recent times.

        What about you, Geoff B? Is it possible that McGrath meant by “disdain” of allegorical interpretation that it is the disdain of NT scholars towards Christians whom had an agenda, rather than the method itself? That would seem to fit in context, fit McGrath’s reference to Barr, and fit McGrath’s use of allegorical interpretation elsewhere. Is this a possible solution?

        • Geoff B

          “Geoff B, it seems clear to me that what Dr McGrath means is that NT scholars disdain the allegorical interpretation of Christians whom have agendas. In isolation, McGrath’s opening sentence could be read the way that Dr Carrier and you have read it, but it would then contradict the context established in his very next sentence plus his reference to Barr, plus McGrath’s own use of allegorical interpretation elsewhere.”

          McGrath does not clarify that Barr’s disdain was for Christians who disdained allegorical interpretations but then used them themselves. See? His whole argument opens with the point that allegorical interpretation is to be disdained. He cites Barr but does not clarify what Barr held disdain for, not allegorical interpretation per se, but the criticism of it and the use of it only where it supports one’s case. In other words, exactly what McGrath did in his review of Carrier. He criticized Carrier for using a method, generally disdained by NT scholars. Then in a subsequent blog post clarifies that he himself uses that methodology. He HAS contradicted himself and badly. That is exactly the point.

  • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

    He was talking about a specific article you wrote. Was he wrong about that article? You haven’t shown. Your article was really bad, did you even read any of the criticism of it? How can you not see the major errors you made?

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

      Yes, he is completely wrong about the article, as well as more generally.

      Weren’t you warned previously about offering large numbers of comments with no substance in a troll-like manner, and advised instead to actually focus on offering something substantive in your comments? Given the recent flurry from you, I will say it again, just in case I neglected to previously.

      • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

        You seem to be projecting. I offered substance by addressing your red herring about all your other writing, because Carrier wasn’t referring to that (he’s even said so himself now in one of his own comments). A rebuttal to a specific thing you said like that is substance. Also, when I say “you haven’t shown”, that is also a substantial claim on my part.

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

          If “your article was really bad” is your idea of substance, I hope I never get to see a comment you would consider superficial!

          • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

            Actually, “your article was really bad” isn’t my idea of substance. How did you get confused about what I thought was of substance when I just spelled it out to you? I think you are a waste of my time.

          • Geoff B

            You are probably correct. From what I see, McGrath is interested in clinging to his cherished paradigm, not dialogue.

          • John MacDonald

            Dr. McGrath is a well respected scholar who has spent years analyzing The New Testament. If you find his interpretation of the historical Jesus completely wrong, it probably isn’t because Dr. McGrath is actually wrong, but that you need to try harder to understand his arguments.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah, because well respected scholar’s who have spent years analysing stuff have never been wrong, right?

            If you find his interpretation of the historical Jesus completely wrong, it probably isn’t because Dr. McGrath is actually wrong, but that you need to try harder to understand his arguments.

            The problem here is that the interpretation of the historical Jesus by well respected scholar’s who have spent years analysing the NT are too often contradictory. So which Jesus?

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

            This misunderstands the nature of scholarly inquiry. In all fields, you wouldbe remiss to get excited over every new study which suggests x, y, or z. Scholars make proposals, and in a popular and crowded field they will be numerous, since we must publish or perish. The consensus is what one needs to look at, if there is one.

          • Ignorant Amos

            If scholarly consensus was never challenged we would be in a right pickle. Things just wouldn’t move forward.

            Haven’t plenty of fringe hypotheses turned out to be correct?

            What is the current consensus on the historicity of Moses for example?

            Modern archaeologists and Bible scholars typically express skepticism of the Exodus, claiming thereis insufficient evidence to establish its historicity. Such comments are usually cited as the scholarly consensus.

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

            Of course, views can change. But we obviously should not follow denialists in treating that as justification for assuming that a view which scholars find unpersuasive today will one day be found persuasive.

            Are you suggesting that we have a letter from someone who had met Moses’ brother? Or that we have accounts of his life written within a few decades of his death? I fail to see the relevance of mentioning another figure for whom the evidence is very different. But even in the case of Moses, many historians do think it unlikely that later Israelites completely invented a savior figure with a truncated Egyptian name, and thus view Moses as yet another example of a historical figure so encrusted in later legend as to be thoroughly obscured from view, but not necessarily for that reason completely unhistorical. Historians cannot deal in the kinds of all-or-nothing approaches that internet fundamentalists prefer. Very often the evidence requires a nuanced both/and answer.

          • Geoff B

            This talk about consensus is really off base, a red herring. In this case, we are dealing with a question of historical methodology. We have the positive claim that the character of “Jesus Christ” found in the Gospels is based on a real person who lived in Galilee in the early first century. So what are our sources to support the clearly legendary or mythical or fictional “Jesus Christ” found in the Gospels?

            After we identify those sources, we have to conduct a source analysis. Are our sources credible? Source criticism narrows the available field considerably. Also, we have to ask the right question. I think part of the problem is that mythicists tend to ask a different question than what historicists respond to. Mythicists are interested in the origins of Christianity. They have concluded based on ancient writings that the idea of the savior “Jesus Christ” evolved out of a variety of Jewish writings and beliefs and was not necessarily connected to an actual person. The source material related to that question is broader than what is available when asking the question “Did Jesus Exist?”

            This broader set of evidence clearly suggests that themes related to the life of “Jesus Christ” pre-dated traditional theories about the origins of Christianity. There can be explanations of this that include a founder Jesus Christ or don’t. In general, I do not see historicists addressing this broader question of the origins of Christianity. For them, Christianity began with the crucifixion of Jesus.

            I read this forum and there is such a hostile attitude and tendency to deprecate views that are not traditional, that it reads as just defensiveness. Because most of the arguments are red herrings or strawmen, or outdated, there isn’t any opening for dialogue.

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

            Talk of the consensus of experts is only a red herring to those who want to bypass the need to change the consensus by persuading the experts.

            All of these issues have been discussed here before, and so it is disingenous to pretend that this is the start of a brand new discussion, in which not only scholars but also interested laypeople supposedly only reject mythicism because we are unaware of what it claims. But on the contrary, it is the close look I have taken at mythicist claims that makes it seem intellectually bankrupt.

          • Geoff B

            No, you are wrong. Appeal to consensus is a logical fallacy, James, and you know that is true.

            You haven’t defended the historical method you use to make truth-claims about the life of Jesus Christ. I’m afraid you can’t do it.

            I asked you, on a scale of 1 to 10 what is your certainty for the positive claim that Jesus existed?

            I asked you, on a scale of 1 to 10 what was your certainty for the positive claim that all life on Earth has a common ancestry.

            I asked you compare those two claims. For evolution we have multiple lines of sciientific evidence. For Jesus we have no archeological evidence, no direct contemporary witnesses, in fact, nothing that one needs to establish that someone existed. Yet you will claim a certainty beyond what even most scientists would claim for common descent (I gave 9 of 10, but that is rounding down, really).

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

            To assume that the consensus of experts must be right and is therefore not open to challenge is indeed a fallacy that an academic might potentially comit. A worse fallacy is for someone who is not an academic to pretend that the consensus of experts in a given field is of no value, and to assume that a view which rejects that consensus, and has been unable to persuade experts of its plausibility, is of equal value with tte consensus.

          • arcseconds

            Even Carrier argues that a layperson should generally go with the consensus. You should read his argument here, it’s a reasonable one. I don’t agree with his analysis of where a layperson can deviate from the consensus (or, at least, i don’t think it’s true of the situation with NT studies), but even if you do agree with Carrier in whole at least that will mean that you’ll realise that appealing to the consensus is not an unreasonable thing to do.

            (Otherwise, duke it out with Carrier! )

            Surely you are not talking probabilities here. I can’t imagine you could be seriously proposing that there’s a 10% chance that common descent isn’t true. So what are the meaning of the numbers that you are giving?

          • Geoff B

            You are hostile to an opposing point of view and for what reason? Why not just let the arguments play out without the defensiveness?

            I entered this fray because of the appeal to evolution. If you think that the credibility of bible scholars is on par with that of evolutionary biologists, you are dreaming.

          • Mark

            Geoff B you are somehow missing the crucial detail that McGrath has written tens of thousands of words on this very topic, on this very site. His responses will seem different to you if you keep this in mind.

          • Mark

            He’s been ‘playing out the arguments’ for years, see the various posts marked e.g. ‘mythicism’ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/tag/mythicism . There are maybe 50 or 60 on Carrier alone, the earliest in 2011

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

            Again, you seem to be missing – or perhaps deliberately trying to obscure – the point of the comparison, which is not that history and the natural sciences use the same methods, but rather than denialists in both fields use the same tactics.

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

            Why are biologists hostile to creationists? Because they peddle pseudoscholarship as though it has the same value as scholarship.

            I do not see any advantage to playing the humanities off against the natural sciences. The various disciplines and fields each contributes to our understanding in different but no less important ways.

          • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

            After we identify those sources, we have to conduct a source analysis. Are our sources credible? Source criticism narrows the available field considerably.

            This approach looks a little too black-and-white to me. If “credible” means something like “generally accurate when narrating historical events”, the Gospels are clearly not credible. That doesn’t mean we should just discard them, since we still have the question of where the legendary material in them came from, and the option of making inferences about the historical origins of those legends. The absence of more accurate and objective sources doesn’t make it unreasonable to draw conclusions from the sources we do have.

          • John MacDonald

            It is my understanding that most liberal theologians picture Jesus as a failed apocalyptic prophet who nonetheless had a strong “social-ethic component” to his message.

          • John MacDonald

            As Bart Ehrman says, the reality of the historical Jesus as a failed apocalyptic prophet is a far greater argument against Christianity than mythicist nonsense.

          • Geoff B

            John, I am criticizing his methodology for advancing truth claims, right? You follow me so far?

            Here is a truth claim that historicits make:

            Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

            This incident only exists in the Gospels. There is no other mention of it. It is shrouded in mystical and scriptural references. So how do we analyze this particular datum?

            We have to first consider the source. Who is the author of the gospel? When was it written? What source did the author consult? What was the purpose of this document?

            Most of these are questions we can’t answer. Still, it is maintained that the Baptism of Jesus by John occurred. Any standard of methodology would have to question the certitude of making any judgment on this one way or another. Methods used to make a claim here are not used in the standard way (for example, embarrassment doesn’t work the way it is applied by Bible scholars). I demonstrate above that by the application of the criteria of embarrassment in the way it is used by bible scholars, we have to conclude that Jack Crabb’s family was killed by Cheyenne warriors.

            I have to walk my dog.

          • Mark

            ‘Historicism’ in the present context is the claim that Christianity (literally: messianism) as we know it arose from a messianic enthusiasm pertaining to an actual individual. No particular fact about the individual is entailed by it, only the claim that there were some facts or other, and that they triggered some form of messianic enthusiasm or other. No amount of reference to any amount of fanciful or unfanciful tales in the gospels will have any bearing on the matter. The existence of a real ‘historical’ Jesus would be quite plain even if the gospels had never been written and we only had, say, the letters of Paul, and much later liturgical material. It is the only way to explain a messianic movement.

          • Geoff B

            It is the nature of that messianic fervor that is in question. So it sounds like you are willing to throw out any truth claims about the person Jesus Christ. Ok, that’s fine. I see the difference being very, very narrow. Clearly messianic enthusiasm existed prior to Paul, prior to the Jesus-figure you seem to be appealing to. My opinion is that early Christians believed Jesus the Savior had come unknown and unseen, was revealed in scripture and revelation. No actual person is needed for that, only a belief in such a person. Your view is that some obscure, now lost shrouded in unrecoverable past, actually got the ball rolling. It is really a minute difference.

            I saw someone appeal to religious founders like L. Ron Hubbard. Of course, L. Ron Hubbard, in what I think, would be the discoverer of the idea (like Hubbard discovered or made up “dianetics”). I don’t know who was the discoverer of Jesus Christ in the scriptures, but I do think by the time of Paul, the belief was widespread. I am not very wedded to this idea. I think it explains the broader literature, such as Philo’s Logos belief, the Wisdom of Solomon, and many of Paul’s own beliefs that are at odds with traditional Christianity. So the idea that mythicism doesn’t rely on a human founder is mistaken. There could be a human founder, it just wasn’t Jesus. Jesus from the beginning was a divine being, an emanation of God.

          • John MacDonald

            In order to consider the reliability of the picture of John The Baptist in the gospels, we need to consider allusions to the Old Testament and how Oral traditions about Jesus were shaped in the synagogue.

            References to the synagogue appears appears 11 times in Mark, 9 times in Mattthew, 16 times in Luke, and five times in John (The Christian movement was expelled from the synagogue around 88CE, which is probably why the references drop off in John). And there is (possibly) a heavy lining of allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels. Mark says “The beginning of the gospel
            of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). So it is not impossible that the details of the Baptist contain mythic embellishments.

            Only in the synagogue did people ever hear scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their
            sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus could have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue.And the gospel stories may also be shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion may be shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah.

            So as it says in Acts, they would read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus may have then recalled their memories of him which that Sabbath elicited. This could be where all the allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels are coming from. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They went through this process for about forty years before the gospels were written. I think this makes a better explanation for where the allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels are coming from as opposed to the mythicist who say there was no oral tradition and that the author of Mark just made up the whole thing out of whole cloth

          • Geoff B

            So you have introduced a number of additional assumptions that as far as I can tell are unexamined:

            1. How Oral traditions about Jesus were shaped in the synagogue.

            How do we know that oral traditions about Jesus were shaped in the synagogue? What is your conception of “oral tradition” here?

            2. The Christian movement was expelled from the synagogue around 88CE, which is probably why the references drop off in John)

            Isn’t John still reporting what happened? Why would he start omitting references to synagogues?

            And what actual evidence do you have for the Christian movement being expelled from synagogues in 88 ?

            3. The memory of the historical Jesus could have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue

            You assume that there was such a memory to pass on. Who passed it on? Who took the story of the obscure Jesus to the synagogue that first time and retold the story? What was the reception?

            4. So it is not impossible that the details of the Baptist contain mythic embellishments.

            How is impossible that it is all mythic embellishment?

            5. So followers of Jesus may have then recalled their memories of him which that Sabbath elicited.

            Key words: may have. This is speculation. Believers in a mythic Jesus may also have recounted their version: that righteous Son of God was killed by Satan’s agents as he descended from heaven, not knowing who he was (see the Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 2, for instance).

            6. This could be where all the allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels are coming from.

            Or the first Gospel writer could have deliberately written the story that way. How do you know one way or the other?

            7. I think this makes a better explanation for where the allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels are coming from as opposed to the mythicist who say there was no oral tradition and that the author of Mark just made up the whole thing out of whole cloth

            Why do you think this? There is no evidence of an oral tradition of a Jesus from Galilee crucified by PIlate. Also, were the first Christians who took that story into the synagogue lying about the resurrection appearances?

            By the way, I do think there was an oral history or discussion of Jesus and the nature of Jesus. I just believe that discussion centered on conceptions already contained in the Hebrew writing, such as Daniel and Isaiah. Philo and Paul contain elements of this discussion as the conception of the savior “Jesus Christ” evolved.

          • Geoff B

            He’s a bible scholar. Not an historian. The question about christian origins is a question answered best by historians. Bible scholars are far too naive in their handling of source material.

          • John MacDonald

            What makes you think a bible scholar is not a historian? What source material would a “historian” have access to that a “bible scholar” wouldn’t examine? It’s your statements that seem “naïve.”

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

            To the fact that we use the same methods as historians in other fields, and collaborate with them when our interests intersect, one can also add the fact that historians of ancient Judaism and of the ancient Roman world find Carrier’s views no more persuasive than Biblical scholars do.

          • Geoff B

            Ok, James, apply a standard historical methodology to support the conclusion that John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
            Get out the popcorn and watch the end-arounds and ad hocs begin.

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

            Perhaps it would be more appropriate for you to (1) start with the places where many of these topics have already been discussed on this blog:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2010/09/mythicism-and-mainstream-historical-method.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/a-challenge-to-mythicists.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/round-up-of-mythicist-blogging.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/10/mythicisms-methodological-mess.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/12/mythicists-gain-nothing-by-exaggerating.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2010/10/mythicism-vs-the-socratic-historians.html

            Then (2) perhaps you could move on to the many discussions in the scholarly literature about the likelihood that Jesus was at one point s disciple of John the Baptist, and indicate what, if anything, you consider to represent inappropriate historical argumentation? It hardly seems necessary for me to offer an article-length treatment of a topic about which many others have written, in a blog comment, and the request that I do so seems very odd indeed.

          • Geoff B

            On the question of the baptism of Jesus:

            1) Source criticism: one line of evidence, right? The Gospels: What is the credibility of the gospel writer of Mark? Who is he (or she)? What other writings of this author can we compare to? How well does this author’s contentions seem to reflect truth? Any claim for each positive datum used from this source must be justified based on the credbility of the author. What is the credibility of thie author of Mark?

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

            You seem to be under the illusion that source critical analysis is unique to Biblical studies. As I said before, all the matters you mention are addressed in detail in books such as introductory textbooks for university classes. We are all here familiar with the denialist comment tactic of asking for a summary of an academic argument, and then dismissing it because it lacks the detail that they would have found in a book on evolution, history in general, or the Gospel of Mark more specifically. But the short answer is that we have works from antiquity where the author is anonymous or uncertain, and they do not for that reason become completely useless for historians.

          • John MacDonald

            Exactly right.

          • arcseconds

            That sounds interesting. Where would one find such an opinion?

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

            Which opinion? If you mean the views of historians working on Judaism or the Roman world, other than chatting with such colleagues, one can look at the way historians are carrying on mentioning Jesus a historical figure, with no excitement about Richard Carrier’s work. If you look at past examples, there has been significant excitement about works that challenged assumptions that reflect inertia and undue influence of Christian tradition. Take for instance E. P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism, which Protestant Evangelicals are still arguing against but which secular and Jewish scholars, as well as open-minded Christian ones, appreciated immediately.

            If the mythicist claims about the academy were true, either the reception of past critiques of longstanding Christian views would have been different, or scholars would be excited about Carrier’s book.

          • arcseconds

            Oh, I was hoping that there might be a Judaism or classics scholar that had actually reviewed Carrier’s book in print or online.

            I think it’s reasonably obvious that if there were some massive and obvious problem with the basic claims of NT scholarship, someone in a neighbouring field would have noticed by now and there would be a huge argument about the way NT scholarship is doing their job.

            But it would be nice to have some positive proof that they’re not especially worried about NT studies, and that they’re not kindled into action by Carrier’s book.

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

            I wonder what kind of incentive I would need to offer a colleague in history of Classics to wade through Carrier’s drivel. From the standpoint of historians and Classicists, Jesus is a run of the mill character about whom some people outside the academy hold the most bizarre views, and to whom far more attention is paid than is deserved in terms of his impact prior to Late Antiquity, when other scholars take over from those who focus on Classics or Roman or Jewish history. I think the incentive would have to be more than buying them a few beers…Carrier does tend to go on at unnecessarily great length even in his blog posts, to say nothing of his book.

          • arcseconds

            If none of them have even read Carrier’s book, this kind of undermines your point about Carrier’s book not making any waves. It’s not making waves because it contains nothing of value, but because everyone’s ignoring it!

            Carrier or his supporters might take this as proof that the academy has closed ranks, and simply won’t pay any attention to opinions formulated outside, even by people who have bona fide credentials. Which leads some credence to Carrier’s idea he has to reach intelligent laypeople, because the academy is wearing blinkers.

            I realise that it’s onerous and scholars have things they’d rather do, but I think exposing pseudoscholarship, particularly if it has popular appeal, is something the academy ought to do.

            Maybe you can appeal to their overwhelming sense of duty? :-)

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

            I can try. I will still owe them beers once they discover what I have inflicted upon them. But icannot help wonder whether mythicists would complain that my colleages are biases because they work at the same institution as I do. Perhaps I can appeal to the sense of duty of others a bit removed from my own context…

          • arcseconds

            I’ll go in for beers with you!

            Another possibility that might be a bit more palatable and useful for the people concerned would be to review a small handful (the number three springs to mind, but even one would be helpful) of mainstream books about historic Jesus studies.

            This won’t stop people thinking that Carrier is a total game-changer that’s being ignored, of course, but it might help to show that NT studies is not, in fact, doing history in a radically different way to other parts of the academy.

            I suppose this sort of thing may have even happened before… anyone know if this is so?

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

            I don’t know about reviewed, but books on the NT and Jesus are routinely cited by scholars writing about associated areas. Assuming they’ve actually read the books they are citing, you would think they would say something if they thought they were reading drivel.

            I did read an article by a scholar of Islam discussing the application of HJ criteria to the life of Muhammad. The author felt that the tools HJ scholars used were more sophisticated then the techniques used by scholars of early Islam, though iirc, he did think that HJ studies were more influenced by religious schools of thought.

            As a bit of an aside, I did recently read a book about the Vindolanda tablets that briefly (and without any obvious criticism) referred to dowsing as an archaeological technique used at the site. I found that pretty surprising! I do wonder if mythicists don’t just idealise the methods and techniques of other historians?

          • arcseconds

            I don’t suppose you have a reference for the article you mentioned by the scholar of Islam, do you?
            That sounds interesting.

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

            Hmmm… My google efforts have failed to find the exact article. I don’t think this one is it, but I’m pretty sure it was discussed in the article I read (though I can’t access the article so am not 100%)

            http://sir.sagepub.com/content/37/2/271.short

            Though in my searching, I did stumble upon this article:
            http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCsQFjABahUKEwjlzfXQo4jIAhUCjdsKHZMACu4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmfs.uchicago.edu%2Fpublic%2Finstitutes%2F2013%2Fislam%2Fprereadings%2Fpeters-the_quest_for_the_historical_muhammad.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHXtTPflhjuOaSKx-6yjeWxpCI-OQ&sig2=y5FsXhOqf0h7IpHqubEpkQ

            Which makes some comparison between the sources for Jesus and Muhammad and what type of information a historian can recover about them (with a focus on Muhammad). It’s worth a read.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Another possibility that might be a bit more palatable and useful for the people concerned would be to review a small handful (the number three springs to mind, but even one would be helpful) of mainstream books about historic Jesus studies.

            I’ve read a few, but would be grateful for any referral that you find in particular to be mainstream.

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

            Is his PhD in history? No? That’s why. They have the same source material. The problem is in the handling of the source material. Bible “historians” have developed a set of methodological tools designed specifically to bypass standard historical methodology, such as source criticism. They then use sources in a naive way, deriving facts from sources that cannot bear the burden of the certainty of the conclusions drawn. That you don’t understand this and think that it is a problem of access tells me you don’t really understand either.

          • John MacDonald

            Don’t you think there is, and always has been, a symbiotic relationship in the academy between historians and bible scholars to refine methods and further research? After all, not just bible scholars, but all historians of antiquity agree that Jesus existed.

          • Geoff B

            No, I don’t. I think the relationship has been for bible scholars to pretend to be historians and to pay lip service to using historical methods but really just throwing them out. Take the common use of Acts. In almost every work on Paul, biographies they might loosely be called, in the discussion of sources, the reliability of Acts will be questioned. This is fine, it should be questioned. After paying the methodology lip service, the bible scholar will then go on and use Acts as a credible source and base conclusions on that source that cannot the source cannot bear. Happens all the time. Even in using the Gospels themselves. For instance, a completely naive statement that is repeated by bible scholars and their “sycophantic fans” is that just because there are mythical elements in the Gospels that doesn’t mean there isn’t any truth in them. Well yeah. There really was a Pontius Pilate. That doesn’t mean that any material related to Jesus is true. My doctoral work is more in social science quantitative and qualitative research. But my masters’ level work did include historiography and historical methods. It annoys me whenever I see this lack of source material fundamentals.

          • Neko

            Wow, you sure have assimilated the Gospel According to Vridar! If anyone wants the Cliff Notes I’ll send them this link.

            Are you an historian?

          • Geoff B

            Do you believe this is a constructive comment?

          • Neko

            Well, are you an historian?

          • Neko

            Silence, because of course you’re not an historian. Yet you, like so many, feel perfectly entitled to belittle a tenured NT scholar (and indeed, the entire profession) as not “really” an historian because Methodology! Theological captivity! Source Criticism! I studied historiography in graduate school!, grandly proclaiming the Good News of mythicist revelation only to opine that “historicists” are “close-minded” because your derivative ideas are skeptically received.

            Hope you find this comment constructive.

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

            I was quoting your comment. But I agree that time is being wasted here.

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

            I was quoting what you wrote in your comment. Did you say something of substance somewhere else?

  • SocraticGadfly

    For Pansky, noooo, I’ve got a lot more than “that,” not just about Carrier, but ALL the Jesus denialists. http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-academic-shortcomings-of-jesus.html

  • Cecil Bagpuss

    What people need to realise is that Carrier is writing for his fans. I think this applies as much to his book as it does to his blog posts. Getting the book past peer review was a matter of expediency; it wasn’t, for Carrier, the beginning of an engagement with real scholars. In fact, Carrier has a strange attitude to real scholars. He cites them, as he has done in his recent post, when it suits him, but in reality he despises them.

    I would just like to say to whoever gave Carrier a dictionary in which the definitions of “demonstrate” and “speculate” were switched: The joke has gone far enough!!

    • Jim Little

      Saying “Carrier is writing for his fans”, “Getting the book past peer-review was a matter of expediency”, ” it wasn’t, for Carrier, the beginning of an engagement with real scholars”, and “he despises them” are all misrepresentation and red-herrings.

      Sure, Carrier is unconventional, but he sought an academic publisher that peer-reviews books to support his work and his theses there-in.

      • Cecil Bagpuss

        It isn’t a red herring to point that out. Carrier has demonstrated that he is incapable of interacting with genuine scholars in a professional and courteous manner. Does he have any real wish to win over the establishment, or is he just appealing to his fans? This is a legitimate question.

        • Jim Little

          While Carrier is somewhat rude, overtly focusing on the rude aspects of the nature of a response that addresses a lot of issues is a red-herring.

          It’s kind of an appeal to pity fallacy; and seems to be used to direct the discussion away from the principle issues.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            It would be a red herring if that was all I had to say on the subject, but I have discussed many of the real issues on this blog. I have also written my own review of Carrier’s book, which is titled “Atheism Plus… Pseudoscience” – a rather nice touch, I thought :-)

          • Neko

            So I read your review. Somebody who didn’t know a thing about Carrier or the debate would have quite a clear and accurate view of the essentials after reading it. Good job!

            I was brooding today about the long discussion concerning peer review. I thought Carrier’s description of selecting readers somewhat ambiguous. Did he really personally approach NT scholars who ended up as readers? If so, from what I understand, that would be a bit irregular. It’s not a big deal, but…as others have noted, it’s not the blind process normally associated with peer review.

            For some reason that reminded me of Johan Rönnblom’s critique of Carrier’s Rank-Raglan scoring process, which concluded that Carrier “tweaked” his criteria. You’re probably familiar with it:

            http://ronnblom{.}net/is-jesus-a-rank-raglan-hero/

            (No doubt Carrier’s defenders at vridar posted reams of commentary “demonstrating” that Rönnblom erred, but if so, I missed it.)

            I guess every scholar is tendentious to some degree, but…yes, “pseudoscience” was a rather nice touch!

          • Jim

            Maybe I’m speaking out of my wrong terminus, but I wonder if it really matters that much as to how OHJ ended up being peer reviewed? A book publisher, depending on the subject matter, may factor in potential sales. On the other hand, peer review for a high tier journal publication is usually more stringent and an author is pretty much hands off in the review process – other that saying yes sir to recommendations made by the reviewers who remain anonymous.

            I’m wondering if for some books, a better representation might be “detailed endorsement” rather than “peer reviewed”. This is not meant as a slam but maybe a more accurate representation?

          • Neko

            No, I think you’re right–it’s not an issue. I’ve certainly never been through the process, but I am aware that for academic presses the protocol is as you describe for “high tier journal publications.” Perhaps Carrier sounded out readers in advance so he could make informed suggestions to his editor. It’s not clear, and it doesn’t matter. Still I was intrigued by the discussion.

            “Detailed endorsement” would be accurate, but presumably the book is being marketed to the academy–it’s in response to the methodological failures of the academy, after all–and so operates within its conventions.

            By this time reviews should be coming out in professional journals. Meanwhile you’d think Carrier would be pleased McGrath has given so much attention to his book. But I guess not.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Thank you very much, Neko. Remember that I was at the disadvantage of not actually having read the book :-)

            I only found out about the apparent doubts regarding the peer review when Jan Steen mentioned it. I agree with Jim’s point below that it probably doesn’t really matter now. We can all judge for ourselves.

            I was aware that Carrier had tweaked the criteria. For example, one of Raglan’s original criteria was:

            The body is not buried

            Which Carrier changed to:

            The body turns up missing [sic]

            The Gospel accounts clearly don’t match the original. So Carrier has artificially boosted the score. I don’t think it really matters what the exact score is, because that isn’t the central problem, in my view. I just think that the reference class is a dubious one. For example, all but one of the other fourteen figures would have “lived” before 1000 BC. Eleven of the fourteen come from Graeco-Roman mythology. None of them can be placed in historical context in the way that Jesus can.

            Anyway, thanks again.

          • Neko

            Thank you.

            The body turns up missing [sic]

            Ha!

            I suppose the connection between the peer review scenario and the Rank-Raglan criteria was “tweaking,” a suspicion one might want to avoid if one is promoting a scientific method.

            Yes, it’s perfectly plausible that a wonder-working exorcist, healer and messianic claimant emerged in an age of messianic expectation that produced wonder-working exorcists, healers and messianic claimants. Doesn’t mean Jesus existed, but at least the historical conditions are auspicious.

            I’m also trying to appreciate the conflict between Carrier and McGrath over allegorization. I took McGrath to mean that NT scholars are wary of engaging in speculation about what a text “really means,” that is, exegesis/eisegesis. Since scholars routinely speculate anyway (“peer-reviewed” scholars, of course) this infuriated Carrier, therefore he accuses McGrath of being “dishonest.” McGrath then introduced the distinction between symbolism and allegory, which can be somewhat nuanced, and both are presumably among the literary devices deployed in the gospels. What am I missing here?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Very good point. The fact that the tweaking slipped through the net is one of the things that make you doubt the peer review.

            Regarding the disputed issue, I would say that the question is not whether or to what extent scholars interpret texts symbolically, but whether their work can provide the basis for the argument which Carrier makes. I don’t see how it can. Are we really going to work our way through the Gospels, saying, “The probability that this scene is symbolic is 67.5%; the probability that that scene is symbolic is 72.4%”??

            We might as well have a “scientific method” of reading chicken entrails :-)

          • Neko

            I don’t know beans about probabilities but was struck all along by the Bayes’ formula’s vulnerability to manipulation (the “garbage in/garbage out” problem) as well as the interpretive pitfalls that you and McGrath identify. I admire Carrier’s audacity in gunning for the end zone but looks like he threw an incomplete pass (my sincere apologies for degenerating into sports metaphor/symbolism/allegory).

          • Ignorant Amos

            “The use of a mathematical theorem to establish reliable historical criteria can sound both threatening and misguided. However, Carrier describes and defends the theorem in layman’s terms, demonstrates that historians actually think in terms of probabilities while rarely quantifying them, shows how all other axioms and rules in historical methodology are compatible with the theorem, and then gives it a practical workout on recent studies on the historicity of Jesus … [in which] Carrier shows how the criteria for judging whether or not Jesus was a historical figure (coherence, embarrassment, multiple attestation, contextual plausibility, etc.) are replaceable by Bayes’s Theorem, which “if used correctly and honestly . . . won’t let you prove whatever you want, but only what the facts warrant.” College & Research Libraries Reviews, June 2012 (pp. 368-69).

          • Neko

            Yeah, I’ve heard the pitch, thanks.

            “Ian,” who’s posted in this very thread, wrote an informative review of Proving History a few years back that you might want to read:

            https://irrco{.}wordpress{.}com/2012/09/08/a-mathematical-review-of-proving-history-by-richard-carrier/

          • Ignorant Amos

            Your link doesn’t work.

          • Neko

            Yes, because the dots are in brackets. If you copy the link onto the address line, it should come up in Google. If not, you have to remove the brackets.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Cheers!

          • Jim

            Along with Neco’s link to Ian’s excellent analysis, another distally related one is an earlier commentary series on Carrier’s earlier application of BT to ID posted by Luke Barnes (post-doctoral researcher in cosmology);
            https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/probably-not-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-1/

            Although I think it is a useful (and publication worthy) idea for RC to apply/pursue BT to HJ/NT studies and to compare it to the standard historical criteria toolbox, still at the end of the day, probability is just probability. What do I mean by this brilliant insight? It’s just so all encompassing that after catching my breath I can only resort to analogy, which admittedly can only approximate the surface its depth.

            Suppose that the chances of getting/having a specific disease state is one in ten thousand, for the 9999 it may be an impossibility (or even a myth :) ) but for that one person … well … And then let’s take you for example, among all of those thousands of intelligent, good looking sperm, … well … you happened – alright just screwin wit ya here :).

            There is a difference between quantum probabilities where the events do take place often (you just have low probability of observing specific events without sacrificing other important info as per Heisenberg uncertainty principle etc) and past single historical occurrences.

            It may one day turn out that BT proves to be more efficient than current historical criteria after undergoing rigorous testing in multiple situations. When applied to humans and human history however, it needs to be kept in mind that probability is still just probability and never hard core evidence.

            I realize that this is such a trivial statement and everybody (including Bayes’ grandmother) already knows this, but it seems that sight of this often gets lost in heated debates.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Thank’s for that.

            You might be interested in a OP at Carrier’s freethought blog.

            Tim Hendrix on Proving History

            Tim Hendrix wrote a critical analysis of my book Proving History two years ago, and recently made it available online.

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/8192

            Particularly the discourse between Carrier and Hendrix in the comments thread.

          • Jim

            Will give it a read through. soon

        • Geoff B

          Well, Cecil, I am not sure that internet blogging counts as “interacting with genuine scholars.” I think Carrier has reacted, sometimes badly overreacted, to clear slights, for example Ehrman’s erroneous Huffington Post article as well as his book, DJE. Starting a dialogue by characterizing your opponent as a wingnut conspiracy theorist is poisoning the well. That started with Ehrman, Hoffmann, Casey, and McGrath. In blog conversations like this, I see fans of historicists avoiding with all their might, any criticism of the methods used by Jesus historicists to establish that Jesus existed. For me, I am intrigued about the origins of Christianity. I see the name-calling used by Ehrman and McGrath as a way of circling the wagons in defense of a paradigm they are unwilling to question.

    • Jan Steen

      Carrier’s bloated tome wasn’t peer reviewed by any meaningful standard of peer review.

      See: http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=300975#p300975

      • Ignorant Amos

        Ah….the No True Scotsman rears his ugly head.

        • Jan Steen

          So you have evidence the book was properly peer reviewed? Care to share it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I’m pretty sure that a prestige publisher like Sheffield Phoenix Press, that makes a claim such as…

            Continuing the best traditions of publishing from Sheffield, it makes its aim to support scholarship with high quality academic books and journals.

            …would have no truck with the nefarious antics you are suggesting.

            Sheffield Phoenix were asked…

            I emailed the publisher, as follows:
            Can you briefly describe the peer review process that Richard Carrier’s _On the Historicity of Jesus_ went through? Was that peer review process part of the decision as to whether to publish?

            and got this reply:

            We can assure anyone who asks that all our books are peer reviewed before being accepted. But we cannot undertake to describe the process just to any person who asks us to do so—life is too short.

            Judging by what a number of scholars have commented about peer review, Carrier’s account is the norm.

            http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-730163.html

          • Jan Steen

            What a pity that Carrier’s own words demonstrate that the book was not properly peer reviewed.

            And no, his account is not the norm. I am editor of a (properly) peer-reviewed scientific journal myself. I happen to know what I’m talking about. But it’s no use arguing about this with his “fans”.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What a pity that Carrier’s own words demonstrate that the book was not properly peer reviewed.

            No they really don’t, you just want them to, that’s all.

            And no, his account is not the norm.

            Well along with those claimants I linked to on that forum, other sources seem to support my assertion. Are you saying that Sheffield Phoenix are not carrying out due diligence?

            Traditionally, reviewers would often remain anonymous to the authors, but this standard varies both with time and with academic field. In some academic fields, most journals offer the reviewer the option of remaining anonymous or not, or a referee may opt to sign a review, thereby relinquishing anonymity. Published papers sometimes contain, in the acknowledgments section, thanks to anonymous or named referees who helped improve the paper.

            Editors solicit author input in selecting referees because academic writing typically is very specialized. Editors often oversee many specialties, and can not be experts in all of them. But after an editor selects referees from the pool of candidates, the editor typically is obliged not to disclose the referees’ identities to the authors, and in scientific journals, to each other (see #Anonymous peer review). Policies on such matters may differ among academic disciplines.

            Anonymity also adds to the difficulty in finding reviewers because, in scientific circles, credentials and reputation are important, and while being a referee for a prestigious journal is considered an honor, the anonymity restrictions make it unadvisable to publicly state that one was a referee for a particular article. However, credentials and reputation are principally established by publications, not by refereeing; and in some fields refereeing may not be anonymous.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholarly_peer_review

            I am editor of a (properly) peer-reviewed scientific journal myself.

            Wow…a scholar who bad mouths and name calls a fellow scholar on an internet blog, who’d have thought such a thing…hypocrite.

            I happen to know what I’m talking about.

            Not from where I’m sitting ya don’t.

            But it’s no use arguing about this with his “fans”.

            Spooooiiing! There goes another one.

          • Mark

            Sorry, this just isn’t peer review, it’s friend review:

            I sought four peer review reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity, and two have returned their reports, approving with revisions, and those revisions have been made. Since two peers is the standard number for academic publications, we can proceed. Two others missed the assigned deadline, but I’m still hoping to get their reports and I’ll do my best to meet any revisions they require as well.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Since WE have no idea as to the identity of who the two reviewer’s are, how can YOU, or anyone else here, claim to know what relationship they are to Richard Carrier?

          • Mark

            He says explicitly that he selected them – something I have never heard of, though I have refereed quite a few books and had one subjected to the process; I was just re-expressing his own statement in a mildly irritable, curmudgeonly way. I of course agree with McGrath that it’s a distraction. It’s a little irritating though that Carrier and his epigones go on and on about it, since even in more reputable forms its epistemic significance is barely above nil.

          • Geoff B

            I would say that carrier’s depiction here isn’t standard. He says he did that to move things along. That doesn’t say anything at all about Sheffield’s own process. A publisher doesn’t normally allow the author to conduct her own peer review process. You can understand that, right? If anything, Carrier might have been attempting to prod Sheffield to consider his work in the first place.

          • John MacDonald

            Keep in mind that Carrier’s publisher, Sheffield, also published Thomas Brodie’s sub-par mythicist autobiography “Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery,” Paperback – September 6, 2012

          • Ignorant Amos

            What matters is whether Sheffield Phoenix followed the correct guidelines for the peer review process or not. All this other stuff is just obfuscation. Why you lot feel the need to make such an issue of the books peer review beggars belief. No one is insisting, or even suggesting, that peer review is synonymous with veracity. Historicist’s have been demanding it as a pre condition and now that it has been achieved, the weaselling has commenced.

          • Mark

            There are no ‘correct guidelines’. Each press and each journal has its own policies. There is a greater degree of normalization in science, if I understand, but even there one is frequently amazed to find odd things, such as that in some fields the reviewer typically is told who wrote the paper. (In my own field this is unheard of — nevertheless, in the nature of the case in small disciplines, I in fact knew who wrote all but a few of the papers I have ref’d, so objectively it counts for little.) That you think that there are “The Guidelines” accounts for the magical significance you seem to be attaching to the words ‘peer reviewed’. Again, that someone has crossed the ‘peer reviewed’ boundary at some press somewhere just deprives Ehrman of a particular way of expressing a point that is only made clearer by Carrier’s book, namely that ‘mythicism’ is an internet era regurgitation of what are basically 19th c ideas.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Each press and each journal has its own policies.

            Are these policies not guide lines? Don’t they have to pass muster within the scholarship?

            That you think that there are “The Guidelines” accounts for the magical significance you seem to be attaching to the words ‘peer reviewed’.

            C’mon, there are do’s and don’t’s. I attach no significance to the process, magical or otherwise. What irks me is all the whining getting done about it now that a mythicist has achieved it. All of a sudden it is no big deal, when back in 2011 it clearly seems to have been.

            Again, that someone has crossed the ‘peer reviewed’ boundary at some press somewhere just deprives Ehrman of a particular way of expressing a point that is only made clearer by Carrier’s book, namely that ‘mythicism’ is an internet era regurgitation of what are basically 19th c ideas.

            And with that comment, you have shown your ignorance. No point in discussing it further with you as you are clearly unaware of Carriers thesis.

          • Mark

            No, I read the book when it came out. We’ve been through this material at about 30,000 pages length on this site with ample citation 😉 Part of your problem is you’re a little late joining the party.

            Note that if you think someone’s belief is false, you will inevitably look for an account of the believer’s acceptance of it, and of the view’s spread and so on. The more irrational you think it is – and I think mythicism is extremely irrational and anti-scientific – the more such questions will come to the forefront. In fact, these are the most interesting questions about ‘mythicism’. What is the attraction? Why not just say what most of us say, e.g. Look, no one in their right mind thinks corpses can ‘rise from the dead’ etc etc. A little experience with this crowd and their literature fills the mind with hypotheses and historical parallels. The combination of abject irrationalism and rationalistic and empiricistic posturing is especially interesting, though by no means unique to mythicism. You find the same in e.g. Nazi race science.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Godwin not withstanding…and being as I’m late to this party, perhaps you can get me up to speed as to who in the 19th century was using Carrier’s methodology?

            Why not just say what most of us say, e.g. Look, no one in their right mind thinks corpses can ‘rise from the dead’ etc etc.

            Because that is a given from the get go and not part of Carrier’s thesis, minimal historical Jesus vis a vis minimal mythical Jesus, but you know that already given your comprehensive understanding of Carrier’s position, no?

          • Mark

            Sorry, comrade, the suggestion that I and several of the other people commenting on this site haven’t read the book just isn’t going to fly.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I can’t help the inference drawn from your commenting now can I?

            You don’t seem to know the minimal historical Jesus vis a vis minimal mythical Jesus is what Carrier’s thesis is when you are bringing in the miracle tripe.

            So, I’ll ask again. Who was using Carrier’s method’s in the 19 th century?

          • Mark

            I didn’t say anything about any supposed ‘method’ and in fact I am confident that word is completely devoid of meaning. That mythicism can be characterized as ‘a nineteenth c. view’ is a historical fact. Some of its more interesting appearances are in the early 20th c. e.g. Couchoud and under the Soviet system. All of this predates the complete revolution in the comprehension of 2nd temple Judaism that arose after the war with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the general scholarly wake-up on Jewish material. The differences in material written before the war and in the last 20 or 30 years is as immense as the difference between contemporary biology and 19th c. biology. But you are standing with a theory that has all the merits of entelechist vitalism.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I didn’t say anything about any supposed ‘method’ and in fact I am confident that word is completely devoid of meaning.

            You said “‘mythicism’ is an internet era regurgitation of what are basically 19th c ideas.”

            Look it up…approach-idea-method.

            Who in the 19th century was using Carriers approach-method-idea?

            But you are standing with a theory that has all the merits of entelechist vitalism.

            Don’t be ridiculous. I’m just not completely dismissive of a thesis that cannot be completely dismissed that easily and as far as I can see, the other side of the argument is struggling to dismiss it easily, given that it should be an easy enterprise.

            These analogies getting trooped out are pathetic.

            The historical Jesus is the older hypothesis being challenged by the newer mythical Jesus .

            Creationism was the older hypothesis being challenged by the newer Evolution.

            And your vitalism comparison also fails for the same reason…even sticking to using mythicism as in 19th century methods-approach-ideas compared to best of the present. But that doesn’t suit, and it shows a lack of understanding in someone who allegedly understands Carrier’s hypothesis.

            To infer that Carrier’s mythicism has nothing to say about discoveries such as the DSS in his work is, again, surprising. Given that you claim to know it so well.

            I think Hector Avalos has a point when he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

          • Mark

            > The historical Jesus is the older hypothesis being challenged by the newer mythical Jesus .

            Right, the ‘newer’ challenge dates from the 19th century, was reworked in countless variants in the early 20th c. and preached in Stalin era schools and universities before the war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory for example. (Interestingly, I notice it now mentions Soviet mythicism.) Now it has an internet presence, the same as the racial anti-semitism and other suchlike Race theories also have an internet presence.

            I guess you can call the christ myth theory ‘new’ if, like the catholic church, you ‘think in centuries’.

            My interest in the protection of Hector Avalos’s ‘profession’ is zero. The question has to do with human history in general.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Right, the ‘newer’ challenge dates from the 19th century, was reworked in countless variants in the early 20th c.

            You mean like the reworking of something like…let me see…what is the fave historicist analogy…yeah, that’s the one, evolution.

            Dating back to pre-Socratic Greek times, but has been reworked…nah, we’ll just pick it up at the 17th century….no? Later? Say, the 19th century…and reworked from there?

            …and preached in Stalin era schools and universities before the war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… for example. (Interestingly, I notice it now mentions Soviet mythicism.) Now it has an internet presence, the same as the racial anti-semitism and other suchlike Race theories also have an internet presence.

            You keep repeating this like it should impress. What is your point?

            I guess you can call the christ myth theory ‘new’ if, like the catholic church, you ‘think in centuries’.

            Millennia if you include Docetism.

            You do know that Christ Myth Theory is a big broad brush…right?

            Of course no other theories have been developing and improving over the past few centuries…or even longer…for example, how we do history itself?

            https://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/works/history/ch04.htm

          • Mark

            Huh?

          • Neko

            Docetism isn’t mythicism.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Docetism isn’t mythicism.

            Isn’t it? Who says? Define mythicism for me then?

            Here, let me help…

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory

            Proponents point to early beliefs in a non-corporeal Jesus (docetism, as condemned in 2 John 1:7), which would help explain the lack of historical evidence for a human seed, and close correspondence of the Jesus story to many other myths of the time (a correspondence first noted by early apologist and saint Justin Martyr).

            As I stated elsewhere…the genre of Christ Myth Theory is a broad brush hypothesis…in very much the same way the historicist view is also.

            Docetism is broadly defined as any Christological teaching that claims that Jesus’s body was either absent or illusory, as derived from the Greek word dokein-“to seem.”

            Two varieties were widely known. In one version, Christ was so divine he could not have been human, since God lacked a material body, which therefore could not physically suffer. Jesus only appeared to be a flesh-and-blood man; his body was a phantasm. This stance was taken by Marcionism, and seems to predate even Marcion’s time, being criticized in 1 John 4:2-3. Other groups who were accused of docetism held that Jesus was a man in the flesh, but Christ was a separate entity, who entered Jesus’s body in the form of a dove at his baptism, empowered him to perform miracles, and abandoned him on his death on the cross.

            I don’t see an historical real man Jesus in Docetism, ergo mythical, sorry.

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

            This is why it is so frustrating to interact with mythicists. They insist that they are not like creationists, and yet they get their information from online sources about a subject they have not studied, and then decide to make pronouncements about the past, dismissing the scholarly consensus, in a manner that is a very close parallel to what other denialists do.

            Docetism is the view that the Jesus who appeared in history was a divine being who only appeared to be human. It emerges as a result of the divinization of Jesus, and reflects the problem that is created thereby, namely that gods cannot suffer and die in the way mortals can.

            Mythicism is the view that there was no Jesus who appeared in history.

            The information we have about and from docetists in ancient times does not support the mythicist position. But as I might ask a creationists, so I must also ask the mythicist: as someone with no expertise in relevant fields (ancient history, early Christian literature, etc. in this case) how do you expect to be in a position to know such things, so as to have a basis for discussing the topic in a scholarly way in detail? Or can you at least be honest in your denialism and say that you don’t think ancient history requires detailed knowledge of texts and the kind of expertise gained through study and employment at universities, but just requires reading web pages in one’s spare time?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Docetism is the view that the Jesus who appeared in history was a divine being who only appeared to be human. It emerges as a result of the divinization of Jesus, and reflects the problem that is created thereby, namely that gods cannot suffer and die in the way mortals can.

            Divine being, celestial being…I’m sure you will point out the difference? Only appeared to be human? So he wasn’t human, like Paul’s dream Jesus ya mean?

            In one version, as in Marcionism, Christ was so divine he could not have been human, since God lacked a material body, which therefore could not physically suffer. Jesus only appeared to be a flesh-and-blood man; his body was a phantasm. ~ Ehrman, Bart D. (1996). The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Oxford University Press.

            “Docetism and its various branches held that Christ’s human body was merely a phantom, and that his suffering and death were but appearance. If he suffered, he was not God, they argued, if he was God, he did not suffer: a most reasonable conclusion.”

            “Jesus Versus Christianity” by Alfred Reynolds (1993)

            Mythicism is the view that there was no Jesus who appeared in history.

            No it isn’t. Perhaps this is your major malfunction on the subject. Theist’s are prone to doing the same thing by forcing the definition of atheism they prefer, onto a particular atheist.

            Carrier’s mythicism is that according to Paul, Jesus existed, just not here on Earth. He obviously appeared in history so that part of your comment is just plain daft. He appeared to Paul in visions/dreams/ hallucinations, if one believes Paul, and the other Christian’s known to Paul knew Jesus in the same way.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory#Meaning_of_.22Jesus_myth_theory.22

            The information we have about and from docetists in ancient times does not support the mythicist position.

            Which mythicist position? The Docetic one?

            But as I might ask a creationists, so I must also ask the mythicist: as someone with no expertise in relevant fields (ancient history, early Christian literature, etc. in this case) how do you expect to be in a position to know such things, so as to have a basis for discussing the topic in a scholarly way in detail?

            Yeah, because those with expertise in relevant fields (ancient history, early Christian literature, etc. in this case) are never wrong, always right….wait a moment, you seem to want to disregard folk that DO fulfil those criteria with a wave of the hand when they don’t to the party line. So you’ll forgive if I don’t play your snobby credentials games, it is just a ruse to obfuscate and deflect…and par for your course.

            Or can you at least be honest in your denialism …

            Well first off, your accusation of denialism, whaaaa? What reality have I denied that you think I find is uncomfortable? I think you are conflating denialism with my scepticism. Perhaps a brush up on terms might not go a miss.

            …and say that you don’t think ancient history requires detailed knowledge of texts and the kind of expertise gained through study and employment at universities, but just requires reading web pages in one’s spare time?

            That would be one serious Self Appreciation Forum, especially after you had vetted out those that qualified, but were dissenters. But I thought you had societies for all that back slapping and chortling?

            But hang on a mo….

            What? Seriously? Did I even say such a thing? Where? Citation please? Or is this a construction of what you think I think? Your some pup James, a mind reader among all your other skills? No, you know I didn’t say such and you can’t know what I’m thinking. This is the sort of thing you write that has the finger of accusation getting pointed at you.

            But wait another minute…are you suggesting that only those with pieces of paper from a school in the subject under investigation, and that hold a position of employment at a university, are the only folk qualified to engage? I think you just might be as daft as Carrier infers.

            I had the pleasure as part of my university studies to research and write an essay about the life of a guy called Michael Faraday, ever heard of him?

            Although Faraday received little formal education, he was one of the most influential scientists in history.

            The young Michael Faraday, who was the third of four children, having only the most basic school education, had to educate himself. At fourteen he became the apprentice to George Riebau, a local bookbinder and bookseller in Blandford Street. During his seven-year apprenticeship he read many books, including Isaac Watts’ The Improvement of the Mind, and he enthusiastically implemented the principles and suggestions contained therein. At this time he also developed an interest in science, especially in electricity. Faraday was particularly inspired by the book Conversations on Chemistry by Jane Marcet.

            Other “uneducated” amateur folk of notoriety…

            William Herschel
            Gregor Mendel
            Srinivasa Ramanujan

            Ramanujan was insanely good at math, and it wasn’t due to any education, either — he was entirely self taught.

            Of course the expertise from university emploed proffessors around here is somewhat flabbergasting.

            Edit: to fix html tag, format and spelling.

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

            I know that denialists often style themselves as “skeptics.” But they are not as skeptical of the claims of their viewpoint as they are of mainstream scholarship.

            You presumably missed that Paul’s Jesus was born of a woman (i.e. a human being like all other human beings), born under the Torah (i.e. Jewish), descended from David (literally “of the seed of David” and thus on his father’s side)?

          • Neko

            If you want to pretend that docetism is mythicism and that you are another Michael Faraday could you at least fix your html. Thanking you in advance.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ah jeez…there ya go…fixed that tag for ya, seeing as you were struggling.

            I never said Docetism is mythicism, reading comprehension skill’s aren’t that great here are they? Did ya even bother yer arse ta read the link? I don’t suppose ya did, given your response.

            I never claimed or inferred or pretended to be anything of the sort, but it just takes one example to moot the argument. Faraday was an uneducated artisan tradesman with no position at a university, yet his acheiements makes the lot of you look like imbeciles. So crying about who is qualified to say what just makes McGrath out to be ridiculous on this issue. There are just as many dickhead’s in academia as in the rest of society.

            Now get back to the detail and attempt a rebuttal of this imbeciles arguments here and stop pissing about with all this school yard shite about my credentials are better than your credentials bullshit, there’s a good chap…oh, I forgot, that is not how you operate.

          • Neko

            Ha ha no I didn’t read your link. I already know what docetism is. Sometimes I get off the internet and read books, yo.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That’s as may be, but you wouldn’t think it though by yer commenting.

          • Neko

            Aww, you hurt my feelings. But I have to hand it to you…you do a mean cut-and-paste.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But I have to hand it to you…you do a mean cut-and-paste.

            Seems a bit stupid to have a good tool at hand and not utilise it, but you might think differently?

          • Neko

            Get serious.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You get serious, you’ve posted nothing of substance so far. Not that I’m at all surprised.

          • Neko

            Why are you pestering me, then? Take your leave.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You’re a gift.

          • Neko

            To God the glory.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I was just wondering, since you are so well read up on Docetism in meat world, and you clearly think the definition I have offered is an erroneous one. Perhaps you might like to cite a source I could research up on that rebuts my assertion and supports your own? I’m always open to any new information that will improve my knowledge.

          • Neko

            I didn’t say I was well-read on docetism. I implied that I encountered the term in books, which is true.

            Dr. McGrath already explained what docetism is; I don’t know why you’re flogging the point. Docetism assumed the existence of Jesus in history but disputed his humanity as an illusion, a view that would eventually be condemned as heretical as the fully human-fully divine “mystery” of Christ’s nature was articulated and enshrined into orthodoxy. Mythicism disputes that Jesus ever existed.

            I didn’t read your post, but I’m guessing you argue that the distinction between an historical Jesus whose human form was illusory, and a phantasm of a divine being, is without a difference. But you’d be wrong.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I didn’t say I was well-read on docetism. I implied that I encountered the term in books, which is true.

            You implied that your knowledge on the subject from reading books is far superior to mine whose knowledge is from the internet, because you assumed that my only knowledge on the subject is FROM the internet and not also any books.

            Dr. McGrath already explained what docetism is; I don’t know why you’re flogging the point.

            I’m flogging damn all, I’m attempting to point out that there is/was more than one form of Docetism and that at least one of them was a type of mythicism. You have denied this point, but you have yet to defend your position with any substance. I don’t care what Dr. McGrath already explained. I did not reject his definition, I’m suggesting there was more than one school of thought on the subject and one of those resembles Christ Myth theory.

            Docetism assumed the existence of Jesus in history but disputed his humanity as an illusion, a view that would eventually be condemned as heretical as the fully human-fully divine “mystery” of Christ’s nature was articulated and enshrined into orthodoxy.

            Carrier’s mythicism assumes the existence of Jesus in history but disputes his humanity as an illusion. An angelic or celestial being in the heavens. You do know that first century Palestinian Jews believed that the heavenly realms where a real place, complete with all the things that can be found on earth…right?

            Mythicism disputes that Jesus ever existed.

            And theists insist that atheism is the position that gods/God doesn’t exist.

            Both are inaccurate statements in that they are too narrow.

            The Christ myth theory (also known as Jesus myth theory or Jesus mythicism) is an umbrella term that applies to a range of arguments that in one way or another question the existence of Jesus of Nazareth or the entirety of his life story as described in the Christian gospels. The most extreme versions of the myth theories contend that there was no real historical figure Jesus and that he was invented by early Christians. Other variants hold that there was a person called Jesus, but almost all teachings and miracles attributed to him were either invented or symbolic references, or that the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament is a composite character constructed from multiple people over a period of time.

            Since Arthur Drews published his The Christ Myth (Die Christusmythe) in 1909, occasional connections have been drawn between the modern idea that Christ was a myth and docetist theories. Shailer Mathews called Drews’ theory a “modern docetism”. Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare thought any connection to be based on a misunderstanding of docetism. The idea recurred in Classicist Michael Grant’s 1977 review of the evidence for Jesus, who compared modern scepticism about an historical Jesus to the ancient docetic idea that Jesus only seemed to come into the world “in the flesh”. Modern theories did away with “seeming”.

            Mythicism is as old as Christianity.

            “But Christ–if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere–is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.” ~ “Dialogue with Trypho” , Justin Martyr, 2nd Century

            I didn’t read you post, but I’m guessing you argue that the distinction between an historical Jesus whose human form was illusory, and a phantasm of a divine being, is without a difference. But you’d be wrong.

            WTF? You didn’t read my post, or the links I post in support of a claim, nevertheless, you set about guessing my arguments and then assert that I’m wrong. Bravo. Way to go Neko. Do you know what a straw man fallacy is?

            BTW, check phantasmal for synonyms…you will find illusory on the list.

            Meaning of Christ Myth Theory….again….

            .http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory#Meaning_of_.22Jesus_myth_theory.22

          • Neko

          • Ignorant Amos

            I didn’t bother reading this, since my impression is that you don’t know jack.

            I don’t care….I’m thinking of the lurkers who are looking in and judging the discourse. That you won’t read anything I post or link to, yet feel the need to make asinine comments anyway, makes you out to be the ignorant one.

            You are the one who doesn’t know jack….and you are that asinine that your inability to make any comments of substance in rebuttal is as good a display of your knuckle dragging as I could ask for, so carry on.

            Edit: on request of site owner.

          • Neko

            LOL!

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

            Neko, this has gone on much too long. I would appreciate it if you would stop insulting and baiting Amos in this way.

            Amos, I have a no profanity policy on my blog, since that is something that can itself drag down the level of discourse. Could you kindly edit your comment so that you don’t give something else?

            Thank you both in advance for your compliance.

          • Neko

            Dr. McGrath, I had thought better of it and removed my comment but clearly not before Amos read it in email.

            I apologize for the disruption and am happy to ignore Amos in future.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I have edited my comment out of courtesy to your request, although I’m a firm believer that profane words have a valuable use in ones lexicon. I take the explanation of the polymath Stephen Fry as an accurate assessment of my position.

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

          • Neko

            OK, I glanced at this. What does Trypho’s skepticism have to do with docetism?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Nothing as far as I am aware, although it could do as Docetist views covered a number of schools of thought, but that doesn’t matter.

            It is just another example of mythicist thinking way before the 18th century, hence the reason why I led into it with, “mythicism is as old as Christianity”.

            Which is the point I was making with Docetism.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Unfortunately we cannot tell what manner of Docetists the Ignatians are attacking, whether a revelatory Docetism (teaching the events of Jesus’ life were seen only in visions) or a historicist Docetism (teaching the events of Jesus’ life were witnessed in the normal way, but were nevertheless illusions). ~ “On the Historicity of Jesus”, Richard Carrier, 2014

            So even Carrier doesn’t regard docetism as positive evidence of mythicism.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So even Carrier doesn’t regard docetism as positive evidence of mythicism.

            Nice quote mine.

            Where did I suggest he did regard Docetism as positive evidence of mythicism?

            Where did I suggest I regarded Docetism as positive evidence of mythicism?

            I regard a variation of Docetism as evidence of mythicist thinking, because it is.

            But regardless, read that quote again…carefully. Then read it back into the book in context with the rest of the subject. It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

            Anyway, it matters not to the point I was attempting to make.

            The conversation is about mythicist thinking and how far back in history it extends as a school of thought. Not that it is that big a deal. It was Neko who challenged my use of the word.A version of Docetism is a form of mythicist thinking. The word even means “seemed” or “was thought or imagined or pretended” for goodness sake.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Carrier’s point was straightforward: the fact that people were talking about docetist ideas would only be evidence for mythicism if docetism meant “revelatory” rather than “historicist” docetism, but since this can’t be established, there is no support for mythicism. In fact, I think Carrier is taking a liberty by suggesting the possibility of “revelatory” docetism, but that is another matter.

            The reason why I quote Carrier is that he is my go-to guy on this. As Carrier himself once said, “If you haven’t heard it [a mythicist argument] from me, don’t listen to it.”

            Perhaps you think you can make the case that Carrier doesn’t try to make, or perhaps you are suggesting something else. Are you saying that because people thought Jesus wasn’t really human, this itself is a form of mythicism? In that case you could apply the same to Caesar. If people thought Caesar was a god then he couldn’t have been truly human, in which case we have ancient evidence of Caesar mythicism.

          • John MacDonald

            Ignorant Amos said: “Carrier’s mythicism assumes the existence of Jesus in history but disputes his humanity as an illusion.”

            Where does Carrier say he assumes the existence of Jesus in history? You seem to be completely misunderstanding his argument.

          • Neko

            Did Carrier abandon his theory of Jesus’s crucifixion “in outer space”? I am disappoint.

          • John MacDonald

            Carrier thinks the original Christians believed Jesus was crucified in outer space, but in reality they were just hallucinating.

          • Neko

            Thank you for walking me through the looking glass.

          • Jan Steen

            With a posterior probability of 0.6737845637892.

          • John MacDonald

            Don’t make fun of Carrier’s math. If you do he will only have 97 other academic fields that he is an expert in.

          • Jan Steen

            He makes Leonardo da Vinci look like an underachiever.

          • Jan Steen

            Yes, it was his best contribution to the comic literature. Although the idea, I believe, was Earl Doherty’s. But Carrier’s delivery was much funnier. He could really convince you that he believed his own nonsense. Throw in some pseudo-scientific Bayesian calculations and the effect was absolutely hilarious. Pure high-octane comedy. Although perhaps a bit over long at 700+ pages. But then, he often got carried away. Nomen est omen, I suppose.

          • Neko

            Nomen est omen, I suppose. Ha! Yes, Carrier was supposed to make Doherty respectable. I had hopes that Carrier’s editor would power drill through the manuscript and produce a lean and mean tour de force, or at least something decent you could take on the subway. But no. I’m not about to plunk down $31.50 for a work-out weight when I can’t even finish one of Carrier’s blog posts before throwing up my hands. So I’m grateful to all the honest brokers who’ve done due diligence over the years and heroically grappled with the 700-page beast. I would check it out from the library but all that comes up when I search “On the Historicity of Jesus” are Bart Ehrman’s books. Poetic justice.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I had hopes that Carrier’s editor would power drill through the manuscript and produce a lean and mean tour de force, or at least something decent you could take on the subway.

            It’s in the pipeline.

            I [RC] want to produce a mass market book summarizing the conclusions and findings of On the Historicity of Jesus, with a major publisher, one that works often with expanding into foreign language markets. I have been asked by fans throughout Spanish speaking countries especially. But it’s impossible to get a Spanish language publisher on board with something as enormous and footnotey as OHJ. A shorter, popular market book, however, would definitely appeal (I already have translators lined up). And if it meets with success in the English language market, then we can indeed push for a Spanish edition, and maybe others.

            But no. I’m not about to plunk down $31.50 for a work-out weight when I can’t even finish one of Carrier’s blog posts without throwing up my hands.

            Hmmm…there are other methods of attaining, or other mediums, i.e. kindle or audio, but then you forgo the vast array of footnotes and bibliography Carrier uses to support his assertions.

            So I’m grateful to all the honest brokers who’ve done due diligence over the years and heroically grappled with the 700-page beast.

            How do you know those are honest brokers that have done due diligence? Your bias?

            I would check it out from the library but all that comes up when I search “On the Historicity of Jesus” are Bart Ehrman’s books.

            If you haven’t already, read Ehrman’s tome for an example of poor scholarship. Then read the rebuttal book from the mythicists he misrepresents for the reasons why his book is a travesty.

            Poetic justice.

            Ya think…from someone who admits to having not read OHJ? Way to go Neko.

          • John MacDonald

            I still don’t get how, one week, the first Christians were in the synagogue discussing the celestial Jesus, and the next week they completely forgot about the celestial Jesus and started talking about the human Jesus! And the celestial Jesus never even survived as a heresy!

          • Ignorant Amos

            His argument, as I understand it, but could be wrong, is that Paul and others believed Jesus was real, but in the heavenly realm. A place as real as the moon to those people. That the folk of the time believed was a real place like the Greeks knew mount Olympus was real. Where celestial beings took on flesh and blood shells to do stuff like fight with demons, have ritual meals and get crucified an such like. As in the Ascension of Isaiah. Paul gives no indication of when this happened. He alludes to scripture a lot so it might be placed in an OT time frame historically.

            Because Paul believes the illusionary Jesus of his visions is real in a spacey realm, he is historical, just not human, but in human form, set in the history of OT scripture. That’s what I meant by existence in history.

            Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, Ned Ludd and John Frum are placed in history, it doesn’t make them any more real.

          • John MacDonald

            This may be an entry level question, but I have been wondering lately about Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ death in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5:

            “3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).”

            What does “according to Scripures” mean? Is Paul saying “according to the Hebrew scriptures I read, Christ died in this way”? Is Paul saying “Christ’s death fulfilled scriptures?”

            We are all familiar with allusions to the Hebrew scriptures in Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ death, but maybe Paul has the same thing in mind even though he doesn’t elaborate.

            If Paul interpreted Jesus death in accordance with Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Wisdom of Solomon, this would certainly be “according to scriptures.”

            But why would Paul say Christ was buried and that he was raised in three days “according to scripture?” Maybe Paul had in mind the story of Jonah. For Matthew it is a symbolic prophecy represented by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach of a great fish (Jonah 1:17). Jesus said the only “sign” people would be given would be “the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then proceeded to explain what He was talking about: “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40).

            What was Paul talking about? If Paul is alluding to the Old Testament in his conceptualization of the death and resurrection of Christ, can historical content be derived from it?

          • Neko

            A quibble; the RSV cites Psalm 16:10 as Paul’s “Scriptures” for 1 Cor 15:4.

            For thou doest not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit.

          • John MacDonald

            Does the RSV give any reason for choosing Psalm 16? Paul’s text doesn’t seem to give a definitive answer or point in any particular direction.

          • Neko

            It references Acts 2:31:

            [David] foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

          • John MacDonald

            Luke/ Acts’ Paul, and the Paul of the letters, isn’t exactly the same thing. That said, I don’t have a problem with the reference being to Psalm 16. Thanks for looking that up! :)

          • John MacDonald

            The point I was trying to make is that if a section of text serves a theological purpose (like New Testament writing being presented as Old Testament scripture fulfillment), there is no reason to think it leads back to the historical Jesus.

          • Neko

            Of course I took your point and have wondered about that myself. From what I understand, 1 Cor 15:3-7 represents a credal formulation to which Paul adds Christ’s appearance to him, “as to an abortion.” I guess the assumption is that Paul learned this creed from the Jesus followers who preceded him in the faith.

          • John MacDonald

            Carrier argues that Paul only learned about Christ through revelation and scripture.

          • Neko

            Right. Though I haven’t read his book I’ve encountered elements of his argument here and there.

            I was intrigued by that idea some years back and picked up The Jesus Puzzle but quickly lost confidence in Earl Doherty as a reliable narrator. He’s a bit tendentious, you might say.

          • Neko

            You’re welcome, it was no problem. I also checked Raymond Brown’s Intro to the NT but came up empty.

            (Yes, I’m aware of the distinction between Luke/Acts Paul and Paul of Tarsus! But thanks for mentioning it.)

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

            If you redefine docetism so that it encompasses mythicism (an idea not found in ancient sources), and then assume that any part can stand for the whole, then you migt just actually believe it when you say that mythicism is as old as Christianity. But assuming you actually see the problems in those two maneuvers, this can only be an attempt at sleight of hand.

          • Ignorant Amos

            BTW, the link wasn’t to any definition of Docetism, but that a certain Christ Myth may be considered a form of Docetism.

            But before you go citing your meaning of Docetism, I’m not referring to the Docetism represented by Basilides that claimed that Christ only appeared to suffer because someone else was crucilied in his place, nor the Docetism represented by Cerinthus who thought that thought Jesus and Christ were separate entities. I’m referring to the Docetism that Ignatius rails against in his polemical letter to the Smyrnaeans.

            [It is] not as certain unbelievers claim, that he only seemed to suffer. They are the ones who are only an
            appearance; and it will happen to them just as they think: they will be without bodies- and daimonic! (Smyrn. 2).

            And when [Jesus] came to those around Peter, he said to them, ―Grasp, touch me and see that I am not a bodiless daimon. And immediately they touched and believed, having intermingled with his flesh and spirit…And after his resurrection he ate and drank together with them as a fleshly being, even though having been spiritually united with the Father (Smyrn 3.2-3).

            Angelic Christologies in early writings are not unheard of. “The Shepherd of Hermes”, “The Ascension of Isaiah” and the “Gospel of the Ebionites” promote angelic Christiologies for example. If the gospel’s Jesus story was the part line, one must wonder where or how these celestial yarns were able to take root.

          • Jim

            Ok so Ignorant Anus (Beavis and Butthead snicker … snicker snicker … dammit stop it Jim already … one more snicker) – a theoretical question (i.e. no right or wrong answer); suppose that Paul sees Jesus (by whatever mechanism) in visions as he implies in his letters (presumably because Jesus had already died a few years before, so not many other options), how can you prove unequivocally (heavy on uneq-whatever) that Paul had never thought that Jesus had a physical existence sometime prior to his vision? (ie how would you clearly prove that Paul thought Jesus had *never* existed on this earth in physical form). Again no trick question, just trying to see what data you use to support your view.

          • Mark

            Mythicism is the theory that the imagined Celestial Christ precisely did NOT appear in the early first century as a human. Docetism is the view that DESPITE this appearance, there was, miraculously, no flesh-and-blood human there. Mythicism is closer to orthodoxy than to docetism, since unlike docetism neither view imagines human appearances without a human appearing. The skeptical rationalist view is that they are all false and religiously motivated. Docetism can explain away the obvious references to a real Jesus in Paul. Though miraculous, it at least has the advantage of explaining how a Jewish messianic movement got going. For mythicism, this is itself a miracle.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The problem you lot are not grasping is that there is more than one definition of mythicism. Carrier and Docherty’s mythicist hypotheses are different from many other contemporary hypotheses. Just look at Atwil for example. They are also different from the mythicists hypotheses down through the ages.

            Words are defined by their use in common parlance.

          • Ignorant Amos

            He says explicitly that he selected them – something I have never heard of, though I have refereed quite a few books and had one subjected to the process

            He didn’t say he selected them, what he said was, “I sought four peer review reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity”. He, at no point, reveals who they are, or their relationship to him.

            It may well be something you have not heard of, nevertheless, it still appears to be part of the process.

            Editors solicit author input in selecting referees because academic writing typically is very specialized. Editors often oversee many specialties, and can not be experts in all of them. But after an editor selects referees from the pool of candidates, the editor typically is obliged not to disclose the referees’ identities to the authors, and in scientific journals, to each other.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholarly_peer_review#Recruiting_referees

            Which Carrier has maintained here…

            It works the same way in history as in science. An academic press will often even ask you, as standard procedure, whom you think would be best suited to peer review your submission (they will ask for as many names as possible, because being unpaid, most when asked will decline). They might not go with names you recommend, but they will consider them. And the process after that is usually triple-blind (not just the public but even you won’t know who the actual peer reviewers end up being, while the reviewers won’t be told who the author is, either, although in practice that can sometimes be guessed).

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4090#ixzz3lfsEglRN

            It’s a little irritating though that Carrier and his epigones go on and on about it,…

            Like has been said elsewhere, historicist’s have made a big song and dance about mythicist’s NOT having anything peer reviewed. Ehrman used that argument enough times. Now that an author has got a respected publisher to do just that and that author makes a point of letting potential readers know about it, that is now the fault. Some historicist’s can’t even accept the peer review in this instance, which is plain pathetic.

            The devil when ya do and the devil when ya don’t.

          • Mark

            Yes, my point was, that having been involved in this sort of process with books many times and with articles many, many, many times – in a humanities field like Carrier’s – I cannot comprehend “I sought four peer review reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity” That an author might be asked for names of possible referees I can comprehend, and that is what your wikipedia passage is referring to. The way to formulate _that_ is, say, “I suggested four notables as potential referees, and now it turns out that they actually used two of them! — There are two other reports outstanding, I don’t know if they are the people I mentioned.” This thought cannot be expressed by the words, “I sought four peer review reports … two have come in … the other two …” or the like. That is, nothing consistent with your wikipedia passage is consistent with this sentence of Carrier’s. But maybe there’s a way of reading it that I’m missing. In any case no one can think this really matters. That some people made the taunt ‘no peer reviewed work defending mythicism has appeared’ meant only that no work had yet crossed that almost unbelievably low bar. The sentence from Carrier just shows that the bar was even more unbelievably low than we thought, thanks to the Sheffield Phoenix Press. It moves the epistemic moment of ‘it’s peer reviewed’ from 0.000011 down to 0.000010 Ehrman and whoever are just deprived of a particular means of expressing their point.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well, do we know if the publisher only used Carriers four suggestions of reviewer? No.

            It seems that there is a game of semantics being played out here.

            As for peer review in general. I don’t care much about it. If it’s broke then it’s broke. But what I don’t get is all the complaining about Carrier using it when it was the historicist’s that were the ones complaining that it was missing in the first place.The owner of this site among them.

          • Mark

            > HIstoricists have made a big song and dance about mythicism’s not having anything peer reviewed

            You can only be talking about a handful of people. But what you are calling ‘historicists’ is basically everyone. Mythicism was taught in textbooks for decades in the early soviet period. Nothing seems to have survived of the associated ‘research program’ which had the backing of a major state. The view belongs to the nineteenth century. It is characteristic of mythicist writers to be completely ignorant of Jewish phenomena, and the immense change in cognition of those matters that has come about in the past 50 or so years. Seen in the light of other 2nd temple phenomena, there is nothing in the world that is more natural than the origin of Christianity and the existence of an original object of enthusiasm is as certain as lightning, given thunder. If you want to distract yourself from studying the actual material by ransacking the history of religion for Innana-Jesus parallels, then sure, do it.

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

            It is nice to see this get a mention. I was fascinated back in the 90s when I came across old textbooks in second-hand bookstores in Romania and saw the mythicist ideas in them. I would have snatched one up for later reference, if I had foreseen that the same ideas were going to subsequently make a resurgence on the internet in the English speaking world.

          • Pofarmer

            “and the existence of an original object of enthusiasm is as certain as lightning, given thunder.”

            So, I take it you believe Joseph Smith really did receive Golden plates from the Angel Moroni which he translated with a seer stone and a magic hat?

          • Mark

            There is no similarity at all. To begin with one point of distinction, Mormonism is not and was never a Jewish messianic movement.

          • Pofarmer

            What? how is that relevant to the question?

          • Mark

            > What? how is that relevant to the question?

            Do you mean how is it relevant to your question about Smith’s supposed Moroni? My claim was that, where there is a Jewish – or any other – messianic enthusiasm, with a named messiah, there is a charismatic messianic figure at the bottom of it. My evidence for this is much stronger than my evidence that, where there is thunder, there must have been lightning. To reject the existence of Jesus is exactly as irrational as to deny the lightning, despite the thunder, because it doesn’t fit with your weather prediction, and to say that it must have been a noise made by fraudulent ecclesiastics.

          • Pofarmer

            That may be, but Jesus wasn’t just any messianic figure, was he? He was supposed to come down from Heaven and kick the Romans asses. I think what’s irrational, is to look at Pauls conception of a messianic Jesus, and say, “Oh yeah, this is exactly like the messianic figures that we know about because we have other records for them”. Josephus writes about them, Apallonius of Tyana was one. You might even wonder to yourself, after hundreds of years of expecting a messiah to come and free the Jews from successive occupation, might they make up a celestial one that didn’t have the same limitations.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            So why not have Jesus kicking butt in outer space? Serious question. If you are going to invent a celestial messiah claims of whose existence and actions are immune to disproof, why not have him doing something heroic? On the other hand, if the only thing you need your messiah to do is die, why not choose one of the many victims of Roman crucifixion?

          • Pofarmer

            “So why not have Jesus kicking butt in outer space?”

            Because that’s not they way 1st century Jews typically viewed interacting with God?

          • Neko

            You wrote:

            Apallonius [sic] of Tyana was one.

            Apolllonius of Tyana was not a messianic figure.

          • Pofarmer

            I stand corrected then.

          • Mark

            You might even wonder to yourself, after hundreds of years of expecting a messiah to come and free the Jews from successive occupation, might they make up a celestial one that didn’t have the same limitations.

            Do you have an examples of this phenomenon, of Jews celestializing their messiah, in the sense you mean? It usually looks like this http://hebrewsongs.com/?song=animaamin

            Certainly there are pre-existence theories, google, e.g. baal shem tov “when will you come, master”

            But they all involve the anticipated terrestrial appearance of the king.

          • Pofarmer

            “But they all involve the anticipated terrestrial appearance of the king.”

            Which is what Paul talks about repeatedly.

          • Mark

            Right, you are construing him as merely prophetic, as anticipating a messiah who has not yet appeared. He is thus indistinguishable from any other Jew who has not yet met his messiah, praying ‘and though he tarry yet I will wait for him every day’ as all orthodox jews pray every day and the school children sing, and so on.

            He will be ‘born of a woman’, but hasn’t yet been. May he come speedily, and in our time!

            This account is hopeless, which is why mythicists don’t try it. It is your own original creation. For one thing you don’t give corrupted aramaic names to a messiah before his mother and father do. When Paul refers to “Jesus Christ” it’s exactly as if he was saying “Josh Messiah” or “King Josh” Maybe you would call him “Immanuel” before the fact 😉 Paul is anticipating quite a bit, since, as we know, his actual messiah was killed by the Romans — for subtle theological reasons Paul seems to think he understands — but he’s going to make his proper royal entry or parousia any day now.

          • Pofarmer

            “Paul is anticipating quite a bit, since, as we know, his actual messiah was killed by the Romans -”

            How do we know this.

          • Mark

            Paul keeps saying he’s crucified. I guess you could think that there is a Roman Empire in the heavens too. And a CIA. Or are you thinking it’s improbable that the a Palestinian messianic figure in the 1st c. would end up crucified?

          • Pofarmer

            So, you are assuming it.

          • Mark

            Yes, I’m assuming the existence of the Roman Empire, and the laws of messianic movements, which are well known and documented, same as the connection between lightning and thunder is.

          • Pofarmer

            What you are assuming are things that Paul never says.

          • John MacDonald

            Paul also says Jesus is the “first fruits” of the general resurrection (see 1 Cor 15:23), which suggests identity of nature between Christ and the rest of the populous that is getting resurrected.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Good point, John. Here’s another interesting one: “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again..” (Rom. 6:9)

            This is what you would say about a man whom you believe to have been resurrected. You wouldn’t say it about a celestial being.

          • John MacDonald

            The New Testament writers point to the fact that the Hebrew Scripture shape their understanding of Jesus:
            *************************************************************
            (A) Hence the beginning of Mark says:
            1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’
            ***************************************************************
            (B) Likewise, Paul says:
            For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,… (1 Cor 15:3)
            ****************************************************************
            Mythicists also make a lot of the fact that there are a lot of allusions to the Old Testament in the gospels, and conclude that, for example, the gospel of Mark was constructed by rewriting the Old testament with Jesus as the central character.
            *****************************************************************
            But historicists can just as easily explain where all those allusions to the Old Testament are coming from: So, as it says in Acts, the leaders in the synagogue would have read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So original followers of Jesus would have then recalled their memories of Him which that Sabbath elicited. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They would have went through this process for about forty years during The Oral Period before the gospels were written. This would explain how memories about Jesus would have absorbed the form of the Hebrew scriptures.
            ****************************************************************
            Mythicists, on the other hand, have trouble explaining why, for instance, Mark would be rewriting the Old Testament. Mythicists Robert M. Price writes in his article “New Testament Narrative As Old Testament Midrash” that “Today’s Christian reader learns what Jesus did by reading the gospels; his ancient counterpart learned what Jesus did by reading Joshua and 1 Kings.” But this statement by Price makes no sense. if Jesus never existed, how did the ancient Christians learn what he did by reading Joshua and 1 Kings? If Jesus didn’t exist, he didn’t do anything.

          • Pofarmer

            “This would explain how memories about Jesus would have absorbed the form of the Hebrew scriptures.”

            This doesn’t explain how the story of Jesus would have related to or been influenced by Gentiles, which it’s my understanding is what most early Christians started out as.

            “if Jesus never existed, how did the ancient Christians learn what he did by reading Joshua and 1 Kings? If Jesus didn’t exist, he didn’t do anything.”

            Ya’ll have seriously never heard of “Gone with the wind?”

            So, you are saying that the Jesus story picked up the stories from the OT by being told into it. Price and others are saying that the OT stories were added onto a mythical figure who was written into history a couple Generations before the time of the writer. Which one better explains the stories picking up more fantastical stuff as they progress? Which theory explains the differences in theology? Why did the distaste for Herod slip into one Gospel, etc, etc. You have to begin ti posit a story that had been told and grown differently in different communities, and even this doesn’t begin to get at what, if any, kernal of truth there is at the heart of it all.

          • Pofarmer

            That whole chapter is full of metaphorical imagery.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Paul uses death as a metaphor when he refers to our death to sin. But our metaphorical death is contrasted with Christ’s literal death. Now that Christ has been literally raised from the dead (in Paul’s mind), he won’t die again. Moreover, this resurrection provides the hope that we will also be saved from death. Christ’s resurrection is the model for our own anticipated resurrection. The passage that John quotes from 1 Corinthians ties in nicely here: Christ is the first fruits of the general resurrection.

            All of this makes perfect sense if Paul believed that Jesus was a real man who had lived and died recently. None of it would make sense if Paul had regarded Jesus’ death as a mythical event like the death of Osiris.

          • Pofarmer

            It makes as much sense,mas say, Prometheus giving fire to man and having his liver eaten out every day for it. I mean, how does that make sense without a walking around Titan? It’s also another case of Paul ambiguously not giving a who, what, when, where, or how. Well, I guess the how was crucified. But he’s sure lean on info.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            My point is that Paul doesn’t speak as we would expect him to speak if he had regarded Jesus’ death as a mythical event. I don’t see how your analogy refutes my point. If we had letters written by someone who spoke of the death of Prometheus as if it were a recent event and tried to reassure others that Prometheus couldn’t die again, then your analogy might be useful.

          • Pofarmer

            Where does Paul speak of Jesus death as a recent event? It’s always indeterminate in time. I realize that the Prometheus example wasn’t the best, because it’s set in the mythical past. I wish that I could find the scholarly article I stumbled across by accident, about Greek authors creating stories about their Gods in contemporary settings. Of course, it always had to be “That village over there”, but this is essentially what we see in the letters of Paul and the Gospels. Paul never ties Jesus life, well, he doesn’t talk about his life really at all, death, or ressurection to any contemporary events. Paul never met Jesus, and when he has a chance to go and see, say, the place of the resurrection or the tomb, he says nothing of it. The Gospel Authors were writing about “events” far from their location and at least a generation or two from their own. Once again, what would happen if you turned the same methods you are using to discover the historical Jesus, on “A tale of Two Cities” or “War and Peace” or “The Hunt for Red October.” Hell, Jack Ryan is more well attested than Jesus!

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            There are various indications that the event was recent. The fact that Jesus’ resurrection was the first fruits of the general resurrection, as has already been pointed out. The fact that Jesus died, rose on the third day and then appeared to Cephas, with no hint of any delay. Carrier doesn’t dispute that the event was believed to be recent.

            Of course, no one would need to write a 700 page book to prove that Jack Ryan never existed. You only need to do that when you want to prove that a real person never existed.

          • Pofarmer

            Christians Still today think that Jesus was the first fruit and is coming back any day now. I think that’s kinda non-commital.

            “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;a 4 that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;b 5 that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.c 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.d”

            Where is the time frame? He “appeared” to Paul, just like he “appeared” to Cephas, some 20-30 years after most try to date his “death”. A Son of God could appear to anyone at any time.

            “Of course, no one would need to write a 700 page book to prove that Jack Ryan never existed. You only need to do that when you want to prove that a real person never existed.”

            You would if it had been added to missread, missinterpreted and generaly the subject of sn intellectial circle jerk for 2000 years. How many pages have been written to dissprove Mormonism or Scientology or Jainism?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            He “appeared” to Paul, just like he “appeared” to Cephas, some 20-30 years after most try to date his “death”.

            Really? Where did you get that idea? But let’s return to your analogy. Suppose that we had a letter from the ancient world which said something like this:

            “This is incredible! Prometheus has brought us fire. This changes everything.”

            I would assume that the author regarded the bringing of fire as a recent event. The sense of urgency would hardly allow any other interpretation.

            I don’t see how you can read Paul’s letters and not get the impression that he regarded Jesus’ death as a recent event. The attempt to dispute this looks mischievous to me.

            We have plenty of mythical tales from the ancient world, but how many letters do we have that recount “mythical” events? The very fact that letters were written about Jesus’ death is, in my view, compelling evidence of historicity.

          • Pofarmer

            Sorry, that was poorly written. Paul says that Jesus “appeared” to Cephas, and then to James, and then, lastly, to him. He uses the same word for how Jesus “appeared” to the others as to how Jesus “appeared” to him. He doesn’t seem to think that there is any difference, and argues so in several places. Paul says in other places that Jesus was “Revealed according to the Scriptures.” There isn’t any indication that Paul thinks that Cephas and James knew a walking around Jesus. He says they are apostles just like him, and he never knew a walking around Jesus. Yeah, yeah, “the Lords Brother.” yada yada. I personally think that that passage was interpolated in the same way the James passage in Josephus was interpolated. Some early Christians were trying to create some historical veracity for their religion. I get the impression that Paul and the others had “discovered” Jesus fairly recently, as there were numerous apocalyptic cults and messiah cults and who knows what running around, but there really isn’t a strong indication that the crucifixion and ressurection had to have happened recently, just that it was revealed to this group recently.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Pofarmer, you seem to be basing everything on an argument from silence. But Paul is equally silent about any details regarding the celestial Christ; so the argument achieves nothing. The real question is not whether there is silence but what we hear when the silence is broken. And in this case we hear that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, not in outer space.

            Moreover, there are details in the letters that are incompatible with a celestial Christ – the fact that Jesus is of the seed of David, for example. And I don’t buy Carrier’s explanation for this. It worries me when Carrier talks about sperm at the best of times, but his idea of a “cosmic sperm bank” is particularly unacceptable.

          • Neko

            That made me laugh and laugh.

          • Pofarmer

            “And in this case we hear that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem”

            Where?

            The seed of David may be a good example. What is the chance that an itenerant nobody preacher from Galilee with maybe a small band of followers was a direct descendent of David? A fictional Jesus, however, could be whatever his creators wanted him to be.

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

            This is precisely why I have said that mythicism is unfalsifiable. Any literature can be explained in terms of “whatever…creators wanted.”

            What is the likelihood that someone who was thought to be the restorer of the Davidic line to the throne would be thought to be descended from David?

          • Pofarmer

            I assume this is about Romans 1:3? “Who according to the flesh was of the seed of David”

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

            Doesn’t that beg the question of why Jesus’ “creators” wanted their fictional Messiah to be an itinerant nobody from Galilee?!

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

            Indeed!

          • Pofarmer

            Think about the original short ending of Mark. It’s as if Mark were written to explain why no one had heard of this Jesus fellow. ………..

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

            You seem to be misrmembering a point that some scholars have argued for. They suggest that Mark was the first to introduce the empty tomb, and that the women saying nothing to anyone was an attempt to explain why people had not heard that story before. Not everyone finds that a persuasive explanation of the role of Mark’s abrupt ending. But it does not work to transfer that to the Gospel as a whole and Jesus as a whole.

          • Pofarmer

            “But it does not work to transfer that to the Gospel as a whole and Jesus as a whole.”

            Why not?

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

            Unless you are going to argue that Mark is earlier than Paul, then we simply know that it is not introducing someone that had never been heard of before, and so it scarcely seems necessary to list the internal features which suggest the same.

          • Pofarmer

            Not at all. Think of Mark as Fan Fiction. You have this deity/Savior Christ figure that Paul has been preaching about. Along comes Mark and constructs a back story for the figure, mainly using OT verses and some relevant Greek constructs. Paul gives us his own version of the life of the Earthly Jesus. And we know that there were several. And, once again, this would have been natural for a Greek writer to do.

          • Neko

            The short ending would suggest that few were aware of the resurrection, not that “no one had heard of this Jesus fellow.” On the contrary, Mark stresses that despite Jesus’s furtiveness he became well known for his powers of healing and exorcism.

            [Sorry, the weird way disqus works I didn’t see Dr. McGrath’s reply when I replied.]

          • Pofarmer

            “Mark stresses that despite Jesus’s furtiveness he became well known for his powers of healing and exorcism.”

            Which would be fictional.

          • Neko

            What would be fictional?

          • Pofarmer

            The exorcism and healings that no one took notice of?

          • Neko

            The point is that Jesus would’ve been a well-known exorcist and wonder-worker yet was not broadly recognized as the Messiah who rose from the dead.

          • Pofarmer

            O.k. that makes non sense, since apparently no one else noticed the wonders worked either.

          • Neko

            Are you being willfully obtuse? The wonder-working exorcist was a type. The theory goes that Jesus had a reputation for being an especially successful example of the type. That is a separate issue from his followers’ belief that he was the Messiah who rose from the dead and would return to bring on the kingdom.

            I’m not saying this is what happened. It’s just one plausible historical scenario.

          • Pofarmer

            Then why didn’t someone else take notice and record him? Josephus mentions several.

          • Neko

            Paul doesn’t count as “someone”? Mark and the other evangelists don’t count as “someone”? (I’m assuming you think the entire TF is an interpolation.)

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, I think there is sufficient evidence the entire TF is an interpolation, as well as the James passage in Josephus. And, no, for the purposes of this, the authors of the books you are trying to prove don’t count.

          • Neko

            Why don’t they count?

            What’s the sufficient evidence?

          • Pofarmer

            Think about this for just a second. How do you prove that something is true or real. Let’s say proving that 1+1 = 2? Do you analyse the problem? Look at it’s structure and syntax? No, you get 2 things and count them. The proof can’t prove itself, that’s circular. Same with any other work. Let’s take a “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” Can we determine if there was an historical Abraham Lincoln? Well, yes, there are letters, records of his inauguration, copies of his law degree, etc, etc, etc. is there any other evidence of him being a Vampire hunter? Not so much. Now, let’s take someting like Tom Clancy’s novels featuring Jack Ryan. Is there a record of Jack Ryan being a president? Is there any record other than the Tom Clancy novels to corroborate anything if Jack Ryan’s bio? Then we can conclude that he is a fictional charachter. You can’t determine the veracity of something by simply analysing that thing. You need other sources, other evidence, by which to test or proof it.

            Neko, textual analysis shows that the Greek in the TF is different than the Greek in the rest if the passage. The entire thing was a rewritten addition. It is impossible to determine what, of anything, might have been authentic. Furthermore, no one before the time of Eusebius mentions it, even though Josephus was widely read and widely quotedl. It’s a forgery, more than likely inserted by Eusebius. Navel gaze all you like. That dog don’t hunt.

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

            “Rewritten” seems incompatible with saying “the entire thing.” And most of us find it implausible that Agapius paraphrased the TF and just coincidentally left out all the things that modern scholars, without knowing that ancient source, cam to conclude were Christian interpolations. Can you explain why you consider that view probable?

          • Pofarmer

            A 10th Century source? Really?

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

            Do you not know what the relevance of Agapius is to the subject under discussion, or do you just have a particular dislike for people who lived in that century?

          • Pofarmer

            I believe I understand the relevance, but doesn’t the nature and timing or the source present a few, uhm, issues?

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

            Far fewer than ought to be acknowledged when mythicists appeal to a problematic interpretation of what the Talmud says in the 5th century, and the playing of information from such late sources off over against first century sources.

            But as the issue is the question of the form of the TF known to Agapius in writing, the fact that he lived in the tenth century is not an issue, since we are not positing the preservation of an oral tradition.

          • Pofarmer

            How in the world can you use a 10 th work to attempt to prove the veracity of a rth century work? Especially when there is more than ample evidence the 4th century work was tampered with. This sounds more like apologetics than history.

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

            Why does this seem problematic to you? Are you assuming that there was only one copy of the work, which having been interpolated, meant that all subsequent copying would reflect that, even at long geographic distances from the place where the interpolation likely occurred? Aren’t you assuming precisely what you need to demonstrate?

          • Pofarmer

            Do you have a chain of custody on the document in question?

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

            A chain of custody? For the manuscripts of Agapius that Shlomo Pines and others have studied?!

          • Pofarmer

            For the texts that Agapius was paraphrasing.

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

            Might I encourage you to read Pines’ book and to understand what it is we’re talking about, before taking this further?

          • Pofarmer

            You could, but I probably won’t because quite frankly this seems like another one if dozens of dead ends, and, well, life.

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

            I don’t buy it. If you devoted even half the time you spend commenting here to reading relevant scholarly literature, the other half of the same amount of time would be spent commenting in a more meaningful and informed manner. Either the subject doesn’t actually interest you and you have been playing games with us here, of it does genuinely interest you, in which case it is about time you moved your investigation of the subject to the next level.

            It looks like the book is online here: http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/pines01.pdf

            The same site also has Whealey and other sources relevant to this particular topic.

            http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/whealey2.pdf

          • Pofarmer

            That’s kind of a common apologist tactic. “Read this book, then you’ll see.” Perhaps you could summarize?

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

            I have summarized it in my comments here, and you can find other summaries online. But it is important to point out that it is denialists who most frequently claim to be able to dismiss the judgment of historians/scientists/doctors without reading books and articles, and indeed, they often ask for a summary, since those are easy to dismiss without the weight of detailed evidence and argument to support them.

          • Pofarmer

            I thought it was pretty widely accepted that there were choke points in the way documents were passed down. My understanding is that those texts were principally copied in Monastaries after a certain period. After that period, it would be reasonable to assume that most manuscripts would be changed. We are pretty certain that Origens copy of Josephis did not have the TF. Eusebius inherited that copy, and the TF suddenly appears so we know Eusebius probably interpolated it, and probably interpolated it into other copies which were distributed,nas well. What you are theorizing, with no proof or Evidence, is that Agapius had a very old copy, or a copy of a very old copy of Josephus, which had the TF in it when Origens copy and others apparently didn’t. This would appear to be mostly wishful thinking.

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

            Origen is convinced that Josephus mentions James the brother of Jesus, and that Josephus himself was not a Christian. That is fully compatible with him having known the untampered-with form of the TF.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But the James the brother of Jesus bit in Antiquities has nothing to do with the TF. It can be explained away better as something else.

            What, in your opinion, does the untampered with version of the TF look like?

          • Mark

            Why not something like what Pines translates from Agapius:

            Rendering of the Arabic Text

            Similarly Josephus the Hebrew. For he says in the treatises that he has written on the governance of the Jews: At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, that he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

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

            Probably something like Meier’s proposed reconstruction in vol.1 of A Marginal Jew, more or less.

          • Pofarmer

            But he never quotes it or says he knows it in any of his existing works?

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

            His references to Josephus are on the whole vague and inaccurate, even when he mentions his writings explicitly.

          • Pofarmer

            Ah, so it might have been there and he just missed it. Good to keep your options open.

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

            Origen’s certainty that Josephus was not a Christian would fit well him knowing that Josephus referred to him in the manner of the uninterpolated TF. His mention of Josephus having referred to James the brother of Jesus fits him having read the other reference to Jesus.

            All of this is to an extent speculative, but far less speculative than mythicism.

          • Pofarmer

            “All of this is to an extent speculative, but far less speculative than mythicism.”

            You have got to be kidding me. How many things have you and others here speculated on just the last few posts?

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

            Are you seriously suggesting that making descent from David a celestial reality involving celestial sperm and flesh is less speculative than the arguments I have made here? If so, then that is all the more reason for you to acquaint yourself with detailed scholarship, and not just the Reader’s Digest version one gets via blogs.

          • Pofarmer

            I don’t agree with Carriers argument there. I Think when Paul talks about Jesus as a descendant of David ” according to the flesh”. ” born of a woman born under the law.” That he is making a theological statement. We know that Paul preached that things in heaven or mirrored buy things on earth and vice versa. So in Paul’s theology if there was a Jesus in heaven there had to be a Jesus on earth he just didn’t know anything about that Jesus on earth other than the things that we will be told about that Jesus in Old Testament scripture that he would be a descendant of David that he would be a Jew etcetera etcetera. The advantage of this method is we go by what Paul actually tells us and we don’t have to speculate on things that he either doesn’t say or doesn’t show it all from what Paul says and Paul theology.

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

            Why don’t you see how many of your distinctive claims you can actually document as things “Paul actually tells us.” Perhaps the process of doing so will help you understand why your viewpoint does not seem plausible – much less preferable to the conclusions of mainstream scholarship – to people like me.

          • Pofarmer

            So, these Corinthians passages seem-problematic for thinking Paul thought Jesus was 100% historica.l

            “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,i”

            Unless you think Adam was historical.

            Then there’s this.

            “So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam,* became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.w 46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven. 48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image* of the heavenly one.x”

            Mainstream scholarship is thoroughly contaminated with 2000 years of theology. If you want to really be a historian and a scholar, strip it down and start over.

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

            Presumably – following your “logic” – you think this disproves the existence of everyone, since Paul’s point is that all human beings die because all are “in Adam”?

            You seem to be trying hard to get the text to provide reasons for rejecting a historical Jesus, and to be paying disappointingly little attention to what the text actually says and implies.

          • Pofarmer

            No, what it does show, is that Jesus is included with the rest of the Jewish biblical heros, Moses, Adam, Abraham, noah. jonah, etc, none of which were real.

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

            How does it show that? And how do you know that (apart from Adam and Noah) none of the figures you mention are legend-enveloped historical figures rather than fictional ones?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Like King Arthur, Robin Hood and Harry Potter you mean?

          • John MacDonald

            There’s nothing inherently improbable in the idea that Christianity started out as a cult worshiping a celestial being, or that the “Jesus stories” were simply “made up” to support “political” or “social ethic” ideals. Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), for example, was invented as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. You have to go beyond the “prior probabilities” to what the evidence presents, such as the fact that Paul met Jesus’ brother.

          • John MacDonald

            If you would like to read my thoughts on the topic, they can be found in the comments section of this blog post on Vridar: http://vridar.org/2015/09/21/comments-open/

          • Ignorant Amos

            Thanks. Interesting.

            I liked your two favourte quotes from antiquity…

            1. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

            2. “Even though this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him the son of Semele, for this would make it seem that she was the mother of a god, and it would confer honour on all our race.” – Euripides’ “The Bacchae”

            Christian’s are/were not averse to lie or mess about with texts to further their aim. Early Christian fathers didn’t hide that fact either.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You have to go beyond the “prior probabilities” to what the evidence presents, such as the fact that Paul met Jesus’ brother.

            Did he though? Is that an interpolation? Is that what the passage alludes to if original to the witness?

            But hasn’t this horse been flogged to death here on this site?

            The 2nd century First Apocalypse of James makes it clear that James is NOT a material brother of Jesus but one in spirit.

            “It is the Lord who spoke with me: “See now the completion of my redemption. I have given you a sign of these things, James, my brother. For not without reason have I called you my brother, although you are not my brother materially.”

            Origin in Contra Celsum 1.47 seems to be saying they are not blood brothers, but spiritul.

            Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine.

            Even scholars arguing against mythicism admit that there are many interpolations in Paul.

            William O. Walker, Jr., Interpolations in the Pauline Letters. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 213. Sheffield Academic Press 2001.

            One reviewer of that tome states….

            And he [Walker] says, in effect, that interpolations are like cockroaches: if you can spot some, there must be a lot more lurking somewhere.

            So is it more pragmatic to look at Galatians 1:19 as an interpolation or misinterpretation, given that scholars agree that the Pauline corpus is littered with interpolation, some of which are widely agreed upon and others not so much, or that the works are littered with references to brethren of a non biological bent and “James the Lord’s brother could be something similar?

            Is there a consensus?

            There can be no doubt that these passages are interpolations (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). This proves Christians had no problem doctoring the letters of Paul to make him say things he didn’t say. And if they did this in these two cases, how many other passages in Paul are inauthentic? Remember, we caught these cases because we got lucky (the interpolators were sloppy, they just happened to pick things to say that contradicted Paul, and we just happen to have some telltale evidence in the manuscripts). Most interpolations won’t have left such evidence (most will not so blatantly contradict Paul, and most of the ones, like these, that were inserted before 200 A.D. won’t have just by chance left any evidence in the manuscripts). It is therefore necessarily the case that there are three or more interpolations in the letters of Paul that we don’t know about (statistically, if most won’t be evident, and two are evident, then there must beat least three not evident). Would you ever bet your life on which passage isn’t one of them?

          • Pofarmer

            “such as the fact that Paul met Jesus’ brother.”

            Unfortunately, as Ignorant Amos has pointed out, that’s not a fact.

          • John MacDonald

            There are a few different interesting mythicists responses to the “James the brother of the Lord” passage. Check out Carrier and Price’s analysis starting at 27:50 of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPZ39rqaIZ0

          • Pofarmer

            And?

          • John MacDonald

            It’s just interesting to see what the world’s 2 most famous mythicist have to say about the James passage (and that they “explain it away” in two very different ways). 2 interesting arguments, seeing that the “James the brother of the Lord” passage is the cornerstone of the historicist’s argument.

          • Pofarmer

            Well, considering the Catholic Church explains it away too……..

          • Neko

            David Fitzgerald should drop out of the game. He’s pathetic.

          • John MacDonald

            You really get the sense that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

          • Neko

            Yes, he’s way out of his depth. Yet Valerie Tarico made Fitzgerald the star of her breathless piece on mythicism for Salon, an article so popular it got at least one rerun that I’m aware of.

          • Mark

            I think you mean, someone can dispute that Paul met Jesus’ brother. By this you will mean, someone can dispute that Paul met Jesus’ brother if they have a strong enough motive. “Fact” is not an epistemic epithet.

          • Pofarmer

            Fact is a statement that something belies truth. It is a fact that two like objects will fall at the same rate regardless of weight. It is a fact that the mass of an object increases as it approaches the speed of light. Saying it’s a fact that Paul met Jesus brother is an affront to the term.

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

            Nothing is a fact, as long as you are open to accepting counterarguments and alternatives irrespective of how problematic and unpersuasive they are, or should be.

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

            You think Harry Potter is based on a historical figure?!

          • John MacDonald

            Oddest thing: My grandfather was riding a horse on the road to Damascus when he was young, when, according to him, he was hit by a blinding light calling itself “Harry” and was knocked off his horse. He wrote an article about the experience in the local newspaper. Many years later, a young aspiring writer named J K Rowling read about my grandfather’s experience and decided to Euhemerize this Harry entity (for some reason). True story.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well according to J.K. Rowling he is anyway.

            One Ian Potter, a childhood playmate.

            THE author of the best-selling Harry Potter books revealed for the first time yesterday the identities of the people who inspired her characters.

            Ian Potter, a damp-proofer whose childhood antics have startling similarities to those of the fictional schoolboy wizard, lived just four doors away from J K Rowling as she was growing up in the village of Winterbourne, near Bristol.

            Dressing up as wizards and witches, concocting fantasy potions and telling stories were just a few of the games Rowling played as a child with Ian Potter and his little sister Vikki. Mr Potter admitted that he was a mischievous boy who loved playing pranks.

            Mr Potter, 43, who lives in Yate, near Bristol, said: “The girls, including Joanne, used to dress up as witches all the time. And the boys, obviously, would be wizards. I was one for tricks, especially in my younger days. I used to get my sister and Joanne to go in for me and ask my parents if I could stay out a bit later.”

            Mr Potter, whose two daughters, Charlotte, nine, and Shannon, five, are both Harry Potter fans, said he felt privileged to have played a role in the creation of the childhood hero. Vikki Potter, his younger sister, described how he was always getting into mischief in a similar way to the fun-loving trainee wizard Harry.

            Miss Potter, 32, of Chipping Sodbury said: “Ian was the perfect inspiration for the mischief- making wizard character. He was a total nightmare, a real horror. He used to do things like booby-trapping the stabilisers on my bike, collecting tadpoles in jars and then plastering the green slime everywhere. He had this thing about slugs.”

            Miss Potter, a sales director at a software company, also recalled how Rowling would make potions and read stories as part of their fantasy games. She said: “I think it’s mad to have a hero called Potter but that’s typical of Joanne.”

            “We were forever dressing up. Our favourite thing to dress up as was witches. We used to dress up and play witches all the time. My brother would dress up as a wizard. Joanne was always reading to us. She used to read things like poetry and we would make secret potions for her. She would always send us off to get twigs for the potions.”

          • Pofarmer

            Lets see, what distinctive claims am I making?

            There was a small sect based in Jerusalem preaching a risen messiah figure. The leaders of this sect were Cepahas and James. We don’t know anything else about them.

            Paul tells us basically nothing about an Earthly Jesus.

            Paul doesn’t put Jesus in time.

            The very few verses that do refer to an Earthly Jesus, particularly the James passages, have been interpolated, probably by the same folks who interpolated Josephus.

            Mentions of Jesus in Josephus are interpolated, completely.

            The author of Mark picked up on the idea if Jesus “born of a woman” according to the flesh” etc, etc, and wrote a story giving an earthly existance to the heavenly figure.

            Nearly every incident related in Mark has Presedence in either OT stories or contemporary Greek stories.

            It was common for Greek authors to put their Gods in contemporary settings to teach morality, virtue, etc, etc.

            Thats the lense I’m looking at, no celestial sperm banks required. I don’t think any of these claims, by themselves, are particularly controversial.

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

            You don’t think the claim that all the counter-evidence to your viewpoint is a later interpolation is controversial?!

            Perhaps I should just counter with my own “uncontroversial” claim that the even smaller number of texts which just might (when twisted the right way) half seem to lend a smidgeon of plausibility to mythicism are all interpolations…

          • Pofarmer

            “You don’t think the claim that all the counter-evidence to your viewpoint is a later interpolation is controversial?”

            It’s a good thing I’ve not made that claim.

          • Mark

            It’s uncontroversial that “James” or “Jameses” mentioned are interpolations? It’s uncontroversial that “Christ sent me..” and “he appeared …” and “was crucified” are not temporal predications in Greek? It’s uncontroversial that Mark “gave an earthly existence to [what was hitherto understood as] a heavenly figure?”

          • Pofarmer

            Look, even the Catholic Church disputes the meaning of the James passages. It has been looked at quite a number of ways.

            Christ “appeared” to Paul in a vision, right? He says that he was also revealed to him through “revelations in the scriptures.” He says that Jesus “appeared” the Cephas and James in the same way, using the same word, that he “appeared” to Paul, this doesn’t suggest an earthly Jesus as all. And how could an earthly Christ send Paul? “Was crucified” is a theological construct borrowed from Psalms, I’m sure you’re familiar with the passage. Mark is the first record we have with specific mentions of an Earthly Jesus. Any mentions by Paul are simply vague and ambiguous, or non genuine.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            You are continuing to misunderstand Paul’s focus on the resurrected Christ. Nothing that Paul says about the risen Christ can be taken to imply the non-existence of an earthly Jesus. Let me offer an analogy. Moses and Elijah “appear” to Jesus and the disciples in the transfiguration scene. If you didn’t know better, you might think that the Gospel writers regarded Moses and Elijah as celestial beings, but that isn’t the case. And before you say that Moses and Elijah are mythical figures, that isn’t the point. They were believed to have lived on Earth.

            When you say that the crucifixion is a theological construct, you fail to distinguish between the theological significance that is attributed to the crucifixion and the event itself, whose reality can hardly be questioned.

            On the question of “brother of the Lord”, I suggest that little of value can come from combining Catholic apologetics with mythicist apologetics.

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

            Only the Catholic Church disputes the meaning of the James passages, and does so for dogmatic reasons. Does it not even give you pause that you would rather appeal to the authority of the Catholic Church to cling dogmatically to your own view, than accept the conclusions of mainstream secular scholarship?

            The only way to treat the crucifixion as a “theological construct” from the Psalms is to accept the reading of the Psalms that Christian apologists offer, trying to make an argument from prophecy. Does it not give you pause that, while critical, skeptical scholars find Christian apologist to be reading things into the Psalms that are not there, you side with the apologists?

            Paul in Philippians 2 depicts God as highly exalting him after his obedient death. Treating the post-resurrection location of Jesus in heaven as evidence that Jesus was always a celestial figure makes no sense, and once again involves dogmatically trying to get the texts to say what you want them to. Does it not give you pause that your aporoach to the texts is precisely that of Christian apologists, and that it is only what you are an apologist for that differs?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            The advantage of this method is we go by what Paul actually tells us

            Where does Paul tell us that there was one version of Jesus in heaven and another version of Jesus on Earth?

          • Pofarmer

            Heres the theology, but I’m having trouble with the exact passages.

            https://newgenesisres.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/of-things-in-heaven-to-be-on-earth/

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I’m familiar with the idea that things on Earth were believed to mirror things in heaven. However, I would be very wary of trying to deduce that Paul held the specific belief which you have attributed to him on the basis of that general view.

            If he believed that there were two versions of Jesus, then I would like to hear him say it. And I don’t believe that he did say it – unless he runs the website to which you have referred me.

          • Pofarmer

            Hebrews 8:5 is close, but it’s not exactly what I was thinking of.

          • Pofarmer

            Also Hebrew 9: 22-24.

            Still not as difinitive as I’d like. But, maybe you get the picture?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Firstly, you have departed from your principle of sticking to what Paul says and forgoing interpretation.

            Secondly, I am aware that some people at the time believed there were copies in heaven of earthly things. What I object to is the argument you have erected on that basis.

            They say that the hallmark of pseudoscience is the determination of its practitioners to avoid refutation, and this seems like a classic example. Paul says something which is incompatible with a celestial Jesus and in response you postulate the existence of a second version of Jesus – an earthly counterpart – to whom the remark supposedly applies.

            It seems that mythicists are being driven to increasingly desperate lengths to protect their theory from refutation.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So who was talking to Paul during his visit to the third heaven as laid out in Corinthians?

          • Pofarmer

            Cecil, this would be very, very easy to refute. First off, any genuine archaelogical evidence would refute it. Any genuie writings or mention of this Jesus would refute it. Any genuine mentions, even in the lettes of Paul, or the other Epistles deemed Genuine, or at least early, would refute it. That’s the thing, this wouldn’t be hard to refute, at all. Problem is, what you’re left with is dueling interpretations if ambiguous passages. It’s not that it takes some great atretch to get to the mythicist point of view, it is, in fact, very easy if you drop the apologetics viewpoint which amount to “Jesus was real, what can we learn about him,” to “If Jesus were real, versus a fictional charahter, what would we expect to see.” And, in fact, what we see is pretty much exactly what we’d expect of a fictional charachter. Paul focuses on risings from the dead and revelations and Jesus coming down to defeat the Romans. He focuses on morality and purity. He never, ever, focuses on the teachings of a living Jesus. He never invokes that authority. All that he knows is “from the scriptures” or “revelations”. I highly suggest you wouldn’t accept this of any other religious figure. The Gospels are contradictory, and rewrite OT stories, sometimes missunderstanding them, like Paul talking about Jesus being a Nazorean, and Matthew having him from Nazareth, but also a descendent of David, so he jad to be from Bethlehem. These are theological fiction, not any sort of history. If there’s some nugget in their, it’s impossible to tease it out, as the literally dozens of versions of “who was Jesus” both over the years and currently show. I wish just once, some Historicist proponent would show the methodolgy used to determine these works aren’t complete fiction. Until that time, I’m going to take the tack that Laurence Kraus used debating an Islamic Scholar when he made a fantastic claim regarding the Koran. Paraphrasing “All religions are made up, yours is just one more. All religions make miracle claims, yours is just ine more.”

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Pofarmer, there would be little point in my trying to summarise the case for historicity. The confusion arises, I think, because Jesus is a mythical as well as a historical figure. This gives irresponsible pseudoscholars like Carrier the opportunity to raise merry hell by doubting whether there is a historical core to the legend.

            You say there are literally dozens of “Jesuses”. Well, you could add the celestial Jesus to the list, and it would be the least convincing one of them all.

          • John MacDonald

            Fear not Cecil, I can summarize the case for historicity (lol):
            (1) Regarding the historicity of Jesus, the only two events subject to “almost universal assent” among New Testament Scholars are that (A) Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and (B) was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. (A) can somewhat be put into dispute because the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist seems to serve a theological function, and so can’t be traced back to the historical Jesus: Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.). He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). (B) can somewhat be put into dispute because Paul says Jesus died “According to scripture (1 Cor 15:3),” which could either mean that (i) Jesus’s crucifixion was fulfilling scripture, or (ii) that Paul discovered Jesus’ crucifixion through an allegorical reading of Hebrew scriptures. In either case Jesus’ crucifixion in Paul serves a theological function, so it can be doubted as to whether it can be traced back to the historical Jesus. Paul also doesn’t mention Pilate, so this may be a Markan invention.
            (2) Elements whose historical authenticity is almost universally disputed include the two accounts of the Nativity of Jesus, the miraculous events including the resurrection, and details about the crucifixion (because of the apparent exegetical use of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 by Mark to construct the crucifixion narrative).

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            John, I think what we need is an online course on demonstrating the historicity of Jesus. Do you think Dr McGrath might be interested?

          • John MacDonald

            Hi Cecil. A few years ago, Dr. McGrath talked about putting together a web site he wanted to call “Talk Historicity,” which would outline the case for the historicity of Jesus, and answer common mythicist objections. I thought it would be a wonderful idea, although for whatever reason it never ended up happening. I would love if Dr. McGrath would teach such a course. I would definitely take it. With his background and years of time he has spent dealing with mythicists’ arguments, Dr. McGrath is probably one of the number one experts in the world on the historicity of Jesus.

          • John MacDonald

            And it would make sense Mark would model John the Baptist on Elijah because Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.”

          • John MacDonald

            Price also has some interesting analysis on the sources for the Baptism of Jesus:

            Jesus’ Baptism: ( Mark 1:9-11) The scene has received vivid midrashic coloring. The heavenly voice (bath qol) speaks a conflation of three scriptural passages. “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11) combines bits and pieces of Psalm 2:7, the divine coronation decree, “You are my son. Today I have begotten you;” Isaiah 42:1, the blessing on the returning Exiles, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;” and Genesis 22:12 (LXX), where the heavenly voices bids Abraham to sacrifice his “beloved son.” And as William R. Stegner points out, Mark may have in mind a Targumic tradition whereby Isaac, bound on the altar, looks up into heaven and sees the heavens opened with angels and the Shekinah of God, a voice proclaiming, “Behold, two chosen ones, etc.” There is even the note that the willingness of Isaac to be slain may serve to atone for Israel’s sins. Here is abundant symbolism making Jesus king, servant, and atoning sacrifice. In view of parallels elsewhere between John and Jesus on the one hand and Elijah and Elisha on the other, some (Miller) also see in the Jordan baptism and the endowment with the spirit a repetition of 2 Kings 2, where, near the Jordan, Elijah bequeaths a double portion of his own miracle-working spirit to Elisha, who henceforth functions as his successor and superior.

          • Mark

            Oh God, here it is again, midrashic coloring … maybe with spicy notes of halakhic piyyutim and an aroma of targumic aramaism.

          • John MacDonald

            Everyone agrees there is exegetical work going on in the New Testament where pericopes or sections of pericopes are modelled on Old Testament stories. For example, all, including Ehrman in “Did Jesus Exist (pg. 198-199),” agree that Matthew portrays Jesus as “The New Moses.” Mythicists just argue that this exegetical work is happening more often than historicists will allow. That is what this article is about: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm

          • Ignorant Amos

            Good luck on your endeavour.

            Just goes to show that all atheist’s don’t believe the same shit other than the obvious.

            Thanks all the same for those citations, I know you were playing devils advocate.

          • John MacDonald

            Why would you think I was playing Devil’s Advocate?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Just the impression I get.

            Your not a mythicist, but can see some measure in the issues being noodled out.

            Seems to me that you are teasing both sides towards the middle. Not a bad thing all in all in my opinion. Doing something the same maself though at about 80-20% at the moment. The historicists are rapidly losing ground.

            I apologise if misread you.

          • Pofarmer

            The celestial Jesus is the one best attested.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            And who says it’s the best attested? As far as I am aware, there are a few scholars who endorse mythicism, but none endorse the celestial Christ theory. And that isn’t surprising. We don’t have a single statement in any Christian text that Jesus was crucified in the heavens, not one. Seven hundred pages of prattling drivel cannot disguise the fact that there isn’t one piece of real evidence to support the theory.

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

            I tend to think that the celestial Jesus is as probable as any single iteration of the historical Jesus, but some iteration of the latter is more probable than the former.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            We know that the early Christians did regard Jesus as a celestial being in one sense. Jesus had ascended to heaven after his resurrection. But that is compatible with a historicist view of Jesus, as Luke’s Gospel demonstrates. The question is not whether Jesus was a celestial being or a historical person, because clearly he could be both.

            The one thing we know for sure is that Jesus was believed to have been crucified. So the question we need to ask is where the crucifixion happened. And this is where celestial mythicism runs into trouble. If the crucifixion was believed to have happened on Earth, then nothing that Paul might say about Jesus’ current heavenly status is of any use to the mythicist.

          • John MacDonald

            Mythicists believe that the crucifixion happened in a heavenly realm. For the earliest Christian belief, we have Paul who said that the crucifixion happened “according to scripture” (1 Cor 15:3),which could either mean that (i) Christ’s crucifixion fulfilled scripture, or that (ii) Paul learned about Christ’s crucifixion through an allegorical reading of Hebrew scripture. Actually, because of this we can put into doubt whether Christ was crucified at all (historically or mythically), because (i) and (ii) show Christ’s crucifixion served a theological purpose for Paul, and it is a common practice in biblical hermeneutics to bracket the historicity of theologically motivated claims about Christ. In any case, Paul nowhere says that Christ was crucified by Pilate. He says Christ was crucified by “the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:8),” which mythicists argue could mean that he was crucified by demons (see, for instance: http://vridar.org/2011/09/04/rulers-of-this-age-and-the-incompetence-of-the-historicist-case-against-mythicist-arguments/#more-21474 ) That Pilate crucified Christ appears for the first time in Mark, so it may be historical fiction just as well as it may be historical fact.
            ******************************************************************
            I’m not a mythicist but that’s the best case I can make for the mythicist side regarding the crucifixion.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            The question of 1 Cor. 2:8 came up in a previous discussion. This is what I said:

            There are two problems with this. Firstly, the context of 1 Cor. 1 and 2 strongly suggests that the rulers are human (Maurice Casey argued for that). Secondly, even if the rulers were Satan and his demons then they would have brought about Jesus’ death by controlling events on Earth, not by direct action. Ephesians 2:1-3 shows how that might have happened:

            “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

            I see you are using your favourite method of casting doubt on an episode by seeing whether it has some symbolic purpose. That might work with some of the Gospel scenes but you run into an obvious problem if you try to apply it to the crucifixion.

            How did the process of creating the Jesus “myth” start? There must have been some sort of framework on which the pieces could be added. If the framework itself was fabricated, then people like Paul must have been engaged in a very deliberate fraud.

          • John MacDonald

            Hey Cecil. Mythicists would probably say the original Christians had vague hallucination of a dying/rising savior God and then “learned” from an allegorical reading of the Hebrew scripture that this entity Christ had been “crucified” in the celestial realm (eg. such as the
            implicit piercing of hands and feet, Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b). As I said, Paul indicates that Christ died “according to scripture.” I think it would be an even better argument for a mythicist Paul to claim that Paul had a vague hallucinogenic encounter with Christ, and then “learned” that the entity in the vision had died, been buried, and was raised by allegorically reading the Hebrew scripture: “3 Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15: 3-4)

          • John MacDonald

            I fixed the typo – hope it makes sense now

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Hi John

            Let’s just say that I don’t find that a plausible scenario. Full marks for imaginative content though :-)

            On a different note, I have enjoyed your comments at the Bible and Interpretation site. You might like to look at the comment which I just posted.

          • John MacDonald

            I read your article. Interesting stuff. You might have guessed that Carrier in “On The Historicity Of Jesus” argues that Acts is not a reliable source. Thanks for finding my post “imaginative.” I’m not a mythicist, but in places I think I can present their arguments better than they do. I’m a historical minimalist, and luckily an agnostic so the lack of data about the historical Jesus doesn’t bother me.

          • John MacDonald

            On the point that the original Christians might have been perpetrating a deliberate fraud with “The Jesus story,” the idea of “The Noble Lie” was present in Plato’s “Republic,” “Laws,” and again in Euripides “The Bacchae.” Regarding the idea that “The Bacchae” may have influenced The New Testament, see my post in the comment section here: http://vridar.org/2015/08/24/bibles-presentation-of-law-as-a-model-of-platos-ideal/#comment-73238 . Cadmus in “The Baccahe” says “Even though this man (Dionysus) be no god, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, because this will make it seem like Semele is the mother of a god, and will confer honor on all our race.” Maybe the original Christians didn’t believe that there was a risen Christ, but believed in the cause about bringing about an ethical world (a cause they would die for), and thought that “The Jesus Story” would be the best way to get this to happen.

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

            Unfortunately, our earliest source doesn’t tell us where he thought that the crucifixion took place. Even if he did think that the celestial Christ had once been a man who walked the earth, there doesn’t seem to have been anything that man said or did that had any bearing on Paul’s message. I think that what we have of Paul is compatible with a variety of permutations of Jesus.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Vinny, this might surprise you, but in my opinion, Paul says a number of things which are clearly incompatible with a purely celestial Jesus.

            When you say that “even if” Paul believed Jesus walked the Earth, he gives no details, you imply that you regard it as some recherché possibility. Isn’t that how you should regard a celestial crucifixion?

          • John MacDonald

            Cecil: What about your point about Paul saying Jesus “succeeded in his mission,” perhaps implying that Jesus was on earth? I can’t recall where in Paul that passage is. I’d like to hear Vinny’s thoughts about that passage.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            John, We know that Paul regarded Jesus’ death as the fulfilment of God’s plan. We also know that Paul regarded Jesus as the Messiah. Paul doesn’t actually say that Jesus had achieved the messianic mission by dying, but that seems like a reasonable deduction. Since all Jews believed that the Messiah’s destiny was to achieve God’s purpose on Earth, it also seems reasonable to assume that Jesus had fulfilled his destiny by dying on Earth.

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

            I’m not terribly surprised by your opinion, and upon reflection, I probably should have written “if” rather than “even if” as the latter may suggest that the I have a stronger opinion on the question than I do.

            There is a phenomenon in the law known as obiter dicta. This refers to comments a judge may make in a legal opinion that are not directly necessary to decide the issue before the court, and which therefore, are not considered precedential. For example, an appellate judge ruling on homosexual marriage might express an opinion about the legality of polygamy. In a subsequent case on polygamy, a lower court would not be bound by the appellate judge’s comments because the issue of polygamy was not properly before the court in the earlier case. The comments could certainly give the trial judge a clue as to how the higher court might rule on appeal, but he is not bound by the rules of stare decisis to put any weight on them in issuing his own ruling.

            When it comes to the earthly Jesus, most of what Paul has to say strikes me as analogous to obiter dicta. It wasn’t necessary to the arguments Paul was making, and I don’t think it deserves all that much weight. Paul’s purpose was to communicate his understanding of the celestial Christ rather that the earthly Jesus. As a result, I think there is considerable room for uncertainty about the meaning of the few things he does say pertaining to the latter.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I agree with you that Paul didn’t need to explain the details of Jesus’ life and death (at least not in the letters), but I disagree that this leaves considerable uncertainty as to whether the death occurred in heaven or on Earth.

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

            If you have some way to judge what Paul needed to explain outside his letters, I’d be interested to know what it is. I have a hard time being certain what he thought about things about which he does not write.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Vinny, I completely take on board the implication of your comment. We must refrain from speculating about matters of which we have no knowledge. If no one ever says that Jesus was crucified in the heavens – the imaginary “missing” chapter of the Ascension of Isaiah notwithstanding – we should ditch the idea.

          • John MacDonald

            You could use the same form of argument to claim: ” If Paul never says that Jesus was crucified on earth, we should ditch the idea.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            You mean if no one had said that Jesus had been crucified on Earth.

          • John MacDonald

            “No one” from around the time of Jesus. That didn’t happen until 40 years later with the author of The Gospel Mark (plenty of time for Euhemerization: historicizing of a mythical being).

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I think I’ll leave it at 996. You can make it 997 if you like.

          • John MacDonald

            Don’t leave! Nick Covington just left. We have to make it to 1000 posts. The fate of the world depends on it. No, the fate of the Universe. Remember what Palpatine said in Star Wars episode 3: If one is to understand the great mystery, “one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi.” Look beyond the lies of the historicists. Come to incorporate mythicism, and embrace a larger point of view:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dATuq8O3920

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

            You mean mythicism is like the dark side?

            That explains a lot…

          • John MacDonald

            And I am the Sith Lord Darth Balls! Quake in fear at my superior syllogisms!

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

            I think that would be a distant third in the scary Sith powers stakes, after lightning fingers and force choke.

            Though I do think mythicism is just a Jedi mind trick.

            Ok we must be at a thousand now, shall we all go do something more productive?

            These aren’t the droids we’re looking for… move along.

          • John MacDonald

            Hooray, we’ve made it to 1000 posts. God was so impressed that he nixed “the faith requirement” and decided to let mythicists into heaven. Life is more fun with Neil Godfrey in it anyway.

          • John MacDonald

            The Dark Side is the power to control and shape people’s minds. Now you know the true power of The Dark Side!

            “Execute Order 66” Palpatine, Star Wars, Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEDq34Ah2UA

          • Mark

            Good work breaking 1000, comrades!

          • John MacDonald

            Palpatine was a great manipulator, bending people’s minds as he wished. Likewise, Hitler was a great manipulator, swaying massive crowds with his charisma. Both had storm troopers and presented one façade while something completely different was going on behind the scenes. It’s kind of obvious if you think about it.

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

            I don’t quite view that as the implication of my comment. I think there are times when the evidence is so problematic that we can do no more than identify a range of possibilities. In the investigation of Christian origins, I think the problem is akin to trying to figure out the picture on a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle while only having 75 of the pieces. If the pieces you have are a representative sample of the whole, it would be reasonable to ditch the idea that the picture includes the sky if none of your pieces is blue, but there may be no way to determine that you have a representative sample.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Vinny, if you want to tell me that there is sky in the picture, I won’t object. However, if you tell me that there is a crucified man hanging in the sky, I might just object – Salvador Dali notwithstanding.

            The bottom line is that I won’t accept a celestial crucifixion on the basis of the utterly flimsy evidence presented by Carrier. And if that makes me a “closed-minded ****wit”, so be it.

            BTW, you really should consider reading the book. You won’t find a trace of your own cautious agnosticism. On the contrary, the confidence that Carrier displays in reconstructing what “really” happened is quite breathtaking.

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

            That may be your bottom line, but I am curious as to how you reach it. Is it because you can’t accept that anyone in that time believed in spiritual realms in which such a thing might take place? Or do you find the conclusion that such a realm underlay Paul’s thinking too speculative? I should say that I am not satisfied that Carrier has given adequate thought to the representativeness of the available pieces.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I won’t bore you with too many of my thoughts on the subject. Instead, I shall just offer a few comments on the Ascension of Isaiah. The importance of this text to Carrier’s case can be seen from this quote:

            what is undeniable is that this text provides all the elements of a plausible theory

            So a lot seems to depend on it. Carrier also says:

            Jesus is commanded to go straight to the firmament and die

            Perhaps Carrier has convinced himself that it really does say this, but, of course, it doesn’t. The Ascension of Isaiah does not have Jesus dying in the firmament.

            An important point to make is that the ancient Jews used apocalyptic imagery to represent actual historical events. So even if the AoI had depicted a death in the firmament, that itself would still be compatible with historicism. Moreover, the author of the text isn’t telling us that this is what actually happened. What he is doing is imagining that the prophet Isaiah foresaw this in a vision.

            It would be overstating the case to say that this is a tenuous basis for Carrier’s theory. I would suggest that there is simply no basis whatsoever.

          • Mark

            If I say someone was waterboarded, I guess you could rationally think “Maybe he means they were waterboarded in outer space, presumably by the CIA, which he must also thinks operates in space” Similarly if I say ‘he was sent to the electric chair’ I guess you could rationally think “He means, in the electric chair in the heavens, of course”. … Maybe.

            Celestial Crucifixion can only seem like the beginning of an outline of a possible reading of Paul after a couple millennia of treating the crucifixion of Jesus as a matter of ritual devotion. That you think it is even a remote interpretative possibility is already an anachronistic projection.

            Of course, if the text said that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, you would say “Maybe the heavenly Jerusalem; after all Paul doesn’t seem to know anything about any historical Jesus”, and so on ad inf. The procedure can be used with anything.

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

            If you told me that an alien who appeared to you only in visions had been water boarded, I would not assume that you thought it had occurred in the normal course of events.

          • Mark

            Is the thought that Paul was obviously crazy and so of course no inferences can be made from the text? And maybe that similarly that everyone in the 1st c was crazy, since they bought into Greek gods, Temple sacrifice, miracles all over the place, ecstatic experiences of all kinds, etc. and so there are no rules for thinking about antiquity, and we can give carte blanche to our power of fantasy in historical inference?

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

            No, that is not the point, although it’s a possibility.

            The point is that Paul is describing a supernatural being whose death was unique in multiple ways, including the fact that it didn’t take. Paul believed it to be a death in which all believers could partake in some spiritual way. As a result, I think I have to allow for the possibility that almost anything Paul references concerning the risen Christ might potentially have been intended in some spiritual or supernatural sense. Why should the mere fact that crucifixions normally take place on earth carry any more weight in interpreting Paul than the mere fact that dead people normally stay dead?

          • Mark

            The belief in the resurrection of the dead was widespread in Palestine, however ‘crazy’ we may think it was. Almost everyone in his milieu affirms the resurrection of the dead. From the point of view of 2nd T Jerusalem (or present day West Jerusalem … or indeed present day East Jerusalem), there’s nothing ‘unique’ in what he imputes to Jesus. Paul’s view is only special by suggesting “He’s the first” (presumably following earlier Jesus-messianists). What he is saying is perfectly clear to Jerusalem ears, then as now; the ‘sensible’ non-Jesus-messianist view was presumably just that he’s being a bit precipate in thinking that *the resurrection of the flesh is now underway*, same as he’s reading the tea leaves wrong in thinking Jesus is the messiah. The expectation of a messiah and of the general resurrection are TOTALLY NORMAL in this period, and TOTALLY JEWISH; an early Christian like Paul just puts them together in a certain way to make sense of the crucifixion.

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

            Sorry, are you under the impression that Paul thought Jesus was an alien?!

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

            No.

          • Paul E.

            I have a fair amount of sympathy for this viewpoint, but I’m willing to be a bit more naive as to how we look at evidence and come to conclusions. I don’t think it’s illegitimate to identify a range of possibilities (which will, itself, be tentative – i.e., how can we really “know” this is the only range?) and make an evidence-based determination of what the best and worst options of that range are, always admitting and understanding the problems with the evidence and our uncertainty.

          • John MacDonald

            You have apparently not read Carrier’s “On The Historicity Of Jesus,” where Carier proves with apodictic certainty that the probability limit that Jesus existed is a mere 1/3. In a footnote he also proves with the same level of certainty that the CIA killed Kennedy. He’s the man!

          • Mark

            After all, most assassinations of popular elected leaders are by the CIA.

          • John MacDonald

            The odd part was when Kennedy came back to life three days later and forgave the CIA.

          • Kris Rhodes

            No, he claims to have proven that _given his assumptions_ the probability is 1/3. And he’s actually exactly right on that–it is deductively certain that if Carrier’s assumptions are correct, the probability is 1/3.

            Carrier also emphasizes (and closes the book with) an invitation to discuss his assumptions.

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

            No, I haven’t gotten around to reading Carrier’s latest book yet, and I’m not sure whether I will. I agree with Ian that Carrier’s use of Bayes theorem is overly optimistic. On the other hand, he strikes me as much less silly than mainstream scholars who claim to be “almost certain” about particular things that Jesus said or did or certain “beyond a shadow of a reasonable” doubt that Paul met Jesus’ biological brother.

          • Mark

            This is a non-thought, however much you ‘tend’ to it. If I add improbable propositions to ‘Jesus is a historical figure’, one of which must be true, I can get ‘iterations’ like

            Jesus was a historical figure born at 10:00:00.0000 EST
            Jesus was a historical figure born at 10:00:00.0001 EST

            If I do it right, then each will be ‘less improbable’ than

            Jesus was not a historical figure.

            however improbable that may be.

          • Mark

            The Kraus quotation is totally characteristic. It goes by way of the indeterminate abstraction ‘religion’. Similarly, the standard skeptical argument “All thoughts are potentially false, yours is just one more.” goes by way of the indeterminate abstraction ‘thought’.

            If we stick to a real concrete concept, say, ‘Judaism’ or to use a concept that permits wider comparisons like ‘messianisms’, the Celestial Christ theory is as moronic as saying “many early 21st c physicists posited an Easter Bunny to explain …”. No, actually, they didn’t. It would have to be a miracle. I don’t have to have any particularly high estimate of their rationality to know that it doesn’t fit.

            Where is the evidence that /any/ messianic enthusiasm, any text representing itself as carrying forward a messianic movement around a somehow-charismatic character, was EVER talking about anything but a real historical somehow-charismatic character. Does it happen? Where is the evidence that it does? Could any candidate case be made to fit with the facts of 2nd T Jerusalem? You haven’t answered these obvious questions — there are a thousand more in the bag I drew these from. Later Christianity, Judaism and Islam as AWASH with examples. It doesn’t happen.

            The illusion of the Celestrial Christ nonsense can only arise by chucking the real phenomena of the 2nd Temple cult and of messianic claimants and movements, and replacing them with the sterile genus of ‘religion’ used basically to mean ‘false opinion’. The argument is as follows:

            “Other False Opinions were False Opinions about Non-Existent Things. Why isn’t this False Opinion a False Opinion about a Non-Existent Thing?[1] Where is your /evidence/ that it’s not a False opinion about a Non-Existent thing? You keep saying something about Judaism, in order to evade this issue, but where is the proof that this False Opinion is a False Opinion about something real?”

            This is a very powerful device for dispensing with all evidence and any use of reason in argument.

            [1]: Here we may add a bit of Bayesian drivel: After all, every Opinion about a Non-Existent Thing is False, while Opinions about Existent Things are some True some False, so evidence that the Opinion is False provides /some /evidence that it’s an Opinion about a Non-Existent Thing. ‘Historicists’ simply refuse to provide evidence to overcome this a priori evidence Being About a Non-Existent Thing that is already contained in Falsehood.

            To which the answer is right, they aren’t engaged in an irrationalist project of global skepticism.

          • Pofarmer

            Derision. A very powerful tool.

            “The illusion of the Celestrial Christ nonsense can only arise by chucking the real phenomena of the 2nd Temple cult and of messianic claimants and movements, and replacing them with the sterile genus of ‘religion’ used basically to mean ‘false opinion’. The argument is as follows:”

            Lets think about this for a second. First off, Paul almost always talks of Jesus Christ in Heavenly, all powerful terms. He never speaks to his lifein Earth except in very vague ways “Born of a woman, Born under the law.” “Of the flesh according to te seed of David.” There isn’t much more. Second, yes, you have all of these Messiah claimants. All of a sudden, here is a group reinterpreting OT scriptures who see a Mesiah that will come down from HEAVEN! Here’s a messiah who can’t be beaten. All powerful, Son of God, etc, etc. how is it that the very earliest words we have about Jesus are formed this way? Even the Didache says something to the effect of “thank you God for the gift of your boy Jesus.” This lends itself as much to an idea of a celestial as earthly messiah. You have a “Messiah” claimant that can’t be dissproven, can’t be beaten, is perfect, can be anything to anyone, which is exactly what we see today. What we have, is a theological advancement on the whole Messiah idea.

          • Mark

            You don’t seem to have put much time into studying the possibilities for messiahs who dies, messiahs who converted to Islam, messiahs who converted to Catholicism. All of this stuff is TOTALLY characteristic. You have not exhibited even one trace of cognition of the actual topic, which is MESSIANIC MOVEMENTS, subsp. JEWISH MESSIANIC MOVEMENTS. As long as you keep staring at one photograph of one rabbit, you’ll be capable of any fantasy, but if you get hold of hundreds of actual rabbits, photographs of rabbits, dissected rabbits etc., then you’ll think differently. But you’re not willing to study anything but second rate alcoholics like Carrier and Price, presumably because you are afraid of the truth.

          • Pofarmer

            Lol. I thought we were discussing Christianity. My bad. If this were just one more Jewish messianic movement, it would have died, just like all the other Jewish Messianic movements. But it had some elements which set it apart, and those elements would appear to be more than “it was founded by some guy we don’t know anything about.” It seems to me you are so keen to defend your position you are missing the forest for the trees.

          • Mark

            By the way, your right not to be subject to derision went out the window about a hundred comments ago. Secular unbelievers and friends of rationality like myself REALLY DONT LIKE the imputation of apologetic motives, and at some point one gets tired of it; and in fact that is all you do.

          • Pofarmer

            Look, when you try to say that two passages in an ancient work with no known chain of custody and known forgeries and interpolations amount to “fact” I think I am justified in questioning your motives. If you were less over the top, you would do yourself a favor. It’s the circling of the wagons and over the top invective that makes you suspect. Calling any one who doesn’t agree with you irrational is not doing yourself any favors either.

          • Mark

            I guess you’re talking about Josephus but I don’t think I declared anything from the relevant passages to be anything but interpolation, since I don’t have any view about it. If we could find the real text of Josephus it’d be great. It doesn’t have any epistemic relevance to the question of Jesus’ Real Historical Existence at all, since that is quite amply proven by the existence (not truth) of Paul’s letters, the existence (not truth) of Gospels and the existence (not rationality) of Christians in the 1st c. You haven’t come up with any examples of a Jewish, Christian or Muslim messianic movement with a ‘euhemerized’ messiah. All the targets of messianic enthusiam from Jesus to Sabbatai to Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah to Schneerson actually existed, they’re a dime a dozen. And all the literature about all of them is wacko fantasy. It’s what you expect. You keep pointing to the fantastic stories as a sign of non-existence, but the wilder the stories, the more certain the existence of Jesus. We don’t need any true stories to know that Jesus existed, we need wild crazy stories to know that he existed. That’s what puts Christianity in the position of a messianic fervor over a somehow charismatic individual. Wild impossible tales of a messiah are the thunder; the charismatic messianic individual is the lightening. Find the cases where this inference fails. You just don’t have the evidence. I can’t recommend Scholem on Sabbatai highly enough by the way; it will cure you of this nonsense forever and put you on the path of actual cognition and is anyway one of the greatest historical works of the 20th century.

          • Pofarmer

            But Christiainity didnt grow as a Jewish Messianic movement. Christianity primarily grew as a Gentile movement, among people who wouldn’t have been able to know whether Jesus actually existed or not.

          • Mark

            Uh, yes; our question was rather obviously not about the exponential growth phase of what is later called Christianity. Observant Jewish Jesus messianism also continued to exist for centuries, so it is tiresome to try to make anything of the dimwittedness of gentiles in Asia Minor. It’s true that mythicists ignore this elementary fact … because they ignore every specifically Jewish phenomenon, having revived a theory that predates widespread scholarly knowledge of these phenomena. Indeed the theory belongs to the period of theoretical anti-semitism, the late 19th / early 20th c. It never, I think, was given a straightforwardly anti-semitic cast, but there is a pretty clear element of (post-) Christian smugness that is present in the will to deny the gigantic wall of raw feverish 1st c Jewish religiosity that permeates all of the surviving texts. Mythicism is the attempt to make an end-run around this so that Western Civilization is a matter of sensible Greek and Roman influence rather than a result of a sectarian Jewish movement. ‘Surely it can’t be because of something about the Jews’ is the secret subtext of all these 19th c. theories. It was certainly never a matter of attacking the truth of Christianity, since the critique of religion rests on other grounds and was quite advanced in that period; it appears as a form of anti-Christian agitation only, as far as I can tell, in its reception as a dogma of early Soviet anti-clericalism and then again in its present day revival in the sewers of the internet.

          • Pofarmer

            Are you drinking or high?

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

            Interesting that you try to move the goalpost from Christianity’s origins to its subsequent development, and then have this odd reaction to information about mythicism’s origins and development.

          • Pofarmer

            But what Chrisitianity developed as can’t be seperated from it’s origins can it? This was a tiny movement in the first century, and it was a tiny, tiny movement among Jews. So tiny that even Josephus, who wrote about many minor sects, never mentioned it. This is a sect that believes that it’s leader is the son of God, in Heaven. So, how did he get to Heaven? I mean he had to die somehow right? Jews believed that you were just pretty much in limbo until the general ressurection, right? So, how do you get your all powerful man God into Heaven? You have to kill him to get him there, it would seem. Despite Cecil’s protestations, the strenght of Pauls message doesn’t have anything to do with any messiah figure. The strength of Christianity are in it’s ideas about eternal life and defeating death, and how hou go about that. These were ideas that resonated, even if only to a few, with or without any historical figure, and were probably ideas that Cephas and James and Paul thought were “revealed” in scripture. At this point, honestly, any Jewish messianic figure is irrelevant, because the movement no longer is operating as that, and it did this from a very, very early stage, apparently. Yes, there were people at the birth of Christianity. We can be fairly certain of Cephas and James, and Paul. But the way they write about their “founder”, well, I’m sorry, that leaves doubt. I’m gonna retire now, because you folks seem a little emotional about the whole thing. Cheers.

          • John MacDonald

            Geoff B, Ignorant Amos, and Pofarmer have left. I have serious doubts about this topic reaching 1000 posts :(

          • Jim

            So I’m not the only one going after that magic number.

          • Mark

            The expression ‘son of God’ adverts for example to Psalm 2, which is plainly a song for the coronation (i.e., anointing = messianizing = christification) of *any* king. On standard accounts, and evidently Paul’s, this is a royal epithet that was applied to *any* king, and thus of course to King Jesus. This is what Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ and Christ all mean. This is the only thing the word “Christ”, taken by itself, means when e.g. Pliny’s pious Bithynians praise “Christ”/”Jewish World Emperor” in a period that Pliny believes was going circa 80 ad. when some people had already ‘lost the faith’. It isn’t at all surprising that in Paul’s mind this King is *way* more spectacular than your average Davidic monarch; and it isn’t surprising that in later gentile developments the in itself quite pedestrian “son of God” business takes on a bit of pagan coloration. What the Bithynians are said to doing with their Christ (= Jewish King) in Pliny’s letter is in any case exactly what Romans do with their Emperor. (The main problem with these people is apparently not that, but their rejection of standard local and imperial cults; note that this rejection has the words JEWISH JEWISH JEWISH written all over it, so again the attempt to simply paganize these Gentile messianists is fruitless. Their behavior is very remote from that of partisans of, say, a mystery cult, who add it as an exotic extra. The suggestion that Pliny’s victims are pagan bumpkins and ignorant of Jewish practices is not really plausible anyway; they presumably listened to the Septuagint being read all the time, which is not exactly Homer, it’s all about Abraham, David, the depravity of idols, etc. etc.)

            You are in any case missing the continued existence of a practicing Jewish contingent of Jesus-messianists – some of these, to follow a standard way of interpreting the pseudo-Clementine literature, or Pines’ analysis of Abd al-Jabbar ibn Ahmad http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/pines02.pdf and any number of other evidences, held to a fairly low Christology and were explicitly opposed to Paul. One way or another Gentile Jesus-messianism wiped out this tendency, or else it died out, or else it was absorbed into Islam, who knows? (On some interpretations of the Cologne Codex, Mani (3rd c.) came from an eccentric such Jewish sect; on such an account, his break with the sect will have come from reading Paul, whom he decided to emulate rather than simply to follow, rebooting things more than a bit.)

            In any case your wisdom about “the strength of Paul’s message” doesn’t have any bearing on the question of the existence of a charismatic Jesus at the bottom of this messianic vogue. Gentile Christianity is a distraction though of course it is the cause of our interest in the topic. We would still know what happened even if we got rid of all texts that were definitely written by non-Jewish hands. There is only one way for this to happen and it is seen again and again in the history of the ‘Abrahamic’ religions.

          • Pofarmer

            “You are in any case missing the continued existence of a practicing Jewish contingent of Jesus-messianists -”

            Yes, and you are missing contemporary examples like John Frum and Ned Ludd. Just because a large group of people believes something, isn’t, in itself, evidence of that thing. The list in proof of this is very long.

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

            Just saying “there are people who are unlikely to be historical who have been mistaken for such” isn’t an argument. Everyone is aware of that. What you need to address is whether Jesus is more like John Frum than Hillel, more like Ned Ludd than Socrates.

          • Mark

            Ludd and Frum aren’t messiahs, not be a long shot. Frum does have the amusing property of apparently being an anti-missionary parody of Jesus. The phenomena are much more specific than that. Ludd was not put in a position marked out by antecedent prophetic tradition among the English — the Great General of the God of Abraham. Jesus already occupies the position among the English, in his familiar half-present way, so the movement would only have been messianic if the affirmation was that Ludd was Jesus making his parousia.

            Christian messianic movements consist in the declaration that someone is ‘the Second Coming of Jesus’ — that is the all-important prophetically established pre-cut position; Jewish messianic movements consist in the declaration that ‘there has come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch has grown out of his roots, namely [Menachem Shneerson | Sabbatai Sevi | Jesus | … ] with your choice of ancillary texts. That is the pre-cut position.

            The main thing is that well before the appearance of the candidate, we have people thinking something like the 12th article of faith “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the mashiach, and though he may tarry, still I await him every day” for ages, and THEN say, as at some point they must: here he is, he stopped tarrying. The Christian variant is: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead etc. A specifically Christian messianic movement is not one that says *that* — the whole Church has forever been saying that — but one that says: Wait! He (= Jesus) has come again in glory, here he is, it’s Larry.

            A messianic movement is not one that says something about a “Christ” or “messiah”; it presupposes that something has always been said about a coming “Christ” or “messiah”; the messianic movement then brings present phenomena under the messianic prophecy and titles.

            That a large group of people, or one person even, believes something, actually is evidence of the thing. Google something like, say, ‘epistemology of testimony’ to see how hopeless any other position is. If the belief is absurd, then of course the evidence is specious. It is not a help to Mythicism that people are sometimes wrong.

          • Pofarmer

            You realize you are dangerously close to a Black Swan fallacy?

            I can’t help that the evidence we have from Paul and the early writers has a Heavenly Jesus who is going to come down to Earth and kick some butt. But, that’s why we have. I can’t help that the later writers are the ones who lost Jesus supposed acts and deeds from 50 years to a century or more Earlier. But, that’s the evidence we seem to have. You say “all movements that are X have developed on such and such way”. And yet, here we have a movement that apparently didn’t developed in that way, that folks are determined to shove into the mold. At least from my novice viewpoint. Oh, and why did you link me to Shlomo Pines, who I gather is largely out of the mainstream and generally not considered, uhm correct.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Shlomo Pines? Because cherry picking works both ways when choosing ones scholars.

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

            What is this comment supposed to imply? Are you unaware of how influential Pines’ work on this has been, or did I misunderstand your meaning?

          • Mark

            The expression “Heavenly Jesus” is already the whole state of mental decay. I guess Paul thinks Jesus is in heaven at the moment of writing. But wtf is a “Heavenly Jesus”, am I a “Chinese Mark” if I am in China? If not then drop it. Shlomo Pines is one of the greatest scholars of 20th c.; I linked him as arguing for a surprisingly late Jewish Christianity; of course the argument is contested. Your theory does not account for the existence of Jewish Christians, in particular anti-Pauline Jewish Christians in the 3rd c. which is *uncontested*, but makes all speculation about Greeks gods *completely irrelevant*.

          • Pofarmer

            What do these Jewish Christians know about Jesus that the Gospel or Epistle writers don’t? What is their written history? When did it develop?

          • Ignorant Amos

            But wtf is a “Heavenly Jesus”, am I a “Chinese Mark” if I am in China?

            You could be.

            A “Heavenly Jesus” is the one in Heaven, or from Heaven. Was there more than one Jesus?

            When considering a number of Mark’s, you might well be referred to “Chinese Mark” as the one in China for identification purposes. Or if you ARE from China.

            When in the army I was known as Belfast Paddy or two troop Paddy, in order to identify me from other Paddy’s in the squadron. The former, I’m from Belfast, the later, I was in two troop. I don’t see the problem.

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

            I confess I do get emotional when people pretend to be interested in history, only to eventually show their true colors in the end that their interest was never in making sense of the evidence, but all along was in selectively using evidence to try to make a case for a view that they are determined to hold.

          • John MacDonald

            I think most amateur internet-based atheist bible enthusiasts genuinely believe what is handed to them by Doherty et al, and simply don’t have the background to understand the counter arguments. You can passionately defend something you don’t really understand.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            BTW John, did you notice that in an earlier comment Pofarmer seemed to imply that my opinion didn’t count? That was a bit mean, wasn’t it :-)

          • John MacDonald

            a bit snarky – lol

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            First off, Paul almost always talks of Jesus Christ in Heavenly, all powerful terms. He never speaks to his lifein Earth except in very vague ways “Born of a woman, Born under the law.” “Of the flesh according to te seed of David.”

            I think this sums up why your argument fails completely. If Paul thinks that Jesus was born of a woman, then he thinks that Jesus was a man who lived on Earth. He does not think that Jesus was a purely celestial being. “Vagueness” doesn’t come into it.

            I would also say that when Paul tells us about the crucifixion, he is necessarily referring to an earthly event. Certainly, I wouldn’t accept any other interpretation without direct evidence to support it.

            In fact, when Paul says that Jesus is the Messiah and suggests that his mission has been successful, that in itself almost guarantees that he must be referring to something that happened on Earth.

          • John MacDonald

            Cecil says “I would also say that when Paul tells us about the crucifixion, he is necessarily referring to an earthly event. Certainly, I wouldn’t accept any other interpretation without direct evidence to support it.”
            *******************************************************************
            In an alternate universe where everyone throughout history was a Jesus mythicist, the mythicist would ALSO say they wouldn’t accept any historicist interpretation without direct evidence to support it.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Is that the alternate universe in which Carrier is regarded as a philosopher on a par with Aristotle? Come to think of it, isn’t that our universe?

          • John MacDonald

            I said an “alternate” universe, not an “absurd” universe.

          • Pofarmer

            Galatians 4.

            “What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

            That’s it, that’s all Paul says about, and yet, this is supposed to be definitive? No who, when, where, or how?

            And, wouldn’t you know it, the passage reads perfectly fine if you remove verse 4 and 5. This is the best you got? Passages like this make something a fact? This is just-sad.

            Interesting.

            “describes how Tertullian’s citations in Against Marcion stop short just before quoting these particular words (AM 5.4.2-3, 5.8.7):

            Tertullian (V, 4): “‘Cum autem evenit impleri tempus misit deus filium suum‘” [But when it came about that the time was fulfilled, God sent his Son]. … Tertullian himself wrote shortly afterwards [quoting the same verse in V, 8]: “At ubi tempus expletum est” [But when the time was fulfilled]. – Erased the words γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός γενομ νον ὑπὸ νόμον [born of a woman, born under the law].”

            Detering writes, “There is a consensus of all scholars that the words γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον were missing in Marcion’s edition. The fact is unambiguously confirmed by Tertullian. He surely would not have omitted the words that showed Christ’s genuine human nature to be true and that therefore could be used as an excellent argument against Marcion’s docetism, if then he had found them in Marcion.” (The Original Version of the Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 65-66)

            – See more at: http://peterkirby.com/marcions-shorter-readings-of-paul.html#more-1345

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            As far as I am concerned, any myth theory that needs this passage to be an interpolation fails automatically. If this is the sort of speculation in which you have to engage to make your theory work (and you did the same with Gal. 1:19), you might as well give up.

            You seem to have the bizarre idea that historicism is tottering on the brink and is only being held up by a few Pauline passages. Let me repeat my point: Paul tells us that Jesus was crucified. This pretty much rules out the possibility that Jesus was a purely celestial being. I see not the slightest reason to entertain the idea that Paul believed in a heavenly crucifixion.

            Let me also repeat my other point: as far as Paul is concerned, Jesus is the Messiah who has achieved his mission. This virtually guarantees that Jesus was an actual historical figure.

            The debate is not about just a few passages – and you have nothing but flimsy speculation to offer in response to them; it is about the core of Paul’s message. And we have no reason to think that the message refers to purely celestial events.

          • Pofarmer

            Cecil, you seem to think the ressurection was a real event. Your opinion really doesn’t concern me. These are passages that have been questioned by scholars, not mythicists.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And, wouldn’t you know it, the passage reads perfectly fine if you remove verse 4 and 5. This is the best you got? Passages like this make something a fact? This is just-sad.

            J.C. O’Neill certainly thinks so anyway.

            Neil Godfrey sums it up nicely…

            The reason I have posted it here is to demonstrate that there is indeed an argument for interpolation that does emanate from the high standards of critical scholarship. It is a reminder how little we know for sure about the character of the sources we rely upon for early Christian studies. That, in turn, reminds us how foolish it is to base dogmatic arguments upon any single passage. Mostly, however, the point is to show that even a passage that so many take for granted as a foundational text is not necessarily what it seems to be — even according to a Churchman many would consider conservative in beliefs yet who values genuine critical scholarship and intellectual integrity.

            http://vridar.org/2014/01/15/born-of-a-woman-sober-scholarship-questioning-the-authenticity-of-galatians-44/

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

            J. C. O’Neill spent his career proposing that the New Testament works were heavily interpolated and redacted. He occasionally has made a case that has seemed plausible to others, but few find his conclusions compelling. This is part of the problem when denialists in any field start looking around hoping to find some expert who makes a case that they like. Surely the question of whether an individual scholar’s conclusions have convinced others is a key element in scholarship, and the mere fact that someone has proposed something is not enough?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The question is why?

            Why would someone go down that road when it goes against what they stand for?

            It appears that there is no doubt that the texts have been interpolated. To what extent is the question on everyone’s mind. How can we be sure of anything in a text with known corruptions? Especially when such corruptions have an agenda.

            http://perimeno.ca/Interpolations.htm

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

            We can ask the same question about the prevailing view of the historical Jesus, which discloses a human Jesus who never claimed to be God and who was wrong about the apocalyptic predictions he made.

            We have evidence from the manuscripts we have of both stability and changes, and among the latter both intentional tampering and unintentional errors. And so trying to use interpolation as a way to get rid of texts that undermine what you think they ought to say will rarely be persuasive, and would require a substantial amount of argument. Even then, they may not attain anything more than the level of possibility when there is no manuscript evidence for the proposed interpolations.

          • Mark

            This is what we call cherry picking the scholars. As each of the 10,000 evidences come in, find an expert who had an eccentric account of that one scrap of evidence, even if they take a more conventional of the other 9,999. Then in each case say:

            This is the best you got?
            Passages like this make something a fact?
            This is just-sad.

            You get to say it 10,000 times, as a mountain of evidence buries you. It seems extremely satisfying until you reflect that it’s as irrational an epistemology as can possibly be imagined.

          • Jim

            There is absolutely no way to know for sure that Paul ever thought in terms of a celestial crucifixion. There is just not enough evidence in his writings to establish such a notion unequivocally. Of the available seven Pauline letters, six were essentially responses to letters he received so it’s not all that surprising that he primarily focused on addressing specific questions at hand, rather than say anticipating potential questions that mythicists may have 2K years later. His one letter detailing more of his own theology (Romans) doesn’t deal much with crucifixion theory at sub-lunar gravitational fluxes.

            So basically, we can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt if Paul thought Jesus existed only celestially. For me then, until a codex/papyrus is unearthed (verified to have been written by Paul) and that clearly addresses that he viewed Jesus as never having been a physical human being, I think I’ll stick to the analysis provided by historical scholarship.

            Which btw brings me to; if I really felt that Jesus was all celestial (rather than potentially ever having been a historical figure), it’d be a cold day in hell if I’d ever waste my time arguing for a purely celestial Jesus on blog posts focused on “historical” Jesus studies. I’d instead spend my time at sites devoted to studies on celestial figures in ANE cultures. Or is there some underlying need to try to demolish even a historical Jesus devoid of any orthodoxy-centered overtones? But hey, that’s just silly me.

          • Pofarmer

            Oh, I think it’s quite obvious Paul thought Jesus existed “in heaven” simply by all the passages talking about him coming in Glory to the Earth, being the Son of God, etc, etc. the actual crucifixion ideas are more sketchy.

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

            This is a weak argument. For people living in the Roman Empire, I don’t think the notion of crucifixion would have been sketchy at all, it would have been horrifyingly clear what Paul was talking about. I suppose there’s a good chance some of his recipients would have witnessed a crucifixion.

            Or thinking about it another way, if as a Nirvana fan writing to another Nirvana fan I reference Kurt Cobain’s death, I doubt I would need clarify such concepts as suicide, heroin, or gunshot wounds.

          • Pofarmer

            So, then, you’re one if those who posits that the people Paul was writing to already knew all the details, so he didn’t need to repeat them? Now who’s got the unfalsifiable assumptions?

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

            Actually, that’s simply following the guidelines for what does (and doesn’t) make a sound use of the argument from silence. Google “warring states project argument from silence” (for some reason I cannot paste the link) and note the following:

            “There are various reasons, other than literal nonexistence, why some item of culture is not, or seems not to be, mentioned in the texts of the time. Such situations do not imply nonexistence.

            [Firstly} The item is too familiar to need explicit reference by members of the culture.”

            Note that this is not written by a NT scholar engaged in special pleading for Jesus. This is written by a historian, telling us how history is done. If mythicism doesn’t measure up to that, it’s hardly my problem.

          • Pofarmer

            But, Paul is writing to people to remind them of things that apparently weren’t explicit in the first place. Why wouldn’t there be “A reminder of what Jesus said.” Or a “As the Lord Jesus himself commanded” or a “As Jesus shows us by his example in X.”? All he argues is OT and Jewish theology.

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

            See what I said above about the anachronism of expecting early Christians to wander around parroting “Jesus said” the whole time.

            In any case, Paul does indeed allude to Jesus’ life and teachings on a number of occasions, it’s only mythicists who are determined to insist that he doesn’t.

          • Pofarmer

            So, gimmee an example. A good strong, uncontested one.

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

            Uncontested by who?

          • Pofarmer

            NT scholars.

          • Mark

            No example will be uncontested. You are missing the elementary logical difference between “no rational scholar contests that one or more ‘dominical teaching’ is recited in Paul” and “one or more dominical teaching is such that no rational scholar contests that it appears in Paul”. The refusal to make this elementary Logic 1 distinction is the principle of mythicist cherry picking.

          • Mark

            A passage that is typically cited as ‘dominical’ is 1 Corinthians 7 10-11, on divorce. This teaching is quite extraordinary from a Jewish (or Greek) point of view, but it surfaces again in the gospels, where it is just as surprising. Of course it is possible to say that the Gospel is copying Paul. Note that in the gospels the prohibition is expressly addressed to the Jews. It has always surprised me that mythicists don’t freak out over the passage in Paul, though of course it can be rejected. It is typical though that the mythicist doesn’t keep track of how many such unnoticable acts of cherry picking he has engaged in, as he moves toward his final judgment that the probability that Jesus existed is 10.6% or whatever, while he is buried under a mountain of evidence, each single piece of which is somehow disputable.

          • Pofarmer

            Uhm, when one is appealing to consensus, it would seem to be relevant.

          • Mark

            This is a bit of a blur. What appeal to consensus are you thinking of; what was it being cited in favor of? How would a lack of uncontested assent to the dominical status of any one single teaching in Paul matter to anything at all — except the question whether we should ascribe dominical status to that one single teaching?

          • Pofarmer

            If every teaching is contested in some way or another, the the idea of consensus becomes moot, because you’ve arrived at the conclusion without every one agreeing on the route to get there, and some vehemently disagreeing.

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

            You seem to have misunderstood how scholarship works at a fundamental level. We are required to publish as part of our jobs, and the only way to do so is to try to say something new about data that has been investigated for decades, and in some cases centuries. Scholarly consensus means that there is overwhelming agreement, not that no one ever writes a PhD thesis trying to challenge the prevailing view. And once such a thesis is written, we then see whether the consensus changes, or whether the new proposal is found unpersuasive.

          • Pofarmer

            So then, you can dismiss someone like J.C. Oneill or Paul Hooper as just publishing for the sake of getting published, but the authors you agree with are making exciting new discoveries.

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

            Not at all. We all have to publish. And I do not think anyone becomes a scholar but never hopes to make a significant contribution. I have found O’Neill’s work brilliant and insightful, even though like most of my peers I am not persuaded that he is right about most of his claims regarding, for instance, the redactional history of Paul’s letters. I feel the same way about Mark Goodacre, even though I am not convinced at present that his proposed solution to the Synoptic problem explains the evidence better than the four source hypothesis.

          • Mark

            Right, you are confusing “for all x, exists y, such that r x y” and the much stronger “exists y, for all x, r x y”, which is the first thing you have to get straight in logic class, or high school calculus.

          • Pofarmer

            I think you are missing the arguement. Robert Prices argument, for instance, is that upon surveying the scholarship, he found that everything tied to Jesus in word and deed could be tied to some other earlier or contemporary work or theology. If there is nothing uncontested about Jesus life, then there is no “consensus” left to declare his historicity.

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

            If you think that consensus in scholarship means complete unanimity, you have misunderstood how the term is used in an academic setting. A consensus does not change or disappear simply because someone tries to make a case for an alternative scenario.

          • Mark

            No, the mistake is trivial.

            Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0001 EST – contested
            Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0002 EST – contested
            Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0003 EST – contested

            Jesus was born – uncontested

            The other mistake is even more grave, the failure to distinguish subject and predicate. The actual content of the Gospel is SIMPLY IRRELEVANT and no amount of Pricean fretting about it will ever have any bearing on the question; what shows the ‘historical existence of Jesus’ is the historical existence of … the nonsense in Mark … the febrile content of the letters of Paul … the wildness of the Apocalypse … the fervor of Pliny’s recalcitrant Christians etc. We are not interested in assessing the predicates they apply to him. Nathan of Gaza only bothers attaching predicates to Sabbatai if he can its outline in Zohar or the prophets, else what’s the point of saying it? He’s advertising a messiah ben David after all.

            So of course everything anyone bothers to say in the Jesus-messiah advertising copy is either an impossible miracle — they’re trying to convince you he’s the messiah, after all! — or else prefigured in the prophets — they’re trying to convince you he’s the messiah after all! (Not to put too fine a point on it) The miracles and alleged prophetic prefiguration just make it all the more obvious that it’s a Jewish messiah were talking about.

            What we need to explain is why there’s all this messianic excitement going on. It won’t do to say, it came from pagan influence — that isn’t messianic excitement and can’t explain even the title ‘Christ’, however much mythicists may try to make this seem like an arbitrary name for a supernatural being. Price’s discoveries are statements of the obvious; they may bear on the truth of some of the stories, but not on the causal explanation of the composition of the stories, which is the only thing at issue in the present dispute.

            A messianic movement is a context in which we anticipate documents that name a real person, and talk nonsense about him.

            We need to be able to say, “Of course they say he was born in Bethlehem, they *would*, wouldn’t they …” Well, who “would” say this? Plotting Catholic ecclesiastics? But where do they come from? Bored pagans? What are they reading the prophets for? You might as well declare the text of Mark dropped from heaven or was written by the devil. Everyone knows how this kind of stuff comes about.

          • Pofarmer

            “Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0001 EST – contested
            Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0002 EST – contested
            Jesus was born at 10:00:00.0003 EST – contested”

            Your own arguments would he stronger if you didn’t consistently strawman others arguments. I assume you know this isn’t the gist of Prices argument.

            “What we need to explain is why there’s all this messianic excitement going on.”

            Except there wasn’t in this case, until dozens of years later. The earliest epistles don’t record this messianic movement. Contemporary records, Roman records, Jewish records. None of the. Record this messianic excitement.

            Your entire argument here is simply people wrote about this Jesus charachter and started worshiping him so he must be real. In 1000 years will people believe Spider man was real? I mean hundreds of millions of people spent billions of dollars to see movies about him. There are numerous conflicting stories and timelines. Many of the stories about him meet the croterion if embarrasement. I mean, he must have been real. The 21st century was truly the age of superhero’s. I mean, look at all the Marvel movies anout them. Isn’t it amazing?

          • Mark

            Criteria of embarrassment and the like are employed in arguments that this or that gospel story is true. Mythicists love to kick up dust attacking such principles, but so do many or even most ‘historicists’. It is familiar that attempts to sort the true and false in gospel stories are hazardous and court silliness. But the program of sorting out the true and false in gospel stories has nothing to do with the existence of a historical Jesus. It just doesn’t, and no amount of mocking things like criterion of embarrassment will ever be to the present point, which is simply different, and basically belongs to a different discipline. It is just a device of avoidance. Messianic advertising copy is always miraculous and wild, but you need a charismatic individual to get it going. Superhero stories are miraculous and wild, but they aren’t messianic. Wild stories divide into types. Your thought is, If the story is wild, the subject probably didn’t exist. That is false as it stands, but if might be true for some genera of story. But in the case of messianic advertising copy, the opposite inference in the better one: if a davidic-messianic story is wild, the subject certainly did exist; the wilder the story the more certain the existence of the subject. Half the mythicist labor is to keep the davidic-messianic (“Jewish”) element out so they can bring superheros in.

          • Pofarmer

            Once again, check out “Black Swan Fallacy”. It’s basically what you are doing. “Every apparent Messianic movement starts X way.” Then what happens if this Messianic movement is different? These guys got tired of their earthly messiahs getting chewed up by the Romans, so they “found” one in the scriptures. This Messiah couldn’t be beaten, couldn’t fail. Plus. There were things he wanted to do on Earth to make sure you were ready for his return in glory and badassness. This seems to basically be Pauls message. It doesn’t require a physcial candidate. What it requires is a whole slew of failed messianic candidates. This heavenly messiah is therefor an improvement over those old Earthly Messiah’s. In short, Christianity is an innovation. Things change. And the proof of it is in how well this message stuck compared to all the other Jewish messianic candidates. It also explains why there is no, zip, zero contemporary record of any Jesus of Nazareth, and why later authors were pretty liberal in making one up. It explains the arguments from silence where Paul and the other Epistle writers never call on Jesus authority on their arguments. It explains why Pauls reference that could be linked to an Earthly Jesus are vague, and often disputed anyway. It explains why early Church fathers lamented the lack of Jesus in any historical literature. For the Christian movement to get started didn’t require a physical Jesus figure, it only required the idea of Jewish Messiahs, and the simple fact that every one of them up to that point had inevitably failed.

          • Mark

            People only ever found messiahs on the streets of Jerusalem, Smyrna and Brooklyn because they had already found them in (the sorts of writing that were later canonized as) Scripture. You are not pointing to any difference between Jesus-enthusiasm and any other messianic enthusiasm. There just is no difference; you can only find one by insisting on a latently anti-semitic de-judaization of the material. Indeed what is most amazing about Christianity is how little novelty there is; the messianic tradition and literature advertises a job description; the “Christians” we are talking about say, ‘Jesus fits’. There is no movement in religious ideas whatsoever contained in this; one is doing what the received tradition said must someday be done, and departs from it not on iota. The only interesting distinction within such movements is the one between those that fizzle out when the messiah ends up dead or a Muslim — as you and I both know they *all* will — and the ones that manage to get past this. Christianity and Sabbatai-messianism and contemporary Chabad are the classical examples of this; it too involves nothing remarkable, just throwing a few more choice prophetic sentences into the stew. Your grounds for finding something ‘special’ in Christianity, can only be specifically Christian in character.

          • Mark

            You seem, by the way, to think that ordinary inductive inference – which is of course fallible, as everyone knows – can be brought under the heading of ‘black swan fallacy’. Good luck making it past voir dire when you come up for jury duty. People who resist obvious inductive inferences in advance by contemplating recherché possibilities are typically engaged in wishful thinking or exhibiting some irrational fear; people who do it systematically and on principle are presumably showing signs of some kind of paranoia, but I don’t know much about that kind of pathology. The proposition that Paul simply made up his ‘Jesus’ is indeed not itself a contradiction, and is thus in that sense a ‘possibility’. The move from that kind of possibility to the affirmation of genuine epistemic possibility “Wait, maybe there was no Jesus! Maybe Paul was reading a comic book and …” is not correct inference and is moreover pathological.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            These guys got tired of their earthly messiahs getting chewed up by the Romans, so they “found” one in the scriptures. This Messiah couldn’t be beaten, couldn’t fail.

            And what did the “unbeatable” Messiah do? He got crucified. If you are tired of seeing your earthly messiahs being chewed up by the Romans, why would you want to invent a messiah who also gets chewed up? The novelty value of having your messiah chewed up by demons in outer space would hardly seem to justify the imaginative effort.

            You say that a physical candidate is not required, but since there were so many to choose from, there would be no point in looking a gift horse in the mouth.

            And the proof of it is in how well this message stuck compared to all the other Jewish messianic candidates.

            Has it occurred to you that with so many messianic candidates, it was possible that the followers of one of them might have convinced themselves that the mission had succeeded in spite of its apparent failure?

            It explains the arguments from silence where Paul and the other Epistle writers never call on Jesus authority on their arguments.

            Presumably, you mean that it explains the silence rather than the argument from silence. The actual explanation for the latter is the intention of mythicists to muddy the waters.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s also worth noting that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet with a message of an imminent coming of The Kingdom which never came to pass.

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

            Oh and PS you apparently didn’t read the webpage I suggested, or you’d know that where material is alluded to, the AFS is also problematic.

          • Pofarmer

            Sure, the AFS is problematic, it’s always problematic, that’s why you try not to infer things from what people DON’T say.

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

            So did you read the webpage? What is your view of the various caveats of “social silence” it mentions with regard to implying non-existence of something from its absence from a text?

            Can you see why I think that some of these situations exist with regards to Paul’s letters and that this has nothing to do with me making “falsifiable assumptions”?

            Of course, if you think I’ve misunderstood the AFS (e.g. because I’m blinded by devotion to a religion of which I am not a member), perhaps you could explain how?

          • arcseconds

            ere is a link to the article you mention (hopefully it works for me):

            Arguments from Silence

            The article says the default assumption should be if it’s not mentioned, then it didn’t exist.

            I think I can do better: the default assumption should be based on an assessment of whatever the probability of it existing, taking into account it’s not mentioned.

            Of course, the probability of some arbitrary thing or property existing given a lack of evidence for it is very low, so this still turns into a default for non-existence for most things. The probability of complex mechanical calculating devices, even in cultures where the metallurgy is good enough, or of some precise literary form like sonnets, is very low, for example, so if there’s no evidence for them then we can assume they weren’t there.

            But the probability of a culture having fire is extremely high. So even if no-one mentions fire in their texts, we can assume it’s there. This doesn’t require an assumption that they have a special nonchalance about fire that other cultures don’t have, it just requires noting that (virtually?) every human culture has fire. We might of course want to conclude that they had a special nonchalance about it (although there may be other reasons. Maybe they only ever wrote flower-poetry so the subject never came up.), but we’d be doing that on the assumption that they would indeed have fire, not the other way around.

            I think this may make a difference to the debate. The mythicists are proceeding on the assumption that there was no historical Jesus, and with mythical figures we often don’t get rich biographical detail, so the silence attests to the (to them) probable non-existence of these details. But mainstream scholars think he almost certainly existed, so these details almost certainly existed, so on the basis of that it’s concluded that there’s some other reason for them not to be mentioned, such as being commonly known, or not being particularly interesting to Paul.

            So like the case with fire, it’s not that we have good independent reasons for thinking Paul is uninterested or is already assuming knowledge of Jesus’s biography (as it would be if he has said something like “Well, you know all the biographical details already, so I won’t bother rehashing what we already know” or something). Rather that’s something we conclude from the fact that we think these details existed.

            On this topic I actually think mythicism has a very slight advantage. The lack of biographical details falls out naturally from the mythicism case, whereas it requires an additional explanation on historicity.

            However, it’s not a very big advantage. Mythicists try to turn it into one by insisting that it’s strange that Paul doesn’t mention any of this stuff, but I don’t know that it’s that strange. Why should he?

            Anyway, the stuff on the warring states period is interesting. I must admit I found the ‘where are all the swords’ case a little confusing. The full article isn’t available to me (I’m not sure I want to waste a JSTOR freebie on this particular article… maybe I can find it in a book somewhere), but it appears to be almost the opposite of the general situation they are describing. It sounds like the texts indicate there are swords (well-forged iron swords in common use, I think they mean) but they’re not found in the archaeological record, so their non-existence is inferred from the silence of archeological evidence, in contradiction to the documentary evidence.

            I found this, though, which contains a discussion on the matter and seems to suggest (although I haven’t read it too closely) that Qin probably did have iron swords, it just wasn’t in the habit of burying the dead with swords of any kind.

          • Ignorant Amos

            However, it’s not a very big advantage. Mythicists try to turn it into one by insisting that it’s strange that Paul doesn’t mention any of this stuff, but I don’t know that it’s that strange. Why should he?

            When it is something that would add weight to the message Paul is making. What better authority to bolster ones position when making an assertion than the words or deeds of the main man himself?

            Furthermore, at least some of Paul’s messages appear to be in contradiction to the message of the later gospel Jesus.

            What mattered above all else to Paul was that Jesus was crucified and was resurrected. The question is where, when and by whom? Paul is less than vague on the answers. Is the scholarly consensus only half right on this issue? Is it a case that accepting a crucifixion by whoever, wherever, whenever, is not problematic…but the supernatural event that is the resurrection, nobody doing historical scholarship takes that seriously?

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

            On this topic I actually think mythicism has a very slight advantage. The lack of biographical details falls out naturally from the mythicism case, whereas it requires an additional explanation on historicity.

            Here I am not convinced. It does not seem at all obvious that lack of biographical detail is more common with mythical figures than with historical figures – if by biographical we are ignoring whether these stories actually happened, that is. Off the top of my head, I can tell you more biographical details about Odysseus than I could about… well probably most historical figures I could actually name, but let’s say my great grandfather, for example. And I daresay there actually are more stories written about Odysseus than most historical people who have ever lived. Few historical people have a Homer to sing their praises, anyway.

            Moreover, even if we suppose that mythicism might explain the supposed lack of mundane biographical detail about Jesus more efficiently than historicism, it only does so at the expense of failing to explain the lack of mythical biographical detail in Paul. That is, historicism explains quite neatly why Paul fails to mention (say) the virgin birth – i.e. if Jesus were a real person, then this is an inherently implausible biographical detail, so can reasonably have thought to have been a late addition, and therefore likely unknown to Paul. However, if Jesus was originally a mythical being, and then is no “real” historicity to constrain the growth of tradition, then why didn’t Paul know this mythical detail? So I’d say it’s even stevens here, at best.

            However, it’s when we consider Paul alongside other Christian texts , that I think that the mythicist AFS really struggles to do the kind of work that mythicists need it to do, because it’s clearly not the case that biographical details about Jesus are absent in the entire corpus of Christian texts.

            On your fire example, I guess the assumption would be that any culture advanced enough to develop literature and beautiful poems about flowers would be advanced enough to figure out how to rub two sticks together! But I wonder what scholars would make of texts found on unbaked clay tablets that fail to mention fire, and never mention practices which require it – cremation, cooked food, metalwork, candlelight, or burnt offerings to the gods? Assuming, as you say, that the texts might reasonably be expected to refer to such things were they known? Not a criticism of your example, just mulling over at what point the AFS starts to bear weight…

          • arcseconds

            Well, Carrier is, to my understanding, proposing that Jesus was originally almost an archetype: a suffering and dying messiah who exists in heaven, and lacks biographical details about his birth because he wasn’t born, didn’t have a mother, or a birthplace. He acquired all of these details later than Paul.

            So with this particular hypothesis, the explanation is a natural one.

            And it seems fine to say any particular mythic details developed later, even on mythicism. Mythicism doesn’t entail the whole myth came about all at once!

            More generally, a mythic figure can lack these details, so there is a resource for mythicism here that historicity lacks.

            So to the extent that we think it’s odd that Paul doesn’t mention any of this stuff, I still think it’s more a problem for historicity than mythicism. It did occur to me too that the lack of mythic details is also kind of a problem for mythicism, I just think it’s marginally less of a problem.

            Although I suppose I’m now thinking that it’s enough of a problem that a mythicist does actually have to resort to the same kinds of explanation as a historicist does. Sure, maybe there aren’t any biographical details of the normal sort, even mythic ones. But surely there are mythic details of some kind… why doesn’t Paul ever speak directly of Jesus being done in by demons?

            My example was just intended to demonstrate how we’d go with an assessment of the probability of feature X being there, if there’s no direct evidence. The probability of a culture having fire is very high. Of course, if we consistently failed to find any evidence of fire where we’d expect to, including physical evidence, there would be some point at which we might start thinking they didn’t actually have any. If we found lots of settlements without any evidence of firepits of any kind, etc, but this complicates my example beyond what it was supposed to demonstrate.

            It would be much harder for textual silence to prove this.

            If we had only textual evidence to go by, so no absence of physical evidence where we’d expect to be some, then no references to fire even though it talks about food preparation is more likely to show that they for some reason ate raw food. No mention of meat might make us think they were vegetarians, but it wouldn’t make us think animals were unknown to them.

            And lots of societies don’t cremate, or offer burnt offerings, or make candles, or forge metal.

            And frankly a taboo around mentioning fire, odd though it may seem, seems considerably more likely than lacking fire. There are lots of strange taboos out there. It’s even possible to come up with a story how this might arise: if the name of fire is the name of a god, and people start to think it’s a bad idea to name the god, you might see the same kind of euphemism treadmill that we see in Judaism, to the point where the entire subject can’t be discussed openly. It’s even possible that it’s specifically writing that’s the problem, so it might be OK to talk about it.

            I suppose if we found frequent mentions of how cold the nights were and wouldn’t it be nice if there were some way of lighting the darkness we might be a bit suspicious, but that’s starting to look like positive attestation of a lack of fire, not merely silence on the topic.

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

            Given that (1) Paul explicitly says that he proclaimed and told things to churches on prior occasions, and (2) mythicists say that Paul and his readers assumed things he does not say in his letters, this complaint thoroughly inappropriate.

          • Pofarmer

            This amounts to a shell game.

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

            How so? Simply saying it doesn’t make it so, and claiming it without explanation or evidence is obviously not going to be persuasive or even meaningful.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Talking of shell games, what would you say if you saw that one person was offering online courses in the following subjects?

            New Testament Scholarship

            Moral Reasoning

            Science and the Philosophy of Free Will

            How to be a Better Debater

            Learn How to Think Critically About History

            Naturalism as a Worldview

            Counter-Apologetics

            Atheism and Epistemology

            You might wonder what this person’s actual area of expertise is. Is this person an NT scholar? Is he philosopher, and if so, in which area of philosophy does he specialise? Is he a historian?

            When you learn that the person in question is an unemployed blogger, you may be forgiven for thinking that something is rather amiss.

          • Pofarmer

            Cecil, you’re an arrogant jerk, just to be clear.

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

            This would seem to be your third comment in a row that merely insinuates or accuses without evidence, never mind anything more substantive. Perhaps I too am an “arrogant jerk” as well, but I expect commenters on my blog to aim for a higher standard.

          • Pofarmer

            Then you need to hold your pets to the same standards. Referring to someone who is attempting to be and independent scholar, as an unemployed blogger. How would you charachterize that?

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

            Pets? You think that is an improvement? While “unemployed blogger” is certainly more insulting than “independent scholar,” I know plenty of genuine independent scholars who, unlike Richard Carrier, actually seek to contribute to the academic enterprise. If one is insulting the academy in the way Carrier does, one is not an independent scholar but an anti-scholar.

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

            Actually with his appeals for cash, Carrier most reminds me of an atheist tv evangelist.

            Any money sent in support helps keep me going, and keeps me hopeful that I’m making a difference that people appreciate. So anyone who does appreciate all I’ve done, and wants to see more, I would be so moved if you can reward me with your patronage this coming week.

            Throw in a couple of amens and a praise Jesus, and I’d defy anyone to tell the difference.

            I mean getting burgled sucks, but appealing to perfect strangers to stump up so you’re not out of pocket? LOCK YOUR FRONT DOOR AND BUY SOME HOME INSURANCE !

          • arcseconds

            This seems a bit mean.

            Lots of people are trying to support their activities on the internet through appeals to ‘perfect strangers’ (although I feel that doesn’t describe one’s relationship with regular commentors very fairly). Crowdsourcing, affiliate links, merchandising, premium subscriptions, etc. all essentially boil down to this.

            It’s not a lucrative existence for most people, and it’s not hard for unexpected large costs to be a real problem, even if you have a real job.

            (Fred Clark has gone cap in hand to his commenters on several occasions. His real job, last I checked, was restocking shelves in a hardware store… he’s even written short paragraphs not unlike this one.)

            It’s also not as if this only happens on the internet. Music communities often run fund-raising concerts to support people in their own ranks, for example.

            So I wonder whether you’d be this dismissive if it was someone whom you liked and whose activities you valued?

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

            I wonder whether you’d be this dismissive if it was someone whom you liked and whose activities you valued?

            No, I’m sure I’d be much nicer about it.

            That’s said:

            a) I think there is a point in life when if doing what you love isn’t financially viable, you need to go and do something you like slightly less but that pays the bills. I might chip in if some band I liked in my youth wanted to record a new album and needed help with the studio fees. I wouldn’t just give them a chunk of money so they could go on being musicians and not have to get a real job like the rest of us, and it would slightly irk me if they expected other people to do this.

            b) I get slightly narked when mythicists say they can’t trust the conclusions of NT scholars because “their careers depend on it”, ignoring the inconsistency that Carrier’s livelihood seems to depend on keeping atheists happy. This might not be Carrier’s fault, but it still bugs me.

            c) I do think that there is something bit evangelical about Carrier’s manner and I can’t say that it’s a tone I much like, regardless of whether I sympathise with the view being promoted. I’ve been vegetarian throughout my adult life, but I have no time for vegevangelists either.

            d) Maybe it’s the teacher in me and I have to bang this point home to my students too often, but I do think that internet acquaintances are indeed strangers. Appealing to strangers to help with something like being burgled strikes me as being a bit odd. Applying the “am I being consistent here?” test: There are plenty of people whose blogs I like and sometimes comment on – people who blog about religion, teaching, vegetarian food, or triathlon. I might well buy their books if I thought I could get something useful from them, or maybe pay to go on a course they ran, but yes I would find it weird if they appealed for help over something like having their car broken into. I guess the cynical part of me would wonder if I was being taken for a mug.

            But anyway, as I said: No, I’m sure I’d be much nicer about it.

          • arcseconds

            Oh, Carrier’s definitely got his market, which he definitely plays to, and I’m not disputing that there are similarities with certain kinds of religious authors, and other peddlers of fringe viewpoints. And he’s definitely got market incentives to do what he’s doing, it’s not like he’s somehow above it all. In fact, his market gives a far more direct incentive for him maintaining his views (and his antagonistic relationship with mainstream scholarship) than a tenured position in a US university.

            But leaving our personal views of Carrier and his work aside, what really is there to object to appealing to people who get value out of what you produce to help out from time to time in supporting you in continuing to produce that work?

            Do you also object when buskers leave their instrument cases open? Ministers passing around a collection plate? Donation boxes in art galleries? Or what about universities seeking donations from alumni for a new auditorium? Arts council funding? Blue-skies pure research funding from the Government? They’re all ways of passing around the hat, are they not? Should everyone in these areas go and ‘get a real job’, rather than bugging people for money?

            And if you’re successful in getting people to fund you to the point where you can live off that funding, that is being financially viable.

            It’d be a grimmer world if everyone were only allowed to sell their time or their products at a fixed price.

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

            Do you also object when buskers leave their instrument cases open? no

            Ministers passing around a collection plate? depends what it’s being used for. If it’s just for the sake of spreading a message then yes, if it’s to help feed the needy or whatever, then no

            Donation boxes in art galleries? if it’s free, no. If they’ve already tapped me for money, yes

            Or what about universities seeking donations from alumni for a new auditorium? I HATE it when my Uni cold calls me asking for cash

            Arts council funding? Hmmm… I have mixed feelings. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a tax on the poor to fund the hobbies of the rich, but I haven’t thought it through that much

            Blue-skies pure research funding from the Government? no

            But leaving our personal views of Carrier and his work aside, what really is there to object to appealing to people who get value out of what you produce to help out from time to time in supporting you in continuing to produce that work?

            Isn’t this just another way of saying “I’m not quite good enough to get a contract doing this professionally, or sell enough books to make enough money to live on, so how about you guys just sub me?”

            I’m not saying my views are necessarily rational or consistent, and I know artists have always been supported by wealthy patrons but this sort of thing just feels a bit like sponging. Sponging off strangers at that. At least Van Gogh was supported by his brother.

            Actually, I get quite conflicted here – I wonder how the world would be different if Engels hadn’t supported Marx? I wonder how the world would be different if some stranger had written Hitler a blank cheque, saying “there you go Adolf, you go paint as much as you like”…?

            I mentioned triathlon – I would be happy to put my hand in my pocket to help out a kid who had real potential and who (say) needed some decent kit to have a chance of turning pro. But I wouldn’t expect strangers to support me (a fat, crap, 40 year old) if I wanted to quit my job and train full time. Even if they did like the way I look in Lycra.

            I guess I’d draw a distinction between:

            Giving money for something that I hope will materially benefit others (e.g. donating to Save the Children) – Good
            Government bodies awarding money to things that might not make money, but makes some worthwhile public contribution (e.g. a local council funding a library) – Good
            Giving money (whether private or public) to something in the hope that that thing will become self-financing (e.g. my triathlete example or funding research) – Good
            Giving money to somebody purely to spread some religious or political opinion – Religious pyramid selling. Bad.
            Giving money to someone who has little prospect of being financially self-sufficient by doing the thing they do, just so they don’t have to get a proper job – Bad.

            Oh, cheers for your reply about the AFS. I have a couple of thoughts I will post back when I get chance.

          • Jim

            Weren’t six out of seven of Paul’s letters written to churches he had previously established in regions where he spent time explaining/verbalizing his theology? Wasn’t his seventh letter (Romans) written to an already existing group of Jesus followers? So one might expect that a few members in each of these groups must have at least heard some of the details before signing on the dotted line and before the written correspondences.

          • Pofarmer

            This is simply a shell game. “Yes, it’s laid out clearly in the texts that we don’t have by people we don’t have any testimony from.”

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

            Just saying that something is like a shell game doesn’t make it like a shell game. But I suspect that many would see a much stronger resemblance between a shell game and mythicist comments on the internet…

          • Jim

            Yeah, that ole Paul always having a brain fart before writing a letter. He could have considered people living 2K years in the future and asked himself WWMR (What Would a Mythicist Require), then written his letter accordingly.

          • Jim

            Well it’s obvious that Paul thought Jesus was in heaven “after” his death. Isn’t that what most Christians still think, i.e. that Jesus spent most of his existence in heaven both pre and post his brief human cameo?

            The idea that god(s) temporarily became human for some earthly mission and then returned to being a god was not totally unheard of in Greco-Roman culture, for example Philemon and Baucis in Ovid’s (43 BCE – 17 CE) tome “Metamorphoses”.

            Paul apparently thinks that Jesus’ resurrection involved an appointment/exaltation to an even more elevated heavenly status (Rom 1.4) than he previously held before willingly accepting a temporary human gig.

            At least to me, this reading of Paul requires minimal gymnastics in summarizing his personal theology on this.

          • Pofarmer

            I have read. Too. Much. Stuff.

            “Even before Plato, near eastern mythology envisioned primal or archetypal forms existing in heaven, of which earthly things were counterparts. But it was Plato who inserted into the intellectual consciousness of the ancient world the concept that the upper realm of spirit contained the primary manifestations of things, in perfect and eternal forms, and that the lower material world contained only transient, imperfect copies of them. Platonism eventually envisioned a ‘chain of generation’ from the mind of God, through emanative spirit prototypes and models, down to earthly end-products in matter.”

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

            But that’s not going by what Paul “actually tells us”, that’s interpreting Paul in the light of Platonism.

            If historicists aren’t allowed to interpret Paul’s letters in the light of Christian views – such as that when he uses the word “Jesus” he uses it to refer to person who had lived and died in the recent past – why are you allowed to do exactly the same thing?

          • arcseconds

            Is this a quote from Paul? :-)

            And does Plato actually believe there are copies of individual humans in the realm of forms? He normally talks about concepts, like large and twoness and justice and things.

            And does anyone believe that there are heavenly copies of individuals? I think the answer to that is actually ‘yes’, but I would like to know who, and where they say this, and whether Paul is actually one of them.

          • Pofarmer

            Thomists, aka Catholics, certainly believe that these forms “exist” as real things. I think the concept is -odd, but they hold to it tightly. Hebrews 8:5 talks about it some, but still not what I was thinking of.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And does anyone believe that there are heavenly copies of individuals? I think the answer to that is actually ‘yes’, but I would like to know who, and where they say this, and whether Paul is actually one of them.

            Isn’t it a Christian tradition drawn from Paul that all those whose soul achieves salvation will be given a new body in heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 seems to say it is so?

            1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.[a] 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

            Will those bodies be copies of our earthly bodies? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have a choice since there are so many problems with our earthly bodies? For some an extreme amount more than others?

            The Jews, or some of them at least, believed there was seven heavens, probably a carry over from the Babylonian exile like other things in Judaism.

            The Talmud contains a description of the seven heavens.

            In one of those levels there is a copy of Jerusalem and the Temple.

            Talmud – Mas. Chagigah 12b

            R. Jehudah said: There are two firmaments, as it is written [Deut. x. 14]: “Behold, to the Lord thy God belong the heavens and the heavens of the heavens.” Resh Lakish said, they are seven, viz.: Vilon, Rakia, Shchakim, Zbul, Maon, Makhon, Araboth. Vilon serves no purpose whatever save this, that it enters in the morning, and goes forth in the evening, and renews every day the work of creation. Rakia is that in which are set sun and moon, stars and constellations. Shchakim is that in which the millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous. Zbul is that in which is the heavenly Jerusalem and the Temple, and the altar is built there, and Michael the great prince stands and offers upon it an offering. Maon is that in which are companies of ministering angels, who utter His song in the night and are silent in the day for the sake of the glory of Israel. Resh Lakish said: Every one who studied in the Law in this world, which is like the night, the Holy One, blessed be He, stretches over him the thread of grace for the future world, which is like the day, as it is written: “By the day the Lord gives his merciful command, and by night his song is with me.” Makhon is that in which are the treasures of hail, and the high dwelling-place of harmful dews and the high dwelling-place of the round drops, and the chamber of the whirlwind and of the storm, and the retreat of noisome vapor; and their doors are made of fire. Araboth is that in which are righteousness and judgment and grace, the treasures of life and the treasures of peace and the treasures of blessing, and the souls of the righteous and the spirits and souls which are about to be created, and the dew with which the Holy One, blessed be He, is about to quicken mortals. There also are celestials and seraphs and holy beings and ministering angels and the throne of glory, and the King, the Living God, high and lifted up, sitting over them among the clouds, and darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him. How is there darkness in the presence of the Lord? Is it not written [Dan. ii. 22]: “He is that revealeth what is deep and secret: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him”? This presents no difficulty. The one refers to that which is within, the other to that which is without. R. A’ha bar Jacob said: There is again a firmament above the heads of the living creatures, for it is written [Ezek. i. 22]: “And the likeness of a vault was over the head of the living creatures, shining like the glitter of the purest crystal.” So far thou hast permission to speak. Thenceforward thou hast not permission to speak. For thus it is written in the book of Ben Sira: Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, and into the things that are hidden from thee inquire thou not. In what is permitted to thee instruct thyself thou must not discuss secret things.

            Would Paul be aware of this thinking? Certainly seems he was, because in 2 Corinthians he talks about visiting the third heaven.

            Corinthians 2

            12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast,I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

            What is Paul talking about here? To me, he is saying that fourteen years before writing this epistle a man (himself in the third party? Theologians certainly think so) had an experience in which he can’t be sure whether it was a dream or real, but he went and heard from Christ/Lord/Saviour. I think this was all in order to set himself up to be no lesser an authority than the other “super apostles” who got their knowledge in just as similar a fashion. This is borne out by reading on. He was boasting in the same way we name-drop today as a means to impress and appear authoritative. Boasting if you like. Nevertheless, he is talking about meeting a heavenly Jesus in the third heaven.

            So, does Paul know about the various levels of heaven? Seems so. Does anyone reside there? Well Paul says he visited someone there, was it the celestial Jesus? The Talmud says all sorts of entities reside in the various levels of the heavens and there is a copy of Jerusalem and the great temple in one of them..

          • Mark

            Pines supposed that Agapius was working with a pre-existing Syriac translation of Josephus, and thus that maybe we catch a glimpse of an independent manuscript tradition. Are you thinking Pines of all people was engaged in Christian apologetics??

          • Pofarmer

            I think he’s engaged in wishful thinking. But that’s just me.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Are you thinking Pines of all people was engaged in Christian apologetics??

            No, but Pines was using a paraphrased variation of the original Eusebius pious fraud.

            Josephus scholar Alice Whealey, who Carrier cites in OHJ, says…

            In the second major twentieth century controversy over the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum, the erudite Near Eastern studies scholar, Shlomo Pines, tried to argue that the paraphrase of the Testimonium that appears in a Christian Arabic chronicle dating from the tenth century might be more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium. Reaction to Pines’ thesis was mixed, but the most important piece of evidence that Pines’ scholarship on Christian Semitic sources brought to light was not the Arabic paraphrase of the Testimonium that he proposed was more authentic than the textus receptus, but the literal Syriac translation of the Testimonium that is quoted in a twelfth century chronicle compiled by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch (1166-1199). It is this version of the Testimonium, not the Arabic paraphrase of it, that has the greatest likelihood of being, at least in some ways, more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium because, as noted earlier, this version of the text agrees with Jerome’s Latin version of the text in the same crucial regard. The medieval Syriac Testimonium that Pines uncovered is very strong evidence for what many scholars had argued since birth of the controversy over the text in the Renaissance, namely that Jerome did not alter the Testimonium Flavianum to read “he was believed to be the Christ” but rather that he in fact knew the original version of the Testimonium, which he probably found in Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica, which read “he was believed to be the Christ” rather than “he was the Christ.”

            …and Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman also put no store in the Syriac translation of Josephus.

            Pines (An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and Its Implications (Jeruslame 1971))has created a considerable stir by bringing to the scholarly world’s attention two hitherto almost completely neglected works containing the Testimonium, one a tenth-century history of the world in Arabic by a Christian named Agapius and the other a twelfth-century chronicle in Syriac by Michael the Syrian. There are a number of differences between Agapuius and our Testimonium, notably in the omission of the statement ‘if one ought to call him a man’ and of Jesus’ miracles and of the role of the Jewish leaders in accusing Jesus, and, above all, in the assertion that Jesus was perhaps the Messiah (‘was thought to be’ in Michael). Since Agapius declares that ‘This is what is said by Josephus and his companions’ and indeed includes a number of other details not found in Josephus, we may conjecture that he used other sources as well. Inasmuch as there are changes in the order of the statements of the Testimonium in Agapius and Michael, we are apparently dealing not with a translation but with a paraphrase.”

            Feldman also makes this observation that might be considered important.

            “We may remark here on the passage in Josephus which has occasioned by far more comment than any other, the so-called Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. XVIII. 63 – 4) concerning Jesus. The passage appears in all our manuscripts; but a considerable number of Christian writers – Pseudo-Justin and Theophilus in the second century, Minucius Felix, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Orgen in the third century, and Methodius and Pseudo-Eustathius in the early fourth century – who knew Jeosphus and cited from his works do not refer to this passage, though one would imagine that it would be the first passage that a Christian apologist would cite. In particular, Origen (Contra Celsum 1.47 and Commentary on Matthew 10.17), who certainly knew Book 18 of the Antiquities and cites five passages from it, explicitly states that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as Christ. The first to cite the Testimonium is Eusebius (c. 324); and even after him, we may note, there are eleven Christian writers who cite Josephus but not the Testimonium. In fact, it is not until Jerome in the early fifth century that we have another reference of it.

            Food for thought, no?

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

            Agapius, a Christian, paraphrased the TF in the form we now know it from Greek manuscripts, and just happened to omit the details that scholars today think are Christian interpolations – the things which speak most positively about Jesus?

            That seems like quite a coincidence and a fairly unlikely scenario. But what is most noteworthy is that you do not seem to understand the issue sufficiently well so as to understand whether what you envisage is likely or not. That is a big issue with mythicism – like creationists in relation to biology, mythicists insist they can interpret ancient texts and evaluate their significance accurately, but cannot be bothered to devote the time to become genuinely familiar with the scholarship even to the extent that an educated layperson might be expected to.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I’ve just been taking on board what Alice Whealey has to say about it.

            http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/whealey2.pdf

            I’m certainly up for being educated on the subject that’s for sure.

            I don’t see the TF as anything that important on the grand scale of things either. That there were Christian’s that believed the stuff in the TF and were preaching such by 93 CE, nobody is denying. It appears that the 20 years between Antiquities and the earlier work The Jewish War, there was a notable change in the brouhaha being made by Christians, in The Jewish War Josephus see’s no reason to mention the group of nobodies or is ignorant of their existence. That 20 years later he does, and mentions that fact in some form commonly known as the TF shouldn’t be all that surprising, if there is indeed a kernel of original Josephus to be found in there in the TF.

          • Mark

            No, not food for thought, since everyone believes the TF is either vandalized or an outright interpolation. The text may or may not have contained some reference to Jesus at somewhere around that point. On the Agapius question, Pines has arguments and Whealey has arguments. Carrier is cherry picking the scholarly literature as usual.

            The tragedy that we do not possess the correct text here is not that we need evidence that Jesus existed, since it’s obvious that he did, but that we would like to know what a non-Jesus-ecstatic 1st C Jew might have thought of this business. We only have a few named 1st c Jewish authors writing on religious matters (maybe the Jews didn’t exist!) – basically Josephus, Paul and Philo (all preserved only by the church, by the way). Philo is too early; Paul is a Jesus-messianis; one would like to know what Josephus thought, supposing he had occasion to think about the matter much.

          • Ignorant Amos

            No, not food for thought, since everyone believes the TF is either vandalized or an outright interpolation.

            Well, clearly not everyone…but anyway….

            On the Agapius question, Pines has arguments and Whealey has arguments.

            Clearly. But both can’t be right. As Whealey points out…

            At the time that Pines’ wrote his monograph on Agapius’ Testimonium, relatively little was known about the sources of Agapius’ and Michael’s chronicles and their mutual relationship.

            Carrier is cherry picking the scholarly literature as usual.

            In what regard? An example here would be nice.

          • Mark

            That was an example. Similarly tp stick to just to this material, he follows one line on the James passage, saying the ‘called Christ’ bit is interpolated from marginalia, but forgets to consider that he can do the same with the TF. Once the bald assertion “He was the Christ” is removed the TF becomes rather less transparently not Josephus. But again, the interest of Josephus would be what it told us about the reception of this enthusiasm in particular by late 1st c. Jews. Even if it were clearly transparently by Josephus it would add nothing to the evidence for the existence of Jesus.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But again, the interest of Josephus would be what it told us about the reception of this enthusiasm in particular by late 1st c. Jews.

            Which, from the brevity of any reference in Josephus and the lack of any first century literature that isn’t questionable, is not very enthusiastic at all.

            Even if it were clearly transparently by Josephus it would add nothing to the evidence for the existence of Jesus.

            Agreed, and I said as much in another combox. No one is questioning the veracity of first century Christian’s existing. No one is questioning the details they believed to be true, whether actually true or not. Belief and faith vis a vis evidence are different animals altogether.

          • Mark

            That Jesus existed is simply not a matter of faith and belief. That you are struggling to make it a question of evidence is just your personal Jesus problem. Doubting that Jesus existed is just an easy way of dealing with a Jesus problem. What grown ups do, and most of humanity has always done, is say, he wasn’t a messiah, it was all a mistake, miracles don’t happen, etc.etc. The alternative, if you are stuck in with a chronic incurable Jesus-detox problem, is to spread nonsense across the internet under cover of rigor about evidence.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That Jesus existed is simply not a matter of faith and belief.

            It is when the evidence in support of the historical Jesus is so scant.

            I don’t have a Jesus problem. The Jesus of the NT didn’t exist as a real person, it’s as plain and simple as that.

            That a persona that the edifice of NT Jesus is built around existed, is a distinct possibility, I just find the alternative that it is complete and total myth-making an interesting question.

            What grown ups do, and most of humanity has always done, is say, he wasn’t a messiah, it was all a mistake, miracles don’t happen, etc.etc.

            Is that what grown-ups do? Really? Like those authors who wrote the text books that McGrath cited, that I should read. Protestant theologians using the evidence of the NT to justify the Jesus of the NT was an historical person ya mean?

            The alternative, if you are stuck in with a chronic incurable Jesus-detox problem, is to spread nonsense across the internet under cover of rigor about evidence.

            This is the sort of thing that comes out of these conversations. No decent counter argument to make the whole genre a moot subject. Just the consensus says…and this is the way things have always been understood…etc., etc., and so forth.

            John MacDonald posted an interesting YouTube video I hadn’t seen before…check it out.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPZ39rqaIZ0

            Of course scholars that disagree with the party line are kooks, right?

          • John MacDonald

            I posted this earlier regarding two mutually exclusive mythicist’ interpretations of the “James, the brother of the Lord” passage. Earl Doherty would round out the top three mythicists in the world (along with Price and Carrier). If anyone is interested in Doherty’s interpretation of the “James, the brother of the Lord” passage, here is his most recent take on it: http://vridar.org/2012/06/18/20-earl-dohertys-response-to-bart-ehrmans-case-against-mythicism-part-20/

          • Pofarmer

            That was very good, thanks.

          • Mark

            I’ve read countless pages of Price and Carrier, no f*ing thanks. I would as soon read the book of the Mormon at this point, or the da Vinci code; I would be buried in transparent drivel, but then at least I’d know something about what real people outside the sewer system of the internet. It is touching to learn that you think ‘nothing good comes out of these conversations’ when someone points out the obvious, but forget that you have been systematically sowing falsification all over this page. It is present here in the claim that ‘The Jesus of the NT never existed as a real person”. _This is the conviction of everyone who rejects the gospel stories as inventions and everyone who rejects Christianity myself and most of the human race included._ Grow up and join the rest of non-Christian humanity; you don’t have to tell lies to do it. This ‘existence of Jesus of the NT’ was _never at issue here_. It just wasn’t. This is affirmed and again all across the page. How is it though, that even _now_ you are spreading this confusion? How is that you keep accusing people of APOLOGETICS when it is plain that the topic before has nothing to do with religious belief? What do you expect to ‘come out of these conversations’ when you represent the opposing view systematically as apologetic? Do you think that soviet scholars who by degrees rejected the ‘mythicism’ Lenin and then Stalin propounded following Drews, were moved by pious apologetic impulses; or is it rather that Lenin and Stalin, like you, were moved by considerations other than the truth?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ah well…….it’s at this point that I will take my leave of the close minded fuckwit community at Exploring Our Matrix. My taxi to Croydon awaits…you uber rationalists are all too much for me. The irony is the comparison to creationists. No evidence will deter the creationist/historicist, where the evolutionist/mythicist will be up for looking at contravening evidence. A rabbit fossil in the Cambrian shale or a snippet of year -4-33 evidence of this guy called Jesus Christ.

            Scepticism and critical thinking are dead here.

            Adios

          • John MacDonald

            You mean you don’t even want to stick around to see if this massive “blog-topic” reaches 1000 posts? lol

          • Ignorant Amos

            Nah…ave bigger fish to fry and this rubbish has already been too big a distraction and it gets very tedious very quick…. You have at it though.

          • John MacDonald

            “Being Satisfied: That maturity of understanding has been reached is manifested in the fact that one no longer repairs to where the rarest roses grow amongst the thorniest hedgerows, but is content with the field and the meadow, in the understanding that life is too short for the rare and the extraordinary” Friedrich Nietzsche

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

            Normally all it takes to convince someone of an ancient individual’s historicity is a first-hand source that met the person’s relative. In fact, usually far less evidence than that is required. And yet somehow, ironically, you think that those who apply secular historical reasoning in simple standard ways are lacking in skepticism and critical thinking. I regret very much that you did not learn more in your time spent on this blog. I do hope that you will actually read mainstream scholarship on this topic at some point.

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

            This is exactly how creationists respond. They say the evidence for evolution is scant, and that their opponents pointing out their ideological biases is actually a problem. Sure, ancient history’s evidence is scanter than biology’s by far, but the tactics used by denialists in response to both are similar indeed.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Fitzgerald addresses this accusation nicely against a critical review of his book.

            Bucking the Consensus

            Cameron rightly notes that skeptics like me freely attack creationists for denying scientific consensus. But when it comes to the Christ myth, he declares “snubbing the consensus is problematic,” and feels it’s blatantly hypocritical:

            “They don’t hesitate to throw around the consensus argument in that context. But when it comes to biblical history, tossing aside the consensus point of view is acceptable, because (conveniently) the evidence is on their side.”

            But Cameron has just answered his own dilemma: it’s precisely because Mythicists have evidence that we challenge the current majority opinion – just as the evidence for natural selection challenged the dominant paradigm in Darwin’s time. Creationism isn’t wrong simply because it’s in the minority, and Evolution isn’t true just because the overwhelming majority of scientists say so; it’s true because it’s multiply attested by strong and compelling lines of evidence and has withstood, and continues to withstand, all rival theories. By contrast, there is nothing in Biblical studies that stands confirmed on anywhere near the level of certainty we get in any other branch of science.

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

            Ancient history isn’t a science, and expecting it to have comparable evidence to geology or biology is rather ridiculous.

            But the key issue is that evolution deniers say the same thing – that there isn’t evidence, or that what there is does not justify the conclusions drawn by experts in the field. In both instances, people who have not actually studied the evidence pontificate confidently yet inaccurately about it.

          • Mark

            > Which, from the brevity of any reference in Josephus and the lack of any first century literature that isn’t questionable, is not very enthusiastic at all.

            I was talking about the enthusiasts. It is a commonplace that gentile Christianity, once it was up and running, exhibited exponential growth in the ensuing centuries before the empire finally said “Uncle.” It is enough that at some crucial point we have 10 of them — it hardly matters when — that’s the ‘enthusiasm’ I was talking about. In fact, of course, Pliny’s exchange with Trajan mentions people who had /given up/ on Christianity 25 years earlier, that is, in the 80s. That people on the shores of the Black Sea were already giving up on Christianity in the 80s suggests that there were more than, say, 10 in the empire and its environs by then.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Apologetic’s is right.

            Whealey says…

            Following widespread exposure of Faber’s arguments in particular the mainstream of scholarly opinion moved towards the view that the text had indeed been proven a forgery, and for that reason by the mid-eighteenth century, controversy over the question of the text’s authenticity had largely come to an end.

            So, much for consensus.}8O)~

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

            What is your point with thiscomment? Surely it cannot be a complaint that consensuses change over time, since mythicism depends on the consensus of historians being wrong. And the move from Christians having once accepted the text uncritically, to scholars demonstrating interpolation by later hands, is paralleled in other areas and a testimony to the things scholars do and achieve. So what on earth was your comment supposed to mean?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I thought the emoticon might have given the motive away there James .

            An attempt at facetiousness to Pofarmer…ah well, never mind. Touchy lot about here.

          • Pofarmer

            Is it must me, or is this site a really frustrating mix of history and apologetics?

          • Neko

            You wrote:

            Think about this for a second.

            It’s funny you’d assume I’ve never pondered how we know what we know. After all, that is the intrigue of the historical Jesus quest. While I certainly wouldn’t claim to have any formal background in epistemology, yes, Pofarmer, I have “thought about it for a second.” But I forgive you for leading with a patronizing, diversionary and gratuitous lecture.

            I have read a bit about the TF, and my impression is that most historians accept a minimalist version may be authentic. (But, of course, I could be wrong.) I’m in no way competent to make a determination either way, and clearly, neither are you. Doesn’t stop you from doling out the mythicist conventional wisdom, however.

          • Pofarmer

            Neko, it’s a certainty that Eusebius or someone very near that time monkeyed with the text. We know that Ancient critics of Christianity accused them of this very thing. Trying to do Voodoo on a clearly interpolated passage and thinking that you will get meaningful results is beyond wishful thinking. If this is your standard of evidence, then your mind is clearly closed.

          • Neko

            Apparently you’re oblivious to the logical implication of “minimalist version,” so let me be explicit.

            “Minimalist version” acknowledges interference with the text, because it can only be “minimalist” relative to an expanded/edited version.

            I’m always amused when a rank ideologue accuses me of having a closed mind. Take the log out of your own eye.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But that is moving away from the minimalist HJ towards the supernatural mythicalmythical gospel Jesus….try and stay focused.

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

            If Mark is writing a fictional story, why would on earth would he need to explain why no-one had heard of Jesus? Isn’t the whole point of fiction that we understand why we haven’t heard of the fictional characters – precisely because the characters are fictional?

            With respect Po, that is a truly bizarre point to make!

          • Pofarmer

            Let’s take this one step at a time and see what we agree on.

            The Epistles of Paul predate th e Gospel of Mark?

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

            Hmmm…. can I say yes, but ask you to think about the following caveats:

            I think it’s quite likely and if I were teaching my students a potted intro to the NT, then yes, I would map out a scenario where Paul’s letters are our earliest NT documents, BUT I think it’s also quite possible that Mark is either slightly earlier than or contemporary with some or all of Paul’s letters.

            Also, if you want me to set aside one of the most basic assumptions of NT scholarship (I.e. that a person called Jesus existed), why is it OK to take some other part of the scholarly consensus as our starting point, without you having to prove this constitutes a solid base from which to begin? To put it another way, I’m happy to assume for the sake of argument that all NT scholarship is hopelessly flawed and that we need to consider Christian origins afresh, but it’s obviously a weird double standard if you at the same time ask me to simply assume that NT scholarship is actually right whenever your case requires it to be so.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Because of the false equivalence.

            The veracity of the science in determining chronology and age, is not the same as the veracity of content.

            But whatever.

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

            It’s like this:

            1) I’m going to prove that God created humans and Neanderthals as separate species 6,000 years ago.
            2) We can ignore the views of evolutionary biologists specialising in human origins here, since they are all blinded by Satan and thus their work is unreliable.
            3) Now I’m going to start my argument based on something we can all agree on: that Neanderthals are not the direct ancestors of modern humans…

            Can you really not see the trick that is being pulled here? For my answer to be right, I need an entire field of study to be hopelessly wrong, yet to build my case, I get to cherry pick the bits of that field that I like, without having to show why these assumptions are sounder than those I dismiss (such as that fossils are really old, or humans and Neanderthals being related). I also get to ignore the inconsistency that my starting point is the product of the same field of study I have already dismissed as the devil’s work!

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

            And along the same lines, I have often wondered why mythicists don’t simply reverse the order of the Gospels, too. Then you have a move from pre-existence to a historical human who is not pre-existent much less divine, rather than the reverse trajectory.

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

            I just think most mythicists aren’t that interested in NT scholarship except when they need to debunk it or use it to prove their point. Easier to cut and paste existing scholarship as long as those book buying warriors of atheism lap it up…

            Hmmmm… I may have got out of the cynical side of bed this morning.

          • Pofarmer

            Just bear with me. I think it’s quite possible Mark is early second century, but that doesn’t particularly matter in this instance.

            Can we then agree that there was a messiah cult in Jerusalem predating Pauls conversion, about which we actually know very little, except that they had theological differences with Paul?

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

            I agree that Paul was not the first Christian, certainly. The notion that we know “very little” about the movement before Paul seems problematic or at least in need of unpacking: we have a large body of Christian literature (canonical and non-canonical), much of which at least purports to tell stories about the movement that would predate Paul’s involvement even if the texts themselves may be later than Paul (though see my caveat above). Additionally, we know a fair amount about the world in which Christianity developed, so we can hazard a few guesses about how early Christians may have seen the world. And then of course, we do have Paul’s letters…

            Taking a view of all of that, and this is just my view as an amateur, I see a context for Paul’s career (and disputes) without which Paul makes little sense: a massive crisis of leadership and authority, which is wholly expected after the death of Jesus. Lacking its charismatic founder figure, Christianity gets bogged down in basic questions of “what are the rules here are who gets to make them?”

          • Pofarmer

            “Lacking its charismatic founder figure, Christianity gets bogged down in basic questions of “what are the rules here are who gets to make them?””

            But that doesn’t work. When you have disputes that are shown either in the letters of Paul, or the other Epistles, no one resorts to a “Jesus said” argument, they just argue abstract theology. It’s almost as if they are making it up as they go along. Not that that would ever happen………… But I digress.

            Also, a large body of literature doesn’t particularly prove anything. There is a huge body of both Star Wars and Star Trek literature.

            So, so far, what we have, is Cephas and James with a Jesus Messiah Cult in Jerusalem. At some point Paul stops fighting it and joins it and starts founding Churches. Can we agree about that?

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

            I wonder whether you realize that every time you make a comparison with Star Wars, Star Trek, or Harry Potter, you are undermining your credibility – even though I am a fan of all three. We are not discussing fiction created for the purpose of entertainment when we talk about early Christianity and its literature. Our earliest source indicates that we are dealing with a movement that believed someone named Joshua was the awaited restorer of the Davidic line to the throne. You might watch a movie about a fictional president, but I suspect that you have different standards when it comes to accepting someone as your president.

            While I find mythicism unpersuasive, I don’t enjoy interacting with its most ridiculous forms, and I am quite sure you do not want your articulation of mythicism to make it seem laughable, even if in the end I do not find your arguments persuasive. Being unpersuasive is something that scholars do all the time and is an inevitable part of the scholarly process. Being silly is, on the other hand, much easier to avoid.

          • Ignorant Amos

            We are not discussing fiction created for the purpose of entertainment when we talk about early Christianity and its literature. Our earliest source indicates that we are dealing with a movement that believed someone named Joshua was the awaited restorer of the Davidic line to the throne.

            Isn’t that the point though. If MJ holds, then regardless of the purpose, the New Testament is a complete work of fiction. Now the study of fiction in classic’s is a worthy endeavour, but those scholars are aware that it is fiction they are studying.

            Don’t knock the comparison to Harry Potter, Durham University already offers it as part of a Bachelors Degree.

            Around 70 of Durham’s undergraduates have already signed up to the module Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion, which will be offered for the first time [2010] this autumn as part of the university’s Education Studies BA degree.

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

            Please do not misunderstand – nor deliberately misconstrue- my point. The study of fantasy and sci-fi is something I myself engage in. But in making the comparison with early Christian literature, you are pretending that we do not have sources like Paul which show us what kind of audience the early Christians were. He did not go around telling stories about Jesus for mere entertainment purposes.

          • Ignorant Amos

            He did not go around telling stories about Jesus for mere entertainment purposes.

            Well, to be frank, he didn’t go around telling stories about Jesus at all really…it is the gospels that are left to do that.

            Whether they were for entertainment purposes is not the issue…were they fact or fiction is the issue? That is the comparison that Po was making, I think.

            Aesop’s Fables spring to mind.

            Apollonius of Tyana, a 1st-century CE philosopher, is recorded as having said about Aesop:

            … like those who dine well off the plainest dishes, he made use of humble incidents to teach great truths, and after serving up a story he adds to it the advice to do a thing or not to do it. Then, too, he was really more attached to truth than the poets are; for the latter do violence to their own stories in order to make them probable; but he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events. — Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book V:14

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

            It is noteworthy that you have no skepticism towards Philostratus…

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

            Expecting early Christians to wander around parroting “Jesus said” misses my point. My point is precisely that there isn’t one source of authority – it’s all up for debate.

            I see Paul’s letters as reflecting a situation where there is no consensus on where leadership and authority in the Jesus movement rests – is it with Jesus family? With his disciples? With those with a direct experience of the resurrection? With those who have religious experiences or charismatic gifts? In the things Jesus said and did? In the cosmic significance of Jesus life and death? In the stories of the OT?

            Again, this is just my amateur £0.02 worth, but I think there is good evidence for this sort of situation in Paul’s letters and other Christian texts. Moreover, it makes plenty of sense if the founder of Christianity is dead, and is quite a common problem for religions – e.g. the Sunni/Shia split after the death of Muhammad. It makes very little sense if some other hypothetical founder (e.g. James, Cephas) is still alive – would his words be cited by Christians instead?!

            Of course a large body of literature does not “prove” anything, and yes I’ve read a few Star Wars books in my time. However, as I said – this literature takes the story back beyond Paul’s career, and to a purportedly historical figure. Perhaps I won’t pre-empt where our discussion might go, but I don’t see how that this can be dismissed as of no value or relevance. BTW – I think I pointed out to you elsewhere that I it’s significant that you have to cite modern examples.

            Oh, and yes, I’d agree with your last paragraph, though I don’t think we’re starting from the beginning there.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Joseph Smith invented The Church of the Latter Day Saints based on a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. He invented the messenger, the angel Moroni, and his source material which was the Golden Plates, out of whole cloth. There were dissenter’s within early Mormonism.

            Though a few small factions broke with Smith’s organization during his lifetime, he retained the allegiance of the vast majority of Latter Day Saints until his death in June 1844.

            Paul could be classed as similar, a rogue dissenter whose ideas for the cult won the day.

            It is what happens.

            As for Islam. Mo’s Islam was a cult of violence and conquest…those that dissented got the chop, even some that didn’t got the chop if it suited Mo’s agenda. Not wise to rock the boat during Mo’s reign at the top of Islam.

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

            So if Jesus is Moroni, who is Jospeh Smith?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don’t know, Peter perhaps. We know it wasn’t Paul, but Paul does appear to be a dissenter.

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

            So you think Joseph Smith / Peter / whoever was active at the same time as Paul and presumably had met him. When was Joseph Smith / Peter / whoever active: 40s? 50s? 60s?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well Paul says he knows Peter in his letters and he was preaching the word, not Christianity at this time, but a variation on a cult of Judaism…but don’t get hung up on it being Peter.

            Why JS is included in there seems bit bizarre.

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

            Do you not find it odd that if Peter was the founder of this cult knew Paul personally, Paul never mentions this detail, or gives any hint of it?

            And don’t you find it odd that according to your theory, a religious group which emerges in historical times and among a literate group (meaning at least some Christians were writing texts at or very near the time your founder was active) fails to produce even a passing reference to its founder as founder?

            And don’t you find it odd that a group which over a period of several hundred years produces texts like the gospels and the acts (canonical and non-canonical) does not produce in this period even one text, however hagiographic and mythologised, lauding the virtues of its founder, or the glory of his career?

            Edit: (and don’t think I’m hung up on Peter, the same applies if the actual founder of “mythicist” Christianity were James, John, or Levi the Falafel Seller.

          • Pofarmer

            I would say Paul is the most notable popularizer of the cult, but yes, either Cephas or James, or even someone older might have been the Joseph Smith figure, although Paul certainly seems to have a lot of rather original theology.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Peter seems to be a key figure, since he was the first one to whom the risen Christ appeared. If you are looking for a starting point for Christianity, this first appearance seems as good a candidate as any.

            From your point of view, Peter was the first to receive a revelation of a purely celestial Christ. Peter is also a crucial figure in the traditional interpretation, since he was the most prominent of the disciples.

            Carrier’s theory is that Mark wrote an entirely allegorical account of the celestial Christ, which turned him into a historical figure. If Mark had chosen to do this, there was no particular reason for him to frame the account in the way that he did. In other words, Mark could have set the allegory in his own day or in the very distance past. He might even have written it in such a way as to give little or no indication of where or when the events occurred.

            I find it interesting that Mark chose to set the account at the time leading up to the first revelation and to make Peter a central figure in the allegory. It is almost as if Mark was not just writing an allegory but was engaging in a very calculated effort to create an illusion of historicity. It is interesting as well that Mark decides to make Jesus’ death a recent historical event from the point of view of Peter and Paul. From my point of view, this fits in nicely with the sense that Paul’s letters give us of when the death occurred.

            I personally see a satisfying picture in which the pieces of evidence interconnect.

          • Pofarmer

            Peter shows up nowhere in actual history other than Church apologetics. He can never be reliably tied to anywhere, let alone Rome. The main popularizer that we actually have some evidence for is Paul. What we largely have is Pauline Christianity influenced by Roman Catholics.

            Fwiw, I think Mark was writing a fictional tale set before the fall of Jerusalem. It would be a logical time to set a fallen Messiah figure as predicing the fall of Jerusalem. My point if view doesn’t involve interpretation. It’s what Paul says, and that’s pretty much the only thing like an actual record we’ve got.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Peter shows up nowhere in actual history other than Church apologetics.

            And what does that mean? That Peter never existed? It would be pointless to pursue such a tactic. The aim is to provide a coherent account of Christian origins. You can hardly achieve that aim if you simply doubt everything.

            You have previously questioned whether the crucifixion was regarded as a recent event and now you seem to be questioning the existence of Peter – two things that Carrier doesn’t doubt. So perhaps you can explain how your theory of Christian origins differs from Carrier’s? Or perhaps you don’t have a theory?

          • Ignorant Amos

            They didn’t….HJ minimalist’s today want that caveat.

            That is a major point. Jesus creators wanted their guy to be all that and more.

            No one but minimalist historical Jesus proponents claim he was an itinerant nobody., that’s the point.

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

            Well it’s not entirely clear to me that this is what Po is saying, but we’ll see.

            Secondly, who says I’m a HJ minimalist? If your summary of Po’s point is right, then Po is posing a fairly obvious false dilemma. As per my other point, if the best mythicism can offer is cherry picking one scholarly view and playing it off against some other equally cherry picked option to derive some obviously fatuous conclusion, it deserves all the scorn it gets.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Secondly, who says I’m a HJ minimalist?

            I didn’t say you were, but that is what Carrier and other MJ proponents are arguing against. That is where the consensus is at. There is no consensus for anything else as far as I’m aware. If you are proposing an HJ that is more than the minimal HJ then you are going beyond the remit of the methods of historians. That was my point about raising the resurrection. Christian historians must believe the resurrection is an historical event as a central tenet of their religion, so what method to they use to bolster that belief? And how does that method differ from the method they use to assert a minimal HJ? This is where the bias comes into play. A Christian scholar can have no room to consider a MJ because everything else stands or falls on the guy being more than myth. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Those that don’t need all the bell’s and whistle’s embellishment to accept a flavour of Christianity devoid of the supernatural mumbo jumbo.

            As per my other point, if the best mythicism can offer is cherry picking one scholarly view and playing it off against some other equally cherry picked option to derive some obviously fatuous conclusion, it deserves all the scorn it gets.

            But that is not the case though is it? The argument here is the minimal HJ against the minimal MJ. Just take the example I use, the resurrection. What can the scholarship say about the veracity of the resurrection. Or the virgin birth? Or Jesus from where? When? Is it the consensus of scholars that they never happened? I’ve just started Dr. McGrath’s book, so it is too early to comment. There is a line of mythicism that accepts a guy called Jesus, that’s it, was the skeleton upon which the body of NT Jesus was constructed, but there is no consensus as to what that body looks like. Arthur Conan Doyle supposedly constructed Sherlock Holmes as a composite of perhaps three folk he knew, but Sherlock Holmes is nothing like any of them. New Testament Jesus is in the same vein. Of course scholars of New Testament studies need more than that, otherwise the subject would fit on a single page. But all that other stuff they argue about is pure conjecture.

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

            Carrier deals with minimalistic scenarios for the purpose of probability calculations, and not because there is a mythicist consensus about his sketch of minimal mythicism, or a consensus of historians that the minimal historicism he outlines is all that we can say with confidence and nothing more.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I know he does. He points that fact out in his book. There are as varied accounts of MJ as there are HJ, but the most either camp can more or less agree on is the minimal in either camp, and even then, as I have stated, there is a line of mythicist that can accept a person, but that person cannot be teased out by what is in the NT.

            However, as Archibald Robertson stated in his 1946 book, Jesus: Myth Or History, at least as far as John M. Robertson was concerned, the myth theory was not concerned with denying the possibility of a flesh and blood Jesus being involved in the Gospel account, but rather, “What the myth theory denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded.”

            Carrier starts from the position where he can get the most on both sides to agree terms upon.

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

            The myth view that Carrier argues for is not one that simply denies that Jesus is accurately depicted in the Gospels – indeed, that is the viewpoint of mainstream historical scholarship which he is arguing against.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Carrier argues that we can get nothing worthwhile from the Gospels regarding the historical Jesus.

            The Gospels generally afford us no evidence whatever for discerning a historical Jesus. Because of their extensive use of fabrication and literary invention and their placing of other goals far ahead of what we regard as ‘historical truth’, we cannot know if anything in them has any historical basis – except what we can verify externally, which for Jesus is next to nothing. They are simply myths about Jesus and the gospel. They are not seriously researched biographies or historical accounts – and are certainly not eyewitness testimony or even collected hearsay. Their literary art and structure are simply too sophisticated for that. This is equally expected on both minimal historicity and minimal mythicism, however , and therefore (apart from what we’ve already accounted for in determining the prior probability in Chapter 6) the Gospels have no effect on the probability that Jesus existed, neither to raise or lower it.

            OHJ, 10.The Gospels, 8.Weighing the Evidence, p506-509. Richard Carrier.

            What exactly is the viewpoint of mainstream historical scholarship…in your opinion? The consensus opinion if you will.

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

            On the above matter, the consensus is that the Gospels are works which include a range of different kinds of material – authentic sayings, invented sayings, roughly accurate recollections, theological interpretation, legends, and much else – in relation to a historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Gospels’ authors believed to be the restorer of the Davidic dynasty, despite his having been crucified by the Romans

          • Ignorant Amos

            …roughly accurate recollections…

            Where can I find a source for that consensus?

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

            By reading what historians and scholars have written on the subject. The best shortcut is to glance at a few widely-used textbooks, since a textbook, to be widely used, has to reflect the consensus on subjects where there is one.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Got a textbook in particular that comes to mind?

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

            I’ve always liked Theissen and Merz, personally, as far as textbooks on the subject go.

            http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0800631226/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0800631226&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkId=R62S6MZFGWMVRCL3

            You might also like to take a look at the Jesus Seminar’s Five Gospels – although they are a very idiosyncratic group and not representative of the academy, one thing that has to be said is that as a group they tend towards skepticism and historical minimalism – which means that their rationale for rating some sayings of Jesus as “red” might count for something in the eyes of other historical minimalists.

            http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0025419498/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0025419498&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkId=ZD2C6I4LQIEG6XFL

            And although I haven’t used it, I have heard good things about Bond’s book in the Guides for the Perplexed series.

            http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0567033171/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0567033171&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkId=GNZPZ2XEJCP5YUB7

          • Ignorant Amos

            Cheers for that.

          • Mark

            This memorable passage is characteristic of the whole book. It is as if someone argued: On both the hypothesis (a) that lightening caused the thunder, and my opposing hypothesis (b) that angelic trumpets caused the thunder, *perceptible thunder is equally to be expected as certain*; and therefore the perception of the thunder has no effect on the probability that there was lightening. We must thus decide between the blockhead scholars’ lightening hypothesis (LT) and my opposing, skeptical, angelic trumpet hypothesis (TT) on grounds independent of the existence of the thunder.

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

            The argument here is the minimal HJ against the minimal MJ.

            But my point here is that the crude way you put it, it’s just playing off one possibility against another, and ignoring everything in between that might be possible.

            I’m not talking about anything supernatural here, but suggesting that are options are

            1) that Jesus was either both a descendant of David and an itinerant nobody OR
            2) That Jesus was fictional

            …and pretending that only option 2) resolves the problems of 1) is simply nonsense.

            For a start – why couldn’t a nobody have at least claimed Davidic descent? There are Muslims all over the world who claim to be descended from Muhammad. A few are historically significant (e.g. Khomeini), but 99.9% of them must be historical nobodies, and I daresay a decent chunk, by western standards, live in depressing poverty and ignorance.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But my point here is that the crude way you put it, it’s just playing off one possibility against another, and ignoring everything in between that might be possible.

            I thought it is what is probable, not what is possible. After all, anything is possible without evidence.

            I’m not talking here about anything supernatural here, but suggesting that are options are
            1) that Jesus was either both a descendant of David and an itinerant nobody OR
            2) That Jesus was fictional
            …and pretending that option 2) resolves the problems of 1) is simply nonsense.

            Without reading the gospels back into Paul, how do you figure a godman living in the heavenly realms as the place above was understood in first century Palestine, does not fit the Pauline corpus much better than an actual man trooping around Galilee that apparently Paul has no knowledge of any of his earthly activities? I think saying it is nonsense is overstepping your remit on what can be proven conclusively.

            For a start – why couldn’t a nobody have at least claimedDavidic descent?

            Anybody can claim anything, it is what can be proven that counts. It was Paul that claimed Davidic descent and he was not claiming it for a nobody either. The Davidic line is prophecy fulfilling. It is a messianic claim that the saviour of Israel would be a blood descendant of King David, what evidence is there of a person named Jesus having such credentials.

            There are Muslims all over the world whoclaim to be descended from Muhammad. A few are historically significant (e.g. Khomeini), but 99.9% of them must be historical nobodies, and I daresay a decent chunk, by western standards, live in depressing poverty and ignorance.

            So what? Talk is cheap. There is a television show here in the UK called “Who Do You Think You Are?” where a celebrity researches their family tree with some very surprising results. Anyway, Olympic gold medal winner and rowing champion Matthew Pinsent, was able to trace his heritage right back to God himself. Through Henry VIII, to Edward I, to William the Conqueror, to King David, to Adam, to God himself.

            However, at least one of the documents that Matthew views takes things a little too far: a beautiful medieval roll, created at a time when kings claimed to have the divine right to govern, purports to shows the relationship of British monarchy to Jesus, King David, Adam and Eve and even the Supreme Being himself. “At the top of your pedigree,” Matthew is told, “there is God.”

            http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/episode/matthew-pinsent

            Go figure. Who’d have thought that British rowing champion Matthew Pinsent has a claim to messianic prophecy through the Davidic line, nonsense isn’t it?

            Even if King David was an historical figure, he was not the David of bible scripture by scholarly accounts, so how could we know that a nobody in the first century was a descendent? Let alone a not nobody that has all the baggage Paul and the gospel writers apply to the figure. We are talking a thousand years interim.

            Jacob L. Wright, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University, has written that the most popular legends about David, including his killing of Goliath, his affair with Bathsheba, and his ruling of a United Kingdom of Israel rather than just Judah, are the creation of those who lived generations after him, in particular those living in the late Persian or Hellenistic period.

            Seriously? You want to talk about nonsense claims. Start with the claim that Jesus was of Davidic descent…not a problem for a celestial Jesus known from scripture and revelation alone though, as per Paul’s claim.

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

            I’m sorry, but the above in no way responds to my point. You seem to be conflating all sorts of things here. Whether Jesus was actually descended from David is besides the point. As your Who Do You Think You Are? example shows (I live in the UK, by the way), a real person could well claim to be descended from a mythical figure. Claim in the sense of “say they are”, not claim in the sense of “they have a reasonable claim to be”, just so we’re clear.

            To restate my point (again). That Jesus may have claimed to be descended from David is plainly not incompatible with him being a “nobody”, so the argument that Po seems to be making fails.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That Jesus may have claimed to be descended from David is plainly not incompatible with him being a “nobody”, so the argument that Po seems to be making fails.

            Po doesn’t say that though does he…read his comment again.

            “What is the chance that an itenerant nobody preacher from Galilee with maybe a small band of followers was a direct descendent of David?”

            We know Jesus didn’t claim to be anything. Other writers did all the claiming. What are the chances that the claim they made about an itinerant nobody preacher being a descendant from David was accurate and how could they tell. Is it more likely made up from OT scripture and draped on the manikin dummy Jesus? Those other writers were also claiming that Jesus was not a nobody but all manner of wondrous things on top of being a descendant of David. Had that we had some thing that Jesus claimed himself then the situation would be a more tenable, but we don’t.

            The Pinsent annecdote was to show that there are bona fide documents in the archives claiming all sorts of wondrous things about Pinsent’s lineage that are pure nonsense by any given standard, yet historians at some point in the past believed them to be accurate historical textual artefacts. That other people can apply nonsense claims to something and call it history is not uncommon.

            It is a fairly modern concept to reduce Jesus to various nobodies including a liar and a lunatic, but also an itinerant apocalyptic preacher, a teacher, a rabbi, a magician, a healer, a prophet, or whatever.

            [E]ven though Jesus likely considered himself a prophet, the titles ascribed to him, “as messiah, Son of God, Lord, and so forth are probably post-Easter affirmations by his followers [and] testimonies to the significance that he had come to have in their lives. As testimonies, they are powerful affirmations about Jesus. And for Christians, true, even though they probably don’t go back to Jesus himself.” Marcus Borg.

            No historical Jesus is necessary, no more than a historical Romulus, who was born of a virgin impregnated by a phantom, is necessary for Plutarch’s “Life of Romulus” in “Parallel Lives”. Plutarch being contemporary with the gospel writers…coincidentally?

            http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Romulus*.html

            But as Po says, “A fictional Jesus, however, could be whatever his creators wanted him to be.”

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

            Again, you’ve missed the point. A “minimal historicist” JC is not required to be a direct, descendant of David. MH would be satisfied if a historical Jesus merely claimed to be one, or indeed if others claimed it on his behalf. So Po-funk’s playing off a direct literal descendant vs a fictitious JC fails. I don’t think this a a very hard point to grasp – but maybe there’s something I’m not seeing?

          • Neko

            But Paul Regnier, there’s no PROOF that Jesus was a descendent of “King David”! QED.

          • Jim

            I agree with Paul R. It wasn’t only an HJ minimalist caveat thing, but the gospel writers also implied that Jesus was; from Nazareth/Galilee, not considered to be scribally literate, and an itinerant (an occupation that generally wasn’t well paid back in the day). If they wanted to boot up Jesus’ social class, a few of the gospel writers could have had him come from Sepphoris, only a few miles from Nazareth.

          • Neko

            Crucifixion was usually reserved for the lower classes. But…that’s meaningful only if one accepts that Jesus was crucified on earth instead of “outer space.”

          • Jim

            Yeah, I have yet to see any convincing rationale for interplanetary crucifixions. Of course I’ll reverse my opinion at the drop of a hat if some BT calculations using arbitrary inputs “prove” that at one time, outer space crucifixions were probably a common occurrence.

            You’d almost think that Paul and the gospel writers would have had to devote chapters of midrash to defend that notion. IMO, if any of the twelve apostles had tried to run a sub-lunar crucifixion theme by any 2nd temple Jewish crowd, they likely would have been crucified right on the spot … just for being idiots.

            Btw, don’t they use lightsabers (and not wood and nails) in outer space – nails float off under low gravity conditions making it more difficult to hammer their heads. :)

          • Neko

            That is hilarious. Surely the reference class of crucified Messianic claimants/NASA trainees named Yeshua yielded a “valid” “prior” (???)?

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Why would it be strange? I’m a direct descendant of King Charles II, but I work in Burger King.

          • Pofarmer

            Lol.

          • Ignorant Amos

            “This is incredible! Prometheus has brought us fire. This changes everything.”

            “This is incredible! Christ has brought us salvation. This changes everything.”

            A statement that is not unlike something that can be heard in sermons all over the world…but when did Christ bring the salvation in your judgement…according to that statement I mean?

            I don’t see how you can read Paul’s letters and not get the impression that he regarded Jesus’ death as a recent event. The attempt to dispute this looks mischievous to me.

            Incredulity? Isn’t it the point that they can be read either or? How recent are you talking about? Five, ten, fifteen, fifty, 500 years? How would any time frame sound different from any other time frame, according to the Pauline corpus?

            We have plenty of mythical tales from the ancient world, but how many letters do we have that recount “mythical” events?

            Dear Miss Elsie Wright
            I have seen the wonderful pictures of the fairies which you and your cousin Frances have taken, and I have not been so interested for a long time. I will send you tomorrow one of my little books for I am sure you are not too old to enjoy adventures. I am going to Australia soon, but I only wish before I go that I could get to Bradford and have half an hours chat with you, for I should like to hear all about it. With best wishes

            Yours sincerely

            Arthur Conan Doyle

            …and…

            Dear Mr. Wright

            I have seen the very interesting photos which your little girl took. They are certainly amazing. I was writing a little article for the Strand upon the evidence for the existence of fairies, so that I was very much interested.I should naturally like to use the photos, along with other material, in my article but would not of course do so without your knowledge and permission. It would be in the Xmas number. I suggest

            1. That no name be mentioned, so that neither you nor your daughter be annoyed in any way.

            2. That the use be reserved for the Strand only until Xmas. After that it reverts of course to you.

            3. That either £5 be paid to you by the Strand for the temporary use, or that if you don’t care to take money, you be put on the free list of the magazine for five years.

            The articles appear in America in connection with the Strand publication. I would, if you agree, try to get you another £5 from that side. If this is all agreeable to you I or my friend Mr Gardner would try to run up & have half an hours chat with the girls

            Yours sincerely

            A Conan Doyle

            The very fact that letters were written about Jesus’ death is, in my view, compelling evidence of historicity.

            Really?

            INVERNESS-SHIRE CONSTABULARY
            COUNTY CONSTABULARY HEADQUARTERS
            THE CASTLE
            INVERNESS, 15th August, 1938

            Sir,
            The Loch Ness Monster
            I should like to refer you to your letter to me dated 21st Nov[ember], 1933 (Ref. No. 36125/1) with which you enclosed a copy letter dated 13th Nov[ember], 1933 received by you from Sir Murdoch Macdonald, MP for Inverness-shire. In my reply to this correspondence, dated 23rd Nov[ember], 1933, I indicated the only step which the Police could usefully take, was to warn the people resident in the neighbourhood and as many as possible of the visiting public, that the preservation of the Monster was desired.

            It has now come to my notice, that a Mr Peter Kent and Miss Marion Stirling, both of London, are determined to catch the Monster dead or alive.

            Mr Peter Kent visited Fort Augustus on Friday 12th August and was seen there by my Officer stationed at Fort Augustus, to whom he stated that he was having a special harpoon gun made and that he was to return with some twenty experienced men on the 22nd of August for the purpose of hunting the Monster down.

            That there is some strange [fish deleted] creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but that the Police have any power to protect it is very doubtful. I have, however, caused Mr Peter Kent to be warned of the desirability of having the creature left alone, but whether my warning will have the desired effect or not remains to be seen. If you have any suggestion to make or can offer any guidance in the matter, I shall be grateful.

            I am, Sir,
            Your obedient servant,
            William Fraser
            Chief Constable

            (National Records of Scotland reference: HH1/588 p.31)

            The very fact that letters were written about the Loch Ness Monster is, according to your view, compelling evidence of it’s historicity. I’m assuming you give Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Chief Constable, at the very least, the same credibility as a first century day dreamer?

            Letters are in no way, shape, or form, compelling evidence to the veracity of an event, never mind when it is alleged to have taken place.

            Such examples in evidence are numerous.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            People who believe in the Loch Ness Monster think that the creature lives in the Loch in the present day. They don’t believe that the creature lived centuries ago and that this fact has been conveyed to them by revelation. So my point about letters and contemporaneity still stands.

            I believe that my point about letters and historicity still stands as well. The fact that letters were written about Jesus distinguishes him from “other” mythical figures in the ancient world. And the whole debate is about the analogy between Jesus and the ancient mythical figures. If your best analogy for Jesus is not Hercules or Osiris but the Loch Ness Monster, then you are in trouble.

          • Neko

            Since Paul’s entire ministry occurs because of a personal experience of the risen Christ, why would Paul ask for a tour of the empty tomb, which appears to be a later embellishment anyway? This smacks of Doherty’s demand to know why the earliest Christians didn’t express interest in relics. Maybe because they were marginalized Jews who expected the end of history any day?

          • Pofarmer

            So, a guy has a hallucination……..

          • Ignorant Amos

            Substance abuse?

          • Pofarmer

            Religious incapacitation?

          • Pofarmer

            So, the place where the Lord you had visions of resurrected wouldn’t have been an important place?

          • Neko

            Like I said, the empty tomb may be a later embellishment. Paul never mentions it.

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

            And the silence of our earliest sources about the location is not really evidence of anything one way or the other, whereas the fact that, centuries later, when Constantine’s emissaries asked about the location, and they were told it was beneath a platform connected with a temple of Aphrodite, they did indeed find tombs beneath it. Plus that location was inside the city walls in that time, and it wasn’t until much much later that archaeologists were able to determine that the city had expanded and that the site would have been outside the city in the time when Jesus is supposed to have been crucified, but within a decade or so was inside the city walls. I don’t find the suggestion that that is coincidence more likely than the possibility that local Christians preserved a memory of the site’s location.

            More on the topic here (as well as in several blog posts on the blog): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0077SP5SU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0077SP5SU&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkId=MUNWRK2LEUZII4AR

          • Ignorant Amos

            Did I not read somewhere that it was against the rules to have a burial site within the living boundaries of a Jewish settlement, village, town or city…and illegal to build such on an old burial ground also?

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

            Great question! There were those who did have such concerns in a very strict form, as we see for instance in the case of Tiberias and the building of the city on a location where graves had purportedly existed. Some pious people refused to live there, but most of the inhabitants of the new city ended up being Jews, which perhaps indicates that not everyone approached these matters of purity in precisely the same way. There were rules regarding the removal and reburial of the bones of the deceased, as this issue would have come up regularly as towns and cities expanded, since burial places were often located outside of towns and cities, but not so far away as to not be in areas that those towns and cities were prone to expand into. The important thing seems to have been to mark the location of tombs so that ritual impurity was not contracted unwittingly. We see this today in Israel, where numerous tombs of famous rabbis are within towns and villages, and some are places of pilgrimage.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Just got your book on kindle, looking forward to reading it…thanks for the reference.

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

            I’ll be very interested to hear what you think of it!

          • Neko

            Thank you for this. In truth I’ve read your ebook, though it was some time ago. I remember it as subtle and thoughtful, but since my memory is a sieve I don’t recall the argument concerning the archaeological evidence in Jerusalem. I will have to read it again.

          • Paul E.

            Great topic, great book. Definitely worth a second read. It is a great case-study of how really digging into the minute details makes a case.

          • Neko

            Thank you for your encouragement. I am now resolved to reread Dr. McGrath’s ebook. :)

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is not even as if he had to go out of his way either, as in a pilgrimage.

            Either there was an empty tomb, the later embellishment, or there was a burial place of Jesus. If the HJ had lived and died within the lifetime of Paul, or the folk that Paul knew, then someone must have known where his internment place could be found. That no one does and no tradition of pilgrimage to the real spot before Constantine in the fourth century, is suspect.

            About 8 million annually visit Lourdes from all over the world, a place know for a ropey vision of the VM. But that is nothing compared to the place where an even dodgier vision at Guadalupe in 1531, which is the third most visited sacred site in the world at 20 million visitors a year.

            Religious folk love a pilgrimage. That’s why Jerusalem was busy at Passover.

            http://www.arcworld.org/downloads/ARC%20pilgrimage%20statistics%20155m%2011-12-19.pdf

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

            We had a discussion on this blog a while back about why the early Christians’ base seemed to be in Jerusalem rather than Galilee or wherever, and one of the speculations was early tomb veneration. Just speculation, of course, but a fun one to think about.

          • Pofarmer

            It seems like Jerusalem would have been a natural place for the different Jewish sects and offshoots to be given the importance of the Temple.

          • John MacDonald

            Another possibility not excluding mythicism is when Paul says that Christ died for “our sins” IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURE, he may be speaking as a Jew, on behalf of Israel: Christ died for the sins of God’s people. He refers in the same way to “our fathers” all being under the cloud and passing through the sea (1 Cor. 10:1). If, as seems likely, Paul has in mind the suffering of Isaiah’s servant, who “bears our sins”, who was given over “because of their sins” (Is. 53:4, 6, 11, 12 LXX), etc., then “according to the scriptures” means that this was a death for Israel. Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day according to the scriptures” recalls the narrative of Israel’s punishment and restoration in Hosea 6:1-2: “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” Keep in mind that the general process of biblical hermeneutics is if a section of text shows a theological purpose, there is no reason to think it goes back to the historical Jesus. So, Paul saying Jesus died and was buried and was raised “ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE” places doubt on whether this actually happened.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            “According to scripture” means either in fulfilment of scripture or as recounted in scripture. In this context I don’t see how it can mean anything other than the former. It would be simply bizarre if the early Christians had decided to invent a saviour figure by randomly grabbing bits and pieces from the OT.

            It is true that mythical figures are often modelled on other mythical figures, but that is no help to the case for Jesus mythicism. Let’s say that someone decided to invent Theseus by modelling him on Hercules. Eventually people would forget that Theseus had been invented in this way. But suppose someone invented Theseus in this manner and immediately started trying to convince people that Theseus was real. And suppose lots of people were persuaded of this and the whole thing happened almost overnight.

            If you want Jesus to be a myth, then let him be a myth in the normal way. And if you can’t show that the myth arose in the normal way; if you have to appeal to an utterly contrived theory to explain the origin of the myth, perhaps you should abandon the attempt.

            I have been trying to think of an analogy to express my scepticism about this process of casting doubt on the texts. How about this: let’s say that Carrier has invented a lie detector, which he assures us is reliable. We bring in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to face the lie detector. All of them say that Jesus existed and all of them fail the test. Before we finish, we bring Luke back to face one more test. We ask him whether Paul existed and he says yes. The test shows that he is lying. However, we know in this case that he was actually telling the truth.

            Now, do stick with the lie detector because we are assured that it works in theory, or do we note that when we had the chance to test the result independently, the detector failed, and therefore discard the detector?

          • John MacDonald

            If the question is whether Jesus existed or not, it would seem to be question begging to interpret Paul’s “Christ died, was buried, and was raised ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE” in favor of (a) “fulfilling scripture” or (b) “discovered in scripture” without argument. Carrier says this passage can be interpreted either way, so it adds nothing to historicity or mythicism. But anyway, as I said, since Paul interprets Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection “ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE,” we need to keep in mind that the general process of biblical hermeneutics is that if a section of text shows a theological purpose, there is no reason to think it goes back to the historical Jesus. So, Paul saying Jesus died and was buried and was raised “ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE” places doubt on whether this actually happened, whether Paul means “scripture fulfillment” or “discovered in scripture.” Historicists can’t rely on this passage to help establish the historicity of the crucifixion.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            It could be a) or b). The reason why I think it was a) is simple. If it was b) then the “myth” of Jesus must have been invented in a highly contrived and unusual way. If you want to argue that a myth originated in a particularly odd way then the burden of proof rests with you.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not sure what you mean by “simple.” To take one example, if we take the theological portrayal of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew as “The New Moses,” I don’t think it would make sense to say it’s “simpler” to believe the Jesus infancy narrative (a) distorted and contorted actual historical facts in order to make them fit the Old Testament model, rather than to suppose (b) that the author of Matthew just invented the narrative, rewriting the story of Moses with different characters, out of whole cloth. I don’t think there is reason to choose either way, but if anything (b) seems to be the “simpler” process.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            I would agree with you about the infancy narrative, but I’m not talking about later embellishments; I’m talking about how the process actually began. In other words the crucifixion. If that was not an actual historical event but something that was “discovered” in scripture then the myth theory would be inherently implausible in my opinion.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not a mythicist, but I don’t see it any more unlikely to say a celestial Jesus was crucified than to say Osiris was torn apart by Typhon.

          • John MacDonald

            I think Carrier is right that it is 50/50 as to whether a mythic pericope in the gospels leads back to an historical Jesus or not:

            (1) Perhaps the gospel writer was just rewriting an Old Testament story, and there was no historical core.

            or:

            (2) In the synagogue, the Jews of Jeus’ time heard scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus would have there been recalled, restated, and passed on (in the synagogue). This would have shaped stories told about the historical Jesus to reflect The Old Testament stories. And the gospel stories may also be shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion may be shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah. So, as it says in Acts, they would have read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus would have then recalled their memories of Him which that Sabbath elicited. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They went through this process for about forty years during The Oral Period before the gospels were written. Through this process of myth-making, Allusions to the Old Testament, religious celebrations, political ideas, and the like would have all been mixed in to the stories about the historical Jesus until historical memory and mythic fantasy became inseparable.

            It seems to me there is no way to tell whether a mythic pericope has an historical core or not, so that the presence of a mythic pericope isn’t evidence for or against the existence of Jesus.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            John, you seem to be feeling the pull of the dark side of the force. If this carries on you will soon be shooting lightning from your finger tips.

            You say that the account of the crucifixion was “shaped” by OT themes. OK, but that presupposes that there was an actual historical event to be shaped. Or do you want to go further and say there is nothing at the root of the Jesus tradition? That even the crucifixion was invented?

          • John MacDonald

            The oppression of the Sith will never return ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH8cKjgqA1k
            That’s why we have Anakin McGrath !

          • Neko

            I’ll interject here Morton Smith’s delightful speculation that the flight to Egypt was in part Matthew’s apologetic response to the charge that Jesus had traveled to Egypt to learn magic.

          • John MacDonald

            You mean like the Romans created Jupiter by modelling him on Zeus?

          • Pofarmer

            Paul also believed that Moses and Job and Noah were real men.

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

            He didn’t believe that those individuals had died and rose again as the firstfruits of the general resurrection of all the dead that was expected at the end of history. To suggest that Paul could have thought that Jesus lived in the distant past is to ignore not only the apocalyptic framework of Paul’s whole theology, but also the fact that, even several decades after Paul it still seemed plausible that the generation that had heard Jesus would see him return.

          • Pofarmer

            “even several decades after Paul it still seemed plausible that the generation that had heard Jesus would see him return.”

            Huh?

            “To suggest that Paul could have thought that Jesus lived in the distant past is to ignore not only the apocalyptic framework of Paul’s whole theology, ”

            Why? Jesus could have died last year, or 100 years ago, or a thousand years ago, or, today 2000 years ago, and it doesn’t change the message at all.

          • Mark

            You will think that if you think that ‘Jesus Christ’ all by itself on any grafitto from 1st Jerusalem wouldn’t be adequate ground for the judgment, “There must have been some messianic ethusiasm around some Josh guy back in the first c.” But it is.

          • Pofarmer

            Actually, that would help make the case.

          • Mark

            Yes, as the sunlight coming through the window now helps make the case the sun exists.

          • Pofarmer

            So, you have it then?

          • Mark

            Huh?

          • Jan Steen

            Exactly the response I would expect from one of Carrier’s avid readers, who span the world from Hong Kong to Poland (according to Dr. Carrier).

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not quite that far…Northern Ireland…not that it is of any relevance to your “peer review” nonsense.

          • Jan Steen

            If it is comforting for you to believe that it is nonsense, then so be it.

          • Geoff B

            Which one? Funny, how you seem so confused about peer review then.

      • Cecil Bagpuss

        Jan, that was very interesting indeed. Thank you. I shall bookmark the link.

        • Jan Steen

          You’re welcome.

          • Mark

            I noticed that some time ago, when the book came out, and keep being amazed that people refer to the book as ‘peer reviewed’ rather than ‘friend reviewed’ Check out the list of books they publish, by the way. Cranks like Brody, febrile deconstructionist readings of diverse gospels, etc. etc. No doubt there are some good things in there, but it looks a bit like the internet …

          • Jan Steen

            I suppose the febrile deconstructionists were peer-reviewed by other febrile deconstructionists.

          • Geoff B

            Is Brody a “crank” because he writes things you don’t agree with? I thought Brodie was a recognized scholar..? He has published with Oxford University. Which press publishes your work, Mark? Who publishes James McGrath’s books? Who reviews them?

      • Geoff B

        James, certainly you can clear up your fan’s confusion about peer review, right? How about stepping in?

        Yes, peer review is typically anonymous. The reviewer does not know the identity of the reviewee (but can usually surmise), the reviewee does not know who the reviewer is. In small fields, it can often be guessed who is doing the review, but anonymity is maintained, none the less. That is typical peer review. My wife is a reviewer for an academic journal. I am not, but am close enough to that world to know how it works.

        • Jan Steen

          The only confusion is that created by Dr. Carrier PhD, who tries to impress his fans with the pseudo-peer-reviewed status of his junk.

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

            While not entirely irrelevant, I do think that focusing on anomalies in the peer review process is something of a red herring. Even works which pass through peer review are not thereby shown to be correct. Peer review indicates whether experts in a given field think something is worth reading and interacting with. And so unless the academy finds Carrier’s arguments compelling, the process that preceded their appearing in print is very much beside the point. We can all find unpersuasive arguments of surprisingly low quality which somehow managed to pass peer review, but did not persuade anyone, or at least persuaded no one outside of a particular ideological community. And so the question of what experts make of Carrier’s arguments is much more relevant, in my opinion.

          • Jan Steen

            I agree with everything you say here. The converse is also true: something which has not been peer reviewed can still be of value. But it is Dr. Carrier PhD who always goes on and on about how this or that book chapter, article or book of his is peer-reviewed. It is Carrier who tries to make his avid fans believe that peer review is a seal of approval, and then appears to be dishonest about it to boot.

            I wish I got a dollar for every time he drops the term “peer review”. I could retire early.

          • Neko

            It is a peculiar habit. Protesting too much.

            But perhaps it’s because (if memory serves) before Carrier got his doctorate and published his magnum opus he was often challenged to produce peer-reviewed scholarship if he wanted to play in the big leagues.

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

            Yes, emphasizing that one’s work has passed peer review is very much like putting PhD after your name on your book cover…

          • Ignorant Amos

            Bingo!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah, because the mantra from the other side forever was “no mythicist work has been peer reviewed”, but now that there is one and the author reminds everyone of that fact, you gurn about it. Not only that, you can’t accept that the book IS peer reviewed…you bloody people, ya complain when it isn’t and ya complain when it is…there is no pleasing ya.

          • Mark

            I didn’t complain that there were no peer reviewed mythicist works. It is just a fact that Doherty, Brodie and Carrier make 9-11 truthers look rational. It is like smoking hashish reading these people, peer review or no. Unlike Carrier, who is basically the Platonic form of the Hack, Doherty and Brodie exhibit a bit of imagination.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I didn’t complain that there were no peer reviewed mythicist works.

            Did I say you did? The historicist side in general have though.

            It is just a fact that Doherty, Brodie and Carrier make 9-11 truthers look rational. It is like smoking hashish reading these people, peer review or no. Unlike Carrier, who is basically the Platonic form of the Hack, Doherty and Brodie exhibit a bit of imagination.

            So what, why should I give a rat’s ass about your opinion? It’s all about who makes the more convincing argument. The historicist’s have not done that to my satisfaction, ergo I am agnostic on the subject of an historical person behind the Jesus myth and I’m far from alone.

          • Mark

            I wasn’t thinking you should; if you study the dialectical steps above you will see that it arose as a way of reaffirming the matter at issue has nothing to do with peer review.

            That you can find fellow agnostics about the ‘Jesus myth’ on the internets doesn’t mean that it isn’t a dark ugly corner. On neo-Nazi and anti-semitic and suchlike sites people feel they aren’t alone too.

            You don’t in fact seem to have given much consideration to the standard secular views, since you seem to put so much significance on the fantastic elements of the gospels. All serious secular investigators agree with that, but none affirms mythicism since it is like Cartesian skepticism and can’t explain anything. The epistemic situation would differ very little if the gospels had never been written and we just had spiritual songs like the songs of the Dönmeh or something.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You don’t in fact seem to have given much consideration to the standard secular views, since you seem to put so much significance on the fantastic elements of the gospels. All serious secular investigators agree with that, but none affirms mythicism since is like Cartesian skepticism and can’t explain anything. The epistemic situation would differ very little if the gospels had never been written and we just had spiritual songs like the songs of the Dönmeh or something.

            Yet again, you seem to be conflating me with someone else. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the gospels at all.

            Hyperbolic doubt? But you have not read Carrier’s thesis. He holds no store in the gospels either. He addresses them of course, but they are not necessary to make the argument…not just fantastic elements either. As a matter of it is the historicist that relies on the gospels for their thesis. With no gospels to read back into Paul the historicist is in big trouble indeed.

          • Mark

            Don’t worry comrade, I have read Carrier’s book, and you will find tens of thousands of words about it from the period after it came out in the comments of this site. You are only the latest of a seemingly endless parade of identical trolls.

          • Pofarmer

            So, just a question. Are the mythicists more or less irrational than the “scholars” who think Jesus was also God?

          • Mark

            Don’t know. It would depend partly on whether belief in the existence of God is rational, and whether the existence of an ‘Abrahamic’ creator type God is rational , and what the devil is meant by doctrines of incarnation, and a number of other problems that are intrinsically philosophical in character. The present dispute is about history. Mythicism is a historical, not a theological claim, and it is exactly as rational as holocaust denial, 9/11 truthism and other similar phenomena; they are a dime a dozen and there are laws of their development, though I don’t know of any good theory that can account for them all.

          • Pofarmer

            “Mythicism is a historical, not a theological claim.”

            It’s actually both. What you seem to be arguing is that it’s equally rational to believe that God impregnated a Virgin with himself to give birth to himself to have himself killed to atone for his own creation of sin as it is to believe that Paul essentially made up a savior figure based on older literature of the same type. That people still read all kinds of stuff into various Holy books today ought to support this theory well enough. Considering the extremely scant amount of historian evidence for Jesus outside or the four Gospels (actually none) you would think this would be a rather uncontroversial position, actually.

          • Mark

            No, I didn’t express a view of the rationality of pious believers. Is your idea that you are golden if you are no less rational than some bible school teacher? That’s setting the bar pretty low. The chances that Paul made up a messiah are nil; there isn’t any reason to bother since for one thing messiahs are a dime a dozen; if you want one you can pick him up in Jerusalem then as now. By the older literature of the same type you mean, prophetic literature. Even if we didn’t have the gospels at all, and even if Christianity proper had never come about, but someone dug up enough mud-covered fragments of the letters of Paul, the only rational interpretation would be that he was referring to some Palestinian messianic figure who came to a catastrophic end. The phenomenon of post-failure messianism is just as common as messianism itself, for the simple reason that messianic prophecies aren’t true; they all fail — to put it a bit bluntly. The inference is completely certain: “Ah, here it is, that post-messianic hangover thing; by the way, what are they saying about Menachem Schneerson these days …?”

          • Geoff B

            You keep making unsupported accusations. It’s like McGrath’s poorly constructed evolution analogy. Really, it is a weak rhetorical device camouflaging the weakness of your argument. I would suggest you refrain from using it. You know what evolutionary biologists do when confronted with creationist claims: They present evidence. Just present your evidence.

            I have asked several times: On a scale of 1 to 10 how likely do you think it is that Jesus was baptized by John?

            Is your faith in that incident stronger than your belief in common descent?

            Just testing this out here:

            How strong is your faith in the proposition that Jesus existed? Is it greater than your belief in the Big Bang?

            How sure are you of the Crucifixion under Pontius Pilate? Is it more or less than your acceptance of the hypothesis that humans and chimps diverged from a common ancestor less than 10 million years ago?

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

            If mythicists are not like creationists, then why are you using a common creationist tactic? Do you actually think that the evidence for conclusions in the natural sciences or in history can be presented as effectively in blog comments as in books and articles? Do you think it fair to ask someone to take all that scholarship and summarize it for you here? And do you honestly not know what happens when defenders of evolution make the effort to do that? Do the detractors suddenly say, “clearly you are right, the evidence is in your favor”?

            Talking about faith in relation to the judgment of historians is as inappropriate as creationist talk of faith in evolution.

          • Mark

            There is no similarity between the question of baptism by John the Baptist and that of the existence of Jesus, which I am quite happy to presuppose in every sentence I write. The baptism of John business is a gospel story. Jesus isn’t a gospel story; rather his failed messianic career is the explanation of the impetus to write gospel stories. His existence is obviously more “certain” than that of the big bang, which is subject to various forms of contention and demands for clarification internal to cosmology. Crucifixion is mentioned in Paul and the Gospels, and since it was a typical method of getting rid of imagined usurpers, was a priori practically inevitable for a messianic claimant. Only fool or someone sufferering from a really serious Christianity hangover would waste a moment doubting it.

          • Geoff B

            Mark, Why so hostile to an idea? Clearly, the mythicist position has more going for it than 9/11 truthers. This is just poisoning the well. Coming from someone whose narrow vision caused him to miss a wealth of proto-Christian writings.

      • Jan Steen

        While it is undeniable that a publication being peer-reviewed tells us little about the quality of the work, it is equally undeniable that those less informed about academic practices often think that it is a big deal. A rite of passage. A seal of approval by the academic community. Which is all far from the truth, as we know, although Dr. Carrier PhD likes to pretend otherwise.

        I recently came across an example of somebody who does think the alleged peer-reviewed status of Carrier’s Jesus book is a big deal. What I then found was too amusing not to share here.

        He titles his post Bad News for the Carrier Bashers: His Research Has Been Peer Reviewed. The title is followed by a long, sycophantic piece consisting mainly of Carrier quotations, such as “I have recently published the first-ever peer-reviewed academic study making the case for this conclusion. (‘On the Historicity of Jesus’ (…).”

        Then the author writes, “The peer-reviewed status of Carrier’s ‘Jesus myth’ findings is also confirmed here,” and proceeds to cite the Rationalwiki article titled Jesus Myth Theory. The final sentence of that article, ‘confirming’ the peer-reviewed status of Carrier’s book reads: “In June 2014, Richard Carrier’s ‘On the Historicity of Jesus’ (…) became ‘the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review'”.

        But these are Carrier’s own words! Hardly an independent
        confirmation. lol.

        (“Formal peer review” indeed. There was nothing ‘formal’ about the procedure as described by Carrier himself. It’s dishonest to call it that. Typical.)

        http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1463300,1463490#msg-1463490

        • Neko

          That’s a handy synopsis of the Doherty/Carrier theory. You can see why some find it seductive.

          To repeat, I think Carrier’s description of his peer-review process is ambiguous. He may have meant that he requested four readers, and perhaps specified his preferences, neither of which would be irregular.

          • Jan Steen

            No, he can’t have meant that he merely requested four readers. He said that he selected the reviewers himself before he had a publisher. The whole affair is extremely dodgy.

            Note that I am not saying that his book is bad because it wasn’t properly peer reviewed. My concern is just honesty in advertising. Don’t make the peer-reviewed status a selling point when it isn’t.

          • Neko

            Oh! I missed that part. Though it was mentioned previously, I never checked the source.

            I’ve been reading your posts with interest and wouldn’t have taken you for someone who would make a shallow assessment like “his book is bad because it wasn’t properly peer reviewed.” But thanks for the clarification.

            I’m intrigued by your vehemence toward Carrier. Yeah, he’s obnoxious, but is your main concern, as you said before, that he makes atheists look bad? I ask because, though I’m very much engaged with Christianity and enjoy the sparring over mythicism, my main interest here is in the dynamics of fundamentalist movements.

          • Jan Steen

            Maybe you know Carrier mainly as a historian with cranky ideas. But he is also a so-called Social Justice Warrior within the atheist/skeptic community. In that capacity, Carrier routinely lies about and smears perfectly decent people, such as Atheist Ireland leader Michael Nugent. See Nugent’s post:

            http://www.michaelnugent.com/2015/04/17/richard-carriers-latest-smears/

            Also check out the comments there (including mine) for more evidence of Carrier’s reprehensible behaviour and mind-blowing hypocrisy.

            And then there is his role in the Atheism Plus movement, in which he unleashed Pol Pot-like rhetoric (about how he wants to kick people into the sewers, etc.), all based on lies and extremist propaganda.

            tl/dr: Carrier is an utterly unsavory character.

          • Neko

            Ah! Thank you. I will check out your link.

  • Peter Kirby

    I read this blog post, and then I read Carrier’s.

    On a factual level, I find it hard to be completely sure that either side has even correctly represented what the other person is saying. Carrier over-interprets the things that he quotes to a very great extent, and McGrath does not present any exact quote that lines up with what he represents Carrier as saying. It should go without saying that if you can’t even get what someone is saying right, you can’t determine whether what someone is saying is true or false, let alone a “lie.”

    On every other level, McGrath’s restrained reply here is more consistent with being professional, and Carrier’s unfiltered venting isn’t. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Carrier’s heated and extensive accusations aren’t exactly helping much of anything.

  • Richard Carrier

    Your first sentence, James, says the method of symbolic interpretation is despised. You nowhere in your review of my book say you use or approve of the method. That is dishonest. That you actually do use the method elsewhere is precisely why it is dishonest.

    • John MacDonald

      Did you actually take any courses on The New Testament in university, or did you just read the bible for the first time after the fact? I’m wondering what makes you an expert?

      • Richard Carrier

        Of course I did. But stop this bullshit about credentials. Deal with my arguments. The facts. Seeking to avoid them by attempting to smear a Columbia University Ph.D. in ancient history just makes you look like an ass.

        • Jan Steen

          “[S]top this bullshit about credentials.”
          “[A]ttempting to smear a Columbia University Ph.D. in ancient history just makes you look like an ass.”

          Now, who is bullshitting about credentials here? (You really can’t help yourself, can you?)
          :)

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

      No, not what I wrote, as anyone can see if they actually read the article, as I trust they will. Here is the first paragraph: “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain. There is a long history of Christians engaging first in allegorical interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures, and then later, applying the same approach to their own Christian sacred texts. Allegory is notorious for reading things into the text that simply aren’t there, things that are exceedingly unlikely to have been in view for the authors and their earliest readers. Allegory is also notoriously unconstrained, allowing one to find in the text just about anything one wishes to.”

      I am not sure what you hope to achieve by accusing others of dishonesty while being dishonest yourself, but until such time as you are willing to interact with basic human decency (I am not demanding the higher standard of scholarly decorum), then I see no point in conversing further about this.

      http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/08/mcg398026.shtml

      • Richard Carrier

        I don’t see anything there that contradicts what I said. You say it’s viewed with disdain, and offer no support for it, and do not mention you use it and support it. That’s what I said. What words are you reading?

  • Richard Carrier

    Meanwhile, you have not identified a single thing I said that is untrue. By contrast, I extensively documented several of your lies or deceptive and dishonest treatments of my work.

    • Cecil Bagpuss

      Richard, you provide a list of NT scholars who have made allegorical interpretations of the Gospels, but there is something which you haven’t made clear. Is it the case that the interpretations of, say, Dennis Macdonald and John Dominic Crossan are accepted by the majority of NT scholars, not just in part but in whole? Or is it the case that the whole enterprise is a rather speculative business, and that any particular allegorical interpretation is unlikely to be accepted by a majority?

      If it is the latter rather than the former, then you would appear to have a problem, since your whole approach is based on the assumption that it is possible to *demonstrate* that scene after scene in the Gospels is allegorical.

      It seems to me that your main aim is rather to play to the gallery than to do real scholarly work.

      • John MacDonald

        There are parts of the gospels that are demonstrably fictionalized. Dr. McGrath mentioned the infancy narratives. Another one we talked about on this blog a couple of years ago is Mark’s narrative of the crucifixion:

        Consider: The Passion of the Christ in Mark:

        Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

        The only thing is, as Spong points out, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark was doing a haggadic midrash on Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, is where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

        Then, as Dr. Robert Price says

        The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 7:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

        As for other details, Crossan points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

        And so we can at least propose there may not be any historical content with a fairly comprehensive fiction-focused reading of The Passion of the Christ in Mark. The crucifixion is cruci-fiction!

      • Richard Carrier

        I give a short list. The list is much longer, and even includes N.T. Wright, Dale Allison, basically everyone, including, BTW, James McGrath, by his own admission here. So, if everyone is using it, how can everyone disdain it? That’s the point. And it’s a fact that McGrath conceals from his readers in his review, and says instead the exact opposite. That is dishonest.

        As to proving a reading, I explain in the chapter two things McGrath conceals from his readers:

        First, that many interpretations are only such as have to be ruled out before we can be certain a passage is history and not allegory (the burden is on anyone to claim it is more than 50/50 either way; and that burden has never been met, as I demonstrate in Proving History, and as many other scholars have agreed).

        Second, we have indeed proven many interpretations to be more than 50% likely, in mainstream peer reviewed scholarship. Which I extensively cite. A fact McGrath conceals from his readers. Nor does he address any of that peer reviewed literature or any of those examples. He doesn’t even mention they exist, or even that the one example he uses draws on such literature.

        Even McGrath admits in his post here that we can know there are allegorical passages in the Gospels. So if you are concerned to know what methods he deems capable of showing that, maybe you should ask him…and ask why he didn’t discuss them in his review of my use of the method, and why he didn’t discuss the methods I spelled out for doing this, and why he didn’t compare and contrast them, so as to argue (as he must actually believe) that there are better methods that work (as only if there are, could he claim to know there are allegorical meanings in the text) and why they are better than the methods I deploy, and that all the other scholars deployed in the peer reviewed research I used.

        A good place to start is the fig tree incident as covered by Hamerton-Kelly. This clearly makes no sense as history. It clearly makes sense as allegory. And many of the means by which allegory was signaled in ancient literature are present (such as preposterous events with thematic connections, the use of inclusio as a narrative construction, and coincidences that are improbable as history but not as a given allegory, and such that bizarre and unintelligible aspects of the story become explicable and intelligible on that interpretation). That this is mainstream methodology is shown by the fact that countless mainstream scholars are using it and it appears ubiquitously in mainstream peer reviewed journals and monographs. Including some that McGrath himself has praised.

        In terms of mathematical logic, the probability of the text looking like that on h=”remembered history” is low, but the probability of the text looking like that on h=”a particular allegory that explains all the elements” is high. The ratio between them establishes a posterior probability that it’s allegory and not history. Or at best 50/50. Unless we can start with a high prior for history (based on the overall nature of the source, a fact I discus extensively, with reference to modern mythography experts). Or there are elements that can be shown to be improbable on allegorical intent (what the Criteria are supposed to establish, although they can’t on a document as problematic as a Gospel, as I and many other scholars have explained, as I document and outline in Chapter 5 of Proving History).

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

          It seems that at the heart of your false accusation is your running together of allegory and symbolism, so as to treat the two terms as synonymous. Is that correct? If so, it is a misunderstanding that can easily be cleared up, I should think.

          • Richard Carrier

            By not making any such distinction in your review, you are the one who conflated all that I do in Chapter 10. But I would find such a distinction specious.

            Hamerton-Kelly’s case for the fig tree as allegory for the temple cult is not relevantly different from the tearing of the temple curtain as symbol of breaking down the barrier between heaven and earth and God and man (removing the temple cult as intermediary). Achtemeier’s case that the miracle sequence in Mark allegorizes Jesus as the new Moses confronting and overcoming the new world order is not relevantly different from John’s reifying Lazarus to symbolically counter the argument of Luke’s parable of Lazarus (as several peer reviewed scholars I cite have pointed out).

            This is your deception again, in comparing what I do to Thiering, when I don’t do any of the weird stuff she does, and unlike her, actually make arguments for any interpretation I propose, and not merely show that it fits the text; and I likewise make clear when an interpretation is only 50/50 likely (and so it could go either way) and when it is more likely than that, and why. That you don’t mention this distinction between us, but instead represent us as the same, is lying. That you think it matters that there is a distinction among the examples I listed in the above paragraph, yet failed to say so in your review, and thus failed to say that you object to only some and not all of what I argue about the mythmaking in the Gosoels in Chapter 10, but instead represented your case as rebutting the whole Chapter, is lying.

            You have a problem with honesty. And you need to do some introspection on this. Because you are discrediting historicism with this deceitful way of reviewing my work. If you can’t rebut what I actually argue, then it starts to look like an admission that I’m right.

          • Geoff B

            Nice try, James. Symbolism is synonymous with allegory. So if you had a different meaning in mind, it was up to you to clarify that. Rarely have I seen someone try to weasel out such an obvious gaffe as this:

            “Scholars of the New Testament typically view allegorical interpretation of the texts they study with disdain.”

            You have tried to figure a way out of this pickel this whole time and are failing badly I am afraid.

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

            http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/allegory?s=t

            Notice “symbolism” is a synonym. Get it? It is up to you to clarify how you are using the word as the author.

            I have said this before, but you really don’t strike me as very intellectually sound. Hard to imagine how you finangled a chair, though I am aware of the game playing involved in academia.

            By the way, the top answer in your lmgtfy link said this:

            “The difference between symbolism and allegory is rather thin. On the one hand, an allegory would have to be a symbolic text, on the other, symbolism is a necessary technique of an allegory.

            Both symbolism and allegory relate to a process of representation where one thing stands for another like light representing life and darkness death, to use a cliche.”

            Ouch. It must hurt to shoot yourself in the foot.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            What I object to is the pretentious and pseudoscientific language. As you demonstrate that scene after scene in the Gospels is symbolic, so the prior probability that the next scene is symbolic rises. That sort of thing sounds technical, and it may confuse the unwary, but there is really no need for it. The actual argument can be summed up very simply: the Gospels contain at least some allegory; so how can we be sure that anything in them is historical? Maybe we can’t. That is it in a nutshell.

            But there is more to it than just analysing individual scenes. Matthew’s Gospel reports the accusation that the disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb. Now, we don’t need to ask whether there really was an empty tomb. All we have to note is that there was a debate about what had happened at the time when Matthew was writing. And that debate could only have taken place if people assumed that Jesus was an actual historical figure.

            This creates a big problem for Carrier’s theory. According to Carrier, the early Christians believed that Jesus was a purely celestial being. Then Mark wrote an allegory about this being which was set on Earth. But how quickly could this allegory have been misunderstood? Matthew shows that people were already having debates about the historical Jesus. So the Gospels do contain evidence that cannot be reconciled with Carrier’s theory. It is not just a question of testing individual scenes for historicity.

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

            I never said that they are not overlapping categories, I said that they are not simply identical. An allegory involves telling a story in which each detail stands symbolically for something else. Even when it comes to symbolism of the sort that Thomas Brodie envisages, where other texts inspire the creation of new ones, no one that I know of – including most mythicists – finds him to be consistently persuasive. He starts with something that everyone agrees is done in some stories related to Jesus and other historical figures, and tries implausibly to fit every story into that procrustean bed.

            You will find if you actually use a thesaurus that it includes many words which overlap at least somewhat in meaning, but not all of which can be substituted in place of all others in all contexts.

            It sounds like you might need to watch a certain episode of Friends. But really, I can’t imagine what you hope to achieve by adopting an arrogant certainty that you are right without actually taking the time to be precise.

          • John MacDonald

            If I say a swastika is a “symbol” of hate, this is serving a somewhat different function than if I was to talk about Plato’s “allegory” of the cave. Plato’s allegory isn’t “symbolic” of the path to enlightenment, it is an analogy of it.

          • John MacDonald

            Similarly, a blindfolded female statue holding a scale might be a “symbol” for justice, but she wouldn’t be an “allegory” for justice. Symbols usually represent ideas, while allegories tell a story.

          • Paul E.

            This conflation of terms seems even more significant in terms of what I understand to be the hypothesis for the existence of the gospels (as I understand it – I haven’t read Carrier’s book, so I am guilty here of commenting on that which I have not read), i.e. what Carrier refers to as “Euhemerization.” Whether he is using that term properly in the first instance and whether it conforms to a “trend” into which first century Christian authors were trying to fit and attempting to exploit is problematic enough without adding this conflation into the mix, it seems to me.

        • Jan Steen

          In terms of mathematical logic, the probability of the text looking like
          that on h=”remembered history” is low, but the probability of the text
          looking like that on h=”a particular allegory that explains all the
          elements” is high. The ratio between them establishes a posterior
          probability that it’s allegory and not history. Or at best 50/50.

          This must be an example of your famous “a posteriori reasoning.” As in “pulling probabilities from your posterior end.”

          It has nothing to do with mathematic logic and everything with motivated reasoning.

          • Richard Carrier

            If you reject the logic of probability, then you are rejecting all arguments for the truth of anything. Because you can never say anything is probable, if you don’t know how probability works, or what the probability of anything is.

            For example, Jesus having magical powers to whither fig trees, and even then doing so for the crime of not bearing figs when he acknowledges it is not the season for figs, is improbable as history. That the fig tree and its whithering is an allegory for God’s reason for allowing the temple cult to be destroyed (it is no longer the season for it, and so it shall bear no fruit again), as demonstrated by Hamerton-Kelly in a peer reviewed research article, instead, makes highly probable every single element of the story, including its being wrapped around the temple clearing story in the manner of the ancient literary device of inclusio, and being followed by the speech that only prayer is needed heretofore.

            The ratio of those two probabilities entails the allegorical interpretation is far more probable than the historical one. And when I say entails, I mean literally: this is a matter of proven deductive logic. So you can reject logic, or you can argue the story is totally likely as history, or that it is not likely on Hamerton-Kelly’s interpretation. Those are your options.

            I proceed by making arguments for my assignments. If you want to make different assignments, you need to argue for them, not just assert them. It’s asserting them without argument that is motivated reasoning. Not the other way around.

          • Jan Steen

            No, I am not the one who rejects the logic of probability. The person who claims that it is meaningful to say that the probability that Jesus existed is 0.23462547 (or whatever number you came up with) is the one who doesn’t understand probability theory.

            As for the fig tree, one could argue that this story was invented to show the supernatural power of Jesus over all living things. You don’t have to accept it as history while still rejecting it as an allegory. And there are probably many other interpretations possible. So you have set up a false dichotomy. Which is dishonest.

          • John MacDonald

            Absolutely right. Any symbolic interpretation of the fig tree pericope, at most, “fits” the evidence provided by the text. There are an indefinite number of other possible symbolic interpretations (we just haven’t thought of them yet). And conversely, from the point of view of interpretation, it is equally as likely that the historical Jesus actually did whither the fig tree.

          • Geoff B

            Jan,

            Your explanation is weaker than Carrier’s due to the fact that Carrier’s is more encompassing. What was the author’s purpose in having Jesus whither the tree when it was not in season to bear fruit? If the author wanted to demonstrate that Jesus had supernatural powers, why make the point of it on an out of season fig tree? That fact suggests there is more to the story. Maybe the point is that not only does Jesus have the power over living things but that he is willing to use it capriciously?

          • John MacDonald

            So the more encompassing a hermeneutic is, the more likely it is to be correct?

          • Geoff B

            The more inclusive a theory is, in other words, the more evidence that is explained by the theory and the absence of falsifying evidence, the stronger the theory. Your theory doesn’t explain why the fig tree is out of season and why the author felt that was important. It suggests the author intended some meaning to be implied in that. You can just ignore it, I guess, but it is a datum that should be accounted for. Carrier’s theory does that so it is a stronger theory than one that does not do so.

          • John MacDonald

            So you would say John Dominic Crossan’s portrait of the historical Jesus is better than Bart Ehrman’s because Crossan’s book is longer and deals with more evidence?

          • Richard Carrier

            You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. If you don’t know what I have explained regarded a fortiori probability estimates, then you won’t know that what you just said is stupid. Look up “a fortiori” in the index to Proving History and educate yourself. I even have a whole section in it about false precision, the false claim you are making about me. Stop lying. Actually read my work. Address what I actually argue

          • Jan Steen

            The only liar here is you, Richard.

            Not only have I read your worthless book, I have even reviewed it.

            See: http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=300982#p300982

            You are completely out of your dept when you expound on probability theory. You haven’t got a clue. And I frankly don’t believe you when you claim that a real mathematics professor has peer-reviewed Proving History (stupid title, by the way). Liars be lyin’.

            But maybe you can fill a gaping hole in your book. Please explain to us exactly what is meant by the statement: “The probability that Jesus existed as an actual person is 0.245367.”

          • Jan Steen

            And brave Sir Richard ran away with his (average) tail between his legs.

          • Jan Steen

            He came back! A miracle! Richard Carrier’s second coming.

          • Richard Carrier

            A book review in the Slymepit? Enough said.

            In any event, that I never say “The probability that Jesus existed as an actual person is 0.245367” is already enough to tell me you didn’t actually read the book. Or that you have no intention of honestly reporting what it says.

          • Jan Steen

            Aren’t you supposed to be an expert in logical fallacies? And yet you think you can dismiss my review because you don’t like the venue in which it was published. If that isn’t a fallacy I don’t know what is. But it’s your loss. You could have learned something.

            As for my question, the point is not the exact value of the
            probability, which I just made up by way of example. The point is literally “What exactly does it mean to say that the probability that Jesus actually existed is x?”

            This is a crucial question that arises naturally when one
            reads your book Proving History, and which you never answer in a satisfactory way. You make some confused assertions about epistemic probabilities, but fail to define adequately what is meant by them. In chapter 6 you then claim that all probabilities are frequencies. Pray tell, what is the frequency interpretation of the probability of the existence of a historical Jesus?

            By the way, you will be delighted to learn that I also reviewed your article on Hitler’s Table Talk. You claimed that this article of yours was “field changing”. I demonstrate this claim to be a ridiculous exaggeration.

            See: http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=305231#p305231

            However, I could not get to the bottom of one detail. You not only accuse the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper of fraud, you also paint him as a liar (where have we seen that before?). According to you, he had asserted that the English translation of Hitler’s Table Talk was made directly from the German, whereas actually almost all of it was translated from the French translation of the Bormann Vermerke. That last fact is not in dispute, but at least in the third edition of the Table Talk, which is the only edition I have seen, Trevor-Roper does not claim that the translation was made from the German. He instead makes it clear that he was only allowed to use the French text for his earlier editions.

            So, could you please indicate where Trevor-Roper stated that his translation was made from the German, and also give his exact words? You wouldn’t want us to think that you lied about this, do you? Thanks in advance for clearing this up.

          • Richard Carrier

            Okay, now I know you are just lying.

            First, you just conveniently ignored the fact that I caught you lying about what’s in OHJ. You made a false claim about it. I never come to such an absurdly precise probability conclusion, I actually come to a conclusion with very wide margins of error, with enormous rounding. You’ve been caught. Don’t pretend that didn’t just happen.

            Second, if you had actually read Chapter 6 of PH, you would know what the probability of someone existing is the frequency of, because I explain in detail there what it means: the frequency of your being right about the conclusion given your estimates of the three variables.

            So you have to defend those estimates. Hence the method of a fortiori reasoning (see the index of PH), whereby we enter estimates as favorable to the opposing view as can be reasonably maintained. The debate can then focus on the reasonableness of those three inputs. You seem to have no idea that that is the case.

            Thirdly, you embarrassingly try to deploy a Red Herring fallacy by talking about a completely unrelated topic that has nothing to do with OHJ or PH or your lie about the precision of OHJ’s conclusion.

          • Jan Steen

            Are you denying that you have calculated the strongest case for the existence of a historical Jesus as having a probability of 32%, which you based on an intermediary calculation yielding the number 0.3232989576422? The fact that you think you should use numbers with that many decimals strongly suggests that you have no clue of numerical computational mathematics. Yes, I made fun of that. But more importantly, even this rounded figure of 32% suggests an absurd precision, considering the sketchy information underlying the whole sorry mess (by which I mean the origins of Christianity).

            Yes, you also come up with a much lower estimate, based on different assumptions, of 1/12500. Which is again absurdly precise. But you are wrong to say that this range corresponds to the margins of error, because properly there should be a range of error associated with each of those two numbers (1/12500 and 32%). These numbers are, as I just said, based on different assumptions, therefore they represent two different probability models. Therefore, they should each have their own margins of error. Your numbers, as they are, have been plucked from your posterior, and nothing better can be said of them. They are worthless as long as we have no idea how accurate they are.

            But what do these numbers, these probabilities, actually mean? Let’s say that according to your a forteriori reasoning you have obtained the number 0.32. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that this number represents the frequency with which you are right.

            There are at least two problems here: (1) Your definition assumes that your calculation is based on perfect information about the prior probabilities. Otherwise your estimate can never correspond to the actual frequency. But there is no perfect information about prior probabilities, therefore your posterior probability can only be an estimate. So it cannot, in principle, be the true frequency with which you are right.
            (2) You haven’t explained what it even means to talk about the frequency of a unique historic event. Are you saying that if history were to repeat itself infinitely often, that you would be right in 32% of those histories? But if that were the case, then history would not actually repeat itself. So this cannot be the proper frequency interpretation. But what is? Is there one?

            As to your third issue, a red herring is an argument of which it is suggested that it is relevant to the discussion at hand, while it is in fact irrelevant. By that definition, my question about the Trevor-Roper citation is not a red herring, because I have explicitly introduced it as a completely separate issue. I could even say, however, that it is still relevant to the broader discussion here, which is about your chronical dishonesty. If you refuse to answer my simple request (show where and how Trevor-Roper stated that his translations was made from the German), then this doesn’t help your reputation at all.

            I am surprised that the folks who peer-reviewed your paper let you get away with your accusation (that Trevor-Roper lied about his translation). Clearly a failure of the peer review process.

          • Richard Carrier

            You cannot claim I did not round to a whole percentage point (in fact, more so), yet here you are pretending I advanced a precision that in fact I repudiate in the book. My conclusion conveys exactly the imprecision warranted: a huge margin of error, and highly rounded final results. I do this even for the prior! As well as the posterior.

            Stop lying about what is in my book.

          • Jan Steen

            Can’t you read? I wrote that you comically used a number with lots of superfluous decimals as an intermediary result and then rounded this to 32%. Are you saying that is a lie? Do you know your own book?

            Also, you don’t understand what error margins are. Hint: an error margin looks like this: [0.32 – 0.23, 0.32 + 0.57]. What you give in your book are not error margins. They are just numbers you have pulled from you-know-where.

          • Shelby-Maroo

            Richard Carrier,
            Have you heard the term “steelmanning?” I heard it pretty recently for the first time. Check out the link below if it’s new to you.

            Would it be fair to describe a fortiori reasoning as a form of steelmanning? It sounds like what you are saying is that for the sake of analysis/argument, you assume your opponent’s position is a strong as it theoretically can be; and you proceed to prove that, even still, even assuming the most favorable opposing estimates, the odds still come out against the opposing view.

            Is that more or less right?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2012/12/the-virtue-of-steelmanning/

          • Billie from Ockham

            Do you seriously not understand the difference between probability and frequency? It’s not really that crucial and mostly serves to distract from the more important question of errors in estimation, but it still comes as a surprise. Please tell us that you’re just trolling with that one.

          • Jim

            Loved your number of significant digits satire and how 0.245367 flows nicely off the keyboard top row – maybe 489 comes next :) . But it does make me wonder about employing something similar to error bars by anyone reporting these types of probabilities (confidence limits developed by statistical math rather than say pulling arbitrary limits out of one’s anus).

          • Jan Steen

            You are right to wonder about this. But error bars can only be calculated if you have a model underlying the probabilities. What is the stochastic process that generates failed messiahs who are promoted to divine status upon their death?

        • Cecil Bagpuss

          Richard, you cite NT scholars who accept allegorical interpretations of the texts, but do they accept the conclusions that you draw from this? Presumably not. And presumably, they are all wrong about that and you are right?

          But more importantly, can you explain how your method of testing episodes for historicity is able to avoid false negatives? For example, in your analysis of Acts you say that it has ten characteristics of an adventure novel, one of which is an epic journey by sea. And yet we know that Paul did undertake long and arduous journeys around the empire.

          • Richard Carrier

            I don’t reject logic because sometimes people misuse it. Likewise any other method. I lay out in my book how to deploy the method so as to have probable or viable (50/50) conclusions, and then so apply it.

            Address what I actually argue. Stop resorting to specious references to other people’s arguments as if that were relevant.

        • John MacDonald

          Instead of saying “as I ‘demonstrate’ in Proving History,” how about saying “as I ‘argue for’ in Proving History.” You have a bad habit of claiming that you’ve “demonstrated something” or “proved something,” when all you have done is “argued for something.” Your choice of words makes it sound like you need to audit an introductory philosophy class to find out what the weight of evidence is in hermeneutics.

          • Richard Carrier

            Address the arguments. Stop avoiding addressing the arguments by appealing to specious semantics.

  • Gakusei Don

    Dr Carrier’s second accusation is in the section he calls “Lying about My Appeal to Conspiracy”. Carrier quotes from OHJ to show that he doesn’t propose any “organized conspiracy”, so accuses Dr McGrath of lying when McGrath writes that “I will not discuss here his conspiracy theory approach to early Christian literature”.

    Is McGrath claiming that Carrier believes there is an organized conspiracy? No. It is a “conspiracy theory approach“, whereby evidence “was erased, doctored or rewritten to support a historicity party line against a mythicist one“.

    I could almost pay this one to Carrier, but Carrier does state in OHJ (page 276) that “Any such community will organically produce the same effect as a conspiracy, without ever having to conspire to do anything”.

    Does that constitute a “conspiracy theory approach” to early Christian literature? If you read OHJ, Carrier does seem to appeal to the historicist party rewriting texts to hide mythicist implications (often incompetently apparently!) fairly often. Whether that justifies describing it as a conspiracy theory “approach” would depend on how often Carrier needs to make that appeal, i.e. “but it was rewritten by historicists to hide mythicism”. Enough examples would certainly justify calling Carrier’s approach as a “conspiracy theory approach”.

    • Peter Kirby

      The context of the quotation didn’t really make it clear to me, but a review of page 276 makes it clear that (a) Carrier is talking about an ancient community, not a modern one [not that you implied otherwise] and (b) Carrier is saying that he is not positing a conspiracy, because it “isn’t needed.”

      He is positing compromised and forged texts (something he believes is “so firmly in evidence it cannot be disputed”), and his main point in the paragraph is that a conspiracy isn’t needed in order to have compromised texts.

      Other scholars posit compromised and forged texts. They just don’t get accused of forming a conspiracy theory, so they don’t have to defend against the idea that they are, so they don’t get selectively quoted to try to make it sound more like they’re defending that idea when they’re actually saying that they do not defend it.

  • Matt Brown

    Dr. Carrier,

    Why are you such a mean person?

    • Jim

      That’s just a down right nasty question. How do you know that in between writing ad hominem attacks RC isn’t helping at a food bank? Or how do you know that RC doesn’t spend much of his time visiting sick children rather than planning vitriolic attacks? :)

      • Matt Brown

        Wait, are you being sarcastic?

    • jjramsey

      I think this old aphorism has a partial answer: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”

      The almost theatrical vitriol is one way of pounding the table.

    • Richard Carrier

      When telling the truth is mean, the problem is not with me.

      • Neko

        Wow, lack of self-awareness.

      • Matt Brown

        But you aren’t telling the truth. You are instead calling people “crazy, deluded, and or dishonest.”

        How does the fact that someone disagrees with you make them any of these things?

        • Richard Carrier
          <