How Carrier Responds to Critics (Supercut)

A blog reader sent me a compilation of Richard Carrier’s treatment of reviews of his work, which the individual suggested should be kept until the next time Carrier “brings a gun to a review fight.” Since Carrier saw fit not only to sing the praises of Raphael Lataster’s recent volume, but in the process to make the false claims that T&T Clark/Continuum is not an academic press, and that Maurice Casey’s book was not peer reviewed, I thought now would be as good a time as any to pass on what was sent to me. Here it is:

Dr. McGrath,

Your exchanges with Richard Carrier, and particularly your “What would it take…” post, inspired me to look into how Carrier has responded to his critics.

When Carrier is responding to a review that is “positive” (Lataster) or “overall positive” (Rosson) or largely agrees with him with minor questions/criticisms (Covington) he is generally respectful, even over disagreements. The exception is his response to Chris Hallquist. Carrier says Hallquist has “overall good impressions”, but then describes the rest of his review with “the worst kind of criticism”, “seriously embarrassing”, “ridiculous” and “This should not instill much confidence in his ability to reliably critique the rest of my book.”

When Carrier is responding to a negative review, he routinely accuses the reviewer of 1) dishonesty, 2) idiocy, 3) incompetence, 4) failure to read the book, 5) failure to understand the book, and/or 6) generally being baffling, bizarre, strange, unintelligible or weird.

My point is not whether Carrier’s thesis or responses are correct in any particular case, but the consistently hostile way that Carrier responds to all criticism of his work. Perhaps Richard Carrier is right that every single critical reviewer of his work is incompetent, an idiot or a liar. Perhaps. Or perhaps the common factor is Richard Carrier.

 

Richard Carrier’s responses to reviews of On the Historicity of Jesus

 

July 15, 2014: Richard Carrier responds to an Amazon review by F. Ramos

 

Ramos’s review is largely disingenuous and often makes false claims about the book…

[…]

This is disingenuous to the point of actual dishonesty

[…]

I think it’s safe to dismiss his review as a dishonest, disingenuous, illogical and contra-factual Christian fundamentalist winge.

 

March 5, 2015: Richard Carrier responds to James McGrath

 

A Failure of Logic and Accuracy

[…]

…McGrath not only botches logic and facts, he misreports what my book says…

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McGrath gets my arguments wrong, makes obvious logical mistakes, and incorrectly reports what experts have said in key matters. 

[…]

…which McGrath clearly didn’t read. 

[…]

…yet another example of his not correctly grasping key distinctions…

[…]

…another example of McGrath not getting it…

[…]

…McGrath evidently did not read my discussion in OHJ…

[…]

…McGrath actually falsely claims I said “that the [Ascension of Isaiah] ought to be dated contemporaneous with the Gospel of Mark.”

[…]

…McGrath isn’t actually reading my book…

[…]

He doesn’t even seem capable of figuring out how one ever knows that.

 

March 6, 2015: Richard Carrier responds to James McGrath (part 2)

 

…he shows no sign of having read my chapter on this…

[…]

He clearly doesn’t understand the mathematical or methodological point. It does not even appear he has read that chapter.

[…]

McGrath perhaps can’t understand this because he is confused by what a prior probability is.

[…]

…McGrath’s failure to even get literary analysis right. … McGrath tries to “down-score” Jesus on the 22-point scale by sucking at basic literary analysis. 

[…]

…McGrath has no idea what he is talking about…

[…]

The final proof that McGrath isn’t really reading my book…

[…]

That McGrath is engaging in Christian apologetics and not honest scholarship is proved…

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In the book. Which McGrath is starting to show little sign of having read.

[…]

It’s clear McGrath did not read this. Or did not understand it. 

[…]

McGrath has nothing to contribute to this debate.

 

September 11, 2015: Richard Carrier responds to James McGrath (part 3)

 

James McGrath has added another entry to his bizarrely uninformed critique of On the Historicity of Jesus, and this time is the most dishonest of the bunch.

[…]

…that looks like scholarly dishonesty to me.

[…]

In line with what looks like a constructed lie, McGrath then deceitfully makes it appear that I just make everything up in my demonstration of allegorical content in the Gospels.

[…]

McGrath dishonestly deploys a well poisoning fallacy…

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His contempt for the truth is therefore galling.

[…]

…as McGrath dishonestly implies…

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So again, McGrath is lying to you about what I said, and trying to make it look like I said something else.

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McGrath effectively lies to you, by not telling you that, and telling you instead that I said the opposite of what in fact I actually said.

[…]

Again lying to you…

[…]

…denying it would make him look like a fool. So he has to lie and pretend I said something else.

[…]

In a sense, even McGrath’s entire thesis is a lie…

[…]

McGrath again lies…

[…]

Another example of McGrath’s dishonesty…

[…]

…another fact McGrath deceitfully fails to mention.

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It is his moral responsibility as a scholar to locate those passages in my work and actually address them, before maintaining a claim like his. That he did not do this disgraces him as a scholar.

 

March 24, 2015: Richard Carrier responds to Kenneth Waters, after an SBL debate

 

Waters’ rancorous and somewhat contemptuous (and very apologetics-heavy) rebuttal…

[…]

Sorry, but I have to call stupid on that.

[…]

To simply ignore these facts and all else I argued in OHJ when claiming to rebut it, cannot be characterized as debating honestly.

[…]

This is just phenomenally stupid. It is an argument that does not deserve even the pretense of respect.

[…]

Christian believers who cannot abide even the thought of the thesis should just admit they cannot have anything honest or well-considered to say about it.

 

 

Other responses and reviews from Richard Carrier

 

April 9, 2012: Richard Carrier reviews Bart Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus Exist?

 

…I can officially say it is filled with factual errors, logical fallacies, and badly worded arguments

[…]

Lousy with errors and failing even at the one useful thing it could have done, this is not a book I can recommend.

[…]

…it officially sucks.

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I think Ehrman is not nearly honest enough with his readers about this.

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falsified propaganda.

[…]

Ehrman hides this fact from his readers, and even misleads his readers by declaring exactly the opposite. Where else does Ehrman completely hide and misrepresent the views, statements, and methods of the mythicists he criticizes? If we cannot trust him in this case (and clearly we can’t, since what he says is demonstrably exactly the opposite of the truth), why are we to trust anything he says in this book?

[…]

Ehrman almost made me fall out of my chair…

[…]

Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about. 

[…]

This kind of sloppy work, the failure to check his facts, to do any basic research we should expect of a scholar, and consequently to misrepresent his opponents and their position, and misinform the public about the debate.

[…]

Again, Ehrman exposes himself as completely uninformed, and incompetent as a scholar

[…]

…it appears like he is suppressing arguments and evidence presented by mythicists…

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…his carelessness and his skewed attempts to distort the facts in his favor…

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Ehrman can’t have learned my degree is in classics from any reliable source. He can only have invented this detail. I am left to wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to diminish my qualifications by misrepresentation.

[…]

Ehrman’s book is so full of egregious factual errors demonstrating his ignorance, sloppiness, and incompetence in this matter, it really doesn’t even need a rebuttal.

 

April 27, 2012: Richard Carrier responds to Bart Ehrman’s response to his Carrier’s review of Did Jesus Exist? (part 1)

 

…they do not look entirely honest to me. 

[…]

…his desperate attempt to justify the fact that he misleads his readers and misrepresents his opponents…

[…]

It is making him really look like he doesn’t know what he is talking about, can’t reason logically, avoids every substantive issue possible, and isn’t keen to accurately represent what his opponents have said. 

[…]

he is not even capable of detecting when a sentence he has written says the opposite of what he meant. That entails we should trust his book even less. Because whatever filter is supposed to prevent him making these kind of mistakes is clearly not working in his brain.

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…I suspect he is lying.

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This seems to me strong evidence that he is now lying about what he really thought and meant when writing the book.

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it is Ehrman who hasn’t done the work necessary to be qualified to discuss this question competently … [based on] the actual evidence of his incompetence.

 

June 14, 2013: Richard Carrier responds to Kevin Brown’s review of Proving History

 

Brown is not a great thinker.

[…]

This is a weird argument… [] As I said, this is not a great thinker.

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Notably, Brown does not appear to have read my book all that carefully…

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Brown, clearly, failed to get the point.

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Brown, again, evidently cannot be trusted to correctly and fairly represent what my book argues.

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This is gross incompetence on Brown’s part.

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That’s either a shocking error of reading comprehension on his part, or outright fabricating a narrative, either way, it’s not a competent way to review a book.

[…]

So he is being dishonest with his readers…

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I don’t know if he’s deliberately trying to deceive his readers or if he is just a lousy reader and a terrible reviewer who can’t ever represent what he is reading correctly or fairly.

 

April 29, 2012: Richard Carrier responds to Bart Ehrman’s response to Carrier’s review of Did Jesus Exist? (part 2)

 

…a fallacious kind of inference that typifies Ehrman’s continual shortcomings in logic.

[…]

Ehrman would prefer to ignore it. Possibly he would even prefer you not to know of it.

[…]

This would at least be honest. Instead he made it look like mythicists have no support…

[…]

Is Ehrman now lying about what he actually thought when writing the above?

[…]

Ehrman simply lies about this–or, again, is such a godawful writer he accidentally said the exact opposite of what he meant to say…

 

June 28, 2013: Richard Carrier responds to Stephanie Louise Fisher’s review of Proving History

 

…I’m finally getting to an embarrassingly childish review of Proving History by Stephanie Louise Fisher (a doctoral student in biblical studies). 

[…]

…she betrays her incompetence in logic and mathematics and reading comprehension throughout, and yet is claiming I’m the one who is incompetent. Her review is also close to libelous and on at least two occasions overtly dishonest.

[…]

Dishonesty, illogicality, a complete failure to engage with any substantive point in my book…and I had to sit through 8,000 words of that crap.

 

March 3, 2014: Richard Carrier responds to Maurice Casey’s book in defense of the historicity of Jesus.

 

The best way to describe this book is to imagine a rambling weirdo running into a grove of orange trees with a hammer and in a random frenzy smacking half the low hanging fruit, and then beating his chest and declaring proudly how the trees are now barren. Indeed. This book consists of a wandering, disorganized stream-of-consciousness of half-intelligible pontificating…

[…]

There is also an extraordinary amount of dishonesty and misrepresentation (although I suspect in many cases this is actually a cognitive defect: Casey literally doesn’t understand what his opponents are saying quite a lot of the time…

[…]

This is either insane or dishonest. It’s hard to tell which.

[…]

I find Casey’s treatment of the dating of the documents not only contrary to the actual practice of historians, but at one key point outright dishonest. … I do not know how anyone who considers themselves a professional can be so dishonest and sleazy, and so irresponsibly mis-educate the public.

 

August 3, 2015: Richard Carrier responds to Tim Hendrix review of Proving History

 

…the bulk of his analysis is critical, though only of a few select points. All of which he bizarrely misunderstood.

[…]

I found little on point in what Hendrix attempts to say about this. He goes weird right away by saying that the demarcation of physical and epistemic probabilities is circular because they both contain the word probability. 

[…]

 he seems to have confused himself into thinking Chapter 6 says something different. Which I suppose goes in the evidence box for it being badly written. Although then the evidence that he is not entirely facile with the English language might come to be relevant.

[…]

…Hendrix’s complaint here is baffling to me.

[…]

It gets worse when Hendrix even more bafflingly fails to get the entire point of those two closing sections.

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This is just a really strange thing to say

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it doesn’t seem at any point that he understands this.

[…]

At no point does Hendrix appear to understand this. At all. And none of his attempts to deny it make any mathematical sense. In fact, Hendrix doesn’t even seem to grasp at any point what it is he is denying. This I can only count as an epic fail in the domain of semantics.

[…]

Nor will I bother with his silly attempt to insist we need to account for infinities and irrational fractions in probability theory. … And his discussion of my libraries example is too unintelligible to even understand.

[…]

So in all, Hendrix doesn’t have any relevant criticisms of Proving History. By not understanding the points he aims to rebut, his rebuttals either don’t respond to anything the book actually argues, or end up verifying as correct what the book actually argues.

 

 

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  • Johannes Richter

    Is it possible to draw a line between how Carrier interprets his critics and how he interprets history? He doesn’t grant many charitable interpretations, and consistently ventures beyond normal scepticism into the realm of conspiracy – i.e. “idiots” and “liars” all the way from 30 AD till the present. I just wonder, can someone act so unprofessionally and still remain professional?

    • Gakusei Don

      Dr Carrier reminds me of that saying about over-confident people: “often wrong, never in doubt”. For a fun drinking game when reading his OHJ, take a shot every time he writes: “this is EXACTLY what we would expect under minimal mythicism.” Or if reading his blog, take a shot whenever he criticizes someone for being “HYPER-specific” or some other type of “hyper”. Double-shots for when he uses “hyper-hyper specific”: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/667

      • N G

        On the surface, these arrogant pricks who wallow in their false certainty simply have a deep-seated motive to behave the way they do. They abhor the implications of other views so intensely that they dispense with common sense and accuse anyone who criticises what is ‘clearly’ impregnable logic of idiocy, incompetence, foolishness. But one might then ask – how can they be oblivious to what they do? It’s called denial.

    • Mark

      There does seem to be a /historical/ defect in this conspiratorialism. The picture of a conspiracy in e.g. the ‘euhemerization’ of the celestial christ presupposes an established and centralized ecclesiastical entity. We don’t really have this til the 4th c, and don’t even have traces of it until deep in the 2nd c. after the first big heresy squabbles. Maybe he could try to put euhemerization and thus Mark or proto-Marks after that. Carrier reasons with an apriori like “they’re christians so there’s /always/ the possibility of organized priestcraft” Finding a menacing erasure of history in e.g. Eusebius, for example, or in the defacing of the TF etc., doesn’t seem crazy, but it requires a historical development, a centralized institution, and is not something built into Jesus-messianism which starts out as a tiny gang of unruly enthusiasts squabbling continuously from Paul to Revelation to the John Gospel and letters and perhaps having just a couple thousand members even at the time of the Pliny letter.

  • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

    Richard Carrier is deliberately offensive. He hurts his cause by acting like a toddler when challenged or corrected. He “may” have arguments worth listening to, but thanks to his corrosive behavior towards those who differ with him, he turns away people who might have been sympathetic to his cause ( be it mythicism or atheism+).

    Carrier is on my short list of people who I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear (PZ Myers is another one).

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I hope it’s ok that this was hilarious.

  • Gakusei Don

    Dr Carrier’s behaviour towards critics is shocking. But it wasn’t always that way. I remember exchanging pleasant responses with him about 10 years ago. It’s after he moved to Freethought Blogs that he suddenly started getting particularly nasty.

    And the following is how Carrier wants his own work to be treated. In the Introduction for his book “Sense and Goodness Without God” (pp. 5-6), Carrier asks for “intellectual charity” from those reading the book:

    “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.”

  • Cecil Bagpuss

    As someone who lives by begging, Carrier really should have a greater appreciation of the importance of charity. That quality is singularly lacking in his response to his critics. In fact, this collection of quotes shows just why Carrier is not a man to be taken seriously. He simply makes himself look deranged.

    I wonder whether Carrier realises at some subconscious level that his theory is garbage. That might explain his behaviour.

  • Ian

    Carrier is fond of the argument that those who disagree with him don’t understand him. It is a seductive thought, one I’m partial too myself. But ultimately it is totally narcissistic: of course they don’t understand me, if they did, they would of course agree. It comes from the desire to set the terms of the discussion, if someone disagrees and doesn’t accept your framing of the discussion, then clearly they’re avoiding your point and are not discussing in good faith.

    It’s amazingly common in all kinds of discussions, and isn’t limited to those opposing the academic consensus.

    Being intellectually charitable is very difficult. I’ve never read anything demonstrating that quality in Carrier, unless as a rhetorical device on the way to what he considers a killer refutation. I think I’m better at it than him, but to be fair, not by much.

  • The Yeti

    Don’t criticize Carrier. His blog posts end all rational debate. Frpm a comment by Carrier on his blog.:

    “That is the function of my writing. It ends all rational debate. Thus all continuing debate becomes demonstrably irrational (note how many times I catch people making arguments in response to an article, that the article already rebutted, thus exposing that they didn’t read the article, and have no actual arguments against what it actually said).”
    (From Carrier’s final comment here: https://archive.is/VlHKE)

    I just don’t see how someone like him should even be taken seriously. Although you won’t find much of academic value there, his blog is a goldmine of unintentional comedy. The post where he was looking for a date with a former prostitute was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Reminds me of my Evangelical days: That is the function of my Bible. It ends all rational debate.

    • Outspider

      Wow. Words fail.

    • Ignorantia Nescia

      “That is the function of my writing. It ends all rational debate. Thus all continuing debate becomes demonstrably irrational…”

      This is one of those rare cases where you get closer to the truth if you isolate part of a quote and read it against the grain (without claiming that it is the original meaning of course). When you got past all the “idiot”s, “incompetent”s, “douchebag”s and “liar”s, one can only conclude Carrier has ended rational debate indeed and begun the slanging.

    • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

      He should be taken seriously for writing the first peer reviewed book on Jesus’s historicity. His temper tantrums aside, his scholarship stands by itself. I’m sure you wouldn’t want others to dismiss the whole work of a theist just because they’ve got a blemished record, or an annoying personality, right?

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

        Richard Carrier did not write the first peer-reviewed book on Jesus’ historicity. He wrote the first peer-reviewed case for mythicism. The difference is very significant.

        • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

          That’s what I meant.

      • arcseconds

        Unfortunately, the scholarship doesn’t appear to be worth taking very seriously either.

        He has been taking to task on his use of Bayes’s theorem (by mathematicians), his knowledge and interpretation of the Targum Jonathan, and his final unconstrained allegorical interpretation of Mark (by biblical scholars), just as examples.

        If you’re interested in looking into these matters, I can get you the appropriate links.

        • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

          Sure. I’ve probably read some of them. I still don’t think this is an argument against hist scholarship, even if granted. Bart Erhman has made numerous mistakes, does that mean all of this scholarship goes out the window? Have you read On the Historicity of Jesus?

          • arcseconds

            Sorry about the late reply.

            No, I haven’t read it, but I have read reviews and responses to that and some other things Carrier has argued for, and I can’t say I’m inclined to bother.

            Carrier’s schtick is the application of Bayesian reasoning to history, and particularly to the question of the existence of Jesus.

            Yet he doesn’t impress people with a strong background in the relevant mathematics.

            See for example Ian’s review material on his blog Irreducible Complexity.

            Or the rather more damning analysis Luke Barnes gives on his arguments about the fine tuning argument. Carrier is sloppy with his terminology and with his treatment, and even seems to have difficulty keeping the terminology straight.

            Carrier seems to think he has somehow ‘squared the circle’ and resolved the difference in frequentist vs. Bayesian interpretations of probability, e.g. Ian has:

            Carrier joins that latter debate too, in what he describes as a “cheeky” unification of Bayesian and Frequentist interpretations, but what reads as a misunderstanding of what the differences between Bayesian and Frequentist statistics are. Describing what this means is beyond my scope here, but I raise it because it is illustrative of a tone of arrogance and condescension that I consistently perceived throughout the book. To use the word “cheeky” to describe his “solution” of this important problem in mathematical philosophy, suggests he is aware of his hubris. Perhaps cheeky indicates that his preposterous claim was made in jest. But given the lack of mathematical care demonstrated in the rest of the book, to me it came off as indicative of a Dunning-Kruger effect around mathematics.

            And Barnes:

            n fact, in Proving History he makes these claims explicit. In the section “Bayesianism as Epistemic Frequentism” (Chapter 6), he outlines an approach to probabilities, according to which “all Bayesians are in fact frequentists“. When Bayesians claim that probabilities are not frequencies “they are simply wrong … They just sometimes don’t realize what their probabilities are frequencies of. … Always at root you will find some sort of physical frequency that you were measuring or estimating all along”.

            What is this frequency that all Bayesians everywhere have been ignoring all this time? According to Carrier, degrees of belief are really the ratio of the number of “beliefs that are true” to the number of “all beliefs backed by a certain comparable quantity and quality of evidence”. For example, “When a Bayesian says that the prior probability that a royal flush is fair is 95% … they are really saying that 95% of all royal flushes drawn (on relevantly similar occasions) are fair. Which is a physical frequency. Thus, epistemic probabilities always derive from physical probabilities.”

            So until the advent of Richard Carrier, Ph.d., Bayesians were hopelessly confused about what they were talking about.

            This ratio of beliefs that are true to all beliefs backed by a certain comparable quantity and quality of evidence is a complete nonsense.

            Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is crank talk. It’s your eccentric great-uncle who read a couple of books on physics and now is certain he’s sorted out all those things Einstein was confused about.

            It also appears that Carrier’s citations of the relevant literature is scant.

            This doesn’t sound great for the keystone of his programme.

            On the other hand, perhaps it doesn’t matter? After all, from the extracts I’ve read, what he’s actually doing is a lot of informal reasoning of a pretty hand-wavey thought, summoning some numbers that strike him as representing the certainty he has about his hand-wave, and then using those numbers in Bayes’s theorem, so the work is really being done informally, not formally.

            So if he were a brilliant interpreter of ancient texts, perhaps the fact his Bayesian treatment itself doesn’t seem all that wouldn’t matter.

            Unfortunately, he’s not. here is Thom Stark on Carrier’s treatments of texts ‘proving’ 1st century Judaism had an expectation of a dying messiah. Note in particular the business in the section entitled ‘Daniel 9 and the Melchizedek Scroll’ where he insists that the leading experts agree with him that there’s only one annointed one in Daniel 9, whereas in fact the weight of scholarly opinion thinks there are two.

            And he surreptitiously changes the wording of the Rank-Raglan criteria and assesses him in a way that results in Jesus getting a much higher score than he really deserves: a mighty 20/22, whereas Rönnblom assess 8.5 (And McGrath gives him 9). (Of course, one could ask why on earth he’s using stuff from Freudian folklorists in the first half of the 20th century in his argument in the first place…)

            And where he gets to with all of this is an interpretation of the Gospel of Mark consisting of unconstrained allegorization. The fact that allegorical interpretation seems uninhibited by the actual word of the text has been identified as a problem since ancient times.

            So, his understanding of Bayesian epistemology is sophomoric at best and crankish at worst, he’s not well-versed in the relevant literature, he’s very insistent on his own reading of texts and claims it’s the majority reading even when it’s not, he dusts off a checklist from yesteryear and uses it for a purpose for which it was not intended, and even then he adjusts them so the shoe fits the foot, and this all takes him to a position one associates with the more extravagant religious interpreters, not a careful Bayesian reasoner.

            At this point I’m wondering what there is left. His critics do acknowledge he makes the occasional point that’s worth thinking about, but is it worth reading through all of this guff and fact-checking him at every corner for that?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So you obviously didn’t read the book, and instead are just going by criticism of it. The first two sources you link to aren’t even about OTHJ, but on one of his previous books, Proving History. His use of Bayes Theorem got better with time. Carrier’s also responded to some of Barnes’s critiques.

            Carrier’s book is well cited on the historical literature.

            After all, from the extracts I’ve read, what he’s actually doing is a lot of informal reasoning of a pretty hand-wavey thought, summoning some numbers that strike him as representing the certainty he has about his hand-wave, and then using those numbers in Bayes’s theorem, so the work is really being done informally, not formally.

            I think you’re focused a little too much on the math, and not at all focused on his arguments. That’s where I think he really shines. I didn’t know for example, until I read Carrier’s book, about the
            plethora of missing extrabiblical evidence, so much of which that coincidence seems too improbable to me. It’s his many arguments like that, and the dozens if not hundreds of finer points he makes throughout the book about paucity of evidence for Jesus’s historicity and inconsistencies with the evidence we have that move me the most. Not the bare mathematical calculations.

            he dusts off a checklist from yesteryear and uses it for a purpose for which it was not intended, and even then he adjusts them so the shoe fits the foot,

            A checklist of common attributes of mythical heroes is exactly relevant for an argument that Jesus was a mythical hero. So he’s right on point using the criteria. Carrier does seem to tweak it a bit to get Jesus a higher rating but even on the original Jesus still scores a high rank.

            At this point I’m wondering what there is left. His critics do acknowledge he makes the occasional point that’s worth thinking about, but is it worth reading through all of this guff and fact-checking him at every corner for that?

            You should read the book, or at the very least, watch his numerous debates and lectures if you haven’t already. What strikes me is how bad the evidence is for Jesus’s historicity. Growing up I really thought it was much better. There is no extrabiblical evidence. None. Tacitus and Josephus wrote many decades later, and even if they’re not interpolations, all they’re doing is writing about what others believed. And when you look at the NT in chronological order, you get a person who is initially never spoken about as a physical being, with little details, who then becomes a person in history, and the latest books have the most detail. This is exactly how legends grow and how a mythical spiritual being can become historicized.

            It’s enough for me to question the historicity and at least be agnostic on whether Jesus really existed.

          • arcseconds

            So you obviously didn’t read the book,

            As I openly admit. This sounds a bit like it’s a discovery of yours.

            and instead are just going by criticism of it.

            Criticism not just of the book, but Carrier’s general approach to scholarship.

            These criticisms are made by people who know more about these topics than I do. They find Carrier to be prone to bizarre conclusions supported by unconvincing arguments. And I agree with them: the arguments do seem to be rather poor. As another example, take his argument about the dating of the life of Jesus to the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, reproduced here.

            Carrier takes this very seriously, and proposes that date discrepancies are evidence of mythicism.

            He admits he has no evidence that this is the case, he just repeats the word ‘surely‘ a lot. It doesn’t seem obvious to me at all that being unsure of a date of something means it was a mythical event; there are plenty of cases where we’ve known or suspected something was historical but have had huge ranges of estimates.

            Butt this is a late source which we have no reason to suppose is actually reporting on a genuine tradition, see the discussion here.

            (I don’t particularly like Petterson’s review, by the way.)

            If you can find someone with relevant expertise who gives a positive review, I’d be most willing to read it.

            I think you’re focused a little too much on the math, and not at all focused on his arguments.

            I devote approximately equal words to both, discounting quotations. So it’s hardly true I’m ‘not at all’ focused on his arguments.

            Carrier seems to think the mathematics is really important to his arguments, why else would he devote an entire book explaining his approach? So to address the mathematics is to address his arguments as he sees it.

            Anyway, his approach here is the same as his approach to his interpretation of ancient texts: go off in an eccentric direction, think he’s made startling new insights, gives poor arguments, and takes no-one with him.

            plethora of missing extrabiblical evidence

            This is absolute conspiracy theory thinking. There would be damning evidence that he didn’t exist, only Christians have concealed it?

            What are we to make of this:

            In the 3rd century, Marius Maximus, notorious for extensive quotations of official documents, wrote biographies of the emperors of the second century. The second century saw several imperial engagements with Christianity, yet he never once mentions or digresses on the origins or treatment of Christianity.

            This sounds like we have the biographies of Marius Maximus. But we don’t! So we don’t know that he never once mentions this.

            So this paragraph is a total misrepresentation.

            Also, he appears to have had a taste for amusing and sensational anecdotes, so I’m far from convinced he’s a source we would expect to give a discourse on Christianity and its origins.

            I picked that one at random, and it turns out it’s completely bogus. I’m not going to waste my time looking through all the others.

            A checklist of common attributes of mythical heroes is exactly relevant for an argument that Jesus was a mythical hero.

            A mythic hero as a literary trope, maybe, but it’s hardly evidence he wasn’t historical. It’s clear people can add more mythic material to a historical core to achieve whatever level of mythical attributes one likes, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a historical original figure. Abraham Lincoln hasn’t become less historical because he’s been recently depicted fighting vampires!

            And, in fact, we’re usually not in a position to tell whether any given mythic hero was based on a real person or not.

            8 or 9 is not particularly high. And in the earliest strata (Paul and Mark) Jesus would get more like 4, as the infancy narratives aren’t there.

            And there are plenty of historical figures that get higher scores. Rönnblom scores Alexander with 13, Sienkewicz has (in an unrelated treatment) Czar Nicholas II on 14, and Mithradates IV of Pontus on a whopping 22.

            I just cannot see why anyone takes this seriously. It’s obviously possible for historical figures to get high scores, and for any figure to gain a higher score over time as the myth develops (which is what happens with Jesus). This doesn’t robustly track non-historicity at all.

            There is no extrabiblical evidence.

            There are at least three known more-or-less independent early sources: Paul, Mark and ‘Q’. The fact that they were bound up into one collection a couple of centuries later shouldn’t blind us to this fact. Putting different documents between two covers doesn’t give them a common origin.

            I think a lot of this ‘we don’t have any evidence’ stuff comes from a modern expectation about the sorts of evidence we have about modern figures (by which I mean ‘since the printing press’). The fact is we have pretty sketchy documentation on the ancient period. There are hardly any first-hand accounts of anything in first-century Palestine. Pilate has about the same level of documentation as Jesus does, and by the same sources: the Gospels, and brief mentions by Tacitus and Josephus, who of course aren’t writing first hand but are ‘writing about what others believed’.

            And it’s not true that Jesus is never spoken about as a physical being in the earliest sources. Paul says he was ‘born of a woman’ and “descended from David according to the flesh” that sounds pretty physical to me. Also, he says he met his brother. He certainly seems to think Jesus was a physical person. Yes, of course, we can say “how do we know these words mean what they mean under virtually every other circumstances under which they are uttered?” but the fact we have to say that shows what we are doing: trying to promote a strained interpretation in order to amplify doubt, where none belongs.

            You should read the book, or at the very least, watch his numerous debates and lectures if you haven’t already

            Why? Nothing I have seen about the guy so far suggests it’s worth my time. All of the arguments of his I’ve seen so far have been pretty bad. Yes, there’s a selection bias there, but his supporters don’t seem to be able to bring up anything to alter this opinion, and these don’t seem to be sidelines or footnotes, they are his main arguments.

            Also, I would have to fact-check everything he says rigorously, as he’s obviously capable of misrepresenting scholarly opinion and giving highly slanted analyses. What would the payoff be for this amount of work?

            I suppose I’d end up knowing a lot more about early Christian history and first century judaism, but I could do this faster by not bothering with a source I know to be misleading.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            They find Carrier to be prone to bizarre conclusions supported by unconvincing arguments. And I agree with them: the arguments do seem to be rather poor. As another example, take his argument about the dating of the life of Jesus to the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, reproduced here.

            Carrier takes this very seriously, and proposes that date discrepancies are evidence of mythicism.

            He admits he has no evidence that this is the case, he just repeats the word ‘surely’ a lot. It doesn’t seem obvious to me at all that being unsure of a date of something means it was a mythical event; there are plenty of cases where we’ve known or suspected something was historical but have had huge ranges of estimates.

            That’s just a gross dismissal. Carrier is simply reporting on what an early sect of Christians may have believed, and that would fit into non-historicity because if there was no historical Jesus he could be placed in history where ever each sect desired. If he wasn’t historical, and was then placed in history by different split sects, then we’d expect them to be placed in different historical contexts. That makes perfect sense to me. It makes less sense if there was an actual historical Jesus.

            Butt this is a late source which we have no reason to suppose is actually reporting on a genuine tradition, see the discussion here.

            Why not? It’s just a late report of a sect of Christians that had different views. We should be skeptical; Carrier cites the sources in his book coming right from the Talmud in Sanhedrin 107b 43a. (There’s more).

            Carrier seems to think the mathematics is really important to his arguments, why else would he devote an entire book explaining his approach? So to address the mathematics is to address his arguments as he sees it.

            Proving History was a prelude to OHJ.

            Anyway, his approach here is the same as his approach to his interpretation of ancient texts: go off in an eccentric direction, think he’s made startling new insights, gives poor arguments, and takes no-one with him.

            All of them? All the time?

            This is absolute conspiracy theory thinking. There would be damning evidence that he didn’t exist, only Christians have concealed it?

            We know for a fact that early Christian leaders/churches tried to forge documents to support a theological view and modify existing ones for the same purpose. So a conspiracy is not out of line. The sheer number of coincidences (when we have the prior probability of knowing Christians were motivated to make stuff up and alter things for an agenda) is just too high to ignore at least the likely possibility that these were deliberately omitted.

            This sounds like we have the biographies of Marius Maximus. But we don’t! So we don’t know that he never once mentions this.

            So this paragraph is a total misrepresentation.

            Also, he appears to have had a taste for amusing and sensational anecdotes, so I’m far from convinced he’s a source we would expect to give a discourse on Christianity and its origins.

            We have people who based their writings on his writings and that’s how we know about them, still nothing about the origins or treatment of Christianity. Someone who extensively quotes official documents would most likely mention Christianity if it was a factor.

            Abraham Lincoln hasn’t become less historical because he’s been recently depicted fighting vampires!

            Agreed, but this is not an argument made alone, it is an argument made in the context of the larger argument for mythicism. By itself it’s not a strong case, but added to a cumulative case for mythicism and it increases its probability.

            as the infancy narratives aren’t there.

            Which is all the more reason to think the infancy narratives were a later invention a la the mythic hero criteria, knowingly or not.

            And there are plenty of historical figures that get higher scores. Rönnblom scores Alexander with 13, Sienkewicz has (in an unrelated treatment) Czar Nicholas II on 14, and Mithradates IV of Pontus on a whopping 22.

            But those other figures aren’t surrounded by the other arguments for mythicism as Jesus is. That’s why this has to be looked at in the context of the over all case, not as a stand alone argument.

            This doesn’t robustly track non-historicity at all.

            That’s far from the strongest argument, Remember, carriers book is over 600 pages long. It’s just one piece in a body of arguments.

            There are at least three known more-or-less independent early sources: Paul, Mark and ‘Q’.

            Q is a hypothetical document. It’s existence isn’t known. So we’re down to 2. And Mark is influenced by Paul. So they’re not independent. There were plenty of literal people at that time and place who could have wrote plenty on this supposed eccentric (especially if you grant he did miraculous things) and we could certainly have contemporary criticism of Jesus just like we do for Socrates.

            There are hardly any first-hand accounts of anything in first-century Palestine.

            Yet we have first hand accounts of Socrates.

            Pilate has about the same level of documentation as Jesus does, and by the same sources: the Gospels, and brief mentions by Tacitus and Josephus, who of course aren’t writing first hand but are ‘writing about what others believed’.

            We have the Pilate Stone, which is dated to around 26-36 AD.

            Paul says he was ‘born of a woman’ and “descended from David according to the flesh” that sounds pretty physical to me.

            Paul uses genomenos (from ginomai), “to happen, become, be made.”Paul never uses that word of a human birth, despite using it hundreds of times (typically to mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’). His preferred word for being born is gennaô (Rom. 9:11 and Gal. 4:23, 29, yet notably not 4:4). In 1 Corinthians 15.45: Paul says Adam “was made” (same word). Not a reference to being born but to being constructed directly by god. Born (= Made) of the Sperm of David: Means divine manufacture, not descent. He doesn’t mention people seeing a physical Jesus, just through visions.

            Also, he says he met his brother.

            Brother of the Lord was a term used for any fellow Christian, not necessarily a literal brother. So this is ambiguous.

            Yes, there’s a selection bias there, but his supporters don’t seem to be able to bring up anything to alter this opinion, and these don’t seem to be sidelines or footnotes, they are his main arguments.

            Can you name one of his oral debates where you think his opponent did particularly well in?

            Also, I would have to fact-check everything he says rigorously, as he’s obviously capable of misrepresenting scholarly opinion and giving highly slanted analyses.

            The same could be said about many if not most Christians who write on the subject. Every argument for Jesus’s divinity, historicity, or for Christianity in general always has some kind of faulty logic or misreading of the evidence – that I’ve ever seen.

            I suppose I’d end up knowing a lot more about early Christian history and first century judaism, but I could do this faster by not bothering with a source I know to be misleading.

            Like what? I don’t think there is any source like that. Can you name the best book that makes the case for historicity? Especially one that’s peer reviewed?


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

            It would help if you would show that you have informed yourself about the topic not only from mainstream scholarly sources, but more importantly, from the relevant primary sources. On just one of the many points you make, let me direct you to earlier discussion of your claim about James the brother of the Lord:

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

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

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I think that is the single best piece of evidence for historicity, and that’s why I’m still an agnostic on the issue.

          • arcseconds

            Now’s about as good a time as any to inform you that old posts aren’t displaying comments once again.

            If I use a browser that doesn’t bother doing anything about javascript, it does display comments on some old posts, which disqus cheerfully reports 0 comments on in a swanky browser.

            The latest page I can find that demonstrates this problem is:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/07/a-better-fight.html

            the earliest page I can find that works properly is:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/07/define-dialect.html

            (so, there you go, a terminus ante quem and a terminus post quem!)

            but there’s a period in between which show no comments in either browser which I’m suspicious of. For example I’m pretty sure I recall there being comments in:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/07/how-fundamentalists-promote-atheism.html

            (There’s none in the source HTML either…)

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

            Thanks for drawing this to my attention – that is frustrating, since so much important and valuable discussion has taken place here! I am not sure if there is anything that I can do to rectify this, but I will try…

          • arcseconds

            Wasn’t there some time in the recent past where some older comments weren’t working and then they were?

            I know you’ve got this problem with old comments from back when you were on a different platform. That’s kind of understandable. Changing the name of your blog might also be something that would upset things, and my vague recollection was that it did, but it was fixed.

            What is odd here is that 2014 is years prior to your blog name change, and well after your transfer from the older platform, and disqus was (I’m almost certain) well in use then.

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

            Yes, any major transition seems to result in some comments becoming invisible – even the ones from back in the blog’s blogger days can sometimes be seen briefly as the page loads, but then something goes haywire.

          • arcseconds

            On γίνομαι/γενόμενον, as far as I can see no-one but mythicists see any significance to this. The word does not mean ‘made’, and it is apparently a perfectly ordinary koine idiom for being born.

            See for example R. Joseph Hoffman on this:

            https://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/on-not-explaining-born-of-a-woman/

            R. Joseph Hoffman is a prominent atheist, so cannot be accused of trying to push a Christian party line here, but you seem inclined towards conspiracy theories, so maybe you think he’s somehow in cahoots with Christians or they are blackmailing or mesmerizing him or something.

            So try looking up ‘born’ here:

            http://www.freelang.net/online/koine_greek.php

            and you’ll see that γίνομαι comes up as one of the three results.

            You can also find ‘to be born’ as definition ‘e’ here, and some examples of use:

            http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0072%3Aentry%3Dgi%2Fnomai

            (That’s a Lexicon to Pindar, so not koine)

            I really don’t think anything can really rest on a writer’s decision to use one usual expression for ‘to be born’ rather than another.

            I mean, if I said “came into this world” of someone once, rather than ‘was born’, would that justify anyone in thinking I meant something different on that occasion?

            Thinking that there’s significance here that points to a strange and obscure situation in the lower heavens, reminds me of the excesses of interpreters who feel that Scripture, with its Divine Author, must be replete with meaning, so every word and every letter in each word must be there for some deep purpose. So for example Rabbinical scholars felt that the Hebrew bible beginning with beit (rather than aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) must have some deep significance. Seeing atheists have this level of concern about wording of scripture and seeing such esoterica in it is very weird.

            But even we think there is something to be explained here, there are other, far more plausible explanations. Perhaps this is just a common phrase used of Jesus, a bit like we might say ‘begotten’ (following the Nicene creed) when normally we wouldn’t use that word ever.

            But as far as I can tell, on a brief google scholar search, no-one thinks this is significant at all. If it was at all unusual, at all required an explanation, for Paul to use this expression rather than another, then you’d expect something to have been written about it. Biblical scholars (and greek scholars, for that matter) love picking up on tiny little nuances of the greek and publishing articles on what this tells us. So are there any? If not, why not? It seems very strange that this has escaped the notice of generations of greek scholars, but has only just now been noticed by a handful of amateurs.

            And can you not see that even on the assumption that there is some significance to this, that the explanation that what is being intended is Jesus being manufactured in a heavenly realm but nevertheless out of earthly sperm is extremely far fetched?

            And finally, Hoffman points out that actually it’s not the only time Paul uses this expression for birth. He also uses it in Galatians 4:29. The context here is Isaac and Ishmael. Does this mean they were also manufactured in a heavenly realm?

            I would hope it would be obvious to any thinking person that the only reason this interpretation has ever been proposed is to shore up the notion that Paul only thinks of Jesus as a celestial being. There are phrases where on the face of it he does not think this at all (so prima facie this thesis is just untrue) so to save the hypothesis another hypothesis is needed: on these occasions he means something different than the obvious reading. This is both an ad hoc adjustment to prevent the theory from being judged false immediately, and a step along the road to unconstrained esoteric interpretation where words can mean anything the interpreter wants them to mean.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            On γίνομαι/γενόμενον, as far as I can see no-one but mythicists see any significance to this. The word does not mean ‘made’, and it is apparently a perfectly ordinary koine idiom for being born.

            γίνομαι • ‎(gínomai) ‎(simple past έγινα, deponent)

            1. (most senses) become
            become, turn into

            2. become, be created, come into being, come into existence

            Πότε ακριβώς έγινε ο κόσμος;‎ ― Póte akrivós égine o kósmos? ― When exactly was the world created?

            You cannot say that it doesn’t or cannot mean made or created. But look at how ridiculous this is. We’re arguing over a dead language from 2000 years ago. On the assumption Christianity is true why would a god rely on such paltry means of communication?

            But even we think there is something to be explained here, there are other, far more plausible explanations. Perhaps this is just a common phrase used of Jesus, a bit like we might say ‘begotten’ (following the Nicene creed) when normally we wouldn’t use that word ever.

            It’s kind of strange how Paul doesn’t use the same term when referring to birth and using that term to refer to becoming or being made. It fits the mythicist thesis more than the historicist thesis.

            Paul to use this expression rather than another, then you’d expect something to have been written about it.

            Not if the field is filled with believers (or non-believers) who always assumed Paul thought of Jesus as earthly. It becomes more significant in light of minimal mythicism.

            He also uses it in Galatians 4:29. The context here is Isaac and Ishmael. Does this mean they were also manufactured in a heavenly realm?

            As far as I know, he does not use that word in Gal 4:29 as I mentioned. He uses γεννηθεὶς (gennētheis), instead of γεννάω (gennaô), which he normally uses for human birth.

            on these occasions he means something different than the obvious reading.

            The “obvious” reading is taken under all the later Christian views that Paul’s Jesus was earthly; it assumes an earthly Jesus. Without that assumption, the obvious version becomes less “obvious.”

            This is both an ad hoc adjustment to prevent the theory from being judged false immediately, and a step along the road to unconstrained esoteric interpretation where words can mean anything the interpreter wants them to mean.

            All it does is not assume the standard Christian dogma that Jesus was always thought of as an earthly person. And on that view there are several ad hoc – or perhaps, implausible adjustments that one has to make that can be overlooked on the standard dogma.

          • arcseconds

            You cannot say that it doesn’t or cannot mean made or created. But look at how ridiculous this is. We’re arguing over a dead language from 2000 years ago. On the assumption Christianity is true why would a god rely on such paltry means of communication?

            Why did you say this? To me, it’s a complete non-sequitor. We were discussing the historical origins and meaning of some ancient texts, so nothing could be more natural than discussing the meaning of an expression that strikes one of us as odd. (The scholarly literature is filled with such things — have a look at the debate about what νους means from Homer to Aristotle sometime.) But suddenly you blurt out that it’s completely ridiculous because God wouldn’t do this.

            Can you help me understand this? This doesn’t seem to be merely a matter of what the most likely explanation is for the texts we see before us, but a question of considerable theological significance for you (I’m not sure what else to call this dimension of what God would or wouldn’t do that you see in the matter).

            And you’re not the only one that seems to have this kind of concern smouldering away in the background. Mythicists frequently seem to have this in the backs of their minds, and sooner or later it comes out in conversation.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            “On the assumption Christianity is true….” makes my statement make sense. On atheism, this is all man-made literature, like the writings of Aristotle to Homer, etc. Of course we’d expect things to get confused and possibly lost in translation due to language evolution and translation. On Christian theism, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t expect god to be such a poor communicator given his omnipotence and desire for us to ‘know’ him. God would know people would think his message was false, or silly, based on mistranslations, and that opens you up to the possibility it’s intentional, which opens up more problems. But of course, you can always push the angle that “God has morally sufficient reasons for doing it this way.” That’s nothing but a one-size-fits-all lame excuse.

            Does that satisfy your question?

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

            This comment seems bizarre to me. On the one hand, it misunderstands this discussion about the historical figure of Jesus to have something to do with Christian theism. On the other hand, it seems to think that historians are not treating these texts as human-made literature and aware that sources’ information and reliability needs to be evaluated.

            The comment does, however, helpfully illustrate the context in which it is possible for mythicism to seem plausible: one that confuses secular historical inquiry with theology, and one that is ignorant of the extensive historical research into the actual topic, which is the historical figure of Jesus.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Why is it bizarre to note that such debates over the meaning of ancient terms is ridiculous “On the assumption Christianity is true….”? Of course it’s not on a secular view: we’d expect all of this. Some Christian historians are treating this as human made literature that is directly inspired by the creator of the universe that is a message for all of humanity. On that view, my comment becomes relevant. Mythicism is plausible in light of extensive historical research into the topic, historicism is more plausible on ignorance of the actual topic: the possibly historical figure of Jesus.

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

            You can only make those last assertions if you haven’t read the extensive historical work on this matter using the standard tools of historical study, as undertaken by scholars in a wide array of related fields.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So in your opinion, what’s the best case made for the historical Jesus?

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

            As with any matter of history or science, the best case for the historicity of Jesus is the sum of the detailed studies on each minute aspect of the relevant evidence. Did you mean, which book or article best summarizes that scholarly literature?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yeah I meant like what’s the best book that makes the case, or what person makes the best argument.

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

            I think you are still not getting the point. If you ask “what is the best case for evolution,” the truth is that it is not made by any one piece of evidence, but by the way all the evidence fits together (which of course doesn’t mean that denialists cannot weave a counternarrative nonetheless). Tiktaalik, comparison of human and other primate chromosomes, and other details all come into it together. And so too does the historicity of Jesus and work on the relationship between early Christian beliefs and Jewish messianism, crucifixion, sayings attributed to Jesus about which early Christians had to engage in damage control, and much else. And so perhaps you ought to start with a treatment of one of those details, such as the crucifixion? Because there is no distinction one can legitimately make between “macrohistoricity” and “microhistoricity.” If the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is likely, and/or if it is likely that Paul met his brother, then it is likely that he was a historical figure, even if you are not confident that one can rely on any other information provided about him.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Agreed. But I can still point to a book and say “This book really makes a good case for evolution that incorporates and weaves together all the aforementioned evidence.” For example, “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne could be a candidate. I’m not sure we have that for Jesus’s historicity.

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

            Of course we do. Even setting aside much older ones like that by Shirley Jackson Case and even Michael Grant’s, and one like Ehrman’s that is aimed at a very general audience, there are books like Maurice Casey’s which are the equivalent of Coyne’s in relation to this field.

          • Paul E.

            Mythicism argues against so many consensus positions on so many details, I wonder if it even matters if there is any such book or article. What good would it do? It seems to me it would just add fuel to the fire, a la Ehrman’s book. Introductions to the study of the historical Jesus explaining basic methods, sources, etc., are of course useful, but a popular rendition of “the case” seems pretty worthless to me.

          • Paul E.

            This seems to be a consistent theme in these discussions, i.e. that sooner or later it is shown that someone defending mythicism thinks he or she is arguing against a religious position rather than a historical one. This seems to be a pretty clear indication of an agenda-based position.

          • arcseconds

            Not really. I understand the point, I just don’t understand why you brought it up all of a sudden, or why it makes you feel that the conversation is ridiculous.

            I mean, you say this just now:

            Of course we’d expect things to get confused and possibly lost in translation due to language evolution and translation.

            On the basis of this statement, it would seem that a discussion about the meaning of the term in an ancient language is something you’d expect, and think is reasonable, but:

            But look at how ridiculous this is. We’re arguing over a dead language from 2000 years ago. On the assumption Christianity is true why would a god rely on such paltry means of communication?

            In fact, you think discussions about dead languages in this context is ridiculous, because of what you think God would do.

            So it seems you’re not treating this as a discussion about man-made literature at all.

            Instead you’re treating it as a topic imbued with theological significance, and this theological significance means it’s ridiculous to talk about dead languages. Or at least, that’s as far as I can get with what you’ve written.

            And this comment of yours furthers the theological angle.

            This does kind of seem like it’s in roughly the same ballpark as a theologically conservative protestant, who sometimes also get frustrated with a detailed discussion of the Greek on the basis of what they think God would do (the Bible is sufficient for salvation for ordinary readers, so God would not write in anything that depended on some nuance of an ancient language).

            It is difficult to have an ordinary discussion about an event in history when someone thinks they’re actually involved in a theological controversy.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So it seems you’re not treating this as a discussion about man-made literature at all.

            I am. That comment was really just an aside. But look how it got you all so riled up.

            Instead you’re treating it as a topic imbued with theological significance, and this theological significance means it’s ridiculous to talk about dead languages. Or at least, that’s as far as I can get with what you’ve written.

            No, on atheism it’s perfectly fine to squabble over dead languages that some people think is more significant than it is. On Christian theism it makes no sense. That was my only point.

          • arcseconds

            I’m not riled, I’m confused.

            We were having a discussion about the meaning of the greek term, and suddenly you’re all “this is ridiculous talking about a dead language! God doesn’t exist!”

            Try to see this from my perspective — this all seemed rather strange to me. I mean, hopefully you can see from my little story about tech support that it is rather odd to be having a perfectly mundane conversation for a while and then suddenly your interlocutor tells you the entire conversation is ridiculous because God wouldn’t do this sort of thing.

            And you’re now saying it’s fine to discuss dead languages.

            But that’s not what you said before. You said it was ridiculous. You didn’t give any qualification to why it was ridiculous, it was just ridiculous simplicter. That suggests you find the conversation ridiculous. Now you’re saying it makes no sense to Christian theists. But you also say you’re not a Christian theist. So why did you write as though it was ridiculous to you, and why was it important to you at that time to make this particular point?

            You’re also saying it’s an aside. But it wasn’t written as an aside. This is how an aside would look:

            You cannot say that it doesn’t or cannot mean made or created.

            (By the way, it’s just occurred to me that this entire conversation is very ridiculous on the assumption of Christian theism. A God who wanted to communicate wouldn’t be using the medium of dead languages like this)

            It would still be irrelevant to the conversation, but at least you would have shown you understand it to be irrelevant, rather than casting the entire conversation as ridiculous.

            So this is looking like confabulation to me. You’re saying it’s an aside and only about Christian theists now, because you realise now how bizarre it is to say a conversation about a dead language is ridiculous and to start talking about God when we’re discussing an ancient document. But it didn’t strike you as a strange thing to say at the time, otherwise you wouldn’t have said it, or you would have phrased it differently (unless you’re deliberately trying to confuse and unsettle me?).

            And you still don’t have an explanation as to why you suddenly decided to start talking about God and how you found the conversation ridiculous, so my guess is that you don’t actually know yourself.

            You might want to consider whether your underlying outlook on this topic is one in which you’re confronting theism. That would certainly explain why you bought this up: I suggest the discussion is really about theism to you, not about the historical existence of some itinerant preacher, and you somehow see your part in the dialectic as confronting theists. Perhaps you even see insisting that Jesus existed as the first sortie in a conversation attempt, or maybe the last bulwark of theism . That makes the perspective of Christian theism relevant to the conversation you think you’re having, and give it the importance you acted as though it had. It is, of course, ridiculous to argue about the meaning of Greek words when what this is really all about is whether God exists or not!

            It’s important to bring one’s own pre-conceptions to light when undertaking hermeneutic work.

          • arcseconds

            Or maybe you bring up theology in every discussion?

            “Hello tech support – I can’t access the network. I’ve tried rebooting the computer and refreshing the connection. The diagnostics say it can’t access DNS. And it’s so ridiculous I’m even phoning you — if an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Being had created the universe It surely would have populated it with creatures that could create a reliable network infrastructure! We’re adrift and rudderless in a godless universe without meaning or purpose, at the mercy of random catastrophes and our own shambolic evolutionary heritage and… sorry, what was that? Oh, is it plugged in? Of course it’s plugged in! Oh, wait, no, it’s not… haha, what was I saying about shambolic evolutionary heritage? Thanks for that, sorry, didn’t think to check… yes, no, nothing else, ta, bye!”

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yeah I do. I even yell “God!” during sex, despite being an atheist.

          • Mark

            I read it back in the day. Face it, it’s f*ing terrible. Even elementary literacy starts failing one page in. Basically everything turns on the absurdly out of date Rank Raglan business. If he had begun with a list of ‘putative Jewish messiahs in recorded history or apparent history’ the rate of Historicity would be 100%; and no wacky miracle or attribute was attributed to Jesus that was not attributed to Sabbatai or Schneerson even including ‘divinity’. All these jokers really existed, same as Jesus did. The evidence from the authentic letters of Paul is particularly crucial – super-heated texts from a few years after the fact – but Carrier handles these in a few pages in accordance with new-agey nineteenth century protocols showing no evidence of comprehension of the possibilities of 2nd T judaism.

            The internets think this mythicist stuff is new but in fact mythicism had has had as large an academic following as any secular Jesus theory. Namely under the Soviet empire, following Lenin’s famous tender remarks on Drew, which basically had the effect of extending a late 19th c circle of ideas into the middle of the twentieth. This little academic empire collapsed after the war due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which, though they had nothing to do with Jesus, opened up the whole universe of Hebrew-Aramaic religious diversity and put the rabbinic idea of Judaism we presuppose 2 centuries after Jesus. In the world thus opened up, Jesus and Paul fit in just fine – though God knows there’s plenty to dispute about and we are still distracted in our attempts to comprehend by the weight of church tradition. Mythicism was in fact argued and defended and investigated explicitly ad inf. by /real/ Soviet scholars /hell bent on defending it/ (for political reasons) /over a period of decades/ and it is a dead, dead theory just exactly like Lysenkoism or ptolemaic astronomy or the theory of the four humors.

            Carrier has never studied Hebrew or Aramaic – let that sink in – and is thus shut out of actual cognition – the actual cognition that caused even soviet scholars who worked under conditions of real fear – to give up on this charade. He is basically an amateur like anyone else on the internet, despite his sound knowledge of greek and roman history. He has no capacity to grasp anything with a Jewish quality, no sensitivity, no understanding of anything from the 2nd temple period. He is so shameless in his indifference to this that the text begins to border on the anti-semitic.

            That Carrier knows exactly one of three relevant languages leads to the usual phenomenon of looking under the light post for the item you lost a block away. So sure enough Jesus turns out to be of a piece with Persephone/Inanna and suchlike divinities.

            But if anything is clear it is that Jesus and his ‘apostles’ were absolutely /nothing/ like that. Similarly Sabbatai and Schneerson were nothing like Persephone.

            It’s quite true that we know next to nothing about Jesus with any degree of certainty except I guess that he was a Galilean exorcist killed by the Roman state. But /we need that to explain the data that are before us/. And God knows we have ample material to begin theorizing the wild claims of Paul which are just another strand in the multifarious wild-zone of late 2nd T judaism.

            Carrier’s book was not peer reviewed in the sense people understand, since Carrier personally chose the reviewers, who basically amounted to backers, or patrons, or testimonial writers. I do not at all object to the method Sheffield Phoenix employed but it is misleading in the extreme to call it ‘peer review’ in a cultural context in which that has a definite meaning characteristic of natural scientific literature.

            Note that above you repeat the familiar meme about no ‘extra-biblical evidence’. This is the first sign that a writer has not devoted one iota of thought to the real topic of real historicity within the limits of real historical method aimed at real reality … but is engaged in tedious anti-Christian apologetic, which is a matter settled 300 years ago by the enlightenment. The cognition you will gain from Spinoza’s Tractatus outweighs Carrier about 1000000/1.

            That a 4th c church canonized a bunch of books has nothing to do with anything. The ‘bible’ concept is pure anachronism from the point of view of the Jesus historicity question. We have to do with several different books some jokers later canonized but which appeared much earlier. In particular we have Mark, which seems to be pretty early and independent of the rest, and above all the (authentic) letters of Paul which appeared within years of the crucifixion. THE QUESTION IS: WHAT CAUSED THOSE TEXTS TO COME TO BE? WHAT IS THE BEST EXPLANATION OF THEIR EXISTENCE? Who gives a f*ck that some jokers later ‘canonized’ these? If I make a religion out of the Gettysburg Address, or the Origin of Species how does that speak against the Gettysburg Address or Origin of Species? It isn’t even worth discussing it’s so f*cking irrational. It’s sick really. When you see the words “extrabiblical evidence” commit it to the flames, it’s just another fanatic with a sick religion problem. Let them grow up then later maybe they can pose a real historical question. .

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I read it back in the day.

            Back in the day? The book is 2 years old. From the rest of your comment it seems that you might be talking about another book.

            All these jokers really existed, same as Jesus did. The evidence from the authentic letters of Paul is particularly crucial – super-heated texts from a few years after the fact – but Carrier handles these in a few pages in accordance with new-agey nineteenth century protocols showing no evidence of comprehension of the possibilities of 2nd T judaism.

            Carrier dedicates a whole chapter the the Epistles, so I have no idea what you’re talking about. And the Epistles were written in the 50s AD.

            The internets think this mythicist stuff is new but in fact mythicism had has had as large an academic following as any secular Jesus theory.

            The modern mythicism that Carrier argues for is different from the arguments in the past century.

            He is basically an amateur like anyone else on the internet, despite his sound knowledge of greek and roman history. He has no capacity to grasp anything with a Jewish quality, no sensitivity, no understanding of anything from the 2nd temple period. He is so shameless in his indifference to this that the text begins to border on the anti-semitic.

            No he’s way beyond cranks on the internet. That you think he’s an equal to them makes me think you don’t know his work.

            It’s quite true that we know next to nothing about Jesus with any degree of certainty except I guess that he was a Galilean exorcist killed by the Roman state.

            We don’t even know that with certainty, especially since there are no Roman records of Jesus’s execution. All we have are the gospels, and they’re not reliable history.

            Carrier’s book was not peer reviewed in the sense people understand, since Carrier personally chose the reviewers, who basically amounted to backers, or patrons, or testimonial writers.

            Yes I’ve heard this. He wants the best minds in the field to critically examine the book as he’s said for years that he put his book out there and eagerly awaits all the critical reviews, of which there will of course be many, since most Christians need Jesus to be real.

            Note that above you repeat the familiar meme about no ‘extra-biblical evidence’. This is the first sign that a writer has not devoted one iota of thought to the real topic of real historicity within the limits of real historical method aimed at real reality … but is engaged in tedious anti-Christian

            Really? Then disprove my claim.Either you deny that there is extra-biblical evidence, or you take the view that all the evidence was compiled into the NT. But there are no third party, especially critical, contemporary evidence, and there’s no good reason for that. Having 1 or 2 independent lines of evidence for Jesus’s existence would be all it takes to establish his likely historicity.

            In particular we have Mark, which seems to be pretty early and independent of the rest

            It’s 40 years later. Hardly early. It would be like someone today writing about Watergate in the 70s.

            and above all the (authentic) letters of Paul which appeared within years of the crucifixion.

            But were actually written 20 years later.

            THE QUESTION IS: WHAT CAUSED THOSE TEXTS TO COME TO BE? WHAT IS THE BEST EXPLANATION OF THEIR EXISTENCE? Who gives a f*ck that some jokers later ‘canonized’ these? If I make a religion out of the Gettysburg Address, or the Origin of Species how does that speak against the Gettysburg Address or Origin of Species?

            Being canonized is not the issue. It’s perfectly plausible the NT books could have come to be without a real Jesus, as had happened about texts of other mythic figures.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            Yes, Paul was writing 20 years later but I wonder how far you want to take that. Would you reject a historical Jesus even if you knew for certain that that is what Paul believed in? I don’t think even Carrier would go that far.

            Regarding Jesus, there are three key facts that we need to consider:

            1) We have accounts of Jesus’ life that place him in a very specific historical setting.
            2) A Jesus movement began at the time when Jesus is said to have lived.
            3) It was believed at an early stage that Jesus was a historical figure.

            By far the best explanation of these facts taken together is that Jesus actually existed.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            If I knew for certain Paul believed in a physical Jesus that would change my views. But that’s a big part of the debate: did he or didn’t he?

            1) Written by people 40-80 years after he was supposed to have died who were not eyewitnesses and whose accounts have many contradictions.
            2) That doesn’t at all demonstrate he was historical.
            3) That’s the very thing in question, so you cannot just state it as true. The whole mythicist argument is that Jesus was not thought of as a historical figure early on and only later came to be.

            Remember, Jesus was supposed to be the only person around the ANE who was doing actual miracles, and all the other supposed miracle workers were charlatans. Yet there are no independent third party contemprary records of anything about the man, especially from Roman records, and especially of ones who are critical of him. If we had that, mythicism would have no wings to fly on. It would never exist.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            By “at an early stage” I mean soon after the Gospels were written. I am not assuming that Paul considered Jesus to be a historical figure. The point is that your theory requires a rapid and widespread misunderstanding.

            I think you are missing the main issue, which is that the mythical figures to whom Jesus is often compared do not resemble him with regard to three key facts. There is an assumption that some myth theory can explain the key facts but this is not justified by the comparisons that are made. Certainly, there is no celestial being turned historical figure who resembles Jesus in this way.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The point is that your theory requires a rapid and widespread misunderstanding.

            On what?

            I think you are missing the main issue, which is that the mythical figures to whom Jesus is often compared do not resemble him with regard to three key facts.

            They don’t have to. That’s like saying it’s impossible for me to have plagiarized a song if it isn’t exactly like the original. The argument is that they took elements of dying and rising gods and mixed it into a Jewish setting. So of course it isn’t going to be exact.

            And those aren’t facts! The last one certainly isn’t. (1) is insignificant because there were no eyewitnesses and the earliest writings with him in history are 40 years after.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            You have missed the point. There are two potential kinds of similarity between Jesus and these other mythical figures. The first relates to the way they are portrayed, being the son of god etc. The second relates to the way the myths may have originated and what sort of historical traces they may have. The issue is whether the first kind of similarities shed light on the second kind. My point is that we already know Jesus differs with regard to historical traces, so I don’t need to dispute similarities of the first kind, although I think they are often dubious.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Historical traces? I don’t understand what you mean.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            I’m talking about the way a myth, or “myth”, enters the historical record. For example, if there was a movement centred on the figure in question do we know when the movement started? It seems that we have a good idea how the Jesus “myth” entered the historical record, so we can ask whether the Hercules myth, for example, entered the historical record in the same way. Since there is no evidence that it did, we have no reason to think that the cases are analogous.

          • Mark

            There is no dying and rising God in Paul. He explicitly affirms that nothing happened in the resurrection that won’t happen to your grandmother in /the same resurrection/. Jesus is just the first. Further, Jesus is if I remember only called ‘son of God’ /after/ the crucifixion and resurrection – Paul may even think he’s kind of trashy before that, but chosen by God like it or not, same as his halfwit uneducated bumpkin ‘apostles’ hanging out on the dole in Jerusalem were chosen by God and merit our respect. In any event ‘son of God’ in Paul entails //NOT A GOD//, since it is a traditional Israelite royal epithet, no more significant than ‘king’ or ‘christ’ or ‘your highness’. (In the gentile reception this “son of God” business of course got morphed far beyond the merely-messianic content it has in Paul.)

            But everyone subject to the pharasaical general resurrection is a fleshly human being who died. Jesus, for Paul, arose as a part of the general pharasaical resurrection; every sentence in him is bound up with this claim. Thus Paul thinks Jesus was a human being who rose as a human being in accordance with standard pharasaical protocols, and that there is nothing unique about it except temporal order. If Jesus is said to have funny properties upon arising thats no surprise Paul says that ‘we will be changed’ too /even if we don’t die before the general resurrection./ Here he may or may not be extending received 2nd T opinion. (Something similar appears in Zohar which (much later) affirms curiously that those living on the great day will die on the spot so they can be reconstituted on the new basis. Paul doesn’t put it like that, but the result is the same).

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There is no dying and rising God in Paul.

            Yes, there is. 1 Cor 15:3-5. Paul could have been talking about a spiritual raising of Jesus, and he even says in 1 Cor 15:50, “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul also never mentions anything about an empty tomb, just that Jesus was buried, and he never once refers to an earthly Jesus who is seen alive by anyone before his death.

            In any event ‘son of God’ in Paul entails //NOT A GOD//, since it is a traditional Israelite royal epithet, no more significant than ‘king’ or ‘christ’ or ‘your highness’.

            It’s not clear because Adam was a son of god and clearly not born of a woman, but assembled by god, and also the term son of god was common in many pagan dying and rising gods.

            Jesus, for Paul, arose as a part of the general pharasaical resurrection; every sentence in him is bound up with this claim.

            That’s what’s being debated and I’ve seen no good argument showing this from you. I just don’t see an argument from you.

          • Mark

            The content of ‘son of God’ in Paul is that of psalm 2, for example, which was read messianically and seems to allude to the coronation of an Israelite king. The expression ‘son of God’ is thus a royal and (thus) messianic epithet. It is extremely tiresome anachronism to read later binitarian or trinitarian content into it.

            The text “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” has nothing to do with anything since it equally applies to your grandmother, who will inherit the kingdom in the same general resurrection that began with Jesus. Indeed, in that passage he’s telling his ex-pagans that even if they live to the parousia and resurrection-day they will be changed into something imperishable, same as their late lamented friends – what goes by the name of flesh these days will be gone. It’s the same in Zohar: even the living will experience ‘resurrection’.

            There is no distinction between Jesus and Paul’s hearers at all in this passage. Everything entails that Jesus /had the status the hearers have/ and /now has the status they will have/. And empty tomb is implied – supposing Jesus made it to tomb and not a more typical trash heap as some have suggested – since an empty tomb is emphatically and certainly implied for your grandmother by the whole resurrectionist Jewish tradition.

            Mythicism is directly and immediately excluded by the passage, as it is directly contradicted by the epithet ‘son of God’ and indeed the epithet ‘christ’ which is again just another title of an Israelite king (and perhaps high priests etc.)

          • arcseconds

            It hadn’t occurred to me before your comments that Paul’s belief that Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection pretty much rules out him also thinking Jesus was a celestial being who lived and died in the lower heavens.

            It seems obvious in retrospect of course — thanks!

            It doesn’t entirely rule out mythicism, as people can certainly believe that mythical characters lead an earthly existence (and Price apparently thinks that even Paul is a fiction), but it does rule out Carrier/Doherty style theories that involve Paul believing in an entirely celestial figure.

          • Paul E.

            Yeah, it’s a neglected argument, isn’t it? “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”

          • Mark

            If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You’re just wrong on almost everything you say.

          • arcseconds

            This isn’t an argument, it’s just contradiction!
            (No it’s not! Yes it is!)

          • Mark

            Well, yes … these are quotations from Paul. They all bring Jesus under the general ‘pharasiaical’ concept of resurrection. Paul doesn’t distinguish between Jesus and the rest of humanity in this respect, he’s just the first. It would seem that the early Jewish ‘christians’ were all partisans of this then-controversial teaching (later under the rabbis it became general) and welded it somehow to their understanding of the
            “resurrection” of Jesus. This means Jesus is no more an Osiris figure than your grandmother.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Who says there’s no resurrection of the dead?

          • Horatio Harcourt

            The Corinthians. They had just received a copy of Carrier’s book. When they realized that Jesus was a celestial being rather than a man they knew their own hopes of resurrection had gone up in smoke.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There’s no connection there. Jesus being celestial does not mean people cannot be resurrected.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            Isn’t there a connection? It seems clear to me that the humanity of Jesus is crucial in defeating death. That was the view of Paul and of the author of Hebrews (2:14).

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            No. There’s no connection. Jesus doesn’t have to be physical in order for the Christian view of bodily resurrection to exist.

          • Mark

            Yes, you /would/ think that ‘there’s no connection’ if you lived when there had been say a 2000 year hiatus between the supposed resurrection of Jesus and the putative resurrection of rest of the dead. Then they’ll seem like apples and oranges. But Paul thought they were the same event with a momentary preparatory hiatus. He’s saying “they’re connected” The universe is cracking, gross material things are transmuting into some new ‘spiritual’ form, the resurrection of Jesus is the first fissure. The resurrection of our late loved ones and even ourselves if alive is just more of the same process of transmutation of the gross physical into whatever new form. So Jesus was transmuted from gross physical into whatever new form Paul is on about. He’s emphatic on just this point in the corinthians passage; it’s what he’s saying. Of course it didn’t work out like he thought, but what he thought entails a physical human Jesus.

            Of course so do the epithets ‘christ’ and ‘son of God’ and ‘seed of David’ (which all mean the same) and expressions like ‘born of a woman’, but you are accustomed to ignoring this.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            Since your understanding of the subject derives entirely from Carrier, you may not be the best person to judge. Even the language is Carrieresque: “X is exactly what you would expect on minimal mythicism.”

            In reality, we know for a fact that historicist Christians can sometimes make Jesus sound like a celestial being. On the other hand, we do not know for a fact that anyone actually thought Jesus was a celestial being. And we certainly don’t know for a fact that anyone could believe Jesus was a celestial being and say some of the things Paul does.

            On the contrary, X is often the last thing you would actually expect on mythicism.

          • arcseconds

            The point is not that it couldn’t have happened, the point is that Paul doesn’t think it happened that way. He thinks an earthly person died and came back to life again, and that’s the start of a general resurrection of the dead.

            This doesn’t in and of itself prove historicity, but it does mean that this assertion from some mythicists that Paul thinks Jesus is entirely celestial is wrong. On the basis of Paul’s understanding of the resurrection of the dead alone, we can say that if there’s anything to the Doherty/Carrier view of a celestial mythical Jesus that eventually became embodied as the myth evolved, that myth must pre-date, not post-date Paul.

            Which means that a pre-Paul Jesus myth strata must exists, which means mythcism (or at least this flavour of it) has to propose a version of the story which we have no evidence for whatsoever. Already it’s a more complex account than historicity.

            And what does this help us explain? Paul’s silence on Jesus’s biography? Isn’t this about as odd either way, if Paul thinks Jesus is an earthly figure?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That’s exactly what I’m saying isn’t so cut and dry. Paul could be talking about a spiritual Jesus in a similar way the pagan dying and rising god scenario that existed all throughout the ANE. I don’t think you’ve made the case that Paul’s notion of resurrection only includes physical bodies. Why doesn’t he mention anything significant about a physical Jesus? His tomb? His ministry? His childhood? Nothing. He had ample opportunities to do this.

            Already it’s a more complex account than historicity.

            And the view that an alien spaceship landed in Roswell NM is also simpler than what really happened.

            And what does this help us explain? Paul’s silence on Jesus’s biography? Isn’t this about as odd either way, if Paul thinks Jesus is an earthly figure?

            Yes. It explains away the numerous pieces of evidence the mythicists present: Paul’s silence, his strange use of terms to describe Jesus’s birth, the missing extra-biblical data, the Ascension of Isaiah, the timeline of the NT from least detail in the earliest writings to most detail in the latest, lack of any physical evidence, etc. I’m just saying it’s possible and that historicity is not as certain as it is commonly thought.

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

            You don’t seem to have grasped what resurrection meant in a Jewish context, and what Paul’s reference to Jesus as the firstfruits of that resurrection implied.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Then tell me what does it mean.

          • Paul E.

            No disrespect, but you seem to be lacking the most basic understanding of the text and context. Where one relies primarily on apologetics and counter-apologetics as one’s source of information and argument (which it appears from your comments is the case), this is not an uncommon phenomenon. If you are truly interested in this topic apart from apologetics from either side, I would really urge you to read 1 Corinthians closely and carefully, along with studying the historical context thoroughly.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            And what shall I expect to find? Tell me what you think is the case.

          • Paul E.

            This topic is too “big” to make a case in a blog comment, and the basic point has been made to you here on multiple occasions, but I’ll try.

            Paul was probably a Pharisee, which means he probably had a pharisaic understanding of resurrection, as opposed to other views, e.g. the Saducees’. He is arguing to the Corinthians that, as opposed to others who say there is no resurrection of the dead, there is indeed resurrection of the dead. I don’t think there is any dispute he is talking here about people – not celestial spirit beings.

            As his “proof” that people will be raised from the dead, he cites Christ as being raised from the dead. He says that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not even been raised. The most likely inference is that Christ is a person, because he is used as “proof” that people will be raised.

            Christ is the “first-fruits” of the resurrection, i.e. the first part of the harvest, of which there will be much more. The most likely inference is that Christ is the first of many of the same kind, i.e. the resurrection of people.

            For, Paul says, as by a man (Adam) came death, so by a man (Christ) has come the resurrection of the dead. The best inference here is that Paul is describing Christ as a “man.”

            This is a wildly simplistic rendering of a small part of Corinthians, but such is the case in this format. Only hard study over a long period of time will give any real understanding to this material.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I guess I sympathize with your sentiment. I hate it when I’m debating someone over religion/god and it becomes patently obvious that the person has no clue about science science, or they just understand popular misconceptions. But let me push back a bit. What do you have to say to the argument that the only reason why there were so many Jewish sects at the time was because Jews were comfortable innovating new beliefs? And that means Paul could have been innovating a new view on resurrection distinct from the view the Pharisees had.

          • Paul E.

            Sure Paul was innovative; I don’t think anyone would dispute that. If you find the pharisaic concept of resurrection a problem, then set it aside and read Paul’s actual argument. That can also help to determine the likelihoods of what he “could have been” doing. Nevertheless, the context is crucial to understanding the overall picture, and any clear understanding of Paul in his religious context – and turning “well, isn’t it possible” arguments into “what is most probable” arguments – requires an understanding of the pharisaic concepts.

          • Mark

            > Paul could have been innovating a new view on the resurrection distinct from the view the Pharisees had

            But the point of 1 Cor 15 is to say the opposite, that he holds the standard ‘pharisaical’ view. The Corinthians are supposed to see their way back to holding the standard ‘pharisaical’ view about their grandparents by remembering that they hold the standard view of Jesus. This entails that Jesus is like their grandparents. Of course a mythicist can handle this adding epicycles same as they do with everything else – and as Christian readers do with so many texts.

          • Mark

            He is saying that you cannot hold the proposition ‘a resurrection can have happened though nothing physical and perceptible happened’ and at the same time hold what he and they both /do/ hold – namely, that in the resurrection of /Jesus/ something physical and perceptible certainly did happen. Paul thus affirms in the argument that in the resurrection of Jesus something physical and perceptible happened.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Paul talks of spiritual resurrection for humans: your spirit will be resurrected and you will get a new body in heaven, and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” It doesn’t say anything about Jesus being physical.

          • Mark

            I suspect that ‘my spirit’ in the sense you mean is no where to be found in the text. Early resurrection theories are a little ambiguous on things like ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ attached to people; there are plenty traces of this, but nothing like the view of present (platonized) Christianity. A ‘spirit’ in the sense you mean wouldn’t be capable of “resurrection” at all. God as god and angels as angels can’t undergo death and resurrection I don’t think.

            But anyway, Paul’s axioms, held in common with the allegedly dimwitted Corinthians, are that with Jesus there was a) death and b) resurrection.

            Paul seems to think that resurrection is a transmutation from the corrupt current physical corporeality or bodiliness to some higher glorified pneumatic bodiliness with a specific ‘glory’. The movement is from one kind of BODY to another kind of BODY. Also it seems to be some kind of alteration or purification, not just a body-swap, what would that mean? Paul is everywhere suggesting that there is some alteration of the material cosmos abroad. Romans 8 has very much the same view going on.

            “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” etc etc

            ANYWAY, /Only the former sort of body is subject to death//; the latter sort is not. Jesus /died/ and /thus/ had the former sort of trashy post-Adamic embodiment. The ‘resurrection’ was him making the transition the rest of us will make and that ‘the whole creation’ is groaning to make in its way. It is the beginning of that transmutation and somehow happens by his power.

            The damaged stuff that Jesus was first made of (condescended to be made of), born of a woman as he was, and that we’re made of, can indeed not inherit the kingdom. That’s why for Paul /even those living on the Great Day/ will /also/ undergo resurrection or reconstitution. – This is a view also held much later by e.g. Zohar (an example I chose more or less at random) which also things existing matter is full of death-kelipot or whatever that won’t characterize the resurrection; in their minds this is frequently hooked up with messianism. (Some typical kabbalistic riffing on this would be “When all the sparks [of the divine distributed through creation] are freed from the Kelipot, depriving them of their vitality, the Messianic era begins.” )

            Resurrection isn’t revivification like with say Lazarus who died in the end anyway. Carrier’s celestial ‘resurrection’ would be a revivification, not a transmutation. Jesus was transmuted, resurrected, and thus had a coarse physical existence.

          • arcseconds

            He is being used as an example of what will happen to all of us. He is the first to be resurrected. Paul is pretty clear on this point.

            It is simply nonsensical to maintain that someone who is entirely celestial and died and was resurrected in a heavenly realm is the first person to undergo the process of being dead and buried on earth and having their bones raised and transmuted into a spiritual body.

            It is nonsensical because they he was never dead and buried on earth and never had an earthly body to transmute. It is impossible for him to undergo this process, so therefore he cannot be the first to undergo this process.

            The only way of making sense of 1 Corinthians 15 is that Paul thinks Jesus had an ordinary earthly physical body, just like everyone else.

            I know it’s difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it, but this is my third go at trying to get you to read 1 Corinthians 15 for understanding, and you simply refuse to do it. You just stand their and dumbly intone “well, he never explicitly says Jesus had a physical body” and ignore the fact nothing he says makes sense otherwise.

            Have you ever had a discussion with a creationist where they simply ignore the fact that you’ve tried to explain to them that evolution is not a completely random process, so their analogies about jumbo jets being constructed by hurricanes are pointless?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m not saying he was dead and then buried on earth. On minimal mythicism Jesus is never physically on earth, he gets a physical body in space and dies and is buried out in space. 1 Cor 15 could have mentioned anything about the tomb or any details about the death (like the kind we get in the gospels) and that would have put this whole thing to rest. It’s more than Paul merely not saying Jesus explicitly had a physical body, and my salary depends on none of this. Whether there was a historical Jesus or not changes nothing about my worldview. I read 1 Cor 15. You cannot read it with the bias of the gospels affecting your interpretation. You have to read as if you know nothing about Jesus being physical or not. And then, it will not be obvious he’s talking about an earthly being.

          • arcseconds

            “You have to read as if you know nothing about Jesus being physical or not.”

            OK, so I read this, and note that Jesus dies and is buried and then there’s a series of comparisons of him with other dead people, and I see no reason to think he’s any different to any of those other dead people. If he was different in some important respect, I would expect Paul to say so, in fact.

            And you have here admitted that you do think he’s physical, just physical but in the heavens! So apparently you’re also convinced by this, despite apparently going in presuming there’s a high chance he’s not a physical being.

            But you’re still situating him in the heavens, despite the fact there is really nothing here that indicates that he is heavenly and everything that indicates he’s the same as everyone else. Because, you know, you’re clinging to this view for all you’re worth.

            I am not sure that this makes any sense given the cosmology of the time, because my understanding is that things in the heavens were viewed composed of different kinds of stuff than things on earth (air, maybe). I think the idea that there is some kind of earth in heaven, and that people are buried in it, would be considered very strange and maybe even disturbing to the people of the time.

            (But then, it’s already very strange to be manufacturing people out of earthly sperm in the heavens.)

            But let’s go with this. If someone in the heavens can have a physical body, and be buried in the earth in the heavens, what is the difference between being in heaven and being on Earth? If they’re exactly the same in every respect, then apart from saying “and I really mean this is happening on Earth here, normal earth that you live on not heavenly earth where heavenly people are buried in” there’s nothing that Paul can write that could count against this view. And if he is talking about an ordinary earth-bound human, there is no reason for him to say this.

            I still don’t see how this gains you anything at all. It doesn’t explain why Paul doesn’t talk about his biography, in fact now it seems that Jesus could have a perfectly ordinary biography, just entirely taking place in the heavens. How is this any better (or in fact, functionally different) than saying “Paul does think Jesus was an earthly being, but doesn’t mention Jesus’s biography because Jesus was a mythical earthly being and didn’t have a biography at this point?”

            (I’m not saying that that makes a lot of sense either, but at least it’s not insisting on the extra bit of this all happening in the heavens which isn’t attested to and seems to be doing less and less work the more we talk about it)

            And it doesn’t explain the Ascension of Isaiah, because the heavens are not portrayed as places where one can have a physical body and be buried in the Ascension.

            Also, I think you have to consider the recipients of the letter here. If Paul never mentions that he’s talking about someone who died in heaven, but speaks as though his death and resurrection is the same as everyone else’s, how would they understand that the half of his sentences that refer to Jesus take place in heaven, and the second half takes place on Earth?

            You don’t think this might be something he would want to mention to his readers?

            (and, importantly, listeners: he’s writing to a congregation after all, so his letters would probably be read out, as McGrath notes in a paper of his).

          • arcseconds

            It’s not so much that I haven’t made the case, it’s that you’ve ignored it.

            I gave you several quotes from 1 Corinthians 15 altered to make it clear a celestial Jesus is being talked about, and they turn into nonsense. They make perfect sense if it’s an earthly Jesus being talked about. You are committed to Paul talking nonsense in these passages, but coincidentally sounding completely coherent if he were talking about an earthly Jesus. Someone making incoherent utterances on their own assumptions but just happening to make completely coherent sense on a different assumption that they don’t have in mind is so unlikely that it’s not worth considering.

            Did you actually even read this?

            As far as γίνομαι is concerned, you haven’t established at all that this is a likely reading. Why would we want to accept the ‘created’ reading when it’s a common expression for ‘born’? When it’s applied to a human being it virtually never means ‘made’, I would suggest, so, you know, do the Carrier-treatment on the reference class. How many times in the literature has it ever meant ‘created’ when applied to a human being? There is your reference class.

            And you haven’t established there’s actually a problem here, and I don’t accept that there is. I think it’s quite common for people to use uncommon expressions. Someone saying “came into this world” once when they would normally say “born” does not mean they think something other than an ordinary birth took place. Do you look for alternative meanings in this case? I would suggest probably not: it’s only when you’ve got an outlandish theory to prove that you think that unusual expressions need special explanation.

            Also, you haven’t dealt with the fact that he also uses the same verb when applied to Isaac and Ishmael. Does he also think Isaac and Ishmael were created in a heavenly realm, or does it only mean ‘made’ when it’s convenient to you?

            This was another argument that you completely ignored.

            My point about Paul’s silence was that it is not actually explained by him believing in an earthly, but mythical Jesus, accepting that he is clearly talking about an earthly Jesus (which, as I said, doesn’t rule out mythicism on its own).

            But for that matter, it’s not actually explained by his belief in a celestial Jesus, either. Celestial figures also have biographies, and Jesus’s supposed celestial biography is also not mentioned by Paul at all. And we supposedly know some of the details here, which Paul only refers to in completely oblique and almost uninterested fashion. Apparently an angel stole some sperm from a descendant of David’s and someone (God?) manufactured a new human being in a celestial realm. But this is of no interest at all to Paul, apparently, it’s mentioned in only the most oblique fashion — he seems more interested in the lineage, at least that warrants a whole phrase.

            This would actually further the parallels to Adam that Paul makes, if Jesus had been created by God, so it is particularly strange he doesn’t mention this when it actually would help him.

            Jesus was also executed by demons, that sounds like an exciting and interesting event, yet we get absolutely no details. Not even on the level of the supposed literary precursors.

            And we have nothing in between times. What celestial figures of any importance are born, and die, and have absolutely no biography whatsoever in the middle? If there is a biography, why doesn’t Paul mention it? Even if he had been created solely to die, that would be interesting, but that also goes unmentioned.

            If anything this is more bizarre than the silence about an earthly Jesus. All of these super-important, highly unusual celestial happenings don’t interest Paul at all, that’s much harder to explain than an earthly crucifixion (which Paul in fact mentions as being embarrassing) and a mundane life, perhaps not notably different from other itinerant preachers, going unmentioned.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            A lack of biographical detail is not a good indication of a non-physical Jesus. You won’t find biographical detail in the Johannine epistles – but you will find a condemnation of those who *denied* that Jesus came in the flesh.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            It is when it’s the earliest writing about Jesus we know of and when it would have been useful to include details about Jesus’s life to make his points. The Johannine epistles are written very late in the 1st century when no one denies that there were sects who thought of Jesus as a physical person. But that there weren’t, indicates that there were sects that didn’t. They would have been the original “mythicists” who thought of Jesus as spiritual.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            You seem to be suggesting that the purpose of writing the epistles was to provide information for future historians and that since we know there were historicist Christians by the end of the first century, it was OK to omit biographical information from epistles written at that time.

            The real issue is the nature of epistle writing. We know it was a general feature of the epistles not to include biographical information.

            You are also confused about docetism. Docetism was not the denial of a historical Jesus; it was a denial of a truly human Jesus. The opponents of the Johannine Christians were not mythicists.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m not saying it was to include biographical information but Paul had plenty of opportunity to use biographical information to make his points. He wants to teach the various churches about what they should think and do at various times but mentions nothing about Jesus’s ministry, his life, and teachings.

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

            He only “mentions nothing about Jesus’ ministry, his life, and teachings” if you find creative ways of excluding as evidence those places where he does precisely that.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            All we get is that Jesus died, was buried and rose, not much more. Nothing on his birth details and childhood, or of the details we get in the gospels on his ministry. There’s a stunning lack of detail.

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

            And yet in your Procrustean approach, you want to eliminate those references to a historical Jesus. And of course, you are in fact not being entirely honest even in the little that you acknowledge, since claiming that Jesus was of the seed of David is a claim about his birth and ancestry. It may not have been a true claim, but it isn’t something that fits a purely celestial being. Indeed, the fact that Jesus had an ordinary human name, and not the kind of name given to angelic beings, is something that mythicism simply doesn’t account for.

          • Mark

            The name “Jesus” is really pretty downscale for a celestial being who would surely merit bona fide Hebrew.

          • Paul E.

            Upvote for use of the term “Procrustean” (as well as other content, of course).

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I eliminate nothing. Those few hints at an earthly Jesus have explanations for on mythicism. Jesus being in the seed of David is explained by god keeping David’s sperm and making Jesus out of him. On an earthly Jesus he’s not even related to Joseph who is the one who descended from David, according to the story. I don’t even see how your last sentence is even trying to make a point.

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

            I’m sorry to hear that you allegedly couldn’t understand the last point, which was an important one.

            Your reading of later infancy stories into Luke is historically inappropriate. Paul knows nothing of a virginal conception. He believes that Jesus was descended from David on his father’s side. That is what his language naturally means. Nothing is said of God keeping David’s sperm safe in heaven or anything like that. It is something that mythicists have made up and read into the text.

            Your approach to the text is ultimately a lot like that of conservative Christians. You just harmonize in different ways and read different things into it. But neither approach is what historians and secular scholars do.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Wait, are you approaching this from a secular perspective for the sake of argument, or do you believe some of the metaphysical claims in the NT (e.g. virgin birth, Jesus’s appearance to the 500, etc.)? As Carrier writes: Paul never says Jesus “came from the line of king David.” He says he was made out of the sperm of David (no reference to genealogy or descent). See OHJ, pp. 575-77. Paul never says Jesus had an actual “woman as a mother.” He says he was made “from a woman,” not “born,” and then says we are all born of the same woman: this “woman,” he says, is an allegory for the physical world of flesh, not a person.

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

            This is not for the sake of argument. And treating ancient idioms based on which English words derive from them etymologically is not how historical study of texts is undertaken – once again, this is a mirror of Evangelical preaching, which says “The word Paul uses here is the one from which we derive our word X, and so that’s what you should have in mind when interpreting the passage.”

            You are trying very hard to twist the words of the New Testament to mean what you want them to, instead of what they naturally do, just the same way that conservative Christians do, just with a different aim.

            http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aalphabetic+letter%3D*s111%3Aentry+group%3D58%3Aentry%3Dspe%2Frma

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So you do believe some of the metaphysical claims in the NT (e.g. virgin birth, Jesus’s appearance to the 500, etc.) or not? Words matter, and it seems to me that you’re trying to twist the words to mean what you want.

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

            You would have to have ignored almost the entirety of my blogging to not know that I do not accept things like virginal conceptions and the like.

            Saying “I’m not, you are” only works as a response if it is true, which in this case it clearly is not. The usage of the Greek term is an easy thing for one to verify, assuming of course they have the kind of knowledge needed to be interpreting the relevant ancient historical sources in the first place.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Well I had to ask only to get clarification. I’m not familiar with your work. Paul could have used terms that unambiguously referred to a human birth, yet he doesn’t. In Rom 1:3 and Gal 4:4 Paul uses the word genomenos meaning ‘to happen, become’ rather than use the term he typically uses for being born to a human, gennaô. On your view, why is this the case? David’s descendants didn’t move from earth to the celestial realm, god took sperm from David’s belly kept it in space and then used it to make Jesus. This comes from a straightforward reading of 2 Sam 7:12-14.

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

            Paul uses a polyvalent word in a perfectly acceptable and typical manner. There is nothing at all odd about it. If it seems so to you, I can only assume it is because you don’t know ancient Greek enough to even see that in a standard lexicon, the word has a range of meanings and is commonly used in precisely the way that Paul uses it.

            Why did he not emphasize that Jesus was not descended from celestial sperm? Perhaps because he didn’t foresee mythicism? And if he had emphasized this, then the mythicist conspiracy theorists would be saying “See, he emphasizes it, which proves that someone else was denying it.”

            Mythicism’s biggest problem, as I’ve said before, is that it is unfalsifiable.

          • John Thomas

            I agree with Dr. McGrath here. ‘genomenou ek spermatos David’ or ‘having come out of seed of David’ is an idiomatic expression for him being a ‘descendant of David’. I don’t think that we have to read into that phrase what Carrier is suggesting.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Why not use the term he typically uses for being born to a human, gennaô?

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

            Are you seriously asking why human beings who write things do not always use just one word to convey one meaning? Am I overestimating when I suggest that you could look at comments here and find enough evidence of how actual human communication works? Or was this a joke? Or are you approaching Paul’s letters the way conservative Christians do, as though they are written in a secret code that safeguards their language inerrantly?

          • Paul E.

            I know it’s probably difficult to shift from apologetics arguments, which is how you seem to approach things, to dealing with history. If you are interested in sparring with fundamentalists, like this comment would suggest, this really isn’t the place. If you are interested in taking advantage of having substantive discussions with a respected scholar, then this is a great place to learn some things – if you are willing.

            EDIT: I see James has already responded – I missed that.

          • arcseconds

            You were defensive when I pointed out earlier that it seems in your mind this is really not a dry argument about historical probabilities in an ancient Mediterranean situation, but about combating Christians.

            Yet here you go again: weighing up mythicism against a myth, rather than the results of historical scholarship, just as one can find Fitzgerald and Price doing on occasion.

            (Mythicism having to only be better than the virgin birth as an account is not setting the bar very high)

            And in your next comment you show that you believe you are arguing with an apologist who is being disingenuous.

            Once again I strongly recommend you reflect on your prejudices. It’s pretty clear to everyone apart from you that you are not approaching this in an objective manner that’s aimed at learning the truth.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            But it’s almost as if you think the early Christians were or should have been writing for your convenience. It was OK for the Johannine Christians not to include biographical information because you personally don’t need them to, but you do need Paul to include biographical information, otherwise it will confuse you.

            The point is that it was the norm not to include biographical information. The lack of biographical information in letters written by a group who are known to be historicists is relevant in deciding what we should and shouldn’t expect to find in Paul.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I don’t expect anything for me, but I’d expect some more detail on Jesus’s life, teachings, and his ministry since it could have helped Paul communicate his message.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            Let me put it like this: we are looking for a theory to explain Paul’s silence. Your theory does that, but does it explain other examples of silence, such as the silence of the Johannine epistles and of Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians?

            No, it doesn’t. Therefore it lacks explanatory power.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            It could. Polycarp’s lack of detail could be that he didn’t think of Jesus as physical either. On minimal mythicism Jesus does acquire a physical body, but not on earth, in outer space. Or since Polycarp is writing nearly 100 years after Paul, the 4 gospels are already written at this point, and presumably the church he’s writing to already has one or more of them; he doesn’t need to add any detail. Same is true with John, although he’s writing closer to the turn of the first century. But Paul is the first writer, enthusiastic about Jesus, mentioning him 300 times in his letters, yet gives next to no detail about him. Paul is also writing much more than these two writers.

          • Paul E.

            Paul does seem uninterested in being a biographer, but part of the expectation of Paul having biographical details may be an artificial reaction to the biographical nature of the gospels. One also has to consider his disadvantageous position vis-a vis other apostles who would have known Jesus. And while the mentions of Jesus’ biographical details may be sparse, Paul says, e.g., Jesus was a descendant of David, had a brother, taught against divorce, taught to pay preachers, was betrayed, ate a last meal, was crucified, died and was buried. Unless one can first overturn the basically unanimous consensus that Jesus lived, these would be considered biographical details, and they were used to make his points.

          • Mark

            It isn’t totally clear that for Paul Jesus was really in a position to have a ‘ministry’ before the resurrection. He may think that Jesus would at best have been a teacher of the law or tzaddik sage or something. It is his obedience, crucifixion and resurrection that makes him Christ Jesus the crushing total authority, the cosmic ultra-trans-emperor, the one inaugurating the final transmutation of things, whom we must obey in everything.

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

            To claim that Docetists were “mythicists” is either being dishonest, or means you don’t know what their views were. Would a work like the Gospel of Peter fit any definition of “mythicism,” for instance?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m not saying they were mythicists, I’m saying they were a sect who did not think of Jesus as a physical person but as a spiritual person, and that this is compatible with the general mythicist thesis that there were sects of early Christians who did not think of Jesus as physical.

          • Mark

            The question of mythicism is whether you could appear to bump into Jesus on the streets of Capernaum or Jerusalem and appear to see him and if he would have appeared in photographs in the newspapers if they existed. Mythicism says: No. The docetic answer is: Emphatically yes. They have exactly nothing to do with each other and it is the single most tiresome piece of purely dishonest distraction ever to mention docetism in this connection.

          • Mark

            It is part of docetism that Jesus made public assertions in synagogues in Galilee – as the three visitors to Abraham made statements to him and Sarah. It is part of mythicism that Jesus never made public statements in synagogues in the Galilee. Docetism is a historical Jesus view that assigns a wacky status to Jesus, just as Orthodox Christianity is a historical Jesus view that assigns a wacky status to Jesus and just as standard atheistical historiography is a historical Jesus view that assigns a sensible naturalistic status to Jesus. Mythicism has nothing in common with any of these views.

          • Paul E.

            I get what you’re saying, but I think you are misunderstanding docetism, which was, at least in part a specific attempt to explain Jesus’ apparent physicality. This is not compatible with a mythicist thesis.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Right. In part, it was to explain Jesus’s physicality as only appearing to be physical flesh, but not, but it is in line with the view that Jesus wasn’t physical, not the same, but in line with that view.

          • Mark

            As far as I can tell the typical texts collected under the dubious ecclesiastical category of ‘docetic’ do think that there was a perceptible body of some form wandering around from one spatial position to another in the Galilee. This has no similarity to mythicism. Docetism is total dead end in this discussion.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yeah I’m not saying the docetists thought of a purely spiritual Jesus like the view mythicists argue for. But it does show you that there were sects who didn’t think of Jesus as flesh and blood. And that fits with the mythicist thesis that there were multiple sects of early Christians, some of whom didn’t think of Jesus was physical flesh and blood, and that the purely physical idea may have been a later view.

          • Mark

            Docetism in all forms is a theory about what happened on the streets and synagogues of Capernaum and Jerusalem and so on. Mythicism is a theory that nothing happened in those places. There is simply no similarity.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There is – in the sense that this early sect didn’t think of a flesh and blood Jesus. It could be a midway point between a totally spiritual Jesus and a fully flesh and blood Jesus.

          • Mark

            Docetism is not a sect but an ecclesiastical classification. It’s not clear what unity the Church was finding in thing it brought under this (fairly late) heresiarchal rubric. That Christ suffered seems to be the main point. In any case, what ‘early sect’ propounded it? I haven’t looked into this for a while. But arent all the texts seriously range under this heading thought to post date e.g. Mark? Eg. People find it in e.g. Gospel of Philip 3rd c. Gospel of Peter 3rd c. Some people used to find an attack on it in 1 John 4:2, but that seems to be typical ecclesiastical over reading. The meaning is plain in the coupled phrase 4:3 which says they ‘don’t confess Jesus’. They’re not people with a funny version of Jesus. The meaning of 4:2 meaning is clearest if you strike Jesus and say ‘those who think the messiah has not come in the flesh’ (i.e. we Jews are still waiting) – and consequently don’t confess Jesus. Something like this seems to be a typical scholarly reading. (Again I haven’t looked into this for a while) Some find it in Ascension of Isaiah, some of which may be pretty early (Norelli puts some at end of 1st c), but this seems to be doubted by scholars too. In any case it post-dates Paul who is an extreme anti-docetic and presumably also postdates Mark.

          • Mark

            The concept of the ‘spiritual’ and ‘spirit’ that you are using is unhistorical. In Paul the resurrected Jesus is a pneumatic body for example. For him Jesus as Jesus is at no point a ‘spirit’ in any sense: first he’s born of a woman and is fleshly 2nd rate corrutable body; then he’s pneumatic body. There’s no spirit entity in between though you might hypothesize a soul- or spirit- thingy in between these moments, but I don’t remember him being interested in the intervening period. In Paul nothing called Jesus is ever a ‘spirit’ in any sense we use. I am leaving out the passages that people think suggest pre-existence. Note that the Baal Shem Tov also thought that the messiah was pre-existent, since he talked to him in the chambers of the messiah somewhere above. The Baal Shem Tov’s messiah was, let us say, six feet tall. So pre-existence has nothing to do with being a ‘spirit’ whatever exactly that means. We should in any case be wary that our categories are going to fit with a 2nd Temple Jewish fanatic like Paul.

          • Paul E.

            Imo, Docetism’s attempt to explain Jesus’ apparent humanity would tend to suggest it presupposed that apparent humanity rather than being an attempt to argue an earlier view against a later one. But, anything’s “possible,” I suppose.

          • Mark

            I think you will have a hard time finding a docetic text that doesn’t say that where other people pointed and said ‘Lo, Jesus!’ there wasn’t something perfectly “physical.” They affirmed this just like everyone else. It’s just that the perceptible physical thing had some odd relation to the great angel or divinity they thought was ‘behind’ it – this is customary in ‘orthodox’ accounts of the angels who dined with Abraham and Sarah. The orthodox theory here is ‘docetic’ – but the food was moving! (It’s basically like they were drones; St. Thomas says these ‘bodies’ were made of compressed air, and the angels really literally communicated through these like through a radio, but the bodies yet had no ‘life’.) What pisses off the heresiologists about ‘docetism’ tends to have to do with the suffering of Jesus.

            Some texts I think did have spectral hypotheses though. All of these have nothing in common with mythicism. Docetism is a total dead end here; in fact a device dishonest people use to kick up dust.

          • Mark

            But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Speak American.

          • arcseconds

            um… he’s quoting Paul.

            At this stage, I’m not sure whether this is just a not very funny joke on your behalf, or you really know so little about the topic that you can’t even recognise one of the more famous quotations from Corinthians…

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That was just a joke. I don’t see how his comment is relevant.

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

            Your comment is even more relevant, since it illustrates what is obvious to everyone except for mythicists, namely that mythicists are insufficiently familiar with the relevant primary texts, and with the thought world behind them, so as to even understand early Christian literature, much less offer plausible historical explanations thereof.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Richard Price is insufficiently familiar with the relevant primary texts? Richard Carrier is insufficiently familiar with the relevant primary texts? This has yet to be shown.

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

            No, it has been shown. Robert Price (I assume that is who you meant) holds outdated views on Gnosticism, as came up in his debate with Bart Ehrman recently. And Carrier has shown himself to not have focused on the relevant Jewish context of early Christianity – he seems to dabble as much as he feels he needs to in order to try to make his case, but if you look into his claims about Targum Jonathan and whether there was a pre-Christian idea of a suffering Davidic Messiah, you’ll see what I mean.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Oops, yeah I meant Robert Price. Have you debated either of the two? I’d really love to see a debate between you and Carrier.

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

            I’m not persuaded that debates are a conducive format to informing the public about these matters. Whether it is Bill Nye and Ken Ham, or Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier, it tends by its very format to give the impression that this is a matter on which there are simply two sides and about which academic experts are divided, no matter who seems to have been more persuasive by the end of the debate.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I think in the right kind of debate format, where you can have a lengthy 1 on 1 exchange it can work. You should consider debating Carrier. I would definitely love to see it.

          • Maxximiliann

            She fancies herself an intellectual of the highest order. Just, whatever you do, don’t get her started on how there’s no such thing as a past, a present or a future and how a woman’s right to murder her children and get away with it needs protection …

          • arcseconds

            You know, it’s generally considered poor form to follow someone from one forum to another to trash talk them. And throwing in a provocatively-worded utterance about abortion (at least, I presume that’s what you’re on about) into an existing discussion borders on the trollish…

          • Horatio Harcourt

            Paul’s silence is another thing that can mislead the unwary. There is a similar silence in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians but it would be a mistake to explain it on the assumption that Polycarp considered Jesus to be a celestial being. Polycarp lived to about 155, which was well into the era when a historical Jesus had become accepted, and he was a leading figure in the church. Polycarp was also a friend of Ignatius, who certainly believed in a historical Jesus. It would be incredible if Polycarp didn’t believe the same.

          • arcseconds

            It seems to me you don’t see the argument, because you don’t understand it. The fact you don’t seem all that familiar with Paul seems to be a contributing factor, c.f. your failure to see what Mark’s ‘firstfruits’ quote has to do with it.

            Admittedly Mark isn’t expressing himself in a manner that would be completely clear to a novice either.

            Paul thinks everyone will be resurrected, and that this process has already started with Jesus. This doesn’t require an argument, it’s right there in the text. There are definitely things that present interpretative difficulties, but this isn’t one of them.

            If you cannot see this, then either your ideology has blinded you on this particular issue, or your general ability at reading comprehension is astoundingly poor, and in either case I’m not sure there’s much we can do for you.

            He starts with the death of Jesus, moves on to everyone else. At the end he says that all shall be mutated so they have spiritual bodies. Everyone is going to go through the process Jesus went through. Jesus is the vanguard, the point man, the ‘firstfruits’.

            This makes no sense if Jesus already has a spiritual body. How can he be the firstfruits of the resurrection and the first to go through the process that everyone is going to go through if he never had an earthly body? What sense does it make to connect him with the earthly dead?

            These passages become complete nonsense:

            But if it is preached that the spirit-being Christ has been raised from a death in the lower heavens, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead on earth?

            (Well, duh, because they can both easily be true, and from the resurrection of a spirit-being in the lower heavens nothing can be concluded about what will happen to us and our grandmas, because we aren’t spirit beings living in the lower heavens.)

            But he did not raise him, the spirit-being Christ, in the lower heavens, if in fact the earthly dead are not raised. For if the earthly dead are not raised, then the spirit-being Christ was not raised in the lower heavens.

            (Whatchoo talkin’ about Paul? These are two different things.)

            But the spirit-being Christ has indeed been raised from the dead in the lower-heavens, the firstfruits of those with earthly bodies who are asleep now under the ground on earth.

            This is like saying that the first mass-produced car was not the Ford Model-T or the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, but actually Robur the Conqueror by Jules Verne.

            You continually treat Paul as though he just provides a grab-bag of verses, and if you can find one or two that make him sound as though he’s talking about a celestial Jesus, your job is done.

            But Paul is providing an extended argument or discourse here about what the faithful can expect, which makes sense if he thinks Jesus is an earthly mortal (however special he might be in other respects (although it kind of seems like Paul doesn’t think Jesus was particularly special before his death)), but is a series of lunatic non sequiturs if Paul thinks Jesus is a celestial being (but just coincidentally happen to sound like a coherent argument on a different assumption!).

          • Paul E.

            I can understand the frustration expressed in your posts. Even in response to a comment that “son of God” does not entail that the person is a god receives a “rebuttal” that this is not clear because Adam was called “son of God.” Adam, of course, was believed to be a flesh and blood human being, and not a god. So I get the wall-pounding induced headache you must have.

            Nevertheless, I think using charged language doesn’t help. It only gets used against you, regardless of the type of language or argumentation that preceded it. I wonder how best to deal with this type of thing, though. From the experience of seeing people who claim to be convinced of the historical evidence of a physical resurrection come to grips with the reality of the evidence, I think it is something that can only come from a sincere desire for intellectual honesty combined with proper study of the topic. I have never seen mockery or temper work. Just my thoughts. :)

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

            If we simply assume that no one was doing miracles (although some people may of course have experienced psychosomatic healing, as still happens today), then hopefully we can set that issue aside as irrelevant to history and better left to those interested in apologetics.

            Are you saying that you find persuasive Carrier’s argument that, when Paul says that Jesus was the anointed one, of the seed of David, he meant something celestial rather than this being a reference to Jewish messianic expectations? If so, could you explain why?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Good point, I get carried away in assuming all of my interlocutors are believing Christians. Even without the real miracles however, we are still talking about an important person who started a cultural movement that threatened the Roman empire. We still have to ask why there is no independent third party contemporary records of anything about the man. Yes, I think Carrier’s thesis that Paul didn’t think of Jesus as physical is a plausible one. I’m not necessarily completely convinced.

          • Mark

            Man it is really insulting for you morons to assume that people who hold to ‘historical Jesus’ are Christians. It’s sick really this pretense you people in this mythicist internet sewer carry around with you. It’s wrong. It’s dishonest. I am not a Christian and was brought up to oppose everything about it, but look: this should fucking not be an issue. Our topic is the history of the human race. Do you want cognition of reality, or do you want antichristian apologetics?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You know what else is insulting? Being called a moron. Should I call you a moron for every stupid thing you’ve said (and there are plenty)?

          • Mark

            What do you expect guy you came on here assuming everyone was a pious ignoramus who hadn’t read their Carrier, you assumed they weren’t aware of really abc crap like the wacky interpretations available of the ‘brother of the lord passage. Your interventions are uniformly high handed and snotty. The people on this page have suffered through HUNDREDS of people with exactly your arguments and exactly your level of cognition – you could as well be bot – and they have been fighting them for years on a secular basis in hope of preserving historical reality from the sewers of the internet.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I only mentioned people not reading Carrier when they started saying really stupid things about him, like your claim that he spends just a few pages on Paul. But the more I spend time interacting with you the less of a rational actor you appear to be.

            The people on this page have suffered through HUNDREDS of people with exactly your arguments and your level of cognition.

            If that’s true why do you say such incredibly ignorant and demonstrably false things like your claim that Carrier spends just a few pages on Paul?

          • Mark

            He spends amazingly few pages on the interpretation of Paul. If he had expounded an actual interpretation of the authentic letters and located them in their 2nd T context, his imputation of Osiris-Inannaism would be ridiculous. This is a dark and difficult topic and very much the exact epicenter of the question. But he’s simply not competent, he knows zero about the context, so he distracts the reader with stuff about Hebrews and takes pot shots at particular passages like the ‘brother of the Lord’ passage or seed of David stuff, never introducing anything not found in the familiars like Drew Couchoud Dougherty. The absurdly titled “Epistles” chapter was written on automatic pilot. It’s conceptual confetti. Paul is not explained. This isn’t a lie, it’s just the obvious truth. There is no contribution to cognition in this chapter, for the simple reason that the author is not in a position, by training, to gain cognition. He’s just a supercilious bore.

          • Mark

            No one is resurrected in the heavens in the 2nd T sense, since what is resurrected is the flesh of dead iudaioi, which flesh is all in the dirt down here in greater Judea and the diaspora; no one is anointed in the heavens since there’s no olive trees in the heavens; no one is crucified in the heavens since the Roman Empire doesn’t extend that far; no one is born of woman in the heavens, since at best you can get a goddess mom up there; no one is descended from David in the heavens since you need some previous descendents and they all are down here in Judea and the diaspora; no /permanent/ inhabitant of the heavens has a brother – which is to say, a kind of equal under a common ‘father’ – in Jerusalem since Jerusalem is down here; it is impossible for a messiah in action to be anything but a human being and King of Israel whatever other amazing properties he may have;[^1] no messiah is permanently in the heavens since for christ sake they’re supposed to save the Jews and knock the Roman Empire off the map replacing e.g. Augustus Caesar or Nero Augustus with Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ or whoever the anointed one is supposed to be.

            You can get by all any one or many of these obvious things by piling up epicycles and special pleading and so on- but only if you are willing to take the expedient of declaring that there is no difference between Memphis or Alexandria and Jerusalem, or Athens and Jerusalem. You need Paul to go pagan. But there is no more feverish exponent of the ‘oracles of God’ held by the Jews than Paul, no one more single minded in his will get it all to come out true. He has plenty of weird Christ ideas since he belongs to the period of messianic failure and regroupment like the Dönmeh and Chabad, but it’s all pretty straightforward really. It is quite clear that he hasn’t gone pagan on his Jerusalem teachers. The suggestion is mad.

            [^1] Its perfectly possible to have a sort of ‘pre-existent’ messiah in waiting in the heavens, not yet doing the messiah thing. Cp the Baal Shem Tov ascended and ‘entered the chambers of Moshiach’ asking “when master will you come?” etc etc. Though maybe we are meant to take that cum grano salis. And under kaballism the possibilities are of course a little different than under apocalypticism, though in fact I think the differences are less than might seem.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That’s not the same thing.

          • Mark

            I don’t know what you’re talking about. Carrier is imputing basically pagan ideas using pagan models to Paul, he does this without any systematic treatment of Paul and no attempt to come to terms with Paul as what he is, namely as a typical feverish 2nd T Jewish writer attempting to advance the religious ideas he was educated in. Paul is in many ways closer to the ideas that resurface 2 centuries later in the rabbinic tradition than any other (known) 1st c writer. He is rather snooty about his degree of education in these things and this seems to be the ground of his generally snooty attitude toward the Jerusalem ‘apostles’ who are Galilean rustics even if they are vouchsafed as hagioi and tzaddikim by King Messiah himself. And he believes he is operating in exercise of this superior ‘Jewish’ knowledge. He is in many ways the most characteristic Jewish /religious/ writer of the twilight 2nd T period, advancing a rather strange synthesis of ideas that are abroad in Jerusalem and the diaspora. Of course his range of ideas didn’t have much staying power as a specifically Jewish phenomenon, and of course they had a bright future among they nations – but this is irrelevant, we are deep in the 1st c in the present inquiry. (Most of the other wild but non-christian ideological trends in first c ‘judaism’ vanished as well; many texts were only preserved by … the church; but it is the dead sea material that shattered the shared prejudices of the ecclesiastical and rabbinical traditions about what the then-prevailing possibilities were.) There are many reasons for thinking that the Church is in some respects more conservative in representing a characteristic late 2nd T mindset than the rabbinical tradition, which is in some respects a more radical revision.

            There is no consciousness of a break in fundamental religious conceptions in Paul though of course there is the novum of the messiah – spoiled of course by the crucifixion but Paul has his way with that as we know, and it is hardly more remarkable than what Chabad is doing or what the Sabbatai dead-enders did. He and his Jerusalem predecessors fuse their understanding of their seemingly failed messiah with the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead, resulting in a resurrectionist messianism (with the messiah temporarily in occultation, as happens in most messianisms). The question how to characterize all this is a pure question of ‘Jewish studies’ if you like.

            Paul does not understand himself to be departing from the available range of Judean opinion, and he appears to have quite advanced knowledge of the limits of possible opinion; he is somehow rather highly educated. He is not importing stuff like Osirisism or Inannaism because he doesn’t have any interest in inventing a cult tailored to heralding the arrival of Spring. He already has Pesach to ‘herald’ the arrival of Spring and the ripening of barley etc. But in that story what ‘comes back from the dead’ is the Jewish ethnos in the Exodus.

            For Carrier though, it is enough that certain religious ideas appear in Egypt and Rome and Syria for them to be fair game and possible models for ideas to impute to Paul. After all they’re “religious” ideas and Paul is doing “religion”.

            This false abstraction, “religion”, is at the bottom of all this new-agey Carrierite irrationalism. In fact we’re not doing just any “religion”, the abstraction does no causal or historical work. We are depicting a tendency in the very definite but fractious ideology of 1st c Jewry. What Carrier says in his absurdly entitled “Epistles” chapter cannot be characterized as “depicting a tendency in the fractious ideology of 1st c Jewry”; it is beyond the limits. He doesn’t know this, though, because he doesn’t know those limits, doesn’t know the milieu, doesn’t know anything about anything in any way Jewish. Because he doesn’t know anything, above all because he doesn’t the languages and didn’t do the work – because of this, everything seems possible to him. Thus he writes a text-free fantasia in place of a discussion of Paul.

            Carrier just hasn’t bothered to read or represent Paul. He’s just worried about a few passages like ‘brother of the Lord’ and ‘seed of David’ (with comic absurdity) – a short list of passages that simple-minded empiricist evangelicals have fixed on as ‘evidence of historicity’. The evidence of historicity isn’t going to be like that but rather like this: that in order to evade it people like Carrier have to turn Paul into what Paul would view as a pagan – and this didn’t happen, or more importantly, it just isn’t the best and most economical explanation of the data. Carrier is constitutionally incapable of addressing this argument. The best explanation of the data is that Paul is like a Chabadnik; his so-called departure from ‘Judaism’ is far less extreme than that of the Dönmeh who are also /immediately explicable/ just from /their pious muslim religious songs/, as descended from a failed Jewish messianic enthusiasm. Jewish messianic movements all have their curiosities but historicity of the messiah is absolutely central in all of them

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Oh so now it’s changed to “interpretation of Paul.” Gotcha.

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

            Why are there no “independent third party” records for John the Baptist or Hillel? For that matter, why is the only “independent third party” who mentions Socrates someone who includes a character by that name in a play?

          • Mark

            Why is the only ‘independent third party’ before Mishnah ~180 that seems to mention Gamaliel I … the Acts of the Apostles. Josephus does mention the family somewhere.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That person was parodying Socrates, and Socrates is said to have even attended that play. We have nothing like that for Jesus, who I’m told was a really important dude.

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

            Who is your source for Socrates’ attendance at that play? And who or what has given you the impression that Jesus was “a really important dude”? You seem to once again be veering into apologetics and away from history.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I don’t have a scholarly source, it’s just been reported. But it isn’t important to my point. The point is that The Clouds is a contemporary account of someone hostile to Socrates. We have nothing like that of Jesus. So we have better evidence for Socrates’ historicity than Jesus. As for Jesus being important, I’m merely noting his historical significance (ie. his impact on history), it has nothing to do with him being divine.

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

            You are assuming what you need to prove if you are going to compare Socrates and Jesus in an en-handed manner, namely that Aristophanes is depicting a contemporary of his.

            A person’s later impact is not relevant, is it? John the Baptist made more of an impact in his own time than Jesus did, while Hillel doesn’t get mentioned by contemporaries yet had such an enormous impact on the rabbinic tradition.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So you’re saying Aristophanes isn’t writing about a contemporary of his, Socrates, in The Clouds?

            I think a person’s later impact is relevant, though not necessarily so. Jesus is also said to have done some pretty incredible stuff while alive and I’m not talking about any miracles. His message, his following, his trial, his execution for insurrection. Not your everyday stuff. And if we’re allowed to also include what Paul says, like Jesus’ appearance to numerous people, including the 500, it only raises the implausibility even more that there was not a single contemporary account, critical of him, or not. In the first 40 years after Jesus is supposed to have died we have only 1 writer who never even met Jesus and for whom we have difficulty placing Jesus unambiguously as an earthly person.

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

            I am pointing out that you are accepting things you vaguely remember hearing someone say about an ancient play (which is nonetheless relevant evidence), while trying to find ways of avoiding the conclusions of historians about sources related to Jesus. I am trying to get you to be consistent, and to approach the diverse range of ancient historical figures in appropriate ways.

          • Paul E.

            Sorry for the long comment, but I find this discussion troubling not because someone is defending mythicism – that is perfectly fine – but because of the implicit arguments. E.g., what is “amazing” about an apocalyptic preacher with some followers such that it would be documented by “independent,” “third-party” contemporaries? Is there a comparative study concerning the number of these types of figures throughout the Roman Empire there were, how they were documented (if at all), and by whom?

            And what is “amazing” about the Romans executing someone they deemed seditious? Even the gospels record there were at least two other executions on the same day as Jesus’. And did Jesus even have a trial? And if so, what was its procedure or other factor that would make it “amazing”?

            And even if these things were determined to be “not your everyday stuff,” what about these things would lead us to believe all or any of these things would have been recorded by an independent, third-party contemporary? And in a manner that would have survived? The basis for the argument that we should expect “independent,” “third-party” “contemporary” accounts is never actually made, only assumed.

            And even if one does not consider Paul “independent” or a “third-party,” why does Paul not count as a contemporary? Paul lived at the same time as Jesus and says for example, among other things, Jesus was born Jew, had a family, taught, had followers, ate a last meal that he asked to be remembered, was betrayed, was crucified, died, and was buried.

            And these are just some small examples. These types of assumptions and lack of any engagement with the actual evidence is rampant in these discussions. It leads me to believe the sources of these positions are not being honest with their audience. That’s troubling to me, just as it is with apologetics on the “other side.”

          • arcseconds

            Long comments are a problem? Ruh-roh…

            The framing is pretty much that of any crank theory. Things are highlighted with incredulity as problems that the crank theory solves.

            It’s easy for people who don’t know the area and don’t take a critical attitude to the claims (maybe they are inclined to take a critical attitude towards the mainstream theory but not to the fringe one) to accept that these are genuine issues, so the mainstream theory has been brought into doubt.

            Sometimes the phenomena that supposedly requires explanation and the bizarre theory that supposedly explains them starts to look like the sort of theorizing one sees undertaken by people with mental illnesses, in particular paranoid schizophrenics. I say this not so much to suggest that mythicists are mentally ill, but more that there’s a form of thought that we’re all perhaps subject to, which we can see in a highly exaggerated form in people with a diagnosis, but also quite clearly in crank theorizing.

            This business about γίνομαι is an excellent case in point. Normally I take it that we just never notice that a writer has a choice of two commonly-used expressions for something, but uses one of them commonly and one of them rarely. It seems fairly likely that most of us are in this situation. I virtually never use ‘passed on’ of someone who has died, but if I did that, no-one would think twice about it.

            But if someone said “well, arcseconds invariably uses ‘died’, so why did he use ‘passed on’ on this occasion? ” suddenly there’s a question around in the air that seems like it needs an answer, and “dunno, he just did” seems inadequate.

          • Paul E.

            Is that the born/made distinction? Seems to me that even if the word choice is significant, wouldn’t be a better argument that Paul believed in a virgin birth, i.e. that Jesus was “made” in the womb?

          • Paul E.

            Since you are so into music, one of these days in response to a barrage of mythicist posts, you should just post “Since by Man Came Death” from Handel’s Messiah and then close the comments.

          • Paul E.

            It is good to remember that Jesus did not “threaten” the Roman Empire in any significant sense. He was a fairly minor figure, dealt with in the usual fashion. Certainly one can always ask why there is no contemporary, independent, third-party record of any particular person, but the question must be asked on its own terms in relation to the contemporary situation.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            You think the celestial Jesus theory is plausible but have you considered how easy it is for the theory to arise by mistake? Consider the following quote from Ignatius’ letter to the Magnesians:

            “entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who was with the father from all eternity and in these last days has been made manifest.”

            You could easily get the impression that Ignatius regarded Jesus as a purely celestial being from this quote. But we know for certain that he didn’t – he mentions the crucifixion under Pilate, for example. Once you realise that undeniably historicist Christians could talk about Jesus in this way, you should be very wary of interpreting this kind of language as evidence for mythicism.

          • Mark

            Roman records where they existed could be forged, as our records are frequently forged. They provide evidence of anything only in accordance with the principle of inference to the best explanation – typically the best explanation is that what the record records is true. But inference to the best explanation has far wider scope. Records have nothing special about them. All documents are just more material to be thrown into the hopper and subjected to the principle of inference to the best explanation. The truth is that mythicism is not the best explanation of the data that have come down to us, none of which is in the nature of ‘records’ and most of which is indeed deposited in miracle-imputing religious tracts. These need to be explained too, as everything in the heavens and on earth needs to be explained and comprehended – the surviving materials of pre- or proto-Christianity, febrile and absurd as their content may be, are no different from court documents in this respect, and the duty of the responsible epistemic agent is to accept the best explanation of them – subject of course to potential revision in the light of /further/ explanantia.

            Mythicism involves accepting that a miracle occurred in Jerusalem: that a bunch hot-head prophet-quoting idol-hating Jewish-supremacists (not to put too fine a point on it) – just the kind of feverish true believers who were climbing the temple walls 30 years later bring catastrophe on the nation because of ‘an obscure oracle that one of their number would come to rule the world’ as Josephus says – suddenly went over to modified Osirisism-Inannaism. This is not the best explanation of the data, it’s the worst explanation that can possibly be imagined. You might as well expect the Osiris cult to break out in contemporary Saudi Arabia. To some it seems like an explanation since after all osirisisme and inannaisme existed elsewhere – but this is exactly to fail the most important aspect of the inference to the best explanation, namely that (unlike deductive inference) it is subject to the principle of /complete evidence/. E may be a great explanation of A or A+B, and the usually true account, but a terrible account of A+C. And indeed, Jerusalem and Mecca (C) are not like Thebes or Alexandria (B). Judeans had their own kind(s) of crazy, and this is the first thing anyone in antiquity will tell you and the first thing you notice upon making a study of the surviving texts — and these kinds of crazy must given a detailed exposition before we attempt to judge the best explanation. Above all, Paul must be located and understood within this space of crazy. Carrier didn’t do the work, because he can’t do the work, for one thing, he didn’t bother to get the ABCs, the languages. He is just another dilettante on the internet. The Bayesian-deFinnettist overlay is pretty superficial but it does have the curious effect of making the struggle for understanding, explanation and causal comprehension, the real driver of empirical inference, seem irrelevant.

            As a candidate best explanation, mythicism is not even in the running; it is a religious opinion accepted with the usual special pleading characteristic of faith. Why any person with minimal self-respect would go over to such a degrading faith, when they might instead aspire to actual cognition of real history, god knows. There are three basic questions, how Jesus messianism could get going, and exist after the crucifixion; how it acquired a ‘gentile mission’ (these are questions in historical /Jewish studies/ not to put too fine a point on it); and finally how it is that the gentile mission exhibited exponential grown and mutated in the ways it did. This last is within Carriers ken and there is much powerful historical material on it, but he contributes nothing to this difficult enquiry, the only thing he could possibly contribute to. The truth is, the book just plain sucks though its topic is in principle as interesting as could be.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Roman records where they existed could be forged, as our records are frequently forged.

            Yes but we have ways of determining if they’re llikely forged or not, just like we do with the fake Epistles.

            Mythicism involves accepting that a miracle occurred in Jerusalem: that a bunch hot-head prophet-quoting idol-hating Jewish-supremacists (not to put too fine a point on it) – just the kind of feverish true believers who were climbing the temple walls 30 years later bring catastrophe on the nation because of ‘an obscure oracle that one of their number would come to rule the world’ as Josephus says – suddenly went over to modified Osirisism-Inannaism.

            That’s far from a miracle. They didn’t just wake up one day and do this, it was part of a long cultural process of dying and rising god stories that existed throughout the ANE which culturally influenced them. So I don’t think you know what you’re talking about, and instead prefer brash, insulting language, and uses strawmen arguments not charitable to mythicism.

            E may be a great explanation of A or A+B, and the usually true account, but a terrible account of A+C. And indeed, Jerusalem and Mecca (C) are not like Thebes or Alexandria (B).

            Nobody’s talking about Mecca here, we’re talking about the Levant. And there’s no good reason to think a sect of Jews (of which there were many different kinds) could not incorporate dying and rising pagan god ideas into Judaism.

            As a candidate best explanation, mythicism is not even in the running; it is a religious opinion accepted with the usual special pleading characteristic of faith.

            Your opinion.

            Why any person with minimal self-respect would go over to such a degrading faith, when they might instead aspire to actual cognition of real history, god knows.

            There’s no faith involved, it is all backed up with evidence and reason. Tell me where I need to have faith.

            There are three basic questions, how Jesus messianism could get going, and exist after the crucifixion; how it acquired a ‘gentile mission’ (these are questions in historical /Jewish studies/ not to put too fine a point on it); and finally how it is that the gentile mission exhibited exponential grown and mutated in the ways it did.

            Give me your theory to all of these questions.

            and finally how it is that the gentile mission exhibited exponential grown and mutated in the ways it did.

            It arguably didn’t grow that fast in its first century, and grew much slower than Islam, which in less than 100 years made its way from Mecca to the Iberian peninsula on the European continent. The missing extra-biblical evidence indicates it wasn’t as big as some claim to be.

            The truth is, the book just plain sucks though its topic is in principle as interesting as could be.

            That’s your fucking opinion and you have not justified it at all. Your arguments just plain suck. They’re filled with emotion.

          • Mark

            I read it when it came out about 2 years ago – keep in mind there was no end of advance discussion too so it’s been forever really. It was discussed in /thousands/ of comments on this blog site alone as you can see with a little searching – I remember one where we hit a thousand comments on a single post by McGrath. You can try this ‘you didn’t read it’ game but you’ll find hundreds of detailed page by page comments from me and numerous like-minded secular people over the last 2 years on this site so forget it.

            The thing to say is that we’re stupid not that we didn’t read it. That I’m stupid or some of the other secular hangers on here are stupid, or that McGrath is stupid, are perfectly possible possible; but ignorance of mythicist arguments cannot be imputed to any of these people. They’ve all been through the wars.

            The discussion of Paul in Carrier is in fact cursory and shows no awareness whatsoever of the ambient 2nd T ideas that are needed to make sense of him – not that scholars have hit on a totally compelling theory that explains Paul. Carrier just cuts and pastes cosmochrist material little advanced beyond Couchoud or the like. He is on automatic pilot in the Paul chapter. He thinks it’s the easy part. Paul doesn’t deserve one chapter, he deserves the whole book; he is the darkest and, despite everything, most characteristic religious writer of the 2nd temple period. The date of the known authentic letters seems to be ~50s, but Paul seems from internal evidence to have converted within a few years of the execution of Jesus.

            Carrier is in fact ignores the relevant mythicist scholarship, most of which happened in the Soviet period. It died a hard death like Lysenkoism, and he is anxious to ignore this. I guess this refusal to consider relevant literature is legitimate from an ‘academic’ point of view, since anyway as usual he doesn’t have the languages. He has Greek, which is not completely irrelevant to questions about what happened in Galilee and Jerusalem in the early 1st c.

            > It’s perfectly plausible the NT books could have come to be without a real Jesus, as had happened about texts of other mythic figures.

            Yes it happens with ‘mythical figures’ but it doesn’t happen with Jewish messianic figures, //all of whom existed// and //all of whom fail// and //whose movements frequently have curious afterlives// see e.g. the Dönme or the Lubavitchers. Jewish messiahs always exist. They have nothing in common with Persephone. Nothing at all. They’re wacky movements, sure, but a totally different wacky from Inanna & co. Carrier is profoundly ignorant of the fundamental difference in matrix, he is completely ignorant of everything Jewish, and so of course he ends up with a ‘mythical’ Jesus since that locates The Jesus Idea in the only matrix Carrier knows anything about. Really, he knows jack about anything Jewish. It is impossible to stress this point enough. His ignorance and insensitivity is limitless. He’s like “I mean why shouldn’t a gang of Judean hotheads start doing a bit of modified Osirisisme? It makes perfect sense.” No it doesn’t make sense. Probability? Zero.

            The importance of Mark isn’t that it gives you nice true sentences to believe, since it’s half nonsense miracles that didn’t happen; the important question the text poses is why did it happen, why did it get written? Where is this stuff coming from? It is the same with Paul who talks 2/3 mumbo jumbo. How did he come to write this stuff? What happened?? We are looking for //the best explanation// of these data and the later appearance of “Christians” in the extended ambit of Paul’s so-called missions, e.g. in the Pliny letter and then all over in the data from the mid 2nd c. Paul’s hyper-jewish hyper-2nd-T letters themselves state what is in fact the best explanation of that strange fact. Why are 2nd c quasi-anti-semitic gentiles in Asia Minor and Rome and North Africa reading Septuagint and tracts about a 1st c Galilean exorcist of all the f*cking people on the planet they could be talking about? They might as well be reading about an eskimo. How does that happen again? Paul sort of tells us. There will be no certainty in these inferences any more than in anything else, but there will be rationality.

            Similarly when a scholar comes upon a bunch of Muslims singing songs like these https://books.google.com/books?id=QqsWDqDBZtoC&dq=songs+of+the+D%C3%B6nmeh&q=occultation#v=onepage&q=occultation&f=false
            he can deduce the existence of a Jewish messiah named Sabbatai, some of whose followers converted to Islam – even if she didn’t have 17th c Amsterdam newspapers that say as much. He chucked the law for us, he’s the light of God, he’s in occultation, he’s deep in the ‘husks’/kelipot working for us. There is no question of treating mystical Donmeh songs as court records. Its a question of /inference to the best explanation/. A ‘mythical figure’ is out of the question for these Muslims, who are obviously also kabbalistic Jews of some sort. Of course anything’s possible, but not just any historical judgment is rational.

            The christian churches are all bound up with something they call the Bible, and if you want to attack them, you look for trash in the Bible, sure. But you do better to study e.g. the arguments against the existence of a personal God which are by now 300 years old and pretty good. If you are a grown up and that is over and done with, but you are now looking for historical reality, the “Bible” doesn’t exist. There are just different books we struggle to date and explain.

            Mythicism is irrationalism like 9/11 truthism, birtherism, white supremacism, pepe-ism and so on. This is why we must fight.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I read it when it came out about 2 years ago – keep in mind there was no end of advance discussion too so it’s been forever really.

            And so that’s ‘back in the day’? You must be young.

            You can try this ‘you didn’t read it’ game but you’ll find hundreds of detailed page by page comments from me and numerous like-minded secular people over the last 2 years on this site so forget it.

            I never accused you of not reading the book.

            but ignorance of mythicist arguments cannot be imputed to any of these people. They’ve all been through the wars.

            Great. I better not read anything really ignorant from you all then on the subject. But you claimed Carrier only deals with Paul’s writings in a few pages when in fact that’s clearly not the case. So my ignorance detector went off.

            Carrier just cuts and pastes cosmochrist material little advanced beyond Couchoud or the like. He is on automatic pilot in the Paul chapter. He thinks it’s the easy part. Paul doesn’t deserve one chapter, he deserves the whole book; he is the darkest and, despite everything, most characteristic religious writer of the 2nd temple period.

            Show me some evidence of that first claim. Paul’s chapter is large as all his are. But I agree, it’s probably the most important part since Paul is so light on details of Jesus despite him being the earliest writer and having situations where it would have been useful to use Jesus’s life story to make a point.

            Carrier is in fact ignores the relevant mythicist scholarship, most of which happened in the Soviet period. It died a hard death like Lysenkoism, and he is anxious to ignore this.

            What scholarship shows this?

            Yes it happens with ‘mythical figures’ but it doesn’t happen with Jewish messianic figures, //all of whom existed// and //all of whom fail// and //whose movements frequently have curious afterlives// see e.g. the Dönme or the Lubavitchers. Jewish messiahs always exist.

            When Jewish messianic figure stories are mixed with the ANE tradition of dying and rising spiritual gods, they are. Judaism would have been the sole exception to this tradition.

            Really, he knows jack about anything Jewish. It is impossible to stress this point enough.

            Don’t stress it, prove it with an argument and evidence. Lots and lots of evidence.

            why did it get written? Where is this stuff coming from?

            Because a sect of Christians wanted spiritual Jesus to be historical Jesus. It would help them claim an edge on other rival sects that were in theological dispute by claiming they have the records of the historical Jesus, and the others don’t. That’s at least one reason.

            Why are 2nd c quasi-anti-semitic gentiles in Asia Minor and Rome and North Africa reading Septuagint and tracts about a 1st c Galilean exorcist of all the f*cking people on the planet they could be talking about?

            Why were 2nd c quasi-anti-semitic gentiles in Asia Minor and Rome and North Africa reading tracts about other mythic religious figures? Your question seems to be pointless.

            But you do better to study e.g. the arguments against the existence of a personal God which are by now 300 years old and pretty good.

            I’ve done plenty of that. Believe me. I write a whole blog almost entirely dedicated to that.

            Mythicism is irrationalism like 9/11 truthism, birtherism, white supremacism, pepe-ism and so on. This is why we must fight.

            Um, no it isn’t. It’s not in the same box as 9/11 truthism, birtherism, white supremacism, pepe-ism. Those things are backed up with no good evidence, mythicism is.

          • Mark

            It is true that Carrier only deals with Paul on a few pages. There is chapter 11 on “Epistles” (a pseudo-category imposed by 4th c ecclesiastics, as is “Gospels” his previous chapter) but it for example exhausts itself with stuff like f’ing Hebrews, a favorite locus mythicist riffing. There’s stuff about the actual Paul mixed in, sure, but no attempt to comprehend the actual Paul on the basis of the authentic letters. This is a closed book to him since he knows nothing about 2nd T Judaism, largely because, as we know, he just doesn’t know the languages, and doesn’t have the very first elements of appropriate scholarly training. He’s just another amateur on the internet photocopying bits of Drew, Couchoud , Price etc

            > When Jewish messianic figure stories are mixed with the ANE tradition of dying and rising spiritual gods, they are. Judaism would have been the sole exception to this tradition.

            Man, Judaism is the “sole exception” to basically every generalization about antique religion, and this was well understood by absolutely everyone in antiquity, right down to the poorest street-corner. It’s the ABCs. Wake up! Jesus wasn’t a “dying and rising spiritual god”. In Paul the resurrection of Jesus is explicitly made part of /the general resurrection of the dead/. Paul belonged to a school (he says pharisaical, though what this might have meant at the time is disputable) – a school that affirmed this meat-reassembly was coming for all, or all Jews. It is as /meat/ pure and simple that Jesus was raised up; it thus somehow for Paul we are supposed to anticipate the same /for ourselves/. This is not osirisisme, Divinity and resurrection are basically a direct contradiction. Stories of dying and resurrected Gods in the pagan world and passages in and out of the underworld are frequently associated with Spring or a renewed growing season, e.g. Persephone Inanna Osiris. Great stuff but its never gonna fly in Jerusalem not in any form – no more then, than it would today – and to think that Paul’s Jesus exemplifies this kind of newagey Mythic Archetype, charming as it is, is not just wrong but objectively mad and, as usual, exhibits a latently anti-semitic indifference to the 2nd T jewish data.

            Again, Jewish putative messiahs and christs always exist. Jewish putative messiahs and christs always fail. Movements pertaining Jewish putative messiahs and christs deal with the inevitable failure, death and disaster in a variety of amusing ways which are subject to their own scholarly theoretization. Mythicism is never a true account of a Jewish messianic movement and there was never any christ myth in the usual sense that ever arose in any Jewish population anywhere and that’s because it’s impossible.

            You didn’t answer the question “Why are 2nd c quasi-anti-semitic gentiles in Asia Minor and Rome and North Africa reading Septuagint and tracts about a 1st c Galilean exorcist of all the f*cking people on the planet they could be talking about?”

            This is a real question and has a real answer. The answer ‘It’s religion so wtf’ is irrationalism.

            I’m sorry brother but you are just another kind of pepe. The only way you can hold to mythicist crap is to circulate in dark corners of the internets where things like antisemitism and racism breed.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            It is true that Carrier only deals with Paul on a few pages.

            No! It is not. He dedicates some 80-90 pages to the Epistles. That you blatantly lie like this seems you have some agenda and ax to grind.

            but it for example exhausts itself with stuff like f’ing Hebrews, a favorite locus mythicist riffing.

            What are you talking about? He spends a lot of time on the non-fake letters.

            He’s just another amateur on the internet.

            Says the guy who’s repeatedly lying to try to make his case look better. Maybe you just have a bad memory. I’d like to think it’s probably just that.

            Man, Judaism is the “sole exception” to basically every generalization about antique religion, and this was well understood by absolutely everyone in antiquity, right down to the poorest street-corner. It’s the ABCs. Wake up!

            Yet it borrowed many things from the religions around it, like Zoroastrianism’s hell. So it wasn’t unique in every respect. And there’s no reason why a branch of Judaism wouldn’t mix the dying and rising god myth into it.

            It is as /meat/ pure and simple that Jesus was raised up

            That’s not so certain because Paul’s language is ambiguous on Jesus having a physical birth and a physical brother. He uses the term for create or be made when referring to his birth, not the term he typically uses for a human birth. And he’s extremely light on details about Jesus: Paul never mentions in his letters that anyone saw Jesus while he was alive; Paul never mentions Jesus’ ministry or any of his disciples or anyone having ever met him. Jesus only ever appeared to various people after he died through visions. The Egyptian god Osiris was a spiritual god who was also died, was buried and was reborn. It is not inconceivable that Paul thought of Jesus as a purely spiritual being who died and rose from the dead in the same fashion that many pre-Christian pagan gods in the ancient Near East had. This could have been the early Christian narrative before Jesus was “euhemerized” decades later by the writers of the gospels by having Jesus placed into historical contexts.

            Stories of dying and resurrected Gods in the pagan world are frequently associated with Spring or a renewed growing season, e.g. Persephone Inanna Osiris. Great stuff but its never gonna fly in Jerusalem not in any form and to think that Paul’s Jesus exemplifies this is not just wrong but objectively mad and, as usual, a latently anti-semitic indifference to the 2nd T jewish data.

            Except when a sect breaks off and does it’s own thing based on influence from other pagan religions, it can happen. And stop with the anti-semitic crap. No one here’s being anti-semitic.

            I’m sorry brother but you are just another kind of pepe. The only way you can hold to mythicist crap is to circulate in dark corners of the internets where things like antisemitism and racism breed.

            That’s complete BS. That’s the regressive leftist tactic: call everyone who disagrees with you a racist. It’s not gonna work with me.

          • Mark

            You say he talks about the “Epistles.” Very little of the Epistles is Paul. I have the book in front of me. There is no attempt to develop /a theory of Paul/ from the authentic letters, just pot shots at various phrases, like the ‘brother of the lord’ passage. Plenty about Hebrews etc etc. But never mind, we clearly have a different idea of what it would be to give an analysis of the Pauline letters. This chapter was for me the greatest disappointment in the book. But maybe one shouldn’t be surprised, the interpretation of Paul is basically the quantum field theory of Jewish studies. It’s /hard/.

            >The Egyptian god Osiris was a spiritual god who was also died, was buried and was reborn. It is not inconceivable that Paul thought of Jesus as a purely spiritual being who died and rose from the dead in the same fashion that many pre-Christian pagan gods in the ancient Near East had.

            I’m sorry, guy, but it /is/ inconceivable. What rises from the dead in 2nd T judaism, as in contemporary Judaism, is, for example, your grandmother. Thats what Paul thinks and says happened to Jesus this is quite explicit. There is in fact no dying and rising God anywhere in view. The only thing that rises, rises in just the way you and I will rise. It’s pure free association and anti-science to say anything else. Everything Paul says is explicable from narrowly Jerusalemite data which as we know is a closed book to Carrier the dilettante.

            We are not talking about a sect that broke off from anything and went its way. We are asking about historicity so we are in the 1st c. in the Jewish matrix of the origin. Paul did not break off from anything. Mark is not breaking off from anything. They are just more wild 2nd T jewish ideas alongside all the rest of them. Only, there’s no Inanna or Osiris in there anywhere, thats for sure, and to suggest there might be is indeed anti-semitism.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            But never mind, we clearly have a different idea of what it would be to give an analysis of the Pauline letters.

            Yes clearly we do because Carrier does that in his chapter on the Epistles. He’s obviously focusing on what’s relevant for his thesis.

            I’m sorry, guy, but it /is/ inconceivable. What rises from the dead in 2nd T judaism, as in contemporary Judaism, is, for example, your grandmother.

            No it is conceivable. Just because you can’t doesn’t mean it isn’t.

            Thats what Paul thinks and says happened to Jesus this is quite explicit.

            He isn’t explicit about it being on earth to a physical person.

            There is in fact no dying and rising God anywhere in view.

            Sure there is, it’s right there in the non-fake letters of Paul.

            Everything Paul says is explicable from narrowly Jerusalemite data which as we know is a closed book to Carrier the dilettante.

            It actually isn’t. And that’s what a huge part of the debate revolves around.

            We are not talking about a sect that broke off from anything and went its way.

            Yes we are. Christianity is a sect of Judaism. To deny that is to deny Christianity’s existence.

            Paul did not break off from anything. Mark is not breaking off from anything.

            All of them broke off from something.

            They are just more wild 2nd T jewish ideas alongside all the rest of them. Only, there’s no Inanna or Osiris in there anywhere, thats for sure, and to suggest there might be is indeed anti-semitism.

            More garbage from you.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            If you think that Carrier’s arguments really shine, you probably haven’t given enough thought to the matter. Consider one of his central ideas: the first Christians believed that Jesus was killed by Satan. This is supposedly implied by the Ascension of Isaiah. However, this would be no use as evidence to Carrier if the early Christians saw human rulers as satanic beings. And the Ascension of Isaiah itself shows that they did think like that. It talks about Beliar persecuting the church. Since Beliar is the ruler who killed his own mother, this is obviously a reference to Nero.
            We find the same kind of thinking in Revelation. The Smyrnaeans are warned that the devil will put them in prison. If you followed Carrier’s logic you would conclude that the Smyrnaeans never existed.
            So the Ascension of Isaiah is no evidence for Carrier’s theory. In fact, it is actually evidence against Carrier’s theory. Once you realise that the early Christians saw themselves as actors in a cosmic drama and talked about actual historical events in terms of a cosmic drama, then you see that the whole mythicist case collapses. That is because so much of the mythicist case depends on the idea that Jesus sounds more like an actor in a cosmic drama than a real person.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yes, “if.” What if they didn’t? Carrier argues they didn’t (OHJ, pp. 564-66):

            This cannot mean just Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin. This is everyone in power: they killed Jesus, and did so only because they were kept from knowing their doing so would save the human race. This entails a whole world order whereby if any of ‘the rulers of this age’ had known what would happen, they would have told their peers and stopped the crucifixion, to prevent its supernatural effect. This does not describe any human world order. This describes the Satanic world order, the realm of demons and fallen angelic powers.

            [In fact], this exactly describes what we saw in the earlier redaction of the Ascension of Isaiah: [there,] Satan and his demons kill Jesus only because his identity was kept hidden from them, so they wouldn’t know what his death would accomplish.

            It therefore makes more sense to conclude that it is the archons of the sky that Paul is saying God wanted to thwart by keeping all of this hidden, so they would kill Jesus, not knowing it would secure their destruction. For Paul says these archons are ‘being abolished’ (katargoumenôn, a present passive participle). This does not plausibly refer to the Jewish or Roman elite (who were still fully in power, and could still be as saved as anyone by joining Christ). It most plausibly means that those sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus now had power over the demons, to exorcise them and escape their clutches—thereby escaping the power of death. Because it is by his death that Jesus had triumphed over those dark celestial powers (just as Colossians 2:15 would later say). The early Christian scholar Origen agreed: he could only understand Paul here to be saying that unseen powers of darkness were being abolished, not any earthly authorities, and that these demonic powers were the ones who plotted against and crucified Jesus.

            We find the same kind of thinking in Revelation. The Smyrnaeans are warned that the devil will put them in prison. If you followed Carrier’s logic you would conclude that the Smyrnaeans never existed.

            That’s a bad reading of the argument. The argument isn’t: if the devil does something bad to someone, it entails they don’t exist. The Smyrnaeans are not depicted as being in space.

            Once you realise that the early Christians saw themselves as actors in a cosmic drama and talked about actual historical events in terms of a cosmic drama, then you see that the whole mythicist case collapses.

            But if the early Christians saw Jesus as a non-physical being, and later Christians saw as a physical being, that supports the case for mythicism.

          • Horatio Harcourt

            That depends on a very tendentious reading of 1 Corinthians 2:9. In fact, there are good reasons to think the rulers are human, since there is a clear parallel with 1 Corinthians 1:18.

            But you are simply ignoring the fact that Nero is actually said to be Beliar

      • Maxximiliann

        “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ―myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ―myth’ theories.” ―The New Testament Documents, F. F. Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, England

        “No one. No one in scholarly circles dealing with ancient Judaism and early Christianity, of any religious or non―religious persuasion holds the view that Jesus never existed. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own truth.”—Larry Hurtado, former Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology (University of Edinburgh)

        “Jesus did more than just exist. He said and did a great many things that most historians are reasonably certain we can know about today. …. A hundred and fifty years ago a fairly well respected scholar named Bruno Bauer maintained that the historical Jesus never existed. Anyone who says that today ― in the academic world at least ― gets grouped with the skinheads who say there was no Holocaust and the scientific holdouts who want to believe the world is flat.” ―M A Powell

        “Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3―year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity.” ―Unknown

        “There is something so pure and frank and noble about Him that to doubt His sincerity would be like doubting the brightness of the sun.” ―Charles Edward Jefferson

        Here are but a few of the historical facts they’re talking about.

        • arcseconds

          Well, the impact of a movement descended from Jesus’s followers stands on its own in terms of historical importance.

          But in terms of intellectual influence, that’s a harder question. Partly because they became thoroughly intertwined very early on. Already in the Gospel of John you can see Platonism creeping through, and the Platonic tradition and (a few centuries later) Aristotle basically were synonymous with philosophy in Christendom.

          And even the early modern philosophers who are often said to be (and thought of themselves as) making a clean break with Aristotle were more influenced by him than is often acknowledged.

          For intellectuals, Plato and especially Aristotle have had about the most influence that it’s possible to imagine, at least in a culture that progresses intellectually.

          I’d like to be in the position to say that, say, “love thy neighbour” or “if anyone forces you to walk a mile, go with him two” have had far more influence on society than, say, Aristotle’s notion of teleology, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be the case: Jesus’s teachings are almost universally honoured in the breach, it seems to me.

        • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker
          • Maxximiliann
          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What extra-biblical sources? There are none. Writing about what Christians believe 70 or 100 years after Jesus is supposed to have lived is not good evidence of his existence, any more than someone today writing about an alien spaceship crash landing in Roswell NM in 1947 is good evidence that that happened. And Josephus is a likely interpolation.

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

            It is unlikely that both references are interpolations, and unlikely that the so-called Testimonium Flavianum is an interpolation in its entirety, as I am sure you are aware.

            For someone to not be mentioned by their contemporaries in sources that happen to be extant today is quite common, and says nothing one way or the other about a figure’s historicity or ahistoricity. Apologists may claim otherwise, but historians who know the state of our data and its transmission are unlikely to adopt that sort of stance, for obvious reasons.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Some have argued the whole passage about Jesus is an interpolation. I personally don’t know. I think it is likely that at least some of it is, and the arguments that scholars give why it is are pretty convincing. And non-existent mentions of Jesus is a reason to doubt the historicity of Jesus given the bigger picture of the argument against his existence. By itself it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. There are just too many coincidences of missing data right around the time Jesus or the early Christians would have been mentioned.

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

            You can find academics who say just about anything, if you are happy to pick and choose according to what you want them to say rather than adhering to the principle that the consensus is more likely to be correct.

            If you think there are “too many coincidences of missing data” you surely have not looked at any other time in ancient history.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            And the consensus is that at least some of Josephus’s writing on Jesus is an interpolation. For the missing data we know for a fact that early Christians forged documents and destroyed documents to fit their theological agenda. And we have a number of historical accounts and commentaries that disappear right when they could have said something about Jesus or the early churches. The argument is that there were records that showed that early Christians may have thought of Jesus in the spiritual way, and that later Christians who adhered to the physical Jesus destroyed those records to erase the view that mythicists say was the original view.

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

            The claim is that sources no longer extant showed that people held a view for which no evidence now exists. Perhaps you would care to explain why you think it makes sense to claim that slightly later sources are of no value to our historical knowledge, but flights of the imagination about sources which don’t exist are the key to the right understanding of history?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Because those later sources were tampered with (interpolated) and even if not, all they do is report on what people believed happened 70 years prior. That’s not a contemporary eyewitness account, which would of course be good historical evidence, and I think we’d agree on that. As for the missing evidence, it all too conveniently happens right around the time that Jesus/early Christianity would have been mentioned, and we know for a fact that later Christians destroyed material they didn’t like. So it’s no flight of the imagination.

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

            You haven’t shown that any evidence that we should expect to find is missing. You haven’t dealt with the fact that the evidence we do find includes things that would not have supported the views of the later Christians that you envisage eliminating evidence. And despite your claim otherwise, you are in fact positing that the missing evidence would show that Christians held a view that no extant source expresses.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I mentioned that evidence a week ago to another commentator. As for the evidence we do find that is not compatible with the later view, Christians didn’t eliminate everything. They tried, but failed. It’s that simple. They tried, for example, to eliminate everything about mythracism but we have at least one source. I’m not sure what you have in mind for this unfriendly evidence though. We don’t know what the missing evidence would show, but it’s funny how it disappears right where it would have covered the period of Jesus and the early cult. To you it has to be a coincidence, right?

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

            This is standard conspiracy theorist fare – “they” did this thing, and then they covered up the evidence. But enough slipped through so that I and a handful of crusaders for truth can see what really happened, unlike the sheep that go along with the standard government/academic/church story.

            It isn’t clear to me how you can think it is rational to adopt such a position, never mind why you think anyone else would find it persuasive as opposed to laughable.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Sometimes conspiracies are true, and you cannot reject everything that sounds like one a priori. It is not at all far fetched to think Christians were motivated to destroy certain things that they didn’t like, but failed to get all of it. It takes more faith to believe it’s just a pure coincidence that there just so happens to be numerous holes in the historical record that would have covered the period of Jesus and the early church. But it’s interesting how in order to even try to make the case for a historic Jesus you have to deny so much of the NT as history and relegate it as embellishment, and embrace a rather extreme form of minimalism.

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

            All conspiracy theorists say “sometimes conspiracies are true.” But unless one shows that there is good reason to think that there is one in a particular case, then they aren’t actually better than the others.

            There do not happen to be holes in the historical record that are in any way surprising or smack of conspiracy. If you had the least acquaintance with ancient history, you’d be impressed by how much we have, not think that a lot of material was deliberately destroyed. But even if the latter is the case, it remains true that lots of views at odds with the emphases of the NT documents, and of the later church, have survived, and none of them support mythicism.

            I do not embrace an extreme form of minimalism. My views are pretty mainstream. But of course, if you don’t read in the field you are discussing, including but not limited to things written by your conversation partner, then you are bound to be forced to just make things up about living people in the same way that you do about ancient ones. :-(

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            All rational people say “sometimes conspiracies are true.” You know why? Because it’s actually true! We don’t have a lot of data on those critical years of 0-33 AD and we have numerous holes in the record for just that period, and we know that Christians were the most of people who got to decide what to preserve and what not to and that they were motivated to destroy things they didn’t like and interpolate elsewhere.

            There’s no equivalent of 9/11 truthism. They’re crazy, and basing their view on lies and misinformation. Minimal mythicism is a plausible hypothesis that needs to be debated and explored. The evidence for Jesus is bad. No eyewitness accounts at all! No third party records at all. Nothing written for at least 20 years after. The earliest writings giving hints of a non-physical Jesus. Most of the detail coming 40-70 years later with clear signs of embellishment. Similarities between the dying and rising god religions that were all over the ANE. Critical missing evidence so numerous it makes coincidence unlikely. The proliferation of syncretism in the ANE where you amalgamate different religions, cultures, or schools of thought, which if done with Judaism would get you pretty much exactly what the minimal mythicists argue for. The known fact that Christians tried to destroy or interpolate views that they disagreed with. This is no 9/11 conspiracy. It seems you do have to support some kind of minimalism since almost every time I mention something in the NT and ask why there isn’t any record of it you and the others have to claim that it didn’t have to happen.

          • Mark

            We don’t need all the historical record to see that ‘Oh there you go, another collapsed Jewish messianic movement’ is the answer; we just need Paul’s /authentic/ letters, really, though a few other compositions add good coloration to the /obvious/ fact of a crucified Jew who attracted messianic ideas somehow. Note that these further compositions, like Mark, are worse than something suppressed in a way: they contain impossible miracle stories, but are still good input to an inference to the best explanation.

          • Mark

            Or maybe you are denying the authenticity of Paul’s authentic letters? That is a more interesting subject than any you have raised, but the arguments, like those characteristic of the ‘Dutch radical school’ so much beloved of the recovering-evangelical mythicist internets – are kind of weak – For example, that the author of the Paul letters couldn’t have been a Jew since he doesn’t sound like … a rabbinical Jew – i.e. someone who couldn’t in fact have existed until the late 2nd century. (Never mind that in fact Paul sounds more like a ‘rabbinical’ Jew than any writer known from the first c. – in particular in his understanding of the gentile question, since he adopts an otherwise unattested ‘noahide’ type of solution as the rabbis later crop up doing.)

          • Mark

            What’s the evidence about ‘mythraism’ that you’re thinking of?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker
          • Mark

            Nice mithraeum from ~2nd c Heidelberg but what does it have to do with 1st c. Jerusalem?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Did you completely forget the context in which this came up?

          • Mark

            No, you are arguing that something about 4th c ecclesiastics tells us something about 1st c Jerusalem – which is absurd on its face – but that in particular the Mithraism evidence they covered up bore on the falsification. Basically nothing about the church has anything to do with out topic.

          • arcseconds

            Your so-called ‘evidence’ includes the ‘mysterious absence’ of a thorough historical investigation of the origins of Christianity in the works of Marius Maximus.

            “yet he never once mentions or digresses on the origins or treatment of Christianity” is what you say. You are not in a position to assert this, as we do not have the complete works of Maximus, nor even a single extant work: all we have are a few fragments and secondary references.

            Given that this sounds as if we do have substantial works of Maximus, this statement is extremely misleading. Perhaps you weren’t aware that we don’t have his work, but now you are, the honest thing to do would be to amend your post somehow, rather than continue to imply something that just isn’t true.

            Moreover, there’s no reason to expect that Maximus would contain any information about the origins of Christianity, as his main interest is scandolous biographies of Emperors. That’s what he quotes official documents for, some of which he apparently just makes up. This is like expecting ‘Best of Tatler’ to contain material about the origins of Sikhism.

            I’ve pointed this out to you, and yet you continue to bizarrely maintain that not finding an account of the origins of Christianity in works we don’t have from an author that wasn’t interested in the question is somehow important:

            We have people who based their writings on his writings and that’s how we know about them, still nothing about the origins or treatment of Christianity. Someone who extensively quotes official documents would most likely mention Christianity if it was a factor.

          • Paul E.

            You realize, do you not, that you are discussing this issue with a well-known expert? It’s just my opinion, but it would perhaps be better to take advantage of the accessibility of such a prominent scholar than attempt to lecture him about what NT scholars argue or make broad, unsupported assertions about unidentified coincidences. Just my two cents…

          • Mark

            There isn’t the least reason why Jesus should ever have been recorded or remembered by anyone outside the crowd that hung on and affirmed his ‘resurrection’. None. Zero. In fact the church kindly preserved Josephus for us so we do get a couple passages from some non-christian who happened, curiously, to take a limited interest in such phenomena. Then of course some among them damaged the text they kindly preserved but suppose they had just burned it? We would still need to find /the best explanation/ of Paul, Mark, Revelation, Pliny’s letter etc etc onward. /The best explanation/ is kind of obvious: a guy with a following of religious nuts who ended up crucified by the Roman Empire like thousands of other people they didn’t like – followed by one of the known responses to failed messianic movements, an occultation hypothesis (with specific coloration). The only reason to oppose this /obvious and incredibly simple account/ is FEAR OF A HISTORICAL JESUS.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Sure there is. The Romans could have recorded him. They kept records of many things including the crucifixion of common criminals. The Jews could have recorded him too. That place and time had no deficit of historians who could write about these events.

          • Mark

            Exactly which storehouse of Roman crucifixion records is Jesus missing from? Which /plurality/ of historians discussed wandering exorcists in early 1st c Galilee but skipped Jesus? What body of birth certificates or tax receipts remains from say early 1st c Capernaum but skipped e.g. Peter. Why is there no record of the imprisonment of Paul etc etc. It’s ridiculous. The only reason to imagine there would be such things is that from the point of view of the Church Jesus was important. You are still in the element of religious controversy, which has nothing to do with the present topic which belongs to real secular history. Real historical enquiry does not live, as you on the evidence seem to do, in a state of FEAR OF A HISTORICAL JESUS. It looks for the best and most compelling account of the data, most of which, in the present case, is tracts by febrile religious enthusiasts, but so what, they are chunks of reality that need to be explained and understood and located.

          • Paul E.

            True, there are lots of things that “could” have happened. Nevertheless, if one wants to cite a lack of particular records as to a particular person at a particular time as evidence that said person never existed, one must first demonstrate the likelihood that such records would have existed in a manner that would have survived. I have not seen that case made.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Because we have several examples of the works covering the before and after period of Jesus and the early Christians that mysterious disappear. And we know for a fact that Christians forged and destroyed documents that they didn’t like. It isn’t far fetched. And again, as I’ve said for maybe the 5th time on this thread, this is one piece of evidence in a larger argument. By itself it is not much. Mythicism is not based on this one piece of evidence. But it supports the mythicist thesis.

          • Paul E.

            I do not see here any argument that as to Jesus, there is any particular record that we should expect to exist in a way that would be expected to survive that we do not have, and that the lack of that particular record is evidence that Jesus did not exist. So, in my opinion, until that case is made, you just don’t get there.

            Regardless, even if one were to posit records and the contents of records we do not have, what is the evidence of what those records would be and what evidence do we have to suggest the contents of these posited records would support mythicism?

          • Mark

            If you are attacking the church you will care about forged pastorals and the like. Our enquiry is into historical reality and we don’t give a f*ck about the claims of the church. If you are trying to find out what happened in the first century you won’t even notice the pastorals. And sure there are missing texts! Oh if only we had a few more of Papias for example!

            We are looking for the best explanation of /the data that are before us/. The authentic letters of Paul are .. the authentic letters of Paul; to isolate them was a great achievement of real scholarship. We should be in awe of the masters who worked these things out. For you these masters are just garbage.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What the church was motivated to do is relevant because it can explain the missing texts that should have covered the period of Jesus and the early church. That’s the whole point. For me I said nothing of these masters being garbage. You need to stop falsely accusing others of what they do or say or mean. It’s childish.

          • Mark

            The high-handedness of your sneering rejection of received results of secular historical-scientific work is astounding, so sorry I’m not the one being childish.

            Missing texts are irrelevant if the best explanation of the extant texts, e.g. Paul, Mark, Revelation, the Pliny letter, etc. just by themselves – as if they were the only things to survive at all – begins ‘oh another little Jewish messianic movement but one a little like Chabad where gentiles ….’, as of course it must.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yes you are being childish and emotional, cursing constantly and being very insulting.

          • Mark

            But I’m dealing with the moral equivalent of a 9/11 truther or climate denier, nevertheless you’re right I should probably regret it. After a while it gets to be a strain as you can imagine if you imagine arguing with e.g. a 9/11 truther. As in those cases there is an ulterior motive in the ‘skeptic’; in the present case it is anti-Christian apologetic which is the absolute death of historical consciousness.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There’s no equivalent of 9/11 truthism. They’re crazy, and basing their view on lies and misinformation. Minimal mythicism is a plausible hypothesis that needs to be debated and explored. The evidence for Jesus is bad. No eyewitness accounts at all! No third party records at all. Nothing written for at least 20 years after. The earliest writings giving hints of a non-physical Jesus. Most of the detail coming 40-70 years later with clear signs of embellishment. Similarities between the dying and rising god religions that were all over the ANE. Critical missing evidence so numerous it makes coincidence unlikely. The proliferation of syncretism in the ANE where you amalgamate different religions, cultures, or schools of thought, which if done with Judaism would get you pretty much exactly what the minimal mythicists argue for. The known fact that Christians tried to destroy or interpolate views that they disagreed with. This is no 9/11 conspiracy.

          • Mark

            > They’re crazy, and basing their view on lies and misinformation

            Practitioners of 9/11 truthism say just this stuff if you compare them to birthers likewise the more sophisticate climate change deniers, and there are plenty of sophisticates among them.

            But note now you begin your refrain with “the evidence for Jesus is bad” The fact is, it isn’t. People only think it is because they confuse the immense pile of false propositions about Jesus (e.g. miracle attributions) with the inference to the cause of all this falsity.

            > Similarities between the dying and rising god religions that were all over the ANE.

            Only there isn’t any dying and rising god in Paul. If you want to start seeing “Pagan Parallels” you need to go into the development of gentile Christianity. Indeed the orthodox church frequently prides itself on them as devices for spreading the gospel by ‘christening’ pagan phenomena. This is another subject though it is one you are hell-bent on assimilating to the question of Jesus mythicism which belongs to historical Jewish studies and 2nd Temple studies in particular.

            When you speak of syncretism a whole lot of things can be meant. Hellenistic and Roman paganism were intrinsically “syncretistic”: all gods of all peoples existed even the god of the Jerusalem temple existed. The rites of new Gods were forever being introduced from one city to another, see e.g. page 1 of Plato’s Republic where the party starts with a visit to see the showy rites of a newly introduced cult, combined with pious syncretizing prayers, as a matter of course, to a goddess they never heard of but who puts on good show with boys on horseback.

            The Jews were different. Paul is /way/ different.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The evidence for Jesus is not good. We have more for Socrates than for Jesus. So much is preserved of what Socrates said and so little of what Jesus said, despite Jesus founding a great church that became dedicated to preserving everything written about him, at least that was positive. It’s amazing that we have no written eyewitness accounts of anything about Jesus at all given that mission of the church. You’d think we’d have volumes of eyewitness accounts, but we have none.

            Only there isn’t any dying and rising god in Paul.

            1 Cor 15.

            When you speak of syncretism a whole lot of things can be meant. Hellenistic and Roman paganism were intrinsically “syncretistic”: all gods of all peoples existed even the god of the Jerusalem temple existed….The Jews were different. Paul is /way/ different.

            So is your argument is that Judaism could not sync pagan ideas into it? That’s nonsense since it’s concept of hell comes from Zoroastrianism. Or is your argument is that Judaism could not sync pagan ideas into it of a dying and rising god? That would be nonsense too because how the hell did we even get the notion of a god-man Jesus who died and rose? Syncretism is about combining both religions, not choosing one over the other. But it doesn’t have to acknowledge that all the gods exist.

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

            You seem not to be aware that Jesus, in our earliest sources, is not a ‘god-man’ unless you mean one that is deified by the one God as per Jewish thought. As has been pointed out, you seem not to understand what resurrection meant in ancient Judaism. And you are treating Plato’s Dialogues in a manner that is historically naive.

            Why won’t you admit that you are driven by ideology to adopt a stance and simply don’t care about the methods of secular study of history?

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

            People who adhere to irrational conspiracy theories regularly view those who adhere to other conspiracy theories as irrational, and are convinced that they are nothing like them.

            What would it take to persuade you to learn enough about ancient history to be in an actual position to judge whether the evidence for Jesus is bad?

          • Horatio Harcourt

            I think Carrier’s claim was that in a number of cases, sections of works that would have covered the period when Jesus lived have gone missing. As with all of his claims, I would like to see that checked. Is it the case that when ancient works are incomplete, the part covering the early first century is more likely to be missing than other parts, or is Carrier seeing patterns where none exist?

            But even if those sections had been deliberately destroyed, what would it prove? If those sections were destroyed because they failed to mention Jesus and this offended some early Christians it would just mean that they shared your unrealistic expectation that Jesus should be mentioned. Or perhaps they were destroyed because they said something unflattering about Jesus.

            Another point to make is that no extra-biblical corroboration would satisfy you anyway. You have already said that you don’t count Josephus as evidence because he is too late and may just be repeating Christian hearsay. So how early would the corroboration have to be? It seems that you have narrowed the period when independent corroboration would be accepted to such an extent that your demands would be impossible to fulfil.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            It wouldn’t “prove” anything but it would be an indication that the later Christians were motivated to cover up the record where there was either silence on Jesus or it said something they didn’t like, such as references to the spiritual Jesus view, rather than the earthly Jesus view.

            Another point to make is that no extra-biblical corroboration would satisfy you anyway.

            Bullshit. I’ve said over and over that any contemporary accounts from third parties, such as Roman or Jewish records would instantly change my mind in favor of historicity, especially if they were critical, just like we have for Socrates. So please, spare me the bullshit.

          • arcseconds

            I’ve said over and over that any contemporary accounts from third parties, such as Roman or Jewish records would instantly change my mind in favor of historicity

            Note that this is a much higher bar for evidence than that required by professional historians of the ancient world. They are prepared to assert for example there’s a fairly high chance of Gilgamesh existing, despite every single detail preserved about him being obviously mythical, purely on the basis that he appears in a king list that has kings that are otherwise known in it.

            (I don’t mean, of course, that they’re certain that he existed, it’s always couched with significant uncertainty, but it’s not ‘close to 0’ or ‘not going to make any kind of call about it’.)

            They are also happy to accept the existence of people like Gamaliel or Thales on the basis of sources written decades (in the case of Gamaliel) or hundreds of years (in the case of Thales) after they supposedly existed, predominantly by people working in the same tradition and who were sympathetic to the figures in question.

            So, historians of the ancient near east who accept that Jesus existed (which is all of them bar a tiny number of exceptions who can be counted on one hand) are not being any less sceptical than other ancient historians are about other figures.

            If contemporary sources written by people who don’t care about the subject matter is where the bar should be, then the problem is far more severe than New Testament scholarship. The entire area of ancient history has been way too credulous.

            On the other hand, setting a high bar here contrasts starkly with the low bar you set for the celestial Jesus theory, which is based entirely on what Paul doesn’t say. You are not requiring anyone at all to actually assert this theory, let alone contemporaries outside the tradition who are critical of it.

            So in reverse order of credulity, we have:

            1) The Thinker on the existence of Jesus,
            2) professional historians on the existence of practically everyone in the ancient world who isn’t a writer or a ruler
            3) The Thinker on the existence of a celestial Jesus myth.

            Any chance of any consistency of what level of evidence you require to accept a historical event?

          • Michael I

            On the subject of “contemporary sources”…

            Apparently our earliest accounts of Alexander’s life come from nearly three centuries after his death.

            “Diodorus Siculus, whose account is the earliest to survive, was writing in the late first century BC.”

            (Mary Beard in the chapter “How Great was Alexander?” in her book Confronting the Classics.)

            (For comparison, Alexander died in 323 BCE.)

          • arcseconds

            That’s a good example of how patchy our ancient sources really are. Unfortunately I think our friend is likely to shrug and go “there are coins and inscriptions!” and not think about what this tells us about the coverage of texts we have.

          • Paul E.

            Smuggling an anti-religious agenda into an argument like this has the additional problem that the concept of a “historical Jesus” is sometimes ill-defined by mythicists. They are looking to argue against a particular type of Jesus – and if they can’t find THAT Jesus, then he doesn’t exist at all – rather than looking for the best explanation for the evidence. One starts defending the scholarly consensus of a person as a cause of a movement about whom we can say a few things with some sort of probability, and the retort is something like, “who cares about THAT Jesus?!?!” What historians do seems to be a mystery to a lot of people.

          • arcseconds

            I think it’s actually worse than just a lack of clarity or definition. It’s outright equivocation: they will act completely as though they’re discussing a ‘minimal historical Jesus’ up until some point, and then they’ll suddenly burst out with something like “but it’s totally impossible for someone to walk on water: a mythical celestial Jesus is far more likely than that!” or something else that indicates they really have not let go of the Jesus asserted by theologically conservative modern-day Christianity.

            (There are uniformed and uninterested mythicists who do act like you say, who don’t even seem to have given any serious thought to the possibility of a non-miraculous Jesus, and get bored of the conversation as soon as it isn’t a game of atheism versus Christianity, where the winning condition for the atheist is to show that Christianity is wrong about everything.)

            Carrier even defines a ‘minimal historical Jesus’ which seems pretty unproblematic and unambiguous, so we could expect an informed mythicist, especially one who is influenced by Carrier to a large extent, would be dealing with that concept, not the Jesus that raises the dead, and plunges the world into darkness at his death, only to get up three days later at which point he can walk through walls and fly off into outer space.

            We can find professional mythicists like Fitzgerald or even Price doing this from time to time.

            This discussion has had several instances where The Thinker has revealed that his thought has a considerable undercurrent of combating Christians and their Jesus of miraculous faith. He exclaimed that discussing the meaning of a greek term was ‘ridiculous’ due to this, and he just compared celestial sperm-Jesus favourably as a historical theory to the virgin birth, and accused James of feigning secularism. He still seems to be unable to adjust to a situation where the historical Jesus does not have super-powers: he still seems to have documentary expectations based on a super-powered Jesus.

            I don’t think this is conscious: he consciously thinks of himself as engaging with a minimal Jesus, but subconsciously it’s all still geared around a miracle Jesus and Christian plotting and a grand conflict for the hearts and souls of humanity or something.

          • Mark

            At the time of Paul, the parties you are interested in don’t exist. He is a pure Jewish source, independent of all ecclesiastical forces. He is independent of the party you despise for the simple reason that it needs another couple of centuries to develop.

          • arcseconds

            You really need to go and check the extent of material that exists about 1st century Palestine. If we had detailed court records and parish birth-and-death information then this might be a reasonable expectation, but seeing as we have practically nothing, there is no reason to expect the existence of Jesus to be recorded. Same with historians: there are scant few, and no-one really attempting to classify every single Jewish cult.

            I don’t believe we have any clear references to the Qumran community outside that community’s own documents, for example, and no mention of the Teacher of Righteousness outside their documentation.

            This is another point that we have already discussed. You have not established that this is a reasonable expectation to have, and you haven’t responded or show any indication you have even read the fact this point has already been made: again, it is something you have ignored.

            At this point, this discussion is reminding me of discussing evolution with creationists. This particular demand of yours is very similar to the creationists’ demand for transitional forms, and no amount of talking about the fragmentary nature of the fossil record will stop them from insisting that there’s a problem here, as though it were reasonable to expect a complete fossil record.

            You are also showing a similar level of obstinacy with regard to learning anything about the subject.

            Someone who’s interest was in the truth, rather than in defending a view for ideological reasons (or maybe simply out of an inability to admit they are wrong about anything) would be taking this opportunity to learn from experts, not doubling down on ignorant expectations devised by amateur ideologues: as with evolution, so with 1st century Judaism.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            The Romans kept no detailed records of any such things. That’s a myth, largely based on the fact that Egypt -did- keep detailed records that she was able to supply Rome when she was a province.

            There are no Roman ledgers that record crucifixions or any such data. Ironically, perhaps our richest source of data on the Roman practice of crucifixion comes from Josephus.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The Romans required the record keeping of every province they governed, not just Egypt, and they, for example, kept tax receipts of many things. Now obviously the majority of these records you’d expect to be lost. But if records existed for Jesus, Christians would have had motivation to preserve them. And records would not be held solely by the Romans, copies would be held by civilians. In the Roman Empire it was the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide the writing materials for his own receipts.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Tell me ten other people crucified in Judea in the first century that you know about due to all these detailed records the Roman Empire kept.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            They were probably destroyed, as I mentioned most things were from that time, but there’s a difference between them and Jesus: they never founded the world’s largest religion dedicated to preserving almost everything about them. Jesus did.

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

            He didn’t even found a religion, much less a large one, in his time. You are anachronistically reading things that only happened much later back into your assessment of Jesus, which is obviously inappropriate if you are going to continue to claim to at least be trying to do something vaguely historical.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Jesus didn’t found Christianity? Really? So on the assumption of historicism, who did then?

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

            I suppose you didn’t notice that, when Paul wrote his letters, the term Christian was apparently not yet in use?

          • Mark

            The idea that Jesus ‘founded Christianity’ is completely unhistorical; it borders on objectively mad. Christianity, however exactly we should delimit it, wasn’t founded by anyone, it developed.

          • arcseconds

            No-one did.

            At least, there was no one individual (so far as I know) who decided ‘right, time for a new religion, I’m starting one as of now”.

            It’s hard to tell what Jesus thought he was doing, but we don’t have any real reason to suppose he’s very much different from any other Jewish religious reformer: “this is the proper way to worship and obey the one God”.

            It seems that the first generation of Jesus-followers (including Paul, and Peter, assuming Acts is reliable on this point) extended the message to gentiles, a radical step, although Isaiah does look forward to a time where gentiles will also worship the one God.

            But they apparently continued to think of themselves as Jewish, and taking the worship and obedience of the one God of Israel forward in a way that they regarded as appropriate.

            Eventually of course Christians and Jews started thinking of each other as doing something completely different and (often) completely wrong. At that point it was possible to look back and see that Jesus had started something that gave rise to a new religion, but if they had all died by 80 AD no-one (including the participants, and historians two millennia later) would think of it as anything other than a Jewish sect.

            Also, of course, ‘starting a new religion’, ‘religion’, and ‘Judaism’ as all thoroughly anachronistic concepts to be applying to a 1st century context, let alone ‘Christianity’.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You don’t have to consciously be aware of starting a new religion in order to start a new religion. All you have to do is preach a distinct theological message, get followers, and viola, new religion.

          • arcseconds

            So, for example, John Shelby Spong has started a new religion, even though he continues to be a Bishop in the Episcopal Church?

            He’s pretty popular and lots of people read his books who aren’t Episcopalians, and it’s certainly possible that decades from now fans of his work will form a new religion or at least a new kind of Christianity, and he will be seen as its founder, but it’s not clear now that that’s the case.

          • arcseconds

            How do you know these detailed records ever existed?

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Ok, so, here’s the thing.

            We have no evidence the Roman Empire ever kept any records about crucifixions. We might assume they did. We might guess that an Empire should. But we have no evidence. We do not have the documents, portrayals of the documents, transcripts or translations of the documents, or citations of the documents.

            We actually have more evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus than we have evidence for Roman documentation of crucifixions.

            Yet, you are not only fully willing to accept the existence of such documents as probable, it is SO probable that the absence of a Christian getting a hold of Rome’s documents that mention Jesus and preserving them for two millennia is, to you, a weighty piece of evidence -against- the existence of a historical Jesus.

            Do you see why this seems methodologically inconsistent? Why don’t I get to say, “There were many official documents that mention Jesus. It’s just that they were all destroyed over time and lost to the ages?”

            If the day comes when a Bedouin knocks over some pottery and finds a ledger that painstakingly documents births, deaths, or executions in Judea, and Jesus’ name is conspicuously absent from these documents, you might have something.

            Instead, you guess that Rome kept painstaking records of these things – even though you have no evidence for it – and that Jesus would be mentioned in these records that do not exist if Jesus existed, and since you believe Jesus would be mentioned in these documents if they existed, then Jesus must not exist.

            Now you add to your point that Jesus “founded a religion” that was “dedicated to preserving almost everything about them,” to which I have to ask what your evidence is for this? Are you referring to the painstaking records the early church kept which also do not exist because they were probably destroyed? Or perhaps the large cache of artifacts they kept which also no longer exist because they were probably destroyed? How much hypothetical counter-evidence are you allowed to use?

            The irony of the whole thing is that by your lights, Jesus, who is actually mentioned in documents, obviously did not exist. But Roman ledgers of Judean crucifixions that are not mentioned anywhere that undoubtedly would have been preserved for two thousand years in the hands of Christians who somehow would have managed to get a hold of them? Those obviously existed.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Why don’t I get to say, “There were many official documents that mention Jesus. It’s just that they were all destroyed over time and lost to the ages?”

            You can, but since Jesus is the founder of a religion there would have been a dedicated effort to preserve records about his existence. That doesn’t mean we’d have them of course, they could still have been lost.

            Instead, you guess that Rome kept painstaking records of these things – even though you have no evidence for it – and that Jesus would be mentioned in these records that do not exist if Jesus existed, and since you believe Jesus would be mentioned in these documents if they existed, then Jesus must not exist.

            The Romans did keep tax records, and those are things we could have had, but remember the point I made earlier. Where we could have had a record of Jesus in the Roman or ANE history the period covering Jesus or some of his important events the record mysteriously disappears.

            Now you add to your point that Jesus “founded a religion” that was “dedicated to preserving almost everything about them,” to which I have to ask what your evidence is for this? Are you referring to the painstaking records the early church kept which also do not exist because they were probably destroyed? Or perhaps the large cache of artifacts they kept which also no longer exist because they were probably destroyed? How much hypothetical counter-evidence are you allowed to use?

            Yes Jesus founded a religion, on the assumption of historicity or course. The early churches became dedicated to preserving all the things written about Jesus – at least that which was positive. During the whole middle ages the book that was copied more than anything else was of course the Bible.

            The irony of the whole thing is that by your lights, Jesus, who is actually mentioned in documents, obviously did not exist. But Roman ledgers of Judean crucifixions that are not mentioned anywhere that undoubtedly would have been preserved for two thousand years in the hands of Christians who somehow would have managed to get a hold of them? Those obviously existed.

            He’s not mentioned in any contemporary documents, unlike, say Socrates. And I can concede the point that we don’t have many records of Roman crucifixions, maybe none, but we still have a mysterious set of records that disappear right around the time of Jesus and we have a background argument for mythicism, which we don’t have for other figures.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            >> The Romans did keep tax records, and those are things we could have had, but remember the point I made earlier. Where we could have had a record of Jesus in the Roman or ANE history the period covering Jesus or some of his important events the record mysteriously disappears.

            Can you direct me to these detailed Judean tax records?

            The website you linked to is very Da Vinci Code-ish. For instance, let’s take the first point:

            “In the Roman History of Cassius Dio, all the years between 6 to 2 BCE are gone. That gap begins exactly 2 years before King Herod’s death, in accordance with Mt. 2:16, and ending 2 years after it (there was uncertainty among Christians when exactly Herod died). In volume 58 covering the years 29 to 37 CE a reference to an event (in 58.17.2) that was described in a section that was deleted some time between the years of 15 and 30.”

            In the first place, this is not true. For instance, book 55 mentions the Armenian revolt in 2 BCE. But even that aside, what your bullet point fails to mention is that, in the 80 books of Cassius Dio (which are from the 3rd century), many of them are fragmentary and missing time and events. It’s not like it’s a continuous flow with a few years mysteriously missing.

            Furthermore, Dio’s history follows the lives of Roman Emperors and their respective reigns. Why on Earth would it talk about Jesus? There are plenty of Roman historical figures, including other Roman historians, that would have had much more impact to Roman Empires than Jesus that Dio also leaves out.

            I don’t really have time to examine each of those points, but I have no doubt they all suffer from the same problems. “Ooooh. Look. This account -could have- mentioned Jesus, but mysteriously doesn’t. It also doesn’t mention a ton of other people. And it’s also missing a lot of other historical references. But it’s obviously been altered to cover up the Jesus myth.”

            >> Yes Jesus founded a religion, on the assumption of historicity or course. The early churches became dedicated to preserving all the things written about Jesus – at least that which was positive. During the whole middle ages the book that was copied more than anything else was of course the Bible.

            I’m not sure what your evidence is that Jesus founded a religion. He was Jewish and, as far as I know, did not establish any other religion. What later people did is, of course, another story. Even in the New Testament writings, the presence of Gentiles in the community of believers is a huge conundrum for everyone and is addressed to a certain extent in almost every New Testament writing – mostly centered around the issue of “how Jewish do these Gentiles need to become to follow Jesus?” Where is your historical evidence that Jesus founded a religion?

            I’m equally unclear on your claim that the early church tried to preserve everything written about Jesus, especially since the Gospel accounts themselves refer to “many” people having written accounts about Jesus, yet we have precious few of them, today (although obviously more than the canonical Gospels). What is your evidence that the early church preserved every little thing written about Jesus? Considering one of your chief points is that we have virtually nothing written about Jesus, I’m eager to see your proof for this.

            You seem like a bright fellow, so please don’t think I think otherwise, but I do think you’re demonstrating a willingness to give credence to some very faulty hypotheticals for which there are no evidence for the simple reason that they give you a platform for arguing against the historicity of Jesus.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Can you direct me to these detailed Judean tax records?

            I didn’t say we had them, I said they were collected and kept by the Romans. In other words, I’m saying it’s not true that the Romans did not keep records of business/legal transactions.

            For instance, book 55 mentions the Armenian revolt in 2 BCE.

            2 BCE is not between 6 to 2 BCE. 3 BCE is.

            But even that aside, what your bullet point fails to mention is that, in the 80 books of Cassius Dio (which are from the 3rd century), many of them are fragmentary and missing time and events. It’s not like it’s a continuous flow with a few years mysteriously missing.

            There is a large gap in book 55 which covers the period between 6 to 2 BCE. From Harvard:

            Of the eighty books of Dio’s great work Roman History, covering the era from the legendary landing of Aeneas in Italy to the reign of Alexander Severus (222–235 CE), we possess Books 36–60 (36 and 55–60 have gaps), which cover the years 68 BCE to 47 CE.

            Why on Earth would it talk about Jesus?

            Because Jesus could have inspired a revolt. He was supposedly executed for insurrection.

            I don’t really have time to examine each of those points, but I have no doubt they all suffer from the same problems. “Ooooh. Look. This account -could have- mentioned Jesus, but mysteriously doesn’t. It also doesn’t mention a ton of other people. And it’s also missing a lot of other historical references. But it’s obviously been altered to cover up the Jesus myth.”

            I already showed how some of your “problems” don’t seem to really be problems. It’s the weight of the number of coincidences that’s problematic.

            I’m not sure what your evidence is that Jesus founded a religion. He was Jewish and, as far as I know, did not establish any other religion.

            He wasn’t preaching traditional Judaism, he was preaching a new religion that mixed Judaism with pagan son-of-god dying/rising elements. That’s a new religion. I’m not talking about an official founding, as if Jesus had to say, “I hereby decree a new religion….” But Christianity gets traced back to him, on the assumption of historicity or course. Now you might think he simply was offering a reform of Judiasm, and that his followers decades later founded a new religion on him by tweaking it. In that sense I can agree with you that he wouldn’t technically be the founder.

            What is your evidence that the early church preserved every little thing written about Jesus? Considering one of your chief points is that we have virtually nothing written about Jesus, I’m eager to see your proof for this.

            I’m saying it would have been motivated to, in the same way we strive to preserve everything written by or about the founding fathers of the US.

            You seem like a bright fellow, so please don’t think I think otherwise, but I do think you’re demonstrating a willingness to give credence to some very faulty hypotheticals for which there are no evidence for the simple reason that they give you a platform for arguing against the historicity of Jesus.

            In history you have to grant hypotheticals. It’s all about assessing them on a probability function given background evidence. I do not assert Jesus didn’t exist. I’m saying it is a strong possibility such that we shouldn’t be confident either way. I think that the view that his existence is assured is wrong.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            >> I didn’t say we had them, I said they were collected and kept by the Romans. In other words, I’m saying it’s not true that the Romans did not keep records of business/legal transactions.

            How do you know? But even if I were to grant that, how is such a statement useful in our discussion? Your point is that we do not have preserved mentions of Jesus in these meticulous Roman documents that allegedly existed at one time, but apparently, nobody can produce any of these documents mentioning anyone. The Egyptian records of their own administration being the only accretion of such records we know about.

            We have no official Roman records of -anyone’s- birth, death, or crucifixion in Judea. In order for your hypothesis to count as evidence, such documents need to exist, and ones mentioning Jesus would have had to survive for reasons that would not be applicable to literally every other such document. Now, as hypotheses go, you’re welcome to postulate all this, but it’s hardly evidence. Ironically, the very criteria you use to cast doubtfulness on a historical Jesus applies doubly so to these hypothetical crucifixion ledgers you are certain must have existed and must not have mentioned Jesus.

            >> 2 BCE is not between 6 to 2 BCE. 3 BCE is.

            Is there a way to do an eyeroll emoji in Disqus? This is would be a really good place for that.

            >> There is a large gap in book 55 which covers the period between 6 to 2 BCE.

            Ok, great. But did you read what I said? There are puh-lenty of gaps in Dio’s history. There are only a small handful of the 80 books for which we have complete text. It’s not as though every single year is meticulously detailed -except- the single year Jesus would have been born (which raises a question – why excise 8 years (since obviously “between” isn’t inclusive) of history to cover up Jesus’ birth?). There are tons of gaps all through it.

            This would be like me assuming there’s a government conspiracy to keep me from driving because the DMV was slow.

            >> Because Jesus could have inspired a revolt.

            In Book 63, Dio notes that the Jews openly revolted during Nero’s reign in what would be known as the First Jewish-Roman War. Vespasian put them down. Would you like to read the detailed, gripping account?

            “While Nero was still in Greece, the Jews revolted openly, and he sent Vespasian against them. Also the inhabitants of Britain and of Gaul, oppressed by the taxes, were becoming more vexed and inflamed than ever.”

            That’s it. Nothing else about it. This was an actual Jewish revolt, and no Jews are named whatsoever. You contend that Dio would have named a -possible- revolutionary who did not actually revolt at all.

            Well, maybe he mentions Jewish leaders in his account of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. I mean, they named the revolt after him, yes?

            This is recorded in Book 69, passages 13-15. No Jews are named, not even Bar-Kokhba himself. Although Hadrian and other Roman generals are named.

            “Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, a result of which the people had had forewarning before the war.”

            He writes. This was a Jewish revolt in which over half a million were killed, by Dio’s account of it. Not a single rebel named, not even their infamous leader.

            Yet, you contend that a guy who -might- have started a rebellion -possibly- if he hadn’t been executed would have been given top billing.

            What is your evidence?

            >> He wasn’t preaching traditional Judaism, he was preaching a new religion that mixed Judaism with pagan son-of-god dying/rising elements.

            What is your evidence for this? And surely you know by now that scholarship has destroyed all that Golden Bough inspired nonsense about a ubiquitous dying and rising god category. There is just no evidence for any of that.

            >> But Christianity gets traced back to him, on the assumption of historicity or course.

            You seem to think that the importance attached to Jesus later in Western history was in full swing upon arrival. Like, the actual historical life of Jesus would have been the most significant event in the Roman Empire. This is just not the case. There were plenty of apocalyptic prophets in the first century and not a small number of messiah claimants. While it is fair to say that Jesus / Christianity quickly occupied a driving role in Western civilization, this was certainly not the case when Jesus would have been alive. It is sort of amazing that anyone would have written about him at all, given the actual trajectory of his career.

            >> I’m saying it would have been motivated to, in the same way we strive to preserve everything written by or about the founding fathers of the US.

            But first century Judaean fishermen are not 21st century American historians. How you think these people would have ever gotten hold of these official records you are certain existed, I have no idea. Why you think it would have been important for them to do so, I have no idea. You have no evidence for any of this. You’re just creating what you, as a modern reader through the eyes of modern historiography, think should have happened with documents that should have existed that should have been preserved by people who should have had access to them and should have thought it vital that, “Hey, we should keep every written record we can of this guy, because he’s founding a brand new religion, and this will be a huge deal in a century or so!”

            Now, this is fine. I’m not saying your guesses are insane or anything. But you have to admit – this hardly constitutes an argument, much less evidence. All these suppositions you have about what should have happened seem to pale in comparison to the fact that they didn’t happen and nothing like them happened for anyone else, either. I’d expect that would breed a certain amount of tentativity on your part.

            >> It’s all about assessing them on a probability function given background evidence.

            For which you have exactly zero. Whatever you might think of the accuracy of the Gospels, or the traditions from which the Gospels drew, or the non-canonical Gospels, or the early church writers who allude to their various accounts, or the mentions by Josephus or Tacitus, at least those accounts EXIST, which makes them far more weighty than your arguments thoroughly based on documents that you believe probably existed, and yet they don’t.

            >> I think that the view that his existence is assured is wrong.

            Sure, I agree with that, and I would say the same about virtually every ancient historical figure. But if I were going to mount a serious argument that, say, Pliny the Elder didn’t exist, I’d want to advance that on grounds more stable than, “I think he would have been mentioned more than he actually is.”

          • Mark

            > He wasn’t preaching traditional Judaism, he was preaching a new religion that mixed Judaism with pagan son-of-god dying/rising elements. That’s a new religion. I’m not talking about an official founding, as if Jesus had to say, “I hereby decree a new religion….”

            What makes you think Jesus defended any religious teaching that was unfamiliar or unusual in the late 2nd T period? I suppose the discourses in the John gospel make him seems strange, but who would pretend they had any relation to reality? Mark in particular – the main thing you might try to make inferences from – would naturally lead one to infer a pretty conventional piety combined with some sort of charismatic presence that attracted a conventional piety, maybe a slightly rustic Galilean one.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            It all depends on if we can trust the gospel writers at all as having accurately recorded anything he said under the assumption of historicity.

          • Mark

            Yes, I was taking that into account pretty explicitly. Historicity is already established by Paul anyway, or Paul together with the fact that stuff like Mark was written — never mind the truth of its propositions.

            (None of the propositions about Sabbatai in the songs of the Dönmeh are true, or even coherent, but they make a kabbalistic messianic movement, and a historical Sabbatai, obvious, just as Paul and Mark separately or together make the existence of an apocalyptic messianic movement and a historical Jesus and a Roman execution obvious. There’s no other sensible explanation of the existence of the documents – as we are helped to see by things like the attempted Doherty-Carrier explanation.)

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Paul does not establish historicity because he doesn’t provide any good details about an earthly Jesus that aren’t ambiguous. His Jesus is a spiritual one. Mark was written by a non-eyewitness writing 40 years later and all the other gospels are based off of him. The sensible mythicist explanation is that he was trying to take spiritual Jesus and place him into history, as had other spiritual dying and rising gods in the ANE. But if we take historicity for the sake of argument and the gospels as basically accurate, then Jesus is preaching a very different form of Judaism, in which men can be gods.

          • Mark

            His Jesus is not ‘spiritual’ but a resurrected body. The body is indeed somehow different, but a spiritual entity or shade of some sort exists even now for all the dead but they haven’t been put back together. Jesus has been //put back together// -in the same way they will be. Dry bones have been made to live in the words of a leading resurrection prophecy (in his case not so dry). Occultationist theorizing as usual.

            He is ‘christ’ and thus physically descended from David. This is stated.

            He is crucified. How does the Roman empire take out a spirit?

            and on and on ad inf.

            The standard hypothesis represents the data as a failed messianism with some occultationist dead-enders. This brings the phenomena under what is effectively a natural law we observe in Judaism and Islam especially.

            The inference is not mathematical, it is an inference to the best explanation. Mythicism is a spectacular system of epicyles that violates everything that has come to be known about 2nd T judaism since the war. It also tends to de-judaize Paul’s views which recent research has been make clear completely ordinary & even quasi-proto-rabbinical in character. Different features of the common views are thematized since Paul is faced the instantiation of the apocalyptic and messianic aspect of his otherwise ‘conventional’ views, and anyway we only see him talking to gentiles

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            His Jesus is not ‘spiritual’ but a resurrected body.

            Yes in outer space. Not on earth.

            He is ‘christ’ and thus physically descended from David. This is stated.

            He states Jesus is made of the seed of David, as in god takes David’s sperm, stores it, then uses it to make Jesus. This comes from a straightforward reading of 2 Sam 7:12-14. There’s no need to be physically descended of David. Minimal mythicism all but entails that Jesus would be made ‘from the sperm of David’. He was just born in a heavenly realm originally, and was thought of as a spiritual being who died and rose from the dead, who was then later made into a historical person by the gospel writers.

            He is crucified. How does the Roman empire take out a spirit?

            He doesn’t say he is crucified on earth. The ascension of Isaiah, in its earliest redactions, has Jesus crucified by Satan in outer space. Paul’s Jesus is crucified by the rulers of this age, which is not used to refer to people, but demons.

            The standard hypothesis represents the data as a failed messianism with some occultationist dead-enders. This brings the phenomena under what is effectively a natural law we observe in Judaism and Islam especially.

            But that fails to mention all the mythic dying and rising gods.

            Mythicism is a spectacular system of epicyles that violates everything that has come to be known about 2nd T judaism since the war.

            Sure, when you’re ignorant to the arguments, it seems that way.

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

            How often do people emphasize that the conceptions, births, deaths, and burials of individuals occurred on earth?!

            When you write:

            This comes from a straightforward reading of 2 Sam 7:12-14

            surely you must be joking, right?

          • Mark

            The concept ‘the sperm [harvested from?] David’ is alien to 2nd T Judaism and monarchical thinking generally, no? I know this is irrelevant to you since you presuppose an unargued-for violent intrusion into ‘traditional Judaism’ by Paul and co. You keep forgetting we are constructing a messiah or christ.

            What is relevant is descent within a royal house. This has nothing to do with storing the sperm of a remote member of the dynasty. Seed metaphors pervade all patriarchal descriptions of descent in basically all places after the invention of agriculture. There are no dynasties that operate with the protocol that all future monarchs must or can even be sons of some one of the earlier monarchs, it’s always just the next one. So you are violating another seeming law of nature from fear of a historical Jesus.

            Strange Paul doesn’t call him ‘brother of Solomon’ (‘half-brother of Solomon’?) which make a nice pious epithet.

          • Mark

            What does the ‘Ascension of Isaiah’, which is from the end of the 1st c. on the most optimistic accounts, have to do with Paul? Paul adopted his view from the first Jesus occultationists, within a couple of years of their disaster; and in Paul we see a textbook occultationist response to a failed messianic movement – which decides the matter in favor of historicism. Carrier cannot see this because he punts on the interpretation of Paul; he thinks it’s the easy part of his case so he just repeats antiquated readings of Paul as celestial-christ preacher of the type propounded by Couchaud or Drew and his master Doherty. These all have the feature that they fail to read Paul as a 2nd T writer and as a Jew. They think he is introducing a ‘new religion’, so they don’t have to do the work; religion is nonsense, they think, so we get carte blanche. The main outline of this reading was formed before the DSS and when it was thought that rabbinical ideas from 2 centuries later gave an apt picture of religious ideas in Judea and the Galilee in the early 1st c. – as if a country’s being flattened twice by the Romans wouldn’t affect the range of available religious ideas. (Infinite amounts of virtual ink were spilled on the topic of Ascension of Isaiah on McGrath’s site back in the Carrier era.)

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I mentioned the Ascension of Isaiah to show that there were views that Jesus was indeed crucified, but not on earth. And that Paul’s thinking is in line with this. We don’t see anything in Paul that strongly indicates an earthly Jesus. The best evidence is ambiguous. Paul is a Jew but he’s clearly writing about something new. It’s directly in line with the dying and rising god religions of the ANE.

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

            That is at best one possible interpretation of an ambiguous text, which can be understood very differently if one considers it more likely that its meaning is related to views that we find in other ancient Christian texts. See further my treatment of the subject here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/10/mcg388028.shtml

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Would the Ascension of Isaiah be included as one of the other ancient Christian texts?

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

            How could it be in that sentence, given that it is talking about the interpretation of the Ascension of Isaiah in a manner informed by “other ancient Christian texts”?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I thought you were talking about Paul.

          • Paul E.

            I’ve been meaning to ask this for a while, but keep forgetting. Ascension of Isaiah seems pretty clearly to have Jesus descending through the heavens to earth and then sheol, and seems to have Jesus be killed while in “your,” i.e. human, form on a tree. I cannot see any rational interpretation that places this anywhere other than on earth or “lower.” Is this a redaction problem? Do we just not know what this means? Or is the mythicist interpretation really that improbable?

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

            It is an issue of what some passages say, assuming (quite plausibly) that certain other passages may be later additions.

            Out of curiosity, have you seen my discussion of the text here? http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/10/mcg388028.shtml

          • Paul E.

            Yes, thank you, I’ve read it! I guess my reading of especially 9:12-14, even with the two missing phrases, combined with 10 still indicates a distinct progression “downward” that has concomitant form changes. So at some point, Jesus must appear in human form. Even with the 9 phrases missing, the reading that Jesus was crucified in the air, in some air-form, seems beyond a stretch. I’ll read the sources you cite in your article as well. Thanks!

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

            You are absolutely correct. But since, once one removes the proposed interpolations, then it does not explicitly say that there is ever an arrival on earth, leaving room for Earl Doherty – and following him, Richard Carrier – to propose that the text means only that the Beloved descended to the level of the firmament and no further. Of course, the text does not say that either, and so this is an argument from silence. But that is what denialism does – point out that some evidence does not explicitly say X or Y, and never make a strong case that it in fact therefore means the opposite.

          • Paul E.

            Thanks, confusing stuff. It was my impression that even the mythicist theory required Jesus to be in some sort of human form, which would seem to me to be incompatible with an air form, unless there is some sort of human air form, I guess. Enough time wasted with that; on to other more interesting things!

          • arcseconds

            Celestial Jesus à la Carrier does need to be some kind of hybrid, as apparently David’s sperm, which is presumably corporeal and earthly, was used to make him.

            And The Thinker has happily asserted that Celestial Jesus has a body that can be buried in the earth that exists in heaven, and that can be resurrected bodily in just the same was as earthly bodies.

            On the other hand, I’m not sure the ancient people tended to think very consistently and rigorously about this. The oldest myths don’t suggest that gods aren’t solid matter, the same as everything else (they just have superpowers), so there’s no problem with them mating with humans and having offspring, or humans rising into the heavens to live with the gods (like Elijah)

            Eventually Aristotelian or quasi-Aristotelian views that the heavens were made of a different kind of stuff prevailed, but I’m not sure this resulted in a systemization of heaven-earth relationships to determine who is made of what kind of stuff when.

          • Paul E.

            I think you’re right generally. But in the context of Ascension of Isaiah particularly, which is the framework as I understand it that must reflect the celestial crucified Jesus, there are definitive form changes depending on in which realm the characters are. And the “air” has creatures of the air, which would imply a different form than on the earth (as is more explicit in some other passages). And as you pass from level to level, you can change your form to conform to it. If Jesus was crucified in the “air,” then it would seem to me he would have had to undergo two form changes in the “air,” which doesn’t seem to me to fit the text. That’s if I’m reading it correctly, though, and frankly I have no confidence of that. :)

          • Mark

            Paul presumably always believed in the resurrection of the dead and in the coming of a Davidic messiah. In Jesus he found his messiah. Of course many Jews thought and think he found the wrong guy. There is no departure from traditional ideas in this, there is no new religious phenomenon in it. The whole idea of a davidic messiah is that one day you bump into him! Similarly, if I start baking challah on Tuesday, thinking it’s Friday, I do not introduce a new religious idea, I’m just making an ‘error of fact’, not introducing a Wednesday Sabbath and changing the religion. Nothing new. Similarly, Paul brings gentiles into the fold with the coming of the messiah – in accordance typical messianic prophecy, where gentiles bury their idols etc etc. Nothing new. Similarly, Paul forbids his gentiles to become proselytes, he tells themm to steer clear of the Law of Moses: Don’t do it! Typical rabbinism: the Lubavitchers are doing it with Noahide movement right now. They even have special courts for gentile messiah-followers in Jerusalem. They lack Paul’s peculiar genius clearly. Again, nothing new.

            Paul is amazing, and with his occultationist messiah, the religious ideas he grew up in are certainly under strain, but they don’t seem to have undergone appreciable alteration. Blanks are filled in, curiosa and departures from expectation are explained away in terms of traditional ideas and source. (All of the above is a simplified sketch of course) He is no more inventing a new religion or introducing anything new than the Lubavitchers are with their noahide gangs.

            Centuries of especially Protestant exegesis have occluded this, partly for anti-semitic reasons, but, with the shattering of shared rabbinist and Christian a prioris about late 2nd T ideas in the 20th century, by degrees it is coming out and Paul is seen as a typical Jew of the (fractious, sectarian) first century milieu.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The whole idea of a davidic messiah is that one day you bump into him!

            Paul never “bumped” into Jesus.

            Similarly, Paul brings gentiles into the fold with the coming of the messiah – in accordance typical messianic prophecy, where gentiles bury their idols etc etc. Nothing new.

            Do you think Paul thought Jesus was god, the son of god, or something else?

            He is no more inventing a new religion or introucing anything new than the Lubavitchers are with their noahide gangs.

            Paul is not a traditional Jew. He moves the new Christianity away from the law of Moses, yes, but his views on Jesus are not in line with typical davidic messiahism.

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

            Can you demonstrate any of the claims you make in the above comment? And why are you still asking about Paul’s understanding of Jesus as son of God, given that that has already been addressed? Are you drawing on the outmoded idea that Paul was really turning early Christian messianism into the worship of a “son of God” in the non-Jewish sense? If so, then I would (1) kindly suggest that you get up to date on the scholarship in this area, and (2) point out that that view of Paul, even if correct, does not eliminate the substructure of Davidic Jewish messianism that is clearly traditional by the time Paul writes.

          • Mark

            > Paul never “bumped” into Jesus.

            I didn’t say he did (bump into the pre-‘resurrection’ Jesus), but it is in any case a groundless assertion that he didn’t, or anyway wasn’t aware of Jesus while he was alive. He just doesn’t discuss it partly because he doesn’t think anything Jesus did before the crucifixion and resurrection was of much significance (also partly because of the way he understands his activity in categories of diplomacy, which pervades the text.) The flip side of the proposition that it is /because/ he accepted death etc. that Jesus was given authority etc, is the proposition that /before that he’s chopped liver/, even if Davidic chopped liver. The church doesn’t like this obvious feature of Paul’s doctrine, and as usual you follow them.

            > Paul is not a traditional Jew.

            This is pure assertion, basically repeating what the church says, projecting its own later view on Paul. Paul’s religious views are everywhere closer e.g. to rabbinical views than either was to the standard view of the priests in Jerusalem. Were the ‘zadokite’ priests not traditional Jews? Do you count the Qumran writers as ‘traditional Jews’? The category ‘traditional Jew’ secretly always means ‘rabbinical Jew’ – i.e. post-sectarian Jew – and is thus unhistorical in the present context which is 2nd T sectarianism. Paul sure no further from the priests in Jerusalem than the Qumran writers were. There is really no departure from anything in Paul except in the imagination of the Church … and people like yourself who can’t manage to get out of it. It is a completely open question for example how far he was observant, whether he strode into Corinth with dangling tzitzit, and so on. The church thinks his violent attacks on his gentiles’ adopting the law, which are /emphatically/ orthodox, are attacks on the law itself and thus that of course he wasn’t observant. At some points, for example, he seems to think he has a special dispensation for some things involving his gentiles – which means that he is in fact observant and views the law as binding, but is under royal orders. Even if he wasn’t generally observant, a number of explanations can be given: there have been all sorts of views about the relation of the mosaic law to different periods. Like the other occultationist Jesus-messianists, Paul thinks he’s simultaneously in the (prelude to) the simultaneous resurrection of the dead and the messianic realm. Neither of those convictions is out of the ordinary, neither introduces a religious novelty – but given diversity of non-eccentric non-novelty ‘traditional 1st c. Jewish’ views about the effect of either on the status of the Mosaic law, /almost no conviction about the law would out of the ordinary or beyond the pale/. His ‘errors’ are at worst errors of fact, not law, so to speak, like thinking Tuesday is Friday.

          • Mark

            Note that I was responding to your formulation “He wasn’t preaching traditional Judaism, he was preaching a new religion that mixed Judaism with pagan son-of-god dying/rising elements.”

            This entails both 1) a historical Jesus (sometimes one’s real opinion escapes …) and 2) an extremely naive pre-critical reading of the “gospels” taking them all as if they were on a level with each other from the point of view of historical inference, and as containing the teaching of the 4th c. Church that used them for liturgical purposes.

          • arcseconds

            That website is surely The Thinker’s own site (check The Thinker’s disqus url, also ‘Atheism in the City’, and the rightmost link on the navigation bar of the site).

            So these are effectively his claims.

            It seems he’s following Carrier, so charitably we can suppose that he didn’t realise the claims were faulty, but he’s now doubling down on them.

            I checked one myself, the one about Marius Maximus, and found that Maximus’s works are no longer extant, we only have fragments quoted by others.

            Not only that, but Maximus apparently wrote scandalous biographies of Emperors, so not the sort of author anyone in their right mind would expect to have detailed historical analyses of minor cults of the Empire.

            He doesn’t dispute this, but still (bizarrely) seems to think it’s still evidence.

          • arcseconds

            since Jesus is the founder of a religion there would have been a dedicated effort to preserve records about his existence.

            Again, this is a historical claim, and requires evidence to support it.

            You can’t just assume that because it seems to make sense from your armchair that it’s actually historically likely.

            What kind of evidence would you need to demonstrate this, and how could you collect it?

          • arcseconds

            This would be a good opportunity to engage in some historical reasoning, rather than handwaving from a position of low information.

            What would have to be true for Christians to have a possibility of doing this? There are some implicit assumptions here that we need to make explicit.

            Why don’t you take a few minutes to think about this, write down these assumptions, how likely you think they are to be correct, and what could be done to test them?

            It might help to consider a concrete scenario: who is doing this, when, and where?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There is historical reasoning here. Imagine Jesus’s family, including his supposed siblings who might think Jesus was god (forget about Jesus actually being god, some might think he was), have in their possession written records of Jesus, who then after he is killed by the Romans, preserve them.

          • Paul E.

            Jesus’ family might think he is god? You will have to justify that statement.

            What written record would the family likely have? What are the ranges of possibilities? Were they required to keep tax receipts, for example? And if so, would they have their names on them? And if so, would they have survived the wars? Do you have some sources to back this historical reasoning up?

            I think this is a really interesting topic, so I’d be really interested to see the articles and monographs behind this assertion.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Did Paul think Jesus was god or the son of god?

          • Paul E.

            I am not sure how to read Paul to come up with an idea that Paul thought Jesus was god. Certainly, Paul thought Jesus was “son of god,” but that is very different from thinking he was god.

            And I am fascinated by the records issue. It would be very helpful to see your scholarly sources on that. I think a census record would be within the range of possibilities and maybe a tax record of some sort.

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

            If you mean son of God in the sense that the Davidic king was, then yes, Paul thought that. How could you possibly think that compatible with mythicism?!

          • Mark

            David and Solomon were thought to have borne the title ‘son of God’.

            “6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

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

            Why would you envisage people who knew Jesus thinking he was god?! Have you not even read the relevant primary sources?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You mean Paul?

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

            Among others, yes, obviously.

          • arcseconds

            OK, so let’s break this down a bit. This is assuming that:

            *) there were written records concerning Jesus
            *) his family would have them in their possession.

            It seems to me that it’s also supposing that Jesus’s family were literate. I suppose this isn’t strictly necessary, but are you envisaging illiterate families in rural hamlets in 1st century Palestine keeping paperwork?

            What kind of records are we thinking of here, and why would his family have them?

            And how could you establish that this is a likely scenario, and it’s failure to happen is somehow noteworthy?

          • Mark

            It’s just common sense that Galilean paperwork from the early 1st c should have survived until the 4th c when at last depraved ecclestiastics would have been in a position to ransack the archives.

          • arcseconds

            meticulously filed, of course, so that they can just look up Jesus of Nazereth and find his tax returns and execution order.

            Alternatively, Roman Palestine has an advanced and civic-minded information policy, so all James the Just had to do was to fill out a Freedom of Information Act request and the governor’s office would mail him a copy of everything that they had on file with regards to his brother. Why didn’t he do this? it’s all deeply mysterious, as if he never really had a brother in the first place!

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            These would be tax records, which the family would have copies of. Also perhaps court documents of the trial and execution, which the family may have records of. If they had any records of Jesus’s existence, they would want to preserve them, as they thought of Jesus as really special, a son of god. Or god himself. It’s possible, if they did have records and did try to preserve them that they were still lost. I lost my social security card twice, and I had a clear desire to preserve it. But we get nothing contemporary of Jesus – nothing. Imagine if a contemporary critic of Jesus wrote a story, a drama, or a play lampooning him, or merely mentioning him, as we have for Socrates. That would be great evidence to historicity and would kill mythicism on the spot.

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

            Do we have plays or stories lampooning others of Jesus’ contemporaries from his time and place? If not, might it not be the case that theater was not as widely used a genre in Palestine – and that, corresponding with the archaeological evidence, those who did partake in it did not live in the locales where Jesus focused his activity according to our sources?

            Do we have tax records for Socrates? Do we have tax records for any of Jesus’ contemporaries?

            When you say “I would accept the conclusions of historians if I had this kind of evidence that no historian thinks we should expect in the case of Jesus,” do you not realize that it is clear that you are choosing which evidence would change your mind not in order to follow historical methods, but to avoid changing your mind?

          • Paul E.

            I’m not sure I understand your argument here. Although it has not been shown that such records would have existed in the first place, let’s set that aside and assume for the sake of argument they did. Why would the family have any interest in preserving tax records? I have never heard of a family preserving tax records as a way of remembering a dead relative. Why would a family want to preserve records from the very authority that killed their son/brother/cousin? I would think it more likely, if these records ever existed, that the family would not want to keep them.

            And as to trial records, even if Jesus had a trial and there was some sort of record of it, which again has not been established, why would the family want to obtain that record and how would they go about doing it? And why would they want to get and keep a record of his execution if ever such a record existed?

          • Paul E.

            Paul, of course, was a contemporary of Jesus.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            His writings weren’t.

          • Paul E.

            Of course not. Nevertheless, a contemporary of Jesus wrote about Jesus. I would assume the best inferences from this are patent.

          • Mark

            I checked the expression “roman tax record” on Google Scholar and nothing was found. I checked on Google, and it found … mythicists wondering where Jesus’ tax records are.

          • Mark
          • Mark

            This seems to be over reading the passage (from Josephus’ account of the beginning of the war) – which pertains to contracts and the rich and poor, but the authors’ knowledge may make the description come to the same.

          • Mark

            If Jesus really existed we should have expected Jesus’ followers to salvage them and carry them off Pella or whatever they are supposed to have done during the war. It’s only to be expected; but nope, they didn’t do it. There’s only one explanation …

          • arcseconds

            OK, the assumptions now seem to be:

            1) the Roman officials gave copies of tax records to those they taxed.
            2) they taxed fairly ordinary families directly.
            3) these families would keep tax records as a matter of course.
            4) family members or followers of someone important would feel it important to preserve those tax records.

            These things or something like them need to be true for the idea that this is historically plausible, right?

            And, also, note that they’re not the sort of things we can just assume happened. Just because the IRS gives out tax receipts to individuals today and people keep them doesn’t mean it worked this way in Roman Palestine.

            What evidence do we need to demonstrate these claims?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That the Romans had receipts that the people would have had copies of? Carrier has written about this. See here.

          • arcseconds

            Thanks for that, it’s quite interesting. One of the things I like about these discussions is that it exposes me to detail I wouldn’t have a reason to look at otherwise.

            However, this is for Egypt, not Palestine. So while this would address assumptions (1) and (2) above if we were talking about Egypt, applying this evidence to Palestine requires an additional assumption:

            (5) The practice of taxation in Palestine was relevantly similar to that in Egypt.

            Unfortunately, we have already heard in this discussion that Egypt is unusual in preserving detailed records, and may be unusual in having them in the first place, and moreover the Romans basically took over the existing system.

            And the fact that the Romans took over the existing system is asserted here by Carrier: two of the taxes are over a thousand years old, pre-dating not just the Roman occupation, or even the Roman empire, but Roman civilization itself.

            There is also another unusual feature mentioned: ‘Moreover, unlike most other provinces, Egypt was essentially run by what we might call the emperor’s personal business managers, rather than what we might call governors.’.

            So rather than assuming Palestine probably worked like this too,
            Carrier’s information entails we know that Palestine almost certainly did not work like this, at least not exactly, and we’d need additional evidence before we could say as to how similar it was.

            Remember the level of evidence you’re demanding for the existence of Jesus.

            Also: this is about agricultural taxation. Are people following other professions, as Jesus’s father is said to have done, taxed in the same way? My impression is that agricultural taxation tended to proceed on a different basis than taxation of urban tradesmen.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Being unusual in preserving details doesn’t mean that the Romans somehow didn’t have a paper record of tax or legal transactions in their other provinces. They kept and provided records in all their provinces. It’s absurd to think the Romans somehow didn’t keep financial records in any non-Egyptian province.

            Anybody who paid taxes would have written records. So it’s not only about agricultural taxation. And if Jesus or his family were ever counted in a census there would have been records of that.

          • arcseconds

            Earlier I asked what would count as evidence.

            The answer appears to be that you don’t feel the need for evidence: your armchair contemplations are enough to determine whether or not people had and kept receipts.

            Does this really strike you as an intellectually responsible way to conduct historical enquiry?

          • Mark

            Wait, you’re thinking we should expect such documents to have survived the Jewish War and bar Kokhba – like the Babatha documents I guess – and that their failure to do so in Jesus’ case is a strike worth mentioning against the historical view? It seems Babatha didn’t keep “tax receipts” though, just evidence of title to things, court proceedings in process etc., but I suppose she could have. Moreover she sees to have hid them because they were likely to vanish in the bar Kokhba revolt. It’s basically a miracle we have Babatha’s papers.

          • arcseconds

            I would like a reply to my earlier question. How do you think responsible historical enquiry is undertaken?

            I suspect you are not going to find many academic journals who find “well of course X is the case because I’ve considered it from my armchair and I find ¬X to be absurd” to be publishable.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That’s what many of you are doing here.

          • arcseconds

            It’s difficult to read this reply as anything other than childish. “I know you are but what am I?”, or “well, if you can, so can I!”.

            Hopefully you have not come to the conclusion that armchair speculation (if it’s even that, and not just an immediate, unconsidered opinion) without regard to any historical evidence is fine because that’s what you think you’ve observed here! So I’m going to take this as a grudging acceptance that you do actually need to consider evidence.

            It’s not clear to me that the Roman Empire would have taxed absolutely everybody directly and given them all receipts. That seems like an expectation based on a modern-style universal bureaucracy. In fact, I doubt they’d tax day-labourers and beggars at all. There are also other options than taxing individuals directly: taxes could be assessed collectively. It’s also not clear to me that they would have provided receipts in all cases.

            Unlike you, I don’t think these musings establish anything: that’s why we need to look at the evidence!

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            How would the Romans know who paid their taxes without any records? Do you think they relied entirely on memory. Jesus’s family was in the carpentry business, they surely would have paid taxes.

          • arcseconds

            I am discussing the scenario you propose here, in which Jesus’s family has receipts.

            You seem to now be talking about a different scenario: records the Romans kept. Have you decided to abandon the notion that Jesus’s family would have kept receipts?

            Anyway, that is still assuming that individuals were taxed directly. I have suggested that taxes could be assessed and collected collectively, a suggestion which you seem to have ignored.

            At the very least, it does not seem at all implausible that the units that were taxed were not individuals but families or businesses, in which case all of your assumptions could be true and Joseph or his business kept receipts, but none of them mentioned Jesus, as he is not the head of the family and/or didn’t own the business.

            So on the basis of armchair reasoning, we seem to reach an impasse: you insist that they must have had records as detailed as you need them to be, on the basis of nothing more than armchair assertion. I think there are other possibilities which are at least as likely.

            Why do you continue to act as though you can just assert things from your armchair without bothering to do any actual research? Is your moniker supposed to tell us that thinking is all you do or feel is necessary?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            No, both the Romans and Jesus’s family would have had receipts indicating proof of their existence. Whether or not they would keep them is a different story. The Romans probably had no reason to preserve the records, but that’s if you think of a historical Jesus as no one particularly significant to them. His family would have reason to preserve records about him if they saw he started a new religious movement.

            Even if we had proof of Jesus’s family business, that would be good evidence Jesus existed. I don’t insist on anything. I mentioned there would have been receipts, that both the Romans and Jesus’s family had copies of. And that Jesus’s family would have reason to preserve them if they saw he started a new religious movement. So stop straw manning me.

          • Mark

            We have proof of Babatha’s family business, which I think was mostly dates, because she hid everything in a cave in the desert; the rest of the country was leveled.

            In Jesus’ case we have letters discussing him from someone who joined the occultationist dead-enders a couple years after Jesus died, as people inexplicably join Chabad today – in states of spiritual desperation, exaltation, and the like. Paul affirms that he had been interested in the Jesus-messiah question for some time even before that, which brings his knowledge of Jesus closer to the time of the crucifixion and perhaps before. He was evidently in a position to acquire perfect certainty about the existence of Jesus, his brother James, the crucifixion etc.

            We aren’t in that same state of perfect certainty of course, it’s just that we have no other rational way to explain the data. But we do have data to explain and you aren’t attempting to find the best and simplest explanation of it.

            Most of humanity rejects Christianity without adopting the desperate and degrading crutch of denying the historical existence of Jesus – Jews for centuries have done it – why don’t you join them?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            He was evidently in a position to acquire perfect certainty about the existence of Jesus, his brother James, the crucifixion etc.

            Yet he mentions no unambiguous detail about Jesus’s life on earth that can clearly place him in history.

            We aren’t in that same state of perfect certainty of course, it’s just that we have no other rational way to explain the data. But we do have data to explain and you aren’t attempting to find the best and simplest explanation of it.

            I grew up interpreting it the mainstream way: that Jesus lived. But looking into the data more made me realize that it’s not that good. It isn’t at all certain Jesus lived and he could plausibly been a myth a la minimal mythicism.

            Most of humanity rejects Christianity without adopting the desperate and degrading crutch of denying the historical existence of Jesus – Jews for centuries have done it – why don’t you join them?

            Because I’ve heard arguments that convince me that there is a case to be made that Jesus might not have existed and the arguments for historicity are much weaker than I expected. Plus NT historians are almost all Christians or funded by Christian institutions and I’m well aware of the fact that they overlook things, use bad logic, and outright lie to make the case for Jesus stronger than it is, having debated religious people for the better part of a decade.

          • arcseconds

            Plus NT historians are almost all Christians or funded by Christian institutions and I’m well aware of the fact that they overlook things, use bad logic, and outright lie to make the case for Jesus stronger than it is, having debated religious people for the better part of a decade.

            But the atheist NT scholars say about the same thing, Price being the sole exception as far as I’m aware. If you really cannot trust Christians, then go and read the atheist scholars, e.g. R Joseph Hoffman, Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey (not sure if he’s an atheist, but he hasn’t been religious since 1962) for example.

            After you’ve worked out that they say much the same things as the Christian scholars working in secular institutions and publishing in mainstream journals, then you might start trusting the Christians, too.

            The idea that NT studies is inherently intellectually shifty and dogmatic, to the point where the one thing there is consensus over is thought to be obviously dubious, suffers from about the same problem as creationists charging evolutionary biologists with scientific incompetence. How come no-one’s noticed, except for a small group of amateurs?

            If evolutionary biologists were doing non-science and misusing physics, other scientists would have noticed decades ago and there would be a fight.

            Same with NT scholars. Where is the outrage? Why aren’t there classicists and orientalists and medieval historians and archaeologists mounting a huge campaign to expose the historical incompetence of NT scholars?

            If there’s something so wrong an amateur can see through it more or less immediately, then the problem can’t just be with NT scholarship. The entire area of history must be involved somehow.

            Which is easier to believe: an amateur has the wrong end of the stick, or an entire academic discipline is either corrupt or incompetent?

          • Paul E.

            Unfortunately, you have not established that “there would have been” tax receipts. Or that even if there were, that they would have been direct receipts. Or even if they were, that they would have identified Jesus on them. Or even if they did, how they would have survived, even if the family would have been motivated to keep them.

            And on that last note, you have not established that the family would have been motivated to keep them, as you have not established that his family thought he “started a new religious movement.” And even if they thought he did, why in the world preserving tax receipts would have anything to do with that.

            I realize it is difficult to understand how historians work without having been educated in the subject – and especially where one has no grasp of the underlying texts and context. Therefore, when one does not have the requisite education, it is perhaps better to remain humble in one’s assessments rather than make bold assertions based on what can only charitably be described as a fringe position. There’s nothing wrong with taking a fringe position, of course. For example, creationists do it all the time, and make their arguments on science websites, usually to the head-shaking astonishment of onlookers who have a better understanding of such issues. I wonder if they realize that in the long run, they are doing more harm to their “cause” (which is, of course, their motivation) by their behavior?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Unfortunately, you have not established that “there would have been” tax receipts.

            Carrier argues this in his book on p. 307 and cites several sources, of one which is:

            Cotton, H.M., Cockle, W.E.H. and Millar, F.G.B. (1995) ‘The Papyrology of the Roman Near East: A Survey’, Journal of Roman Studies, 85, pp. 214–235. doi: 10.2307/301063.

            Or that even if there were, that they would have been direct receipts. Or even if they were, that they would have identified Jesus on them. Or even if they did, how they would have survived, even if the family would have been motivated to keep them.

            Carrier argues on his blog : “There might not have been a record of Jesus’ birth at the time of his birth (that would depend on where he was really born and whether, instead, any state or local Jewish administration kept such records, e.g. Josephus implies having records of his own ancestry), but if he or his family ever paid Roman taxes, there would be records of that, and if his family was ever the subject of any Roman census at any time while Jesus was alive, there would be a record of that, and along with it a record of his birth, age, and family relations (Tertullian claimed such records existed, although he is unlikely to have really checked). And certainly, there would have been a record of Jesus’ trial, of Pilate’s ruling, of the execution, and any recorded witness affidavits. There would also be ancillary records, e.g., other trial records or official correspondence (akin to the letter of Claudius Lysias) discussing Christians and their tussles with the Jews or attempts to get them prosecuted in Roman courts, which would certainly have to mention the historical Jesus and information about him.”

            As far as them being motivated to keep the records, that all depends on how significant they thought Jesus was. Did he really live and preach he was a god-man who convinced followers that included some of his family members? Did he really die on the cross after having been tried for his heretical views?

            And on that last note, you have not established that the family would have been motivated to keep them, as you have not established that his family thought he “started a new religious movement.”

            The only way to defend historicity is to take such a minimal approach to it such that Jesus is a total nobody who got virtually no attention and who definitely did not do any of the more significant things in the NT (and I’m not talking about miracles). Now Carrier argues that this absence of evidence of any record of Jesus’s life is as expected on minimal historicity as it would be on minimal mythicism. So this is not really an argument for mythicism, just a pointing out of the fact that the only data we get at all on Jesus is decades later and the most detail comes from the latest sources. That makes more sense on minimal mythicism than minimal historicity.

            Therefore, when one does not have the requisite education, it is perhaps better to remain humble in one’s assessments rather than make bold assertions based on what can only charitably be described as a fringe position.

            I’m debating this partly to test it out. What I do is I defend a position to see how easy/difficult it is to defend it, and I use that as an assessment of how valid the view is. I’ve said like 20 times already on this thread that I’m agnostic on this issue. I’m not asserting Jesus didn’t exist. So stop straw manning me. Jeez.

            For example, creationists do it all the time, and make their arguments on science websites, usually to the head-shaking astonishment of onlookers who have a better understanding of such issues. I wonder if they realize that in the long run, they are doing more harm to their “cause” (which is, of course, their motivation) by their behavior?

            I wouldn’t say mythicism is anything close to creationism. Creationism is utterly refuted. Mythicism is not, and that’s partly because the case for historicity is very weak and has numerous holes in it.

          • Paul E.

            I’m familiar with Cotton, et al., and am not persuaded that study supports anything like the specificity you seem to be suggesting. I’m open to having my mind changed with a proper showing, and I’ll re-look at the stuff myself (I admit I haven’t read it in years). James is an expert in this – put this assertion to him and have him give his opinion. And sure, there may well have been a census record at one time. Everyone acknowledges that. I’m not certain where that gets you. And from what I remember, Tertullian makes no particular assertion based on personal knowledge about the existence of records, merely that there may have been a census at the time which could have spoken to some of Marcion’s followers objections (I haven’t read Tertullian in years either, so I am open to being corrected on this too).

            I see no evidence supporting the assertion that there would “certainly” have been records of Jesus’ trial. Indeed, it is a point of historical dispute as to whether Jesus even had a “trial,” let alone a Roman trial. And I am not sure why you continue to cite to non-mainstream views such as Jesus preaching that he was a god-man or that he was tried and convicted for heretical views.

            One of the problems here is your assertion that the normal historical methodology of making the best inferences and getting to the best explanation for the evidence is taking some sort of “minimal approach.” It displays a complete lack of awareness as to how historians work. And if you think that merely asking for proper support for clear assertions is straw-manning, I am afraid you are misunderstanding that term. Based on all this, I wonder if it would be good to attempt to place yourself in a position of actually being even semi-competent to make the assertion that what you call the “case for historicity” is “very weak and has numerous holes in it” by putting in the requisite years of hard study? Just my 2 cents. Carry on…

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I see no evidence supporting the assertion that there would “certainly” have been records of Jesus’ trial. Indeed, it is a point of historical dispute as to whether Jesus even had a “trial,” let alone a Roman trial.

            The argument is if there was a trial, there would have been records.

            And I am not sure why you continue to cite to non-mainstream views such as Jesus preaching that he was a god-man or that he was tried and convicted for heretical views.

            What’s mainstream then according to you?

            One of the problems here is your assertion that the normal historical methodology of making the best inferences and getting to the best explanation for the evidence is taking some sort of “minimal approach.”

            I never said that always has to be done. But anytime I mention anything specific about the Jesus story from the writings, you push back and call it a “non-mainstream” view. Case in point above.

            And if you think that merely asking for proper support for clear assertions is straw-manning, I am afraid you are misunderstanding that term.

            You can always ask for evidence, but let me be clear I’m asserting Jesus didn’t exist.

            Based on all this, I wonder if it would be good to attempt to place yourself in a position of actually being even semi-competent to make the assertion that what you call the “case for historicity” is “very weak and has numerous holes in it” by putting in the requisite years of hard study?

            That’s partly what this debate is for, this is part of the years of study I want to devote towards the topic. So the best argument(s) for historicity is….what?

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

            If you are going to insist that there should be written documentation from the Romans about the crucifixion of Jesus, then surely you can point to the evidence of this sort for other crucified individuals in this time and place, as illustration of the sort of information you think ought to exist for Jesus?

          • Paul E.

            In wildly overly simplistic historical methodological terms, if one is to use the absence of evidence such as a record of a trial as affirmative evidence not only of the lack of a trial but that the person did not exist at all, one must fulfill the necessary conditions. I.e., if there were a Jesus, did he have a trial? And if he did, in front of whom? And what records, if any, did that “whom” create? And if there was a record, how was it retained? And if it was retained, by whom, where, in what form, etc.? And can we expect it to have survived? And even so, would the lack of such a record indicate lack of existence of the person as opposed to the lack of a trial? Simply to assert that “if” there were a trial, there “would have been” a record, and then to cite the absence of such record as evidence the person did not exist is, I would assume, a rather obviously flawed argument.

            There is no “mainstream according to me.” I can tell you, however, that if you care to spend even a few minutes looking into this issue you will find that the mainstream consensus is that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher/failed messianic claimant who was crucified by the Romans for some sort of seditious or disruptive conduct.

            Yes, specificity is inconvenient, isn’t it? The details matter. It is the details that make a case, and unfortunately, a grasp of them is required for proper argumentation.

            Finally, it strikes me as rather counterintuitive to say one is trying to find out whether this topic is worth studying and then asking for a “case” made in the vast literature on this topic. James is an incredible resource – use his knowledge. What are you interested in? Pick a topic, and James will likely have a ton of good advice for you. If you are asking for cliff’s notes as to why it is basically a unanimous position among scholars who have dedicated their lives to this stuff that Jesus existed, then I’m not sure anything would be satisfactory. But I’ll give it an embarrassingly brief shot:

            We have very early sources, one by a contemporary of Jesus, which have a fairly coherent, consistent core (an apocalyptic preacher/failed messianic c claimant who got executed by the Romans for sedition) that fits well within the context of its setting. This core of material is inconsistent with the later, theological and miraculous portrayals, and also problematic in terms of its central claim of a crucified messiah. This material also has him being from Nazareth (a problem for Matthew and Luke) and doing most of his work in Galilee. These source have Jesus being born a Jew, having a family, teaching, eating, having some followers, being crucified and being buried. Followers then apparently had some creative psychological reactions to the cognitive dissonance caused by his failure. The best explanation for this is that Jesus was a person in history. Also, an alternative explanation that he was not is, in the considered judgment of basically all qualified scholars, unpersuasive.

          • arcseconds

            Crucifixion is unlikely to be made up, too. It wasn’t just a horrible way to die, it was regarded as demeaning, particularly given the possibility that your body might be left out for a while.

            Also, it’s completely not in keeping with messianic expectations (as you note).

            And Paul tells us it’s an embarrassment.

            And of course Paul mentions meeting Jesus’s brother in passing. This would normally be enough for historians: if we need direct eyewitness testimony for people’s existence we’d have to be scratching a lot of names out of the history books.

            What I think is going on in the backs of many people’s minds when they approach this, including but not limited to mythicists, is not getting past the prejudices that everyone in the West is set up with with regards to Jesus. We are culturally programmed to think of the crucifixion as a Cosmic Event, and Jesus as the Second Person of the trinity.

            So if we come to doubt that story, and we don’t think there’s any Cosmic Event or any Trinity for there to a Second Person of, then it seems like none of it happened. I’m not suggesting that this is a rational process, of course: it’s just that if you get awfully dubious about Jesus because of the extravagant claims, the doubt doesn’t necessarily just get dispelled if the extravagant claims are withdrawn.

            Also, if you associate Jesus with the Second Person of the Trinity, it’s perhaps not hard to think of him always having been a celestial being.

            Moreover, we don’t understand the grubbiness of crucifixion. Someone suggested thinking of the electric chair, but even that has some kind of romance and even spirituality attached to it: I suggest it’s like saying one’s messiah and saviour was savagely beaten by thugs and curbed, or sodomized with a rake or something.

            (It’s already been suggested that The Thinker has difficulty getting past the traditional Christian framing of the story)

          • arcseconds

            ‘Mainstream’ means the same as it would in any discipline: scholars with relevant education and expertise, working in secular institutions, publishing in respected academic journals published by academic publishers.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So most secular scholars with relevant degrees think no person named Jesus for who the Christian religion is based on say that Jesus never said he was a god-man?

          • arcseconds

            Your grammar seems a bit broken here so I’m not sure what you’re asking.

            After ‘think’ I’d be expecting a proposition (noun phrase + verb phrase), but after the noun phrase, the verb ‘say’ agrees with the secular scholars, not the person named Jesus. Even if we correct this to ‘said’ to agree with the ‘no person named Jesus’, it doesn’t make a lot of sense — ‘no person named Jesus said that Jesus never said he was a god-man’.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Do most secular scholars with relevant degrees think that Jesus never said he was a god-man?

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

            Secular scholars are aware that the evidence does not support the view that Jesus said he was a god-man. Your question is oddly worded, but hopefully this answers it.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Ok, thanks. What about any other teachings or saying of Jesus?

          • Mark

            The expectation of teachings and sayings is the expectation that Jesus appeared inter alia as a sage. Such material is incorporated in Luke+Matthew. Basically the expection is based on the material people impute to Q. In Mark Jesus does not appear as a sage. He announces the kingdom of God, perhaps following John, which is to say he makes prophetic-apocalyptic assertions which have a finite space to be valid in. He makes a number of religious statements en passant but these are displays of superior power in taking down the pharisaical intruders into the Galilee, not permanent wisdoms to live by. The little apocalypse is a nice religious discourse toward the end, but only a fool would think Jesus ever pronounced it, it pertains to the destruction of the temple, and is one of the reasons atheistical readers date Mark to that period.

            In general the idea that Jesus had wisdoms and sayings and bon mots and words to live by is a Matthew+Luke thing. Of these, Luke explicitly declares itself to be constructed from diverse sources of the same kind and the sayings material may or may not be using a valid 1st c source.

            Matthew and Luke may date from the 2nd c – and they color mythicist reflection on Paul. Mythicism is the theory that if there was a historical Jesus he’d sound like Matthew. and Paul should have known and cared about this, but even Mark didn’t care, though he does indeed include more ‘biographical’ material. Q or some like document may have captured such material, but it seems it did not interest all believers up to 70+ AD.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Ok. What is the maximum that secular scholars can establish in your view? What can we say at most about Jesus?

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

            I am still puzzled both by your earlier questions and by this one. Historical study is a collective enterprise. Individuals draw different conclusions about the evidence, both its reliability and its meaning. And so as in any academic field, the thing to look at is the consensus.

            Were you asking which historians have the greatest confidence in the largest number of details? If so, that is in fact a very interesting question, since the field of historical Jesus studies has been characterized by such a high degree of skepticism, that it has tended to be historians from other areas coming into the field – people like Michael Grant or Robin Lane Fox – who have been willing to accept more of the data as historical than those who have come to the subject by way of biblical studies.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What I’m asking is if you survey the best secular scholars in the field, what is the general maximum amount of detail you can amass on and about a historical Jesus? Did he just exist and nothing else specific about him has any historical merit? Did he exist in a specific place, say specific things, die a specific way? I’m talking very generally here. I ask this because everyone on this thread seems to be saying that what the NT says Jesus did or said is not historical and I want to find the maximum amount of historical data that you think scholars generally think is possible.

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

            Well, you asked about Jesus as “god-man” which is not how he is depicted in our earliest sources. And so perhaps that is causing you some confusion? But yes, obviously there is a high degree of confidence about a core set of things that he spoke about (e.g. the kingdom of God), and about how he died (crucifixion). As with any historical figure, our degree of certainty varies from detail to detail.

          • arcseconds

            While this is a fair enough question, the problem is that the consensus historical Jesus is fairly minimal: he was some kind of preacher, and he got crucified around 30 AD, he had a disciple called Cephas (Peter), and a brother called James. I think the vast majority of scholars would probably agree he was an apocalyptic preacher.

            Some scholars think that’s about all we can say about him. Lots think that more can be said about him, but they don’t agree on what the ‘more’ is. John Dominic Crossan sees him as a Cynic sage, for example. Others have suggested he is similar to the Essenes. Was he more a typical Jew, or more doing something unique? Was he from a well-off family and possibly literate, maybe even fluent in Greek? Or was he from a humble background and probably illiterate?

            Of course everyone thinks their version of Jesus is historically defensible, and most of them probably think their version is the best version.

            So asking McGrath what he thinks is the most that historical scholarship can say about Jesus basically collapses into what McGrath thinks he can say about Jesus.

            But McGrath is usually pretty careful about saying you probably shouldn’t just believe everything he says: you should in fact follow the consensus.

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

            Indeed, on that last point!

            The Cynic sage view is very much a minority one, and one that resulted from Bob Funk (a Butler grad!) convening a group of likeminded individuals, under the umbrella of a theological agenda. The consensus globally is still that Jesus was a figure with an apocalyptic outlook.

          • Mark

            If the sayings material in Luke+Matthew was really best explained as a matter of Cynic influence, it is probably best to cut Jesus out of the explanation entirely and just impute Cynic influence to some of their sources.

          • Paul E.

            Not sure what you’re asking here. James addressed consensus, so it seems you’re asking about what is possible? Since the past is inaccessible, anything is possible. You seem to be looking at this from a literalist perspective. That’s not what historians do. Historians look at the evidence and come to judgments about what is the best explanation for it, i.e. what is most probable. And different historians will come to different conclusions.

            I would suggest doing some very basic background reading to familiarize yourself with historiography in general, and in Jesus studies in particular. Of course, you must actually read the primary texts. Then, IMO, a good place to start is The Historical Jesus in Context. It has what I consider an excellent essay by Amy-Jill Levine on what has become known as the “quests” for the historical Jesus. I would also suggest reading some of the central texts dealing with the different methodological paradigms historians have used. E.g., E.P. Sanders uses an act/event paradigm, J.D. Crossan uses a sayings paradigm, Dale Allison uses a memory paradigm (which is currently fashionable). Getting some of this very basic background will help.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            By possible I’m asking what’s the most possible amount of historicity to the claims made in the NT that secular scholars can reasonably say is true. for example, is it impossible/difficult to say a historical Jesus said he was god? Is it impossible/difficult to say a historical Jesus died on a cross? Is it impossible/difficult to say a historical Jesus was on trial before the Romans? Is it impossible/difficult to say a historical Jesus gave a sermon on the mount and said the basic things he is reported to have said in the NT? Is it impossible/difficult to say a historical Jesus went to Egypt shortly after being born?

          • Paul E.

            I’m sorry but I still don’t really understand what you’re asking, I guess. Different scholars come to different conclusions on different details, so the consensus is what you really need to look at as an outsider.

            As to the details you bring up, James is a better one to comment on this than I, but here are my off-the-cuff impressions: 1) it would be a tiny minority position that Jesus claimed to be god; 2) almost certain Jesus died on a cross; 3) trial would have to be more clearly defined; 4) sermon on the mount topics would likely have preserved some gist, but that one is difficult; 5) not sure of anyone who would say the Egypt trip is likely.

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

            I still don’t understand the question you are asking. Historians do not conclude that Jesus said he was god, because of what the evidence says on that topic. Historians do not think that Jesus delivered a sermon on the mount as depicted in Matthew, because the organization of that material seems to be Matthean in the Mosaic symbolism of its geographical setting, as well as in its arrangement. But historians do conclude that sayings from which Matthew constructed his discourse stem from Jesus.

          • Mark

            What would make anyone think that Jesus claimed to be God?

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

            Lack of familiarity with the primary sources.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Um, the NT.

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

            Have you read the works that make it up, especially the earliest thereof? It would help to know what specifically you are misinterpreting or reading later ideas back into.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Of course I’m aware the earliest books don’t say that. That’s actually part of the case for mythicism. But the later books do. And the only point is that the NT, which includes the later books, has Jesus saying he’s a god-man.

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

            No, the mythicist view is that Jesus starts out as a purely divine entity and is historicized later. The evidence runs in the opposite direction to what you would expect in the case of mythicism.

            Historical analysis includes tracing developments chronologically precisely so as to recognize when later lenses and interpretations are distorting the impression that one would have had at an earlier time.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The mythicist view is that the Jesus Paul talks about is a purely divine entity who never existed on earth, who is then later historicized in the gospels. The evidence is in exact accordance with what you’d expect of mythicism. If we take the earliest writings on Jesus to be the most reliable, and the latest to be the least reliable, we get a non-historic Jesus.

          • Paul E.

            Beyond the fact that the argument James was addressing was whether Jesus claimed to be god (which he never clearly does in any of the gospels – even John), the representation of the mythicist position in your post isn’t accurate, in my experience. My impression of the mythicist argument is not that Paul talks about a purely divine entity who never lived on earth, but rather that one possible reading of Paul is that he is at best ambiguous as to whether Jesus ever lived on earth.

            Of course, calling this a fringe position would be an understatement, but even if one were to grant it for the sake of argument and artificially remove Paul from his context and separate him from the other evidence (which is not what historians do) and interpret the ambiguity towards non-existence for the sake of playing the argument out, the progression is still purely divine to purely earthly-human to a combination thereof. Thus, if Jesus were a purely divine entity in Paul’s view, then the latest writings (60-plus years after Paul) would be more accurate than the synoptic gospels (20-40 years or so after Paul) because they would contain the element of the divine entity.

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

            The evidence does not support that, unless one crowbars what Paul wrote into a framework that insists that every mundane reference, including to being of the seed (i.e. offspring) of David according to the flesh, refers to heavenly descent of heavenly flesh. That evidence can be made to fit a mythicist framework if one tries hard enough does not mean that the evidence supports mythicism. Even in Paul, Jesus is a human being exalted to a divine status, not an inherently divine being.

          • arcseconds

            This entails that Paul was talking about a celestial being, but then just a decade or two later, he is historicized in Mark. Over the next couple of decades he’s a historical individual with an increasingly fleshed-out biography, including being born in Bethlehem.

            And then in John he’s back to being identified as a celestial being again, although he still retains his earthly biography.

            Someone who was young in the 60s could therefore live to see this entire boomerang journey play out over their adult life: be told by Paul or people Paul instructed that Jesus was a celestial being who was executed in the domain of air, then they read in Mark that he lived on earth and was executed under Pilate, then find that he was born in Bethlehem, then as an older person run into some Johannines who say he actually existed from the beginning of time.

            It must have been dreadfully confusing for someone having that experience.

            Don’t you think this would provoke some debate, which ought to be reflected somewhere, like the later but not that much later debate about docetism? Or do you only require documentation for historicism?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            In John he’s not a fully celestial being. John has some of the most historicized earthly claims about Jesus in the gospels. At most John, would be a combination of the purely celestial Jesus and the historicized earthly Jesus.

            And it’s no more confusing than living at a time with different competing denominations of a single religion each making different claims on the nature and message of god. That’s always existed for almost every religion.

          • arcseconds

            Right, so John is, on the view you’re defending, more accurately reflects the original view than Mark does. So, in fact, does the Ascension of Isaiah. So later sources better reflect the original view than early sources, exactly what was stated earlier and yet you denied.

            My point about the diversity here is not that it’s not possible, but that we don’t have any evidence for it. We do have evidence for other, less radical diversity. But of course you have an entirely tilted playing-field when it comes to evidence: it’s a problem for historicity that it doesn’t have everything meticulously documented, whereas total absence of evidence is apparently good evidence for mythicism.

          • Mark

            On this reading of Paul I take it that this celestial being is going to become human or appear as human? He wouldn’t be a messiah/ Christ , a son of God or the Davidic king of Israel unless he is. So is the idea that Paul is somehow continuing a tradition of messianic prophecy but has details about the individual before he appears as human and rules as Davidic monarch? And that these details include e.g.some suffering before he appears as the king of Israel. But otherwise, you’re thinking Paul is in an ordinary state of messianic ‘expectation’ like many Jews today and earlier centuries? The abstract structure of such a view makes perfect sense. Many pious Jews even now believe that King Messiah already exists though he hasn’t been born and won’t be anytime soon. Holy men like the Baal Shem Tov are supposed to have met him in ecstatic states and asked “when at last are you going to come save us?” etc etc I take it this is the view you are imputing to Paul about his messiah/christ ?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            No. On Paul’s view, as far as I know, celestial Jesus never becomes a physical human on earth.

          • Mark

            Yes, but then you have difficulty explaining why he constantly calls the character ‘Christ’ and ‘son of God’ and ‘seed of David’ – i.e. Davidic messiah – the whole grammar of messianism becomes senseless. You can’t explain why his followers are supposed to be constantly waiting for his ‘arrival’/ parousia; why he says that he will save Israel; why he deliberately models naming on that of the emperors Nero Augustus, Augustus Nero, Nero, Caesar Augustus, Augustus Caesar, Augustus, Caesar, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ. (The constant parousia/arrival talk is apparently modeled on the jargon for the Emperor’s procession into a city.) He is talking about a world ruler, to whom the gentiles are obedient – as anyone you could reasonably call a messianist is. Like Josephus says, “What more than all else incited them to the [Jewish] war was an ambiguous oracle…that one from their country would become ruler of the world.” If Paul (and the Jerusalem Jesus crowd who ‘came before him’) didn’t think this he wouldn’t use any of the actual language he uses, i.e. Christ language. A permanently celestial ‘Christ’ is a straightforward contradiction.

            The only curiosity in Paul’s messianism is that he links the doctrine of the messiah with the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead. These are separate and unlinked in e.g. the Ani Ma’amin ‘articles of faith’ still recited every day by pious Jews and it doesn’t seem to have been different in the first c., though both beliefs were optional/sectarian in that time as they are not under rabbinism. Josephus doesn’t describe the crazies defending the temple as also thinking of the resurrection of the dead. This is the only novelty in Paul and ‘those who came before him’ in the Jesus crowd, and it is just a sort of theoretical economy they get from their attempt to make like their messiah hasn’t already failed completely in the program of ruling the world. There is no real rupture with the standard messianism of the day, just a particular arrangement of familiar material.

            It’s only in the context of a religion where people have lived for generations – even thousands of years – talking about a Christ who is in heaven and never shows up, that the idea could ever dawn on anyone that anyone could ever have believed in a mashiach who doesn’t kick terrestrial butt, so to say. That’s what ‘christ’ means, and what it must have meant to those who ‘came before’ Paul in the Jerusalem Jesus crowd.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Yes, but then you have difficulty explaining why he constantly calls this character ‘Christ’ and ‘son of God’ and ‘seed of David’ – i.e. Davidic messiah.

            No, minimal mythicism all but entails that Jesus would be made ‘from the sperm of David’. He was just born in a heavenly realm originally, and was thought of as a spiritual being who died and rose from the dead, who was then later made into a historical person by the gospel writers. When Paul says that Jesus was born of the “seed” or sperm of David, Paul is using the vocabulary that he uses for divine manufacture not for physical birth to a human, as I mentioned. So again, at best it’s ambiguous. Does Paul mean divine manufacture, does he mean birth? The language he uses suggests divine manufacture. Paul uses genomenos (from ginomai), “to happen, become, be made.” Paul never uses that word of a human birth, despite using it hundreds of times (typically to mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’). “Son of God” doesn’t mean god incarnate. Adam was a son of god (Lk 3:38).

            1 Cor 15:45 has Paul using the same term to describe Adam being ‘made’ since we know Adam wasn’t birthed by a woman according to Genesis. This makes no sense if Jesus was originally born to a human woman on earth. This is one of the reasons why I think it is reasonable to be an agnostic on the historicity of Jesus. There are just too many things that indicate Jesus was originally thought of as a celestial being, who was later euhemerized into historicity, as had plenty of gods in and around the ANE at that time. In some Jewish texts, Adam was believed to have been buried in outer space. The ascension of Isaiah, in its earliest redactions, has Jesus crucified by Satan in outer space. He never comes to earth. So I think there are more problems for the historicist rather than the mythicist.

            A permanently celestial ‘Christ’ is a straightforward contradiction.

            I’m not sure that on mythicism Jesus is always in the celestial realm.

            The only motive for denying this is real burning fear of a historical Jesus.

            No, it’s because of evidence, like some I’ve mentioned above. Why don’t you write a peer reviewed critique of Carrier’s work in a respectable journal?

          • Paul E.

            Without getting into some of the other things in this post, what’s the argument that some Jewish texts have Adam buried in “outer space?” I’ve never heard that one before.

          • arcseconds

            You have absolutely no evidence that he’s using it to mean ‘manufacture’, particularly when he uses the same verb for Isaac. Was Isaac manufactured?

            This is one of the many things you have simply ignored over the course of the discussion. This is the third or fourth time I’ve raised this point, but yet again you haven’t even acknowledged it, let alone given a decent response.

            The reason why you remain convinced this is a decent theory is that you are stubbornly reluctant to actually learn anything, and even when you do concede some point or other, you absolutely refuse to let it influence your opinion.

            I’m sure you’ve had this experience with apologists, when they carry on as though you never gave any criticism. So why do you do this yourself?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I do. Philo allegorizes Sarah and Hagar in On Mating with the Preliminary Studies 6-7, he concludes that Sarah was a perpetual virgin symbollically giving birth to ‘wisdom’ so we can pursue wisdom. We ‘receive a share of her seed’ (spermata), thereby also using ‘sperm’ allegorically. And in On the Change of Names 23(130)-26(152) Isaac is virginally conceived by god (Isaac was christ’s sacrificial parallel). Philo even calls Isaac here the son of god. Ishmael was born ‘according to the flesh’ and Isaac ‘by divine promise’ as Paul says in Gal 4:23.

            So yes. You could argue that Isaac was not born according to the flesh, but by divine promise. That’s why Paul uses the same term as manufacture when Paul refers to Isaac as per the allegory.

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

            No one disputes that some interpreters found creative ways of allegorizing stories. But no one apart from Richard Carrier and religious fundamentalists thinks that those interpretations have something to do with the actual meaning of the texts. http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/08/mcg398026.shtml

          • Mark

            This is kicking up dust. Philo is completely alien to Paul, who is an apocalyptic pharisee. Their methods of employing scripture have nothing in common. To give an example of the degree of remoteness, Philo doesn’t seem to have believed in the general resurrection of the dead. This is pharisaical ABCs for Paul, and he states that Jesus is the first to undergo it – which of course entails that he falls under the genus that undergoes the general resurrection.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I was just mentioning Philo to demonstrate the belief or allegory was out there. And Paul uses the same allegory too. That’s why he uses the term made to refer to Isaac. It answers your question.

          • Mark

            I’m lost in Gal 4:23 the verb is γεννάω / gennaō and it seems it is being used for both guys, one begotten according to the flesh (only), the other by promise (also). The switch is in the adverb not the verb. But I’m probably missing something.

            > It answers your question.

            I don’t know which question.

          • Mark

            I know Greek and don’t need this lesson. “son of God” can mean of lot of things, but it is a standard royal epithet, like “christ”. You think you are giving evidence but basically you are redescribing some of the epicycles that Carrier generates; the rationality of these presupposes increasingly powerful evidence for the main thesis the more the epicycles pile up. Carrier’s evidence basically boils down to his use of the Rank Raglan scale. Paul is obviously referring throughout the corpus to a “messiah ben David.” Paul’s only ground for thinking that Jesus was ‘ek spermatos Daveid’ is that he is the kind of messiah he is, he doesn’t have a genealogy. The celestial sperm bank epicycle is extremely expensive epistemologically but you discuss it as if it were evidence for rather than against mythicism.

            Note that first you said that the so-far-celestial Jesus, unlike Baal Shem Tov’s King Messiah, will never appear terrestrially; then you said it was indeterminate. The theory is totally different according to what you decide. In fact it is clear that Jesus will appear (whether /again/, as on the standard secular interpretation, or /for the first time/, as on the most natural non-historicist reading.) Paul is forever on about Jesus’ parousia and getting his ‘nations’ ready for subjection to the Jewish messiah in accordance with the usual reading of the various prophetic signals messianic thought uses.

            1 Co 15:45 refers to the resurrection of Jesus not to any original generation. The text is incompatible with mythicism since it refers to a transformation from ordinary gross material constitution to whatever higher constitution Paul is thinking of throughout this passage “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” All this is supposed to have happened to Jesus and it isn’t compatible with Carrier, who doesn’t attempt a systematic interpretation of Paul.

            “There are just too many things that indicate Jesus was originally thought of as a celestial being, who was later euhemerized into historicity, as had plenty of gods in and around the ANE at that time” No, all the positive evidence that Jesus was originally thought of as a celestial being comes from outside Israel – from destructuring the enquiry and sinking the Jewish material in a general comparative world religions framework – and not from interpretation of the Jewish text on its own terms. Direct handling of the text in Carrier epicycle construction.

            It is clear that Paul believed in some sort of ‘pre-existence’ but that’s totally normal. As I said, even in the form of Judaism that has come down to us everyone pre-existed and ‘was a celestial being’ since e.g. every Jew was in a position to witness the giving of the law at Sinai.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            “son of God” can mean of lot of things, but it is a standard royal epithet, like “christ”.

            So your original point was moot then?

            Carrier’s evidence basically boils down to his use of the Rank Raglan scale.

            He’s got much more than that. The RR scale is a small piece of his arguments.

            The celestial sperm bank epicycle is extremely expensive epistemologically but you discuss it as if it were evidence for rather than against mythicism.

            This comes from a straightforward reading of 2 Sam 7:12-14.

            Note that first you said that the (so-far-celestial) Jesus, unlike Baal Shem Tov’s King Messiah, will never appear terrestrially; then you said it was indeterminate whether he would or could appear. The theory is totally different according to what you decide.

            I’m not sure on mythicism he would never appear on earth. He certainly could appear in visions, like the kind Paul had.

            1 Co 15:45 refers to the resurrection of Jesus not to any original generation. The text is incompatible with mythicism since it refers to a transformation from ordinary gross material constitution to whatever higher constitution Paul is thinking of throughout this passage

            Not at all. On mythicism Jesus has a physical body – in outer space – not on earth. And when he dies and is resurrected he receives a new supernatural body, in keeping with other dying and rising gods like Osiris.

            No, all the positive evidence that Jesus was originally thought of as a celestial being comes from outside Israel – from destructuring the enquiry and sinking the Jewish material in a general comparative world religions framework – and not from interpretation of the Jewish text on its own terms. Direct handling of the text in Carrier epicycle construction.

            What do you mean by epicycle construction?

          • Mark

            What does Paul have to do with Osiris? He’s a Jew. This is a messianic text. We are not symbolizing the annual and generational renewal of life in true mythical fashion as with Osiris Persephone Innana – but the succession of events in a typically Jewish great epic of world history. Paul has a strange cosmology but he learned it from pharisees presumably in Jerusalem. 2 Sam 7:12-14 applies to Solomon and all the kings of Israel in succession, e.g. Uzziah and Mannasah – they are all ‘seed of David’, and they are all become ‘son of God’ in the sense of that passage and psalm 2. We don’t need a cosmic sperm bank to explain Uzziah. They all had two terrestrial parents; so, for Paul, did Jesus. At least in Romans 1, Jesus becomes ‘son of God’ – which is an acquired characteristic , a status you are appointed to – with the resurrection. I’m not sure when, for Paul, he’s anointed with oil exactly.

            > “I’m not sure on mythicism he would never appear on earth. ”

            Right, this is why, on mythicism there is no christ. King Messiah appeared in a vision to the Baal Shem Tov, but the question was, when he would appear on earth and clobber the nations etc. Jesus appears to Paul too and he wonders when he’s going to (re)appear on Earth and clobber the nations. The difference is that the christ who appears to Paul has been born to his two terrestrial parents his father belonging to the house of David; but the christ who appears to Baal Shem Tov hasn’t been born yet (when he is it will surely be to a father in the Davidic line). The answer to Paul is ‘when the full complement of Gentile have come in’; the answer to Baal Shem Tov is: when the full complement of hasidim have learned the hasidic teaching.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What does Paul have to do with Osiris? He’s a Jew. This is a messianic text. We are not symbolizing the annual and inter-generational renewal of life in true mythical fashion as with Osiris, Persephone, Innana etc. – but the succession of events in a typically Jewish great epic of world history.

            Syncretism with Jewish apocalypticism fully explains the replacement of a cyclical model with a one time resurrection. In fact the peculiarly Jewish logic of that modification is fully explained in Hebrews 9. The resurrection of Zalmoxis and Romulus were and remain singular events in history demonstrating the flexibility of the mytheme in just this respect.

            2 Sam 7:12-14 applies to Solomon and all the kings of Israel in succession, e.g. Uzziah and Mannasah – they are all ‘seed of David’, and they are all become ‘son of God’ in the sense of that passage and psalm 2.

            God here can be plausibly read to say that he will raise up a single son for David who will rule eternally, rather than a royal line, and that ‘his’ will be the kingdom god establishes. Later Jewish legends imagined demons running their own cosmic sperm banks, even stealing David’s sperm for it, to beget his enemies with, so surely god could do the same.

            Right, in other words you’re not sure whether in mythicism there is a christ and whether the idea is basically a contradiction.

            I don’t see any contradiction here. Spell it out if you wish.

            Wacky as it is, this is very remote from a ‘myth’ construction in which things are fitted to a circuit of regeneration. Osiris is nowhere in sight.

            See my first comment.

          • Mark

            I don’t know much about Romulus and the story of his apotheosis, but I don’t see what it could have to do with the case of Osiris or an Innana-Persephone type of goddess. The latter are great gods tied to great natural phenomena while Romulus was understood as a human being to start with and subjected to some ‘apotheosis’, no? Not too surprising since it happened to emperors later. Osiris is nowhere in sight.

            Romulus and apotheosized emperors might thus be compared to Jesus I guess, but Jesus isn’t subject even to apotheosis in Paul, though he is appointed son of God (= king of Israel) and becomes christ (= king of Israel).

            A ‘mythicist’ story of crucifixion and standing-back-up on a higher plane and thus (I guess) saving us from our sins is a contraction, because it calls the agent ‘messiah’ and ‘son of God’. Meanwhile it validates not one single element of messianic expectation. The only possible reading that puts these things on some higher plane is one in which these things happened to /the pre-existent entity that will become the messiah/. The story thus far validates no messianic attributes at all. But messiah is all Paul is ever talking about. The messianic attributes, for Paul, come with the parousia he is telling everyone to anticipate. This parousia goes uninterpreted on the ‘minimal mythicist’ hypothesis, which as it stands isn’t a messiah story at all. Minimal standards for a plausible interpretation are not met.

            The incubi and succubi nonsense doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story. In any case, the best they can do is transport semen indirectly from a human male to a human female, so they don’t help with the Celestial Christ. Maybe there are other sorts of story.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I don’t know much about Romulus and the story of his apotheosis, but I don’t see what it could have to do with the case of Osiris or an Innana-Persephone type of goddess.

            I never said it did. You’re completely lost here. I’m not trying to say these gods were exactly the same or that they’re exactly like a dying and rising Jesus god a la mythicism. Keep this up and I’m just going to start ignoring you. I don’t have time to deal with this.

            A ‘mythicist’ story of crucifixion and standing-back-up on a higher plane and thus (I guess) saving us from our sins is a contraction, because it calls the agent ‘messiah’ and ‘son of God’.

            I have no idea what you’re talking about here.

            The incubi and succubi nonsense doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story. In any case, the best they can do is transport semen indirectly from a human male to a human female, so they don’t help with the Celestial Christ.

            God takes sperm from David’s belly and stores it in space and then uses it to make Jesus. Not impossible. Not nonsense.

          • Mark

            I think you didn’t read what you wrote. I said Jesus wasn’t like Osiris; you said okay he’s like Romulus. But in the understanding people had of the story, Romulus was a ‘historical person’ – subject to apotheosis – so no analogy is available to mythicism. You can tell an Osiris-like myth or a Romulus like story. There is no similarity between them. A Romulus like story means Paul at least thinks Jesus is historical.

            > I have no idea what you’re talking about here.

            No attribute characteristic of a messiah is present in the mythicism you are propounding, /unless/ the messiah is actually born and becomes human. No account is given of /why/ Paul calls him a christ rather than a mwmwmwmwmw.

            > God takes sperm from David’s belly and stores it in space and then uses it to make Jesus

            On the version you are running … who is the mother?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I think you didn’t read what you wrote. I said Jesus wasn’t like Osiris; you said okay he’s like Romulus.

            When the hell did I say Jesus was “like Romulus”? This is the kind of crap that makes me not want to respond to you.

          • Mark

            > The resurrection of Zalmoxis and Romulus were and remain singular events in history demonstrating the flexibility of the mytheme in just this respect.

            That was the aspect of the Jesus story that was under discussion.

            Any Roman would have counted Romulus as a historical person and his death and apotheosis would have been given a date in the 8th c. There is no similarity to Osiris or Innana/Persephone, so of course it’s not the same ‘mytheme’. You might as well say the pharisaical belief in the general resurrection (Paul says Jesus’ resurrection is /its/ beginning) shares ‘the same mytheme’ with the story of Osiris – with a zillion Osirises in parallel. There’s no similarity at all.

            But the topic you were avoiding was whether on your account Paul believes that Jesus /will/ appear and validate anything like the usual messianic prophecies. Birth, death and resurrection in space have nothing to do with any messianic prophecy, and so unless more is to come, Paul has no reason to call the character ‘christ’, and so the account makes no sense at all . It isn’t a reading of Paul’s text, which must explain its messianic character and in particular the anxiously awaited parousia.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Never said Romulus and Osiris were same mytheme. Here once again you’re lost. You’re arguing with a straw man.yet again.That whole sentence explains how there were singular dying and rising gods, as well as seasonal ones, so the theme was varied and flexible and you cannot claim that dying and rising god beliefs of the era were all based on a seasonal, annual death and resurrections, and therefore bare no resemblance to Jesus or could not have inspired a celestial dying and rising Jesus..

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

            Can you kindly explain to me why you think it unlikely that Paul, when he talk about resurrection, means the Jewish concept of a bodily afterlife? What in the evidence makes you think that this widely-held Jewish viewpoint is being ignored by Paul, and that instead he is doing something related to Osiris and/or Romulus?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What makes you think there was a single Jewish conception of the afterlife held universally among the Jewish people uninfluenced by any pagan ideas of the ANE?

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

            Nothing makes me think that, obviously. The Jewish view of the afterlife clearly comes in as a result of Persian influence as we see in Daniel for the first time. Resurrection was not, in the time of Jesus, the only viewpoint found in Judaism, as both Josephus and various New Testament writers attest.

            Why does any of that, which should be common knowledge, stand in the way of you answering the question that I asked you?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Because your question assumes it. 1st century Judea was a hotbed of numerous influences of dozens of innovating and interacting Jewish sects and pagan religions and philosophies. Paul himself was a diaspora Jew, from either Tarsus or Damascus whose own version of Christianity was laden with ideas from pagan philosophy, literature and mystery cult.

          • Mark

            There were indeed numerous sects, but it is clear that Paul’s sect is the pharisaical one. Certainly he was under the influence of ‘apocalyptic’ literature, but so were other pharisees. (The rabbis tried to cool this stuff off in the 2nd c but couldn’t help but include e.g. Daniel in the Tanakh.)

            It /seems/ he departs radically from ‘normal judaism’, but people who think this haven’t thought through that /he thinks the present moment is at the same time the messianic period and the moment of the general resurrection/. These are both distinctively pharisaical articles of faith. His views about the current status of the law for Jews like himself are obscure, but there were diverse views about the status of the Mosaic dispensation under the messianic period and also in the period of the general resurrection. His ‘noahide’ views about gentile ethics and the non-necessity of ‘conversion’ are even proto-rabbinical. (He must have thought the law still /somehow/ binding on Jews in the present pre-parousia period since e.g. he insists that followers who do chance to become proselytes must obey the whole Mosaic law – presumably as expounded by pharisaical teachers. But he thinks the cosmos is under general meltdown and something is happening to the old law given to the Jews.)

            Your source for the claim that Paul is a ‘diaspora Jew’ is Acts. Why you credit it, I don’t know. I don’t myself doubt it, nor the claim imputed to him in Acts that he is /at the present moment/ a pharisee, and a former student in Jerusalem. This training is the source of his ideas, not some alleged diasporic syncretism. This can be detected from the content of the letters as long as you put later Christian, especially Protestant, aprioris out of your mind. Apart from the claim Acts makes about Tarsus, there would be no reason to think that Paul was not from Judea. The only thing that would suggest diasporic origin would be the quality of his Greek, but I’m not sure how compelling an argument that would be. Maybe I’m forgetting some other text. Certainly his relation to all ‘foreign’ influences is essentially phobic.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So you think it’s just a coincidence that Paul believed in a dying and rising savior, while there there dying and rising savior gods in pagan religions and mystery cults around the ANE? And that none of them influenced Paul’s religious beliefs in this respect?

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

            So you think it’s just a coincidence that Paul believed Jesus to be the firstfruit of the resurrection from the dead, when Pharisaic Jews believed that God would raise human beings from the dead? And that none of the ideas from Paul’s own background influenced his religious beliefs?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            My view is that Paul was influenced by both his native Judaism, and by the pagan beliefs in the ANE. So I’d expect under syncretism that there’d be elements of Jewish beliefs in his religious beliefs.

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

            And at what point are you actually going to make the case that this trite point of common knowledge, that religions and cultures share ideas, can in some way make mythicism seem plausible?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’ve been doing it all along. You’ve been denying it.

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

            You seem to have badly misunderstood my question, or are avoiding it, as though the diversity of every time and place in history meant that one can simply say whatever one wishes, irrespective of the evidence, and have it be just as plausible as anything else.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So then you acknowledge there were Jews whose ideas of the afterlife were clearly influenced by pagan beliefs. Is your view that Paul was not one of them?

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

            What do you mean by “pagan”? Do you in face really mean “Gentile”? Or do you mean strictly Roman rural influences? And do you mean influenced in Paul’s time, or earlier? And are you imagining that there are cultural ideas in some place or time that are completely uninfluenced by ideas from other places and times?

            You seem to be wanting to do apologetics, while I am interested in talking about history, including the history of ideas.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m talking about history. Forget apologetics. By pagan I mean gentile. I mean all non-Jewish religions in and around the ANE that could have influenced Paul’s thoughts about god and the afterlife. That is the whole argument of mythicism: that the early Christians, and specifically Paul, were influenced by these pagan beliefs

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

            This is quite possibly your most ludicrous comment yet on this blog. Mainstream scholarship is what supports the conclusion that in a time and place known for the intercultural exchange of ideas, that sort of exchange of ideas took place. It has nothing to do with mythicism, and lends no support for it.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Of course it has something to do with mythicism, because the dying and rising god motif developed for centuries in various pagan religions before Christianity developed is what influenced early Christianity to think of Jesus as a celestial dying and rising savior. To say that dying and rising god beliefs possibly influencing the views of early Christians has nothing to do with mythicism—view that early Christians believed in a celestial dying and rising Jesus, is ludicrous. Of course it would have something to do with mythicism.

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

            I would encourage you to read the latest scholarship on the
            dying-and-rising god idea, but that is a separate issue. Are you really, truly, honestly suggesting that Paul, when he talks about resurrection, does not have in mind the widespread Jewish concept in relation to the afterlife, and instead is borrowing something else entirely?

            Perhaps in support of your claim, you would be so kind as to explain why, on this scenario, Paul would have to explain the resurrection from the dead so extensively to his Greek audience, and why he does so in a way that sounds just like he is trying to clarify this Jewish view of afterlife for a non-Jewish audience?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Do you deny that some Jew expected one of their messiahs would herald in the end times and would actually be killed instead of being immediately victorious?

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

            “Some Jew”? It is telling that you cannot be more specific. But, given the evidence, of course I deny that there was an expectation that the long-awaited restorer of the Davidic line to the throne would be a failure, if that is what you are asking about, and not simply the question whether anointed figures like priests or even kings were known to be mortal and thus were expected to die.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Jews*

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            How do you interpret Isaiah 53?

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

            In its original context, since the Servant is explicitly Israel, and yet also carries out activities in relation to Israel, the most likely reference here is to the exiles, whom many of the prophets emphasized were not the worst sinners carried off and thus punished while the righteous stayed behind in the land, but were the cream of the crop. And so the text makes good sense when read in its historical context in that way.

            As far as its relation to Jesus goes, it was obviously used to make sense of and interpret the suffering and death of Jesus. It is a testament to the effectiveness of the way Christians hijacked that text, turning it into a prophecy about Jesus, that even atheist mythicists accept the claim that it fits Jesus to a T – which of course, when read critically, it does not. All it does is talk about someone suffering instead of others – nothing about the Davidic king doing so, nothing about crucifixion, just generalities that, once they came to be woven into Christian theology, have become for some indistinguishable from the story of the crucifixion.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The “atheist mythicists” view is not that it fits Jesus to a T. That’s the problem anti-mythicists like you continue to make. The suffering servant is the messiah, and is the heroic model that one could adapt into a dying messiah already within pre-Christian Judaism. which would be already intelligible to Jews.

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

            It certainly is a view that is held by mythicists. And Targum Jonathan illustrates how poorly your claims fit the evidence. This is one of the big problems with mythicism – it finds things plausible that Christian apologists claim, but which anyone with even a basic knowledge of Judaism would not. http://nojesus4jews.weebly.com/sophiees-blog/missionary-misuse-of-jewish-sources-on-isaiah-53-targum-yonatan-jonathan

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            ‘It is a view held by mythicists’ ≠ ‘all mythicists believe this.’ Carrier actually doesn’t rely on Targum Jonathan in his book, and he acknowledges it ‘s been tampered with and so no conclusions can be drawn from it. And Carrier’s criticism of you on his site seems pretty severe, calling out dishonesty and lies. You may not like his pugnacious style, but that doesn’t mean all of his arguments and criticisms are false.

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

            Of course, there are so few mythicists and no consensus among them – although apparently mythicists think that when an overabundance of researchers leads to an overabundance of proposals in the academy, that is somehow indicative of a problem.

            Carrier’s claims about Targum Jonathan can be found on his blog, and he fails to deal with the way the Targum inverts the meaning of Isaiah 53 in order to apply it to a royal Davidic figure.

            At some point I hope you will ask whether it is more likely that every academic that Carrier accuses of being dishonest or insane is in fact dishonest or insane, or whether it is more likely that Carrier is the kind of crank fringe figure critical of the academy for not seeing the brilliance of his work, that one sees in every discipline, whether history, physics, or anything else.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Well I’m going from his book, which makes his argument, and which I assume you’ve read, and it doesn’t rely on Targum Jonathan. And on his site he says, “I had only cited the Targum as (additional) evidence that some first century Jews saw Isaiah 52-53 as messianic (because Jonathan actually inserted the word “messiah” into it, unless that was done by later redactors, for some unspecified reason). I did not use the Targum as evidence of a belief in a dying messiah.” So this to me is more convincing evidence that Carrier’s negative accusations of you on his site may have some backing to them.

            I’ve debated religious apologists enough to know for a fact that many of them are dishonest, and some indeed insane (although of course not all and I’m not saying you are either, and I’m not saying no atheists are either). In fact, I’ve rarely encountered one that wasn’t at least a bit dishonest. And when it comes to Jesus studies, given how most of the people employed in the field are integrated into the Jesus studies academic network and they’re relying on grants and donations that are heavily controlled by Christian donors, they cannot concede mythicism or historicity agnosticism for that obvious reason.

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

            I interacted with him about this topic before his book came out, and so what you are witnessing is his propensity to do damage control in relation to his problematic claims by asserting that anyone who thought he meant something incorrect was misinterpreting him.

            Accusing all of the world’s scholars of engaging in apologetics, when the conclusions of historical scholarship are not amenable to traditional forms of Christian faith, is an apologetic tactic used by mythicists, which is simply the mirror image of the linking of evolution and atheism by young-earth creationism’s apologists.

            All of these points have been addressed on this blog before…

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Have you written any peer reviewed critiques of his books, specifically OHJ? I don’t see any evidence that he accuses all the world’s scholars who disagree with him of engaging in apologetics. He engages with apologists as well as secular scholars. So this seems to be yet another smear. If you’ve addressed his points before then I don’t see how you can mischaracterize him as relying on Targum Jonathan to make his case about Isaiah 53, which he doesn’t. The only thing I can think of that would disqualify you from being overtly dishonest would be if you haven’t read his book, but only his blog, because on his blog he writes about it, but in his book he doesn’t use it, only citing it as a footnote as additional evidence, but not making his case on it and acknowledging it’s been tampered with.

            On his site when he critiques you, he says over and over that you do not address many of his arguments and appear to not have actually read his book. It seems that Carrier was right about that.

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

            It is ironic that you are uncritically parroting Carrier’s statements, and yet seem to have completely misunderstood my point, which was not that Carrier relies on Targum Jonathan, but that Targum Jonathan shows the problem with mythicist claims that regarding Isaiah 53, of the sort you seemed to be alluding to here on this blog.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Well the more I interact with you the more Carrier’s criticisms of you start to make sense and become more apparent. I don’t see at all how your point makes a dent in Carrier’s argument, even acknowledging he doesn’t use Targum Jonathan. How about this, make a simple-as-can-be logical argument demonstrating your point. Can you do that?

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

            If Carrier’s insults and complaints seem appropriate to you, it is presumably because, as has been shown repeatedly, you are not familiar enough with the primary sources to ajudicate between competing claims about them. That is apparently true not only of the Targum, my reference to which you misunderstood, but also the ealy Christian sources.

            Very simple arguments have already been made here. Why not show your ability to interact seriously with those, before requesting others?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            No, I’m sorry, you can’t just claim I don’t know the subject matter enough and think that makes your point. Carrier accused you of not even reading his book, then I come to your site and you make arguments against his that seem to indicate you haven’t read his book or are familiar with his arguments. That sounds exactly like some of his accusations against you. You need to step up and actually make a logical argument demonstrating your point.

          • Mark

            Carrier says everyone ‘hasn’t read his book’, same as he accuses everyone of insanity, dishonesty and falsification. It’s so mechanical and inevitable and monotonous you can’t actually get any cognitive information from it – just “Oh this must be Carrier or one of his internet followers talking about a scholar”

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Well then people should start using his actual arguments then. Many of his critics don’t. McGrath even mentions Targum Jonathan which Carrier doesn’t rely on in his book. Carrier does write about it on his site, and so it makes me think he’s mostly just read Carrier’s blog.

          • Mark

            Carrier’s books may be new to you but they’re ancient history for readers of this blog; practically every page of the book has been discussed in one thread or another. So this is really tiresome bullshit. Carrier thinks he’s justified in saying ‘you haven’t read my book!’ when he disagrees with any interpretation or consequence drawn from it. This is immoral and wrong, but it won’t stop him. Only particular contentful arguments matter.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            He is sometimes justified and McGrath admitted he made some mistakes interpreting him in his criticism. And there are a lot of apologists who make pathetic arguments against him who attack straw men and use fallacies. And again, if you’re so confident you can defeat his arguments where have you challenged him personally? Have you ever left a single comment on his site? If so, where’s the link to it? Have you written a blog or written anything challenging his arguments anywhere? It’s not like Carrier is completely inaccessible. He responds to his critics.

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

            He insults his critics and accuses them of being insane, as well as offring long-winded verbose posts complaining about them. That is not what academics generally mean by “responding to critics.” Or at least, that isn’t what it means to do so persuasively.

            You seem now to have misunderstood both what I said about Isaiah 53 and Targum Jonathan, and what I said about my previous exchange with Richard Carrier on the topic.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Like I said, Carrier’s pugnacious style when responding to his critics does not mean he’s wrong in his response to them. You may not like his style, but you simply cannot dismiss his arguments because if it, which is what I think you’re trying to do.

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

            This is like saying that a jury in a trial cannot find in favor of the defendant just because the prosecuting attorney insulted the defense lawyer, the defendant, and the jury instead of making a cogent argument. They not only can, but should.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            That’s not comparable at all, because Carrier has made cogent arguments against your criticism of him, and you’ve even admitted fault on your part.

            Rather, this is like saying that a jury in a trial cannot find in favor of the defendant just because the prosecuting attorney insulted the defense lawyer, the defendant, and the jury in addition to making a cogent argument.

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

            If I thought Carrier made cogent arguments (other than when he is simply drawing on or reflecting what scholars have written previously), then I would find his arguments persuasive. I wonder whether they might not seem cogent to you because you do not know the primary sources in enough depth and detail to be able to evaluate them.

            Are you trying to imply that some academics never make errors, or that academics who pretend they never make errors are better than those who acknowledge when they do? Are you saying that you believe that Richard Carrier, unlike everyone else, is always correct (as he certainly gives the impression that he believes)?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Whether you think he has or hasn’t is different from whether he has. No one has said or implied academics are infallible. Your view entails Carrier is always incorrect; that he makes no cogent arguments whatsoever.

          • Mark

            McGrath is presumably aware that Carrier is aware of, for example, his own first name; thus McGrath cannot be holding that Carrier is always incorrect.

            It is a fact of experience that Carrier is not worth reading. No insight into Paul or the genesis of Jesus-messianism can be acquired from him. He just scatters your attention across innumerable irrelevant objects.

            Frankly, I don’t think he is even interested in the material: e.g. in how people thought in the period of the 2nd Temple or any questions like that.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So write a god damn peer reviewed critique of Carrier if you’re so confident he’s wrong or shut the hell up.

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

            This kind of language is inappropriate, anywhere on a blog that aims for a high level of serious discourse, but especially in the comments on a post which is about a viewpoint that thrives almost exclusively outside the academy and away from peer review, and which starts by noting Carrier’s own dishonesty about the peer-reviewed status of the work of one of his critics.

          • Mark

            What does ‘peer review’ have to do with any of this?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            If you don’t think peer review has anything to do with the substance of a piece of work in this context I can’t help you.

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

            The point about Targum Jonathan is not whether Carrier relies on it, but what the evidence from it means for his claims. How many times am I going to have to explain that to you?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            How many times am I going to have to ask you to make a logical argument demonstrating whatever the hell you think Targum Jonathan means for his claims?

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

            I have done so on this blog before, and summarized the argument above. Thank you for finally admitting that you simply are not familiar with the text in question and so have been unable to follow the argument. Let me try to restate the point again briefly:

            The claim of Christians is that Jesus was the anointed one descended from David. In other words, they viewed him as the one who would restore the line of David to the throne.

            Jesus failed to do so, at least in the manner expected.

            It is unlikely that Christians would have invented a Messiah that they wanted their fellow Jews to accept, yet who was a failure.

            Some mythicists claim that dying before restoring the Davidic dynasty to the throne was not failure, because there was an expectation that the messiah would die. They often point to Isaiah 53 as evidence of this.

            Targum Jonathan illustrates the problem with this. It is the one example of possibly pre-Christian Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53 in messianic terms, and it accomplishes this by making it the enemies of the messiah who suffer.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            If you had done so on this blog then you could have just linked it to me. All I wanted to do is understand your claim.

            It is unlikely that Christians would have invented a Messiah that they wanted their fellow Jews to accept, yet who was a failure.

            Alright, so now I understand your view better. You could just have written this before and that would have been better.

            (1) If Targum Jonathan was interpolated by later Christians to make it seem more like Isaiah 53 was mentioning a failed dying and rising messiah, then wouldn’t your point be much weaker? And (2) doesn’t this assume all Jewish sects thought negatively of a failed messiah who wouldn’t restore the Davidic line to the throne? How do you know this is true?

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

            I have said it, over and over again, and I shared links with you.

            Your first question is about a hypothetical for which there isn’t evidence, and the answer to your second question is also “evidence.” The evidence is the reason why scholars almost unanimously find mythicism unpersuasive.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Wait, you don’t think TJ was manipulated by Christians later on? And your second response makes no sense. It doesn’t even address what I wrote.

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

            As I said, you seem to be claiming this because you misunderstood my point, which in turn is presumably due to a lack of familiarity with how Targum Jonathan paraphrases Isaiah 53. That is forgivable – as you will know if you have read my online interaction with Carrier on this topic, I made a blunder at one point and said something about Targum Jonathan when in fact I was misremembering and it was Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan that I was thinking of. I would be the first to admit that I am not a specialist in the Targumim, and while I would have double-checked my recollection if I had been writing an article, I neglected to do so in my relatively quick blog post. I apologized, went on to show that the point was even stronger in light of what Tg.Jon. says. In applying Isaiah 53 to a royal messiah, it takes the suffering and applies it to the enemies of the king.

            But if your misunderstanding of my point about Isaiah 53 is perhaps forgivable, your recent demonstration that you did not know that Paul does not merely say, but emphasizes, that Jesus is the firstfruits of the general resurrection, and that that is the whole point and meaning of Jesus’ resurrection, is less so. And what you seem to be doing here is probably directly related to that, and right out of the mythicist playbook. When it becomes clear that you do not know what the primary sources say even at a basic level, you try to distract from it with an outburst of bluster and insult. But since we are aware of this tactic, can you stop with this kind of unhelpful thing, admit your lack of knowledge of the relevant data, and commit to informing yourself about what Paul and other early Christian authors actually wrote?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            The whole point of this exercise for me is a learning expedition. So I asked you to make a logical argument making your point 3 times now. Can you make this? It will help me understand your point much more clear and you might even change my mind if it’s really good.

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

            Are you saying that among the 32 pages of blog posts categorized under “mythicism,” and the round-ups of earlier posts that I have shared, you cannot follow my logic?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/category/historical-jesus/mythicism

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2011/01/round-up-my-blogging-on-mythicism-thus-far.html

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I don’t have time right now to read 32 pages. Make a logical argument and stop avoiding it.

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

            You cannot fairly complain that someone allegedly has not read a book even when they have written three formal reviews thereof as well as engaging with the content here, and then say that you are unwilling to read what they have already written. Demanding that someone lay out the same argument that they and others have made time and time again yet once more freshly just for you is a troll tactic that is too well worn here to get any traction.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Troll tactic? I need you to make an argument so that I can even understand your view – because right now I don’t. And about all your links on that page are from 2010-2011, before Carrier wrote OHJ. No wonder you’re not engaging with him with his actual arguments. Some of your blog posts pick on the lowest hanging fruit of bad internet mythicist arguments. And I’m supposed to think this means you’ve engaged with Carrier’s arguments directly? Make an argument already so that I have an idea what the hell you’re even trying to conclude with your Targum Jonathan mention. Make it simply and clear and direct for the sake of the both of us.

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

            Perhaps if you read the arguments I have already made, that would be a good place to start, rather than engaging in the troll tactic of pretending that anything not said in a comment on a particular post does not exist, that would help?

            http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/10/mcg388028.shtml
            http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/08/mcg398026.shtml
            http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/12/mcg388023.shtml

            And then of course reading the rendering of Isa.53 in Tg. Jonathan will also help: https://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=_boCAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&pg=GBS.PA182

          • Mark

            The point that the Targum Jonathan is no use to Carrier was made laboriously years ago. This is ancient history. Note that Carrier says he is keeping his “superseded” original post “The Dying Messiah” http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2011/10/dying-messiah.html up “for historical purposes”. But in fact as https://web.archive.org/web/20111010011037/http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2011/10/dying-messiah.html shows he has altered it so that now it includes e.g. the sentence “Though this same Targum also erased or downplayed the death-and-burial angle in the passage, we already know that content predates the Targum; what the Targum shows is that some Jews saw this passage as about the Christ”, which brings the post about ‘dying messiahs’ in line with his later spin. Maybe this will tell you something about Carrier’s conception of ‘history’ and ‘historical purposes’.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Carrier doesn’t use the Targum in his book as his evidence. You’re literally picking on things he wrote in 2011 and claiming he’s wrong somehow from a view he may have held at that time. I’m going by his book, you and McGrath are going by blog posts he’s written 6 years ago. That’s a failure to engage with his work properly.

          • Mark

            This is pretty desperate. You are the one who brought the Targum Jonathan material into this particular thread when you asked McGrath above “Do you deny that some Jew expected one of their messiahs would herald in the end times and would actually be killed instead of being immediately victorious?” Now you are complaining that this idea has been brought up. Of course Carrier doesn’t use Targum Jonathan in his book, it was a typical proof that he a) is a complete dilettante in the present historical domain (Second Temple Judaism) without even knowledge of the languages, b) is stupid, since obviously even if there had been something like a Messiah ben Joseph concept in the period, it wouldn’t help the cause of mythicism, and c) is dishonest, since he altered the original post while presenting it as historical evidence.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Altering a post is not a sign of dishonesty. I’ve altered post on my blog, so had McGrath. If every one who has altered posts was dishonest, everyone’s dishonest then. And McGrath’s view assumes no sect of Jews thought that. Where’s his comprehensive study on that? Again if you’re so confident you can defeat Carrier, then why not write a peer reviewed critique of his work and bask in the glory of it. 2nd T Judaisim has never explained Paul’s views to me. I asked you a bunch of questions of Paul, have you answered them?

          • Mark

            Altering a blog post isn’t dishonest. Writing a new blog post superseding the old one and directing readers to it isn’t dishonest. It’s saying that the old blog post is being preserved ‘for historical purposes’ while altering it on the very point in question that is dishonest.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            And your point is? I’m not here to defend Carrier as being perfect. Targum Jonathan has nothing to do with this aspect of the debate and so bringing it up is a red herring. All this talk on it is a waste of time. Asking McGrath if some Jew expected one of their messiahs would herald in the end times and would actually be killed instead of being immediately victorious need not mention TJ.

          • Mark

            What else were people supposed to think you meant, in the context?

            For starters, /some people/ seem to have thought that the putative Davidic prophecies were of a renewed Davidic dynasty, and thus that /all future messiahs would die/, some presumably in battle; and any 1st Temple style king is anointed, as is any priest, and is ‘son of God’; I believe that Maimonides, who knew all rabbinic material, understood Davidic messianism this way, i.e. as an ultra-low-christological monarchical Zionism that would face external gentile nations with one messianic death after another.

            It is of course possible that something like the Messiah ben Joseph-Ephraim traditions predate Jesus-messianism. I’m not sure why secular NT scholars resist this thought, except perhaps that older Jewish scholars resisted it for obvious reasons – and of course that there isn’t much evidence. But no one really knows when some Jewish view that surfaces later is coming from a tradition that is much earlier. It frequently happens that an apparently unattested idea turns up in some work from centuries earlier with no clear means of transmission. Carrier in his later discussion quotes messiah ben Joseph material from the Bavli, which was compiled much later than he seems to think, perhaps on the eve of Islam; maybe there are 2nd T. traditions preserved in those passages, but the idea is so deeply opposed to Christian ideas one has cause to wonder if it isn’t counter-apologetic constrution (on the other hand, in the east where the Bavli was compiled people weren’t particularly worried about Christianity, as far as I understand: the few Christians around seem like pathetic losers to them and no threat.) That in the developed tradition the figures are always viewed as distinct, with incompatible genealogies, shows the difficulty of fitting ‘dying king/messiah’ material with the standard ‘Davidic’ expectations, and thus bears out the standard conclusion of the secular NT scholars, that Jesus-messianists like Paul are desperately gluing material together. (Christian believers seem by contrast to go for this stuff, and as usual mythicists move in lock step with them.) I think it is clear that there is no evidence that anyone before the Jesus-messianists combined the relevant texts as pertaining to one figure, but who knows?

            The whole topic has nothing to do with mythicism since a purely celestial Messiah ben Joseph makes no more sense than a purely celestial Messiah ben David. That’s not what the prophecies are prophecies of; it completely contradicts the whole idea in either case. Paul’s messiah is certainly messiah ben David, he says as much, but he attaches some features attached later (at least) to messiah ben Joseph. He is saying this hybrid messiah exists and has already performed some of his earthly duties (duties later attached to the house of Joseph) and is now entering his Davidic phase, so to speak. All of this is tied together with the close relation he makes between Davidic rule and the general resurrection, which is highly optional in the later tradition though perhaps characteristic of the apocalyptic tendency of his period.

            Another important fact is that even in its developed form the messiah ben Joseph idea never took hold in popular imagination, so there were never Messiah of the House of Joseph movements. Though the idea can be found in many rabbinical texts, it didn’t occur to Sabbatai or his very learned ‘prophet’ Nathan of Gaza that there was any need for a Messiah ben Joseph. In fact, once Nathan proclaimed Sabbatai as king (clearly as a Davidic messiah!), claimants to the title of messiah ben Joseph arose as well – either to complement Sabbatai’s claims or to steal thunder from him (‘for the messiah ben Joseph must come first’ etc etc). There is an amusing story of a certain Nehemiah Cohen opposing Sabbatai under the latter heading in Scholem https://books.google.com/books?id=S2pAq_Og2AsC&q=messiah+ben+joseph#v=onepage&q=merciless&f=false
            There are obvious psychological reasons why all actual messianic movements are Davidic.

            So the topic while extremely interesting has nothing to do with the intrinsically contradictory mythicist doctrine of the Celestial Christ. At best one is catching some NT scholars in a state of excessive dogmatism about something that has no bearing on the matter at hand, historicity.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            So on your view, Paul was completely uninfluenced by any of the pagan beliefs in a dying and rising god/messiah? How did Paul come to believe in a dying and rising messiah on your view? You’re clearly not a Christian who believes the standard orthodoxy surrounding Jesus. So then how did Christianity get started according to you?

          • Mark

            Mythicism isn’t any more devastating to Christian orthodoxy than the standard range of views propounded by serious researchers. If anything it is less so, witness the case of Price, who claims to be some kind of Christian, or Thomas Brodie, (now defrocked) Catholic priest. It fits well with a new-agey version of Christianity which is after all widespread.

            By contrast, the standard range of scholarly views are devastating to orthodoxy especially evangelical orthodoxy. For example, no serious scholar thinks that the Pastorals were written by Paul: the grounds for thinking this are really powerful philology produced by scholarly benefactors of mankind over the last 150 years. But you’re content to vilify these people as ecclesiastical frauds.

            The original mythicist tendency arose in the same learned milieu in the late 19th c but the fact is it is a failed research program and no scholar has tried it since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the overcoming of anti-semitic aprioris after WWII. Suddenly the late 2nd T period looked completely different and more interesting. It became obvious that the origin of Christianity was a normal process within late 2nd T Judaism and the it was just a question of characterizing it properly.

            Mythicism was part of the state religion of the Stalinist regimes and research into it was given state support – still, even there it was rejected after the war. Mythicism is still stuck in the 19th c, protestant, basically anti-semitic apriori that there is some radical break or rupture, some utterly alien force abroad in, say, the authentic letters of Paul. In fact they are among the most characteristic religious documents of late 2nd T sectarian Judaism and belong to a correct characterization of the period.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            But you’re content to vilify these people as operatives funded by ecclesiastical donors.

            I’m not vilifying them, just noting how most people in NT studies are indeed funded by the Jesus studies academic network and they’re relying on grants and donations that are heavily controlled by Christian donors. That doesn’t prevent them from acknowledging many of the Epistles aren’t authentic, but it does make it hard for them to acknowledge Jesus didn’t exist. See, Jesus is just too important to the overall studies, but a few books here and there that are forgeries can be tolerated.

            The original mythicist tendency arose in the same learned milieu in the late 19th c but the fact is it is a failed research program and no scholar has tried it since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the overcoming of anti-semitic aprioris after WWII.

            Over the last 100 years there have been many terrible and outright crank arguments that Jesus was a myth. They were often logically fallacious or they had uncorroborated fact claims, and so many scholars in the field have simply dismissed new arguments as being of the previous kind and have assumed that they’ve already dealt with all such claims and that they’ve all been debunked. In the last 10 years or so, many new effective arguments have developed that have cut out the bad arguments completely using new evidence scholarly methodology and have gone through peer reviewed academic standards. And tying it with antisemitism is an outlandish claim. You’ve done this before, it makes no sense.

            Don’t confuse that earlier arguments with the new ones. And if you know how to defeat modern day mythicism so easily, why not write a critique of Carrier’s work and submit it for peer review?

          • Mark

            No, the older Jesus mythicist arguments were not crank arguments at all. Bauer wasn’t a crank. They’re crank arguments now. What ‘new evidence’ does Carrier for example bring to /the interpretation of Paul/ that wasn’t being used in the period of say Drews or Couchaud? He certainly throws a distracting ‘methodology’ on top of the material. The main idea of mythicism is that the movement expressed in Paul’s letters cannot be explained as a normal phenomenon of the Judean religious milieu of the period but is so inexplicable that it needs comparative religion, dying-and-rising God memes, to be understood. In fact it is a very ordinary messianic movement; they all fail, and once in a while a small cadre is sufficiently fanatical to find a way to overlook this fact, as with Jesus and Sabbatai. In the case of Chabad it’s the whole community somehow, but they have an unusually plastic kabbalah to work with. In the case of Christianity the fact that the later existence of the movement, Christianity proper, was among gentile ex-pagans living in a pagan world gives the later movement various colors that can be used to argue that there is something in the origin that cannot be explained as ‘normal 1st c.Jerusalem’. Mythicism is always based on this kind of anachronism.

          • Mark

            There is no ‘dying and rising god’ in Paul. There is just the general resurrection of the dead and a messiah.

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

            Until “The Thinker” is willing to inform himself about what the resurrection from the dead meant in Judaism in Paul’s time, he’s just going to continue to repeat antiquated ideas that mythicists have latched onto and this attempt at conversation will continue to be frustrating.

            Here are some books that it would be worth checking out from your local library:

            http://amzn.to/2mo0r7j

            http://amzn.to/2mIT2Cl

            http://amzn.to/2mo0dNw

            http://amzn.to/2np2ngy

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Do you deny that some Jew expected one of their messiahs would herald in the end times and would actually be killed instead of being immediately victorious?

          • Mark

            I think they knew that some of their messiahs had died in battle like Saul and Josiah. I don’t think any of them came back victorious though.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Dying and rising messiah, in the style of the dying and rising god motif.

          • Mark

            In Paul’s story everyone including the messiah is subject to resurrection; there’s nothing divine or even specifically messianic about resurrection or its result. Moreover in the totally orthodox pharisaical story he is telling, only actual historical people arise with this resurrection. Paul thus treats Jesus as an actual historical person.

          • Mark

            Maybe James and Peter had a mythic Christ and Paul misunderstood and euhemerized.

            Paul even seems to think that after his long war conquering everything awful he (the son = messiah) will re-enter a state of normal equality with the rest of us, 1 Cor 15:28, ‘so that God may be all in all.’

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            He’s not talking about a regular pharisaical resurrection. He’s talking about a dying and rising messiah who atones for everyone’s sins.

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

            Have you even bothered to read these texts before engaging in this discussion?! :-(

          • Mark

            Paul couldn’t be more emphatic that Jesus is subject to the general pharisaical resurrection that had long been anticipated. He is the first fruits of it.

            You might, by the way, try to get away from Protestant readings in which ‘atonement’ and in particular ‘atonement for everyone’s sins’ is the essential thing in Paul’s messianic theory. He says all kinds of mystical-apocalyptic things about the role of the crucifixion. The main problem figuring out Paul is to get anachronistic Christian readings out of the way.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            How is that incompatible with mythicism?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Are you saying that Paul’s understanding of Jesus is completely in tune with standard Jewish thought? That Jewish thought contained a dying and rising messiah, whose death and resurrection atones for our sins? If not, where do those ideas come from? I don’t understand your view.

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

            Why are you excluding a priori the possibility that they come from the combination of Jewish belief in resurrection as a form of afterlife on the one hand, and the execution of someone whose followers strongly believed to be the long-awaited restorer of the Davidic kingship on the other?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m not excluding anything. I’m asking questions.

          • Mark

            No comrade I’m not lost at all, you just said again that the same ‘theme’ (formerly ‘mytheme’) covers both the case of Romulus and Osiris. You want to put Jesus on this same varying list, but the question was where. Given a non-terrestrial agent subject to death and resurrection, there are two possibilities: it happens in mythic time, or it happens in historical time but not as a terrestrial being – in the heavens or wherever, but on a certain date.

            The first is how Doherty, insofar as I understand him, interprets the Jesus myth – as a proper myth like that of Mithras. (If you think of the practice of the Catholic church, reliving the last supper ever morning and so on, it would be a natural interpretation of what they were up to until you learned more.) Doherty for example finds that some sentences of Paul are in the ‘mythic present’ and so on. The trouble with this interpretation is that there is no reason to bring the dying and rising ahistorical being under the heading of a Davidic messiah. It has no messianic attributes at all. (Of course there are a million other problems)

            — Or else the death-and-resurrection occur in historical time but not on earth. This is how Carrier seems mostly to talk, though he is propounding a rechauffé of Doherty’s theory. But, now, if that’s how things remain forever, then again, we have not one single attribute of a Davidic messiah. The only cogent reading along these lines has the formerly merely celestial Jesus appearing at a parousia – ‘coming [again] in glory” – and acquiring the attributes of a Davidic messiah. Then the story is just ordinary messianic prophecy with a pre-existent messiah and a bit of a back story, just as we find in the trip of the Baal Shem Tov to the palace of the Messiah in heaven. In that case this reading of Paul should be called propheticist not mythicist. Of course there are a million problems with this reading too.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I think you are a bit lost. The mytheme here is the dying and rising element, not whether it happened only once or multiple times, or whether it happened on earth or in space, or whether it happened on a specific date or not. A mytheme is the essential kernel of a myth.

          • Mark

            No comrade you are clearly the one who is lost. From the beginning I was engaged in disjunction elimination https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disjunction_elimination Either the ‘mytheme’ is put in mythic time or historical time; if in historical time then either with a later parousia or not. Then I derived absurdity from each disjunct except perhaps the ‘later parousia’ case. Your response is to affirm that the ‘mytheme’ can be taken in several ways. But this was my premise even before you introduced the language of ‘the flexibility of the mytheme’ That is, your response to the argument is to repeatedly assert its premise.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You kept trying to say that dying and rising god X is different from dying and rising Jesus, therefore it cannot have influenced the Jesus story. That’s bullshit. If you weren’t saying that, what were you saying?

          • Mark

            No, it was all about the interpretation of Paul. I was putting forward several ways of reading the claim that he is talking about a (so far) non-historical figure attempting to argue by elimination. The argument from elimination didn’t have to do with claims of no-foreign-influence but internal coherence. But you aren’t capable of following rational argument, so you kept asserting the disjunction that was the premise of the argument.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Of course I’m capable of following rational argument, if you’re capable of rational responses. Your argument made no sense. Make it clearer or don’t make it at all.

          • Mark

            Your response to the attempt to work through the available cases for interpreting Paul testing them for coherence was repeatedly to affirm that there are many cases for interpreting Paul.

          • Mark

            The words “At most John, would be a combination of the purely celestial Jesus and the historicized earthly Jesus” don’t seem to make any sense. Like Paul and Mark and the other Mark imitators, John’s theme is a particular historical person who is supposed to have mysterious miraculous supernatural properties, what do you expect it’s mashiach

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What the hell makes you think I’m saying supernatural properties attached to the messiah in John has anything to do with the case for mythicism? I never said such a thing.

          • Mark

            I didn’t say you said that, my explicit objection was that you had said nothing with cognitive content.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            You implied I said that.

          • Mark

            Where does Paul say that Jesus was God much less that Jesus /said/ he was God, which was the question in the present sub-thread? He keeps calling him a ‘christ’ and ‘son of God’ which are titles attaching to a king of Israel.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I misspoke. I meant to say celestial entity.

          • arcseconds

            Just to be a little pedantic here, this is only one mythicist position, that of Carrier and Doherty, although it is the one The Thinker prefers.

            Fitzgerald thinks that ‘Jesus’ was the name of a kind of a folk hero, with different stories told about him in different places, a bit like ‘Jack’ is in English folklore. I think Price has a vaguely similar view, but at any rate he’s not a Celestial Jesus theorist.

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

            Not too pedantic at all. I should have said “the mythicist view we have been discussing” or “the mythicist view you have been advocating.”

          • Mark

            Are you thinking of maybe Mark 7:38 “And Jesus said to them “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, etc.” or something more like Mark 7:47 “And Jesus said to them “Hear O Israel: I, Jesus, your God, am one God””

          • arcseconds

            I think it’s a fair enough question from someone who is naive about the topic. He’s been informed about the minimal consensus Jesus, who preaches (possibly apocalyptic stuff, but my impression is that there’s not a consensus on that? The Jesus Seminar seems to not think so.), is crucified, and whose followers become the first generation of Jesus-enthusiasts, a movement which later gives rise to what we know as Christianity.

            But he’s used to a far more detailed conception. And from that, the question ‘how much more detailed can we get’ arises naturally.

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

            I didn’t get from the way it was worded that that was the question. If one reads popular treatments of any historical figure, the degree to which certain details are almost certain, some are probable, and some are uncertain, can be left unstated. I haven’t had the impression from The Thinker that he is aware that those same issues are there beneath the surface of any popular-level treatment of any historical figure, especially an ancient one.

          • Mark

            No one who aims to describe history thinks Jesus ‘preached’ he was a ‘god-man’ whatever that is. It is a disputed question whether he even openly avowed a messianic status (which is anyway inconsistent with ‘divine’ status). Opacity on this topic is not unusual in the history of messiahs. We do have to suppose that one way or another messianic ideas circulated around him to explain what happened next.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What about anything Jesus is alleged to have said? Are all his saying not accepted by any mainstream historian?

          • Mark

            Its absurd a priori for a pious temple-going Jew to wander into Jerusalem saying he is a God. It’s ridiculous, his ‘disciples’ would have left him, it isn’t connected with anything and one would need special evidence to think it happened. How exactly does he say it in Jerusalem Aramaic? So we need extra evidence to think he said such things.

            And in Mark, which may somehow reflect actual facts, Jesus is represented as cagey on the topic, though he gives a pretty awesome Danielic response to the priests, or am I missing something else? – I’m not looking at the text. If there is anything worth thinking about in Matthew and Luke it is the inferred extra source they weld together with Mark; this source (if it’s real) doesn’t have any “god-man” stuff I don’t think.

            So why would anyone think it, if they weren’t committed to a later theology? Jesus was a would-be messiah, if not in his own mind then that of others. The peculiar course of events, crucifixion, an occultationist remnant etc etc. led to the later theology by complex paths. Jesus certainly didn’t know he was going to a Resurrected Christ!

          • Mark

            I think a scholar can certainly be a ‘mainstream’ scholar and deny that any of the sentences attributed to Jesus in Mark and his emulators is genuine. That degree of scepticism about Mark would be pretty high, but it certainly exists. Many think that there’s no hope of getting more than a few shreds from a search for the (life, ‘ministry’ and words of) historical Jesus. Historicity denying itself is not a ‘mainstream’ option. It’s the existence, not the truth, of documents like Paul and Mark that it can’t be explained without historicity … or else wacky hypotheses like Carrier’s.

          • arcseconds

            In basically any historical case from ancient times, there’s a spectrum running from things that are very secure, through things that are less well testified to, until you start getting to things that are rather speculative, unlikely at best, way-out, and finally fantastic.

            If we use consensus among secular historians as our measure of probability (which is an appropriate measure for lay people and amateurs like you and I), then the existence of Jesus, the fact he was some kind of street preacher, and that he was crucified circa 30 AD, and his followers went on to become the first generation of a movement that eventually became Christianity are consensus matters.

            Anything else beyond that there is less agreement on. Some scholars aren’t prepared to go much beyond that at all, so they would say we can’t be very sure of anything the historical Jesus said. Any phrase attributed to him in the Gospels could have been entirely the work of a later writer.

            However, I think that’s a minority position. Most scholars think we can go a bit further than that, and these days there’s fairly substantial agreement on the fact he was probably an apocalyptic preacher, which of course is increasingly embarrassing the longer the world fails to end.

            And I get the impression that most scholars think that the Sermon on the Mount, while it might not be a historical event and even if it was, whatever he actually said is unlikely to have been preserved verbatim, probably does represent the sorts of things that Jesus said.

            Looking for verbatim quotes in the Gospels has been a favourite occupation of some scholars up until fairly recently e.g. the Jesus Seminar, but the in thing at the moment is memory studies, which is informed by psychology and studying extant oral traditions. So for people like Le Donne, the position would be not that the Gospels preserve anything verbatim, but rather that something of the gist of Jesus has been preserved.

            There’s also been a move in focus away from being obsessed with Jesus himself and more to looking at how he was remembered by the earliest generation or two of his followers.

          • arcseconds

            Re: Cotton et. al. — that’s an interesting list of paypari. Are there any in particular that you feel establish that everyone in Judea received tax receipts?

            I note that very few of them have anything to do with tax, and of the few that do, most of them are hundreds of year later.

            So currently it seems to me there is nothing here that demonstrates your claims. Did you even look at it yourself?

            The only way to defend historicity is to take such a minimal approach to it such that Jesus is a total nobody who got virtually no attention and who definitely did not do any of the more significant things in the NT (and I’m not talking about miracles).

            What exactly did you have in mind here?

          • arcseconds

            I’ve said like 20 times already on this thread that I’m agnostic on this issue.

            But you’re not agnostic at all on e.g. who got tax receipts, who would have kept them and why, and you certainly have some pretty worked-up ideas of what Paul would have mentioned had Jesus existed.

          • Mark

            In this tax-records mania is Carrier missing the point that Jesus was not actually a direct subject of the Roman empire, but of a client kingdom? – where, if I understand, the King is the one who sends payments to Rome, extracting them as he pleases. Or is this bit of de ste Croix out of date?https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d6b9994d7e4dc29120a432f33939562b0d638b0463755daacbf61c96af03c1a.png

          • Mark

            In this tax-records mania is Carrier missing the point that Jesus was not actually a direct subject of the Roman empire, but of a client kingdom? – where, if I understand, the King is the one who sends payments to Rome, extracting them from his miserable subjects as he pleases. Or is this bit of de ste Croix out of date?https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d6b9994d7e4dc29120a432f33939562b0d638b0463755daacbf61c96af03c1a.png

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Well Carrier himself doesn’t think this lack of official documentation adds to the mythicist thesis probability. So I’m done debating this.

          • Mark

            I don’t get it, why did you bring it up, about 40 separate posts worth of tax records.

          • Mark

            Yes, it was you who was pushing the ‘if there was a historical Jesus his family would have thought he was a ‘god-man’ and so they would have kept his Roman tax records’ line.

          • arcseconds

            I tried to prompt you several times to actually do some research about how tax actually worked in the time and place we were discussing.

            I actually did a wee bit of leg work here, and I found this:

            http://www.kchanson.com/ARTICLES/fishing.html

            This suggests that fishermen at any rate were not taxed directly or individually. The way the government got income from fishermen was by selling fishing rights to syndicates.

            It also reminds us that Herod ruled Galilee, rather than Rome directly, so I doubt that we’d be expecting Roman tax records.

            (Michael Hudson also points out that what we think of as taxes in ancient times were often fees for public services.

            Surely it’s much more interesting to find out about how these things actually worked then just assume things?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Like I said, even Carrier says this has no impact on his calculations for mythicism, so it’s irrelevant. This thread died weeks ago. Move on and get a life. Thanks for the research though. I don’t see how public fees wouldn’t also generate a written record just as a tax would. But I’m done with this topic.

          • arcseconds

            This is absolutely astounding.

            In your very first sentence you insist, once again, that there would have been receipts.

            And yet you say you insist on nothing.

            You have little evidence and no argument for this. You haven’t done any research into how taxes were conducted in 1st century Palestine.

            You have simply ignored the alternatives I’ve proposed, without argument or even acknowledging I’ve made them.

            And yet you say I’m straw manning you for saying you insist on things without evidence and without bothering to undertake the slightest from your armchair.

            Do you have so little insight on your own activities that you can’t even see that you are behaving exactly as I have characterized, in the very post in which you deny it?

            If you think that history can be conducted from the armchair without bothering to collect any evidence, could you at least come out and say so?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            In your very first sentence you insist, once again, that there would have been receipts.

            That first sentence is merely to clarify your question as to whether the Romans or his family would have receipts. I answered both.

            You have little evidence and no argument for this. You haven’t done any research into how taxes were conducted in 1st century Palestine.

            I did here: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/exploringourmatrix2/how_carrier_responds_to_critics/#comment-3153415936

            Do you have so little insight on your own activities that you can’t even see that you are behaving exactly as I have characterized, in the very post in which you deny it?

            No, what’s happening is that you’re misinterpreting me left and right. You take a point of clarification I made as just a bare assertion.

            Imagine this:

            You: Would John have his left glove or just his right glove?
            Me: He’d have both gloves.
            You: This is absolutely astounding.

            In your very first sentence you insist, once again, that there would have been both gloves.

            No, I’m just clarifying that there would have both gloves in order to answer your question. You mistake that as an argument.

            If you think that history can be conducted from the armchair without bothering to collect any evidence, could you at least come out and say so?

            Of course you have to have evidence, but history is not science. You have to make probabilities based on likelihood and that takes some speculation.

          • arcseconds

            You have been making bare assertions for days. I have been asking for evidence for days, or failing evidence an argument, or failing that, an admission from you that you don’t actually think you need either, in which case at least you’d be honestly admitting you aren’t doing history.

            And assertion that both records existed is still an assertion, even if it was for clarification.

            So the conversation actually went like this:

            You: Well, John had a right glove.
            Me: Do you have a evidence for that?
            You: Well, Joanna had a glove.
            Me: that’s not convincing.
            You: It would be absurd for him not to have a glove. Everyone wore gloves.
            Me: sorry, do you think you can decide this from your armchair? It’s not absurd, he may have had a mitten.
            You: You’re deciding things from the armchair! What you say is what you are!
            Me: Stop being childish, and answer the question
            You: He had a left glove. How else would he get stuff out of the oven?
            Me: Why do you continue to assert things without evidence? Why do you keep ignoring the mittens suggestion? Why are you talking about the left glove now?
            You: Stop strawmanning me! I’m not insisting on anything! But he had both gloves.
            Me: But you’re insisting on something right now, and you never give evidence for anything! What you mean I’m strawmanning you?
            You: You keep misunderstanding me: that was just for clarification. I’m not making bare assertions! Anyway, I just provided evidence to someone else, so you’re totally wrong about me not providing evidence.

          • Mark

            Babatha’s archive, which clearly was intended as a cache of the 35 documents taken as legally significant by a Jew of the period, doesn’t contain any tax receipts. In any case, we have such documents for basically one Jew who by chance lived near the Dead Sea. The country was leveled repeatedly in the period after the formation of the Jesus cult.

          • Mark

            Anything storing records of taxation belonging to the Romans themselves would have been destroyed in both of the Jewish wars. Josephus counts the burning down of an official archive among the first acts of the first Jewish war. 2.17.6

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Likely, yes. But we still have no contemporary records of Jesus’s life, which if we had would indicate he actually existed.

          • Mark

            Yes, photographs would help too. They didn’t exist then and no records survived the repeated flattening of the Jewish people in the 1st-2nd c. But let’s keep talking about how there are ‘no photos of Jesus’ anyway and pretend we’re advancing the cause of human rationality.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Or better yet, let’s ignore the fact that there were no contemporary accounts of Jesus whatsoever despite that time and place having no shortage or writers and historians who were capable of writing about Jesus. And that all we have are 7 authentic letters from Paul from 20 years later, extremely light on detail about Jesus, and why we should assume he was the only person to write doctrinal letters for the first four decades of the cult.

          • Mark

            No one would be stupid enough to affirm that Paul was the only Jesus-messianist letter writer of the mid 1st c. The few letters of Paul that survived to the 2nd c. for collection only survived because a) they were not sent to Judea where they would presumably have been lost during the repeated destructions; and b) his gentile ‘churches’ were subject to a minute exponential growth and survived to replicate them.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            There would have been dozens of letters from numerous apostles, letters communicating between churches, likely from every decade beginning with Paul. And we know there was an effort to preserve the letters Paul wrote, and that means the early Christians were dedicated to preserving early Christian documents. What happened to all those other documents? They would not all be in Judea.

          • Mark

            If by “early Christians” you mean the Jerusalem Jesus-followers Paul mentions – and ‘the brothers of the “assemblies” of God that are in Judea that are “in” Jesus Christ’ (as he puts in 1 Thessalonians 2:14) – the poor holy ones he seems to be making collections for , etc – then there isn’t any evidence they were interested in records. They think the planet is coming under radically new management anyway. If they are ‘poor’ you might suspect they mostly aren’t literate. No documents they had would have made it through the Jewish wars – it’s not clear many of them or their descendants did.

            The few letters of Paul that come down to us seem to have been collected in the 2nd c. by gentile Christians. They lucked out with a few of the gentile communities Paul wrote to.

          • Mark

            People don’t register how total the implosion of the Jewish people was. If it weren’t for the curious fact of the existence of a gentile Jesus crowd, no document pertaining to 1st c. Jewish life would be preserved. The rabbinical tradition passed down almost nothing but the masoretic text and its own writings which begin toward dawn of 3rd c. From the Church we get Josephus, Paul, Mark, Philo, various late septuagint documents, including (pertaining to an earlier period) the Maccabees material. There’s a total memory implosion. Seth Schwartz argues that the % of practicing Jews in Palestine in mid 2nd c is minute. (Literate people in particular are seen in tombs to have gone Greek en masse so it isn’t just physical devastation – the economy was surging! – but in addition a loss of interest in specifically “Jewish” documents from the past.) The rabbinical movement slowly awakens in late 2nd c. but it has its own very special form of memory. But for the DSS we would have access to basically nothing about Judea in the Roman period or even earlier, that’s not thanks to the gentile Jesus crowd. It acquired the size & ideas needed for this (I guess) starting some time in the middle of the 2nd c.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m talking about the Christians in charge of the various churches in and around the Mediterranean who would be writing back and forth with each other and to Paul. There is evidence they were interested in keeping records because they preserved Paul’s letters after all.

          • Mark

            Someone in the 2nd c. was interested in Pauline ‘records’ (Marcion on some accounts) and was able to find a few letters of Paul to a few places all outside of Palestine. There is no evidence that the microscopic aggregate of Pauline communities was interested in keeping ‘records’ else we’d have the 0th letter to the Corinthians that is mentioned in the 1st. Certainly no one interested in collecting these ‘records’ had any capacity to deal with anything Aramaic.

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

            Once again I ask, who do you think ought to have written about Jesus, and why?

            As for the rest of your comment, are you asking why we work with the authentic letters of Paul and the details they have, instead of assuming that, if we had other sources that do not exist and may never have existed, they might have said things that require us to understand the extant evidence in a very different way? If so, I think the question answers itself when phrased in that unambiguous manner. But if you need it to be spelled out, the short answer is this: historians work first and foremost with the sources that we have. Speculating on the possible existence of people or documents that are implied by the existing evidence is not inappropriate. But positing hypothetical or imaginary sources in order to avoid drawing the conclusions to which the extant evidence points is not what history is about.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Once again I ask, who do you think ought to have written about Jesus, and why?

            I’m asking why there’s an absence of 1st century writings during Paul’s time that had details of Jesus’s life that could place him in history given that there would have been dozens of letters from numerous apostles, letters communicating between churches, likely from every decade beginning with Paul. And we know there was an effort to preserve the letters Paul wrote, and that means the early Christians were dedicated to preserving early Christian documents. What happened to all those other documents? They would not all be in Judea.

            But positing hypothetical or imaginary sources in order to avoid drawing the conclusions to which the extant evidence points is not what history is about.

            So does that mean everyone who argues that Q existed is doing so? I’m asking you this: what’s the likelihood that Paul was the only person who wrote about Jesus in the first 40 years?

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

            By comparison with other comparable individuals, it is a delight that we have mention of him as early as we do, from someone who had met his brother. Other messianic claimants and the like in this period get mentioned only decades later at the earliest.

            The reason for concluding that a common source existed that was used by Matthew and Luke is extensive comparative analysis of those two sources and the combination of verbatim agreement and divergence for no apparent reason, which makes dependence on a common source more likely than direct use of one by the other. But even if you date Mark to the far latest end of the range that most scholars think plausible, it is still not long after Paul.

            You seem to think that in an ancient culture of limited literacy from which the survival of documents is a matter of happenstance or deliberate preservation of a small number of especially valued sources, we ought to have more than we do. I keep asking you for specific examples of comparable figures from the same place and time for which the data is better, and yet you refuse to do so. Do you really think that those reading this exchange are unable to figure out why it is that you are not providing what you have repeatedly been asked to?

          • Mark

            Ecclesiastics would not have had any access to Roman archives til the 4th c.

          • Paul E.

            It was my understanding that we have a lot more Roman records from Egypt because the climate allowed their preservation more than that there was a record-keeping difference. Am I wrong about this? Do you have a source? I forget the one guy’s name who did a survey of the Egyptian records. Bignal maybe? I’ll try to look it up.

            The problem seems to me to be what records would have been made, how they were kept, which ones could we expect to have mentioned Jesus (maybe a census record?), what survived through the wars, time, etc., etc. Until there is a full-scale study on these issues, how can the lack of any such record be used as “evidence”?

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

            You are probably thinking of Roger Bagnall.

          • Paul E.

            That’s right, I was just about to google it, thanks! Has anyone ever tried anything of that sort with Judean/Syrian, etc. records, or is there simply not enough there to do anything with?

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

            Egypt is quite unique because of its climate in having preserved so much papyrus. Often times even if a text of importance has survived from somewhere else in the Roman world, apart from in libraries and monasteries and other collections that recopied them, it is because someone had a copy in Egypt and, even if it was thrown away (as happened famously at Oxyrhynchus, for instance) it nonetheless survived to be rediscovered much later.

            We do have some instances from Judaea, of course – the Dead Sea Scrolls being a famous example. But that is because texts were in the desert, which wasn’t to my knowledge a normal part of Roman bureaucratic practice. If it had been, we’d have much that we wish we did but don’t.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            It may very well have been the climate. I don’t know – that could very well be. But they’re the only ones we’ve got, and one can’t conclude that because Egypt has detailed records on various things that the Roman Empire as a whole kept detailed records on all aspects of life, much less Judea.

            I can’t prove the Roman Empire -didn’t- keep detailed records – perhaps they did; but people throw that contention around as if it’s a given and there’s no particular evidentiary basis for it. We have no detailed Roman records of anybody’s crucifixions, but there’s this assumption that such records must exist, and the fact that we don’t have any that mentions Jesus counts as “evidence” that Jesus didn’t exist.

            There’s actually more evidence for a historical Jesus than evidence for meticulous Roman crucifixion record-keeping.

          • Paul E.

            I really don’t know about any differences in record-keeping among provinces, but Egypt was a far more sophisticated and wealthy region than Judea, so one could certainly imagine there may have been a difference. I just don’t know.

          • Paul E.

            It appears you are responding to an apologist, so I am sympathetic to your rhetoric. Nevertheless, the implication that so-called biblical sources don’t “count” as historical evidence is deeply flawed, so it is perhaps best to be careful with that one when you are in a historical discussion. Your comparison of an alien spaceship landing to an apocalyptic preacher crucified by the Romans is also rather, well, problematic. Also, your sweeping assertion that “Josephus is a likely interpolation” is not only wrongly phrased, it is against scholarly consensus. Like I said, I get that you’re responding to an apologist, so the rhetoric is understandable, but on this forum, apologists are the exception in my experience.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I meant Josephus’s passage on Jesus is a likely interpolation – at least part of it, not the whole book. The alien spaceship is analogous in the sense of what people believed 70 years ago doesn’t mean it existed, in the same sense, what Christians believed 70 years after Jesus is supposed to have died doesn’t mean he existed. It’s not an argument for historicity.

          • Paul E.

            I’m sure you’re aware, but there are two mentions of Jesus in Josephus, and the likelihood of interpolation is different in each case. I don’t know of anyone who argues the entire TF is genuine.

            I get what you’re trying to say about Roswell, but the analogy simply does not work, in my opinion. The belief of early Christians that Jesus lived is mundane, as opposed to the claim of an alien landing. If one would want to talk about a priori likelihoods, for example, one can see the difference. And if one looks at the sources on top of that, the gulf widens. It is a better analogy, though, if you’re talking to someone who believes in miracles, I think.

          • Mark

            The question whether a text was canonized by imperial ecclesiastics has no bearing on questions of history. It bears only on apologetic attack on the canonizing church and religion. The category “Extra-(christian)-biblical” is a garbage concept. The question is: //what is the best explanation// of the authentic letters of Paul, the composition of Mark, the composition of Revelation, the appearance of little crowds of ‘christians’ in the Pliny letter, etc. etc. Who gives a f*ck which of these things some moronic representatives of the empire glued together with the septuagint hundreds of years later? – who that is except someone interested in religious polemic, not HISTORICAL REALITY. What is the most economical account that brings the data together? Mythicism is no more plausible, as a scientifically respectable explanation of these things, than orthodox christianity. It’s a mad system of epicycles upon epicycles.

            In the Doherty-Carrier form it has the curious disadvantage of Popperian unfalsifiability thrown in for good measure since even if Paul said “Jesus was born of a woman on 25 Dec 0000 at 31.7054° N, 35.2024° E” they would say, well, you see each point on the surface of the earth has an exact replica in the lowest celestial sphere and the coördinatization is exactly the same, and the temporal relations are exactly the same, so what Paul is saying is that on the lowest sphere …”

        • Mark

          Quotations like these can’t really help advance a discussion of mythicism.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            This guy is a 3rd rate apologist who copies and pastes the writings of online apologists and spams secular websites and comboxes with them. I’ve debated him for years. He’s never interested in a pursuit of truth, he just wants to reiterate apologetic talking points over and over because he thinks the end of the world is soon (he’s a Jehovah’s witness).

  • Matthew Green

    I have absolutely no respect for Carrier anymore. I thought his narcissism was bad but he’s the biggest hypocrite in the atheist community that I know of. I am very embarrassed I was ever a fan of his and even considered him a friend. He gets easily offended if he is not shown any charity by people, especially other scholars, and yet he’s never charitable towards people who disagree with him. He routinely insults other scholars by claiming (as has been noted here) that they either incompetent, irrational, dishonest, or insane. Yet when people disagree or insult him and his cadre of “experts”, Carrier cries foul. He’s allowed to belittle and disrespect anyone he chooses and yet no one is allowed to do it to him.

    Intellectually, I consider Carrier to be a joke. He probably considers his book on the historicity of Jesus to be the best out there and so expertly argued as to make disagreements irrational or dishonest but I think he’s full of crap.I realized what a crank the guy was when I read Thom Stark’s rebuttal regarding the prophecy of “70 weeks” in the book of Daniel. I realized that Carrier was utterly out of his league and was easily taken to task by someone who doesn’t even have a Ph.D. but nevertheless did his homework.

    I am continually amazed at how big an expert Carrier fancies himself to be. He clearly thinks that he’s pretty much settled the question of the historicity of Jesus, has pretty much revolutionized academic history with his application of Bayes’ Theorem, and he seriously seems to think that his own ethical theory, “Goal Theory”, will revolutionize academic ethics. I seriously doubt it but I see no point in engaging him on his blog; he will just attack me as being irrational, stupid, or any of his other cutesy epithets.

    • Jim

      Maybe RC is just striving to be the best a-hole he can be. Striving for perfection in a particular category can’t be all bad; Olympic athletes do it all the time. :)

  • arcseconds

    It must be great being Carrier, everything must be so fresh and new all the time.

    Look at how often he describes his critics as ‘bizarre’ and ‘extraordinary’!

  • Hermann Steinpilz

    These days I only read the ramblings of Dr. Richard Carrier PhD because there is a high probability that they wil make me laugh. He may well be the greatest unintentional comedian of our time. His writing does end al rational debate. But I must admit that I feel slightly guilty about this. I have been taught not to laugh at mentally unhinged people.

  • Jan Steen

    These days I only read the ramblings of Dr. Richard Carrier PhD because
    there is a high probability that they wil make me laugh. He may well be
    the greatest unintentional comedian of our time. His writing does end al
    rational debate. But I must admit that I feel slightly guilty about
    this. I have been taught not to laugh at mentally unhinged people.

  • psstein1

    Carrier is a great example of fundamentalist thinking. He alone knows the truth, and only those who accept him can know it as well. Sounds a lot like a fundamentalist Christian, now doesn’t it?

  • http://www.ancientthought.org AncientThought.org

    Carrier also lies when he says that his book was published by the University of Sheffield. Sheffield Phoenix Press has no formal association with the University.

  • TheEdgeLord

    no surprise his professional career never went anywhere – who wants to work with such an unhinged asshole ?

  • Horatio Harcourt

    It seems that David Marshall can be added to the list of critics to whom Carrier has not taken kindly. There is an article about Marshall on Carrier’s blog. I counted the word “lie” (or some variation thereof) 33 times.

  • Paul E.

    Back to the thread-starter, is it relevant to his “scholarship” that his reactions to criticism of it are so shrill and extreme? I think it probably is. Such language and reactions are designed to avoid proper engagement with criticism, it seems to me.

  • John MacDonald

    If Carrier is right, and “The Brother Of The Lord” in Paul refers to the COMMON NAME for a non apostolic baptized Christian, then it is odd that this phrase appears only once in the entire New Testament. This line of argument also implies a female non apostolic baptized Christian would be called “The Sister Of The Lord,” a phrase that appears nowhere in the New Testament.

    • John MacDonald

      You would think that if Carrier was right and Paul was referring to James, a non apostolic baptized Christian (one of many), Paul would have said he met James, “a” brother of the lord, not James, “the” brother of the lord. “The” here seems to suggest exclusivity. So I disagree with Carrier’s interpretation here.

      • John MacDonald

        Paul’s phrase ” ‘the’ brother of the lord” seems to indicate exclusivity, that of Jesus’ blood relative. If Carrier was right, Paul probably would have wrote ‘ “a’ brother of the lord.” “A” would have indicated that James was a member of a large group of non apostolic baptized Christians. Similarly, Acts uses the phrase “a man attested by God,” not “the man attested by God” (Acts 2:22), because there were many men besides Jesus who were attested by God.

  • John MacDonald

    The epistles of Paul don’t say Christ died in the indeterminate mythic past as Carrier, Wells, Doherty et al argue, but rather, as Paul says:

    “While we were yet weak, IN DUE TIME Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)”

    • John MacDonald

      Commenting On Romans 5, Carrier says:

      “That still allows a possible ancient death (and hence Paul could be saying ‘we’ in Romans 5 as in ‘humanity,’ not ‘we’ as in his current generation; likewise, he does not explicitly say the visions of Jesus occurred the third day after his death in 1 Cor. 15, only that he rose the third day after; Paul doesn’t actually say how long after that it was before Jesus revealed this).” see http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12220#comment-22654

      So Carrier is saying the crucifixion could have happened in distant ancient times, but no one found out about it until thousands of years later in the time of Peter and Paul!

      Why on earth would God wait so long for such a thing to be disclosed, when disclosing it could have been a blessing to untold multitudes?

      • John MacDonald

        Another reason in Paul’s epistles that Jesus’ crucifixion didn’t occur thousands of years before the time of Paul and Peter is that Paul calls the crucified/resurrected Jesus the “first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:23) ” of the general resurrection of souls at the end of the world, which would make no sense if there were thousands of years between the death of Jesus and the end of the world. Paul thought he was living in the end times, and that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were recent events.