The Gospel According to Carrier

Apparently now Richard Carrier has his own Gospel. The video above illustrates just how off-target mythicism is in relation to the evidence. The suggestion that the Gospel of Mark is the first inkling of a biography of Jesus ignores the narrative that Paul clearly takes for granted – as well as the indications in Mark that he is telling a story that has been told before.

The idea that Mark is just an updating of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha stories is simply Tom Brodie’s unpersuasive framework (which fits some material, but turns into nonsense if you try to crowbar all the Gospel material into it).

Carrier also claims that Mark is intentionally writing in a “low Greek” dialect, similar to what Mark Twain did, in an effort to convey that the last shall be first.

He then moves on to his standard “dying and rising” mystery cult stuff. What he says about the Essenes is particularly odd. His view of Paul thinking that Christianity was an impressive cult that he should join and become a leader in, but then ought to make it more successful by letting non-Jews in, is not at all compatible with the evidence – so much so that it is laughable. His assertions about Paul claiming to know about Jesus only by supernatural means has been debunked repeatedly. Carrier accepts on faith, despite the evidence to the contrary, that a “new guard” will appear that will consider his view equally plausible to others proposed by mainstream – and even less mainstream – scholars.

See my articles on Thomas Brodie’s approach to the Gospels, and Carrier’s approach to Mark, on the Bible and Interpretation website.

I’ve responded seriously to Carrier’s claims on repeated occasions, but he continues to simply dismiss his opponents (or offer a deluge of verbosity that never gets at substantive matters in a persuasive manner). And so perhaps this time I should simply add him to the meme that Steve Caruso and Robert Cargill made popular a few years ago, and which I shared here on this blog back in 2013:

Gospel according to Carrier meme

pretending to hold a watermelon

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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Of course he doesn’t respond to your arguments. If you disagree with him, you’re lying. Everyone who thinks Carrier is wrong is actively trying to deceive the world, according to himself.

    • John MacDonald

      Don’t get me wrong, I love the “lying” hypothesis as an explanation for things, lol.

      For instance, Dr Dennis MacDonald has made an interesting argument in two of his books, “Luke and Vergil: Imitations of Classical Greek Literature (The New Testament and Greek Literature Volume 2, 2015),” and “The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides (2017),” that there is some literary dependence on Euripides’ “Bacchae” by Luke-Acts and The Gospel of John. I have argued this imitation of “The Bacchae” may have been hinting to the inner circle at the idea that the resurrection stories about Jesus and things of that sort may have been “Noble Lies,” akin to what we find in Plato’s “Republic.” In the “Bacchae,” Cadmus says “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele. For this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race.”

      That meaningless speculation/psychologizing aside, I’m not sure what Carrier means by “lying,” because, as you say, he calls everyone who disagrees with him a liar. I follow his blog and am baffled by this, because he seems to identify as a liar anyone who Carrier doesn’t think is as clever as he is. I still don’t understand how an out of work academic who doesn’t teach at an institution of higher learning can get the press that Carrier does? Ditto for Price.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        The baffling thing is that it’s relatively easy to offer refutations without accusing people of deliberate deception, and the vast majority of the time, this is not only more charitable, but more accurate.

        So and so overlooked that I addressed that, here. So and so has misunderstood my argument. So and so thinks the evidence weighs against my point, but I disagree and here’s why.

        It’s puzzling why he inevitably assumes that everyone secretly agrees with him but is out to deceive the world for their own benefit. It kind of makes you wonder what his own motivations are that he’s so quick to ascribe that to everyone else.

        Totally agree about the press thing. The only thing I can think of is the Trump phenomenon. He’s tapped into a movement that has felt mocked and oppressed while believing themselves to be more intelligent than their oppressors and, as a result, they mostly care about winning, or at least legitimacy. Carrier is both an exemplar and a validator of this, and the movement is carrying him forward.

        • arcseconds

          Is it really that baffling?

          I mean, you’ve met the internet, right?

          People don’t have reasonable conversations where they politely disagree with one another. They have blazing rows where they accuse each other of all sorts of things. Accusations of lying and ‘diagnosis’ of reading difficulties and mental conditions are common.

          You’re expecting him to behave as a scholar. He’s behaving like some dude with Opinions on the internet.

          The other thing to consider is narcissism, and what we’re seeing is narcissistic rage.

          Also, what kind of press does he get? I just checked the ‘news’ filter on Google, and a search for ‘Richard Carrier’ turns up a lot of stuff about aircraft carriers. Richard Carrier himself appears at the very bottom of page 2, where the source is actually this blog! Then there’s blog mentioning that goes on in and out of aircraft carriers, until on page 4 there’s a news site, rather than a blog, something called the Big Think, which seems rather sensational.

          (#2 on the first page is Scunthorpe Man Uses Garden As Rubbish Tip)

          That’s with google’s knowledge of my searching, which I would have thought would tip in Carrier’s favour (probably accounts for ReligionProf appearing). Maybe I’ll try it again with an anonymous session at some point.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s an interesting point that people seem much more quick to be offensive toward one another on the internet than what you would see at an academic conference, or in real life generally. I wonder if it is naturally our inclination to be more uppity and inconsiderate to one another, and that the forum of the internet allows us to be more “natural” than we would be in person. I am certainly guilty of this on occasion, and have sometimes said demeaning and degrading things to someone online in a way that I probably wouldn’t have said in person. It’s like the line from the Eminem rap song: “I’m only saying things you joke about with your friends about inside your living rooms. The only difference is I have the balls to say it.”

          • arcseconds

            http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/greater-internet-fuckwad-theory

            You’ll be pleased (?) to know that I’m pretty much as obnoxious in person as I am online 🙂

            (In fact, I may well be more obnoxious, as I do sometimes tone my posts down before sending them, whereas I don’t form complete sentences and edit them rigorously in my head before speaking…)

            I think it’s easy to dismiss people online as being randoes whose feelings you don’t have to care about. Also, the absence of body language and tone of voice or even any indication that there’s anyone there at all means that the only form of feedback you get is what is explicitly written.

            There may well be hundreds of people reading this very thread, yet because we can’t see them and have no real way of telling they’re even there, we don’t at all act as though we’re on a stage, being watched by a large audience. That’s already a huge difference from face-to-face interaction.

            Also, we can’t see people getting uncomfortable with what we’re saying, or getting upset, stuff that would make most people reluctant to go further with what they are talking about. The only way of expressing discomfort or distress is to actively say so, and at that point it can be easily interpreted as a personal attack, or at least as a harsh criticism.

          • John MacDonald

            Good points! I’d like to spend a day in Carrier’s world, where everyone is either crazy, or lying, or both (unless you are one of his lemmings). lol

          • John MacDonald

            Regarding Carrier’s opinion of himself and press, the first line of his bio on his website is: “Richard Carrier is a world-renowned author and speaker.” https://www.richardcarrier.info/about

            lol

          • arcseconds

            I wonder whether he even really believes it. It might just be angry trash-talk.

            Surely you’ve seen this before: someone thinks you’re wrong, and rather than say “I disagree”, or even “You’re wrong”, they go directly to “You lie! Stop lying, liar!”

            I don’t think this shows that they e.g. actually believe that you know the truth, but choosing to say something different because of some selfish motivation you have.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            I hope it’s ok that I laughed at the aircraft carriers thing.

          • summers-lad

            Me too.

          • arcseconds

            It’s only a problem in as much as Scunthorpe Man Uses Garden As Rubbish Tip is clearly a lot funnier 🙂

            I don’t think we need to be too worried about someone having too much fame when they’re far less notable than a filthy Scunthorpian 🙂

          • Pseudonym

            I mean, you’ve met the internet, right?

            Exactly.

            The Internet is the greatest vehicle ever invented for people to find each other. Whatever your niche interest is, like, I don’t know, underwater knitting or something, there’s a critical mass of it on the Internet. You can find people who share your obscure interest, and this is awesome.

            On the other hand, the Internet also lets conspiracy theorists find each other. This is not awesome.

          • arcseconds

            While that’s true, and true for other fringe and/or damaging perspectives (meet the alt-right!), I was referring more to the proclivity for people to be obnoxious and awful on the internet, especially with people they disagree with, which is by no means limited to conspiracy theorists.

          • Luka

            McDonald’s carriers have contributed more to society than this history-revisionist ever did. He’s convinced he’s a great genius and desperately wants to be a star. He’s smart enough to come across as credible and convincing to those who want to be convinced and actually pretty good at marketing himself, which is why he has so many anti-Christian drones convinced he’s some mighty scholar when he’s just an unemployed blogger. And it’s not just Mythicism that he boosts — there’s barely a bit of New Atheist bad history that he hasn’t propagated at one stage or another. With the exception of the “Nazareth never existed” crap, which is too stupid even for him.

      • Luka

        Price is the only Christ-myther who’s an actual scholar…and a gentleman

        • Luka

          Actual *Bible scholar. Sorry Carrier acolytes, your master is a still a scholar…according to himself. A pseudo-scholar at best

      • David Allen

        because he’s right maybe, just a thought

    • Chuck Johnson

      I can help to explain this “lying thing” to you, but without reference (specifically) to Richard Carrier.
      I am an atheist.

      The Bible is full of ignorant assertions which are today still promoted by many Christians as being true.
      The ancient ignorance is evolving into modern fraud.
      Today, we know better.
      And saying “metaphorical” when we really mean “not true” is also dishonest.

      It’s the magic and the miracles that are causing these problems.
      Each miraculous assertion of Christianity is another challenge to verify and uphold. That’s where the dishonesty sets in.

      • arcseconds

        Why does Carrier think everyone who disagrees with him is lying?

        Magic!

        • Chuck Johnson

          Since Carrier is a rationalist, instead of accusing him of using magic, you might want to accuse him of using pseudoscience.

          I haven’t read much of his lengthy works.
          It seems so theoretical.
          It’s not too interesting to me.

          The details of the life of Jesus are not very important to me, even whether he existed or not. What is interesting and significant is the reaction that people have had to the Jesus stories.

          • arcseconds

            So Carrier accuses people of lying because of pseudoscience?

            This doesn’t seem any more explanatory, let alone convincing, than the ‘magic’ option to me.

          • Chuck Johnson

            They are pretty similar to me.
            Both are forms of superstition.

          • arcseconds

            And neither seem like plausible explanations for Carrier accusing people of lying.

            People who believe in superstition, or believe other people believe in superstition, are still capable of meeting normal standards of civility and charity, where you don’t automatically accuse everyone who disagrees with you of deliberately misrepresenting the truth.

            And, as you note, this does rather undermine Carrier’s attempts to be taken seriously as a scholar. His social behaviour is not that of a scholar, but rather of some opinionated dude on some poorly-moderated channel on the internet, if not in fact an outright crank.

          • Chuck Johnson

            The New Atheism has given some early adopters the spotlight.
            But they need to deliver work of substance to be successful in the long run.

          • arcseconds

            So far their track record does not inspire confidence when they’re working outside their areas of expertise.

            Harris, for example, publishes books on morality but more or less refuses to engage with academic philosophy on the matter. This is socially acceptable, particularly among science-fans, because academic philosophy does not enjoy the kind of kudos science has. But it is no less presumptuous and amateur than someone publishing their ideas of how the brains works without referring to neuroscience.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I comment on morality too and I also don’t engage with philosophy for the most part.

            But when the philosopher includes substantial empiricism in his philosophy (as Daniel Dennett does) then the philosophy is interesting enough for me to read and discuss.

            I think about science-based morality and philosophy.

          • arcseconds

            There is a difference between throwing out something in a comment, and publishing a book claiming to revolutionalize the field 🙂

            What is ‘science-based morality’?

          • Chuck Johnson

            The ancients used the Genesis creation story and the gospels to tell the world how our universe works. From this ancient explanation of things, their moral teachings flow.

            Genesis tells us to be grateful and obedient to God.
            The gospels tell us to be grateful and obedient to Jesus.

            This is logical, and it would be a correct way to live our lives if the ancient stories were true.

            I see abiogenesis and the billions of years of biological evolution of life on earth as being the correct story to explain how we got here.

            And just like the religionists have done, I see implications for good moral behavior in the story of how we got here.

          • arcseconds

            What implications are they?

          • Chuck Johnson

            All human morality can be viewed through the lens of evolution, especially cultural adaptive evolution.

            Newborn babies are not very moral people, they don’t know very much. As they grow, they are taught their morality by their parents and others.

            Good morality consists of knowing how to get the things that you want and need out of life while helping other to do the same.
            Learning these strategies improves you own survival and the survival of others.

            Many examples could be discussed.
            Here is a research-based example of cultural adaptive evolution, the decline of human violence as measured over many thousands of years.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk&t=851s

          • arcseconds

            Normally ‘evolution’ without a modifier means biological evolution, driven by natural selection, and that is also suggested by your reference to Genesis and ‘how we got here’.

            So I was a little bit surprised to see no refrence to biological evolution or humans (or the origins of life) in your response.

            Is ‘adaptive cultural evolution’ just ‘humans learning stuff over time’? If so, science and music are also adaptive cultural evolution, so we could take a ‘scientific’ approach to science and music.

            (I put ‘scientific’ in scare-quotes because actually the appropriate disciplines would seem to be history and anthropology, and normally ‘science’ without a modifier suggests natural science. )

            And of course you could learn a lot of interesting stuff by doing that, but at some point to do science or music you have to learn to make chemicals or play the violin, presumably, and while you could let your history of chemistry or music inform your synthesis or your performance, there’s still something else going on besides the history.

            Pinker refers to two philosophers, a political scientist, and a journalist, and makes references to game theory in the later half of his talk, so this is again not a purely natural-scientific account he is giving.

            Moreover, he takes it as granted that less violence is a good thing. The hard graft of moral theory is to explain exactly that: why is less violence good? There have been plenty of societies that have thought that violence, or at least warrior virtues which seem to require violence, have been supremely good things (and our own society is scarcely free of that). I’m not sure that a scientific approach helps us with that question.

            (The job of explaining why it has tended to reduce over time is an empirical matter, sure.)

            As a sidenote, there seems to be a strong note of progressivism in Pinker’s presentation and who he cites. I wonder to what extent it’s true that we’ve just been getting steadily better at this. It’s certainly not true for example that small-scale societies lack empathy for those ourside their groups, and while they can be a bit violent, many of them are not particularly. They also tend to be more egalitarian, including more equal treatment of women. So the progressive match he gives on that slide just seems to me to be quite wrong. States have resulted in terrible violence and a reduction in rights for most of society for millenia, and we’ve spent the last four hundred years or so trying to correct that, is another and probably more accurate way of seeing the matter.

          • Chuck Johnson

            Here are three definitions for you:

            (1) Biological adaptive evolution is an umbrella term covering the evolution of living things as well as semi-living, quasi-living, sort-of living things, etc. A virus is a sort-of living thing.

            (2) Genetic adaptive evolution is the form of biological evolution which has identifiable genetic systems. These are systems which can record blueprints for the living thing, and systems that allow for mutations to occur in those blueprints.

            (3) Cultural adaptive evolution is the kind of biological evolution which began in a powerful, organized, rapidly evolving way about one hundred thousand years ago in the southern part of Africa.
            Cultural evolution requires the invention of language which is abstract and symbolic, the kind of language that we now use.

            To know more about my description of cultural evolution and language, you might want to see the PBS NOVA presentation “Becoming Human” parts one, two and three.

            Here is an example of how I think about things that are artificial and things that are natural:

            The Eiffel Tower is an artificial thing because it is man-made.
            The Eiffel Tower is, at the same time, a natural thing because it is a product of human beings and humans are a natural phenomenon of our universe. – – – So that tower is both natural and artificial simultaneously.

          • Chuck Johnson

            It’s certainly not true for example that small-scale societies lack empathy for those outside their groups, and while they can be a bit violent, many of them are not particularly.-arcseconds

            The proper small-scale societies to refer to on Pinker’s timeline are the ones that existed long ago, not modern ones.

            Nations, city-states, cities and small-scale societies of long ago were all more violent (on average) than their modern counterparts.

          • arcseconds

            What evidence is there that small-scale societies were more violent in former times? They vary considerably in their levels of violence at all times in history, as far as I know, and they also don’t ‘progress’ in any real sense, again as far as I know.

            For example, their technology is not necessarily superior in any real sense: a stone-using society now is roughly about as sophisticated as those of the neolithic (although I’d want to stress how sophisticated neolithic technology was!), so I would be quite surprised if somehow they showed social progression.

            Uniform technological and social progression is only something that modern societies do, and even then one could question how uniform it has really been. Thinking other societies do this too is just projection.

            At any rate, small scale societies simply cannot be as violent as large-scale societies, as they do not have the resources for sustained warfare.

            You should look into the evolution of city-states in Mesopotamia. It is an instructive example of how originally fairly egalitarian societies turn into hierarchical ones, with the corresponding loss of status of women. Warfare becomes increasingly more of a thing, too, until you end up with Sargon of Akkad setting the scene for imperial conquest for millennia to come. It’s hard to believe that egalitarian nascent city-states could have been so much more violent at the dawn of civilization that the later wars of conquest meant a net drop in violence!

          • Chuck Johnson

            By small-scale I meant not a part of urban or high population areas.
            Most of today’s examples of such a “small-scale” society would, of course influenced by modern civilization.

            Steven Pinker’s research shows that modern social inventions help to reduce violence. Hie research does not indicate that ancient small societies had any special advantage in discovering nonviolent ways of existing.

          • arcseconds

            By small-scale I mean a society that lives in villages as the largest unit that’s coordinated in any real way. They may see themselves as part of a wider society, but the larger scale has little to no authority over them.

            I don’t even think Pinker makes the claim you attribute to them: that ancient small scale societies are more violent than their modern day equivalent.

            He just says, without proof (in the talk) that there’s been a steadily widening scope of care. I don’t think this is really true at all, and I don’t think this can simply be asserted without evidence. This is just assumptive progressivism and what some would call Whiggish history.

            Small-scale societies vary considerably in how peaceful and other-regarding they are, ranging from selfishly paranoid even with the society (Tierra del Feugo, I think, provides such an example) to completely pacifist even in the face of homocide from outside forces (Moriori).

            In fact, the Moriori provide a complete counter-example to the global story Pinker is trying to tell, as they were clearly pacifist prior to European contact! Of course, they didn’t fare too well once European seafaring technology allowed their somewhat distant neighbours and cousins, the warlike Māori, to come to visit, which is an illustrative example of the limitations of nonviolence…

            I agree that modern societies have shown a decrease in violence, particularly in the recent past, although one should recall two bloody world wars not too long ago which suggests at the very least this trend is capable of alarming exceptions, so we should not be too complacent about it.

            I do not think this fairly recent trend can be generalized to some kind of global historical trend where humans initially only care about their own families and end up caring for everyone.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I don’t even think Pinker makes the claim you attribute to them: that ancient small scale societies are more violent than their modern day equivalent.-arcseconds

            Pinker didn’t say that.
            His analysis does not look for that.
            It is just an implication of the overall trend that he shows.

          • arcseconds

            So, you are retracting this claim then, specifically in regards to small scale societies?

            Nations, city-states, cities and small-scale societies of long ago were all more violent (on average) than their modern counterparts.

            That’s good, I’m glad we agree on something.

          • Chuck Johnson

            So, you are retracting this claim then, specifically in regards to small scale societies?-arcseconds

            Small scale societies came first.
            Humans invented larger societies later.

            More violent human societies came first.
            More peaceful and cooperative societies came later.

            So there is a correlation between humans inventing larger societies and humans becoming more peaceful and cooperative. But there is no direct cause-and-effect operating here.
            Small societies can be peaceful and cooperative, too.

            The real cause-and-effect operating here is the effect of time.
            As various groups of Homo Sapiens have had a hundred thousand years or more of time for their cultures to evolve, those cultures have become more peaceful and cooperative.

            We humans have been inventing better societies for a long time.

          • Chuck Johnson

            He just says, without proof (in the talk) that there’s been a steadily widening scope of care. I don’t think this is really true at all, and I don’t think this can simply be asserted without evidence. This is just assumptive progressivism and what some would call Whiggish history.-arcseconds

            Pinker’s evidence is the historical decrease in violence.
            This is evidence for me.
            This is non-evidence for you.

          • arcseconds

            His stating that there has been a historical decrease in violence is not evidence. What you mean perhaps is that you’re convinced by his say so, and I am not.

            I am not convinced there has been a long-term trend downwards. In the last 50 years developed societies have seen a marked decrease in violence, and I’m open to the idea that there might have been a downward trend over the last couple of hundred, but continued bloody wars up until 1945 make this claim somewhat dubious. Even if the baseline was pretty good in 1913, the huge uptick in human slaughter in 1915 and the following years rather ruin any notion of a non-violent world at that point, doesn’t it?

            I think there was a big upward trend in violence associated with the move to large scale societies beginning at the end of the neolithic (which of course took place at different times in different places) and then things fluctuated quite a bit depending on the society but with no particular global trend until the modern era, with the establishment of strong, stable states.

          • Chuck Johnson

            His stating that there has been a historical decrease in violence is not evidence. What you mean perhaps is that you’re convinced by his say so, and I am not.arcseconds

            His video explains his findings.
            His findings are based upon the evidence that he has gathered.
            Neither you nor I have taken the time to closely examine his evidence. That would be quite a task.

          • Chuck Johnson

            In fact, the Moriori provide a complete counter-example to the global story Pinker is trying to tell, as they were clearly pacifist prior to European contact! Of course, they didn’t fare too well once European seafaring technology allowed their somewhat distant neighbours and cousins, the warlike Māori, to come to visit, which is an illustrative example of the limitations of nonviolence…-arcseconds

            Pinker is not trying to tell us specifically what social inventions would explain his research results.

            Remember that the peacefulness or hostility that you cite are human social inventions.

            Pinker’s research makes it clear to me that, considered in aggregate and considered over time, the peaceful social inventions displace the more violent social inventions.

            That is the trend.
            That trend is the result of human social inventiveness over time.

            I see human social inventiveness and human technological inventiveness as being similar to each other. Both are expressions of cultural adaptive evolution.

          • Chuck Johnson

            It’s hard to believe that egalitarian nascent city-states could have
            been so much more violent at the dawn of civilization that the later
            wars of conquest meant a net drop in violence!-arcseconds

            I have not read Pinker’s books and I have no idea if he analyzed any changes in violence that might correspond with evolving from tribes to city-states.

            Pinker’s timeline just shows us time versus violence.

            The Pax Romana is an example of the establishment of an empire that was more peaceful than earlier smaller scale societies.

            But I have not looked into violence rates broken down the way that you suggest.

          • arcseconds

            Most of the Roman conquests I think were of large-scale societies: organised into cities and federations under kings and such like.

            The Pax Romana was established by warfare and ruthless terrifying punishment for dissent and was hardly total, punctuated as it was by several wars and revolts. Then even at peace an ordinary person was at the mercy of various kinds of authorities who were more than happy to use violence to achieve their ends.

            Plus of course the term itself is a piece of Roman propaganda. Bringing stability is always a rationale for empire-building, happily ignoring that the empire is just who managed to come out on top in a period of constant warfare!

            Perhaps it was still better in some areas than constant warfare, but I would like some proof of this. Was it really better for an ordinary person to be under the rule of Rome, as opposed to a Celt or German living beyond the boundary?

          • Chuck Johnson

            I have no means to analyze the specific components of these ancient cultures which may have been more regressive (pro-violence) or more progressive (anti-violence).

            The research that Pinker presents shows a very clear long-term trend. Human cultural adaptive has been providing survival benefits in the form of learning how to create societies which are progressively more peaceful and less violent.

            It would require much more research and analysis to provide stories as to how (specifically) the ancient people and more modern people have been able to accomplish this beneficial evolution.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        No, that’s not what I was talking about.

        Carrier routinely accuses scholars of lying when they critique his work. It’s got nothing to do with his thoughts on the Bible’s contents.

        A typical example goes like this:

        CRITIC: So, here, Carrier overlooks the vast body of scholarship that deals with the very issue he’s pressing on.

        CARRIER: The Critic is lying about my work! I talked about that scholarship on page 17. STOP LYING ABOUT MY BOOKS!

        That’s what I’m talking about.

        • Chuck Johnson

          This does not sound like a way to foster a successful academic career.
          Which Carrier (apparently) would like to do.

  • summers-lad

    Pretending to hold a watermelon – I like it!
    Or could they be, like Linus from “Peanuts”, standing in a sincere pumpkin patch and hoping to hold the Great Pumpkin?
    (“How can a pumpkin patch be sincere?” – Charlie Brown)

  • John MacDonald
  • ncovington89

    “The suggestion that the Gospel of Mark is the first inkling of a biography of Jesus ignores the narrative that Paul clearly takes for granted.”

    Nonsense. You mean ‘the narrative James McGrath reads into Paul.’

    • Absolutely hilarious that you would write something like that in a comment that takes what I clearly meant, and reads in its place what you think I ought to have said…

      • ncovington89

        It’s all supposition with you. You have no ability whatsoever to answer the question “How do you know ‘the narrative’ that Paul takes for granted?” Which I know because you have tried and failed (many times) to justify your assertion that Paul believed in an earthly human Jesus. You circle the wagons to Romans 1:3 or Galatians 1, but you never adequately address mythicist interpretations of those verses, which means you can’t.

        • We all know that there are denialists who will respond exactly as you have, insisting that the experts have merely speculated when they have made the strongest case possible in the field in question; that they have not addressed specific details that they in fact have; and they imagine that some gullible souls will see their doubly-dishonest claim “you haven’t addressed X because you can’t” and be misled by it. My question is who you think will read your comment and fall for what you are trying to pull? Has anyone ever found it persuasive the countless times you have tried the same tired tactic in the past?

          • ncovington89

            “that they have not addressed specific details that they in fact have”
            Where exactly do you disprove that “brother of the Lord” could simply mean “Christian” instead of “blood relative”? What historicial information shows that the “blood relative” interpretation is more probable, and where in the past have you discussed this? Further, where do you deal with Richard Carrier’s arguments that in Galatians 1:19 Paul is either referring to (a) James the apostle or (b) some other James, that if (a) A literalist interpretation has problems explaining why Luke didn’t know James the apostle was a blood relative of Jesus, and if (b) we have no record of some-other-James-besides-the-apostle being actively involved in the church (in the book of Acts, for example), which is super strange if a blood relative of Jesus was involved in the early church. On the other hand, “brother of the Lord” = “Christian” faces no such problems. Look forward to the links you post that deal with this in depth. I’ll hold my breath, James, don’t let me suffocate 😉

          • Holding your breath and making demands instead of acknowledging that you are aware of my past posts on the topic simply puts you into the category of troll and charlatan. This is probably the most succinct and yet comprehensive of the many posts of mine on the topic: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2012/03/mythicism-and-james-the-brother-of-the-lord-a-reply-to-richard-carrier.html

            You must know by now that, unless you are going to make the bizarrely implausible argument that Peter was not a Christian, then having Paul distinguish between Peter and the brothers of the Lord in both Galatians and 1 Corinthians is not going to seem plausible, never mind more likely.

            Since you have decided to combine spam, insults, and dishonesty, I think it is time to say goodbye to you. If you are ever interested in taking this topic seriously and actually discussing it as a historical matter using historical methods in an appropriate way, please contact me via email and I will consider rescinding the ban.

          • Paul E.

            James, I saw on another site the claim that “lord” here is a “religious title,” and thus “brother of the lord” is less likely to refer to a biological relationship than if the phrase were “brother of Jesus.” Is there any accuracy to this statement as a factual matter, i.e. that “lord” is a “religious title?” “Lord” is not a peculiarly religious title in English, especially as used by Wycliffe or the Jamesian translators, as I understand it. It was also my understanding that “lord” is a translation of archon (is the correct?), which is also not either peculiarly religious or of the demiurge. Could you give some guidance on this? Thank you!

          • It is a very odd and frankly dubious claim that if someone refers to “the king’s brother” or “the president’s brothers” it is somehow less clear that human beings are referred to. And no one has made the case that in first century Judaism and/or early Christianity, “brother(s) of God” was in use.

            Archon means “ruler” and was likewise a term which, by extension from its mundane meaning, could also be applied to spiritual powers. It is not the same word as kyrios which is rendered into English as “lord” and “sir.”

          • Paul E.

            Thank you, that was my understanding, and yes it seemed a very dubious claim. So the term in “brother of the lord” is kyrios? I think I must have confused the “rulers of this age” passage in there!

          • Yes. The phrases used in Galatians and 1 Corinthians are ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου and ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς. (I left that last bit of the phrase in since the distinction between the brothers of the Lord and Kephas/Peter rules out the possibility that “brothers of the Lord” means “Christians”).

          • Paul E.

            Thank you!

          • Paul E.

            What do you think is the best explanation for Luke not making it explicit that James was Jesus’ brother. Was it simply assumed that everyone knew?

          • That is a real possibility. If the author was inclined to side with Paul against James when push came to shove, then he gained nothing by highlighting James’ relationship to Jesus (and the authority that is implied by it) to those who did not already know, and lost nothing by not mentioning what those who already knew would have assumed.

            But the broader point is that Luke-Acts depicts Jesus as a human being empowered by the Spirit of God, and in no sense a celestial figure until after his death. And so to suggest that that work is somehow coding a message about Jesus as a celestial mythical figure is implausible in the extreme.

          • Paul E.

            That makes sense, thanks!

          • ncovington89

            Ooh ooh ooh: Where have you come up with a non-ad-hoc explanation for how the Jesus story took on alternate timelines and plots (i.e. Jesus in 100 BC in the Talmud and elsewhere, the story of Jesus being put to death by Herod, by Claudius, etc.)? Because the mythicist thesis allows you to explain this easily: people came up with different allegorical stories inside different historical settings because the historical context was just window dressing and not integral to the plot. Whereas the historicity thesis has trouble explaining how Jesus could be transferred from one historical time and place to another (wouldn’t people care, and care deeply, about who killed Jesus and when, since this was the centerpiece of their faith? How could any oral tradition plausibly lead to deviations in integral and incidental parts of the story?)

          • Why is the Talmud an authority that you unquestioningly accept, given its late date and its ideological slant – never mind the fact that it clearly combines a number of figures in the interest of anti-Christian polemic? Why do you choose to adopt the creationist-style tactic of emphasizing non-issues with simple explanations in a ridiculous effort to try to find something that might just wound like a plausible argument to an uninformed bystander?

            I realize that it may be hard for you to grasp the challenges of keeping dates straight in an era before not only printed calendars but also before a standardized date system, but a tiny bit of effort to inform yourself historically might just solve this, assuming you care about history rather than merely promoting an ideologically-based stance that you will defend no matter what.

          • ncovington89

            Also, where have you proven that Galatians 4:4 refers to a literal woman, instead of the metaphorical woman mentioned in 4:20, which would fit the context better?

          • Presumably you got the verse number wrong, but are you saying that you think Paul meant that Jesus was his own child in the faith just as the Galatians were? Even if that were his meaning, would you the go on to argue that he was writing to purely celestial mythical Galatians? Do you really think this mythicist nonsense makes sense, never mind it being more plausible than what academics have to say about it?!

          • ncovington89

            No, I was referring to the “Born of a woman…” passage and how it is symbolic instead of literal. Where have you made the case for a literal interpretation over and above a symbolic one?

          • If one is willing to view everything as metaphorical – figuratively born of a figurative woman under the figurative law, to figuratively redeem those under the…oops, is that the literal law there? Can anyone not see that this is merely an attempt to make the text say what mythicists want it to, in exactly the same way that conservative Christians insist that things are symbolic or metaphorical when it is preferable to accepting the plain meaning of the text? Mythicists regularly show their true colors as merely having switched ideologies without ever having switched from the approach to the Bible they were indoctrinated with to a historical one.

            I have been addressing these matters for a long time, but like creationists, mythicists deceitfully ignore all past arguments in a well-worn tactic. I posted on this at least as many as seven years ago: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2010/12/born-of-a-woman-merry-mythmas.html

          • ncovington89

            Consider 1 Corinthinans 2:6-8. If Paul believed in a historical Jesus, it might be the case that he believed demonic powers worked through humans to accomplish Christ’s death. But wouldn’t he have been explicit about that belief? And if not, why wouldn’t he have identified the chief priests or Pilate as the instigators of Christ’s death? If he had it would have fit the context just as well: Pontius Pilate would have been another gullible dupe following the will of the demons just like many had fallen for “the wisdom of the world” and the “wisdom of the rulers of this world [demons].” So, under the historicity hypothesis, there are two possibilities we could predict:

            A. Paul mentions humans as responsible for, or at least involved in, the death of Jesus.

            B. Paul mentions only demons as responsible for the death of Jesus (this is not absolutely inconsistent with a historical Jesus).

            Option (A) seems like the most credible possibility under the historicity theory, but set that aside: We can safely estimate that what Paul says here is no more than 50% likely under historicity, arguably much less.

            Under the celestial Jesus theory, the only beings who even could kill Jesus are celestial ones. As such, what Paul says is effectively 100% likely under the celestial Jesus theory. In short order, the 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 passage is good evidence for the Jesus myth theory.

            Abstractly the above reasoning is the same as the “gumball example” given by philosopher Paul Draper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK3jVNbG2-s

          • If one assumes that powers could not refer to earthly powers (which was clearly not the case), and if one assumes that ancient people did not envisage spiritual powers as working through human agents (which was clearly not the case), then Paul’s failure to address something that is only a concern to mythicists in a later era might indeed seem puzzling.

            Do you honestly think that inserting percentages into an illogical pseudo-argument will fool anyone into thinking that you have a point?

            Is there some particular reason you have gone from not commenting to spamming my blog with comments in this manner?

          • ncovington89

            “Is there some particular reason you have gone from not commenting to spamming my blog with comments in this manner?”

            I was posting four separate mythicists arguments to find out if you had addressed them anywhere at all in the past. So far you haven’t shown me a response to any of the four, so I conclude you were bluffing about having responded to these arguments when we both know you haven’t. Prove me wrong. Do it.

          • Pretending that I have not written what is visible in comments above is really appalling behavior. Thank you for illustrating the kind of dishonesty that is required to even attempt to persuade gullible passes-by that mythicism has something in its favor. I have no interest in playing such games – even though they reflect very poorly on mythicism, they are a waste of my time, and so I will say goodbye and trust that you can find one or more of the many sites with lower standards around the internet and post such things there instead of here. As always, if you are ever interested in taking this topic seriously, please get in touch via email.