Further Problematizing Richard Carrier’s Claims about Jesus

Further Problematizing Richard Carrier’s Claims about Jesus September 16, 2012

Ian has a further detailed explanation of Bayes’ Theorem on his blog. It problematizes Richard Carrier’s use of it in relation to history in general, and the historical Jesus in particular.

I am also grateful to Nick Covington for sharing this video, which shows more of what Richard Carrier thinks about the figure of Jesus than he sometimes explicitly says on his blog or in other places:

The slides are available online. You can see some of the glaring problems even on a cursory viewing. He compares what happened in Roswell to early Christianity, and yet even if we had detailed knowledge of what was found there, he still reverses the trend twice over, having Jesus initially a “demigod” (his term) who is later historicized, even though the historical trajectory seems to be from human being to one who embodies the divine Wisdom/Word/Spirit to treatment as identical to that hypostasis, and the Roswell comparison likewise suggests that a turning of a demigod into a figure that looks like a Jewish rabbi is not a parallel scenario.

He makes what is a clear reference to Doherty’s sublunar firmament viewpoint, and says it is the best mythicist theory. And he says that Philo says that the Logos was named “Jesus” – ignoring the fact that in the relevant passage (On the Confusion of Tongues 62-63), Philo is offering an allusive reference to, and allegorical treatment of, a text in Zechariah which mentioned a historical high priest named Joshua. To see this as an argument in favor of mythicism, you have to ignore the details and just really want Philo to call the Logos “Jesus.”

He treats the “Last Supper” as originating from a hallucination of Paul’s. Note in that section the sleight of hand – he goes from passages that he acknowledges are at best ambiguous, to the Gospels – which assume that one of the possible meanings of Paul’s words is clearly the case, but Carrier then dismisses Mark as resembling a “metaparable” by which he seems to mean something like Barbara Thiering’s wacky approach.

It is apologetics, not scholarship. If this is what he has to offer, as the only professional historian who finds mythicism to have historical merit, then I think I can safely say pretty much what I have been saying all along: anyone who thinks that the historicity of Jesus as a real human messianic claimant is “a theory in crisis” is rather like that infamous other group that uses that phrase.

I can only hope that more people will emerge within the so-called skeptical movement who will treat Carrier’s claims with the same skepticism that they wield so ably against the claims of others.

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