The Carrier Train Wreck Continues

The Carrier Train Wreck Continues August 29, 2014

Richard Carrier is continuing to respond at great length to every review of his book, whether largely favorable or not. In his most recent post, about a review by Nick Covington (who has also been commenting here on Exploring Our Matrix about the topic), Carrier wrote the following:

The reason Romans cannot be, in any relevant way, using high context discourse (discourse that presupposes the readers have already been fully briefed) is because Paul is there writing to people he has never communicated with before, even some of whom have not yet heard the gospel (Rom. 1:15). And accordingly, much of the text from chapter one on is an elaborate summary of the gospel and how it works salvation, refuting the notion that Paul would not repeat basic things already understood—for Romans is specifically about many of those basic things! (And, I would add, our Romans appears to be an interwoven stitch of at least three separate letters [OHJ, p. 511, n. 4], such that the original letter beginning with Rom. 1 may have contained a lot of really fundamental material that has been cut from our copy.)

Covington’s own blog post (which Carrier is interacting with) makes the following claim, based ultimately on something Earl Doherty wrote:

When you compare the 200 silent passages with the handful of debatable passages that might refer to a historical Jesus (or just as easily might not) and the lone reference to James the brother of the Lord (which can be plausibly explained by mythicism) things begin to look pretty bad for the historicists…The argument from silence here is extremely compelling. The Pauline letters are certainly what we should have if the mythicist thesis is correct, and but apparently very improbable under historicism. 

I really find it very hard to believe that even Covington (who describes himself as an “armchair philosopher”), to say nothing of Carrier, who has a PhD in history, cannot see the problems with this reasoning. There is no serious doubt that Augustine thought that Jesus had lived as a real human being. And yet if you read his letters, you will find far more places where Augustine doesn’t refer to Jesus/Christ at all, much less in a way that makes unambiguous that he viewed him as a historical figure, than places where he does. One can make the same point with most ancient correspondence. But if one is willing to presume that a particular figure who is mentioned is mythical, then no references to details of their life need stand in the way of that interpretation. Crucifixion, burial, and even descent from David can all conveniently be situated in the celestial rather than terrestrial realm. It would be an interesting thought experiment to see whether there is any epistolary reference by Pliny the younger to his uncle that a determined “Pliny the elder mythicist” could not interpret as referring to events that transpired in the celestial rather than terrestrial realm.

Returning to Romans, I would point out that Paul indicates that he wanted to proclaim the Gospel to “you who are in Rome.” There are any number of things that that could mean, and there is substantial scholarship on the question, which needs to be interacted with. Does it hint that Paul considered the Gospel that others proclaimed to be inadequate? Is it just treating the residents of Rome together, and referring to his desire to preach to those outside of the community to which he was writing? It is not sufficient to merely assert without argument that what Paul meant was that the congregation that he was writing to was one that included those we would call non-Christians. Mythicism seems prone to what we also encounter regularly in Christian fundamentalism: insistence that the author of the text must have meant precisely what is written in one particularly literalistic interpretation, except when a rigidly literalistic interpretation doesn’t support the “conclusion” that you are trying to reach.

Neither Carrier nor Covington seems aware that a substantial body of scholarship has called into question the notion that Romans represents Paul’s proclamation, as opposed to a presentation of his views on matters that were deemed controversial in Rome, in order to try to secure their support for his planned mission to Spain.

But be that as it may, it is clearly not going to make a coherent argument if one says, on the one hand, that Romans as we now have it is a composite pastiche of multiple letters from which basic Christian teachings have been omitted, and then to claim that the absence of details about a historical Jesus (which most interpreters consider to be the kind of basic Christian teaching Paul didn’t bother to recap) somehow supports mythicism.

These sorts of attempts at sleight of hand are typical for Carrier. Judging by his recent piece in The Bible and Interpretation, he seems to think that he has made a profound point in a discussion about 1 Corinthians 15 when he observes that it does not contain the phrase “in Christ before me.” That phrase is one that Paul uses in Romans 16:7. But is Carrier really going to suggest that Paul was “in Christ” while he was persecuting the church, and that the gist of 1 Corinthians 15’s list is not that there were others who were what we would call “Christians” before he was? Indeed, that is the overall impression one gets from things that Paul writes in many places. And Carrier doesn’t seem to really want to dispute that. So what is the point of beginning the piece in that way?

Carrier seems to believe that, by splitting hairs, and pointing out where someone has been imprecise or even wrong about their wording or some other minor detail, this will somehow distract from the fact that his interpretation of early Christian literature is at odds, not merely with the precise wording of this or that passage, but with the overall impression that literature has given to pretty much every other historian who is intimately acquainted with the literature. And what Carrier has yet to show is that these occasional blurring of phrases that sometimes happens in our minds and speech is because all of us scholars in the relevant fields have distorted the evidence, and not because we have not merely understandably but appropriately allowed the entirety of our overall acquaintance with the range of what Paul writes to inform how we interpret specific passages.

Carrier’s Bible and Interpretation article sounds for the most part like something that one might have read a hundred years ago, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and in a period when the academy was rife with antisemitism, when interpreting Jesus as patterned on a non-Jewish deity was a view that had a certain popularity. He seems to have no sense that anything done in the relevant fields in the decades since World War II might invalidate those earlier viewpoints, which many scholars found problematic even in the time when they had a measure of popularity.

What Carrier says after summarizing his view of things is nothing short of remarkable. He writes: “Such is the theory. Why might we conclude it’s the more likely explanation? Because the sequence of evidence aligns with it. As Bart Ehrman himself has recently confessed, the earliest documentation we have shows Christians regarded Jesus to be a pre-existent celestial angelic being.”

This is such utter nonsense, and thoroughly hypocritical, that it makes me doubt that Carrier has any interest in engaging in serious discussion. He has elsewhere argued that Ehrman’s work is so full of errors that he is incompetent and completely untrustworthy, even when defending the consensus view that all work on the historical evidence in recent years points to, and not just Ehrman’s own. Yet when Ehrman makes an idiosyncratic case for his own atypical view, it is called a “confession” and accepted without question, and no mention of the details of Ehrman’s book which show that “angel” and “human” were not viewed as mutually exclusive categories in this period, and so the point does nothing to support his mythicism.

What Carrier offers in these recent online posts isn’t scholarship. It is apologetics, of the sort we regularly see conservative Christians engage in – the denigration of scholars, and then the favorable quotation of them when it suits one’s purposes. You’ll find that he treats early Christian literature in much the same way – it is utterly untrustworthy, except in those rare places where he believes he can quote it to support his viewpoint.

 

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  • Jerry Coyne also brought up the question of the evidence for a historical Jesus on his blog today. The comments are interesting, too. http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/once-again-did-jesus-exist/

    • MattB

      Hey James,

      Do you plan on reviewing Carrier’s new book?

  • When you compare the 200 silent passages with the handful of debatable passages that might refer to a historical Jesus… things begin to look pretty bad for the historicists

    There’s a great quote on the argument from silence on the Warring States Project website which pinpoints the fallacy in Carrier’s reasoning:

    A single sound refutes all silences

    I doubt Confucius himself could have put it better!

    https://www.umass.edu/wsp/history/outline/silence.html

    • MattB

      Hey Paul,

      Would you like to join me in a discussion with some mythicists? I was hoping maybe you could settle them down, given you are a smart teacher based on your comments.

  • Sean Garrigan

    Very good piece, James! I’ve managed to largely ignore the ramblings of those who promote the notion that Jesus is a mythical character, except for these brief encounters on your blog.

    A point of clarification about this, however:

    “What Carrier offers in these recent online posts isn’t scholarship. It
    is apologetics, of the sort we regularly see conservative Christians
    engage in – the denigration of scholars, and then the favorable
    quotation of them when it suits one’s purposes.”

    While I agree with you in relation to Carrier’s use of Ehrman, I’m not sure who you have in mind vis a vis “conservative Christians”. In my experience — aside from a few online lay apologists — I haven’t encountered very many people who actually engage in the “denigration of scholars” followed by the “quotation of them when it suits one’s purposes.” In fact, if anything, in my experience the converse problem is more common: People often raise the scholarly community to the level of deity, and imagine that merely quoting some respected authority settles matters, whereas in reality it’s the argumentation offered, not the “credentials” that should be considered decisive.

    There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong in principle with criticizing a scholar when criticism is considered warranted, and then quoting her favorably when she’s offered thoughtful insights and observations. For example, I’ve criticized Dan Wallace for his mishandling of John 1:1c in his Greek Grammar Beyond the
    Basics, but this shouldn’t stop me from praising his fine work in relation to Sharp’s rule (which isn’t perfect, IMO, but still very good), or his insightful view vis a vis the articular infinitive as it relates to Philippians 2:6, which was fully development by his student Denny Burk in his DTS thesis, and in various books and articles.

    It seems to me that if one places truth above personal loyalties when engaged in dialogue over ideas, then one *should* criticize scholars when criticism is deserved, and quote them favorably when they’ve done well, and offered compelling argumentation in support of some view or point of dispute.

    • I don’t see how citing narrowly sectarian scholarship is supposed to make a point about what is typical in the academic mainstream, which a school like DTS obviously does not represent. But at any rate, from Josh MacDowell’s books to comments on this blog, I think you will find lots of examples of what I am talking about.

      • Sean Garrigan

        It was just an example, James. I’m talking about the _principle_, i.e. that there’s nothing wrong with criticizing an argument or assertion put forth by a scholar when he offers a view that warrants criticism, and then quoting the same scholar favorably when he offers important insights that are thoughtfully developed and presented.

        I’ll give you another example. I follow the work of Larry Hurtado, and in his writings I often find thoughtfully developed insights served with a tasteful touch of literary flair. Yet when I read his review of your book, The Only True God, I found that he employed rhetoric in his effort to support his case that ultimately resulted in a misrepresentation of yours. We discussed this a while ago on your blog, and I think you confirmed that Hurtado’s claim that you consider the early Jesus devotion in the NT to be “unremarkable” is in fact a misrepresentation of your view. As such, this claim by Hurtado is worthy of criticism.

        Hurtado seems to be a nice chap, and I suspect that he would have revised his wording if this error would have been pointed out to him before he published the review. And his error *should* be pointed out, yet there’s no reason why, having pointed out said error, we must then stop referring to his fine work when a more thoughtfully developed argument is made with which we agree.

        • I’ve never suggested that scholars shouldn’t be criticized, have I? What I’ve argued is that ultimately the assessment of scholarly arguments is done by other scholars. There are arguments which are problematic that scholars and laypeople alike may be able to see. But if a layperson thinks an argument is problematic, and scholars think it is sound, it is more likely that the former is mistaken than the latter.

          But at any rate, scholars regularly criticize some arguments a peer makes, and find others made by the same scholar persuasive. Because we are, for the most part, competent but not infallible. It is the declaration of incompetence, combined with the citation as competent, that I consider hypocritical and irrational.

          • Sean Garrigan

            James, as I stated in my original post, I was offering an example to gain some clarity about what you were arguing. Your comment, as stated without qualification was:

            “What Carrier offers in these recent online posts isn’t scholarship. It is apologetics, of the sort we regularly see conservative Christians engage in – the denigration of scholars, and then the favorable quotation of them when it suits one’s purposes.”

            I hoping you’d clarify who you had in mind, esp. since I don’t recall seeing, much less “regularly” seeing conservative Christians behave in the manner you’ve described. I have seen many, many people criticize a view offered by some scholar and then speak favorably of some other view offered by the same scholar, and so I didn’t think you would likely be referring to that behavior, but I was curious to figure out what specific behavior you had in mind.

          • Here’s a web page about antievolutionist quote mining:

            http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part1-4.html

            And here is a specific example of ID proponents arguing at once that scientists are involved in a conspiracy to cover up the problems with evolution, and that the same scientists acknowledge the problems in their publications:

            http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/09/alert_alack_i_h.html

          • Sean Garrigan

            Ah, so this was all about your pet peeve. I should have known;-) You made it sound as though this is a common problem with conservative Christians in general, whereas it may only be an occasional problem with some creationists.

            I’ve reviewed many charges of selective quoting over the years and found that (a) some are legitimate complaints, while (b) many others are the result of misconstruing the intent of the person who offered the quote (sometimes deliberately, I suspect), while (c) others seemed to involve ignorance on the part of the person levying the charge about how authors are quoted in scholarly discourse, while (d) yet others have been just silly nonsense (c and d may often overlap, obviously).

            As an example of “c/d”, I’ve encountered people who have charged me with selective quoting during conversations about the Trinity, a doctrine which I consider un-biblical, unnecessary, and unhelpful. I don’t remember the specifics anymore, but I can recreate the spirit.

            Like Dale Tuggy, I take John 17:3 to be a problem for those who believe that the Trinity is biblical. (I suspect that Augustine may have also, which may be why he felt a need to revise the wording as follows: “That they may know you and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent, as the only true God.” [See his Homilies on John]).

            Homilies on John
            ProT replied by asserting that John 17:3 is not a problem for Trinitarians because (a) Jesus is called God in a positive way in the NT, and so he could only be the true God, and (b) Jesus is actually called “the true God” at 1 John 5:20!

            I replied by pointing out that many well respected scholars interpret 1 John 5:20 differently, and take the reference “this is the true God” as a reference to the Father, which would be in harmony with the immediate context, and with John 17:3.

            ProT charged me with selective quoting, because the scholars I quoted affirm the Trinity doctrine and the “full deity” of Christ!

            Is that an example of selective quoting? No, because I didn’t quote the scholars to support my view that the Trinity doctrine is unbiblical; I quoted them to support my understanding that 1 John 5:20 doesn’t call Jesus “the true God”.

            Many charges of selective quoting I’ve reviewed are much the same.

          • Sean Garrigan

            Ignore the second occurrence of “Homilies on John” that appears right above the paragraph that begins “ProT replied by asserting that John 17:3…” I mean to delete it but forgot.

          • That is just the most obvious example, and most egregious, since scientists are supposedly part of a deceptive global conspiracy, and yet can be trusted if their words can be made to seem, when taken out of context, to question evolution.

            But take a look at Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict and you will see the same thing applied to Biblical scholarship. Although you should be wary of trusting those liberal scholars, if a quote from them can be made to seem to support McDowell’s own conservative brand of Christianity, then it can be quoted and trusted.

          • Sean Garrigan

            I don’t doubt that such is the case with many people, but I think that in many other cases the intent of the persons providing quotations is merely misunderstood or sometimes deliberately misconstrued (e.g. the way Jesus’ opponents chose to interpret his words as blasphemous when alternative conclusions were possible).

            Years ago I read “The Concessions of Trinitarians”, by John Wilson, who provides a nice example of the approach some take, which I consider legitimate in principle, while acknowledging that there may be misjudgments as well. Wilson collected various quotations from scholars from his day and before respecting various points of dispute between Trinitarians and Unitarians, and showed that many well educated Trinitarian scholars either agree outright with some unitarian view, or concede some aspect of the other side’s view while favoring some orthodox alternative.

            In my own case, I’ve argued on this blog that Darwinism is a weak theory because scientists can’t tell us what mutations and selections led to the emergence of any organism. They can’t tell us what mutations and selections occurred in the past to bring about a creature, and they can’t tell us what mutations and selections will occur in the future or what changes will come vis a vis varied life forms. It therefore seems, IMO, to have all the explanatory power of a bumper sticker, as I’ve said many times before.

            I’ve quoted two scientists in the past who acknowledged in their published writings that science does not have a detailed Darwinian account of *any* biochemical system, but only a variety of wishful speculations. In doing so, I’m not breaching any ediquette pertaining to the use of sources, because I’m not claiming that either of those scientists denies the theory of evolution. But they made the concessions, and they’re BIG ones. Anyone who is honest with himself should admit as much, though Darwinists can be even more stubborn than creationists, in my experience.

          • arcseconds

            It therefore seems, IMO, to have all the explanatory power of a bumper sticker, as I’ve said many times before.

            And this would be an example of what James is talking about. Someone knowing nothing about the subject would have to decide what is more likely: that the vast majority of the scientific community including virtually all the relevant experts, who have a variety of cultural backgrounds and religious and metaphysical commitments, is completely, utterly, and unfathomably wrong when they think mainstream evolutionary theory is a great theory, and a bunch of non-experts like you and a tiny number of scientists all of whom have similar kinds of religious commitments are right, or whether it’s the reverse.

            Now, antecedently one would want to trust the experts, of course, so we’d want some pretty strong evidence that you’ve got a better handle on the matter than them. Do you?

            Apparently not, because this:

            scientists can’t tell us what mutations and selections led to the emergence of any organism. They can’t tell us what mutations and selections occurred in the past to bring about a creature,

            Is just plain false, and is admitted to be false by creationists. This kind of thing has been observed directly, for example in the long-term e. coli study, but there are examples in the field, too. Exact mutations are a difficult to pinpoint, but there are plenty of examples where the exact modification to the exact gene are known.

            That a trait is advantageous in a particular environment is not disputed even by creationists (specific cases maybe, but the general point is agreed) and it’s not exactly a subtle and sophisticated conclusion to come to that, say, in the presence of a certain antibiotic, bacteria with a resistance to to that antibiotic will tend to flourish and those that don’t have that resistance will die off.

            So selections are often quite easy to pinpoint! Also, we know that genes actually do carry information about these things.

            And this is all largely admitted by creationists. They agree that ‘microevolution’ happens, and they largely seem prepared to accept the mainstream account of this.

            So they, at least, concede that evolutionary biology is explanatory in this case. You seem to not accept this, so you appear to be setting yourself up as a particularly fringe example of mainstream evolution scepticism, at odds even with your fellow-travellers.

            As far as a complete evolutionary account of a biochemical system goes, that strikes me as an astronomically high bar to achieve, and thus not a genuine concession to say it hasn’t been achieved and almost certainly will never be achieved.

            This is like saying it’s a problem for a Newtonian account of the solar system to say it can’t account for the exact distances of the planets, or their exact masses, or that it’s a problem for a theory of urban growth that it can’t account for the position of every house in an actual city, or an account of ancient literature that it can’t account for the exact choice of words on every single page.

            Does any evolutionary scientist actually think that this is achievable, or that it’s a genuine embrassament that it hasn’t been achieved? If not, why should we be impressed with you setting the bar much higher than anyone else does and then complaining when this standard isn’t met?

            (The ancient literature example has analogies with the case with evolution, actually. We know that scribes make mistakes or deliberately modify texts, and sometimes, but rarely, we know the exact nature of the modification, and have a reasonable explanation of why it was modified. But in most cases it’s much more speculative. This isn’t some huge failure of our understanding of ancient texts that means we need a completely different account of textual modification that ditches the notion that scribes modify texts.)

            I also note that there are no competitors that can give us a complete account of why a biochemical system is the way it is, and are never likely to be any. If ID even were to even make some significant progress along these lines, then it would be worthy of more consideration.

            If you want to show that your utterances are to be put on par with the scientific consensus, you really have to demonstrate that you’re at least as capable as an expert, and really that you’re in fact more capable.

            Falsehoods and absurdly high standards looks like the usual motivated reasoning we’d expect from someone who has admitted strong religious commitments that they regard as pitching them against the standard scientific account, not unexpectedly brilliant reasoning that suggests that you’ve seen something others haven’t.

          • Sean Garrigan

            I think you misunderstood me. I wasn’t talking about mutations where some E. coli gains some new ability, like a change in diet; I’m talking about the mutations and selections that gave us E. coli and the countless other life forms. As Franklin M. Harold said:

            “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a vareity of wishful speculations.” (The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms and the Order of LIfe, Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 205

            He was no doubt merely confirming what was observed five years earlier by James Shapiro, who said:

            “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any
            fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful
            speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a
            satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject — evolution — with so
            little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses work in
            illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity”
            (National Review, 16 September 1996, found here: http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.1996.Nat%27lReview.pdf)

          • Sean Garrigan

            Decided to clean up the formatting of the second quote; we’ll see how this works:

            “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject — evolution — with so little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses work in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity” (National Review, 16 September 1996)

            Also found here: http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed

          • Sean Garrigan

            I see the link to the book review wherein Shapiro’s observations can be found. Try this one:

            http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.1996.Nat%27lReview.pdf

          • Sean Garrigan

            “That is just the most obvious example, and most egregious, since
            scientists are supposedly part of a deceptive global conspiracy, and yet
            can be trusted if their words can be made to seem, when taken out of
            context, to question evolution.”

            I agree that this is a strange approach that some take, and I have little patience for conspiracy theories, even though conspiracies do happen. On the other hand, if someone is a conspiracy buff, then one can see why they’d assign a great deal of weight to comments that might be thought of as “concessions”. Textual critics do something somewhat similar when they determine that a saying of Jesus is more likely true if it should prove to be an embarrassment in light of later Christology. Some have argued that Jesus’ claim to be ignorant of the day or the hour is probably a legitimate saying precisely because those aren’t the sorts of words the later church would have been inclined to place on Jesus’ lips.

            So a conspiracy theorist might feel that certain scientific concessions hold a lot of weight in light of their own version of a criterion of embarrassment. Indeed, I don’t think one even needs to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that scientists have made striking concessions, and that these hold a lot of weight for those who would argue that Darwinism is not satisfactory and needs to be replaced with a more plausible theory.

          • It saddens me that you cannot see the parallels between your view of “Darwinism” and mythicists’ view of “Jesus historicism.”

          • Sean Garrigan

            Have historical Jesus researchers made concessions that compare to the two scientific ones I mentioned?

            C’mon James, just for a moment try to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and acknowledge that the concession made by two scientists stating that there are no Darwinian accounts of the evolution of *any* biochemical system is a HUGE gap in crucial substantiating data!

          • Even if we assume that the quotes are not taken out of context, how is that different from quoting Richard Carrier and Robert Price saying that there is no workable historicist account for the New Testament texts?

          • Sean Garrigan

            One difference is that the ones who who conceded that there are no Darwinian accounts of the evolution of *any* biochemical system were proponents of evolutionary theory, not anti-evolutionists.

          • Assuming you have understood them correctly, and assuming that their words in context mean what you claim that they do. Can you provide the relevant quotes so that I or others can look into the context? Does it not seem highly unlikely to you that scientists who accept evolution as the best explanation for biological phenomena have written that evolution doesn’t explain anything?

          • Sean Garrigan

            Who claimed that either Shapiro or Harold believe “that evolution doesn’t explain anything”? That’s a rather unexpected inference to draw from their concession that there are no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system. After all, evolutionists were able to conceive that evolution explains a great deal long before they had the tools necessary to corroborate those ideas. Now they have the tools, but still can’t even document the evolution of one single solitary biochemical or cellular system, much less the evolution of whole life forms, like fish or bears or people.

            In any case, Franklin Harold’s words are found on page 205 of the referenced book, and you can read that page and surrounding pages on google books, here:

            http://preview.tinyurl.com/pd2qtwb

            Shapiro’s words can be found in his review of Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box”, and the author has made the entire article available, here:

            http://preview.tinyurl.com/lbzqeyf

            If you think that I’ve misquoted him, then you’d better re-read what I argued, because what they said in those quoted statements is precisely what I’ve argued for many times on this blog, and so I quoted them for the sole purpose of supporting my own similarly worded claims.

          • Sean Garrigan

            BTW, Shapiro’s concluding comments are rather humorous. He claims that Behe’s arguments are old news, and that science has leapfrogged WAY past such antiquated forms of thought. Yet, he had just acknowledged on a previous page that we have no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of *any* biochemical or cellular system! Perhaps he’s speaking about conceptual progress rather than what I would call actual progress. Perhaps I’ll write him and see if he can clarify on what basis he believes we’ve speed past Behe when he explicitly acknowledges that science hasn’t yet made what I consider the very first step in substantiating such an all-theory.

          • I do think you are misunderstanding Shapiro. As his review makes clear, few today think that the factors that Darwin posited are on their own sufficient to explain what we find in the biological realm, particularly as our knowledge has advanced since Darwin’s time. And scientists are aware that the discovery of DNA – relatively recent in scientific terms – has brought up new questions that research has only begun to answer. Shapiro directly chides Behe for giving the impression that his qualms about Darwinian explanations have a bearing on evolution in the sense in which it is a fact – that living things are related, and that they change over time. And so this really does seem like an excellent example of the quote mine, taken from its context and used in a way that reflects either a misunderstanding of the biological sciences, or a deliberate attempt to misrepresent them.

          • Sean Garrigan

            I understood Shapiro, James. I read the review. What you’ve noted has nothing to do with his observation in the context of my use of it. You’d better re-read the words I quoted and re-consider my use of them, because you’re not following the argument very well, if at all.

          • So you accept evolution in the sense that Shapiro accepts it, and reject the adequacy of Darwinian explanations alone in the same sense that all contemporary biologists do? That wasn’t the impression you gave me in the past. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

          • Sean Garrigan

            You seem to be falling victim to the same sort of misunderstanding that I described above. You are like the Trinitarian who charged me with selectively quoting some scholars who understand 1 John 5:20 as a reference to the Father as “the true God” just because those scholars are Trinitarians! But I didn’t quote the scholars to specifically to refute Trinitarianism; I quoted them to support my observation that Jesus is not called “the true God” at 1 John 5:20!

            Likewise, I didn’t quote Shapiro specifically to refute evolution (which may be non-falsafiale anyway); I quoted him to support my observation that science can’t provide a rigorous detailed account of how any life form emerged via random mutations and natural selection. They can’t tell us what specific mutations and selections ultimately caused life forms to emerge, nor can they tell us what specific mutations and selections will occur in the future and what life forms will look like in that future. It’s a higgledy-piggledy theory of Que Sera Sera!

          • Sean Garrigan

            Evolution = Lo que haya sido, ha sido; lo que sera, sera 😉

          • Shapiro, like almost all scientists working in relevant fields, does not think so. Perhaps it would be appropriate for you to figure out why not? Then you might avoid doing in the sciences what mythicists do when they quote Ehrman’s statements about the lack of mention of Jesus by pagan historians of his time, and yet fail to understand why that does not persuade Ehrman to be a mythicist.

          • Sean Garrigan

            If it’s true that science’s inability to provide detailed Darwinian accounts of life forms is just no big deal, then it’s a wonder why so many scientists continue to offer just-so stories to fill the gap; or, as Shapiro and Harold called them, “a variety of wishful speculations”. One doesn’t typically engage in “***wishful*** speculations” over unimportant things.

            Naw, James, I trust that it’s a serious gap, probably every bit as serious as I make it out to be.

          • If Shapiro is correct, and there aren’t currently Darwinian account of biochemical pathways, might that not be either because (1) these are not phenomena susceptible to explanations in Darwinian terms, even though they are part of the evolutionary process which has a Darwinian component on the level of organisms; or (2) we cannot time travel and reconstruct the precise pathways – but nonetheless can reconstruct what they may have been, given the evidence; or (3) purely Darwinian accounts are inadequate on the biochemical level in the same sense that they are on other levels, hence modern biology not being purely “Darwinian,” a fact that ID proponents seems to struggle to grasp? How does what he wrote have any bearing on that which the genetic, paleontological, and other relevant evidence points to regarding the relatedness of all life on this planet?

            If you think that a professional scientist has admitted that his explanatory framework is garbage, but that he fails to recognize it while you can see it clearly, then I must break the news to you: you are just like the Jesus mythicists, except in a different field.

          • Sean Garrigan

            Setting aside #3 for the moment, how do you avoid concluding that Darwinism is non-falsifiable vis a vis the larger claims in light of #1 and #2?

          • Who cares about “Darwinism”? The particular factors that Darwin proposed have not been the only ones in view for a very long time. The question is whether you know what biologists today say, and what the evidence is, and whether you reject it the way mythicists reject the conclusions of historians.

          • Sean Garrigan

            In other words, you can’t avoid concluding that Darwinism is non-falsifiable, which is what I thought, but wanted to test my inference.

          • Sean Garrigan

            I meant to say it like this:

            In other words, you can’t avoid concluding that Darwinism is non-falsifiable vis a vis the larger claims….

          • Putting words in someone’s mouth, and claiming they said things they didn’t, is apparently also something that mythicists and antiscience cranks have in common.

          • Sean Garrigan

            Getting personal when someone tries to draw you out to help you see the other side better is something Darwinists have in common.

          • Personal? You make stuff up, I call you on it, and that is “getting personal”? How so?

          • Sean Garrigan

            I think it was pretty obvious, James, that the reason I said “In other words, you can’t avoid concluding that Darwinism is non-falsifiable vis a vis the larger claims….” was because I was hoping it would prod you to address the question I asked rather than offering the lame “Who cares about ‘Darwinism’?”

            In other words, it’s either true that the larger claims made about Darwinism are ultimately non-falsifiable, per your #1 and #2, or you could explain how one can avoid concluding such despite your points #1 and #2.

            Or you can just belittle me, call me names, compare me with cranks, or whatever other mean-spirited fun you’ll chose to engage in. Your ball.

    • Scott P.

      “I’m not sure who you have in mind vis a vis “conservative Christians”.
      In my experience — aside from a few online lay apologists — I haven’t
      encountered very many people who actually engage in the “denigration of
      scholars” followed by the “quotation of them when it suits one’s
      purposes.””

      He’s probably thinking of evolutionists, who are happy to take quotes by biologists out of context to suggest they don’t believe in evolution or think it is fatally flawed.

      • I presume you meant “antievolutionists” – but yes, that is a perfect example.

      • Sean Garrigan

        While I’m sure that happens, I haven’t personally seen anyone quote a biologist in a way that suggests that the biologist doesn’t believe in evolution. I have personally quoted two scientists who have stated that we have no Darwinian account of any bio-chemical system, but that doesn’t imply that the scientists don’t believe in evolution. It simply means that they affirm the very point I argued, and I therefore used them to confirm the point.

  • Jim

    About three weeks ago, I was about to buy Carrier’s OHJ but then stumbled across a back and forth between Carrier and a person named James in the West who was trying to suggest to RC a better dialogue protocol if RC wished to be taken more seriously by Historical Jesus scholars. I decided not to purchase OHJ based on RC’s responses at http://freethoughtblogs.com/ca… (especially beginning at comment number 11 and the subsequent back and forth between RC and James in the West).

    Now I’m not a Historical Jesus scholar, but my impression is that the field is complex and requires very level-headed scholars to work through all possible angles and who can exchange ideas professionally. Taking a look at new mythicist proposals is fair enough (and even a requirement) if new arguments comes to light, but I think I’ll wait until another mythicist who has better dialogue skills presents these arguments. But hey, that’s just me.

    • Kris Rhodes

      Carrier’s scholarly-mode stuff is more level-headed than his blog-mode stuff. (Or for those who may disagree about it being level-headed, let’s at least just say it’s more even and reasonable in tone and careful in methodology, which I think is what you’re saying you’re concerned about.)

      • Jim

        Yeah I realize that Kris (I have listened to him in some interviews/debates). Probably RC’s reasoning in OHJ is rational. I just personally think that the subject of whether Jesus existed or was a mythical hero is quite complex. Current consensus still favors a historical figure (older mythicists arguments weren’t that strong) and any book with newer proposals will require a lot of subsequent dialogue with the author to systematically work through the details. Good blog etiquette would help in this regard. So on OHJ, I’ll probably invest in a few cases of beer instead and wait for the experts to slug it out. But thanks for your comment.

        • MattB

          OMG…I noticed this too on his reviews of OHJ, from a cursory standpont, he already has the names of people who reviewed his book or his arguments and he calls them illogical, incompetent, fallacious,etc. He never seems to admit he’s wrong….on anything.

          This bothers me because in print, he says that his goal of the OHJ is to find the truth, and that if scholars are persuaded one way or the other, this would make him happy. However, in his blogs and reviews of others, he gets extremely defensive about mythicism. If he’s not bothered one way or the other, then why be so defensive? This tells me that he has other motives.

    • Jim
    • Chuck Jones

      I caught that, too. Just amazing. Carrier has an ego the size of Texas. The guy just can’t ever admit to being wrong about anything–unless it just absolutely trivial, like if he misspoke or something. That’s the only time I’ve ever saw where’s he’s conceded an error. It’s just mind boggling that anyone could ever be so full of himself. I think he believes no one as ever offered a legitimate criticism. He tries to explain everything away. The whole freaking world is wrong, but Carrier is right every time. He’s pretty damn dumb for a smart guy.

      • MattB

        I noticed on his reviews of OHJ, from a cursory standpont, he already has the names of people who reviewed his book or his arguments and he calls them illogical, incompetent, fallacious,etc. He never seems to admit he’s wrong….on anything.

        This bothers me because in print, he says that his goal of the OHJ is to find the truth, and that if scholars are persuaded one way or the other, this would make him happy. However, in his blogs and reviews of others, he gets extremely defensive about mythicism. If he’s not bothered one way or the other, then why be so defensive? This tells me that he has other motives.

  • Kris Rhodes

    Regarding what Carrier said about Ehrman, I do think Richard should have put it differently. Phrasing like “As none other than Bart Ehrman has said”* would have worked to make the same point and wouldn’t have unnecessarily put people on the defensive with a word like “confessed.”

    “Confessed” makes sense in a literal way–Ehrman framed it as something he finally had to admit (not sure if he used that exact word but the idea was there) after looking at the evidence. But in the context of what Carrier wrote, that doesn’t seem to be what he meant.

    *I came over here and typed this because I just happened to notice you using that phrase in another context about something Carrier himself said, and thought it was a nice example of how to do it better.

  • Tim

    You don’t think Paul thought of Jesus as a pre-existent being?

    • To be honest, I am not sure. But I don’t think that Paul thought Jesus was a pre-existent non-human being, unless you mean that he embodied the Wisdom of God, which had a sort of pre-existence, but in the sense that God pre-existed, and so therefore did personified divine attributes, but not in a literal personal sense.

      • Mark Erickson

        Talk about a train wreck. Could you try to write that again?

      • Tim

        “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

        Philippians 2:6-7

        The Kenosis hymn pretty clearly envisions Christ as a pre-existent divine being, who became a human being. How else could one interpret this passage? What’s interesting is that the hymn seems to already be a part of Christian tradition, not something new created by Paul. So Christians even earlier than Paul believed that Christ was a pre-existent divine being.

        • “Pretty clearly” suggests to me that you’re unfamiliar with Dunn’s classic treatment of this in Christology in the Making. It is possible that the passage is an expression of the Adam Christology we find elsewhere in Paul – whether Paul wrote this or merely quoted it. Adam was made in the image of God, grasped at equality with God, and lost his status as a result. Jesus faced the same choice, obeyed, and was exalted. That’s something Paul emphasizes elsewhere (e.g. Romans 5). Why not see that as the background here?

          • Tim

            I am indeed unfamiliar with Dunn’s work, but I am aware of Paul’s “Adam” Christology. At any rate, the Adam stuff found elsewhere in the Epistles does not change the time-line presented in the Kenosis Hymn: First, Christ is “in the
            form of God.” Then, he becomes human. Then, he is exalted. The analogy with Adam breaks down here. Adam is never said to have existed in the form of God before becoming human. Whereas Christ is presented in Philippians 2:6-7 as having already existed before being born “in the likeness of men.” That makes Christ a pre-existent divine being, but not Adam.

          • Well, the problem with treating any pre-existent state as “divine” is that it hits against difficulties at the end of the passage, when Jesus is exalted to a status that he did not previously hold and the divine name is bestowed upon him. Wouldn’t it make more sense to interpret the passage as having to do with the Messiah’s pre-existence, as we find it expressed in other Jewish literature?

          • Tim

            It’s true that it does not say explicitly that his pre-existent state was divine. However, it does say that Christ was “in the form of God.” It then says that he “emptied” himself and took on the likeness of man. That entails that his pre-existent state was something more than merely human, since the new servant/human state is clearly presented as a “downgrade” from the previous state. That he became even more exalted afterwards does not entail that he was not already divine in some way before “emptying” himself (presumably of his divinity) and being born a mere human being. It just means that God rewarded his humility and obedience by exalting him over all other beings (whether human or divine).

            To summarize:

            (1) The Kenosis hymn presents Christ as existing before he became a human.
            (2) It makes most sense to think of this pre-existence as a more-than-human state.

            Would you disagree with either of these points?

          • Both are among the possibilities. A lot depends on the extent that one thinks the language in this passage, which may be part or the entirety of a hymn, reflects a precise chronology and uses terminology precisely. If one presses it in a very literal and chronological fashion, one may end up with a Jesus who pre-existed in the form but not the essence of God, and who took on the appearance but not the essence of human existence. Few think that is what Paul envisaged.

            I prefer to focus on Paul’s prose in the first instance, when it comes to determining what he thought about Jesus, and then bringing poetry into the picture.

          • Mark Erickson

            How in the world are you supposed to figure out what Paul envisioned, if not his words? Your last sentence is purely ad hoc.

            And as for the form of pre-existence, an angel fits the bill nicely.

          • Starting with things that are universally agreed to be his words, and are prose, rather than things which may not be his words, and are poetic and thus may contain wording which is picturesque and symbolic, doesn’t seem ad hoc at all, but merely sensible.

          • Tim

            I’m kind of having a hard time understanding what you are suggesting. In what sense can the timeline presented in Philippians be “picturesque” or “symbolic”? Jesus only pre-existed ‘symbolically’? His taking on a human form is only a picturesque way of saying something else?

          • Well, saying that he “took on” human form is itself a non-literal interpretation of what the passage says, isn’t it?

            But at any rate, wouldn’t you agree, given the evidence, that not all Jews who have applied the language of pre-existence to the Messiah, or to the Torah, have meant pre-existence as a separate entity outside of the mind or attributes of God?

          • Sean Garrigan

            To help me determine if I follow you correctly. Would that mean then that where the account says “Although he existed in God’s form”, it was speaking of what some call “ideal” existence as opposed to “real” existence, but then when it says “he did not consider equality with God as something to grasp for” (Denny Burk’s rendering), the “he” has real rather than ideal existence?

          • Tim

            I thought “took on human form” wasn’t that bad of a paraphrase of “born in the likeness of men,” but that’s kind of a moot point either way, since whether or not I was being true to the text in that paraphrase is a completely different issue from whether Paul understood the Hymn literally or “metaphorically” (whatever that would mean).

            As to your main point, I totally agree – You are probably right that “not all” Jews meant pre-existence as a separate entity outside of the mind or attributes of God. The question is, what did one particular Jew, namely Paul, think? For that, we have to look to his own words. Now, Paul certainly agree with the the content of the “hymn” whether he wrote it or not. In the hymn, a being is presented who existed in the form of God (whatever that means) prior to becoming human. This being made the decision to “empty” himself and thereby become human. So this being is already an autonomous agent prior to incarnation, and therefore not just a personified attribute of God.

          • Your rendering begs the question, does it not? Could it not be said that, in the case of Adam, one who was in the image of God refused to accept the status of servant, and in grasping at equality with God, he lost the glory that God had in store for him? And in the case of Jesus, another made in the image of God, chose not to grasp at equality with God, but took on the role of a servant, and as a human being chose obedience even unto death on a cross. But do we need to read these descriptors sequentially? Is the status of being like human beings different from being in the form or image of God?

            I am open to the possibility that Paul thought of Jesus as having had some sort of pre-existence. For instance, if he knew the Similitudes of Enoch, he might well have thought that the messiah had a heavenly existence prior to appearing on earth.

            But I am also aware that it is very easy for those who know the Gospel of John – to say nothing of the later creeds – can easily fail to notice that the notion that Jesus is pre-existent is entirely absent from the Synoptic Gospels. And since Paul’s letters are even earlier than those works, I want to make sure that I am not reading things back into the Philippians passage. Paul doesn’t typically talk about Jesus in terms of pre-existence, except in language that suggests that he embodies the pre-existent Wisdom of God. And so I’m seeking to be cautious about the potential for anachronism, nothing more.

          • There is Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “… and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

          • Yes, but what does that mean? Did Paul think that God had created all things through the human being named Jesus? Or does it mean that Jesus embodies the Wisdom of God through whom God created? Or does it mean that Jesus’ role in relation to the new creation mirrors that of Wisdom in the original creation?

          • Tim

            “Your rendering begs the question, does it not?”

            I’m not sure that it does. I’m taking a “plain sense” approach to the text. That might be wrong, of course, but you would have to show that the straight-forward reading is unlikely to be correct, and that it needs to interpreted in a more esoteric way. The text presents a sentient autonomous being who “empties himself” and then becomes human. If you want to argue that this is just a poetic way of saying something different from what it seems to say, I am open to that. But reading it straight-forwardly is not, I think, circular.

            “Could it not be said that, in the case of Adam, one who was in the image of God refused to accept the status of servant, and in grasping at equality with God, he
            lost the glory that God had in store for him?”

            That’s certainly defensible. But note that this does not involve a pre-incarnate stage, as the narrative of the Kenosis passage does.

            “And in the case of Jesus, another made in the image of God, chose not to grasp at equality with God, but took on the role of a servant, and as a human being chose
            obedience even unto death on a cross. ”

            You are assuming that “in the form of God” means the same as “created in the image of God.” Maybe it does, but that would require an independent argument.

            “But do we need to read these descriptors sequentially?”
            I think so, because the part where it says “being born in the likeness of men” doesn’t make sense where it appears in the narrative otherwise. If you want to claim that the narrative does not involve a pre-existent autonomous being, you’d have to interpret the passage as saying something like “Christ was in the form of God, and then emptied himself, becoming a servant. Oh by the way, before all that, he was born!” Also, if we’re not going to read it sequentially, then why assume that Christ was glorified AFTER dying on a cross? Again, because the narrative makes no sense otherwise.

            “Is the status of being like human beings
            different from being in the form or image of God?”

            Again, maybe not always. You’d have to show that in this case it’s probably not. But that requires an actual argument to make the case. The mere fact that “in the image of God” and “in the form of God” could possibly mean the same thing does not entail that they probably mean the same thing here.

            “I am open to the possibility that Paul thought of Jesus as having had some sort of pre-existence. For instance, if he knew the Similitudes of Enoch, he might well have thought that the messiah had a heavenly existence prior to appearing on earth.”

            Okay, so that tells me you’re not just dogmatically opposed to the whole idea, which is great!. For the record, I’m not dogmatically opposed to the idea that Paul did not have pre-existence Christology either. It’s just that when I read Paul’s epistles (and not just Philippians), it seems to me that he does have a pre-existence Christology. By the way, I had always assumed that Paul would have a pretty low Christology, since he’s so early, so I really do not think I’m personally projecting John back into the text.

            “But I am also aware that it is very easy for those who know the Gospel of John – to say nothing of the later creeds – can easily fail to notice that the notion that Jesus is pre-existent is entirely absent from the Synoptic Gospels. And since Paul’s letters are even earlier than those works, I want to make sure that I am not reading things back into the Philippians passage. Paul doesn’t typically talk about Jesus in terms of pre-existence, except in language that suggests that he embodies the pre-existent Wisdom of God. And so I’m seeking to be cautious about the potential for anachronism, nothing more.”

            That all sounds very sensible. I agree that it’s a bad idea to read later theological developments into the earlier stages, if they’re not actually there. But at the same time, we probably also should not take an approach that rules out, a priori, the possibility that Paul had beliefs/doctrines that do not fit neatly into a historical model of a steadily “rising” Christology. It could very well be that the synoptic writers had good reasons to bring Jesus down to earth a bit, for example. So rather than deciding one way or the other ahead of time, we should read the epistles for what they actually say. I still maintain that a straightforward reading of the Kenosis hymn presents a being who, out of obedience to God, decides to empty himself and become human.

          • I try not to be dogmatically opposed to anything, or in favor of anything, unless I think the evidence is really unambiguous. I think perhaps a good analogy can be made between how I feel about this passage and how I feel about the one in Romans 9 which seems to say “who is over all, God forever blessed.” A strong case has been made that the language is more naturally read that way. But I also feel the need to ask myself whether it is more likely that Paul expressed himself imprecisely in this passage, or that Paul referred to Jesus as God here but not elsewhere. And I really am at least trying to be completely open to all possibilities and to make a decision about what makes the best sense not just of the precise wording of particular passages, but of their probable meaning in the context of Paul’s thought as we know it from his letters as a whole.

            I’ve reached the point where I know that I disagree with Paul on at least some things, and so I have lost the feeling of need to find that his theology mirrors my own. I am really just interested in understanding him as well as I can.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            We need to remember that Paul stands at the beginning of Christian doctrinal development. His (and those of the other NT writers) are not the last words but rather the first words. It is not self-evident to me that Christian thought should or even can be frozen at the level that it reached c. 60 (plus/minus thirty or so years). Neither has it been self-evident to people such as the Nicene Fathers, who articulated the classic definition of the Trinity in terms remarkably unlike those found in Holy Scripture.

          • Mark Erickson

            Was Paul incapable of writing poetry or a hymn? Was he incapable of altering the same? Was he incapable of choosing some hymn among many that best expressed his views? How do you know if anything is or is not Paul’s words?

          • Ralph Martin’s classic study of the passage, which I’ll link to below, discusses these matters in some detail. http://books.google.com/books?id=Xwvi00xlTCEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

          • Jonathan Bernier

            You are assuming that Paul had a preconceived systematic theology that he just wrote down on paper. I suspect the truth is more complex, that in fact he is working out much of his theology as he writes. That is to say, his letter writing is an integral part of his theological practice.

          • Mark Erickson

            “his letter writing is an integral part of his theological practice”
            *I’m* the one making assumptions?!?

          • Jonathan Bernier

            I never stated that I do not make any assumptions. One cannot function without assumptions, or to use a probably better term, suppositions. The question is the quality of one’s suppositions, and I think that it makes good sense to suppose that insofar as Paul’s primary theological objective consisted of his missionary aims that his letter writing must be situated within that context. One then must think through the hermeneutical consequences of this supposition, and think about where it takes one exegetically.

          • Mark Erickson

            Congrats! You can write many words in a row that have little practical meaning. The PhD is strong in this one.

            Got that spelling corrected yet?

          • Jonathan Bernier

            In point of fact there is a great deal of meaning in those words. That you are insufficiently familiar with the rudiments of serious historical and theological study of scripture to discern those meanings does not obviate their presence. And I see not a single spelling mistake.

          • Mark Erickson

            Your spelling mistake is on your blog post on Tarico’s article, as I’ve tried to alert you in two comments there and a couple here. It’s “non sequitur”.

          • Mark Erickson

            “I think that it makes good sense to suppose that insofar as Paul’s primary theological objective consisted of his missionary aims that his letter writing must be situated within that context.”

            That is word salad. Then you suggest “one” should think about two things, rather than state what you think about those things.

          • I scarecely think that sentence deserves to be called “word salad.” I have expressed myself far less clearly on occasion in a hastily-written blog comment. If one inserts commas (1) where “that” occurs before “insofar” and then (2) again after “aims,” and then removes the repeated “that” after aims, it is a perfectly decent sentence. As it is, it is not polished, but it is intelligible.

          • Mark Erickson

            Word salad means grammatically correct or intelligible sentences with little content. “insofar” is a cheat to allow the assumption that “Paul’s primary theological objective consisted of his missionary aims”. (and what does that mean, anyway?) Now take that clause out: “it makes good sense to suppose that his letter writing must be situated within that context.” It doesn’t matter what the antecedent of “that context” is. It is always true to suppose something should be situated in its context.

          • When I think of a “word salad,” I think of Sarah Palin’s incoherent ramblings. I might go with “supercilious.”

          • Mark Erickson

            A true pedant! But I know you are just cheating to get above Neil’s comment total.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            Again, that you cannot make sense of the in fact perfectly intelligible does not reduce its intelligibility. Let us be a pedant though, and walk you through the basic process of exegesis here.

            “I think”–what follows represents my thoughts on a matter.

            “that it makes good sense”–my thoughts pertain specifically to a question of judgment.

            “that insofar as”–a truncated articulation of “that insofar as it is the case that.” That is to say, this introduces a conditional. So I could have also written “if it is the case that.”

            “Paul’s primary theological objective”–this begins the first part of the conditional. The possessive suffix on the end of “Paul” indicates that I am referring to something of or pertinent to Paul. That something is “objective,” as it is the next noun in the sequence. There are then two adjectives placed in front of and thus modifying the noun, “primary” and “theological.” Thus the objective in question is not just old objective, but it is Paul’s objective, and not just his objective but his theological objective, and not just his theological objective but his primary theological objective.

            “consisted of”–this specifies that what follows will specify the content of Paul’s primary theological objective.

            “his missionary aims”–and that content is now specified as Paul’s missionary aims. That is to say, he had aims, and these were of a missionary nature.

            “that”–this is an indicator that what follows is the consequent of the conditional.

            “his letter writing must be situated within that context.”–the consequent affects what we do with regard to his letter writing. What we do is articulated by an imperative, viz. “must.” What is the imperative? That his letter writing is to be (note the infinitive) situated within a particular context, with “that” asking the word to refer back to the most recent relevant antecedent, which would be his missionary aims.

            Again, that you are unable to interpret the words does not mean that they defy interpretation. As for the next sentence, you’re right, I specify the areas that will be affected this consequent without specifying the fullness of those affects. I had of course already noted some in a previous comment, but a full treatment would require a monograph.

          • Mark Erickson

            I interpreted the words just fine. It’s the vacuous meaning of the whole that makes it word salad. See my previous comment replying to James. And it’s “those effects”.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            Suffice it to say that I find Dunn’s argument on this point unpersuasive. Nonetheless, if one is going to talk intelligently about Phil. 2 one needs to know and engage with Dunn’s argument, because he raises legitimate exegetical concerns. That I disagree does not mean that I can ignore what he has to say.

  • Jim

    Geez, today I seem to be hanging around like a bad odor.

    Re OHJ p. 511; “our Romans appears to be an interwoven stitch of at least
    three separate letters …”

    I think that this can be easily verified empirically, and propose that we all chip in and buy RC an Indiana Jones hat, a shovel and an airline ticket to Italy to dig up copies of these three 1st century letters. Meanwhile the rest of us can sit back and sip on some cold beers in the interim. 🙂

    • Jim

      Re Carrier’s claim “Romans cannot be, in any relevant way, using high context discourse … is because Paul is there writing to people he has never communicated with before …”

      Now I don’t read real good, but aren’t at least some of the peeps in the Rom 16. 1-16 list people who Paul knew or had previously met?

      • Yes, some of them were. Since we have manuscripts of Romans that lack the long greetings, there is uncertainty as to whether a separate letter of just greetings was appended to the end of Romans. Most think it is more likely that the personal greetings, irrelevant to other churches, were omitted from some manuscripts, just as the name “Rome” was. That Paul had copies sent to other destinations is also a possibility to consider.

  • Kris Rhodes

    //…he seems to think that he has made a profound point in a discussion about 1 Corinthians 15 when he observes that it does not contain the phrase “in Christ before me.” That phrase is one that Paul uses in Romans 16:7. But is Carrier really going to suggest that Paul was “in Christ” while he was persecuting the church, and that the gist of 1 Corinthians 15′s list is not that there were others who were what we would call “Christians” before he was? Indeed, that is the overall impression one gets from things that Paul writes in many places. And Carrier doesn’t seem to really want to dispute that. So what is the point of beginning the piece in that way?//

    If I am remembering correctly, the context of the discussion he’s describing is that his interlocutor was insisting that Paul said he received the gospel from others, while Carrier was insisting Paul never says that. (This was a discussion Carrier had with Mark Goodacre. The dispute was over the verse that says “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance.” Goodacre was certain that it said “For what I received from those who were in Christ before me” or words to that effect.) So Carrier’s point here isn’t about whether anyone was in Christ before Paul, as (I think?) you were thinking.

    ON EDIT:

    Here’s the text of Carrier’s original description of the exchange. Audio is available somewhere (I’ve listened to it) but I’m not sure where.

    10. What was the second big error? Goodacre actually thought that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul wrote that he got the gospel he summarizes there “from those who were in Christ before him.” This was even a key part of Goodacre’s argument that Paul knew the people who knew Jesus, and that he got his gospel from them. In fact, Paul insists up and down exactly the opposite (in Galatians 1-2; the extent to which Paul may be lying there is not relevant to the present point). And in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul nowhere says the gospel he summarizes there came “from those who were in Christ before him.” But that Goodacre was so certain it said that gave me a surreal experience–I couldn’t believe he could make such a mistake, leading me to doubt my own memory, so I looked the verse up on my iPad during the show (and read it out), just to make sure that phrase really wasn’t there. It’s not. Yet Goodacre was so certain it was. This exemplifies the stranglehold dogma has even on so skilled and experienced a scholar as him, to the point that he again confused apologetic with fact. Goodacre can only have been thinking of either Romans 16:7, where Paul only asks the Romans to salute the apostles Andronicus and Junias who were “in Christ before me,” or Galatians 1:17, where Paul says exactly the opposite of what Goodacre was claiming (Paul there says “I did not go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me” to learn the gospel).

    That’s from http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2839

    • Thanks for the additional information. I have encountered mythicists making this kind of argument before – since Paul claims that his Gospel and his authority do not depend on those who were apostles before him, therefore he must have meant that he didn’t get any information from anyone. Which is obviously a dubious claim, but mythicists often seem unable to see it. He persecuted the movement, and so at least thought he know something about their beliefs and practices. He met Peter and consulted with James. And ultimately I think mythicists would prefer to say that Paul really did receive a miraculous revelation (since he agreed on the basics of the Gospel with other apostles, which is unlikely to have been a fluke!) than to acknowledge the very mundane scenario to which the evidence points: Paul did depend on others, however much he may or may not have been willing to acknowledge the fact and its implications for his authority vis-a-vis the Jerusalem leaders.

      EDIT: And indeed, think about the implications of reading 1 Corinthians 15 as though Paul had not received that tradition from those who were in Christ before him. Would it not require positing a supernatural revelation, when Paul consults the Jerusalem church for the first time and has confirmed that this list he received in a dream matched their tradition?

      • Kris Rhodes

        To be clear, the dispute wasn’t over whether Paul did receive information from others, but just over whether he acknowledged this.

      • Paul tells us that the risen Christ appeared to others before him and he tells us that he persecuted them. Beyond that, Paul doesn’t really tell us anything about what the movement looked like before he joined.

        As someone had to work out the meaning of Jesus’ death and the subsequent visions, why would we consider it less mundane if it was Paul rather than James or Peter? I think that one very logical interpretation of Paul’s claim that no man taught him the gospel is that Paul was the one who studied the scripture to figure out how Jesus’ death and resurrection fit into God’s eschatological plan and Paul was the one who packaged the gospel as a sellable message. It would be natural for Paul to claim and believe that God had revealed it to him.

        I can think of three possible explanations for Paul’s claim that his message agreed with that preached by his predecessors: (1) Paul actually adopted the message that was being preached before he joined the movement and he was lying about no man teaching him anything; (2) Paul’s predecessors adopted his interpretation of Jesus’ death and resurrection because Paul was a smart guy who sold it well: (3) like creationists and mythicists who claim that mainstream scholars agree with them when they really don’t, Paul exaggerated the extent to which others agreed with him.

      • Ignorantia Nescia

        And ultimately I think mythicists would prefer to say that Paul really
        did receive a miraculous revelation (since he agreed on the basics of
        the Gospel with other apostles, which is unlikely to have been a fluke!)
        than to acknowledge the very mundane scenario to which the evidence
        points: Paul did depend on others, however much he may or may not have
        been willing to acknowledge the fact and its implications for his
        authority vis-a-vis the Jerusalem leaders.

        Perhaps Mythicism is another guise of the Christ of Faith? 😉

  • Mark Erickson

    “interpreting Jesus as patterned on a non-Jewish deity”
    Do you think that is what Carrier is doing?

  • Benjamin Martin

    Jesus and Spider-Man.

    • Please do not post spam comments of this sort. If you have nothing substantive and relevant to say, kindly don’t say anything.

      • Benjamin Martin

        Spam? That smacks of desperation, since I was merely imitating your next post “Noah and Spider-man.”

        Your reaction is similar to one from Ken Ham, he trying to defend the whole Bible from a mythological interpretation, you, rather foolishly, trying to protect just the New Testament from mythological interpretation.

        I say foolish because once Noah (to whom Jesus referred to) and Adam (to whom Jesus and Paul refer to) are regarded as mythological, the gates are wide open to interpreting that the whole of Christian Salvation story is nothing but a myth.

        Ken Ham’s depth in defense to Biblical doctrine actually makes more sense, if your goal is to safeguard the notion that salvation is something actual.

        • I was merely indicating that a comment like your more recent one was called for. The point of your shorter one was so ambiguous as to be meaningless.

          I get the impression that you have profoundly misunderstood where I am coming from. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I do not shy away from talking about the mythological in the New Testament. But I am also interested in the evidence for historical events behind some of the myths and legends in at least some instances. The two are not mutually exclusive, either in the NT or in other literature.

  • I have a series of articles on specific topics in Carrier’s new book (OHJ) right here:

    http://historical-jesus.sosblogs.com/Historical-Jesus-Blo-b1-tagCarrier_OHJ-20.htm

    Cordially, Bernard

  • ncovington89
  • anselmo

    The important thing I got out of the above, to my mind, is the apparent fact that humans and angels were not necessarily distinguishable as distinct ontological beings.