Horus Manure

Horus Manure July 15, 2015

I’m not sure how I missed it, but a few years ago, Catholic apologist Jon Sorensen came up with a very clever title for a post about alleged Jesus-Horus parallels: Horus Manure. Whatever you think of the post, that’s a pun that was too good not to share.

More up to date, Gakusei Don (who is a regular commenter here) updated his review of Richard Carrier’s book, On the Historicity of Jesus.

Also of interest, Matthew Ferguson proposed the Certamen of Homer and Hesiod as a parallel to the New Testament Gospels. Mythologized biography is not unique to early Christianity by any means.

I also have meant for some time to mention Daniel Gulotta’s series of posts about Dennis Macdonald’s work: his SBL presentation, Jesus and Odysseus, and a review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. I also meant to mention a while back David Hayward’s post about Richard C. Miller’s book, Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity.

And in case anyone wants to chime in, I’ve somehow ended up talking with a mythicist on one of my YouTube videos

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  • Another terrific essay from Matthew Ferguson. Thanks for the link.

  • arcseconds

    Are there any major faults with the ‘Horus Manure’ post? There is the occasional statement that one might expect from a stereotypical apologist (the Gospels being eyewitness accounts, for example) but it’s almost entirely discussing Horus, not Jesus.

    I don’t know enough about ancient Egypt to assess all the points made, but where I do know something he’s got everything correct. That is the story of Osiris, for example. And Massey doesn’t have a good rap in serious scholarship, is my impression.

    • I didn’t spot anything that raises a red flag. It seemed consonant with what I have read in more mainstream sources. But I am not an Egyptologist either…

      • arcseconds

        Oh, OK, you just wrote ‘whatever you may think of the post’ which I thought might have been distancing yourself from it because it wasn’t so flash.

        Incidentally, the point about the lack of evidence or plausibility of a Jewish cult borrowing this and that from different parts of Egypt’s history seems a good one, and reminds me of Bernier’s recent similar remark about Jesus as a Cynic, which he used to illustrate the general point that you’ve got to do better than look for some vague textual similarity to establish influence.

        There’s so much that’s wrong with the Horus business that it’s difficult to know where to start, of course, but I am still vaguely disappointed that I didn’t notice this particular problem before 🙂

        I have made the particular point of lack of any evidence for some specific thing a mythicist (or symphathiser) was inclined to postulate before, but the general point that people (and not just mythicists) so frequently hypothesize unconstrained by historical plausibility hadn’t occurred to me, or at least, nowhere near as starkly, until reading Bernier’s post.

        It sort of seems to me that many people, many of whom really ought to know better, the ancient past is this gooey mish-mash of myths and cultural practices where anything can influence anything else, so if you think you see some similarity between Socrates and the Dao De Jing then why not propose a connection?

        (I don’t think theses sorts of concepts would have anywhere near as much currency if we translate them into more contemporary times. I think most people would intuitively shy from that the idea that Roosevelt basically cribbed all his stuff from Jeong Yak-yong, despite the fact it’s far more likely that Roosevelt could have had access to Dasan’s work than many of the connections one sees proposed. )

        I fancy there’s also a detectable whiff of Joseph Campbell or Jung in this notion that Christianity is some kind of re-treading.

        • I often insert a disclaimer when linking to apologetically-oriented sites, or refrain from doing so altogether, because even if one piece is actually quite good, the site will probably contain other things that I’d want to distance myself from. But a good (bad) pun is usually safe to share… 🙂

  • Matthew78

    James, I have been thinking for some time that there ought to be a scholarly symposium to critically evaluate Carrier’s work on the subject of mythicism. I think you should be a part of it as well as several others. I think mathematicians should dissect Carrier’s use of BT and other historians should comment on its use in history. I think NT scholars should then go through his arguments for mythicism and show it is complete bunk. Scholars Case and Moguel wrote definitive rebuttals to the mythicist views of their time and so history will probably have to repeat itself. 🙁

    • Gakusei Don

      Matthew, in my review of OHJ I’ve collected reviews of Carrier’s use of BT by people who know something of BT’s use. These are all scathing against Carrier. I’d like to link to someone knowledgeable who gives Carrier a positive review in that regard, but I can’t find anyone. Personally I’d love to see a tool like BT being applied to history, but I am now doubtful that it can be done.

      ** And thanks to Dr McGrath for sharing the link to my review!

      • The most scathing criticism of Carrier’s use of probability you linked to, the Barnes one, is nothing to do with OHJ at all but refers rather to fine-tuning arguments, which are a whole different kind of problem (because of the anthropic aspects).

        The other criticisms all seem to refer to Proving History rather than OHJ, and there is certainly criticism that can be made of Carrier’s presentation of BT there.

        But historicity of Jesus is actually a very simple application of Bayesian reasoning and nothing in OHJ is even slightly mathematically questionable. (Even where the presentation falls down a bit.)

        As for whether BT can be applied to history, the immediate question is: if not, then how do you claim any knowledge of history at all? Are you familiar with the arguments that derive probability theory from very minimal assumptions of how reasoning needs to work?

        • Gakusei Don

          // As for whether BT can be applied to history, the immediate question is: if not, then how do you claim any knowledge of history at all?//

          That’s a key point, and one I also make in my review of OHJ. I think Carrier is right that we tend to think in BT terms, so if BT cannot be used in questions of history because it is “very difficult to make any sensible conclusions from Bayes’s Theorem in areas where probabilities are small, data is low quality, possible reference classes abound, and statements are vague” then perhaps the data can’t help us to come to a decision one way or the other at all.

      • jekylldoc

        I have some passing acquaintance with Bayes’ Theorem, and can tell you there is a good presentation on how to use it by the brilliant Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. He has research showing that too many people ignore background probabilities when assessing their observations.

        To use a slightly distorted example, too many investors go by their observation (“stocks seem to be rising fast”) with no effort to incorporate background probabilities (“stocks regularly go through bear markets, and bubbles make this even more likely”).

        I had a reaction similar to the Amazon reviewers you cited. It isn’t that Carrier is ignorant of statistical methods, it is that he uses BT primarily for bluster – some of his uses are classic cases of GIGO. Sloppy to the point of making a precision tool like BT completely irrelevant. He is hammering with a scalpel, if you like.

        I have not finished the book, but I really lost interest after his first (mis)use of Bayes Theorem. I did get through the Testimony of Isaiah section, and my notes on this match up well with what you say – at key points (such as discussing where the crucifixion took place) he blithely asserts interpretations based on assumptions he has imported from an apparently irrelevant other portion. It might be interesting to do a similar parsing of Revelations, or even The Tempest.

        For what it is worth, I also reacted about like you to his use of Euhemerus and of Paul’s silence on biographical points about Jesus. It is not so much that any particular point he makes is untenable, but there is such a strong pattern of tendentious interpretation that after a while it is hard to take his word for anything.

        • Gakusei Don

          Yes, Carrier is sloppy and a surprisingly poor communicator. ‘Bluster’ is a good description of how he presents arguments. A good drinking game is to take a shot every time he writes “and this is exactly what we’d expect under minimum mythicism”. Really? ‘Exactly’? He reminds of the saying: “Frequently wrong, never in doubt.” 🙂

          • jekylldoc

            No disagreement here, except to say that he takes on a very big task without the support of an academic position, and this excuses some of his haste and disorganisation, in my view.

            My biggest problem with the Carrier construct has been, from the beginning, the first chapters of I Corinthians. If Paul had believed a mythicist story, what would motivate the embarrassment that seems so obvious in those chapters? If he was just following exalted insights, why the emphasis on the wise who find it all too much to accept? Gnostics are always convinced of their own superior wisdom, but Paul has instead been gripped by the “foolishness” of a crucified saviour. That strongly fits a Messiah actually crucified by earthly power. Not so much a Savior crucified by demons in the firmament.

            Or at least that’s how it feels to me.

    • Sheriff Liberty

      Or history will repeat itself in the way Moses became mythical…

      • I am not sure what this comment is supposed to mean. Is it an attempt to beg the question? Obviously if we had a letter written by someone who had met his brother within a decade of the time when Moses is supposed to have lives, we would probably feel confident that there was a historical Moses, who was subsequently mythologized. Hopefully you realize that, even in the current state of affairs, that is a plausible view, completely compatible with the evidence – it is just uncertain, because of the distance in time between the purported figure and the earliest texts that mention him.

        • Sheriff Liberty

          Relax I was just making a alternative analogy.

          How is a historical Moses a “plausible” view?

          • arcseconds

            How is it “implausible”?

            and why are we using scare quotes?

          • The fact that there was no historical Exodus of the sort that the Bible describes does not preclude there having been some group that departed from Egypt which contributed to the shaping of early Israel. Some historians find this more likely than that ancient Israelites invented a hero with a truncated Egyptian name out of whole cloth. They might be wrong, but there is nothing inherently implausible about it or at odds with the available evidence.

          • arcseconds

            I agree. In fact, I’m personally inclined to this view.

            As I’ve said before, a good theory makes the evidence boring (this is a thoroughly Bayesian point!) and the basic narrative (an Egyptian prince leading a group of escaped labourers through the desert to Canaan) is a bit too exciting and strange for the ancient Hebrews to have concocted.

            Whereas the notion the narrative records an actual event yields quite a boring account of how the narrative came to be. The migration and the Egyptian prince (‘prince’ is quite likely to be an exaggeration) are in the narrative because they actually happened.

            One thing I think is unusual about it if it’s a total fiction is that migration stories tend to be based on truth, whereas people appear to tend towards stories that strongly connect them with their Heimat. In some cultures they have both narratives!

            (And we can kind of almost see the Hebrews wanting to have it both ways. In Genesis we see Abraham establishing a pretty rooted connection in Canaan, including burying his dead there. But a couple of generations later they all move to Egypt. Rather odd sequence of events for an origin story, but it makes sense if stories from two actual events (a migration of an ancestor from Mesopotamia, and the Egyptian gentleman leading an escape from Egypt), perhaps maintained completely separately for a while, were combined into one narrative.)

          • That is precisely the view of some scholars – that later Israel incorporated tribes who had different origin traditions, and the Biblical version is an attempt to combine them into one grand narrative of the entire nation, now conceived as a united people.

          • Sheriff Liberty

            “Um just because we don’t have evidence, it’s still POSSIBLE for there to have been a Cretan king named Zeus. I mean the POSSIBILITY exists.”

          • arcseconds

            I don’t think you are bothering to read what is written here.

            I gave an argument that a historical exodus of some kind explains some otherwise odd facts about the narrative.

            What otherwise-odd facts are explained on the hypothesis that there was a Cretan king called Zeus?

            And how is it better than the notion that Zeus is the Greek version of an ancient indo-european sky god called something like Dyews P’htar, who gives rise to similar gods with cognate names in other cultures?

          • Sheriff Liberty

            That it explains odd facts doesn’t make it more likely (anymore than 9/11 truthers explaining some odd facts makes their case likely), what makes it more likely is that it explains most of the facts.

            To Zeus, we have major gaps in who controlled Crete, for all we know there could have been a Cretan leader called Zeus but that’s not a good argument for Zeus historicism.

          • arcseconds

            ‘Explaining odd facts’ is basically an informal appeal to Bayes’s theorem. Given some evidence a hypothesis is more probable if the evidence is more likely on that hypothesis than it is without that hypothesis.

            So are you rejecting Bayes’s theorem as a principle of empirical reasoning?

            And if so, what kind of relationship between theory and evidence do you think has to hold for evidence to increase the creedence we give a theory?

          • arcseconds

            Also, your Zeus example still does not seem to resemble my argument about Moses, so why are you continuing to repeat it?

            If I were just saying “well, we don’t know that Moshe didn’t exist” then it would be relevant to say “well, we don’t know that Zeus wasn’t a king of Crete, either!”. But as that wasn’t what my argument was, it just seems irrelevant to keep repeating this.

          • Sheriff Liberty

            BT is based on what explains more facts, not just odd ones. Unless a historical exodus explains more of what we know, then it’s not the better theory.

            That’s not what I said, your argument was that because of missing data its possible for a Moses figure to exist at that time which is exactly the same as saying a Zeus figure can exist for missing Cretan periods.

            This is NOT the same as saying “Well we don’t know that X didn’t exist,” it’s saying, because of legends, it’s possible a figure like x existed for this time we don’t know, which again is a bad argument.

          • arcseconds

            More facts?

            Bayes’s Theorem:

            P(H|E) =

            P(E|H).P(H)
            ————–
            P(E)

            The evidence E increases the probability of H|E to the extent that:

            (1) P(E) is low
            (‘an odd (i.e. low probability) fact’
            and

            (2) P(E|H) is high
            (‘H explains E ‘ – i.e. if H were true we’d expect E).

            So as you can see ‘explains odd facts’ is a fair informal statement of Bayes’s theorem. Of course one can quibble with this wording, but it’s hard to do better in a single, easy-to-read sentence.

            Where do the more facts come in? Bayes’s theorem only uses two statements, and when we use it as a theory-confirmation device, those two are the hypothesis and one (1) piece of evidence.

          • Sheriff Liberty

            You’re confusing the total probability with those of individual facts/evidence,

            P(H) is based on the prior likelihood of what we’re trying to find.

            P(D|H) and P(D|H’) calculates likelihood of what we would expect/not expect to find for each individual piece of evidence and then averages the probabilities of *all* pieces of evidence.

            Unless you’re saying MOST of our evidence for Exodus is odd, a few high probability facts for historicity would not offset the average of all evidence.

          • arcseconds

            You said earlier ‘BT is based on what explains more facts, not just odd ones’, and now you say ‘it averages the probabilities of *all* pieces of evidence.’.

            I wrote the formula down for you. There is only one ‘E’ in it, and there is no averaging that is occurring. Are you referring to something else by ‘Bayes’s Theorem’ than this formula?

            Maybe you envisage repeated applications of the formula. If so, please do not say things like ‘BT is based on what explains more facts’, and refer to it averaging things, when the formula itself does no such thing.

          • Sheriff Liberty

            Averaged multiple applications to all the evidence ( then compared to the prior) is literally how you do it. It would be completely stupid to just use it on one piece (when more than one exists) and then declare that one piece of evidence to prove your point.

          • arcseconds

            Yes, but that’s not Bayes’s theorem itself. When I say ‘Bayes’s theorem’, I mean ‘Bayes’s theorem’, i.e. the formula itself, not some wider context in which it is used.

            When you’re so sloppy as to refer to Bayesian epistemology as ‘Bayes’s Theorem’ (‘BT’) and on that basis insist that I’m wrong about it, that can only lead to pointless digressions like the one we’ve just had.

            However, it seems that you have agreed that explaining odd facts is a virtue of a theory, and maybe finally that I’m not arguing “we don’t know, so it could have happened”?

            Perhaps then we’re finally in a position to return to why I think a historical Moses is a better hypothesis?

  • David Hillman

    Just on applying Bayes theorem to history, it is certainly a vital tool in archaeology, which is surely an historical science in that it seeks to find out what likely happened in the past. Just read any of the latest scholarly works on Stonehenge and the associated remains. Or as I just happen to be reading presently People of the Long Barrows by Smith and Brickley (2009) they note (p12) thatarguably of greatest significance in recent advances is the programme of radiocarbon dating linked to Baysian analysis presented by Bayliss and Whittle (2007). In this field practical needs have triumphed over any mistaken philosophical objections to the use of Baysian probability to assisi historical studies.
    David Hillman

    • I have no doubt that Bayesian analysis can be useful in what is essentially a scientific study (even if used in service of history) which requires mathematical analysis. I am less persuaded that the method – at least as applied by Carrier – fits the deductive reasoning that is the essence of the field of history proper.

      • arcseconds

        I remain somewhat ‘optimistic’ that a Bayesian approach broadly of the manner that Carrier carries out could indeed capture many of the salient points of historical reasoning, which as you frequently remind us is almost always probabilistic, not deductive in the sense of a deductive argument in logic.

        I put in the scare quotes because if someone were to do this adequately it would represent a major advance in Bayesian epistemology, but perhaps not in history. I’m not sure that history will actually gain much from it at all, in fact. One could imagine that all that might happen is that debates would happen much as they do now, just be couched more using the term ‘prior’. I highly doubt it’ll be the revolution Carrier hopes for, and there may even be significant downsides to it.

        My impression at the moment is not that Carrier is backing entirely the wrong methodological horse, but that he is employing it in a questionable manner: giving too little weight to things that point in the direction of historicity, and far too much weight to an unlikely sounding mythos-evolution.

        Also, he’s being rather ambitious. There is much of the ‘silly innumerate arts majors! I shall come in here with my superior analytic techniques and sort you all out!’ attitude about it, even though he is in fact an arts major and done more of his homework than most people who say this sort of thing.

        The way to marry bayesian epistemology and history isn’t to start with something that is a consensus view and attempt to upset that, it’s to start with a piece of historical reasoning that everyone agrees is sound, and show how Bayesian epistemology can account for that. That way you don’t have people objecting to the Bayesian treatment because the conclusion seems wrong.

        One thing that has to be considered is that Bayesian epistemology has not proved straightforward to apply even in the cases of the physical sciences.

        But I still think the insights of Bayesian epistemology even as they stand at the moment are worthwhile, and the reasoning in history may be improved somewhat (even if it’s just an increase in clarity, rather than anything really new) by more knowledge in this area.

        • Jim

          Thank you for your very insightful comment (I can’t vote up – no Disqus account). I too think it’s reasonable for a few scholar(s) to invest research effort into the application of BT directly to NT/Historical Jesus studies.

          As (I think) you imply, this should first involve a lot of well planned studies testing a variety of potentially relevant scenarios in order to first establish a solid foundation prior to application to the historical Jesus question. Carrier seems to delve relatively quickly into applying BT to the penultimate question, focusing essentially on one set of conditions (RR scale prior) – although I suppose he’ll argue that Proving History provides this foundation, and that he is generous in the range he reports in OHJ. To me, it might seem more convincing to first see a series of publications (in high tier journals) building the foundation required for credible application to the historical Jesus. RR rank is but a start (as per Carrier’s work), and I think Prof McGrath has elsewhere offered some alternatives to RR rank to be tested.

          Also in perspective, BT remains a statistical tool. I would guess that statistical studies by their very nature, need to be presented appropriately and with minimal bias (Carrier’s bias is less than subliminal) since they are not equivalent to hard archaeological data.

          Still, the application of BT can potentially unveil new avenues for historical Jesus studies that may not have been considered to date. Maybe Carrier missed a great opportunity to be a well referenced pioneer of this approach in NT studies, but instead opted to prematurely jump for a “holy mythicist grail” rather than follow a more stepwise methodical approach. Could it be the devil who enticed him through his personal and not so subtle bias? 🙂

          • arcseconds

            i found i had a bit to say to this, so I’m going to do this in three comments.

            One thing I think Bayesian treatments could help with is showing where exactly different scholars’ different probabilities (prior probabilities, maybe) lead to different conclusions. In fact, you don’t necessarily need big differences in priors to get substantially different posterior probabilities.

            So one way someone could rehabilitate mythicism, for example, would be to show that different but still reasonable weightings of different parts of the evidence and hypotheses could lead to an overall conclusion that Jesus probably didn’t exist.

            I don’t have especially high expectations that this would work out, but it’s a more likely route than the one Carrier is taking, and it’s more likely to be acceptable to mainstream scholars as it might not entail that they are all Wrong Wrong Wrong, but rather preserve historicity as a reasonable conclusion as well as mythicism.

          • Jim

            If Bayesian treatments specifically designed for NT and/or historical Jesus studies can be developed appropriately, do you foresee this technique ever the reaching the level of other criterion used in this field (like criterion of embarrassment, etc.)?

          • arcseconds

            That’s a good question, and I don’t really know.

            I kind of doubt it’ll take on in a big way, because of two reasons:

            (1) NT scholars are generally not the sort of people to get enthused by formalisms like formal logic and Bayes’s theorem.
            (2) I don’t think it really provides all that much.

            Most points that can be couched in terms of BT (and the probability calculus more generally) can also be made informally. One thing a more formal treatment could provide is, as I said, to show that two people reach quite different conclusions on the basis of relatively little distance in terms of the ‘inputs’, without either making any real errors. That might be difficult to bring out informally.

            But a few little ’round the edges’ possibilities like this probably isn’t enough to provoke a wholesale methodological revolution.

            What I think is more likely is that NT studies becomes generally more sensitive to probabilistic reasoning.

            We could imagine some kind of crossover field emerging. I think it’s more likely to take the form of Bayesian epistemologists deciding to recover reasoning in history rather than reasoning in physics than NT scholars deciding they really need Bayesian apparatus. Maybe that could get taken up by a minority of NT scholars, which eventually would influence the majority.

            But I think it’s happening anyway, without Bayesian formalism. Many NT scholars, including McGrath, seem to me to be reasonably sensitive to how probable certain ideas are. Bernier especially seems quite concerned with improbable notions and often looks like he’s reasoning in a Bayesian kind of a way. See the recent post of his that McGrath linked to on cynics and criteria for example, where he points out that a regional Jewish cynic Jesus just isn’t very likely compared with an apocalyptic Jewish preacher Jesus.

            However, he doesn’t seem to be doing this because he’s done a night course in Bayesian epistemology.

          • arcseconds

            Rank-Raglan isn’t formally a worry.

            Carrier’s use of the Rank Raglan scale is on the formal side a bit of a red herring. My understanding is that he is just using it as a somewhat arbitrary way of setting a prior probability.

            He is following the usual course of modelling a Bayesian agent who is initially unfamiliar with any of the evidence. But you do need some kind of a starting point.

            And there are formal proofs that the priors are ‘irrelevant’ in the sense that two agents with radically different priors will converge on the same posteriors given the same evidence, so priors are eventually ‘washed out’ by the evidence. (Unfortunately the amount of evidence necessary to do this can be extremely great…)

            I think people see the low prior probability that Carrier gives to Jesus’s existence as a substantial initial bias towards mythicism. But this isn’t necessarily the case. The prior probability on a single statement doesn’t hold all the information about the agent’s attitude to new evidence regarding that statement.

            e.g. We could both have a prior probability of 0.5 to some statement (red or black ball out of an urn), yet differ in how swayed by the evidence we are and still be rational Bayesians. I might be easily convinced by drawing out subsequent red balls that there are more red balls than black, but you might not be, and this might be because you know that there are equal numbers of balls because you put them there.

            So what a Bayesian agent should do if they have little data but for some reason have a large p(¬X) as they get some evidence for X they should swing quite quickly towards a large p(X).

            Hence I’m relatively untroubled by this aspect of Carrier’s argument, at least as regards the formalism. I accept McGrath’s criticisms of this, and it does end up setting the prior probability of historicity on the low side on the basis of a rather specious argument. But if the later evidence is appropriately treated, it shouldn’t matter too much.

            We could actually dispense with the details of the Rank-Raglan argument yet keep a low prior probability for historicity by allowing our Bayesian agent to know only that there are a lot of quite fantastic stories about Jesus, and reasoning that fantastic stories more often are entirely fictional.

            Once again, such an agent (we’re assuming that they’re capable of sound historical reasoning) should be easily swayed once better evidence comes in to firm up this vague starting point.

            And if the evidence isn’t actually enough to sway an initial doubter who treats evidence appropriately, then the conclusion ought to be that agnosticism, at the very least, is a warranted position.

          • arcseconds

            On the other hand, Carrier’s use of the Rank-Raglan scale to set the prior probability informally is more concerning.

            It seems reasonable to ask: even though it’s not all that important, why use this antiquated approach (which was never used to assess historicity by its proponents) in a somewhat specious fashion to come up with the initial prior probability?

            One can only presume that Carrier does in fact think this RR stuff is at least somewhat salient. Otherwise why use it? If the answer here is ‘it doesn’t matter: it really is completely arbitrary’ then why not use something that is clearly completely arbitrary, like setting the prior on the basis of the historicity of figures with names starting with ‘J’?

            And if he thinks it is a somewhat salient argument, it doesn’t speak well of his ability to assess a historical argument in this matter.

            The other thing I’m starting to wonder about here is: who exactly is the audience for On the Historicity of Jesus? It’s not biblical scholars, because Carrier has already basically stated he has no hopes for them and is appealing to a wider audience to side-step the in-crowd. Moreover he’s been pretty consistently acting to alienate the biblical scholastic community.

            One possible answer is ‘the movement atheist/sceptic literati’. Members of this subculture already admire Carrier and buy his books. And once we think of this, suddenly Carrier’s choices start making a bit more sense. Many of this target audience already are inclined towards mysticism, and ostensibly on the basis of arguments of a similar sort to Carrier’s Rank-Raglan treatment: Jesus’s (alleged) similarity with other mythic figures.

            So they will be quite comfortable with Carrier’s starting point, even finding it confirming their prejudices, even as biblical scholars squeal.

        • Gakusei Don

          // The way to marry bayesian epistemology and history isn’t to start with something that is a consensus view and attempt to upset that, it’s to start with a piece of historical reasoning that everyone agrees is sound, and show how Bayesian epistemology can account for that.//

          That’s an excellent point, arcseconds. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow it and add it to my review of Carrier’s OHJ.

          • arcseconds

            Not at all!

            Please just cite ‘arcseconds’ and perhaps link to the above comment.

          • Gakusei Don

            Thanks arcseconds. I’ve updated my review accordingly.

          • arcseconds

            I’ve just read your review. It was interesting and comprehensive, thanks.

            I hadn’t realised that Carrier was putting so much weight on Paul’s silence! That does seem extremely dubious to me. Where does his certainty that Paul and others would have mentioned more biographical details come from?

            It seems to me that this is precisely the kind of mistake that mythicists (and, to be fair, others) say that people who wield the criterion of embarrassment make: that we’re projecting or even just making this up.

            How do we know what would be embarrassing to members of an obscure 1st century cult?

            Well, it seems to me that we’re in a much better position to make informed guesses there than we are in guessing what they would and wouldn’t put in their writings.

          • Jim

            I guess I’ll do a “two for” here – thanks for your review of OHJ, and thanks to arcseconds for his insights on the use of BT in HJ studies. I got OHJ awhile back (blew the remaining balance on an old kindle gift card), but hadn’t felt the urge to read it as of yet.