Batman More Scholarly Than Zeitgeist?

Batman More Scholarly Than Zeitgeist? October 1, 2015

Richard Carrier could be a comedian. He recently said on his blog that he wants to make a better movie promoting mythicism than Zeitgeist is.

And so he is putting his weight behind a movie called “Batman and Jesus.” No, I’m not kidding. Watch the video and see for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLnNOJnf7OU

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  • Gakusei Don

    More information about the makers of the proposed documentary can be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/batman-jesus-a-documentary-on-jesus-as-a-myth#/

    One interesting passage on that page that made me giggle a little:

    “… filmmaker Jozef [K. Richards] is working with the organization, Mythicist Milwaukee, to bring together some of the many diverse leading voices and scholars in the secular community to speak in the film about what we truly know about the life of Jesus, including Dr. Richard Carrier, author David Fitzgerald, and hiphop artist Killah Priest.”

    • Phil Ledgerwood

      Ah yes. I remember Killah Priest’s dissertation on the Ascension.

      • Jim

        Yeah having a hiphop artist’s take on history might be enlightening;

        ascension is up,
        now I’ll lay it down,
        whut up wit Izayuh.

        • Phil Ledgerwood

          Jesus be a myf, yo
          Da church had its pawns set
          2 make an incarnation
          Of a cozmic concept

          U may not be convinced
          But I say we is
          Let me lay down
          Da “Brothers of da Lord” thesis

          Foo!

          • Jim

            When’s your CD release.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            As soon as I can think up about 50 more things like that.

  • John MacDonald

    It could be written by The Muppets and still be better than “Zeitgeist.”

  • John MacDonald

    I think there may be no reason to believe that the central events of the religion (1 The Crucifixion, 2 The Empty Tomb, 3 The Resurrection) have any historical memory to them. Paul says Jesus died, was buried, and was raised “according to scripture (1 Cor 15:3),” which could either mean that (i) Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection were fulfilling scripture, or (ii) that Paul discovered Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection through an allegorical reading of Hebrew scriptures. In either case, Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurection in Paul serves a theological function, so it can be doubted as to whether it can be traced back to
    the historical Jesus (it could have served a theological purpose for the
    first Christians to invent these events and attribute them to Jesus).

    • John MacDonald

      saved by the edit function again – lol

    • John MacDonald

      As I said, Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in Paul serve a theological function, so it can be doubted as to whether they can be traced back to the historical Jesus (because it could have served a theological purpose for the first Christians to invent these events and attribute them to Jesus). Biblical scholars commonly use this hermeneutic process to exclude attributing miracle stories to the historical Jesus.

      • John MacDonald

        And saved by the edit function again. I just want everyone to know I’m hopeless. lol

      • ncovington89

        That’s thinking for yourself.

  • ncovington89

    I’m hoping this movie will be about more than just mythicism. It’s worthwhile to see how the story changed from Mark to Matthew to Luke to John, and a comic book analogy would be well suited to this. I sent the film makers an email that they should interview Richard C Miller, who is a historicist, but nonetheless one who discerns certain stories in the gospels as being mythological in nature (he authored a paper “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Antiquity.”

    • John MacDonald

      That paper sounds interesting. Can you give some bibliographical info on it?

      • ncovington89

        http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25765965.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
        I believe you can read it if you register with JSTOR, which is free.

        • John MacDonald

          Thanks Nick

        • John MacDonald

          I was able to register for free; very interesting article. I will return to it later to get into it in more depth. Price, Crossan, and Miller&Miller also have an interesting take on typology for Mark’s (Mark 16:1-8) pericope of The Empty Tomb:

          Crossan and Miller and Miller note that the empty tomb narrative requires no source beyond Joshua (=Jesus, remember!) chapter 10. The five kings have fled from Joshua, taking refuge in the cave at Makkedah. When they are discovered, Joshua orders his men to “Roll great stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them” (10:18). Once the mopping-up operation of the kings’ troops is finished, Joshua directs: “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave” (10:22). “And afterward Joshua smote them and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung upon the trees until evening; but at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set great stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day” (10:26-27). Observe that here it is “Jesus” who plays the role of Pilate, and that Mark needed only to reverse the order of the main narrative moments of this story. Joshua 10: first, stone rolled away and kings emerge alive; second, kings die; third, kings are crucified until sundown. Mark: Jesus as King of the Jews is crucified, where his body will hang till sundown; second, he dies; third, he emerges alive (Mark implies) from the tomb once the stone is rolled away. The vigil of the mourning women likely reflects the women’s mourning cult of the dying and rising god, long familiar in Israel (Ezekiel 8:14, “Behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz;” Zechariah 12:11, “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo;” Canticles 3:1-4, “I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but found him not; I called him but he gave no answer,” etc.).

          • ncovington89

            Very interesting. There are lots of parallels between the Old and New Testament Jesuses: both gather 12 representatives of Israel.

          • Jim

            Like that’s all that odd. 12 beers in a case, 12 apostles (with Matthias as a sub), 12 tribes of Israel (even if Dan is left out (Rev 7.5-8) and Manasseh and his brother Ephraim count as two). Hey, I guess my only point is that I’m starting to get a lot gooder at this BT thingy.

          • ncovington89

            I want you to remember to always think before you open your mouth. That should help avoid embarrassing yourself like this in the future. there are passages in the New Testament that explicitly link the twelve with the twelve tribes (Matt. 19:28-29, Rev. 21:12-14, f’rinstance).

          • And what do you think the significance of that explicit link is?

          • ncovington89

            I think the significance here is that Jesus is being cast as a “type” of Joshua.

          • Why Joshua? Wouldn’t Jacob/Israel be a more natural choice, with his twelve sons? Or David or any of his sons ruling over the twelve tribes, with overseers or administrators over tribal districts?

          • John MacDonald

            Don’t forget the choosing of the twelve spies in Deuteronomy 1:23

          • Jim

            John, do you have any thoughts on whether the number of apostles being twelve is likely historical or not? I think Paul mentions the “dodeka” in 1 Cor 15, so it must have been an early tradition. I ask because it seems that purposely selecting twelve apostles leans in favor of a historical Jesus who held an apocalyptic worldview rooted very much in the hopes of the restoration of the physical Kingdom of Israel.

          • John MacDonald

            Hi Jim. “Winning converts” was of prime importance to the original Christians, so they cast it in the light of the Hebrew scriptures. Whether “The 12” was a historical number is anyone’s guess (read point ‘C’ below). We read that:

            (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

            (B) The Great Commission
            16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

            (C) Sending out Emissaries

            Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be conquered, so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously).

            To match the image of the spies returning with samples of the fruit of the land (Deuteronomy 1:25), Luke has placed here the Q saying (Luke 10:2//Matthew 9:37-38), “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into his harvest.”

            And Jesus’ emissaries return with a glowing report, just as Moses’ did. (Deuteronomy 1; Luke 10:1-3, 17-30)

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            There is some evidence which provides an interesting context to issues such as the calling of the twelve disciples. Carrier sets out the evidence – whose implications he seemingly fails to recognise – in his book.

            There were several messianic figures at the time who saw themselves as contemporary equivalents of the heroes of the past and who deliberately set out to recreate scenes that had symbolic and mythological echoes. Carrier mentions the following:

            Theudas said that he would part the Jordan.

            The Egyptian said that he would topple the walls of Jerusalem.

            An “imposter” gathered followers and promised them salvation if they would follow him into the wilderness.

            Regarding these undeniably historical figures, we can see the danger in trying to apply the criterion of inauthenticity – according to which a scene is ruled as unhistorical if it is reminiscent of something from the OT.

          • John MacDonald

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that a New Testament scene is ruled out as unhistorical if it seems to be based on Old Testament Hebrew scripture. Old testament imitation (such as Matthew presenting Jesus as “The New Moses”) just means that section of New Testament text may be serving a theological purpose for the original Christian writers, so they may have had reason to invent it. It’s the same reason we don’t attribute any of the miracle stories to the historical Jesus. Jesus may have in fact done miracles, but epistemologically we bracket that explanation.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            It is one thing to set aside the miracles but quite another to set aside the calling of the disciples. As we have seen, choosing twelve disciples is just the sort of thing that a messianic figure of the time might have done.

            But perhaps we are missing the point. If your theory is that the Gospel writers simply invented Jesus, then any biographical detail will be consistent with that theory. In other words, everything in the Gospels will have to be “set aside”. It makes no difference whether one can think of a symbolic purpose for an episode or not.

            However, I’m not sure why the theory would be taken seriously in the first place. If Jesus was an obviously cardboard character in the way that genuinely mythical figures of the ancient world were, then the theory would not just be taken seriously; it would already have long been accepted. But that isn’t the case. Jesus emerges as a vivid and distinctive character who fits plausibly into a cultural context.

          • John MacDonald

            If we “set aside” sections of text that claim Jesus did miracles because the New Testament writers might have invented them, why would we not set aside theologically motivated writing that claims Jesus fulfilled Old Testament scriptures?

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not saying this leaves us with much, but we are questioning what the proper method is here for writing responsible (as opposed to speculative) history.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Clearly, there is a difference between claiming that Jesus performed miracles and claiming that he chose twelve disciples, but I don’t want to get too drawn into debating the historicity of individual episodes.

            As you say, we want to do history responsibly. If we conclude on the basis of a resemblance between Jesus and a set of cardboard characters that the probability of his never having existed is between 67% and 94%, are we doing history responsibly?

            Remember that the *only* information from the Gospels which Carrier allows to tip the scales of historicity one way or the other is that which places Jesus in the class of Rank-Raglan heroes. In other words, the prior probability that Jesus existed turns out to be the only probability that we derive from the Gospels.

            In effect, Carrier is saying, “If I just look at the Gospels, I can be somewhere between 67% and 94% certain that Jesus never existed.”

          • John MacDonald

            You seem to think that I am a mythicist. I’m not. Like John Dominic Crossan, I can see parts of the New Testament as myth without thinking Jesus was a myth.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            John, I’m glad to know that you haven’t been taken in by the Bernie Madoff of Historical Jesus Studies.

          • John MacDonald

            Unlike mythicists, who think all the allusions to the Hebrew scripture in New Testament writing is there because the writers just made the whole thing up, I think the allusions are there because of the way the memory of the historical Jesus was preserved and developed during The Oral Period.

            In the ancient synagogue people heared scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus
            could have been recalled, restated, and passed in the synagogue.

            So as it says in Acts, they would read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus may have then recalled their memories of Him which that Sabbath elicited. This could be where all the Old Testament allusions are coming from. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They would have went through this process for about forty years before the gospels were written. And the gospel stories may also be shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion may be shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah. Anyway, this process would have mixed the memory of Jesus with the Hebrew scriptures.

          • arcseconds

            That is a very interesting suggestion, at least to the eyes of this know-nothing…

          • John MacDonald

            If this is how the memory of the historical Jesus was preserved, passed down, and transformed in the 40 years before the first gospel was written, it poses difficulties for reconstructing the historical Jesus.

          • ncovington89

            I think Joshua’s gathering together twelve individuals to represent the twelve tribes sounds a bit more like Jesus gathering together twelve individuals, apparently for the same purpose, than the other two examples (not to say that those two figures are not also emulated in other gospel stories). I also think Joshua’s seven trumpets (Joshua 6) inspired the seven trumpets of revelation 8, so I think Joshua is emulated by jesus in many parts of the New Testament, not just this one.

          • ncovington89

            Just for sake of clarity, I don’t think the parallels between Joshua and Jesus prove anything interesting. It is possible that the memory of a historical figure got molded to sound like Joshua, and equally possible that a celestial being was depicted as being like a new Joshua. So I think the only evidence that matters for that debate lies elsewhere.

          • Jim

            Just a couple beers to go to finish polishing off the twelve and then … well … that “before you open your mouth thing” you mentioned, … I keep getting those standard Amazon emails for a review of Extraordinary Claims Extraordinary Evidence & the Resurrection of Jesus ….

          • ncovington89

            This is bizarre. What exactly does my book have to do with this? If you’re saying that you’ll write a bad review of my book just because set you straight, go ahead and show everyone you’re that shallow. See if I care.

          • Jim

            No need to get your panties all in a bunch … earlier you had expressed your concerns regarding me “speaking before opening my mouth” and I just envisioned a potential situation where that could be a concern.

            Just relax and have a beer, it’s not like I’m actually going to respond to every Kindle form letter I get for every book I’ve purchased.

          • ncovington89

            Well, I thought that was a really shallow response to what I had written. But, if you have any critical comments about the book, feel free to write a review, or maybe post a comment on my blog (hume’s apprentice, just google). If anything needs to be corrected I’d be interested.

          • Jim

            Actually, my own personal philosophy is that I would first correspond with an author before proceeding with something public like a book review (unless of course I was pumping sunshine in a review).

            (Btw, my initial comment was much more professionally outlined by Prof McGrath in his question re “what do you think the significance of that explicit link is”).

          • ncovington89

            My email address is my username here at yahoo. So feel free to send any questions or criticisms.

          • John MacDonald

            What kind of crappy cases of beer are you getting that only have 12 beers in them? lol

    • Gakusei Don

      I agree the comic book analogy should be a useful (and fun) way to explain how the Jesus story evolved, but I find it hard to see how it can be relevant to the question of historicity. As the film maker says near the end of the video clip:

      “I’m going to make a movie about how there almost certainly wasn’t a
      historical Jesus, and I’m going to use Batman to make that point.”

      It will be interesting to see what they do. Groups like Mythicist Milwaukee will have their own take on mythicism, influencing others. I see a parallel to the very early development of Christianity: lots of groups working out their own views of mythicism, bumping together and evolving. Will we find something real at the heart of mythicism? That’s a fascinating but separate question. Exciting times!

    • arcseconds

      Why the ‘nonetheless’? Don’t all mainstream NT scholars think the gospels have a lot of mythological content?

      • ncovington89

        Right, but the purpose of movie is really to communicate ideas within scholarship to a larger audience. Communicating ideas TO SCHOLARS is supposed to take place in peer-reviewed journals, lengthy books from academic presses, etc. etc. Also, well-done documentaries can be hella entertaining.