Richard Carrier’s minimal mythicism hypothesis, unlike his minimal historicity hypothesis, contains several reference claims in addition to the claims about Christianity specifically. For example, his first proposition of minimal mythicism reads, “At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other” (p. 53, emphasis mine). The present essay will look at the evidence specifically for these reference claims, one at a time. Please note that I am not in this document addressing the main claim (in this case, that Jesus was thought to be a celestial deity), but the reference claim (that other deities were understood to be celestial). The point of this analysis is to demonstrate that the five propositions of Carrier’s minimal mythicism are not ad hoc, meaning that they are not proposed specifically for the purpose of this argument, but rather represent known and documented types of beliefs or developments in religions that it is reasonable to compare Christianity to. I will also note that this is one of several key examples of what I consider to be poor organization by Carrier. Specifically, Carrier does not break this information out to address each of these reference claims, but rather buries it in the extensive list of “elements” that I summarized in an earlier essay.
At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.
The reference claim for this proposition is that other deities within other religious traditions were typically thought to be celestial. Such a claim hinges on the definition of “celestial” being used, and unfortunately, although Carrier is typically quite explicit in his definitions of terms (over pages 60-64 he gives specific definitions for god, God, angel, archangel, demon, Jesus Christ, Christianity, cult, messiah, crucifixion, resurrection, outer space, gospel, Gospel, Septuagint, LXX, Old Greek, NT, OT, church, the church, Church, orthodox, orthodoxy, and heretical), he doesn’t seem to provide a good definition of celestial. Typical definitions elsewhere include, “positioned in or relating to the sky, or outer space as observed in astronomy,” and, “belonging or relating to heaven.”
However, I suspect that arguing for this reference claim may be pushing against an open door. Even with an ill-defined celestial, I strongly suspect that nearly no one would argue that the typical non-Christian deity was viewed as anything other than celestial. If anyone does have an objection to this reference claim, please explain it in the comments to this essay; I will then endeavor to respond to it. Otherwise, I will assume that the background knowledge of my readers sufficiently supports this notion.
Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus ‘communicated’ with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophecy, past and present).
In discussing this particular premise, I should point out Carrier’s explicit caveat, “I do not mean to assert that this celestial Christ really did communicate with people by supernatural means, only that this is what the original Christian founders sincerely believed was happening—or at the very least claimed was happening” (p. 54).
Background elements 15, 16, and to a lesser extent 29, relate to the background claim for this proposition. At the risk of pushing against another open door, I will go ahead and lay out some of Carrier’s support for the notion that many other celestial deities communicated with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration. If you do not find this to be a particularly controversial notion, you should feel free to jump ahead to the next section.
Carrier argues that humans are biologically predisposed to hallucinate (though that some people hallucinate is sufficient for his background point, and I doubt that many of my readers will dispute that more limited claim). Further, “studies of shamanism and the cultural role of prophets and holy men have found evidence that hallucinators were often given positions of religious authority across the world, possibly even as far back as prehistoric times. The propensity to hallucinate is molded by cultural context (people hallucinate frequently in cultures that promote and accept it, but suppress their capacity to hallucinate in cultures that denigrate and reject it), but also exists on a biological spectrum, from almost no capacity to a crippling capacity—and everything in between” (pp. 125-126). As he commonly does, Carrier extensively cites the primary literature to support these points.
Carrier argues that “neurotypicals,” or people who exhibit an ability to hallucinate that falls short of interfering with their ability to function, can hallucinate when triggered. Such triggers include the threshold between being asleep and awake (sleep paralysis), pharmaceuticals, extreme fatigue, heat, illness, fasting, grief, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation. Numerous religious/cultural practices now known to induce hallucinations are documented to play a role in many ancient and modern religions, including fasting, sensory and sleep deprivation, and rhythmic chanting and prayer. Most specifically, such trance-inducing behaviors are well documented features of Jewish sects by the advent of Christianity (again, the primary literature references for this claim are extensive).
In antiquity, where “schizotypals” (people who have a high propensity to hallucinate, but who are not as disabled by their hallucinations as schizophrenics) were regarded as prophets and holy men, such people would naturally gravitate toward religious cults that socially integrate them, value their visions, and even grant them influence and status. The place we therefore would expect to find schizotypals is specifically in leadership positions in such cults. “After all, where else would we find them?” (p. 130)
It is important to contrast the differing societal pressures with respect to hallucination in modern culture with ancient cultures. In modernity, we expect people to not only suppress their ability to hallucinate, but if they do hallucinate to pretend that they don’t because of the stigma associated with doing so. In ancient cultures, where visions and spiritual communications were valued, we might even expect religious leaders to pretend that they did hallucinate. And as we will see when we get to the biblical evidence for the main claim (with respect to Christianity, as opposed to the background relating to other religions), there are specific markers in the texts that take this idea even further, markers that indicate that in the ancient Judaism out of which Christianity emerged, dreams and visions (a.k.a. hallucinations) were viewed as significantly more reliable sources of divine inspiration that was personal experience.
Despite the modern view that hallucination is a sign of mental illness, there are nonetheless modern subcultures that demonstrably exhibit a reliance on hallucination similar to that Carrier documented in ancient Jewish sects, giving us a model for how such a reliance likely played out in ancient times. For example, modern Shaker cults view claims of hallucinatory visions of Jesus as a sign of apostolic election, that is, “claiming God is choosing you for leadership status within the church” (p. 133). Similarly, the early twentieth century “cargo cults” of the Melanesian island nations, so-named because they worshiped mythologized people whom they believed “would return messianically with ships or planes full of marvelous ‘cargo’” (p. 160), were charismatic apocalyptic cults that were “characterized by glossolalia and mass hysteria, prophesying, receiving secret communications from God… and experiencing powerful and convincing visions” (p. 160). There were even several documented cases where events that were seen in visions or prophesies were later believed to have historically happened.
So what we have, in summary, is:
- a documented propensity for hallucination that in some cultural contexts that are relevant to the origins of Christianity are valued, but which in other cultural contexts more relevant to our modern experience are suppressed;
- evidence (to be discussed later specifically in the context of early Christianity) that revelation by dream and hallucination was in those former types of cultures valued over direct experience;
- evidence that Jewish sects around the time that Christianity originated specifically included practices known to induce hallucinatory visions; and
- documented cases of religious beliefs arising with no basis in historical events.
Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
The dying-and-rising son (and sometimes daughter) of god mythic theme “originated in the ancient Near East over a thousand years before Christianity and was spread across the Mediterranean principally by the Phoenicians (Canaanites) from their base at Tyre (and after that by the Carthaginians, the most successful Phoenician cultural diffusers in the early Greco-Roman period), and then fostered and modified by numerous native and Greco-Roman cults that adopted it” (p. 169). Prominent examples that predate Christianity include:
- The cult of Inanna and Dumuzi (k.a., Ishtar and Tammuz)
- The cult of Baal and Anat
- The cult of Marduck (k.a., Bel or Baal, which meant ‘the Lord’)
- Some Adonis cults.
- The savior cult of the resurrected Zalmoxis.
- The Egyptian savior cult of the resurrected Osiris.
- Romulus, the founder of Rome.
Carrier includes extensive references to the peer-reviewed literature refuting previous attempts to “deny that these were dying-and-rising gods” (p. 169). Some of the beliefs of these cults included the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection occurring in the heavens rather than on Earth, most notably the Isis/Osiris cults (as discussed extensively in Plutarch). Components of this can be seen as well in The Assentation of Isiah and the Revelation of Moses.
As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.
The background elements most relevant to the background claims in this proposition are numbers 11, 13, 14, 44, and 45.
Christianity, according to Carrier, fits into the category of sects around that time known as “mystery cults.” A mystery cult is “any Hellenistic cult in which individual salvation was procured by a ritual initiation into a set of ‘mysteries,’ the knowledge of which and participation in which were key to ensuring a blessed eternal life” (p. 96). Additionally, there are numerous specific features held in common by all other mystery religions of the early Roman era that Christianity also exhibits, including:
- A common set of terminology used to describe the “mysteries,” including “mystērion (divine secret), teleios (mature [as higher ranking initiates]), nēpios (immature [as lower ranking initiates]), skēnē (body [as discardable and unneeded for salvation]), epoptēs (witness [to the mysteries]), etc.” (p. 97).
- A centering on a savior deity (literally the sōtēr, ‘the savior’), who is the son or daughter of a god, underwent some type of trial or ordeal (literally called a ‘passion,’ patheōn) by which participants in the cult procured salvation.
- An initiation ritual which symbolically reenacts what the god endured, thus sharing in the salvation the god has achieved.
- A ritual meal that unites initiated members in communion with each other and with their god.
All of the mystery cults resulted from the mixing of Hellenistic elements with those of a specific other culture:
- Eleusinian mysteries: Levantine and Hellenistic elements
- Attis and Cybele mysteries: Phrygian and Hellenistic elements
- Jupiter Dolichenus mysteries: Anatolian and Hellenistic elements
- Mithraism: Persian and Hellenistic elements
- Isis and Osiris mysteries: Egyptian and Hellenistic elements
- Christianity: Jewish and Hellenistic elements
All of the mystery cults also exhibit four characteristic trends:
- Syncretism: mixing of Hellenistic elements with elements from another local or national system of religious ideas (demonstrated above).
- Monotheism: evolution of the mystery religion from polytheism (many competing gods) to henotheism (one supreme god reigning over subordinate deities), marking a trajectory toward monotheism (only one god).
- Individualism: shifting the religious focus from the welfare of the community as a whole toward the eternal salvation of the individual.
- Cosmopolitanism: membership being open and spanning environments, provinces, and social classes, and often genders.
Carrier summarizes this evidence as follows: “It is therefore undeniable that Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion, exactly conforming to the trends in religious development that befell nearly every other national culture within the Roman Empire, from the Egyptians to the Persians. Christianity was simply the result of this trend finally befalling the Jews. There may well have been precedents for this already, if Josephus is to be believed in his report that the Essene sect of the Jews conducted itself like a mystery religion, complete with four levels of initiation, including a baptism at the first of them, a communal meal, and swearing to keep the secret of their mysteries even under pain of death (and, of course, a belief in their personal salvation through resurrection)” (p. 107).
Having established that Christianity fits squarely into the category of mystery cults, Carrier then moves on to a key aspect of the mystery religions as it relates to his arguments, the presence of secret doctrines that initiates were sworn never to reveal which were written about publically only in symbols, myths, and allegories (Elements 13 and 14). Carrier cites/references modern scholarship on Philo of Alexandria, Herodotus, Euripides, and Plutarch concerning the non-Christian mystery cults to support this point.
Recognizing that there may be resistance to placing Christianity in this same category without specific evidence, Carrier cites Clement of Alexandria on the following points:
- “Now it is not wished that all things should be exposed indiscriminately to all and sundry, nor should the benefits of wisdom be communicated to those who have not even in a dream been purified in soul (for it is not allowed to hand to every chance comer what has been procured with such laborious efforts); nor are the mysteries of the Word to be expounded to the profane. … Those who instituted the mysteries, being philosophers, buried their doctrines in myths, so as not to be obvious to all. Did they not then, by veiling human opinions, prevent the ignorant from handling them? And was it not more beneficial for the holy and blessed contemplation of realities, that they be concealed? … So these [secrets] we shall find indicated by symbols under the veil of allegory.” (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies9)
- Clement earlier had directly stated that there is a secret understanding of the gospel that he is forbidden to tell his readers. (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies12)
- “For the prophet says, ‘Who shall understand the Lord’s parable but the wise and understanding, and he that loves his Lord?’ It is but for few to comprehend these things. For, they say, it is not out of envy that the Lord passed on in a certain Gospel, ‘My mystery is for me, and for the sons of my house.’” (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies10)
- Clement further explains that the Epistles confirm this division. Some teachings are reserved for insiders, and that even within the church there is knowledge reserved for ‘mature’ believers (teleioi, ‘the perfected), who were distinguished from lower initiates called ‘children’ (nēpioi, ‘babes’, the newly baptized being newly born). As Carrier states, “These were well-recognized code words in the mystery cults, which meant the same thing there as they clearly do for Clement here” (p. 109)
- When Clement quotes Romans 16:25-26, which says ‘the mystery’ of Christianity was a secret hidden within scripture but now revealed and taught ‘to all nations for the obedience of faith,’ Clement clarifies that this refers “to those from ‘all nations’ who are believers’,” and not indiscriminately to everyone. Clement adds, “But even only to a few of them [meaning, Christian believers] is shown what those things are which are contained in the mystery…. we must speak in enigmas, so that, should this tablet come by any mischance on its leaves either by sea or land, he who reads may remain ignorant.” (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies10)
- “Akin to this is what the holy apostle Paul says, preserving the prophetic and truly ancient secret (from which the teachings that were good were derived by the Greeks): ‘But we do speak wisdom among the mature [teleioi]—not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, who will be done away with, but we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery’ [1 Cor. 2.6-7]. Then proceeding, he thus inculcates the caution against the divulging of his words to the multitude in the following terms: ‘But I, brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual men, but as carnal men, as babes [nēpioi] in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not with solid food: for you could not receive it; even now you can’t receive it. For you are still carnal men’ [1 Cor. 3.1-3]. If, then, ‘the milk’ is said by the apostle to belong to the babes, and ‘solid food’ is to be the food of the mature, then ‘milk’ will be understood to be catechetical instruction—the first food, as it were, of the soul—and ‘solid food’ is beholding the highest mysteries.” (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies10) The last phrase in this quote, ‘beholding the highest mysteries,’ is epoptikē theōria in Greek, and is terminology very specific to mystery cults. This is discussed by Origen and Hippolytus in terms of initiation to sequential ranks within the church.
Carrier then cites some specific portion of the Epistles of Paul to further this point. Paul says that there are some teachings he cannot impart to his Corinthian readers because they are not of sufficient rank in the church (again using the specific nēpioi/teleioi distinction). The nēpioi know the most basic gospel, ‘nothing other than Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2.2), but because his audience hasn’t been initiated into the higher mysteries they are splitting into factions, unaware that the ‘higher’ teachings would resolve their disputes. The same babe/adult and milk/meat distinction is confirmed in Heb. 5.11-6.3.
I am leaving out a significant amount of evidence cited and analyzed by Carrier, but the above should be sufficient to illustrate that early Christianity fit within the mystery cult tradition of having multiple levels of knowledge that initiates would graduate to, and that it was forbidden to discuss the higher levels of knowledge with outsiders or lower-level initiates.
Next, Carrier addresses the claim that the mystery cults invented allegorical stories about their central figures that placed those figures into history. “The most explicit discussion of this fact can be found in Plutarch’s book on the myths and teachings of the mystery cult of Isis and Osiris, which he wrote and dedicated to a priestess of that cult, Clea. Plutarch says the highest aim of any religion is to learn the truth behind its stories and rituals, the truth about the gods. And part of that consisted in realizing that the stories and narratives of the gods were only allegories for higher truths: ‘Clea, whenever you hear the mythical stories told by the Egyptians about their gods—of their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences like these—you must remember what I said earlier and not think that any of these things is being said to have actually happened like that or to have actually come to pass’ (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 11.355b). He then goes on to summarize what is essentially the ‘gospel’ of Isis and Osiris, a typical mythic narrative of events transpiring on earth leading to Osiris’s death and resurrection. He then closes by repeating the point that Clea knows better than to really believe these stories, that ‘in fact, you yourself detest’ those who take them literally, and that she (like all true believers) sees them as ‘but window dressing’ that points us to something else more profound.” (pp. 114-115)
Plutarch then compares several possibilities concerning the underlying truth:
- “the theory of Euhemerus that all such tales are the mythification of past kings into current gods” (p. 115)
- “the theory that these earthly tales are of the ‘sufferings’ (pathēmata) not of gods or men, but of ‘great divinities’ (daimonōn megalōn, ‘great demons’ in Christian vernacular), divine beings with incarnate bodies capable of suffering and corruption. This, he says, was just as in other mystery cults (he alludes definitely to those of Dionysus and Demeter, meaning Bacchic and Eleusinian mysteries, of which Clea was also a participant), where there are also ‘mythical stories’ told of the wanderings and sufferings of those gods, but ‘all is concealed behind mystic sacraments and initiations, not spoken or shown to the multitude’, thereby preserving the truth. Plutarch says the stories of Isis and Osiris ‘have the same explanation’…. As Plutarch explains, the true story is that Isis and Osiris are celestial gods engaged in a war in [the heavens] between good and evil demons. The tales that relate their adventures on earth are just an allegory for this higher reality, which is actually going on in heaven…” (p. 115)
- “a god’s narrative myth is reduced to purely naturalistic and mystical allegories, and thus not about actual beings at all” (p. 115)
Plutarch clearly favors the second of these explanations, and Carrier argues that Plutarch’s analysis of other mystery religions having ‘similar explanations’ indicates that this is a common trend among them.
Carrier then connects this idea to Christianity, primarily through the writings of Paul:
- Paul says that Christians must approach the old testament as allegorical. (2 Cor. 3.12-4.6)
- Paul could imagine actual historical events being arranged to convey allegory, (1 Cor. 10.1-11) but this would not be a necessary understanding.
- Paul does not consider the historicity of the tale of Sarah and Hagar to be relevant to his allegorical reading of it. (Gal. 4.22-31)
- If someone welcomes the reading of sacred stories in an allegorical fashion, that person would similarly welcome the writing of sacred stories as allegory.
Combining this importance of allegory with the multiple levels of knowledge/initiation, Carrier argues that within the mystery cults, seemingly historical stories are known to the masses, but higher initiates are aware that they are allegorical and thus contain a higher, spiritual meaning. Quoting Plutarch again: “There is a doctrine which modern priests hint at to satisfy their conscience, but only in veiled terms and with caution: namely that the god Osiris rules and reigns over the dead, being none other than he whom the Greeks call Hades or Pluto. The truth of this statement is misunderstood and confuses the masses, who suppose that the sacred and the holy one, who is in truth Osiris, lives in the earth and under the earth, where are concealed the bodies of those who appear to have reached their end. He is actually very far removed from the earth [i.e., in outer space], being undefiled, unspotted, and uncorrupted by any being which is subject to decay and death.” (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 78.382e)
Philo attests that within such cultures, allegorical meanings were viewed as truth. “For instance, Philo says Moses (whom Philo, like many Jews, believed wrote the Torah) tells no fable when he says ‘there were giants on the earth in those days’ (Gen. 6.4), but meant only allegorically that there were men of heavenly wisdom. Philo then says Moses would never tell a fable, because he only tells the truth, so just like Plutarch, anyone who takes that statement about giants literally Philo compares to idolaters and men deceived. Thus, for Philo ‘the truth’ is the allegorical meaning of the text, not its literal meaning. We have to appreciate the significance of this. For us, even as Philo explains it, ‘Moses’ told a lie, plainly saying what is not true, that giants once walked the earth. But for Philo, as long as this statement has a higher symbolic meaning that is true, Moses isn’t lying. Those who don’t have the holy spirit of wisdom and understanding will only think he’s lying—or believe the literal meaning and thus believe what is false. Take note of this. Because people who think this way will both read and write books differently than we expect.” (p. 118) Carrier provides extensive peer-reviewed references to support this point.
The early-third-century Christian teacher Origen, in his rebuttal to the pagan critic Celsus, contends that an allegorical understanding of sacred writings was common to pagans, Jews, and Christians. “The historical parts [of the Bible] were written with an allegorical purpose, being most skillfully adapted not only for the multitude of the simple believers, but also for the few who are willing or even able to investigate matters intelligently…. What other inference can be drawn than that they were composed so as to be understood allegorically in their chief signification? [Those who approach the text literally have] a veil of ignorance [upon them and thus] read but do not understand the figurative meaning, [whereas this veil] is taken away by the gift of God [from those who have achieved sufficient philosophical perfection].” (Origen, Against Celsus 4.48-50) It is important to note that Origen was not arguing that the stories were also literally true. Celsus was arguing that the stories were absurd, and Origen’s response was that they were not absurd because they have a sublime allegorical meaning. As Origin put it, “the spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in a material falsehood.” (Origen, Commentary on the Gospel according to John 1.9-11 and 10.2-6)
The details listed above are but a fraction of those Carrier raises, but, I believe, serve to illustrate the point, which Carrier sums up thusly: “It is in this context that we might better understand Paul’s claim that the gospel preached in public appeared to be ‘foolishness’ to outsiders, a ‘stumbling block’ to their understanding (1 Cor. 1.18-25…), but was not such to those who understood its secret meaning—the gospel not preached in public, but only to insiders (1 Cor. 2.4-3.3). This was quite the same in other mystery cults: when in his own mythic narrative Dionysus speaks in riddles and is called foolish, he responds, ‘One will seem to be foolish if he speaks wisely to an ignorant man’. Paul is in effect saying the same thing. So, too Origen. Thus it is plausible that, like other mystery cults, Christianity also came to be packaged with a set of earthly tales of its savior that were not meant to be taken literally, except by outsiders—and insiders of insufficient rank, who were variously called even by their own leaders ‘babes’ or ‘simpletons’.” (pp. 123-124)
Within religious contexts, fabricating stories was the norm. The following are all examples of religious texts that are considered by current scholarship to be at best historical fiction and at worst wholesale fabrication:
- Maccabean literature
- Enochic literature
- The book of Tobit
- Ascension of Isaiah
- Revelation of Moses
- (Many other Jewish Revelation texts)
- Joseph and Aseneth
- Testimonies of the Twelve Patriarchs
- Haggadic midrashim (including Midrash Rabbah)
- Philo’s biographies of biblical characters (g., Life of Moses, On Joseph)
- Biblical Antiquities (once incorrectly attributed to Philo)
- Nearly all pagan faith literature
Current scholarship considers most of the old testament to be “fiction (Exodus, Job, Ruth) or forgery (Daniel, Deutero-Isaiah, Deutero-Zechariah)” (p. 215)
“A classic example of this trend is seen in the phenomenon of euhemerization…. ‘lives’ of nonhistorical demigods were written, as if they actually existed and could be placed in history…. A good example of this is Plutarch’s biography of Romulus: this was a Roman adoption of a Greek demigod who later was associated with some of the founding legends of the Roman people (his Greek origins by then completely forgotten…). Yet Plutarch saw fit to write a straightforward historical biography about him, in which he ponders what stories are true and what false, and includes this alongside biographies of actual persons such as Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, written in exactly the same style. In the same fashion, historians like Livy or Dionysius would include mythological figures in their otherwise straightforward histories as if they actually existed. In fact, representing myth as fact became so popular, a trend arose of ‘inventing’ sources to cite as one’s authorities, thus completing the representation that myths were actual histories. This is how myth began to look under the Roman Empire. When we collect all of this pagan faith literature together, we see exactly the same outcome: almost all of it is fabricated, yet passed off as true. This was the norm” (p. 217). Euhemerus, for whom this phenomenon was named, was a Greek writer of the early third century B.C. He “wrote a book called The Sacred Scriptures in which he depicted an imaginary scholar discovering that Zeus and Uranus were once actual kings. In the process Euhemerus invents a history for these ‘god kings’, even though we know there is no plausible case to be made that either Zeus or Uranus was ever a real person. Yet the idea caught on; biographies and histories of nonexistent people proliferated, and ancient literature flowered with attempts to assign mythic heroes and gods to real historical periods and places. Even before that there were attempts to develop a ‘historical’ Hercules to justify territorial disputes in the Peloponnesus…. And many other uses were found for the procedure, as we saw for inventing King Arthur, Ned Ludd, Abraham, Moses, and other national heroes…” (p. 222).
Even outside of faith literature, “a good story often trumped any interest in what actually happened” (p. 217). Speeches were invented for historical and nonhistorical figures, because ‘it’s what they must have said’ (p. 218). This practice “is most clearly exemplified in the practice of forgery: attempting to give authority to a system of statements by attributing them to a respected philosopher (such as Aristotle) or scientist (such as Galen). Letters were similarly forged often enough to become their own genre. As were fake histories and documents of all kinds. So when Christians started doing the same, they were taking up a venerable tradition” (p. 218).
Even just within the primary source documents from earliest Christianity, “we find that most Christian faith literature in its first three centuries is fabricated—indeed most by far…. The most obvious category is the Christian apocrypha and pseudepigrapha: hundreds of forged documents, from faked letters of Paul to Seneca, to faked letters of Clement of Rome (and by that I mean beyond 1 Clement, if that is even authentic), more faked letters from Peter and Paul than are even in the NT (e.g., 3 Corinthians, 3 and 4 Peter, etc….) even faked letters from Jesus (several in Revelation already; another, from Jesus to Abgar, is reproduced in Eusebius), and fabricated Gospels and Acts and Apocalypses far outnumbering the canonical ones, as well as countless legends and tales passed off as fact (in the commentaries of Papias and Hegesippus, e.g….), and countless other fictions (the Epistle of Barnabas, e.g.; or the Decree of Tiberius, cited as authoritative proof that Emperor Tiberious converted to Christianity)” (p. 221). Carrier sums up: “This was clearly the norm, not the exception. Most of what Christians wrote were lies. We therefore should approach everything they wrote with distrust” (p. 222)
Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only ‘additionally’ allegorical).
This proposition does not contain an explicit reference claim.
And there we have it. Remember, at this point we are not considering yet whether Carrier’s minimal historicity hypothesis or his minimal mythicism hypothesis fits the data better. We are simply establishing that the claims made by the minimal mythicism theory are reasonable to consider as applied to any arbitrary religious tradition that shares some similarity to Christianity, and I think it is clear from the evidence presented above that this is the case. That is, the propositions within the minimal mythicism hypothesis are not ad hoc.