The competing theories: minimal historicity vs. minimal mythicism

Richard Carrier’s work is primarily aimed at a secular scholar audience. He is not directly addressing biblical literalists, although you will find that his minimal historicity hypothesis, against which he is comparing his minimal mythicism hypothesis, encompasses biblical literalism. His strategy is to compare the minimum set of criteria that would be universally accepted by people who considered Jesus Christ to be a historical figure upon which Christianity is based against the minimum set of criteria that would explain a purely mythological origin of the Jesus story. His minimum historicity claims are:

  1. “An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in his life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.
  2. “This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.
  3. “This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod).” (p. 34)

Minimal historicity, according to Carrier, requires all three of these claims to be true, because if any one of them is false, “it can fairly be said that there was no historical Jesus in any pertinent sense. At least one of them must be false for any Jesus myth theory to be true.” (p. 34) By dealing in this book specifically with this minimal theory, Carrier is attempting (I think successfully) to avoid needing to deal individually with the myriad mutually-contradictory historicity theories that span the scholarship.

Certainly, Christians believe much beyond this set of minimal historicity claims. In fact, the vast majority of secular New Testament scholars also believe much beyond this set of minimal historicity claims. But I agree with Carrier that all of them would agree on this set, and that this set is sufficient to establish at least a historical figure upon which the New Testament stories are based.

Against this minimal historicity hypothesis Carrier pits his minimal mythicism hypothesis. His claims for minimal mythicism are:

  1. “At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was though to be a celestial deity much like any other.
  2. “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).
  3. “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.
  4. “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.
  5. “Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only ‘additionally’ allegorical).” (p. 53)

Carrier considers that all five of these claims must be true for his minimal mythicism hypothesis to be true.

Notice the difference between these two hypotheses. The three claims of minimal historicity are strictly entailed by the notion that a historical figure existed upon which the Jesus stories are based. The same cannot be said for Carrier’s minimal mythicism hypothesis; there are, theoretically at least, many versions of mythicism that differ from this set of five claims. There is a theory that “the bulk of the New Testament is a hoax perpetrated by the Roman Senatorial elite.” There is a theory that “the original Jesus stories were a clever political metaphor against the ruling elite” (Both quotes from p. 8). So in this regard you could make a strong case that Carrier has in fact stacked the deck against himself; not only is he setting out to demonstrate that mythicism in general is a better explanation for the facts than any historicist hypothesis, he is setting out to demonstrate that a specific mythicist hypothesis is better than any historicist hypothesis.

However, Carrier then argues over the course of pages 53-55 that alternate mythicist hypotheses are so much less likely than the five claims listed above that they constitute a negligible possibility (specifically he reasons that taken together, all such alternate mythicist theories have a less than one tenth of one percent likelihood of being correct when compared to his minimal mythicist hypothesis). Since I feel that Carrier, over the course of the book, does an exceptional job of demonstrating that his minimal mythicist hypotheses is significantly more likely than any hypothesis that encompasses minimal historicity, and since I doubt that any of my readers are interested in arguing a mythicist position other than Carrier’s, I will therefore simply leave that point aside.

I should also point out that while there are indeed a number of other mythicist theories that have been published, very little of that work is scholarly. Carrier strongly asserts that nearly all such works have been “mired in or mixed up with poor, questionable or obsolete scholarship, therefore giving the impression that it isn’t worth looking at, because in such a state it doesn’t look either strong or valid” (p. 11). Carrier is extremely concerned with ensuring that his case is both extremely well grounded in up-to-date scholarship (which is heavily-referenced throughout the book) and is free of speculation that is not required to support the minimal mythicist hypothesis. I definitely applaud those motivations.

Carrier’s book therefore is primarily about comparing these two hypotheses and determining which of them fits the evidence better. As a preview, his conclusion is that even if we interpret the evidence as being as strongly in favor of minimal historicity as possible, we still find that minimal mythicism is at least 67% likely, and minimal historicity is no more than 33% likely. Interpreting the evidence more realistically he concludes that historicity is only 0.008% likely, or less than a 1 in 12,000 chance (which he compares to the 1 in 10,000 chance that you will be struck by lightning some time over the course of your life).

29 Comments

  1. Suppose that there was an historical rabbi called, for the sake of convenience, Brian. He traveled around Judaea preaching of a coming apocalypse leading to an inbreaking “Kingdom of Heaven” and performing faith healings. His following was sporadic at best, but he was the original source of over ¾ of the Markan parables and popularized at least at much of the Q sayings now embedded in Matt and Luke. He died when walking alone one night and his body was dragged off by feral dogs, never to be found. Most of his followers lost hope and scattered, but much of his preaching and biography were quickly absorbed by the burgeoning Christ cult, which lacked an historical rabbi to ground their heavenly savior figure. With their publication of a new batch of biographical devotional fiction which retcons the heavenly savior of the Pauline epistles as a mortal walking the earth, the name of the central character was changed to Yehoshua (which means “YHWH is salvation”) because that sounds way more saviorific than Brian. No one is going to follow Brian the Messiah, any more than anyone would ever Heil Schicklgruber.

    Our hypothetical Brian has a strong claim to being the historical man behind the Jesus story (at least in my estimation) but he fits few to none of Carrier’s minimal criteria, because the criteria put almost zero weight on the purported words and actions of Jesus described in the gospels.

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    • I think the main problem with the Brian hypothesis is that it is exceptionally ad hoc. It is always possible to construct a narrative that fits all the facts, but without a good reason to believe the specific claims of the narrative, there’s no good reason to believe the narrative as a whole.

      However, I agree with you that your described scenario would not meet Carrier’s historicity criteria. But, I don’t think this is a scenario that scholars consider likely, or if they do, they consider it to be closer to a mythicist claim. As the later essays will discuss, there is significant positive evidence in favor of the mythicist hypothesis that Carrier puts forth which makes it significantly more probable than your Brian hypothesis. At least that’s my take on the argument.

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  2. So Carrier – a historian with minimal, if any, real accomplishments beyond promoting the Christ-myth theory, is saying that virtually all of the world’s greatest historians, both living and dead, were not merely mistaken regarding the single greatest historical event **in history** but were mistaken by such an overwhelming degree as to put these scholars on par with Homer Simpson, Ph.D? (Jesus had a .0083% chance of existing and the greatest historians all not only missed this but provided, after much research, exceedingly substantial reasons for the existence of Jesus?)

    What a claim! Wouldn’t one agree that an extraordinary claim like that would need extraordinary evidence that these great historians with voluminous accomplishments were all virtually blinded to Richard Carrier’s facts and interpretation? On the central event of history? Was this some sort of mass collusion to discredit themselves?

    Finally, I’m curious as to your own confidence in evaluating history. What would cause you to have enough confidence in your own ability that you would agree that all of the great historians were laughably inept in their scholarly work on this matter? That is a very serious charge.

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    • I will point out that I went in to reading Carrier convinced that he was wrong, and for precisely the reasons you state. The critical consensus couldn’t be that pathetically incorrect. It is significantly more likely that a person existed upon whom the stories are based than that the stories were completely fabricated.

      It was Carrier’s evidentiary case that convinced me. It is not an ironclad case, but it is a more serious one than it has been given credit for. And Carrier’s indictment of historical methodology is spot on. The fact that historians routinely look at evidence in the context of a single explanation rather than comparatively? The uncomfortableness of historians with dealing with their evidence in a probabilistic fashion? These are serious problems with the field.

      But you should make your own judgement on the matter. In the end it is the evidence and arguments that matter.

      You do, however, betray your own biases. “… the central event of history”? Please.

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  3. Please do. Because neither of the two you listed have any bearing at all on splitting the calendar of human history. The Buddha reference is a purely symbolic date that carries zero practical weight even in the countries that revere the Buddha. Likewise, the date of the founding of Rome did not result in any “split” whatsoever. To compare either of these to the effect the birth of Christ had on how the timeline human history is viewed worldwide makes the point quite well.

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    • All calendars are based on a mutually-agreed-upon reference point, with dates identified as before or after that reference point. There are many calendars that have picked different reference points (see here for a non-comprehensive list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_era). Particularly important would be the Republic Era used in Taiwan, and the Juche Era used in North Korea.

      As I said, with globalization, it was natural that one would be picked by mutual agreement in order to have effective communication among different cultures. And, as I said, the fact that the Gregorian calendar was chosen because it was the cultures that were in ascendance during the origins of globalization were Christian.

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  4. Did ANY of these calendars split human history for all societies worldwide? You may say that the Gregorian calendar was chosen because it happened to be the calendar the majority of ascendant cultures accepted at the “time”, but even if that were true (it’s merely a convenient excuse) this is still entirely beside the point. The fact remains that the birth of Jesus Christ split human history worldwide. No other event ever has. You say that the dating of human history is all based on an elaborate hoax and you base your opinion on a historian with no actual accomplishments other than a mythicist book that all major accomplished historians utterly reject. Would you deny your own bias?

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    • “The fact remains that the birth of Jesus Christ split human history worldwide.”

      From a narrow western perspective, maybe. China may have something to say about that.

      Look, you have a myopic view of history. There are plenty of other events that more meaningfully split history. Hiroshima, for example. Before, we were a species on the planet. Afterward, we are the species on the planet that has the capability of ending all life on the planet.

      I don’t rest any of my analysis on the Gregorian Calendar. You, for some reason, do, despite that it is an accident of history.

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      • There is no question that Carrier’s theories run counter to accepted scholarship. Both he and I acknowledge that. But it take more than pointing at the calendar to dismiss the ideas.

        Even if Carrier is wrong, there is still little reason to believe any of the miraculous claims of the bible. The point of Carrier’s work isn’t to provide an ironclad case. It is to point out that the classical, common arguments for Jesus’s historicity are far weaker than those in the field acknowledge. If Carrier’s arguments are wrong, I welcome hearing why. Unfortunately you are not addressing the arguments. You are appealing to authority and pointing at the calendar. These are not historical arguments.

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  5. C.S. Lewis was certainly one of the greatest – if not THE greatest authority on ancient literature. It was the subject of his scholarship and the classes he taught at Oxford for almost three decades.

    One of the reasons Lewis converted from atheism to Christianity was what he recognized when he read the gospels:

    “C.S. Lewis, who was a literary scholar long before he was a Christian, makes the scholarly point that the Gospel accounts read nothing like legend or myth. Some critics compare them to historical fiction, but Lewis also points out that that is a fairly modern genre of literature that was unknown until about 400 years ago. Lewis wrote:

    ‘I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this text, there are only two possible views. either this is reportage…or else, someone unknown writer…without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative…The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned how to read.’
    http://www.str.org/blog/is-the-bible-legend#.V6nuWjWqG0d

    Lewis’ point is easily falsifiable: find anything in ancient literature that reads like historical fiction.

    So essentially, what Carrier is postulating is this: eight different authors, many from very different backgrounds and religious and political perspectives, all colluded to create an entirely new literary genre and did this so incredibly well that it not only founded the world’s largest religion but also split the calendar of human history. Then the greatest empire on earth, Rome, made the subject of this historical fiction its official religion, sweeping aside all previous religious commitments.

    How does Carrier address this amazing fact? How do you address it?

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    • The short answer is that C.S. Lewis has never impressed me. His fiction is interminable. His philosophy is shoddy (for example, in his work, Miracles, he rests his case on his equation of naturalistic materialism with metaphysical determinism, an equation that is flatly false). His books are better than modern apologists like Ray Comfort only in that Lewis knows how to write well.

      The longer answer is that Carrier is not claiming the New Testament is historical fiction. He is claiming that it is a literary euhemerization. And he does in fact provide examples of similar literature from the time period in question. He in fact demonstrates that this was commonplace… so much so that the assumption of collusion among the authors isn’t necessary because they were writing independently (though with knowledge of the previous writings) within that well-established tradition.

      Rome didn’t make the story its official religion until centuries later, when the mystery cult origins of the religion had been lost.

      When understood this way, there really isn’t anything amazing about it.

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  6. It’s irrelevant if C.S. Lewis impresses you. That is a non sequitur that only deflects from the issue. The fact remains that he is the preeminent authority on ancient literature and said flatly that there is nothing like the gospels in all of ancient literature. I’m getting the impression that your claim to want to be converted is completely meaningless.

    I doubt you’ve read a book like Mere Christianity because to trash C.S. Lewis as an apologist when he is easily one of the greatest intellects of the 20th century (and acknowledged as such by scholars and academics everywhere) says everything about you and nothing about Lewis. Carrier doesn’t hold a candle to Lewis regarding his scholarship on the subject of ancient literature (a fact you know…) yet you believe Carrier and condescendingly trash Lewis. This is utter blindness. However, when a blind man claims to see, there’s not much to be done.

    Since you make the claim that Lewis is wrong and Carrier has specific examples of ancient literature in the same genre of the gospels, please supply the examples. Given your past responses, I expect examples akin to claiming that Buddha or the founding of Rome split the calendar of human history. Such is the level of your past responses.

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    • Lewis is considered a preeminent scholar on ancient literature by Christians. His scholarship is badly out of date, and is not viewed as authoritative by nonchristians.

      I never said that I wanted to be converted. I said that I want people to try to convert me. The two are distinct. It is through conversion attempts that I am most likely to find problems with my positions? Therefore I invite such attempts. Citing authorities, however, is not particularly convincing.

      You are correct that I have not read Mere Christianity. I have, however, listened to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of it that goes through each of his arguments. And like the arguments of modern apologists, they are all bad arguments. The modern apologists got a lot of those arguments from Lewis, so there is certainly value in going to the source. But that doesn’t change the fact that the arguments are just plain bad.

      Examples of euhemerization in ancient literature. Plutarch provides a survey, including Bacchic and Eleusinian mystery cults, as well as those of Isis and Osiris. The Sacred Scriptures by Euhemerus do this for Zeus and Uranus, and he is the author for whom the practice is named. Carrier references a peer reviewed article that details the proliferation of this practice in ancient literature: Jacob Stern, ‘Heraclitus the Paradoxographer: Peri Apiston, “On Unbelievable Tales”‘, Transactions of the American Philological Association 133 (Spring 2003), pp. 51-97.

      The things you list as “facts” are not.

      And devolving into insults is not a promising way to encourage me to want to engage further with you.

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  7. No, in fact, C.S. Lewis, an eminent scholar at Oxford for THIRTY YEARS is not considered a towering intellect by Christians only. Unless you live in a tiny atheist bubble somewhere. Do you make things up all the time or only in these interactions?

    So, you listened to another militant atheist criticize Mere Christianity? Thought so. Just like you listen to a militant atheist “historian” with zero accomplishment who has been dismissed by every accomplished historian who has ever addressed him. And you slam every eminent historian by saying that they have a .00833% chance of being right on the central event in history while extolling someone utterly without accomplishment. Do you have a degree in history? Why then would anyone do such a thing unless they were blindingly biased and desperate to use statistics to comfort themselves that perhaps their moment here on earth won’t end very badly?

    I do appreciate the list of texts you say flatly contradict Lewis’ findings. I’ll read them. We’ll see if they are anything like the gospels.

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  8. I have searched for any euhemerization in ancient literature that is historical in any way. I cannot find such an account. Nothing is even close to the New Testament which is filled with historical references. Perhaps I just haven’t found this story yet. Can you provide such a story from ancient literature written before 70 AD?

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    • Quoting On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 222, “A popular version of this phenomenon [the common practice of fabricating stories in faith literature] in ancient faith literature was the practice of euhemerization: the taking of a cosmic god and placing him at a definite point in history as an actual person who was later deified. We already noted Plutarch’s criticism of this trend (which he frowns upon, but in so doing concedes its popularity) in Element 14.(174)

      “Euhemerus was a Greek writer of the early third century BCE, who 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.(175) Even before that, there were attempts to develop a ‘historical’ Hercules to justify territorial disputes in the Peloponnesus, and afterward the origin of Rome was explained by appealing to an eponymous godman named ‘Romulus.’ And many other uses were found for the procedure, a we saw for inventing King Arthur, Ned Ludd, Abraham, Moses, and other national heroes I explored in Chapter 1 (section 4). There was nothing at all unusual about doing this.”

      The two footnotes in this section read:

      “174. See, again, Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 22.259e-24.360c and 29.362c.”

      “175. See Jacob Stern, ‘Heraclitus the Paradoxographer: Peri Aniston, “On Inbelievable Tales”‘, Transactions of the American Philological Association 133 (Spring 2003), pp. 51-97 (who treats the entire genre as well as the specific work in the title).”

      It sounds to me as though the examples you are looking for would be in the Stern article.

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      • Biographies written about Zeus and Hercules? Whoops, mind trying to find me a biography of Zeus or Hercules written within a few decades of the supposed lifetime of these figures, like how the Gospels were written very soon after the death of Jesus? Mind pointing me to any historiographical biography on Zeus or Hercules at all? Of course not, as none such exists. Thus, completely non-comparable. Trying to compare the documents we have for Jesus with the texts on the deities of Zeus and Hercules from ancient Greeks is by its nature madness.

        From the beginning, Jesud was depicted as a man, on Earth, doing multiple earthly things. Carrier’s fiction of Jesus somehow being considered a celestial being by early Christians alike Paul is simply nonsensical. Carrier’s theories are as relevant to history as the idea that the Mark is a second century document. There has never seen seriously scholarly discussion on the historicity of Jesus, mythicism has already died in scholarly circles, and will die amongst the public as well once Carrier is buried. Robert Price is sadly in awful health, so I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around. Maybe he’ll repent before going out.

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        • You may end up being correct. Carrier even says that he is making a probabilistic argument, not an ironclad deductive argument, and he gives credence to the idea that the conventional wisdom may end up being right. But, what you have just posted isn’t an argument against Carrier’s analyses, but a simple dismissal of them. You have not engaged with Carrier’s argument, nor have you engaged with the peer reviewed literature that Carrier has cited in support of his arguments.

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          • I have already engaged with some of Carrier’s nonsense on my own blog:

            1. https://faithfulphilosophy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/james-the-lords-brother-and-mythicism/

            2. https://faithfulphilosophy.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/jesus-and-the-jewish-historian-josephus/

            ” You have not engaged with Carrier’s argument, nor have you engaged with the peer reviewed literature that Carrier has cited in support of his arguments.”

            The way you cite peer-review is almost creepy, considering literally 99.999999% of all peer-review ever published on the subject of the historicity of Jesus has answered in the affirmative. Carrier’s crazy claims do not warrant any response, however he has been given them anyways.

            Carrier’s argument doesn’t have any actual credibility. Some of the things he has to resort to is simply outright insane, such as Paul viewing Jesus as some sort of celestial being, Luke using Josephus as a source, or the ahistoricity of Jesus in general.

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            • If scholarly consensus is your sole criterion rather than the merits of the argument, then you must grant the scholarly consensus that Josephus’s passages about Jesus were forged. You must grant the scholarly consensus that the only authentic Pauline epistles are 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon, and that they were written in or around 50 CE. You must grant that gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were written around 70, 80, 90, and 100 CE, respectively, and not by their titled characters. You must grant the scholarly consensus that Moses was a fictional character.

              What? You don’t grant those points? Then scholarly consensus is not your primary criterion. You are using your own judgement and analysis to supplement… even deny… the scholarly consensus.

              Yes, there is merit to considering the scholarly consensus as an excellent starting point, and it requires significant evidence and analysis to legitimately challenge such a consensus. Carrier believes that he has outlined such a legitimate challenge. I found his arguments compelling, but irritatingly presented. Hence this project of mine… to summarize, restate, and reorganize Carrier’s arguments in a more accessible manner. Because even if Carrier is wrong in his conclusion (a point Carrier acknowledged is possible), he levies significant, well-documented criticisms against the practices of modern historians, and addressing those criticisms will do the field of ancient history good.

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              • “If scholarly consensus is your sole criterion rather than the merits of the argument, then you must grant the scholarly consensus that Josephus’s passages about Jesus were forged. ”

                The scholarly consensus on the passage of Josephus is that it is partially interpolated, not forged. Unfortunately, all your information comes from mythicist sources, and thus you have been tricked by online YouTube videos and Robert Price into thinking that textual critics consider the TF to be a complete forgery. One of the most influential modern scholars of our day, James Charlesworth says “We can now be as certain as historical research will presently allow that Josephus did refer to Jesus.” Secondly, I accept the historicity of Jesus both based on the consensus and the infinite merit of the arguments in favor of it. You also get some other parts of your supposed ‘consensus’ statements wrong, and even if I granted all of it, it wouldn’t change anything about mythicism. But one of your funnier ‘consensus’ statements is this:

                “You must grant the scholarly consensus that Moses was a fictional character.”

                LOL! Even major critics of the validity of the Old Testament like Ronald Hendel grant the historicity of Moses based on the arguments. Hendel points out that there are two facts about Moses in the Old Testament narrative that are enough to show he is a historical character; 1) The name ‘Moses’ is an Egyptian name, and 2) Moses marriage to a Midianite women. Hendel finds that Moses marriage with a Midianite is far too peculiar to have been made up.

                But of course, atheist trolls who know little of the evidence and facts on these issues, and who do not do much research, are lead to think things like Moses is considered non-historical, Gospels unreliable, etc, when it is in reality the entirely opposite.

                Carrier’s book has already been answered, which is rather unfortunate. I do not see why scholars like Ehrman have actually wasted their time addressing his errors, but indeed they have. A starting point for you to read about the great mistakes of Richard Carrier would be this excellent article, written by an atheist no less:

                http://historyforatheists.blogspot.ca/2016/07/richard-carrier-is-displeased.html

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                • You seem to be misunderstanding the point of this series of articles here on my blog. I am not defending Carrier’s thesis. And I am not a breathless devotee of his.

                  I got his book expecting to dismiss it. Because of COURSE it is more likely that a historical figure upon which the Jesus myths developed is more likely than such a figure’s absence.

                  Except, I found the arguments that Carrier made to be more convincing than I expected. Does that mean I am convinced? No. But I do think that the outright dismissals of his arguments, which you are also engaging in, do a disservice to the work, and to the field of history in general (for example, his application of Bayes Theorem is exactly the kind of direction that history should be moving). Carrier may end up being right. He may end up being wrong. But honestly, none of the supposed rebuttals or responses that I have seen (including the ones you linked to) substantively address the actual arguments that Carrier made; they tend to consist of appeals to consensus, simple denials, and arguments against straw-man positions. And that is a shame, because I would like to see the best possible arguments against Carrier’s actual positions.

                  There are some criticisms of Carrier that I completely agree with. His writing style is often obtuse. His writing tone, particularly in his responses to critics (despite the lack of substance to their criticisms), is prickly to the point of obnoxiousness. Frankly, he does not do his ideas justice.

                  That is why I wrote this series of essays summarizing his book. My aim is to draw more people into the discussion. Too many people dismiss him because of his attitude, when a substantive addressing of his points would advance the field. You, apparently, are already in the discussion, and so are not my target audience.

                  So no… I am not particularly interested in defending Carrier’s positions here. It’s not my area of specialty, and demonstrating that Carrier is correct isn’t my goal. Yes, the scholarly consensus is against him. You have made that point, and it isn’t news.

                  Thank you for your input. And I encourage my other readers to consider your points and to examine your links.

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                  • “But I do think that the outright dismissals of his arguments, which you are also engaging in, do a disservice to the work, and to the field of history in general (for example, his application of Bayes Theorem is exactly the kind of direction that history should be moving).”

                    As far as I’m concerned, there are two scholars in the entire field of biblical history who try to use Bayes Theorem. One of them is Richard Swinburne (a highly respected scholar in the field), and the other is Richard Carrier. Carrier uses Bayes Theorem to prove Jesus never existed, and Swinburne uses Bayes Theorem to prove that Jesus resurrected from the dead. LOL. So, which one is correct? Funny how two people can use the same methodology and come to radically different conclusions. What is the answer?

                    The answer is that both of them are misusing Bayes Theorem and Bayes Theorem doesn’t apply to historical studies. If you are interested in people who do not outright dismiss Carrier’s arguments, perhaps you can interest yourself in reading a detailed debunking of Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem by an actual expert on it:

                    https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/final-word-on-richard-carrier/

                    Perhaps that should occupy your time for the time being. Carrier’s errors are based on a fundamental misapplication of the historical method. Carrier would like to dismiss the gospels as complete fiction, despite the amount of archaeology supporting it being rather enormous. The Gospel of John is so well acquainted with pre-70 AD Jerusalem that some scholars decided to think that the original version of John was written before 70 AD, and then it was expanded into its modern form about 90-100 AD.

                    Secondly, take this into consideration:

                    Why on planet Earth would, for example, the crucifixion of Jesus be made up? If you look at the details of the story, you’ll realize it is literally submerged in historical reality of 30 AD. Jesus is first taken to Pontius Pilate, who was the actual procurator of Judea between 26-36 AD. Pilate sends him to the high priest Caiaphas. Turns out, the high priest in Judea during the time of 30 AD was Caiaphas. Caiaphas sends Jesus back to Pilate, the Jews make Pilate execute Jesus, and then the Gospels say that Jesus was forced to carry the cross (an actual practice of crucifixion) to a place called Golgotha. Golgotha, believe it or not, turned out to be an actual site. Not only was it an actual site, it was specifically a crucifixion site of about 30 AD. Would you look at that?

                    So, what is the more simple explanation? That some highly literate masterminds living 70-80 AD decided to create an enormously realistic, highly elaborated story for absolutely no reason, or is it more realistic to say that a few followers of some rabbi named Jesus, who really admired him, wanted to document the story of his death?

                    I could show you some parts of the Gospel narratives so unbelievable, that it could not have even conceptually been made up. Not in ten billion years.

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                    • Again, I will let my readers decide for themselves whether your account or mine is more reasonable. Particularly given that historical fiction that includes incidental historical facts does nothing to validate the fictional parts. James Mitchner, for example.

                      Regardless, as I said, I’m not particularly interested in arguing Carrier’s points. They are not my points.

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  9. While everything Scientific Christian said is true, it gets even worse for the mythicist. Much worse. Take this passage from Romans 12:

    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    and this from Mark 8:34

    And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

    and this from Mark 10:

    43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    Not only does the mythicist say that these “highly literate masterminds living 70-80 AD decided to create an enormously realistic, highly elaborated story for absolutely no reason” but that they went on to require, as foundational tenants of their religion, that the religion’s followers:

    Bless those who persecute them…and do not curse them
    Associate with the lowly people
    Not be wise in their own estimation
    Never pay back evil for evil
    Never take revenge
    Feed your enemies and give them drink

    Deny your own desires by taking up your cross – an instrument of horrific death. Put your sinful desires to death.

    Serve others, in fact, to really do this thing right, be the servant (slave) of everyone.

    Question: if you were making up a fictional religion, would YOU make these things the tenant of that religion? Of course, this is only a small portion of commands like this in the New Testament. So how is it possible for these commands to be foundational for a fictional religion devoid of any truth or supernatural power?

    Historically, these commands were also the polar opposite of the values extolled by the Roman empire. Nothing could be further from the pursuit of earthly power and dominance. Emperor worship had very beneficial political ramifications, to say the least. Yet less than 300 years later, Christianity became the official religion of Rome.

    Why?

    Like

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