List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus

Now that my new book On the Historicity of Jesus has finally become available, for convenience I will be collecting here links to all the responses I’ve published to defenders of the historicity of Jesus. So this article will be continually updated with new entries, and I will keep the order alphabetical by last name of the scholar responded to (when I know it). I have also sorted them into generic debates, and responses to my books specifically.

If anyone sees responses or reviews (in print or online) to my books on this topic (On the Historicity of Jesus or Proving History), please direct me to them in comments here. Please also remark upon any merits you think the response has (or if you think it’s rubbish). I won’t bother replying to all of them. But I’d like to keep a running collection in any case.

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Replies to Generic Defenses of Historicity

Akin, Jimmy (conclusion: argues by assertion rather than evidence).

Bermejo-Rubio, Fernando (conclusion: thoughtful, but circular, and argues from credulity).

James Bishop (conclusion: ignorant to the power of ridiculous).

Casey, Maurice (conclusion: grossly illogical, probably insane).

Craig, William Lane (conclusion: dishonest and illogical Christian apologetics).

Crook, Zeba (conclusion: good effort, but doesn’t quite get there).

Crossan, J.D. (conclusion: only two premises, one factually dubious, the other illogical).

Ehrman, Bart (conclusion: makes major factual and logical errors, then lies about it).

Goodacre, Mark (conclusion: relies on premises he didn’t know were false).

Horn, Trent (conclusion: gets the text wrong, flounders on weak arguments).

MacDonald, Dennis (conclusion: muddled and not well thought-out).

Mykytiuk, Lawrence (BAR) (conclusion: outdated and unresearched).

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Replies to Criticisms of Proving History

Antony, Louise (conclusion: doesn’t understand math).

Brown, Kevin (conclusion: standard Christian apologetics).

Fisher, Stephanie (conclusion: didn’t read the book, lies about it; doesn’t understand math; probably insane).

Hendrix, Tim (conclusion: only complains about things the book didn’t say)

Ian of Irreducible Complexity (conclusion: pedantic; retracted all substantive criticisms).

McGrath, James (conclusion: didn’t have much to criticize; and what he did, got wrong).

Tucker, Aviezer (conclusion: misses the point a lot; but affirms its thesis).

-:-

Replies to Criticisms of On the Historicity of Jesus

Covington, Nicholas (conclusion: poses good questions, is mostly persuaded).

Evans, Craig (conclusion: didn’t even read the book; had no logically valid rebuttals to it).

Hallquist, Chris (conclusion: makes horribly embarrassing mathematical mistakes).

Hendrix, Tim (conclusion: confused & inapplicable; ignores what’s actually in the book).

Lataster, Raphael (conclusion: valid concerns, already dealt with in the book).

Marshall, David (conclusion: just dishonest and illogical apologetics).

McGrath, James (conclusion: screws up on facts and logic to the point of being useless).

Petterson, Christina (conclusion: bizarrely devoid of any substantive analysis).

Ramos, F. (conclusion: just dishonest and illogical fundamentalism).

Rosson, Loren (conclusion: almost persuaded, remaining objections addressed).

Waters, Kenneth (conclusion: didn’t do his homework; just angrily gainsaid everything).

-:-

107 comments

  1. wannabe June 18, 2014, 2:48 am

    Since the path of Jesus’ ministry seems to parallel that of many modern gurus and god-men, I suspect that the stories are based on a real person. By that I mean Jesus starts out being “impossibly good” himself, with asceticism, washing his disciples’ feet, preaching that the poor and weak are the true inheritors of God’s kingdom, offering forgiveness for sins, and saying that those who aren’t against him are with him, to a phase where he preaches that everyone must be perfect, and finally to foretelling immanent destruction of the earth, demanding that everyone follow him, giving up all they possess–even to renouncing their families–to avoid judgment. At this point he says that those who aren’t with him are against him.

    That’s a path of many human gurus and god-men. I haven’t heard of any fictional god-men being described as following this progression of narcissism, have you?

    Reply
    1. …the path of Jesus’ ministry seems to parallel that of many modern gurus and god-men…

      The path of any type of person will be exemplified by any fictional example as well as a real one. So that, e.g., a fictional scholar’s story follows the same pattern as a real scholar’s story can’t be an argument for the fictional scholar being real. If gurus follow a recognizable narcissistic path, so will fictional versions of them. You write what you know.

      You would need something that is improbable on fiction, i.e. some aspect of “the path of a guru/godman” that a fictional story about a guru/godman wouldn’t be expected to include.

      I find the reverse. For example, Jesus just walks up to random dudes at their job who have never even heard of him before and asks them to follow him with a single pithy statement and they do. No teaching. No persuading. No reputation. No checking of references. No checking to make sure their business and assets (e.g. boats now unattended) will be taken care of, or that they’ll have an income, or even be able to eat. That is extraordinarily improbable in real life. But exactly the sort of thing that happens in fiction (just not realist fiction).

      As to the reasoning for the sequence in Mark (remember, we can’t conflate different Gospels; each Gospel author has created his narrative his own way for his own purpose), see On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 402-56.

      Reply
  2. Claire Simpson June 18, 2014, 10:58 am

    Any chance this is going to be released as an ebook? I confess I buy very few physical books these days.

    Reply
  3. Bob Carlson June 18, 2014, 3:36 pm

    No reviews posted yet on Amazon. I am wondering whether the hardcover price of $85.50, paperback price of $31.50 (both prices apparently only being for Prime members), and the lack of a Kindle version will tend to discourage potential buyers.

    Reply
    1. There is one review there now (the second isn’t exactly a review). And note my comment on it as well.

      (Prime members just get free shipping. Otherwise, everyone gets the same price. At least in the US.)

      Reply
  4. Anonymous Coward June 18, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Okay so… I know you’re right, I find your arguments to be extremely convincing, I find that you’re the clear reasoner and most of your interlocutors don’t seem to actually understand how to understand an argument much less respond to one.

    I know this. I know this.

    Still, I ask you to PLEASE consider your tone. I recognize where you’re coming from. I even agree with your judgments about some of your opponents. And I feel the way you feel. But consider your anonymous readers, who will OFTEN see some of the more acerbic stuff you say (for example in this post) and wrongly but kind of psychologically understandably lump you in with, like, you know, Acharya S and such people!

    Thing is, I am pretty sure, myself, that the ONLY reason I find you convincing is because of my own training in close analytical reasoning. (PhD Philosophy). Prior to beginning down that road, I can easily see myself having decided you’re probably not worth reading because of things like saying one of your interlocutors is “probably insane.” (And look, no seriously, I totally get why you say this, and I know you have actual reasons for thinking it and your reasoning has some merit though not by any means a clincher) but MOST people will just read this as a thoughtless insult and judge the merits of your ideas based on that kind of impression.)

    When I read a lot of your stuff, I have to really work hard to separate the actual reasoned argumentation from the more connotative stuff. But I do it, and I’m glad I did because I think you are probably right. But it took work and training for me to do it. Lots of other people (including extremely smart and fundamentally honest people) won’t extend you that courtesy–and may not really even know how if they wanted to.

    Well, that’s what I have to say. Meanwhile, congratulations on your book and I hope it makes a scholarly splash!

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Coward June 26, 2014, 11:57 am

      Richard, as a scholar, you know better than to say such things.

      Whatever, I’m still on your side on the logic.

      Reply
      1. Because you know that ad hominem is a fallacy.

        “He uses the word ‘sucks’, therefore he is wrong about everything” makes the person saying that look the fool, not the person who uses words like ‘sucks’.

        Iterate to every other example.

        Reply
    2. Anonymous Coward June 26, 2014, 5:31 pm

      It certainly makes the person look foolish _to me and you_ but we’re not the people whose opinions matter.

      You’re not Socrates. 🙂

      Reply
    3. Anonymous Coward June 26, 2014, 9:14 pm

      No. My argument is:

      1. You are trying to convince people that Jesus didn’t exist using a rational argument.
      2. You are using locutions that, true or not, both:
      ——do not rationally support your case that Jesus didn’t exist
      ——tend to cause people not to listen to your case that Jesus didn’t exist.
      3. In general, it is not a good idea to undertake actions which undermine your own purposes.
      4. But from one and two, it follows that you are undertaking actions which undermine your own purposes.
      5. And from 4 and 3, it follows that what you are doing is not a good idea. (“What you are doing” referring to the locutions mentioned in line 2.)

      Reply
    4. Anonymous Coward June 27, 2014, 5:32 pm

      Fair question! Take the following claim:

      M: Chris Hallquist makes horrible embarrassing mathematical mistakes in his post.

      The truth of M does nothing to support your rational case for Jesus’s non-existence. For M to make it more probable (i.e. less surprising) that Jesus didn’t exist would mean not-M would make it less probable (i.e, more surprising) that Jesus didn’t exist. But Hallquist failing to make horribly embarrassing mathematical mistakes would not make it more surprising that Jesus didn’t exist. It could be that if he failed to make these mistakes, he might have actually posted in support of your argument, which would _raise_ the probability that you’re right, if anything. (Unless Hallquist is usually wrong about things, but raising such possibilities only highlights the way in which M’s truth or falsehood really has no significance for your hypothesis. Its meaning for your hypothesis is, near as I can tell, a toss-up.) Meanwhile, it could be that if he failed to make these mistakes, he wouldn’t have posted at all. Finally of course, it could be that if he failed to make these mistakes, he would make a better argument against your point. It’s hard to say how to decide which of these three possibilities would obtain–but that yet again just highlights the way in which M’s significance for your hypothesis is at best indeterminate–and hence not supportive.

      I think it’s a given that making the remark “M” will tend to drive away at least a few readers or cement unreasonably in at least a few people’s mind an intention not to take your argument seriously.

      Reply
      1. The truth of M does nothing to support your rational case for Jesus’s non-existence.

        Indeed. It just removes an argument against it. I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ve ever claimed.

        I don’t think Hallquist is trying to game the system (as some Christian apologists do by publishing deliberately, and dishonestly, negative reviews of things). He just is a sloppy thinker who didn’t actually read the book and has a strong bias against me and its thesis and therefore is lost in a mirror-hall of motivated reasoning.

        My rebuttal to Hallquist (which will embarrass him badly) goes live Thursday.

        Reply
  5. Zeba Crook was my favourite. He was probably one of the most honest people I have met. He is a good acquaintance of mine and I happen to think he is excellent in biblical studies.

    Good job debating him 🙂

    Reply
  6. Antonio June 18, 2014, 10:08 pm

    The most remarkable thing is how little understanding many of these critics have of basic mathematics, an observation that is sadly true for many scholars of humanities. Bayes Theorem is very simple, and the method behind it absolutely uncontroversial, yet so many people criticize it for “proving whatever somebody wants to prove”, completely missing the point in the process.

    Reply
    1. I am not aware if they do (I couldn’t find an example but I didn’t check exhaustively). But they agreed to let me do one. So now we are discussing it. Possibly they’ll just give me a contract to produce it myself. Possibly they have their own way of doing it already. Stay tuned.

      Reply
  7. M-Source June 19, 2014, 8:23 am

    Is this how you do scholarship Dr. Carrier? Calling scholars with more experience under their belt than you “insane”????? Have you ever thought that you might be wrong and not the 99% of scholars??

    Reply
  8. Gregory McElvy June 19, 2014, 8:50 am

    I will probably buy your book on Amazon. When will it be available on Kindle and is there an audio book planned. I don’t mind buying the book twice. I think you should be rewarded for such an ambitious undertaking. I would prefer to buy the Kindle and audio book versions but fear that they will be too far into the future.

    Reply
  9. John MacDonald June 22, 2014, 9:54 am

    I sometimes wonder if, when Paul refers to James as “the brother of the Lord,” that the phrase “brother of the Lord” is a nickname, like with Simon the Zealot (see Luke 6:15) or Sons of Thunder (see Mark 3:17).

    An early tradition of the Jesus movement is preserved in Mark where Mark has Jesus say “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35).” Maybe in Paul, James has the title or nickname “The brother of the Lord” because James was a great example of someone who always did the will of God. This interpretation would agree with Origen who said in Contra Celsum 1.47 that James was called the brother of the Lord by Paul because James was very righteous, not because he was Jesus’ sibling.

    Reply
    1. John MacDonald June 28, 2014, 7:25 am

      Hi Dr. Carrier.

      I don’t think I agree with you.

      Just as you could have many “zealots,” and still have one nicknamed “Simon the Zealot,” you could also have many “brothers of the Lord,” and still have one nicknamed “James, the brother of the Lord,” because James was a shining example of what the group called “the brothers of the Lord” embodied.

      What are your thoughts?

      By the way, I signed up for your August course about the historicity of Jesus. Any idea when the user names and passwords for the course website will be emailed out?

      John

      Reply
      1. That would be like calling him “James the Christian” and claiming it was a special nickname. That would be weird to say to a bunch of Christians. When you say James the Christian, it generally is going to mean you met a Christian named James. (BTW, I do address in OHJ the possibility that it was a special rank, for example, but show that it’s less likely than it being a generic term for baptized Christian; for it to be even narrower than that is accordingly even less likely. That’s not the same thing as impossible, but we need to deal with the most probable.)

        P.S. On the course admin, I don’t run that side of the show, so I don’t know. I’ll ask.

        Reply
  10. abcxyz June 22, 2014, 8:20 pm

    Richard, should we assume that the author of 1 Peter also didn’t think Jesus was a historical person who was crucified by the Romans, given the following passage, which is very similar to Romans 13?

    Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
    – 1 Peter 2:13-14

    Reply
    1. That is what I suspect. I discuss it in OHJ. There is more in that letter that is weird if its author was a historicist.

      I also question the assumption that its author wasn’t in fact Peter. The reasoning behind that has not been very sturdy (e.g. saying Peter was uneducated assumes the Gospels are history, and is against prior probability for religious founders). But it’s not something we can know with any reliability.

      (We do know, of course, that 2 Peter was written by a different author than wrote 1 Peter. So 2 Peter was definitely a forgery.)

      Reply
    2. abcxyz June 27, 2014, 4:23 pm

      So assuming that the historical Peter wrote the first epistle of Peter, what time frame would we talking about? The same time as Paul’s authentic letters? Earlier? Later?

      Reply
  11. The Divine Council June 23, 2014, 5:44 pm

    This is probably an example of a criticism you would not care to reply to … (comment on Aeon Byte interview on YouTube “The Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ” 2 weeks ago)

    Excerpt :

    “While Carrier complains about “outdated sources,” he relies on a theory from the 18th century. His methods are terrible, as they exclude the scholarship that has already been done. That’s like a biologist omitting a study of Darwin and Mendel.

    Carrier’s language skills are inadequate to be putting himself in a position of authority and expertise in a subject that requires scrutiny of ancient texts in multiple languages, and his knowledge of the mythology behind the Christ MYTH is pathetic.”

    I found this comment humorous. You probably already know who it is, but if not, she has blond hair and doesn’t have a PhD. I don’t dislike her, but I trust what you say more than what she says. You keep it simple and don’t pile on too many ideas into your arguments.

    To be fair, though, since nothing was written about Jesus at the time he lived then technically everything in Christianity is “tacked on”. So maybe drawing parallels to other mythologies concerning the virgin birth, Christmas, Easter, the Trinity, Jesus dying for our sins, etc. are not completely out of bounds.

    You said in the interview you have to look for parallels at the origins of Christianity, but can we pinpoint exactly when today’s version of Christianity originated? You could make an argument that it was the 4th century under Constantine. It makes me wonder what would have happened if Maxentius had won that battle in 312 CE. Would we even have a Bible today?

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I look forward to some of your interviews/debates later in the summer.

    Reply
    1. It’s unclear what any of that is a response to. It can’t be a reply to OHJ, because I actually do discuss early criticisms of the Jesus myth theory there (e.g. S.J. Case, who wrote what is widely considered to be the definitive take down of mythicism in the 1920s). Likewise my enormous bibliographies in both OHJ and PH attest to the fact that I am hardly ignoring contemporary scholarship but in fact fully relying on and engaging with it.

      I would also be curious to know who she thinks in the 1700s argued the Doherty thesis. Or did she seriously mean to say Bayes’ Theorem cannot be relied upon because it was developed in the 1700s? (Uh oh, don’t tell her the date of Newton! She might stop believing in gravity.)

      These sound like more delusional lies from her (I assume this is Stephanie Fisher you are talking about).

      (As to “when today’s version of Christianity originated,” that depends on what you mean by “version.” Technically no version of Christianity today resembles the Christianity even Constantine knew and endorsed.)

      Reply
    2. Antonio June 30, 2014, 8:59 am

      I would also be curious to know who she thinks in the 1700s argued the Doherty thesis. Or did she seriously mean to say Bayes’ Theorem cannot be relied upon because it was developed in the 1700s? (Uh oh, don’t tell her the date of Newton! She might stop believing in gravity.)

      I am sure that the quote refers to Bayes’ Theorem, as a similar statement has been made on the forums of Archaya S (in a FAQ about you, ironically titled “Stupid Things Richard Carrier has Said and Done”). That post has also been referred to in the discussion of an Amazon review of your book. This is the relevant part:

      “Carrier also constantly bludgeons Acharya to death for discussing 18th and 19th-century writings, which is a strawman since she actually works with the earliest known evidence from thousands of years ago to the most current scholarship. Ironically, Richard’s pet “Bayes Theorem” originates from the 18th century! “Bayes’ theorem is named after Thomas Bayes 1701-1761”. 😯 How much more hypocritical can he possibly be? It appears Carrier is unaware of the fact that Acharya’s discussion of 18th/19th century works were discussing PRIMARY SOURCES!” (from http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=4771#p4771)

      I literally shook my head when I read this. This is unbelievably silly and seriously depressing evidence for the complete lack of basic mathematical understanding among too many otherwise reasonably educated people nowadays.

      Reply
  12. abcxyz June 24, 2014, 7:38 am

    Richard, are there any current actual historians (i.e. academics with PhD’s in history) who have gone on record affirming that Jesus existed, or who have even commented on the issue at all?

    Reply
    1. Of course. Lots. I even just listed several in the very article you are commenting on. So I’m not sure I understand the question. Did you mean to instead ask about experts questioning the historicity of Jesus? I list those here.

      Reply
    2. abcxyz June 26, 2014, 1:22 pm

      Of course. Lots. I even just listed several in the very article you are commenting on.

      Which individuals in your list have PhD degrees in history? As far as I know, all the individuals you listed have PhD degrees in New Testament, not history (and their undergraduate degrees are usually in theology). And several of them are believing Christians.

      Reply
      1. Oh, I see. You are asking about people with history degrees specifically. I missed that.

        I haven’t checked. It’s a long arduous labor to check the actual degree field of even a dozen people, much less hundreds. And even harder to ascertain their religious beliefs. So without a well-funded poll or study, we might not be able to answer a question like that.

        Certainly, it does appear people with “mere” history degrees are quite uninterested in whether Jesus existed or not. Possibly because they assume people with degrees in NT Studies etc. already have that covered (?). But I can’t say either for sure. How would one know?

        Reply
  13. Hmm, Mr Lataster seems to be arguing that your theory of minimal mythicism is perhaps too carefully constructed to come out with a high probability. But doesn’t that just mean it is a good theory?

    Reply
  14. Giuseppe June 27, 2014, 10:35 am

    Hi Richard,
    only a observation (I’m waiting the book): about Loren Rosson’s idea about the ”full implications” of the ”noble death theme on pp 209-211”, I think that what Rosson thinks, even granting that the death of Jesus in Paul required a terrestrial martyrdom more than a celestial passover, is still perfectly compatible with mythicism, ”If a mythical earth-death is at all plausible”.

    You told me that ”there is no support for it in the background evidence”, then even granting that Rosson had find it, the conclusion is not pro storicity, but fifty-fifty, about the correct implications of ”noble death theme”.

    Best Regards,
    Giuseppe

    Reply
    1. That isn’t even necessary.

      I have written my commentary on the Rosson review (as also all the others I know), which makes a more telling point.

      But those commentaries will launch next week one day at a time.

      Sorry to keep you in suspense. 😉

      Reply
  15. gshelley June 28, 2014, 10:23 am

    The Hallquist review seems fair enough to me, with the caveat that he says it is a preliminary impression from skimming the book. A couple of his complaints are clearly addressed in the book, and he missed them, but he seemed cautious in addressing them.

    If he still thinks the same after reading more carefully, that would be a problem (in the sense of lowering the quality of the review, not of identifying real issues in the argument)

    Reply
    1. Indeed.

      But he also makes embarrassing errors in mathematical concepts. I mean, really embarrassing.

      My response, which will explain, goes live next Thursday (it’s already written, but I’m rolling out a series next week, one review each day).

      Reply
  16. gshelley June 29, 2014, 8:04 am

    Not a review as such, but a review of a review by James McGrath
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/06/review-of-two-mythicist-books.html
    Given that in the past, he has shown himself to be neither particularly honest, nor particularly intelligent (at least from how I have read his responses to you), I don’t have hopes for anything worthwhile from his own review, which he says will come ones he has received and read the bookm and as he ends with

    “But obviously if Carrier actually says that he thinks the reference to James is the “only real evidence” in favor of the conclusion of almost all historians and scholars in relevant fields, then we are going to find the book a real disappointment.”

    it seems evident that even after engaging with you for a couple of years,he has no idea what your actual argument is,so I have even less confidence he will be able to give a fair review based on what you write

    Reply
    1. Indeed. One wonders what evidence McGrath actually thinks there is.

      In any event, I comment on the Rosson review myself later this week (I’ll discuss one review each day this week).

      Reply
  17. Jim Reed June 29, 2014, 7:57 pm

    Richard, thanks for writing the book, and all the effort. I don’t want to take up any of your time, but if any others have time to waste there is a discussion on religiondispatches org which is a website where progressive Christianity gets squeezed between non-believers and traditional conservatives but the discussions often are done with a certain sense of humor, if you like that kind of thing.

    Reply
  18. Giuseppe June 30, 2014, 11:08 am

    I’m still waiting your book, but when Loren Rosson writes:

    “Christ dying for our sins” parrots the “X dying for Y” standard (see Jeffrey Gibson’s “Paul’s Dying Formula”), signalling real flesh-and-blood mortals who died so that others could follow their example.

    I remember what wrote Robert Price in Decostructing Jesus (I excuse for the absence of page number):

    Burton Mack calls this form of faith in Jesus a Christ cult. But I beg to differ. There is nothing about the theory of Jesus’ death rehabilitating the unclean heathen that depends on or follows from his being a messiah or a Christ. Nobody made Eleazer or the seven brothers Christs. Both the Jewish category of religious martyrs and the Greek category of the noble death of a hero on behalf of his homeland were good enough on their own. Calling such a martyr-hero the Messiah would only have confused the issue.

    For Price, to die as martyr doesn’t imply to be regarded messiah: a martyr is never mythicized. But for Rosson, to be regarded martyr implies to be regarded historical, not mythical: a martyr is always historical, that he was mythicized or not.

    Price repeats his idea:

    We have to presuppose some sort of previous Jesus or Christ religion already in operation before elements of other religions could become mixed with it. And in Europe and Asia, the best candidate would probably be the Jesus martyr cult. It was already based on Jesus’ suffering and death. There is, however, no reason to think the Jesus martyr cult involved any sort of belief in the resurrection of Jesus, except maybe in the future, at the general resurrection.
    In fact, the resurrection idea does not seem to fit the martyrdom idea. What kind of a martyrdom is it when someone dies only for a couple of days? This is not exactly the supreme sacrifice. Thus the resurrection has its natural home in a different context, that of the myth of the dying and rising god who represents the temporary death of nature, soon to be revoked. Accordingly, in this context, the designation “Christ” probably denoted “the Risen One,” reflecting Isis’ anointing of the dead Osiris, which restored him to life. It is this anointing which we glimpse behind Mark 16:1 and 14:8.
    The priority of the Jesus martyr cult to the Kyrios Christos cult means, in sociological terms, that the first Jesus adherents were the God-fearers on the margins of the synagogue, and that those attracted from the ranks of the Mysteries represented a second wave, as the Gentilized Jesus-Judaism became available to a broader section of the populace than would ever have given the time of day to synagogue Judaism. The Mystery cultists became God-fearers on the margin of the Jesus martyr cult, just as the Jesus martyr cultists had once been positioned at the border of Judaism. Then the Mystery cultists joined, reasoning that they weren’t losing an old savior, they were only adding a new one. Jesus Adonis, Jesus Dionysus was the result.

    It seems apparently pro Rosson the fact that, if Price is right, then the first Christians, before even of Paul, regarded death of Jesus as a martyrdom.

    Then, I expect that, to reply to Loren Rosson, Richard Carrier would may:

    1) to find as contra-example a (possibly Jew) martyr that was not historical,

    or

    2) to deny point by point that Jesus is regarded from Paul as a martyr where Rosson thinks he is.

    Don’t sorry to respond now to my comment, but I hope only to learn well the nature of problem in your more official post about Rosson rewiew.

    best regards,

    Giuseppe

    Reply
    1. Price isn’t discussing the Doherty thesis. On the Doherty thesis, a celestial matyrdom makes perfect sense. My discussion of the Rosson review will post later this week.

      Reply
  19. Dave Mack June 30, 2014, 12:39 pm

    Richard, This is merely a technical question. When I receive notices of new comments on your posts and click the COMMENT link in the email, I am only taken to top of initial post and not the comment – no matter how long the wait. I must therefore scroll down manually to find it. Does anyone else report this? I am using IE 11 browser since it works best with my needed text-to-speech processor. Thanks for any suggestions.

    Reply
    1. I have that happen to me on mobile devices. It’s a browser issue. Some browsers “get tired” (and shockingly quickly) when trying to load a page with an in-page anchor on it, and give up trying to find the anchor before the page loads to the point that the anchor is present. The net result: it just loads the page, and doesn’t take you to the anchored comment. There is no solution that I know of (until that browser’s makers fix the bug). If anyone else has suggestions, weigh in.

      Reply
  20. Giuseppe July 1, 2014, 12:39 am

    Here a sequel of Covington rewiew.

    The part 2 seems more persuasive than part 1.

    But maybe his error is to think that Mark is true history under the historist thesis.

    Mark is fiction even if Jesus existed. Then, the possibility that Mark invented the 4 brothers of Jesus exists beyond the fact that Jesus existed (with brothers or not) or not.

    Neil Godfrey cited Fredriksen about Mark 6:3, when he wrote:

    Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James (=Jacob), Joseph, Judas (=Judah) and Simon (=Simeon)? (Mark 6:3)

    Although the names may have been common, to find these particular names all bracketed together is still striking. Jacob, Joseph and Judah are three of the most prominent of Israelite patriarchs, and Simeon, too, is strongly associated in this status with Judah. As historical Jesus scholar Paul Fredriksen remarks:

    It’s a little like naming a string of Olsons Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin: the names themselves convey a close identification with the nation’s foundational past. (Jesus of Nazareth , p.240)

    But Richard Carrier, too, uses the Gospels to explain that his thesis is not ad hoc. So Covington:

    James the Apostle was not one and the same as James “the brother of the Lord,” but this is not an ad-hoc proposition: we know James the apostle couldn’t have been Jesus’ brother because that James was John’s brother (Mark 5:37), and Jesus didn’t have a brother named John (Mark 6:3).

    At the moment, I am impressed only from Rosson rewiew and Covington part 2.

    Reply
    1. My response to Covington 2 will go live next Monday (again, it’s already written, I’m just parceling this stuff out so it doesn’t all hit at once); to Covington 1, tomorrow. (And to Hallquist, Thursday.)

      I actually make the same point as Godfrey/Fredriksen in OHJ, pp. 453-56.

      Simeon is also biblical, and a famous high priest (p. 449) and a liberator of Israel (establishing the Hasmonean era) etc. But it’s hard to demonstrate significance.

      Reply
  21. gshelley July 3, 2014, 3:48 am

    For what it’s worth, I have my review of the first six chapters on goodreads. I don’t think there is anything there for you to respond to both because I lack any relevant expertise and the problems/questions I did mention have been addressed in other reviews, the final one being brought up in your comments yesterday, about using the Rank Raglan class for the prior probability. I suggested using another (such as people who had biographies written within 50 years of the time they were written – something that might not even be possible, but I would expected defenders of historicity to raise) would not be important, as the RR information would just be used later but also tht the use of 11 a the cut off seemed arbritrary – going higher would not make much difference as even if it increased the real prior figure, it wouldn’t increase the number you went with, but that going lower might have had an effect and it would have been useful to know how low you would need to go before historical people start to appear, and how many extra mythical ones would appear if you did that

    Reply
    1. …such as people who had biographies written within 50 years of the time they were written…something that might not even be possible…

      Right, we don’t have data for that class, so we can’t use it. I think we have only one example we can confirm (Ned Ludd, see index to OHJ), but he’s from the wrong period (legendary development was far easier in antiquity: OHJ, pp. 248-52), whereas in antiquity we have no way of knowing in most cases when legends first arose, because the survival of texts and attestations for anything is so scant.

      More problematically, if we were to use the rate of legendary development as a class, we would be incorrect to limit the class to persons, because persons are no harder to invent than events of comparable fame and influence (like the world going dark for three hours: Proving History, pp. 41-60). So anything comparably big that gets invented makes inventing a person easier, too (OHJ, ch. 6 § 7). But then data to determine a ratio from would be all but impossible to develop, as the field is too large, and details too scarce. You’d be stuck with a fortiori guessing (as in OHJ, ch. 8 § 1). Which is where we’d be if we didn’t have the RR class.

      Meanwhile, regarding where to draw the line on the RR scale, see my comment here.

      Reply
    1. I haven’t had time to look it over. But it’s on my list. It’s a bit long for Amazon customers. It would have made a better blog. But the effort that went into it is worth a look.

      Reply
  22. gshelley July 8, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Will you be responding at Amazon to more reviews? One of the more recent is a very long review, which is superficially thorough, though on closer inspection either the author didn’t pay attention or didn’t understand. They make numerous assertions about your double standards and inconsistency, but rarely if ever back them up- an example is that you should have treated Luke with more weight because it contains some of the criteria of good history you describe. It also says you are inconsistent because not all ancient historians match up to them. Which left me a little puzled, as I thought that clearly explained.

    Reply
  23. I’m afraid I pretty much wouldn’t recognize a scholarly critique if it slapped me in the face with a wet fish. However I was impressed by the hard work that went into the review of “On the Historicity of Jesus” by F. Ramos on amazon.com. Perhaps it’s worth your attention.

    Reply
  24. Slimy Man July 21, 2014, 2:24 am

    G’day Dr. Carrier.

    Not sure exactly who this guy is, and he muddles a few things up, but I was just wondering if you know of this bloke (two articles of his is linked below). I couldn’t find any references to his site on your blog, so figured I’d ask. There’s some nut-bag (and I am barely exaggerating…) on a forum I’m a member of citing this guy against you. Incidentally I think he is about to be banned for threatening people lol,.

    http://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/richard-carriers-appeal-to-philo-of-alexandrias-christology-call-for-research-project-proposals-at-end/

    http://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/richard-carriers-argument/

    Regards.

    Reply
    1. The first link doesn’t even respond to my book (where I lay out the case and cite evidence and scholarship). It appears rather to be responding to some offhand remark he heard somewhere. So it’s not even relevant as a rebuttal to the case made in OHJ (index, “Logos”).

      The second link seems to be a bit lazy. It doesn’t notice that his objections are already met in the article he claims to be responding to, and that his Bolztmann universe argument was refuted in the following article, The God Impossible.

      Reply
  25. Jeremy L July 28, 2014, 7:41 am

    Richard,

    Predictably enough David Marshall has now put a review (of sorts) on his blog at http://christthetao.blogspot.co.uk. Or rather, he has selcted one or two pieces such as your use of Rank-Raglan hero-types, and attempted to critique these. As expected, this is heavily laden with fallacies, contradictions (e.g. you based the analysis on Matthew not Mark – but the figure for Mark is still higher than for any historical figure) and personal attacks, with a special penchant for the No True Scotsman fallacy (e.g. Jesus was not a king, Joseph was not his foster father).
    I suspect that engaging this guy in serious discussion would risk burning up a lot of time for questionable benefit. But maybe this could be a good segue into explaining on the blog some of the thinking on Rank-Raglan that you have already explained in OHJ?

    Jeremy

    Reply
    1. Yeah. Marshall is awful. Rambling, confused, inaccurate, specious, pompously indignant. His arguments are so poor that the thing he is arguing against already stands as adequate refutation. Requiring no response from me. Anyone who isn’t delusional who reads my book (and then his rambles) will get a good laugh at his attempt at a rebuttal.

      Reply
  26. Giuseppe August 11, 2014, 2:35 am

    Hi Richard,
    I find this point from Vince against the existence of Janneus Christ as object of veneration from Nazoreans. I am not able to draw conclusions from Panarion text, but his conclusion:

    Either way it appears the references to Jesus under Jannaeus are either an invention of Epiphanius or a response to the Jewish polemic against Jesus and not the beliefs of the Nazorians.

    …is very strange if read in Panarion text.
    1) What reason had Epiphanius to invent a Janneus Chirst?
    2) insofar as the Nazarenes did not seem to be the ones who think about Janneus Christ, it is equally true that with the same vaguenes (if not less) that concept seems to be the product of Jewish opponents to Epiphanius.

    The same Vince raises objections about the real place where Adam is buried, but (my opinion is that) even is Abel was buried from Cain on Heart before, it’s clear that after God wants that he is buried in Third Heaven (like Adam).
    What do you think about?

    Thanks,
    Giuseppe

    Reply
    1. I concur. This sounds like desperation. Someone needs the truth to be different than it is, so they invent implausible conspiracy theories to explain how the evidence got the way that annoys them.

      First, the Jannaeus Jesus is confirmed in the Talmud. So Epiphanius isn’t our only source.

      Second, the thesis that Epiphanius is the one saying Jesus died under/immediately after Jannaeus is too improbable to credit. This critic even agrees: “It is bizarre, to be sure, for such an orthodox heresy hunter to be saying this.” Bizarre = very unusual = very infrequent = very improbable. Do the math, and you get “it is very improbable that that is what Epiphanius is doing.”

      Epiphanius is obviously explaining the logic of the Nazorians (that Jesus had to live and die as the last Jewish king, without interruption, therefore, since Jannaeus was the last Jewish king, Jesus had to live and die then). He is certainly not explaining his own logic. In the other passages this critic cites, Epiphanius isn’t talking about Nazorian belief, but his own. This critic is conflating the two. Bad historian.

      As to the burial of Adam in the Greek text of the Life of Adam, this is unambiguous and I cannot fathom why this critic thinks it’s not:

      40.1 Then God said to the archangel Michael: “Go away to Paradise in the third heaven, and carry away three fine linen clothes.”
      40.2 And God said to Michael and to Gabriel and Uriel: “Spread out the clothes and cover the body of Adam.” And they bore the sweet olive oil and poured it upon him. And the three great angels prepared him for burial.
      40.3 When they finished preparing Adam, God said they should bear the body of Abel also. And they brought more linen and prepared him for burial.
      40.4 For he was unburied since the day when Cain his brother slew him; for Cain took great pains to conceal (him) but could not, for the body sprang up from the earth and a voice went out of the earth saying:
      40.5 “No other body can be covered until –with respect to the first creature who was taken from me — the earth from which he was taken is returned to me.” And the angels took at that moment and put him upon a rock until Adam, his father, was buried.
      40.6 And God commanded that after they had prepared the body of Abel for burial that they bear Abel up also to the area of paradise, to the spot where God had taken the earth and fashioned Adam. And God made them dig the spot for two.
      40.7 And God sent seven angels to paradise and they brought many fragrant spices and placed them in the earth, and afterward they took the two bodies and placed them in the spot which they had dug and built (a sepulcher).

      Reply
  27. Giuseppe August 18, 2014, 10:53 am

    I’m arrived until p.531 of OHJ and the suspense before ending Chap. 11 is very high.
    But at p. 529 there is an error of distraction:

    The Epistle of James makes no mention of its author being the brother of Jesus, either. Instead, Jas. 5.11 imagines that all Christians have ‘seen’ Jesus die (just like Clement did)…

    But Jas 5.11 says:
    In fact, we praise the ones who endured the most. You remember how patient Job was and how the Lord finally helped him. The Lord did this because he is so merciful and kind

    In that passage is Job that is seen die from all Christians into the Scripture, not Jesus.

    The error is repeated at p.531 :

    So when at last Peter tells us he was a ‘witness of the suffering of Christ’ (1 Pet. 5.1), possibly in what was originally a separate letter (possibly not even by Peter), we must either convict the Gospels of lying (as in their accounts Peter is not present at the crucifixion) or conclude he means by revelation, the very way Paul saw Jesus offering the bread and cup (in 1 Cor. 11.23-25), or the way James said all Christians saw Jesus suffer (Jas 5.11). I think the latter is more likely regardless, and at worst is no less likely. For as we saw, Peter only quote and paraphrase Isaiah for details of Christ’s suffering rather than recalling what he witnessed (as we’d otherwise expect – even his vision must therefore have been vague on such details).
    (my bold added)

    But the effect of error (exchanging Jesus with Job in Jas 5.11) is very limited and nil, because your point is correct equally: the second option remains that more probable, i.e. Peter (or the forger) ”means by revelation, the very way Paul saw Jesus offering the bread and cup (in 1 Cor. 11.23-25)” and then no evidence of historicity.

    …and now I miss only a few pages from the end! Very good book!

    Reply
    1. That depends on how one translates the verse. Compare how diversely it is translated. Those translations import assumptions of the translator. If we don’t do that but just translate it as written, we get a more ambiguous result.

      Here is the actual Greek, with interlinear translation:

      idou [behold] makarizomen [we bless] tous hupomeinantas [those who endure]; tên hupomonên [the enduring] iôb [of Job] hêkousate [you have heard] kai [and] to telos [the end] kuriou [of the Lord] eidete [you have seen], hoti [because] polusplagchnos [very compassionate] estin [is] ho kurios [the Lord] kai [and] oiktirmôn [merciful].

      This can mean either the plural (they have seen the Lord endure the same, too, “end” then meaning “death/fate”) or the extended singular (the “end” of the Lord being the “aim” of the Lord in torturing Job, although this is an awkward way to say that).

      Certainly, if you take it as the latter, then James has no references to a historical Jesus at all.

      But the text should acknowledge the ambiguity. I’ll add it to my list of corrections.

      Reply
  28. Giuseppe August 18, 2014, 10:57 am

    But maybe there is no error if the correct translation of Jas 5.11 is this:

    Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

    there are 2 translations with different meaning of the same passage.

    Reply
  29. Giuseppe August 19, 2014, 12:53 am

    Thanks for the explanation. Another error (of printing), is at p.516 :

    …and in Rom 15.25-26, where scripture and revelation are the only sources of information about Jesus that Paul mentions Christians having.

    not Rom 15.25-26, but Rom 16.25-26 is meant.

    Reply
  30. Holy crap. I just checked that out. He says:

    “This is countered by Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard Carrier, who uses Bayes’s theorem to prove, with probability one minus epsilon, that the Christian God does not exist because Jesus himself never did.”

    Huh? That book does not argue for either the non-existence of God or the non-existence of Jesus (much less calculates a result). And my other book, On the Historicity of Jesus, which does argue for the non-existence of Jesus, does not argue “God does not exist” at all, much less with the ridiculous “Jesus didn’t exist, therefore God doesn’t exist.”

    How can a professor remain employed when he can’t even read the books he is critiquing or give a correct account of their arguments?

    Reply
  31. Giuseppe August 22, 2014, 2:12 am

    I find this positive review by J. Walker. I think to be curious as him already from the first moment when I listened about the subtitle of OHJ :
    Firstly, the subtitle of the Book: “Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt.” Might? The word suggests a weak agnostic position (like the word possibly). The book, however, demonstrates a probability for doubt. In fact it shows, at best, a strong probability of 3 to 1 (at best) that Jesus did not exist. It seems to me that it should read: “Why We Should Have Reason for Doubt.” I doubt Carrier had anything to do with this, however, because authors rarely have control over the title. I suspect the publisher decided on the final wording, perhaps for fear it might scare away die hard historists.

    It’s true that suspicion? Do you confirm it? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Thanks for pointing me to that. I won’t be able to look at it until next week.

      (As to the subtitle, you are right, that was Sheffield’s decision: their view being that as long as it is a proposal that hasn’t yet convinced a majority, it cannot be asserted as established. One can quibble about the epistemological assumptions in that thinking, but it’s their press, their standards.)

      Reply
  32. Giuseppe October 7, 2014, 10:34 am

    A new interesting review here.

    When he says that his: ”…personal conclusion is now that there is about a 90% probability that Jesus never existed, and started out as an imagined visionary being. But I must admit that this is not based so much on a careful Bayesian analysis as on the absence of other evidence than Paul, and my subjective judgement of this source. So I remain open to persuasion.”
    in some way he raises up the suspect that the numerical input of Bayesian Method are arbitrary and subjective even if the conclusion is mythicist.

    I agree with him that ”I have little hope that many historicists will take the book very seriously, mostly due to the lack of scholars willing to actually take a secular approach to Jesus and not just state it. But I hope that mythicists and amateur historians from the rationalist community will engage it”. Regard this point, I think that the implication

    Gospel fiction–> Jesus Never Existed

    can be proved once you prove:

    1) all the canonical or apocriphal Gospels are based on Mark and Mark is fiction.
    2) Mark is based strongly on Pauline Epistles, too (you can read this mythicist book and, if possible, review shortly it).
    3) the Pillars are not even believers in a crucified-and-risen Christ, but only prophets of a coming military Messiah (in the near future), like other Jews and John the Baptist. It was only Paul who introduced the idea of ​​a Christ Jesus crucified-and-risen in heaven (and persecuted and opposed by Pillars for this, Galatians 5:11-12).

    I suspect that R. G. Price will make soon such a case.

    Very Thanks,

    Giuseppe

    Reply
  33. gshelley November 15, 2014, 7:57 am

    And McGrath has finally reviewed (or at least started)
    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/10/mcg388028.shtml
    I can’t comment on the validity of any criticisms as having read his reviews on the subject in the past, and his defence of Ehrman’s book, I can’t bare the idea of subjecting myself to it. Luckily, the folk at Vridar are willing to suffer through and it does seem pretty much what you would expect – ignoring most of the argument, twisting much of it and failing to understand the rest
    http://vridar.org/2014/10/31/mcgrath-versus-carrier-part-1-the-introduction/
    http://vridar.org/2014/11/01/mcgrath-reviews-carrier-part-2-ascension-of-isaiah/
    http://vridar.org/2014/11/03/summing-up-on-mcgraths-review-of-carrier-short-version/

    Still, McGrath is one of the few scholars who have reviewed (and the only one I have seen so far to be negative), so it might be worth responding. Or not, I guess it depends on your patience for that sort of thing.

    Reply
  34. gshelley November 19, 2014, 8:46 am

    An extra section from the review Guiseppi linked
    http://ronnblom.net/is-jesus-a-rank-raglan-hero/
    Argues that Alexander fits just as well as Jesus, especially if we are willing to be flexible with the scoring, as we musts be with Jesus to get him above above 10.
    To me, it seems reasonable (more so than other pages I have seen denying Jesus fits into the Rank-Raglan archetype). he scores Jesus 8.5 and Alexander 13

    As for my scoring of Alexander, Carrier either fails to mention one criteria he agrees fits Alexander or he sums his scoring wrong62. Of the criteria he mentions, there are six differences with my scoring. These are Olympias being a royal virgin, Alexander being raised by foster-parents, defeating the wild beast Bucephalos before becoming king, meeting a mysterious death, his death on a hill not being emphasized and Alexander having a holy sepulchre, netting Alexander four more points than Carrier lists and three more than he sums.

    It might be argued, perhaps, that my scoring is too strict. Raglan himself appeared willing to sometimes move his own goal-posts, can we not do the same? But if we do, we must allow the same leeway for known historical persons, making a mockery of the classification. Being strict is in fact the only way to make the classification useful at all.

    Overall, even if the scoring for Alexander is valid, I don’t think it affects the overall probability as your high number was extremely generous to historocity.
    Seems worth a response to me, if only because it is one of the few criticisms that are actually based on your arguments, rather than simply trying to find any excuse to dismiss them

    Reply
  35. Mikael Smith December 31, 2014, 2:11 am

    Hey,

    Couple of questions: 1. Did you use comments from this blog when you answered questions in OHJ? I mean, did you noticed some common arguments and maybe individual questions that arose time to time here in this comment section, and answered them in your book? I asked you couple of times some questions and when I read OHJ it felt like you were answering to that question directly :D. It was nice to notice.

    2. I have came across a argument that I call “Argument from mistake”. It says that the books of the Bible are reliable because they tell honestly about the mistakes the main characters made. We wouldn’t expect that if it were fake, since one would think that forger writes only stuff that makes the character look good. I have some doubts with this argument, but I would like to hear your thoughts first and see if they line up with mine. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Thank you. Already on my list of get-to’s. He’s wrong. But like with McGrath, it requires explaining why (although, unlike McGrath, Rönnblom is not a fool, just merely wrong). When I get time.

      Reply
  36. Jason Luscher April 4, 2017, 7:01 am

    Dear Richard

    I would like to question aspects of your analysis of the Synoptic Gospels. I’ve read “Proving History” and “On the Historicity of Jesus”, and I am stimulated by your use of Bayes Theorem and willingness to challenge historicist orthodoxy. However, I feel there are questions about the Synoptics which you’ve not engaged with head on.

    My understanding of your view of Mark is that he is a Pauline Christian, i.e. Jewish but not a “Jewish” Christian. I.e. a follower of St Paul who believes that Gentiles do not need to follow Jewish law including circumcision, but are justified by faith in Christ alone. He wrote his gospel, you argue, to create a backstory for Jesus. The life of Jesus he created would show that the death and resurrection of the Messiah was to save all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, contradicting the “Judaizisers” like the followers of Peter and James. Matthew, you imply, created his Jesus to defend a more Jewish view of the Gospel, by creating Jewish Law friendly teaching like the “Sermon on the Mount”, e.g. Matthew 5:18 “Till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or a tittle shall in no wise pass from the law”.

    The first thing that strikes me about Mark and Matthew is that their religious language is very different from that of St Paul, or that expressed in 1 Peter. They talk about the Kingdom of God (Basileia or Empire of God, I believe, in the Greek). Jesus frequently describes himself as the “Son of Man”, a phrase rarely or never used by St Paul. It is not clear to me why Mark, in attempting to influence doctrinal debate, would start inventing religious imagery and language that wasn’t in common currency. Of course, you could argue that we don’t fully know what the language of religious debate was like in the period 70-90 CE when Mark wrote his gospel, as most correspondence is lost to history. The religious imagery of the Synoptics, however is nothing like the pre-75 CE letters of Paul, Peter, or Bishop Clement. Why invent new language and imagery which could alienate the very people you are trying to persuade ? What is your view of this?

    There appears also to be a consistent kernel of teaching in Matthew, re the King of Heaven/God. That the Kingdom must be strived for at any price, with complete devotion-i.e. the Hidden Treasure and Precious Pearl (Matt 13:44-46) or the Cruel Servant (Matt 18:23-35), or the workers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). This is distinct from any of the authenticated new Testament letters which were written prior to 75 CE. Paul preached Justification by Faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection. (Romans Chapter 4). Earnestly seeking a “Kingdom of God” did not seem to be part of his gospel. Peter says people are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ,” (1 Peter 1:19) – not through striving to find the “Kingdom of God.” Geza Vermes assures us in “The Religion of Jesus the Jew” (Chapter 5) that the abstract noun “The Kingdom of God” was practically non-existent in Jewish writing from scripture write up to 100 CE, so there was no Jewish precedent for the term which Matthew could have used.

    Again, why would Matthew invent religious language that wasn’t in common currency, wouldn’t this confuse and alienate his readers? If he was trying to persuade his readers that Jesus taught his followers to obey the Jewish Law in every aspect, and therefore, so should they? Is it not more likely that the language and imagery came from the tradition of a historical preacher, who teachings were well known to first century Christians?

    Of course, there are parts of the Synoptics that are clearly mythical, i.e. the story of Christs birth, Jesus conversations with Pilate during his trial, the nature miracles, the Resurrection etc., but that doesn’t detract from this apparently solid and consistent body of teaching about the Kingdom of God.

    What is your view?

    Reply
    1. My understanding of your view of Mark is that he is a Pauline Christian, i.e. Jewish but not a “Jewish” Christian.

      Actually no, the mainstream view is that Mark wasn’t Jewish. That’s why he screws up so much about Jewish customs and confuses scriptures (and Palestinian geography), which Matthew then corrects. I concur with the mainstream. Though I’m not locked into that, I haven’t seen any good challenge to it in the literature (Boyarin; but his arguments are unconvincing).

      He wrote his gospel, you argue, to create a backstory for Jesus.

      No, he wrote his Gospel to create an allegorical manual for missionaries (and for understanding the real meaning of the gospel and what’s expected of Christians who follow it). I discuss this in On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 442-43 and 455-56, with pp. 389-98, and Proving History, pp. 156-57 (see also p. 141, 142, 147, 154-55, 178, etc.).

      The life of Jesus he created would show that the death and resurrection of the Messiah was to save all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, contradicting the “Judaizisers” like the followers of Peter and James.

      That’s somewhat inaccurate. Both sides in the debate agreed Jesus died for everyone. The debate, rather, was only over whether Gentiles had to convert to Judaism to be baptized (and secondarily, whether Jews could stop being Torah adherent). This is shown in the changes made between Mark and Matthew; Matthew is rewriting Mark to defend Torah observant Christianity against Mark’s “perverse” allowance of non-observant Christianity (Mark 7, esp. v. 19; Mark 2:27); and you can tell by what Matthew changes (e.g. Matthew 5:18, 10:5-6, and 15:24).

      The first thing that strikes me about Mark and Matthew is that their religious language is very different from that of St. Paul, or that expressed in 1 Peter.

      That’s not entirely true, nor relevant. The vocabulary doesn’t have to be identical (authors actually more typically said things in their own words); and yet often it is, or suspiciously close, between Paul and Mark. See Joel Marcus, “Mark the Interpreter of Paul,” New Testament Studies 46.4 (2000): 473-87 and (if you can interlibrary loan it) the anthology Paul and Mark: Comparative Essays, which summarizes the current state of the field on this point. And for detail: Dykstra, Mark: Canonizer of Paul and David Oliver Smith, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul: The Influence of the Epistles on the Synoptic Gospels.

      It is currently the widest mainstream consensus view that Mark is writing a Gospel for Pauline Christianity, albeit decades after Paul was dead—so a lot has happened in the interim, but Paul’s Epistles still functioned as a source text for Mark to midrash. Mark might also have treated non-Pauline epistles as authentic Pauline texts (e.g. Ehesians; Hebrews). And he might have had access to Pauline epistles we don’t have (as we know there were others he wrote that are missing; Paul himself refers to them, and the epistles we have now are cut outs from other, now lost letters, e.g. the transition between 1 Cor. 8 and 9 shows something missing, the ending of Romans belongs to some other letter, etc.).

      It is not clear to me why Mark, in attempting to influence doctrinal debate, would start inventing religious imagery and language that wasn’t in common currency.

      Remember, there is a Christian pesher Paul alludes to (e.g. 1 Cor. 2 and 1 Cor. 15, says scriptures were saying things about Jesus; but which scriptures? Likewise Paul says he showed those scriptures to the Galatians in Gal. 3; etc.). Mark is working from that pesher. He is thus adapting material from them. We can prove this with his rewrites of stories of Moses and Elijah into stories about Jesus (see OHJ, Ch. 10.4). And we know Enoch and Wisdom of Solomon (and the Assumption of Moses) were regarded as scriptures by the earliest Christians (epistles reference them as such). Mark gets the Son of Man stuff from Enoch, just as he gets the Eliah stuff from Kings and the Moses stuff from Deuteronomy etc. He is creating a new scripture to convey the meaning of Paul’s gospel. He even uses Homeric literature to do that (as he also intends his book to replace the Gentile “Bible,” the epics of Homer, with a “better” one, with better, cleaner, more edifying values and lessons).

      This is the whole point. He is not summarizing Paul. He is allegorizing Paul. And using the known techniques of the time, taught in all schools of the time, for how to do that. That included: using emulation of literature (e.g. Enoch, Deuteronomy, Kings) and using your own words and paraphrases instead of exact quotes, etc.

      Why invent new language and imagery which could alienate the very people you are trying to persuade ? What is your view of this?

      It isn’t new. It comes from the scriptures, from which even Paul knew a pesher had been constructed about Jesus (as he keeps citing it). Enoch was one of them. Thus, the Son of Man imagery comes from the same pesher Paul used to preach to his congregations. That Paul himself never quotes that exact scripture is irrelevant. He rarely does (hence 1 Cor. 2 and 15 remain mysterious: he says there are well-known scriptures that say those things, but never tells us which ones, or quotes them—except he does a little at 1 Cor. 2, and what he quotes comes from no known scripture that survives).

      Geza Vermes assures us in “The Religion of Jesus the Jew” (Chapter 5) that the abstract noun “The Kingdom of God” was practically non-existent in Jewish writing from scripture write up to 100 CE, so there was no Jewish precedent for the term which Matthew could have used.

      This is an example of how Mark is lifting concepts and vocabulary from Paul. So the fact that it originates with Paul is strong evidence Mark is using Paul as a source. So your own evidence is making my point for me. Hence:

      Rom. 14:17: for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
      1 Cor. 4:20: For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
      1 Cor. 6:9: Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
      1 Cor. 6:10: nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
      1 Cor. 15:24: Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father.
      1 Cor. 15:50: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
      Gal. 5:21: they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

      I don’t know where you got the idea that this isn’t in Paul. It’s all over Paul.

      Again, why would Matthew invent religious language that wasn’t in common currency…

      Matthew didn’t invent it. He lifted it from Mark. And Mark didn’t invent it. He lifted it from Paul.

      Paul might have invented it. Or Peter before him (as the actual originator of the sect; 1 Peter isn’t long enough to include everything Peter taught, even if it was actually written by Peter).

      The concept (baptized Christians as adopted sons of God and thereby heirs to His kingdom) is linked to how Jesus replaces the Jewish Temple cult (OHJ, Ch. 4, Element 18), which is a distinctive feature of Christianity as a Jewish sect. So it may be original to it.

      If he was trying to persuade his readers that Jesus taught his followers to obey the Jewish Law in every aspect, and therefore, so should they?

      He has Jesus say obeying is the only way they can inherit the kingdom. How is that contrary to interest? That’s exactly what Matthew would say. He is trying to rewrite Mark who said you could inherit regardless; Matthew adds that you also have to follow Torah. That’s the dispute between Mark and Matthew, and the communities their respective Gospels serve.

      Reply
      1. JASON LUSCHER April 6, 2017, 5:03 am

        Thanks very much for replying so promptly and in so fully to my comments. I obviously need to read Paul a lot more carefully – I was very surprised that there are so many references to the Kingdom of God in the epistles. I have to say I find your comments here on Matthew and Marks rationale for writing their gospels are much clearer than in the “The Evidence of the Gospels” section in OHJ. There you examine the structure of Mark, and identfiy his sources as evidence for mythicism, without fully discussing his intentions in writing the gospel. So thanks for expanding on that.

        I imagine that the late Geza Vermes would have assumed that Paul did not coin the abstract noun “Kingdom of God”, but copied it from Jesus. But as you make clear in OHJ, there is little strong evidence that Paul knew of a historic Jesus.

        As a final comment, I find it disappointing that no mainstream scholar apart from Ehrman has attempted a rebuttal of Proving History or OHJ. They’ve had nearly three years now. Maybe Ed Sanders would have done if he hadn’t retired, or Vermes if he was still alive. If they’re not careful interested people such as myself, will stop believing in the historicity of Jesus by default.

        Reply
        1. Just one point of clarification, I’m not sure what you mean by “the abstract noun “Kingdom of God’.” In the NT there is only the phrase in Greek, which is two nouns, one in the possessive. There is no single noun that means “kingdom of God” in the NT. Some scholars have written about a Hebrew word meaning Kingdom of God, which is actually attested, as far as I know, in the Qumran texts (and thus already pre-Christian), and possibly other Jewish literature outside Christianity. And then they have speculated about its relationship with Paul’s Greek phrase (which is lifted into Mark). For example, Jürgen Becker, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 86-96. And some of that may even be plausible. But I don’t want you to mistakenly think there is “an abstract noun” meaning that in the NT.

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