Comments on: How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus? Announcing appearances, publications, and analysis of questions historical, philosophical, and political by author, philosopher, and historian Richard Carrier. Thu, 15 Feb 2018 23:10:09 +0000 hourly 1 By: Richard Carrier Tue, 06 Feb 2018 22:11:58 +0000 I have no opinion on your specific theory. But as to your question “are you familiar with the Jewish tradition of two messiahs?” the answer is yes. I devote an entire section to it, and the sources for it, in On the Historicity of Jesus (it’s in the Talmud, for example; and may have been in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it’s hard to know in their shredded state). I there propose that indeed the Christian sect merged the two messiahs; although we can’t be sure that unification hadn’t already occurred in any Jewish sects preceding or even evolving into the Christian sect. See OHJ, p. 75. Although I am not aware of any sources stating the Messiah ben David is “celestial” specifically.

By: Squirrelloid Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:46:51 +0000 Regarding the cosmic seed of david in particular, are you familiar with the Jewish tradition of two messiahs? It holds there will be a messiah ben josef who will come to earth and suffer and die, and a messiah ben david who is/will be celestial and conquers, whose comings will be separate events. And indeed, some jewish traditions hold that the spirit of the messiah ben david descends into the messiah ben josef!

Now, I can’t figure out how old this belief is. (And the truth of the matter is we probably can’t know the actual origin point). It seems to originate from attempts to understand Zechariah’s two descriptions of messiahs which are different, and the contradictions between Isaiah and Daniel in their depiction of the messiah.

But the content of the theory is very interesting on mythicism, and would seem to preclude development after Christianity became popular (because it would seem to conclude a fundamentally Christian doctrine, which Jewish thought instead was moving away from).

The following strike me as unusual except under the theory that (at least some) early Christians were aware of the two messiah theory:

-Jesus ben Josef (that is, the son of Joseph)

-The “holy spirit” descends to Jesus in the form of a dove. (Allegorically the spiritual cosmic messiah ben david descending into the messiah ben josef)

-Jesus suffers and dies on earth

-Jesus acts celestially (redemption of sin)

-There will be a second coming where Jesus comes as righteous conqueror

It’s also interesting that the Jewish theory has the messiah ben david as a celestial being, and Paul’s theory of Jesus seems to be as a purely celestial being (ie, the Doherty thesis).

So, on the one hand, there’s the possibility that Matthew, seeing Paul’s celestial messiah ben David, combines him with the messiah ben Josef (both to explain both Zechariah messiah predictions, and explicitly because he’s aware of the theory, hence making the father Joseph). Now, I can’t say it’s a probability, but the choice of Joseph as father is striking here.

But on the other hand, we have a definite Jewish tradition of a celestial messiah ben David, which makes all the handwringing about ‘no one would have believed that without Christianity’ false on face, because we have actual Jews who did believe that and (I believe) still believe that today.

By: Richard Carrier Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:05:45 +0000 A different argument would be, “Wouldn’t they be less likely to ever have thought this of a man they had actually met and lived with, than of a cosmic being they only learn about through inspired readings of scripture and who never went so far as to walk the earth?” And that I’m not so sure of. People have thought similar things of living men. And I’m not very persuaded by any “Jews would never do that” argument, given how diverse Judaism was at the time, and all the wild things they evince actually being willing to entertain. Conversely, it was a commonplace belief that angels walk among men in fake bodies and that celestial beings could possess human bodies; so neither theory can be shown out of character for the time.

By: Richard Carrier Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:02:07 +0000 That’s a good question.

But no.

Because to have come up with that, as you note, requires creative exegesis, to mold how visions are constructed, received, or understood, exactly the same as would be required to inspire the cosmic version (which also is reputed to have come by visions). Mere visions wouldn’t be enough. Any improbability that attaches to the one, equally attaches to the other. So insofar as either is an unexpected outcome, it’s equally unexpected on both theories.

Which leaves us with a Likelihood Ratio of 1/1. No effect. The probability of neither theory is moved.

By: lotharson Sun, 10 Dec 2017 10:01:07 +0000 Dear Dr. Carrier,

It seems to me that historicists like Ehrman face a similar problem:

How did an insignificant apocalyptic preacher become a raised angelic being within 10 years after his humiliating death?

What is the probability p that bereavement hallucinations can cause this?

If we identify probabilities with relative frequencies, p must be very low because bereavement hallucinations are widespread and yet we know of no other case of people “seeing” their dead friends and then concluding he is a raised angelic being who has always existed.

So in my opinion, this is a strong Argument against Ehrman’s historicism.

Do you think I am on to something or did I get off the rails?

Friendly greetings from France.

By: Ex-pentacostal Fri, 08 Dec 2017 06:17:36 +0000 Great article, thank you.

I am a former evangelist and your 10 point facts EXACTLY parallel modern church history. Christian Science, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventist and probably every other group (I was United Pentecostal) have exhibited the same exact pattern you’ve outlined.

Each group seeks “hidden messages”. The truly faithful, ie., “initiates” are encouraged to put credence to their “visions”, and even their fulfillment.

This spreads within the group, encouraging others to contribute their visions. As members die off, their foundational influence becomes codified within the movement(s). The stories/visions become “real”.

Succeeding generations adopt them as historically true facts and events.

Other groups (“outsiders” and “heretics”) are denounced for not accepting the “new revelations”.

Modern church leadership (in all the above named groups and many, many others) are fully vested in these fabricated church histories and stories/visions of the “early pioneers” in their respective movements. These stories/visions become “literal” and are vehemently defended.

The pure invention of church history continues to this day.

By: Richard Carrier Sun, 26 Nov 2017 19:28:08 +0000 That’s a medieval concept; I’m discussing the ancient one (different field). Full citations and details are on OHJ Ch. 4 (Elements 13 and 14). Some also here.

By: Peter N Sun, 26 Nov 2017 16:30:38 +0000 I was curious about the concept of “double truth”, which you mentioned as a principle espoused by Origen. From your piece I infer it means something like “a plain reading of a text renders one meaning, but a hidden meaning can be gleaned from a more esoteric reading”. But a cursory consultation of Google, Wikipedia, and the online Catholic Encyclopedia suggests a different understanding of “double truth”. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it means “a proposition may be false according to reason (and philosophy) and at the same time be true according to faith (and theology), or vice versa. It implies that two propositions, one of which is contrary or contradictory to the other, can be true simultaneously.” George Orwell, or Lewis Carroll, couldn’t have put it better! But what of your usage of “double truth”? Where can I read more about Origen’s advocacy of double-speak?

By: Justin Legault Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:47:06 +0000 Thank you! Very informative 🙂

I do like alot of Ehrman’s work, but other things makes me question why he acts like a true historian in some instances, and lacks the historical method in others.

By: Eldon K Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:34:44 +0000 (Can’t figure out how to reply to a comment indented that much, so hope you get this.)

Don’t worry about it. If I read you wrong, I’m sorry.