Is This Not the Carpenter?


A new book questioning the historicity of Jesus has just come out, with academic contributors of some esteem: Is This Not the Carpenter? The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus (a publication of the Copenhagen International Seminar: Equinox, 2012), edited by Thomas Thompson and Thomas Verenna. Neither Thompson nor Verenna are deniers of historicity, but historicity agnostics. They believe the question of the historicity of Jesus needs to be seriously examined and not dismissed as an exercise only for cranks. They also agree that historicity is more questionable than is usually claimed. This is a review of that book.

Is This Not the Carpenter? is an anthology, with scholarly contributors on both sides of the debate (the last time this was done was back in the 1980’s, whenn R.J. Hoffmann and Gerald Larue [eds.] brought us Jesus in History and Myth, which is now very outdated). All the contributors to Carpenter hold or have held professorships or the equivalent in their respective fields, except Verenna, who is a history student at Rutgers (his contribution was peer reviewed by other contributors). The introduction to the book alone is of great value, as it summarizes some of the key problems that make historicity a viable topic of debate–including an excellent, and well-sourced, list of all the different and contradictory “historical Jesuses” that are proposed today, demonstrating a bewildering lack of agreement among historicity proponents, which I myself have noted gravely calls into question the validity of their methods (Proving History, chapter 1).

In addition to that valuable introduction, the book is organized into three parts, the middle one more valuable than the rest; and the first one, the least. In order:

Part I: The Backstory

Part I has essays by Jim West (who makes a brief case that the Gospels, like the historical books of the OT, are not even attempts at recording history, and from this conclusion takes an overall agnostic position), Roland Boer (who discusses the origins of Jesus-myth thinking in German scholarship, in particular Feuerbach, Strauss, and Bauer, and concludes the quest for the historical Jesus is “somewhat futile,” and that “it is a good time to return to a more sceptical position,” taking mytho-political readings of texts like the Gospels more seriously again), Lester Grabbe (who summarizes the evidences for Jesus outside of Christian sources, far too briefly and uncritically to be of use in my opinion, nevertheless concluding that they are sufficient to confirm historicity), Niels Peter Lemche (who provides a brief summary of the history of hostility from even secular historians toward increasingly minimalist readings of the bible, which readings nevertheless tend to win out in the end, but the most I can make of his position is that hostility to Jesus-historicity-deniers is irrational, regardless of whether in the end they are wrong), and Emanuel Pfoh (who calls for more attention to how the literature of that period and region was actually composed, noting how mythic construction was far more commonplace than usually acknowledged, and he provides considerable support for Thompson’s whole project in The Messiah Myth; Pfoh’s own position on the historicity of Jesus is firmly agnostic).

With the exception of Grabbe, these essays are all interesting in respect to demonstrating agnosticism and skepticism are more common in the field than scholars like Ehrman would have us believe, and for filling us in on the history and logic of why. But none of them are essential reading, IMO.

Grabbe’s essay, by contrast, is not worth reading at all. It makes too many mistakes to be useful. For example, he says things like Tacitus is “the only Roman writer to mention Pilate (though we have confirmation of his existence from an inscription),” failing to mention that we have confirmation of his existence from his contemporary, Philo of Alexandria, as well as in the historian Josephus, who was, as a Roman citizen, a Roman writer. More importantly, Grabbe’s discussion of Whealey’s refutation of Pines on the Arabic of the Testimonium Flavianum (TF) is flawed to the point of being wholly useless. Whealey demonstrated that the Arabic derives from Eusebius, not Josephus, through a Syriac intermediary; she argues that this proves the manuscripts of Eusebius originally read differently than ours now do, which is implausible but a crucial point Grabbe misses, since he seems to think she argued that the Arabic derives from Josephus independently of Eusebius. In all, his entire treatment of Josephus is rendered obsolete anyway by my forthcoming article “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.4 (Winter 2012). His treatment of Tacitus and other authors is similarly weak, and unoriginal. I would recommend you simply buy and use Van Voorst on this subject, and ignore Grabbe.

Facts aren’t his only weakness, either. Grabbe’s conclusion that the “independent references to Jesus [in Tacitus and Josephus] make it very likely that such an individual existed and was known as the founder of the Christian sect” is simply illogical (such late attestations certainly would prove he “was known as the founder of the Christian sect,” but would not prove either author had any source independent of Gospel-influenced Christian tradition). His claim that “Tacitus probably obtained his information from a document or archival source” is given without argument or evidence (demonstrating how badly historicists struggle with even basic logic), and his claim that “Josephus’
source of information is more uncertain” is evidently made in ignorance of the demonstration that his source (or rather, that of the TF) is probably the Gospel of Luke: G.J. Goldberg, “The Coincidences of the Testimonium of Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative of Luke,” The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995), pp. 59-77. (The other reference in Josephus, to the death of James, was almost certainly never about Jesus Christ originally, but a completely different Jesus and James, as I demonstrate in “Origen, Eusebius, and Accidental Interpolation,” cited above.)

Part II: The Epistles of Paul

Part II has essays by Robert Price (who provides a very good précis of the Jesus myth theory, with an emphasis on the Epistles and their relationship to the Gospels), Mogens Müller (who argues the Epistles confirm a historical Jesus), and Thomas Verenna (who argues the contrary). These three essays are required reading for anyone who wants to examine the question of historicity in greater depth, especially to argue for or against historicity, as their arguments would have to all be taken into account in any such project.

There are points where I might disagree with Price or Verenna, but I agree their arguments need at least to be addressed before being dismissed. With regard to Müller, though, we can see the fatal flaws in his reasoning from his concluding summary alone:

If we only had the genuine letters of Paul, we would not know much about the earthly, not to say the ‘historical’, Jesus. We would know that, the night he was delivered, he held a Passover meal with his disciples, during which he instituted the Eucharist, that he died on a cross and was buried, but was believed to have risen from the dead. We would also know that he gave commandments (in spite of the evidence being very slender). [p. 127]

He here commits the fallacy of reading into the Epistles what we are told in the Gospels, which is a circular argument (presupposing the historical veracity of the Gospels, and thus the historicity of Jesus, in order to argue for the historicity of Jesus). For Paul never says Jesus’ last supper was taken “with his disciples” (nor even specifically that it was a Passover meal, even if it was understood as such), and Paul cites as his source a revelation direct from Jesus (1 Cor. 11:23, cf. Gal. 1:8-12 and 1 Cor. 15:3-8), not human testimony, and Paul appears to imagine Jesus talking to all Christians (through Paul) when inaugurating the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23-36). And that Jesus died, was buried, rose, and gave commandments is in agreement with the mythicist hypothesis (which is that all these things occurred in the heavens and were learned from revelation and scripture). Thus from these facts alone it is not possible to argue for historicity in any definitive way.

However, Müller did earlier reference the passages in which Paul mentions “brothers of the Lord” (one of them named James: Gal. 1:18-19; cf. also 1 Cor. 9:5), and that is and remains the best argument for historicity. Indeed, it is in my opinion the only argument for historicity that carries any significant weight (Verenna responds to it on pp. 157-58). But there are some other arguments from the Epistles that carry at least some prima facie weight that Müller does not much address, but which are presented in Gerd Lüdemann’s chapter on this same topic in Sources of the Jesus Tradition (though Lüdemann, unlike Müller, recognizes that 1 Cor. 11:23-26 is not a historical tradition). Though Müller’s chapter is a must-read (as much as Verenna’s and Price’s are), so is Lüdemann’s. For the Epistles are the main battle ground for Jesus myth theory, and thus consulting the best scholarship on their relevance to historicity is essential.

Part III: The Later Tradition

Part III has essays by James Crossley (who argues very effectively against Richard Bauckham’s attempt to claim that the Gospel of John is an eyewitness account of what really happened; Crossley defends the wider mainstream consensus, that the Gospel of John is a fabrication and of no use in reconstructing the historical Jesus), Thomas Thompson (who gives one extended example of what he argues for the whole of the Synoptic Gospels in The Messiah Myth: in this case, a detailed analysis of how the temptation narrative was invented and constructed and how it operates as allegory, in Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Ingrid Hjelm (who does the same for a couple of scenes in the Gospel of Luke), Joshua Sabih (who analyzes how the story of Jesus came to be transformed and interpreted in the Koran, intriguingly surveying a lot of recent scholarship on the question by Muslim or Arabic specialists), and K.L. Noll (who argues that the quest for the historical Jesus is a waste of time, because “even if a historical Jesus existed and made an effort to found a movement of some kind” this “is irrelevant to an understanding of the earliest social movements that evolved into the religion now called Christianity” [p. 233] and therefore we shouldn’t have to declare any definite opinion on the subject of the historicity of Jesus–Noll assumes historicity simply because it’s as convenient an option as anything else).

These chapters are valuable but not necessary reads. Crossley’s chapter, for example, is required reading for anyone who does not already find Bauckham’s thesis absurd on its face (requiring, as it does, that the miracles of Cana and Lazarus actually must have occurred!), but I suspect all sensible and informed people already find Bauckham’s thesis absurd. Nevertheless, if you want a definitive take down of it, this chapter is it. Likewise, even most historicists already concede the Temptation scene is myth, so Thompson’s chapter on it is not required reading, unless you want to see a good survey of the aims and methods behind its construction, which turn out to be the same aims and methods used to construct every entire Gospel (thus casting every scene in as much historical doubt as this one). And so on.

However, of these, I think Noll’s chapter is the most useful of all: he constructs his argument by proposing a very plausible model for how and why the Gospel Jesus came to be invented (in disregard for any historical truth about him, but nevertheless aiming to market what they said as historical truth) as a Darwinian strategy to win arguments (by inventing an authority figure to cite in defense of their claims), and then by showing how the Islamic development of the Hadith exemplifies exactly that model, providing a firm proof of concept. (Supplementing and supporting this part of his case is Robert Price’s development of the same analogy in Sources of the Jesus Tradition, pp. 109-17.) Anyone who has ever wondered, about the Jesus myth hypothesis’ proposed transformation from cosmic to earthly Jesus, “How could that have happened?” will want to read this chapter.

Conclusion

Is This Not the Carpenter? is an important example of what we need more of: serious scholarly examinations and debates on the historicity of Jesus and what methods to use in resolving it. It includes papers that for specialists are required reading on this topic, as well as others that are less required but nevertheless interesting and often useful, and only one of its chapters is too poor to have been included. It does not resolve the debate either way, and contains nothing definitive, but it shows the respectability of historical agnosticism and the possibility of alternative explanations of the evidence. But for it’s unreasonably high list price, I would recommend it to those who have a deep interest in the subject. Everyone else might want to wait for a more approachable, thorough, and consistent summary of the Jesus myth theory.


One Final Note: I am adamantly against the trend (which I see especially in Europe) to price books beyond the reach of almost anyone. I find this elitist, and an abrogation of the responsibility of scholars to communicate their findings to the public. If you can afford it, and want a complete collection on your bookshelf of the latest in historicity research, I still recommend acquiring this book, or at the very least formally asking your local university library to acquire a copy (and certainly click the link on Amazon for requesting a kindle copy from the publisher: European academic publishers also have a bug up their ass against digital distribution, and the more letters they get requesting they join the 21st century, the sooner they will).

But I hope in future publishers will see reason (and that scholars will select publishers who see reason) and price books to what they are actually worth, which in a case like this is no more than $50, and arguably should not exceed $40 (it’s only around 280 pages, after all). A list price of $110 is, in my opinion, an outrage. In a world where PODs can produce hard cover books for virtually nothing, a publisher is extremely inefficient if it has to charge that much, and extremely greedy if it doesn’t have to but does anyway. Either way, the fault is on them, and that needs to change. [NOTE: praise be to the faerie lords of Ka, the paperback has now come out at a reasonable list price of about $30.]

Comments

  1. Elle says

    Very interesting. Are you going to write a review of “Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity” too, since you cited it in your book?

    • says

      I wasn’t planning to. That isn’t a book on the question of historicity as such. It’s useful on that one point I cite it for, but no more than Porter and Avalos and everyone else I cite coming to the same conclusions.

    • Depressed says

      By the way, did Tom Verenna ever graduate?

      He doesn’t seem to have any scholarly credentials whatsover that I can find, but maybe they are there somewhere.

    • says

      I suspect (and this is just a suspicion) that this is a way to scam libraries. They know institutions are all but obligated to have works like this available, and can “afford” huge pricetags, so they pick a price that just about balances what they can get a library to pay with how much a library needs to have the book. Never mind that this screws over students (who thus have to pay higher tuitions to cover the library’s increased budget to pay for overpriced academic books). Greed screws everyone over. It is therefore not a virtue. But maybe Equinox is just massively incompetent and is incapable of competitively manufacturing a book.

      [Nevertheless, if the price significantly drops, or they release a cheaper edition, or anything like that, and anyone notices, do let us know here. I don’t keep tabs on that myself.]

    • Depressed says

      What this means is that the book won’t be of much use in the Freethinking arsenal, in the sense of being able to hand out or loan out extra copies.

      Atheist books are getting way too expensive, while guys like Stroebel and Vox Day sell cases of their stuff cheap.

      Which means, whatever you think of their stuff, more people are seeing it.

    • says

      That’s not a fair comparison. Plenty of excellent material matching and refuting Strobel et al. is cheap (indeed, plenty of it is free, being online).

      We shouldn’t confuse advanced scholarly literature with popularizations and mass market resources. Comparing items within those separate categories shows no significant difference between Christian and atheist literature (e.g. William Lane Craig has produced more than a half dozen books with list prices well over $100, e.g. just one of his two volumes on the ontology of time lists for $229!).

  2. wholething says

    I am convinced that the author of Luke/Acts used Josephus as a source and a muse. Paul being thought to be the Egyptian is the smoking gun, IMO. Luke gives the same wrong distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus. I suspect that the Emmaus story did originate in Luke however, but was probably written into Josephus as the TF after he died. The failure of Origen to mention the passage is at least weak evidence that the TF was not in the Alexandria copies of Josephus.

    Please overlook spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors as it is a challenge to type with just thumbs in a moving vehicle. Don’t worry, I wasn’t the driver.

  3. Andrew says

    Yes, the ridiculously high price ensures that few will actually get to read the book; thus it will have zero impact, and the Historical Jesus “Consensus” will continue on its triumphant paradigm parade.

    • says

      That’s part of the elitism thing, IMO. I suspect academic publishers (particularly in Europe) don’t consider “communicating with the public” to be a relevant goal. As far as they are concerned, only elite scholars need know about this work, and they will have access through their university libraries or lucrative salaries.

    • says

      I can vouch for the fact.

      (When this title was being planned years ago I was asked if I wanted to contribute, I responded that I required some compensation and would be willing to negotiate it, and the offer was withdrawn on account of the fact that no contributors would be paid. So I doubt any were. The editors probably will receive a standard royalty, split between them, although I wouldn’t be surprised if even that was industry minimum or less, and in any event it will be a pittance. It’s actually standard for academic anthologies to not compensate contributors. I have ways of getting around that, and usually do, but most academics don’t think like businessmen.)

    • says

      “It’s actually standard for academic anthologies to not compensate contributors.”

      Jesus! (So to speak.) I had no idea.

      Add that to the list of reasons I’m glad i dropped out of grad school.

    • says

      Just FYI, re: “It’s actually standard for academic anthologies to not compensate contributors,” the assumption is that all academics have high-salary professorships that require them to publish, and thus are in effect being paid to publish by their respective schools (and the book publishers can thus profit from that convenient arrangement).

      In the 21st century that antiquated notion is well outdated, as tenured professorships decline and less secure professorships and even low-paying, temp-hire instructorships gradually take their place. Likewise, the assumption that all academics will have a position is based on the antiquated elitist notion that there will always be more posts than Ph.D.s to fill them, which has not been the case for half a century. A huge number of Ph.D.s in all fields are now unemployed for lack of any position to fill, and as a result are either working independently or simply have left their field altogether. The academic publishing industry just hasn’t caught up to that reality.

      But it’s unclear they could do much about it. Anthologies earn so little in profit, even sharing with the contributors would do them little good. Most contributors are happy to let that go to the editors, who work a lot harder than them to bring the book to print. That’s why when I get compensated for an anthology, I always take on a lot of the editing work (uncredited) to justify my exceptional compensation. Many scholars would not care to do that and would rather just waive their take. For academics, anthologies are always a way to meet other goals than income.

    • F says

      Most all (or all) of the money always goes to the gatekeepers. Doesn’t matter which media industry in which you are producing. It’s worse than ever, since their business models have already mostly failed, and distribution can be done for next to nothing (zero marginal cost). These are the acts of publishers hanging on for dear life while shooting themselves in the foot. (They have always pretty much shot the content producers anyway.)

      In other words, William’s comment is entirely consistent with reality, and it would be the odd off-chance that he would be wrong.

  4. Steve says

    Many thanks for the review. Although I’m very interested in the historicity question, I think I’ll just wait for your own book to come out.

    I’m very disappointed in Grabbe – I really enjoyed his “Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It?,” and based on it wouldn’t have expected the kind of errors that you point out in his contribution to this book.

  5. cag says

    Any writing about Jesus as son of god must first establish irrefutable evidence for god. No god means no son of god. When building a house, the foundation is laid first, not the roof. As there has never been any real evidence for god, the only viable conclusion is that anyone claiming to be the son of god is a liar.

    • says

      That’s a misunderstanding of the debate. The debate is not really with Christian fundamentalists, but among secular scholars who all agree Jesus was not the “son of God” or anything supernatural. Most conclude he existed, but as an ordinary man with perhaps some exceptional charisma or ideas. The debate is thus over whether even that much is true. Historicists don’t need to even believe in God to maintain their position, so they have no need of establishing such a foundation.

    • Antonio Jerez says

      Your logical reasoning isn´t foolproof. The one claming be son of god or a person/persons claiming another person to be son of god may simply be deluded.

  6. Jean says

    Part II has essays by Robert Price (who provides a very good prècis of the Jesus myth

    I’m sorry to be nitpicking but you have the wrong accent here: it should be “précis”

  7. says

    I agree with you, Richard, about what Mogens Muller wrote, what’s shown in the section above regarding Paul’s epistles in this mix, which what Muller offered are the weakest things I can possibly imagine to bring as items that are in any way compelling in defense of the belief that a historical Jesus existed (of course a very different one from what the four Gopels portray, without question). I do believe in a historical Jesus myself however and have started a group page on facebook to compile items which are related to this topic. Thanks for this book review and I will post a link to it there.

  8. says

    Richard,
    Thanks for that. If the best argument for historicity lies in the Epistles, the writings of the Liar of Qumran who never even MET the man, then the historic Jesus Christ is in serious doo-doo. Link me to your argument about the ‘other’ James and Jesus in Josephus “death of James”, please.

    • F says

      It is cited in the article, as noted after the sentence where you read about the other Jesus and James.

      (The other reference in Josephus, to the death of James, was almost certainly never about Jesus Christ originally, but a completely different Jesus and James, as I demonstrate in “Origen, Eusebius, and Accidental Interpolation,” cited above.)

      Above:

      In all, his entire treatment of Josephus is rendered obsolete anyway by my forthcoming article “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.4 (Winter 2012).

  9. Marella says

    I will certainly go and push the button requesting a Kindle version as I no longer purchase books not in this format without a very pressing necessity. It was getting beyond a joke around here book-wise and I had to make a stand. It sounds like an interesting read though and maybe my university library will acquire a copy.

  10. SAWells says

    Ooh, this is going to make it really difficult for people to claim that no serious scholars doubt the historicity of Jesus. Can’t have that :)

  11. chrisj says

    The physical cost of producing a typical book (ie a cheap mass-market paperback, not a pricey textbook) is only about 10% of the cover price at the highest. It’s the other stuff – paying editors, copy-editors, proofreaders, typesetters, wholesalers, retailers, and so on, that makes a book expensive. (Fiction writer Charlie Stross wrote an excellent series of posts on this, which can be found here.)

    The big problem faced by academic publishers – especially in countries where students aren’t obliged to buy their own copies[1] – is that they need to worry about the price-demand curve in a way that doesn’t apply to fiction. Fiction publishers know that the occasional soaraway success can pay for a lot of underperformers. But academic publishers don’t, as a rule, expect to ever see a soaraway success, so they find themselves in a position where they need to be sure each book does actually cover its own costs. Which means that they say “this book will cost $10,000 to produce and distribute, and we’re guaranteed 100 sales, so we need to charge $100 per copy to break even”, because if they charge $20 and sell 10,000 copies that would be fantastic, but if they charge $20 and only sell 200 copies, people are likely to lose their jobs. If you could prove the market for a cheap edition, they’d love to print one, but they’re not going to do it until you can prove that that particular book will sell enough copies in that format to cover the costs.

    [1] which is to say, sane countries.

    • says

      That’s true, if they are keeping a lot of people employed at high salaries and really only expecting to move 100 units per every title, then that is indeed what they’d have to do. But my recommendation then would be for them to rethink what they are doing. Because I can fully produce and sell 100 units for a net capital cost of $100 at a list price of $30; and realistically, I routinely move thousands of units at that cost and price. They need to reexamine their business model.

      American academic presses have. They produce academic works at reasonable list prices and aren’t going out of business (the recession caused them to shrink, but that’s it). So why publish with Equinox or Rutledge, when you can publish with UC Press or Bucknell or Harvard? Even Prometheus can do it (The Empty Tomb, one of their worst sellers, I expect, will this year break even and thus even that paid for itself, all for a list price of $28, and that’s 545 pages, almost twice the content as Carpenter).

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    Lester Grabbe (who summarizes the evidences for Jesus outside of Christian sources, far too briefly…

    I think a summary of evidence outside of Christian sources is necessarily brief.

    • says

      Not that brief. Unless you just make a list of assertions about what the various conclusions are in the literature about each item, and then rely on a blizzard of endnoted citations to supply all the reasons for those assertions. (Although I must admit that would have been far more useful than what Grabbe did.)

    • gshelley says

      Probably depends on what you are willing to consider an extrabiblical source. For example, I don’t think a reputable book would include Mara bar Sarapion, other than to say some consider this as evidence, but that he doesn’t identify Jesus in the letter, he writes about a king, which seems unlikely and the other events he cites probably didn’t happen either. A less reputable book (such as Josh McDowell’s book I came across recently), might present it uncritically.

      Even if you only include the early sources that we have reason to think might be about Jesus and Christianity (essentially Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny), there can be plenty to say, especially if you are going to use them to support Jesus as a historical figure. At the least, you need to consider the arguments for and against them being genuine.

  13. scherben says

    Superb review; and I’m in total agreement about the price. I do believe that the contributors to this volume had no say in that particular matter, however?

  14. says

    Richard, thanks for the review! I definitely appreciate it and look forward to seeing some additional reviews within the coming weeks.

    Some comments on the price. First, neither Thomas Thompson or I set the price (as I’m sure you know, but just to keep everyone else in the loop here). Unfortunately it costs money to pay the copy-editor, to pay for press costs, marketing and distribution. I’m not sure why it costs so high for Equinox, but I can tell you that the cost is actually cheaper than the previous publishing house responsible for earlier works in this series (this is one of the reasons why Thomas Thompson switched to Equinox). I don’t like the high price either (and my percentage in any book sale is negligible–you don’t publish academically to make money), but there is some brighter news for some people.

    Amazon.com is likely to chop down the price at some point; In fact their market places in Europe and Canada have already slashed the price significantly (at one point they were as low as CDN$62 but now their at around CDN$85.38; the UK amazon site lists it at £55.25 but chances are it will drop there as well). Amazon usually chops down the prices better than competitors. So chances are good that Amazon will drop the price below what sites like The Book Depository are offering.

    Also, if the book does decent (and I believe I’m speaking more about the book reviews than the sales, per se), Equinox will put out a paperback version of this book (which will also drop the price significantly). Of course, there is no certainty that this will happen, but if it does that will make the book readily available to more people.

    Finally, anyone who has published with Equinox or one of their subsidiaries get a pretty substantial discount (35%). So if you happen to be one of those who have published with the company, the price for you is significantly different.

    That said, I do hope that a paperback book becomes available at some point and hopefully Amazon will drop the price more. Here is an excellent website to keep track of the price of this book (or any book) in competing markets: http://www.allbookstores.com/book/compare/1845539869

  15. says

    $110 for 288 pages is reminiscent of the prices for new editions of ancient Latin and Greek texts published by Oxford and Teubner. Although there are a few titles they sell for much less. Tarrant’s edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for example, published by Oxford in 2004. Maybe that’s one of a few titles they hope to sell to customers other than libraries.

    Chicken or the egg, though: couldn’t they, and Equinox, and Brill, for example, expect to sell many more copies if there prices were reasonable?

  16. Elle says

    By the way, Verenna has written a short paragraph on the price issue.

    “Some comments on this. First, neither Thomas Thompson or I set the price; the publisher is behind any price in this. And unfortunately it costs money to pay the copy-editor, to pay for press costs, marketing and distribution. I don’t like the high price either (and my percentage in any book sale is negligible–you don’t publish academically to make money), but there is some brighter news.
    Amazon is likely to chop down the price at some point; usually they chop off better than competitors, and right now the best price is the Book Depository–$82. So chances are good that Amazon will drop the price below that. Also, if sales are decent, Equinox will put out a paperback version of this book (which will also drop the price significantly). Of course, there is no certainty that this will happen, but if it does that will make the book readily available to more people.
    Finally, anyone who has published with Equinox or one of their subsidiaries get a pretty substantial discount (35%). So if you happen to be one of those who have published with the company, the price for you is significantly different.
    That said, I do hope that a paperback book becomes available at some point and hopefully Amazon will drop the price more.”

    http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/richard-carrier-reviews-is-this-not-the-carpenter/

  17. Scott P. says

    Richard,

    I am curious as to your opinion on the historicity of Mani, and whether you find the evidence for that to be stronger or weaker than the evidence for the historicity of Jesus.

  18. Laurence says

    As someone who works in an academic library, I can almost guarantee you the price is so high because they know that most academic libraries have to purchase books like this and can afford them. I’ll pass this along to my contact in our collections department to see if we can get it on our shelves. We already have Proving History on them.

    • says

      To be specific, Whealey refutes only Pines’ contention that the Arabic comes from a manuscript of Josephus independent of Eusebius. She proves, rather, that it derives from Eusebius (and so any theory of its contents must start from that premise and no other): Alice Whealey, “The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic,” New Testament Studies 54.4 (2008) pp. 573-90.

  19. Kilian Hekhuis says

    It’s not just publishers that have this crazy business model. I recall, years ago, when I was on a vacation on a Greek island, I took an excursion (which was reasonably priced) during which the excursion leader made a recording of it all. Afterwards, you could sign in for the tape (no DVDs back then), but he expected us to lay down $70 or the like. Needless to say, not many did, if any. I’m pretty sure had he priced it $10, everyone would have (it was a group of about 30 people).

    Another example: it’s common in the Netherlands for photographers specializing in child photography to offer their services in supermarkets; they do a small photo session with your children, and you get one photo for free, hoping you’ll buy the rest. However, they typically ask exuberant prices, like €5 for a single standard 10x15cm photo, and up to €60 for a 20×30 or slightly larger. Needless to say, I took the free photo and passed up the rest. Had the photos been more realisticly priced (say €1 for the small ones and €10 for the larger ones), I had bought them all! And I wasn’t the only one having that sentiment.

    • says

      And conversely, iTunes started selling songs for a dollar a pop and started a multi-billion dollar cash cow. Or for a more direct example: I earn more on kindle sales of my books than print (in quarterly total earnings). Even though they go for less than half the list price of print.

  20. Jim in AZ says

    I believe I have four of your works, all of which I bought through Amazon, and I don’t believe I paid $100 for all four (okay, maybe a bit more than that, I really can’t recall right now), but I received four books, not one.

  21. Steve says

    I’m really interested in reading your article in the Journal of Early Christian Studies about the Testimonium Flavianum and the Arabic version of Josephus. Do you know if it will be available for purchase (relatively cheap, I wish I could buy more scholarly articles but publishers make it too expensive for anyone not affiliated an institution) after it’s printed? If not will you present a synopsis of it’s arguments once it published, in this blog?

    I ask because I’m interested in learning more, so I can try and figure out if the whole TF was inserted by a christian editor or just parts of it were. I’ve heard about the Arabic Josephus but I don’t know enough about the scholarship behind it to make any concrete conclusions about that. I’ve read different authors that say the the Arabic ultimately derive from an authentic original Josephus, that it’s another interpolation, or as mentioned above that it comes from Eusebius. (I’ve also read somewhere that the TF was written by Eusebius) But they never seem to give a complete reasoning of why they take that position. I feel that I personally can’t make any carefully reasoned conclusion about the TF unless I can wrap my head about the scholarship of the Arabic version of Josephus. Especially since I’m a lay person with no college education/scholarship training in the subject.

    • says

      JECS is accessible through your local library (if they subscribe to MUSE you will be able to access an electronic version of the article when it is out; the issue my piece will be in is number 4, of volume 20, and currently not even number 3 has been published yet; alternatively, asking your librarian for an interlibrary loan can procure a xerox or sometimes a PDF for you for free or a nominal fee, but sometimes there are rules that prohibit that until a year or two has passed–you’d have to inquire, and in any case you still have to wait for the issue to go out).

      If you want to buy a copy of issue 20.4 of JECS, you have to contact the publisher for a quote (see information at the JECS website). Since they effectively sell whole volumes (four issues) for $50, I would guess a single back issue would be less, but based on my experience with other journals, expect to pay a minimum of $35 (if not more).

      If you want the key article on the Arabic version, which I only briefly summarize in my article, then you will want the Whealey article. See my post upthread and look up the NTS website for back issue ordering in that case (and for electronic library access, NTS is not I think in MUSE, but is in JSTOR, although they sometimes block access for a year or two after first release, so you’d have to look into that). And IMO, if you really want to get up to speed on the TF, then you should also get the magnificent article by James Carleton Paget, “Some Observations on Josephus and Christianity,” The Journal of Theological Studies 52.2 (October 2001): 539-624. You’d have to google around to see about options for getting that (although again I recommend just asking your local librarian to arrange an ILL copy of the article, which in this case would be easy, since it’s long past its pub date), but it is required reading on the TF. (It just has to be supplemented now by Whealey’s piece and mine.)

      As to a synopsis of my article, that will appear in my book next year, On the Historicity of Jesus Christ.

  22. ss123 says

    Anyone have good book recommendations for excellent sources of information about the historicity of Jesus. Preferably those with a Kindle version that contain no BS. Obviously Dr. Carrier has some, but was wondering about others as well.

    TIA

  23. otrame says

    Richard,

    I ran across an argument, the source of which I can no longer remember (sorry), that the twisting and downright lying needed to claim that the prophecies of a messiah included the phrase “and he shall be a Nazarene” means there was a guy from Nazareth who was the source of the Jesus legend. The idea is that if the whole Jesus thing was a fabrication then there was no need to claim Jesus was from Nazareth because there is, in fact, no such prophecy. Have you run across this idea? (I have read very little of the literature on the subject, partially because, as you mentioned, the cost of the literature is pretty high)

    I think the whole question is fascinating. I remain an ignorant agnostic nearly (but not quite) convinced that Jesus, in any identifiable form, never existed. But I also think that whether Jesus existed or not, the process by which a bunch of stories about a miracle working rabbi became a major world-wide religion tells us so much about human nature and power politics.

    • says

      Yes. That’s an idea that’s been around a while. See Proving History, pp. 142-45.

      However, the notion that there is “twisting and downright lying needed to claim” such a prophecy is conjecture, not fact. We know the Christians were using scriptures that no longer exist, and likewise variants that no longer exist of extant scriptures that do. So there could well have been exactly such a prophecy. Moreover, the epithet seems to have originated from some other meaning than his town of origin (all Christians were once called Nazarenes, even though obviously they were neither from nor based in Nazareth: Acts 24:5). I discuss the evidence and possibilities in PH. So even if prophecy was being twisted retroactively, it could have been because the epithet had long been attached to him and needed explaining, so a legend was developed to explain it, that he came from a similarly-named town (a common phenomenon called an etiological myth).

  24. otrame says

    As for the price of the reviewed book, what will happen is that in about a year, after all the libraries have paid full price, the publishers will drop the price to a reasonable level.

  25. says

    A proofreading remark, regarding just two little words, but important ones if I’m reading it right: In the second paragraph a sentence begins: “The introduction to the book[…]” As it now stands this is followed by “is alone.” Is it possible you meant to say “alone is” ?

  26. Lester Grabbe says

    Since Dr Carrier has given a completely misleading impression of my article, I thought I might make a few brief points:

    1. Thank you for the reference to Van Voorst. It was, unfortunately, unavailable when I did my research for the article. However, my practice is to go to primary sources as the basis of any research. It is also important to take account of secondary sources, but if you work from the primary sources, it is not usually a disaster if you overlook a secondary source.

    2. “Uncritical” is the typical sophomoric response of one who cannot refute the arguments of another. Of course, there are many uncritical studies in the scholarly literature–as I have often pointed out–but my article is not one of them. On the contrary, I critically analyzed every source and came to a considered judgment about its historical value for the question. You might disagree with my conclusions, but it is not because I was uncritical.

    3. Your attempt to show I made an ignorant mistake about Pilate is cheap and disingenuous, as a full quotation of the passage quickly shows:

    >Thus, it seems likely that Tacitus’ source is Roman. Tacitus
    >is the only Roman writer to mention Pilate (though we have
    >confirmation of his existence from an inscription). If Pilate
    >had reported to the Senate on the matter, this would likely
    >have been available in the senatorial archives.
    [Is This Not the Carpenter?, p. 59]

    My argument was about Tacitus, not Pilate. As for the alleged lack of knowledge about the facts, I examined and discussed all or almost all the primary references to Pilate and also listed the main recent secondary sources already 20 years ago in my Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (1992), pp. 395-97, 422-25.

    4. No, I didn’t take account of your article, “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josepehus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200”, since it has not yet been published. I’m afraid I’m not prescient.

    5. I think it highly unlikely that Josephus used Luke, and I think that few scholars of either Luke or Josephus would accept that proposition. (I also doubt that Luke used Josephus, though that is a possibility.)

    6. Even though you assure everyone that I am mistaken, on not less than two occasions, you also urge your audience not to read my article. Yet you devote about 25 percent of your entire review of the book just to my contribution. I am left with the distinct impression that you are afraid for people to read it.

    In conclusion, critical scholars will disagree with one another, which is fine–that’s part of scholarship. But they should present evidence and careful argument for their positions: chest-thumping and penis-waving will not substitute.

    Lester Grabbe

    • says

      Dr. Lester Grabbe:


      Thank you for the reference to Van Voorst. It was, unfortunately, unavailable when I did my research for the article.

      Van Voorst’s book was published in 2000. That’s twelve years ago. Honestly. You are making my point for me here. If your chapter is over a decade out of date, that alone is sufficient to establish it as worthless, when so many better and more recent summaries of the evidence are available. Like Van Voorst. Who is apparently “more recent” than your chapter.

      (Maybe Van Voorst used the same temporal warp the editors of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did to publish their book decades before it was written?)

      But since you cite Paget on Josephus (published in 2001) and Schäfer on the Talmud (published in 2007), I really can’t fathom how you missed Van Voorst. Much less Theissen & Merz (below).


      However, my practice is to go to primary sources as the basis of any research. It is also important to take account of secondary sources, but if you work from the primary sources, it is not usually a disaster if you overlook a secondary source.

      My own survey of the scholarship on these sources would suggest otherwise, where I have found many observations and facts I would not have known about had I just looked at the source materials alone. I agree we cannot be aware of everything (there is simply too much published). But when several handy guides have been published surveying the scholarship on the very passages you discuss, to ignore them is to render your work less useful than theirs. Hence we should ignore your work and look at theirs.

      Van Voorst is not alone. Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (1998, so almost fifteen years before your chapter was published), is another important example. But Van Voorst’s treatment of these materials is better than theirs, and far better than yours.


      “Uncritical” is the typical sophomoric response of one who cannot refute the arguments of another.

      Actually, it’s statements like that that are sophomoric.

      Your treatment of the evidence is largely credulous and asks few of the questions other examiners of this evidence have asked. That’s what it means to be uncritical. That is an accurate description of your chapter.

      One need only compare your treatment with Van Voorst’s to see what an adequately critical treatment of the evidence looks like (and I say that even though I disagree with many of Van Voorst’s conclusions–he at least treats the evidence with the detail of questioning and research it deserves, and that scholars interested in resolving this debate require).


      My argument was about Tacitus, not Pilate.

      I don’t see any relevance of that distinction to the point I made. To wit:


      Your attempt to show I made an ignorant mistake about Pilate is cheap and disingenuous, as a full quotation of the passage quickly shows:

      >Thus, it seems likely that Tacitus’ source is Roman. Tacitus
      >is the only Roman writer to mention Pilate (though we have
      >confirmation of his existence from an inscription). If Pilate
      >had reported to the Senate on the matter, this would likely
      >have been available in the senatorial archives.

      Your mistake was not telling readers that Pilate is confirmed to have existed in other sources as well (not just an inscription), and other Roman writers did mention him, even one of his contemporaries (and thus Tacitus is not “the only Roman writer to mention Pilate”). And Tacitus could have used them (Philo’s book on Pilate is lost, so we don’t know what was in it; likewise Pliny the Elder’s history of Rome would have mentioned any fire and persecution under Nero, if such were at all prominent). This is therefore a rather important point.

      It does not matter what you know, since readers are not telepaths. What matters is what your chapter says. The error is in your chapter. And that is a fact.

      As I also noted, you also don’t support your conclusion that Tacitus relied on government records. Even the notion that Pilate would report to the Roman senate on an everyday execution is unsupported by any evidence (despite being intrinsically improbable), the notion that such a record would still exist (even after the archives had burned in 64, when the capitol was destroyed, and 80, when the libraries of Rome were destroyed) is likewise unsupported by any evidence (despite being again for that reason improbable), and the idea that Tacitus would bother to spend days digging through thousands of crime reports supposedly in the state archives just to confirm what Christians told him, just to fill out a minor digression (when he would already have regarded what they themselves were saying as more than embarrassing enough to repeat unchecked, as he often did of salacious rumors) is likewise unsupported by any evidence (despite being, again, intrinsically improbable).

      Compare your treatment with Theissen & Merz, who examine three possible sources: Tacitus learned his information from Christians (directly or through his friend Pliny the Younger when some Christians were being rounded up in 110 A.D. and he and Tacitus were governing adjacent provinces and sharing correspondence in which Tacitus was known to ask his good friend Pliny for information to include in his histories–although, notably, even they do not mention all these important details), from earlier historians (Pliny the Elder would in that event be the most likely, but there were many to choose from), or from government records. They find that we can’t prove any of these hypotheses over the others (except that the content of the digression does not suggest the citing of an official record, as it has no hallmarks of such specificity, so they regard that as least likely). Contrast their treatment with yours: again, it proves my point.

      I myself would say the first hypothesis is substantially more probable, owing to the third being the least probable, and given that the second would entail someone else would probably (not certainly, but with some nonnegligible probability) have quoted or mentioned any coverage of Christians in earlier histories like Pliny the Elder’s (it’s hard to imagine Christians would have let such a valuable reference to Jesus, so close to his time, go unrecorded–or, if it was salacious, unrebutted, as then surely Christianity’s critics would have been using it–but above all, had Pliny the Elder discussed Christians in his history, his devoted admirer, nephew and adopted son Pliny the Younger would surely have read it and thus not have known nothing about Christians as he reports in his letter to Trajan in 110).

      This is the kind of information readers need, and that you don’t give, or discuss at all.


      As for the alleged lack of knowledge about the facts, I examined and discussed all or almost all the primary references to Pilate and also listed the main recent secondary sources already 20 years ago in my Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (1992), pp. 395-97, 422-25.

      So why isn’t this reference in your chapter?

      This is precisely the kind of thing I am talking about. That would have been a useful thing to include in your chapter. And it is precisely by omitting useful things like that, that your chapter becomes useless.


      No, I didn’t take account of your article, “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josepehus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200”, since it has not yet been published. I’m afraid I’m not prescient.

      First, note that I only said your “entire treatment of Josephus is rendered obsolete anyway” by my paper, not that you didn’t take it into account.

      But since you are now making a point of it, I will now inform my readers that I sent my paper to you in October of 2010 (in an early draft, but sufficient to have informed you of its findings). I sent it through the editors of Carpenter when I heard you were writing on the subject, and I confirmed personally that they had forwarded it to you (on or about the 20th or 21st of October, 2010). Now, perhaps it got lost in your spam folder. That’s happened to me on rare occasion. Which is why I didn’t make an issue of it in my article, since I didn’t know if you ever actually received it. But I mention it now to illustrate that you did not have to be prescient. Since except for what may have been a rare accident, you would have had the paper to examine well before publication. Just FYI.


      I think it highly unlikely that Josephus used Luke, and I think that few scholars of either Luke or Josephus would accept that proposition. (I also doubt that Luke used Josephus, though that is a possibility.)

      Have you read Goldberg?

      Your opinion is uninformed if you have not. And an uninformed opinion is of no use. That you think Goldberg argues “Josephus” used Luke is evidence of that. Goldberg does not even include that among the three hypotheses he considers: that a Christian wrote the TF (using Luke as their source); that Josephus and Luke used a common (Christian) source; and chance accident (i.e. that the agreements between Luke and the TF are a lucky coincidence).

      Goldberg leans toward the hypothesis that Luke and Josephus used a common source, in which scenario Josephus is its author, but Luke was not his source. But in support of this hypothesis Goldberg offers the James passage, but as I prove that was an accidental interpolation, that conclusion is removed. Goldberg offered it only as a speculation anyway. Indeed, the thesis requires, as he admits, that “it were true that Josephus did little but rewrite a concise narrative that had, so to speak, crossed his desk,” a narrative written by Christians as a creedal statement. It is inherently unlikely Josephus would do that. It is not inherently unlikely that a Christian forger would.

      His evidence therefore more strongly supports the whole TF being a creedal Christian construction inserted into the text of Josephus (even if it was subsequently altered again in later centuries, or not). He finds nineteen largely unique correspondences between Luke’s Emmaus creedal account and the TF, all nineteen in exactly the same order (with order and word variations only within each). He does confirm some narrative differences (which are expected due to the contexts being different and as a result of common kinds of authorial embellishment), and there is a twentieth correspondence out of order (identifying Jesus as “the Christ”). But otherwise, the coincidences here are very hard to explain. He also shows that the TF contains vocabulary and phrasing that is particularly Christian (indeed, Lukan) and un-Josephan (he rightly concludes that this means either a Christian wrote it or Josephus slavishly copied a Christian source). Indeed, these features are so very peculiar as to pretty much give away the game.

      His evidence is fairly convincing, IMO. And that was published in 1995. Nearly twenty years before your chapter went into print.


      Even though you assure everyone that I am mistaken, on not less than two occasions, you also urge your audience not to read my article. Yet you devote about 25 percent of your entire review of the book just to my contribution. I am left with the distinct impression that you are afraid for people to read it.

      This is silly. It is my job as a reviewer to inform readers what is worth their time to read. I found your chapter a waste of time, and thus refer readers to Van Voorst. Since I am not afraid of anything in Van Voorst, it would be silly to think your treatment is more frightening. Your treatment is just more credulous and illogical and less detailed and informed than his, and thus far less useful.

      Indeed, I think your chapter should be read in comparison to Van Voorst as an instructive example on how not to write chapters like that. But most people are more interested in the evidence and what to make of it than on how to write papers.


      But they should present evidence and careful argument for their positions: chest-thumping and penis-waving will not substitute.

      Which is ironically what you just did.

      I, by contrast, stated facts and gave examples verifying them (most of which you conveniently avoided responding to), and cited more scholars than just myself in support of my point.

  27. says

    Good morning Dr. Carrier! Hope you are fine and happy! I’ve had several people over the years tell me the “TF” was clearly FORGED by Eusebius & he had bragged that it is fine to lie for the faith. But when I spoke with Alice Whealey a couple of years ago, she informed me that charge about Eusebius was never said by Eusebius as best as she can tell (hope I remember this correctly) and there is NO “smoking gun” proof Eusebius forged the “TF”. It just a guess but a compelling one. Is that your understanding or do you have absolute proof that Eusebius forged the “TF” and inserted it into the Josephus passage?

    Dr. Whealey also told me that a few that have claimed to me that the fact Justin Martyr in 150 CE never mentioned the “TF” is proof that the passage didn’t exist in 150 are over stating their case. Dr. Whealey said when I spoke with her in California that there is NO proof in Justin’s genuine letters that he ever read or even heard of Josephus. I found that very surprising.

    I would say it’s likely that Justin had heard of Josephus but is it true there is NO absolute proof Justin had heard of Josephus and that Eusebius forged or created the “TF” from scratch..that it is just a guess that may have strong merit?

    BTW, Whealey told me her view is that Josephus likely wrote about Jesus being executed by Roman procurator Pilate and the passage was glossed (interpolated) only in part.

    But she said “likely”! Dr. Whealey is JUST GUESSING TOO!!:-( How can we know with absolute certainty? I’m tired of wondering about all this plus the origin of life:-) Maybe Fred Hoyle was right & life came from space (see his 1981 book “Evolution From Space” Dent) except Eusebius! He rode the “A” train. I’m pushing 70 I want to know the answers to these nagging questions with certainty before I join Hoyle, St.Paul & Josephus in the Twilight Zone.

    PS. When I was younger in the 1950’s, I really enjoyed Fred Hoyle’s many science fiction books! I just didn’t know that.. other than coming up with a wonderful paper (later confirmed by Willy Fowler in the lab)which won the Nobel Prize and demonstrated the elements, including carbon, come from inside stars rather than the big bang, most of his real science work was really science fiction:-) But old Fred was still a bright chap. He could do university level math when he was a kid and could navigate by the stars at age 10!! I once met an astronomer, Paul Davies, PhD, at a book signing in New York who did his PhD under Holye at Cambridge and heard some interesting stories about Hoyle and his fights with mainstream science. Maybe that is now YOU & the mainstream is New Testament scholarship!!!Full steam ahead by good man.

    • says

      I don’t believe Eusebius forged the TF. It’s possible, but his treatment of it (and the minor testimonium) suggests more likely he was clueless, not its creator. Eusebius did say he believed it was acceptable to lie for the greater good of spreading Christianity, but that general statement does not entail this particular case is an example of his doing this. I suspect the TF’s creator was more likely his predecessor Pamphilus or a scribe in his or Origen’s employ (since if Eusebius did not forge it, the forger is someone who had control of the manuscripts in Origen’s library between Origen and Eusebius, since the TF was not in Origen’s copy, yet was in his library’s copy of the Antiquities by the time Eusebius started using it). That said, there is still a non-negligible probability that Eusebius is indeed the forger. He is not ruled out as a suspect. He just doesn’t top my list.

      I’ve never heard an argument from the silence of Justin Martyr. The argument from the silence of Origen is very strong. Compounding that is not an argument from the silence from any specific author (like Justin) but of all authors of the period. If, for example, there were a 1 in 20 chance Justin would know of the TF if it existed and quote it, and likewise any 9 other authors from that century, then there is only a 60% chance we would have a mention from none of them. For example, if no mention of Jesus at all was in Josephus in 150 AD, then that would explain why Justin never references Josephus–he never says anything Justin would regard as relevant. Whereas in the TF were in Josephus, the probability is very high that this information would have been widely circulated among Christian intellectuals and Justin would then very likely know of it; and then would be very likely to have quoted it.

      Thus, on the assumption the TF was authentic, the probability of Justin knowing of it is much higher than 1 in 20. It’s probably nearer 1 in 3 or even (let’s be realistic) 2 in 3 (since how could such priceless information not have been widely circulated among the small cabal of Christian intelligentsia in the mid-second-century). But let’s say it’s 1 in 3 that any Christian intellectual would know of it, and 1 in 3 he would make use of it, for 1 in 9 chance of it being mentioned, and that there are 10 Christian authors of the whole second and early third century (excluding Origen, the probability for whom is as near to 100% as makes all odds, hence an argument from the silence of Origen alone is already strong). Then the probability of their uniform silence is only 31%. If the probability of knowledge is 2 in 3, and of mention is 1 in 3, then it’s 2/9, and the probability of uniform silence is barely 8%.

      And so on. You get the picture. Play with the numbers, and only unrealistic assumptions can make this probability at all high. Therefore, this uniform silence is already an argument against the TF. Adding Origen just makes it a slam dunk.

  28. says

    Hey Doc. How about changing “Eusebuis WROTE the A train” to “he RODE IN ON THE A TRAIN” I was trying to be cute when pondering the notion of Fred Hoyle, Francis Crick & others that life had it’s genesis in outerspace and not the earth… but Eusebuis RODE in on the “A” train. Get it? Maybe? Guess it’s not that funny after all now that I messed up the damn thing:-(

    Damn Eusebuis! Did he forge the TF in Josephus or as Wealey thinks is LIKELY, the TF was already there but read differently then. Then we have Gary Goldberg, PhD (actually an amateur Josephus scholar, his PhD is in physics) who has told me twice now via Email that Josephus & the unknown author of Luke copied from the same source material for the TF and a passage of Luke’s gospel…. & todays copies of Josephus contain a later changing (glossing) of the passage which makes it read as if Josephus himself believed Jesus was the Messiah! But Eusebuis didn’t do that ? Or did he? Or did he pen the entire damn TF? Who’s on first? What is the first baseman’s name! No what is the second baseman’s name!! It’s like being in the grocery store…so many makes to choose from and NONE can prove it with absolute certainty:-(

  29. afzal says

    ‘abrogation of responsibility’? that should be ‘abdication of’. I’m glad crossley’s taken bauckham tu task. about time.

  30. Thorsthen says

    Regarding the issue of Roman writers, even historians and translators say that Tacitus is the only Roman author to mention Pilate. Of course they then know about Philo and Josephus, but they are considered Jewish writers. I don’t think one can make to much out of this. It is not really an error – just different definitions of the word “Roman”.

    • says

      If they actually use it in that sense (although that is still terribly misleading to laymen, and inaccurate historically). But the examples I have adduced do not use it in that obscure sense: they actually use it in the sense of only mention (as I show from the context). Possibly this is telephone gaming: historians who use it not in that sense, are mistaken by other scholars as meaning it in that sense, and so we get silly statements like these, where we’re told the only evidence of someone’s historicity is a Roman writer. Even by people who know the truth, but forget about it until they are called out on their saying silly things like that.

  31. Elle87 says

    “Part III has essays by James Crossley (who argues very effectively against Richard Bauckham’s attempt to claim that the Gospel of John is an eyewitness account of what really happened; Crossley defends the wider mainstream consensus, that the Gospel of John is a fabrication and of no use in reconstructing the historical Jesus)”

    On the other hand, Crossley seems to have an unorthodox opinion about the date of Mark’s Gospel, saying it is probably contemporary or even antecedent to Paul’s letters.
    Any thoughts about that?

    http://www.amazon.com/Date-Marks-Gospel-Christianity-Testament/dp/0567081958/ref=la_B001HCXZ1G_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1357780059&sr=1-5

    • says

      My only thoughts about that are that his case is implausible. And if he thought in terms of realistic Bayesian probabilities, he might notice that. There are a lot of possibiliter fallacies in his argument, for example (for a discussion of that fallacy in general: Proving History, pp. 26-29). At best he can only get a “maybe” it was written then, not a “probably” it was.

      He uses demonstrably false premises, too. As just one example: that Torah observant Christianity didn’t exist after the Jewish war. That’s not true. It continued even into the fifth century (Epiphanius attests to it), but is well-enough evidenced at the end of the first century (the book of Revelation was unmistakably written during the reign of Domitian, yet was written in defense of Torah-observant Christianity; likewise the book of Matthew). See Sim’s The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community.

      Indeed, Crossley’s case not only ignores evidence, it’s circular: Mark’s Gospel itself is evidence of polemic against Torah-observant Christianity (to which Matthew was the response of Torah-observant Christians). To say there was no post-war evidence of that requires presuming Mark (and Matthew!) was written before the war, yet that is precisely the conclusion he is trying to reach.

      For comparison, an equally good case can be made that Mark was written after the Bar Kokhba revolt, and thus in the late 130’s. Using much the same fallacies and approaches to the evidence, in each case based on inferences and assumptions no less probable than his.

      Crossley is just giving us more of the same flawed methodology plaguing the whole field that I and others take all Jesus historians to task for (as I document in chapter one of Proving History).

      They really need to start learning about logical fallacies and how to detect and thus purge them from their own arguments, and how to think of all their inferences and assumptions in terms of relative probabilities and likelihoods instead of leaping from assumption to conclusion at every step.

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