Quantcast

«

»

Oct 23 2012

Historicity News: Changing Tides

This is the last of three posts covering news in the historicity-of-Jesus debate (for the first see Thallus et Alius and for the second see Notable Books). Here I will discuss two significant developments in the Jesus historicity/mythicism debate, and one more tangentially related.

The biggest news is that the renowned biblical historian and New Testament expert Thomas Brodie (author of The Birthing of the New Testament [2004] and Director of the Dominican Biblical Centre, in affiliation with the University of Limerick, Ireland) has just come out as a Jesus mythicist. He has a new book that explicitly argues that Jesus never historically existed: Thomas Brodie, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: A Memoir of a Discovery (published by the respected academic press Sheffield-Phoenix). This is a huge development. His conclusion: “it is already possible and necessary to draw a conclusion: it is that, bluntly, Jesus did not exist as a historical individual.” Certainly I will review this book as soon as I receive a copy and get through it.

At the same time, Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, England, published an article with the online journal The Bible and Interpretation, entitled “Did Jesus Exist?,” in response to Bart Ehrman’s book of the same title (which my more avid readers will know I tore up as a total hack job) and the opposing view represented in Thompson & Verenna’s Is This Not the Carpenter? and the subsequent mistreatment of Thompson over this. Davies affirms that he believes in the historicity of Jesus. But he is alarmed by Ehrman’s rhetoric and his implied threats against the professions of anyone who would dare question the historicity of Jesus, and the treatment of Thompson in particular (most chilling given how all this had happened to Thompson before, in the most appalling way: see my next news item below).

Davies writes:

Ehrman’s response to Thompson’s The Mythic Past shows (if it needed to be shown), not that the matter is beyond dispute, but that the whole idea of raising this question needs to be attacked, ad hominem, as something outrageous. This is precisely the tactic [the Old Testament] anti-minimalists tried twenty years ago: their targets were ‘amateurs’, ‘incompetent’, and could be ignored. The ‘amateurs’ are now all retired professors, while virtually everyone else in the field has become minimalist (if in most cases grudgingly and tacitly). So, as the saying goes, déjà vu all over again.

And then concludes:

I don’t think, however, that in another 20 years there will be a consensus that Jesus did not exist, or even possibly didn’t exist, but a recognition that his existence is not entirely certain would nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability.

Davies defends Thompson’s work on this matter, and argues the whole debate should be taken seriously and not condemned as the work of amateurs. He acknowledges that in fact the evidence for historicity is rather weak and extremely problematic, and not at all cut-and-dried, and in no way warrants the kind of rhetoric coming from the likes of Ehrman. He says, in fact, that admitting it’s possible Jesus didn’t exist is the only way the field can maintain academic respectability.

This is almost as huge a development, as Philip Davies is a renowned scholar and (now emeritus) professor specializing in Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls (author of Behind the Essenes: History and Ideology in the Dead Sea Scrolls [1987] and Scribes and Schools: The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures [1998]). It is a major turn of events for someone like him to admit that doubting the historicity of Jesus is respectable, and that the rhetoric coming out against it from the likes of Ehrman is an appalling redux of the same nonsense minimalists suffered through in the 70s, high on hyperbole and dogmatism, low in humility, and more concerned with attacking the qualifications of its advocates than actually interacting honestly with their arguments. Amen.

Combine this with Brodie’s defection to mythicism, alongside Thompson’s, and (like Thompson’s) the publicly professed “historicity agnosticism” of Arthur Droge, professor of early Christianity at UCSD, and Kurt Noll, associate professor of religion at Brandon University, and Ehrman’s argument that only amateurs and outsiders take the Jesus Myth theory seriously is now in the dust. There is still, certainly, a litany of crank and amateur mythicist nonsense. But there is also a serious case to be made, by serious and well-qualified scholars. And they need to be paid attention to, not dismissed and mistreated, their arguments straw manned or ignored.

Lastly, Thomas Verenna also just published an article for The Bible and Interpretation, “On Academic Integrity and the Future of Biblical Studies in Confessional Institutions” (October 2012), discussing a recent blowup in the academic community over the attempt to censor (indeed, to materially punish) a noted scholar of biblical antiquity (Christopher Rollston) merely because he made a well-reasoned and well-researched argument that some of his colleagues didn’t like–namely, that the Bible marginalizes women in a way that is not an admirable “biblical value” we should want to follow (a shocking notion, apparently, to some of his Christian peers). His article makes many progressive statements about the struggle for women’s equality as well as very interesting scholarly observations about the Biblical text: see Christopher Rollston, “The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About,” Huffington Post (8/31/2012).

So here we have a poignant current event touching on institutional sexism (a problem of recent interest here) and academic freedom (the latter of relevance to the historicity debate). Thomas Verenna gives more than just this latest example of the use of the ad baculum fallacy by religious academic institutions to keep scholars in line. It’s deplorable. We certainly don’t want secular scholars using the same tactic. For further links and discussion on the Rollston affair, see Verenna’s blog [here] and [here].

It’s also worth reading Thomas Thompson’s past account of how vicious the deployment of this fallacy was in the 1970s against his work establishing the ahistoricity of the biblical patriarchs (which is just one step away from Jesus mythicism), exhibiting a good series of examples of how scholars across the board can try to destroy your career (tactics that every scholar knows can be used against them now if they should admit to the ahistoricity of Jesus, for example, which can explain why so few have weighed in on the debate publicly–in fact I would take good note of every detail of his story, for example how even institutions can be punished for supporting an unpopular scholar, and thus can be intimidated against hiring them: the same could be done again). And yet now (as Davies pointed out) Thompson’s view is more or less mainstream (just read The Bible Unearthed). Jesus Mythicism could one day follow in the same footsteps. But maybe not for lack of attempts to prevent it. Let’s see.

32 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Enopoletus Harding

    the ahistoricity of the biblical patriarchs (which is just one step away from Jesus mythicism)

    -Really? One (Jesus) is mentioned in a non-biblical source less than a hundred years after his supposed death. The others (the Patriarchs) are mentioned in non-biblical sources over a thousand years after their supposed deaths. A length of time over a thousand years is, in my opinion, quite a large step.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      Not really. You over-estimate the evidential significance of a time gap. By your reasoning, we should believe the Roswell flying saucer and alien bodies were real because there are corroborations of these details in print within just 40 years.

      What we want to know is not how much time lapsed (even Moses could have been fabricated within a generation of his alleged existence, if anyone had thought of it then) but how improbable the evidence we have is, given the competing hypotheses (historicity and ahistoricity).

      When you understand this, you see why it puts OT minimalism just one step away from NT minimalism: that of establishing an insufficient difference in those improbabilities favoring historicity (which would entail agnosticism), or even a difference that favors ahistoricity (which would entail some form of Jesus mythicism is, to some degree, more likely than historicity).

  2. 2
    Elle87

    I know this has little to do with historical matters, but…

    There is something that bugs me in these recent works concerning historicity that you mentioned, expecially about Crossan and Brodie’s arguments, at least according to their amazon description. They seem to claim that, even if the gospels are proved to be mostly (if not completely) ahistorical, even if it is likely that Jesus did not exist as an individual, being a Christian is still possible. Which I suppose would mean going back to the very first interpretation of Christianity, a religion completely based on revelation and scripture(according to the hypothesis you have expressed in the past).

    While I acknowledge this might be possible, I think there are at least two issues. First of all, most apologists, priests and lay christians take historicity for granted and consider the fact that Jesus physically came back from the dead to be fundamentally important. Secondly, this would essentially destroy the argument I (sometimes) hear from believers about Christianity being “superior” to other religions because God decided to be physically part of human history; basically this would make it no more “plausible” than the other thousands of beliefs that do not involve an incarnated God directly involved in human history.

    All in all, this would seem like some kind of post hoc rationalization. I don’t know how many christians would be willing to accept it.

    1. 2.1
      Richard Carrier

      You are quite right. This is “liberal theology,” of a sort already well refuted by Hector Avalos in his relevant sections of The End of Biblical Studies.

      Notably, Kurt Noll’s argument (in Is This Not the Carpenter) for why Jesus was historicized in the first place, is also why he “needs” to be historical even now: because if he’s not, then the entire foundations of every sect’s claim to authority is destroyed; and just anyone with any interpretation of scripture or new revelation of Jesus has the same authority as any priest or scholar or governing council.

      Churches cannot abide that. They couldn’t then; and they can’t now. Instead, just as they did back then, churches today fabricate the historical Jesus they need to have existed. And that only maintains the veneer of respectability if historicity as such is beyond doubt.

    2. 2.2
      Nathanael

      There are churches which could abide that. After all, the Unitarian Universalists already declared that everyone was going to heaven, and then concluded that that meant that every religious tradition was equally worthy of study, most of them decided that everything in the Bible was mythical long ago, and so they have ended up in a position where their authority depends not at all on claiming to have unique accuracy.

      But yeah, I’m picking nits and coming up with outliers.

  3. 3
    Mark Erickson

    So, what are your personal thoughts, desires and/or prospects at joining the academy officially?

    1. 3.1
      Richard Carrier

      I’m not against it. And I do apply for local jobs as they come available. But I have my reservations. I just hope I’ll be free to voice them.

  4. 4
    ABCXYZ

    Dr. Carrier, I’ve been meaning to ask you this. Assuming that Jesus existed, what historical reconstruction of him do you think is most likely? Revolutionary Zealot? Apocalyptic preacher? Cynic sage? Essene? Some combination of these? Something else altogether?

    1. 4.1
      Richard Carrier

      I don’t think we can recover any useful knowledge about a historical Jesus, even if there was one.

      The Gospels are complete fabrications, and the Epistles say nothing about the man’s words or activities when he was alive. The Jesus that launched the church was a revealed being (as Paul repeatedly says); thus even if he existed, everything we “know” about him comes not from that man, but from the post-mortem hallucinations (feigned or real) of his “followers” (and we’re not even sure in what way or to what extent they were his “followers” before that, since no one in the Epistles ever talks about what happened before his death).

      I used to think the Apocalyptic Prophet thesis was the most likely, only for the reason that all the others had even weaker evidence to stand on. But now I know even that is based on apocalyptic revelations, and thus even that can’t be reliably linked to a historical Jesus even if we confirmed there was one. At best we can say “maybe.” Which is pretty useless.

    2. 4.2
      Nathanael

      Even the Sayings Gospel appears to be mostly rehash of sayings which are even older.

      I’ve always wondered where the extreme hostility to divorce came from, though.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Nathanael: I’ve always wondered where the extreme hostility to divorce came from, though.

      If I were to speculate, I would guess it’s connected to the pervasive hostility to sexuality that characterizes the entire early Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s how it is framed in the Gospels: divorce is okay until you start banging someone else, then it’s dirty filthy adultery. So, evidently, it was women having multiple partners that disgusted them (likewise men, but there was always much less shaming of serial monogamy among men, so really the sense of equality of outrage there was half-hearted).

      There was also the notion that what God unites, man cannot disunite; so as marriage became a “mystery rite” (i.e. a sacrament) it became problematic to allow divorce, since that flew in the face of their theology, and since the theology was more important, liberty had to go whenever it was in conflict with it.

      Remember, religious morality is not based on a principle of harm reduction. It’s based on a principle of not angering god. Thus the utility or justice of divorce was not a factor to them. That it offended god was all that mattered; just like picking up sticks on Saturday for the Jews. No connection whatever with social utility or harm reduction or any sane principle whatever. Just a random superstitious taboo that separated “us” (the goodies) from “them” (the baddies).

  5. 5
    sawells

    I had no idea that the historical reality of patriarchs like Abraham was still a respectable position until so recently. That’s scary.

  6. 6
    lpetrich

    Interesting news. I find it remarkable that some reputable Biblical scholars in academia are willing to take Jesus mythicism seriously.

    Why might that be? Could it be recognition that over a century of historical-Jesus questing has yielded very confusing results? If most of what we have on Jesus Christ is hard to distinguish from his early followers’ imaginations, then could it be that there was no historical one there? Or if there was, then could it be next to impossible to learn anything about him?

    1. 6.1
      Richard Carrier

      Your speculations have merit, IMO.

    2. 6.2
      lpetrich

      To expand on that, I’ve found Against Mythicism: A Case for the Plausibility of a Historical Jesus – Butterflies and Wheels – someone who compares Jesus Christ to Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, who was turned into a messiah figure by the Rastafarians of Jamaica. A messiah figure who had almost nothing in common with the real Haile Selassie, someone who was very well-documented by ancient-history standards.

      I think that if one’s case for historicity rests on comparing Jesus Christ to Haile Selassie, then one is conceding that the Gospels are a *very* poor source.

      BTW, I’ve discovered that Wikipedia’s contributors have created a List of people who have been considered deities – a rather big one, even with it having several groups of deified people, like Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese emperors, etc. Jesus Christ is also in that list.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Indeed. I like that Haile Selassie analogy so much I even quote it and cite it in my next book. It’s a good example of why mythicists need more arguments than just “the Gospels are myth.” But it also shows why historicists are really straining credulity when they try to argue for historicity from the myths in the Gospels. If all we had were the myths about Haile Selassie, we simply would not know whether he existed or not.

  7. 7
    extian

    Dr. Carrier, I realize this is probably old news, but have you checked out the Wikipedia page on the historicity of Jesus? It’s chock full of many questionable assertions, including the use of Josephus and Tacitus as evidence for the historical Jesus and describing Jesus’ baptism and execution as undeniable historical events. Any chance you could get your hands on that page to offer some balanced perspective?

    1. 7.1
      Richard Carrier

      Anything I did to it would get deleted with claims of me being a biased meddler. Someone who doesn’t have a polarizing reputation would have to do it. And even they would have to spend all the necessary time fighting the deletions and reversions and arguing for their edits in the talk section. It would probably take several months of concerted effort to effect any real changes on that page. I am all for anyone who is honest and balanced taking on that task. I just don’t have the time or patience for it anymore myself.

  8. 8
    Jacob Aliet

    Thanks for this summary Richard.

  9. 9
    shadowspade

    Thank you for this summation Dr. Carrier. I have admired your work for some time. Living in a very heavily religious area I often get into debates about the historicity of Jesus with friends and family. They are all shocked to learn that we have no contemporary sources about Jesus. What fascinates me is that when they learn this these heavily religious people quickly retreat to a position of “well it was a tiny sect and Jesus wasn’t well known and nobody paid any attention to him.”

    What strikes me as odd about this is that if you truly believe in the Gospels, well then you have to believe Jesus did some very amazing thing and the idea that these miracles weren’t written down boggles the mind. I know this is a strained analogy but I often compare Jesus to Superman. I mean if you take away Superman’s strength, invulnerability, flight, super vision and super hearing well; what’s the point? If you take away all of Jesus’s notoriety, if you say he was just a small time rabbi who did nothing really remarkable; what’s the point?

    I bring this up because I see this in the Christian apologists all the time. When they finally have to admit there are no contemporary sources they always go back to the idea that maybe Jesus was just this little known rabbi that only a few people followed, which to me nullifies their entire argument anyway.

    1. 9.1
      Richard Carrier

      Indeed. That’s a point well worth hitting repeatedly. The “little known Jesus” only makes sense for secular historians. It makes zero sense for people worshiping him as God.http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

  10. 10
    ptolemy

    Jesus who? Who was the son of god and king of kings? Who was the ONLY biological son of the deified Julius Caesar? Who was the combined legacy of Alexander the great soter/savior and Julius Caesar? Who was Ptolemy XV (Caesarion)? Who was Caesarion’s son/heir?

    Jesus = Messiah/Redeemer = Savior/Soter
    Christ = good/anointed King/Pharaoh/Caesar

    Jesus Christ = Savior King = Soter Caesar = Ptolemy XV (Caesarion)

  11. 11
    Geoff R.

    This is the kind of assertion that makes me often leery of even the best accredited questioners of Jesus the rabbi’s historicity:

    “the Epistles say nothing about the man’s words or activities when he was alive. The Jesus that launched the church was a revealed being (as Paul repeatedly says); thus even if he existed, everything we “know” about him comes not from that man, but from the post-mortem hallucinations (feigned or real) of his “followers” (and we’re not even sure in what way or to what extent they were his “followers” before that, since no one in the Epistles ever talks about what happened before his death).”

    There are, in fact, at least nine references to Jesus’s normal human activities in the seven authentic Paulines that have survived. Sure, one can erect rickety arguments against one ref. here or another one there, etc. But by the time, one has fashioned nine objections to all nine refs., we are flirting with a level of coincidence that really seems less probable than not and stubs its toe against the principle of Occam’s Razor (sp.?). I could easily — so could a number of other fellow skeptics as well — give a readout of all nine refs. to a normal human Jesus’s human activities in the authentic Paulines (I have them ready to copy/paste from my hard disk). But I’m hoping that won’t be necessary. Being a serious scholar, I’m hoping we can skip all that and tackle the elephant in the living room here: Why does someone as knowledgeable as you compromise the credibility of your position by saying stuff like “nothing about the man’s words or activities when he was alive”, when you know there are precisely such refs. extant in the authentic Paulines after all?

    Geoff R.

    1. 11.1
      Richard Carrier

      There are, in fact, at least nine references to Jesus’s normal human activities in the seven authentic Paulines that have survived.

      No, there aren’t. All are reported as known by revelation. None are reported as witnessed by anyone normally. Or even reported to have occurred on earth.

  12. 12
    Geoff R.

    Oh? I don’t see anything the least bit “revelatory” in any of these ten references:

    1) Jesus the human rabbi born into a Jewish family of a Jewish mother:
    Galatians 4:4 — born of a woman, born under law.

    2) Either an emblematic way of saying that Jesus the rabbi was of David’s people, i.e. of Jews, or a reference to an actual bloodline:
    Romans 1:3 — who as to his human nature was a descendant of David.

    3) Jesus the rabbi born into a family with at least two brothers, one of them named James.
    Galatians 1:19 — I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.

    4) 1 Corinthians 9:5 — Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

    5) Jesus the rabbi preaching that a wife could not leave her husband:
    1 Corinthians 7:10 — To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.

    6) Jesus the rabbi preaching that those who taught the gospel should earn their living from it:
    1 Corinthians 9:14 — the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

    7) Jesus the rabbi maintaining a humble station in life:
    Phillipians 2:7 — being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

    8) Jesus the rabbi instituting a custom of memorializing his time with them through bread and drink:
    1 Corinthians 11:23 — The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
    24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
    25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    9) Jesus the rabbi being nailed:
    1 Corinthians 2:8 — None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

    10) 1 Thessalonians 2:14 — You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
    15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

    Beyond the obvious human references here, it is bizarre to discount one reference for this reason, but another for that reason, etc., until ultimately the absurdity of discounting all ten for different individual reasons stubs its toe on the principle of Occam’s Razor. If you’re that gung-ho to discount each one, you have to come up with a parsimonious reason to dismiss all ten as a group. Otherwise, you’re not being serious. These are in fact blatantly human references throughout and you’re being evasive when you claim they aren’t. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go through an umpteenth dreary exercise of going through all ten. But evidently, we have to.

    Geoff R.

    1. 12.1
      Richard Carrier

      1) Jesus the human rabbi born into a Jewish family of a Jewish mother:
      Galatians 4:4 — born of a woman, born under law.

      Paul himself says that’s an allegorical woman. Read the text.

      2) Either an emblematic way of saying that Jesus the rabbi was of David’s people, i.e. of Jews, or a reference to an actual bloodline:
      Romans 1:3 — who as to his human nature was a descendant of David.

      No reference to his assuming Davidic flesh on earth. That he incarnated in Davidic flesh is already the Doherty thesis. There is no mention of a bloodline or even having a father (much less his father’s name). All that is mentioned is that he was “made of” Davidic sperm (the verb conspicuously is not “born” but “made”; later scribes tried changing it because that disturbed them, but we caught them in the act).

      3) Jesus the rabbi born into a family with at least two brothers, one of them named James.
      Galatians 1:19 — I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.

      All baptized Christians were the Lord’s brother (I have extensively cited the passages proving this). There is no reference here to biological kinship, or to any of these people having known Jesus in life or by any other means than revelation. Try as you might, you’ll never find any such discussion or reference anywhere in Paul.

      4) 1 Corinthians 9:5 — Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

      Again, all baptized Christians are brothers of the Lord.

      5) Jesus the rabbi preaching that a wife could not leave her husband:
      1 Corinthians 7:10 — To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.

      Paul receives the teachings of the Lord by revelation (2 Cor. 12, Gal. 1, etc.). No reference to Jesus having said this in life to anyone. Indeed, conspicuously, this teaching can only have been received after the controversy it addresses arose, so in this case no living Jesus could have said it. Paul clearly just had a convenient revelation to suit this new question asked of him (since evidently no one had heard this command before Paul here delivers it), just like the prophets of Mormonism do.

      6) Jesus the rabbi preaching that those who taught the gospel should earn their living from it:
      1 Corinthians 9:14 — the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

      No reference to having received this command (or any other) by any other means than revelation.

      7) Jesus the rabbi maintaining a humble station in life:
      Phillipians 2:7 — being made in human likeness.
      8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

      No reference here to any of this occurring on earth or being witnessed by any human at the time.

      8) Jesus the rabbi instituting a custom of memorializing his time with them through bread and drink:
      1 Corinthians 11:23 — The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
      24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
      25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

      You skipped the line immediately before where Paul says Jesus told him this (he received it directly from the Lord). Which can only mean by revelation, as Paul did not know Jesus otherwise.

      9) Jesus the rabbi being nailed:
      1 Corinthians 2:8 — None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

      No reference here to these being earthly rulers. Rulers of this Age is a known epithet for Satan and his demonic forces.

      10) 1 Thessalonians 2:14 — You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
      15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

      Well known as an interpolation. Paul never wrote it. As most mainstream scholars agree.

  13. 13
    Geoff R.

    1) Jesus the human rabbi born into a Jewish family of a Jewish mother:
    Galatians 4:4 — born of a woman, born under law.

    Paul himself says that’s an allegorical woman. Read the text.

    =========================

    [G.R.] O.K.

    =========================

    2) Either an emblematic way of saying that Jesus the rabbi was of David’s people, i.e. of Jews, or a reference to an actual bloodline:
    Romans 1:3 — who as to his human nature was a descendant of David.

    No reference to his assuming Davidic flesh on earth. That he incarnated in Davidic flesh is already the Doherty thesis. There is no mention of a bloodline or even having a father (much less his father’s name). All that is mentioned is that he was “made of” Davidic sperm (the verb conspicuously is not “born” but “made”; later scribes tried changing it because that disturbed them, but we caught them in the act).

    ==========================

    [G.R.] That is one interpretation. The passage does not preclude Paul’s merely using this way of speech to designate a simple Jew without a literal lineage.

    ===========================

    3) Jesus the rabbi born into a family with at least two brothers, one of them named James.
    Galatians 1:19 — I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.

    All baptized Christians were the Lord’s brother (I have extensively cited the passages proving this). There is no reference here to biological kinship, or to any of these people having known Jesus in life or by any other means than revelation. Try as you might, you’ll never find any such discussion or reference anywhere in Paul.

    4) 1 Corinthians 9:5 — Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

    Again, all baptized Christians are brothers of the Lord.

    ==============================

    [G.R.] So why does Paul make a distinction between “apostles” versus “Lord’s brothers”?

    ===============================

    5) Jesus the rabbi preaching that a wife could not leave her husband:
    1 Corinthians 7:10 — To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.

    Paul receives the teachings of the Lord by revelation (2 Cor. 12, Gal. 1, etc.). No reference to Jesus having said this in life to anyone.

    ========================

    [G.R.] And no reference to this saying having been received by revelation either.

    =========================

    Indeed, conspicuously, this teaching can only have been received after the controversy it addresses arose, so in this case no living Jesus could have said it. Paul clearly just had a convenient revelation to suit this new question asked of him (since evidently no one had heard this command before Paul here delivers it), just like the prophets of Mormonism do.

    6) Jesus the rabbi preaching that those who taught the gospel should earn their living from it:
    1 Corinthians 9:14 — the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

    No reference to having received this command (or any other) by any other means than revelation.

    ==========================

    [G.R.] And no reference to this saying having been received by revelation either.

    ==========================

    7) Jesus the rabbi maintaining a humble station in life:
    Phillipians 2:7 — being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

    No reference here to any of this occurring on earth or being witnessed by any human at the time.

    ===========================

    [G.R.] And no reference to this having occurred in Doherty’s unsubstantiated “sub-lunar” realm either!

    ===========================

    8) Jesus the rabbi instituting a custom of memorializing his time with them through bread and drink:
    1 Corinthians 11:23 — The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
    24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
    25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    You skipped the line immediately before where Paul says Jesus told him this (he received it directly from the Lord). Which can only mean by revelation, as Paul did not know Jesus otherwise.

    ============================

    [G.R.] O.K.

    ============================

    9) Jesus the rabbi being nailed:
    1 Corinthians 2:8 — None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

    No reference here to these being earthly rulers. Rulers of this Age is a known epithet for Satan and his demonic forces.

    ============================

    [G.R.] Only one interpretation. There’s no indication that these aren’t earthly rulers either.

    ============================

    10) 1 Thessalonians 2:14 — You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
    15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

    Well known as an interpolation. Paul never wrote it. As most mainstream scholars agree.

    ===============================

    [G.R.] O.K.

    A pretty good haul. Now, even if we do discount #s 1, 8 and 10, you have not come up with a single strong parsimonious reason for discarding all the remaining seven as a group. Absent such a parsimonious reason, these above speculations become just glorified special pleading. Maybe one can discard one of these, or two, or maybe even three(!) for separate reasons. But seven?! That’s why parsimony is urgently needed here if you wish to make a good case. I don’t see parsimony here. What’s the single parsimonious reason for discarding all remaining seven? These seven references as a group make it more rather than less likely that an historic entirely human Jesus lies at the back of the seven authentic Paulines. That’s the most parsimonious conclusion.

    Geoff R.

    1. 13.1
      Richard Carrier

      The passage does not preclude Paul’s merely using this way of speech to designate a simple Jew without a literal lineage.

      It’s less likely that Paul would only talk about Jesus being made of Davidic sperm (and never reference how he knows that or anything to do with his actual genealogy or father) on the assumption he means descent than on the assumption he means exactly what he says. Even at best, it’s no more likely. Either way, it does not argue for historicity.

      Since the messiah had to be Davidic, all messianic beliefs, including those of cosmic messiahs, had to make their messiah Davidic. Thus we expect these remarks on mythicism to at least the same probability as on historicity.

      So why does Paul make a distinction between “apostles” versus “Lord’s brothers”?

      Because apostles were high ranking, baptized Christians (being not apostles) were low ranking. Paul’s argument is that not only his equals, but even Christians of lower rank than him have received the privilege he is asking for, so why is his request being opposed?

      And no reference to this saying having been received by revelation either.

      Paul refers to receiving information by revelation repeatedly. He never refers to any other source of information. Thus, the prior probability, when he is not specific, always favors the only pathway he ever otherwise references.

      In short, there is no evidence for historicity here. One cannot circularly presume historicity to argue for historicity. You claimed this was evidence of an earthly ministry. It simply is not.

      And no reference to this having occurred in Doherty’s unsubstantiated “sub-lunar” realm either!

      Not relevant. You claimed there were references to an earthly Jesus. But you failed to show any reference refers to an earthly Jesus any more than a cosmic one. Thus, this is not evidence of historicity. That’s my point.

      Ultimately, when Paul discusses it, he only ever mentions knowing a cosmic Jesus. He never mentions anyone having known an earthly one.

      Only one interpretation. There’s no indication that these aren’t earthly rulers either.

      Actually, there is. Not only is it weird to use such a phrase (archons of the aeons) of ordinary people, and weird not to say Jews or Romans or specify the actual responsible party (it is not as if the actual rulers “of the world,” i.e. the Roman and Persian and Chinese Emperors, as then known, crucified Jesus), but Paul also there says their motive was to prevent God’s cosmic overthrow of the power of death (such that had they known their crucifying Jesus would defeat death, they would not have crucified him). Such a motive makes zero sense for earthly authorities (who would neither believe nor care about such a thing, and if they did believe and care, they would want to defeat death, too). Whereas it makes perfect sense for the cosmic powers holding the earth in thrall (and thus serving the power of death). Moreover, Paul says the earthly authorities are chosen by God and only do God’s will (Rom. 13). That makes zero sense on this passage, where the authorities Paul is talking about are actively and maliciously opposed to God’s will. That only describes Satan and his demons.

  14. 14
    Geoff R.

    [G.R.] So why does Paul make a distinction between “apostles” versus “Lord’s brothers”?

    [R.C.] Because apostles were high ranking, baptized Christians (being not apostles) were low ranking. Paul’s argument is that not only his equals, but even Christians of lower rank than him have received the privilege he is asking for, so why is his request being opposed?

    ============================

    [G.R.] I’d like to see three other accredited peer-vetted studies from 1990 or later back up those definitions!

    ============================

    [G.R.] And no reference to this saying having been received by revelation either.

    [R.C.] Paul refers to receiving information by revelation repeatedly. He never refers to any other source of information. Thus, the prior probability, when he is not specific, always favors the only pathway he ever otherwise references.

    ============================

    [G.R.] A very forced reading. Paul’s references to revelation at 2 Cor. 12, Gal. 1, etc., are hardly specific enough to assume application to every saying from Jesus.

    ===============================

    [G.R.] Only one interpretation. There’s no indication that these aren’t earthly rulers either.

    [R.C.] Actually, there is. Not only is it weird to use such a phrase (archons of the aeons) of ordinary people, and weird not to say Jews or Romans or specify the actual responsible party (it is not as if the actual rulers “of the world,” i.e. the Roman and Persian and Chinese Emperors, as then known, crucified Jesus), but Paul also there says their motive was to prevent God’s cosmic overthrow of the power of death (such that had they known their crucifying Jesus would defeat death, they would not have crucified him). Such a motive makes zero sense for earthly authorities (who would neither believe nor care about such a thing, and if they did believe and care, they would want to defeat death, too). Whereas it makes perfect sense for the cosmic powers holding the earth in thrall (and thus serving the power of death). Moreover, Paul says the earthly authorities are chosen by God and only do God’s will (Rom. 13). That makes zero sense on this passage, where the authorities Paul is talking about are actively and maliciously opposed to God’s will. That only describes Satan and his demons.

    ======================

    [G.R. Wow, this is a hoary old tale. It’s been recycled by every myther that ever was. Obviously, Paul (and a lot of the Gospel material) spends half the time avoiding Roman guilt for Jesus’s being nailed! That’s what’s going on with the euphemism here.

    So we’re still with the awkward and very separate excuses for each and every one of the seven authentic Pauline references to an historic human Jesus. No parsimonious explanation for all seven.

    Fail.

    Geoff R.

    1. 14.1
      Richard Carrier

      I’d like to see three other accredited peer-vetted studies from 1990 or later back up those definitions!

      My book arguing the point is an accredited peer reviewed study published by an academic press (it will be available in a few months).

      But you don’t need such things. The evidence is plain. You would not ask for peer reviewed studies to confirm the sky was blue, would you?

      It’s a directly observable fact that all baptized Christians were brothers of the Lord (Paul says so, repeatedly). That was a form of fictive kinship commonly known in mystery and other cults of that time (abundant peer reviewed studies exist attesting that general fact). Thus, when Paul talks about brothers of the Lord, we cannot know if he means fictive or biological, unless he specifies. And he never does. So we can’t claim he meant biologically–without making a circular argument.

      Paul refers to receiving information by revelation repeatedly. He never refers to any other source of information. Thus, the prior probability, when he is not specific, always favors the only pathway he ever otherwise references.

      ============================

      [G.R.] A very forced reading. Paul’s references to revelation at 2 Cor. 12, Gal. 1, etc., are hardly specific enough to assume application to every saying from Jesus.

      There is no forced reading here. What I stated is a fact: Paul refers to receiving information by revelation repeatedly–fact; He never refers to any other source of information (apart from scripture)–fact; Thus, the prior probability, when he is not specific, always favors the only pathway he ever otherwise references–and that’s a logically entailed inference (according to the laws of probability).

      Wow, this is a hoary old tale. It’s been recycled by every myther that ever was. Obviously, Paul (and a lot of the Gospel material) spends half the time avoiding Roman guilt for Jesus’s being nailed! That’s what’s going on with the euphemism here.

      Since when is that which has long been said thereby false? You have no argument here. Indeed, your second point is falsified by what Paul himself says: how can he be avoiding (which is it? Roman? or Jewish?) guilt for killing Jesus, if (as you must believe) he is in 1 Cor. 2 condemning them as doing so specifically to thwart the plans of God? That makes no sense. Moreover, how can he condemn “the authorities” as aiming to thwart God’s will there, and then in Romans 13 repeatedly insist no authorities on earth will ever do that? That makes no sense either. Unless in the first instance he’s not talking about the earthly authorities. As his unusual vocabulary already implies.

      So we’re still with the awkward and very separate excuses for each and every one of the seven authentic Pauline references to an historic human Jesus. No parsimonious explanation for all seven.

      Huh? You haven’t presented a single passage that has any more than a 50% chance of referring to a historical Jesus. There is nothing awkward here. Everything I have stated is a fact. Not an assumption. A fact.

      Now, if you have any facts, let’s see them. Otherwise, all you have are the same circular assumptions as everyone else. And that’s precisely the problem. One has to assume a passage refers to a historical Jesus in order to claim it refers to a historical Jesus. And that’s the fallacy of circular reasoning. The only kind of argument you have yet to advance.

  15. 15
    Geoff R.

    There is a problem with merely supposing that any Christian scribe would officiously or inadvertently take the James in Josephus’s Antqs. XX as being Jesus’s brother at all. In fact, a Christian meddler, whether through confusion or through deliberate interpolation, would be the last to foist such an understanding on this Josephus passage.

    And why would a Christian be the last to do this?

    Because any and all accounts in the NT — in scripture — of James, or James and his end, are at variance with the Josephus account when it comes to Josephus’s account of James’s end: stoning by order of Ananus. Any Christian supposing that this James in the Josephus passage is really Jesus’s brother would be implicitly assuming thereby that the NT’s very different reference to James’s end is in error! What kind of Christian who is reading Josephus would suddenly put in words like “called Christ” here of all places, when that implicitly calls into question the veracity/”infallibility” of the alternate account of James’s fate in this Christian’s own sacred “infallible”(!) scriptures?!

    Plainly, the very fact that the Josephus XX account is at variance with the NT makes it a non-Christian account, thereby raising the integrity of the Josephan reference to this “Jesus called Christ” all the more. A Christian would be the last person to associate this stoned James with Jesus’s brother! That association has to have come from Josephus himself.

    Moreover, at the advanced stage where one might suppose some Christian or other inadvertently meddling with the text of Antqs. XX, Christian doctrine has already morphed considerably from any notion that Mommy Mary had any other kids at all, after having Jesus. So the last thing a post-Josephus Christian would do is jot down any reminder of a Jesus sibling!

    Geoff R.

    1. 15.1
      Richard Carrier

      There is no basis for any of your assertions. I demonstrate ample and strong reasons for the accident to have occurred, indeed to have been particularly likely, in my article on the subject. (You also don’t seem to know that Christian legend, entirely unconnected with Josephus, held James to have been stoned. Which fact I discuss in that article as well.)

      The claim that being at variance with other accounts matters can only come from someone unfamiliar with Christian literature–all of which is routinely at variance, often wildly (just compare the Gospel of Matthew’s empty tomb narrative with that in the Gospel of Mark, or the conflicting nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke). Christians attended to consistency almost never.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: