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That Luxor Thing Again

Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock) responded to my post on That Luxor Thing, with a number of weirdly paranoid claims, but one valid criticism, and a few incorrect criticisms and more bad arguments, and it is worth addressing these in this new post. To read her entry in this exchange see Parallelophobia, Personal Attacks and Professional Jealousy: A Response to Richard Carrier’s ‘That Luxor Thing’.

Paranoia vs. Professionalism

One of the reasons Murdock’s methodology goes off the rails is that she assumes everyone is out to get her and that there is always some sort of evil conspiracy against her work. Which insulates her from listening to criticism and correcting the way she does things. That is one of the surest ways to fail as a scholar. It likely also prevents her from having useful dialogs with experts in ancient history. Which is the surest way to make yourself irrelevant as a scholar. But that’s her own lookout.

What concerns me more is her mean-spirited paranoia. For example, she says of me that “He’s releasing a new book about mythicism; hence, he’s trying to get attention by attacking others in the field who seem to have a significant following, in order to garner those followers to himself.” Huh? Why on earth does she come to that conclusion? It’s not even logical, much less in evidence. I’m not interested in “followers” (although by her expressed fear, she evidently is; which is more characteristic of a guru than a scholar). I am interested in persuading academic professionals that a particular theory is true, or at least plausible enough to treat as respectably as other theories in the field. Every time I attempt to do that, I have the sloppy methodology of other mythers thrown in my face as a reason to dismiss all mythicism, and I have to spend a great deal of additional time explaining why my methods are valid and that mythicism can be supported with valid arguments. (I have also had mythers’ unfriendly paranoia cited at me by professors in the field, forcing me to also prove I don’t act like that–I had dismissed that claim about Murdock in the past, but now seeing it flung at me, evidently the scholars who mentioned it to me were correct about it; this is not doing her or mythicism any good, it makes them both look like tinfoil hat.)

By contrast, I have said many times that Earl Doherty’s approach is the most methodological and theoretically sound of any so far (despite only some minor flaws), and I have adapted his theory into its most defensible variant, and I always recommend his book The Jesus Puzzle as the best case yet made for mythicism. My review of his work mentioned all the ways it was correct, and all the ways it could be improved. In what way does this fit Murdock’s theory about me? Contrary to her paranoid fantasies, I address the validity of facts and methodology, praise where praise is due, censure where censure is due. Instead, Murdock thinks this is a political game whereby we should all “up vote” and “positively review” each others work, and never be “adversarial.” That is a perfect example of why her methodology sucks. That is not how a professional should ever behave. You can never make progress toward any true knowledge if you never criticize or call out error, if you show no interest in the validity of the methods being employed, if you show no desire to root out errors and improve methodologies. If it’s all a “back slapping” game whereby our only aim is to promote each others’ book sales, then we are not scholars. We’re hucksters.

Thus, Murdock intimates that she will now negatively review any books I produce, simply because I did not play her game (which is ironic, as it implies a level of vendetta and dishonesty in her that she projects onto me, to the eternal satisfaction of Sigmund Freud). Instead, I acted like actual scholars act: we criticize each other’s work, specifically so as to identify error and improve our methods and conclusions as a collective enterprise. Instead of being objective and simply evaluating works on their merits, Murdock says she “could have” positively reviewed my work as she did Doherty’s and Price’s, that I “could have benefited likewise,” had I “not chosen to be adversarial.” So, simply because I dared criticize her, now she will trash my work or ignore it, like a pouting child. Not behave, apparently, like a professional. (Notably, “personal attacks” is in the title of her post, yet between us, the only personal attacks I see are hers against me, impugning my motives and honesty; she fails to adduce any actual personal attacks from me against her.)

Her paranoid behavior continues to show when she assumes I was making an argument of “Guilt by Association” when I mentioned the bad scholarship of Kersey Graves as something to be aware of (even though linking to my past work on similar subjects, particularly to inform the public, is a common practice of mine, and I never once said she was relying on Graves or even like him, apart from the single fact of seeing parallels where there are none). She then weirdly implies some sort of vague defense of Graves, rather than agreeing with me that Graves’s scholarship sucks, while simultaneously insisting she doesn’t rely on him, which I never implied she did. It’s all very confusing. Is Graves’ scholarship reliable, or not? She then goes on to chest pump about all her amazing work that I ignore. It’s not exactly the behavior of a person who believes in being objective or resolving disagreements.

Murdock also seems obsessed with radical counter-consensus claims, rather than showing any humility or caution in exploring them. For example, she says Ph.D.d scholars (whom she doesn’t name) agree with her that “Christian scribes at Alexandria copied Buddhist texts for much of their source material. Carrier endorses The Case Against Q, but these Buddhist scholars are quite certain they have found Q, so let us sit back and watch the fireworks.” Indeed. When this gets in a peer reviewed journal in the field, I will read it. When will that be exactly? Because I would be most eager to use this as evidence in my own book. The thing is, I find the claim dubious. As will most experts in the field. The proper procedure in that case is to admit you have some convincing of experts to do, that until it gets properly vetted it might not hold up to scrutiny, and that you should go through proper channels and methods to seek that scrutiny, and see what comes out. Instead the arrogance and certainty she exhibits on this point is another example of her bad methodology. It’s a set up for verification bias and a failure to detect and correct errors of method and inference.

This is not the correct way to behave as a scholar. It is anathema to sound methodology. And it’s guaranteed to get you ignored by the very people you should be aiming to persuade: the expert community as a whole.

The Valid Criticism

Even so, Murdock corrects me on one error of fact, and that I gladly concede and I apologize for getting it wrong: the actual inscription in the Luxor temple was probably produced almost a century after Hatshepsut, and thus not commissioned by the same queen as I had mistakenly reported. I have revised my original post to reflect this. It does not change my conclusion (as I now explain there), but it does soften it a little, since it would be much easier to prove that the inscriptions refer to the same story if they were commissioned by the same person; being a century apart opens up the possibility at least that the second commissioner changed the story in fundamental ways. But I do not see any evidence that this is what happened. Murdock relies on an elaborate system of speculations to conclude that the second story is not an abbreviation of the first but a substantial rewrite that has changed its fundamental character.

Normally a radical reinterpretation like that would be published under peer review so experts can consider it and criticize it if it is found wanting. An analogous example is the theory once advanced that the Marduk resurrection narrative recovered in clay tablets was a political satire of actual Marduk cult and that his “death” was meant to be an insult and not an actual part of ceremony and belief. This was published under peer review, then duly criticized by further articles under peer review, with the end result that it was found to be completely untenable, and it is now accepted that the death-and-resurrection of Marduk was a real part of Marduk cult, which long predated Christianity (and would still have been a component of cult at Tyre, which the Gospels claim Jesus visited, and which was right adjacent to Judea and a major trade hub for Judeans, so it can’t be claimed that Jews had never heard of it). This is how conclusions in the field become acceptable and usable as evidence to build theories on.

The analogy is that (I presume) Murdock agrees that the theory attacking the Marduk resurrection narrative was false and should have been rejected. But if we followed her methodology, it would have become “the theory” simply because someone (her analog) simply insisted it’s correct, and that their reinterpretation of the evidence is obviously correct, and that anyone who criticizes it is only doing so out of envy or to sell books, and therefore not only can all criticisms be ignored and all critics denounced as ignorant, but there is no need for any consensus to develop in the expert community at all before declaring this a proven fact. By that methodology, we would have rejected Marduk’s resurrection as a precedent for Christianity, exactly the opposite of what Murdock would want. Instead, the theory went through a correct process of professional presentation and consensus evaluation, and thus, thankfully for her, was rejected. If you want a radical new theory to be accepted, you have to go through the same process. Because it is precisely by surviving that process that a claim becomes established knowledge. Otherwise it just remains an outside fringe claim built on two parts speculation and one part arrogant certitude.

In this case, not only has her radical reinterpretation not gone through this process, it looks prima facie implausible. The Luxor inscriptions are self-evidently abbreviations of the other (they are uniformly shorter and lift identical phrases), not rewrites–in which what has changed would have to be explicitly asserted, precisely because otherwise everyone would assume the already-familiar story is what was being referenced. But the Luxor accounts do not actually assert that any part of the story has changed. They just tell the same story in a lot fewer words. This is how we work with myths and texts routinely: when we find an abbreviated version of the labors of Hercules, we interpret it in light of more elaborate versions, which fill in what has been cut short. We do not attempt to argue that, even though nothing different is explicitly being said, that nevertheless the story has radically changed. That is improper methodology. Because it goes against all natural probability, and rests on a number of ad hoc assumptions not firmly in evidence (which intrinsically reduces the prior probability of any hypothesis, because a simpler hypothesis, which does not need them, is inherently more likely, yet explains the evidence just as well: the reason this follows is among the methodological principles I demonstrate in Proving History).

Nevertheless, I admit I was wrong about one fact in this analysis, and I have now corrected it. Which is another of the methodological principles I articulate in Proving History (Rule 12, page 39).

The Invalid Criticisms

The rest of her commentary is barely worth the trouble of reading. Nothing else in it makes any valid point against what I said. Contrary to Murdock’s rebuttal, for example, I did not say anything follows from the images, but in fact made the opposite point, that like an illustrated bible, the images do not tell the whole story but only fractional snapshots. We therefore must rely on the inscriptions. Hence my argument above, and my own quotation of the actual Luxor inscription itself as an example. Likewise the idea that “no” mythical beings have genitalia (even though the phallus of Osiris, which impregnated Isis, was a major component of that cult, and we have inscriptions from Egypt depicting divine copulation) is simply not tenable. It is fallacious to argue that some impregnations were effected by other means (e.g. Zeus as a shower of gold), therefore all divine impregnations were effected by other means. This kind of hasty generalization is another example of bad methodology.

In attempting to bypass that point with the additional argument that even if they did have sex (a “having it both ways” approach to making her point, which is not intrinsically fallacious, but starts to look so here), “sex between an Egyptian god and a mortal woman is not all its cracked up to be” (whatever that is supposed to mean, and however it is supposed to be relevant to my point I don’t know; even the Luxor inscription, as I quoted, does not seem to suggest it was anything but a very amazing and very physical experience) and that, she says, in any case “both stories represent a godly act that produces a divine offspring.” But if that is all she is reducing her argument to, then her argument collapses altogether. Because there are hundreds of stories across dozens of cultures “that represent a godly act that produces a divine offspring.” That is in fact a necessary element of all demigod narratives whatever. So how then are we to suppose Christians needed the Luxor narrative to get theirs from?

This was the very point I made in my last post: divine acts impregnating females to produce divine sons were a ubiquitous element of pagan cultures all around the Jews, and of Hellenistic kingship narratives (most famously Alexander the Great). There was nothing even peculiarly Egyptian about them, much less “Luxorian.” Murdock’s further point that the Egyptian tales might have influenced these is actually a point I myself made: its irrelevant (since we want to know what the Christians borrowed from, not what their borrowee borrowed from, which might not have even been known to the Christians, as I explained) and unprovable (from the evidence we have we cannot demonstrate that this wasn’t just a ubiquitous cultural trope, or that these Egyptian ideas weren’t influenced by foreign ideas instead of the other way around). So why bother with it?

Murdock still has not cited any living Egyptologist who regards the Luxor narratives as a nonphysical (nonsexual) experience, yet taunts me with claims that she has. Instead she cites Wikipedia (not an Egyptologist), and even that does not say this (as the text she highlights only describes the pictures, not the text, and doesn’t say anything about the experience not being sexual). Again, this is not sound methodology. She then does this a lot, citing this or that Egyptologist saying one thing (with which I have never disagreed), then claiming it means what she says, but the quote doesn’t say that. You can’t cite an authority as affirming x, by quoting them saying y. Indeed, you shouldn’t even want to. (And I must warn anyone who might be thinking of “editing” the Wikipedia article to “support” her: I know how to read Wikipedia editing histories.)

And even despite all that weirdness, Murdock then backpedals and says “the debate remains whether the Egyptians themselves perceived their gods as having literal sex with mortals, or in general was the concept more spiritual or allegorical” (The debate where? What living Egyptologist is debating this?). We actually know something about this: all ancient texts about the allegorization of myths that discuss what “the people themselves” believed say that “the people themselves” not only took the myths literally but were sometimes so offended by the suggestion of allegorizing them that some scholars advised their peers to avoid mentioning this in public (see Strabo, Geography 1.2.8 and Heliodorus, Aethiopica 9.9.5; Seneca’s On Superstition, as quoted in Augustine’s City of God 6.10, presents an example; similar observations are made in Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris and his On Superstition; Origen had something to say about it, too; Socrates was even executed by the state in part for the alleged “crime” of suggesting the state gods and myths not be taken literally).

The allegorical meaning of a narrative was often a component of mysteries that higher ranking members would learn; while the rank and file (and outsiders) would be lured and taught by the myths as literal texts. Thus, both “readings” of a narrative could exist at the same time. Even sometimes in the same mind: the allegory could be read as the meaning of a literal event. All three modes (literal reading, allegorical reading, and simultaneously both) are exhibited throughout Philo’s treatises on Allegorical Interpretation. So it is pointless to handwave about a “debate” over whether the allegories were taken literally or not. It was both. And the story was still there, and still had all its cultural connotations regardless. That’s why no Christian would “allegorically” have said Yahweh impregnated Mary with a phallus or that she fondled and smelled him in her bed. That would have been repugnant, just as I said. By contrast, sexless impregnations were plenty to be had from all surrounding cultures, so why are we assuming Christians were inspired by Egyptian tales specifically, or indeed the Luxor inscriptions specifically? Murdock’s answers to that question are not well founded.

Finally, Murdock spends a lot of time showing that divine birth narratives were all over Egypt. Well, yes. They were all over Tyre and Syria and Greece and Rome and Arabia and everywhere else, too. That’s my point. You can’t argue “it was everywhere, therefore it came from Egypt,” and since it was everywhere, it can’t be argued that Christians were influenced specifically by Egyptian versions of it. For example, per my previous post’s analysis, such a thesis does not explain the presence of magi in Matthew’s story, but a derivation from the OT does. When we account for every element that way, we end up with only one thing left over that’s held in common with Luxor: a God impregnating a woman to produce his Son. Which is not uniquely Egyptian but a universal trope repeated everywhere in every culture of the time. (Which is why it is odd she accuses me in her title of “parallelophobia,” even though I explicitly said even in that post that some such parallels were obvious and in fact more likely influences on the Christian story; so how am I parallelophobe, again?)

Her methodology throughout all this is simply not sound, and would not impress any expert I know. It clearly annoys her when I say that, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

Case in Point

I will close with a prime example of what I mean. At one point in her long post Murdock quotes a medieval author (Proclus) as saying that Cleopatra claimed to have been a virgin who never had sex with anyone yet gave birth to a divine son (which I suppose means Caesarion, although apparently she had several kids). That is simply not in the text.

Proclus says nothing about Cleopatra; nor is he talking about Isis, but Neith (Murdock often assumes that because these goddesses were merged or conflated in some cases, that therefore they are always the same goddess with always the same associated properties and stories, which is not correct reasoning; they are often referred to as working together–and thus often regarded as different goddesses–and their stories, relationships, and powers were often distinguished in some times and places even as they were merged in others); and what Proclus does say isn’t about virginity, even though Neith was indeed a virgin goddess, who gave birth to gods spontaneously, i.e. without the involvement of any other God (see Barbara Lesko, The Great Goddesses of Egypt, pp. 45-63)–which would not make this a passage relevant to Murdock’s thesis.

Just as importantly, no such claim is to be found anywhere near the actual time of Cleopatra (whereas the claim that her son was born to Julius Caesar, in the fully traditional way, she trumpeted high and low), and is not made even in Proclus (despite Murdock being so certain it was, for what reason I don’t know). So this is simply not a plausible claim, and the way Murdock argues for it exemplifies everything that is wrong with her methodology. Not least in failing to notice or mention that Proclus is not talking about Cleopatra. An occasional mistake like that, duly corrected, might be no big deal (if she does correct it). But it’s not like this is an isolated example. And the further one digs into her case here, the worse it gets…

You can read the text yourself: Proclus, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus 1.98 (5th century A.D.). The section starts as his commentary on section 21e, where he begins explaining who the Neith is whom Plato mentions as the goddess who founded Sais (Plato, Timaeus 21e), identified with the virgin Athena. When Proclus gets to the relevant quote, this is the context:

But the Egyptians relate, that in the adytum of the Goddess there was this inscription, “I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been. No one has ever laid open the garment by which I am concealed. The fruit which I brought forth was the sun.” The Goddess, therefore, being demiurgic, and at the same time apparent and unapparent, has an allotment in the heavens, and illuminates generation with forms.

(According to the linked translation; I’ll provide my own shortly.) Proclus clearly understands the passage as referring to Neith’s ability to spontaneously give birth to elements of creation (as a demiurge); this is not a reference to any merger with the Isis narrative. The goddesses were merged or conflated from time to time, but that did not always result in all properties and stories being combined, and such a merger is not occurring in this inscription as far as I can see. Even so, Murdock tries to read virginity into it by translating “garment” as “undergarment” but that is not a correct translation (or is a misleading one, if readers are misled by it to think “undergarment” means “nickers” when in fact it means tunic or top).

For instance, Plutarch said some think this goddess is Isis, quoting a different version of the same inscription, or perhaps a different but related inscription (without mention of the birth part), in On Isis and Osiris 354c. Plutarch’s version reads (my translation) “I am all that has been and is and will be and my robe (peplon, an outer-garment, not an under-garment) no mortal has uncovered (apekalypsen, which means “revealed” as in made public).” Thus only mortals have not lifted her veil; no reference to giving birth (so we can’t assess how Plutarch would have rendered that part, if it then existed); some different wording throughout; and undergarments are not meant, nor sex or virginity, but a revealing of mysteries. The version that appears in Proclus reads (my translation) “that which is and will be and was, I am; my dress (chitôn, a tunic, which is not an undergarment in our sense of the word) no one has uncovered (again, apekalupsen); I bear the fruit, the sun comes to be” (whether the fruit meant is the sun, or all the things she creates, of which the sun is one, is unclear from the wording, but either way she gives birth to the sun). In neither case is there a reference to her “undergarments” staying put. The verb and imagery is of the mystery religions, her secrets being kept. And in the Proclean version the emphasis is on her spontaneous creative power. There is no reference to a divine father.

In her book (Christ in Egypt, p. 147) Murdock quotes a hundred-year-old article (even though you should not do that) by William Emmette Coleman (an army clerk and avid spiritualist with no known credentials and dubious reliability: see Jeffrey Lavoie, The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement, pp. 269-74) who profusely insists this is about virginity and that every expert would agree. But does he name any? And what about now, 120 years later? Murdock names no one. Apparently Murdock thinks that what one amateur was “confident” every Egyptologist would say 120 years ago cannot possibly have been wrong then, nor have changed at all in 120 years. This is not how to support a conclusion. And it is maddening to run into this method of arguing a point again and again.

This is simply not how good scholarship works.

I will conclude with this: it is precisely because of these threads of research and analysis, which tediously take up my time for no purpose, only to reveal how unreliable Murdock is, in reporting, sourcing, and discussing facts, and in drawing inferences from what she quotes, that I don’t want to engage in these debates. If I were to repeat this for every claim she makes, and every claim every myther made, I would be occupied with this for hundreds of years. All to no purpose. I would rather start from the evidence itself, and recent peer reviewed scholarship by well-qualified specialists, and build my own case using a methodology I know to be sound. That is hard enough. It has taken me years (only now near to completionProving History is out in a few weeks, and I expect to have a reviewable first draft of Historicity by end of April). I am not going to waste any more time with “other people’s” shoddy scholarship. If someone else out there wants to do this, all the power to you. But from here on out I am disengaging. I will not bother “checking” any more of Murdock’s facts. Nor will I “debate” any of this, unless you can confirm I have made an actual, provable error (as I did make one, noted above). I am always interested in getting things right. But I am not interested in being someone else’s fact check boy. And I’m certainly not interested in Murdock’s paranoid aspersions or the trolling of her fanatical followers. Do keep that in mind.


  1. says

    If crazy mythers are calling you parrallelophobic and Christian apologists say you are parallelomaniacal, that may mean you are doing it right! :) It’s kind of like when the conservatives accuse President Obama of being an extreme leftist and liberals accuse him of being too far right. People just don’t have a feasible definition of success in context, do they?

    • geoff says

      Ben, Except this is the fallacy of the middle ground. Not saying Richard is wrong on the point of parallels though. Let’s leave Richard alone so he can finish Historicity!

  2. Marie the Bookwyrm says

    “At one point in her long post Murdock quotes a medieval author (Proclus) as saying that Cleopatra claimed to have been a virgin who never had sex with anyone yet gave birth to a divine son (which can only mean Ceasarion, the only child Cleopatra had).”

    IANA historian, but I thought Cleopatra had children by Marc Anthony. Or does this sentence mean that Proclus thought Cleopatra had only one child?

    Other than that, it seems that reading Murdock’s response was an irritating and frustrating experience for you. You have my sympathy. :)

    • says

      Apparently Cleopatra had several children. I thought it had only been Caesarion (since that is the child she made the most of). But she had many others, by several fathers. Go to the wikipedia article on Cleopatra VII and down the right margin is a stats box, where there is an entry for “issue” which lists and links to entries for all her kids. I’ve revised accordingly.

  3. Robert Tulip says

    Hello Richard
    I’ve read through your response to Murdock, and find it confusing. I agree with Murdock on astrotheology and the Egyptian origins of Christian myth. These ideas are not seen in academia, and there is a reasonable case that this reflects systemic prejudice. You may be right that academic scorn just reflects inability to present arguments that meet scholarly standards, but Murdock may also be right that there is systemic bias.
    Words carry a lot of baggage in this sort of discussion. Your assertion that Murdock is engaged in diseased parallelomania did appear as an initial polemical argument. You then backed this up by saying “One important example of a “non-parallel” is the Egyptian nativity narrative at Luxor” discussed by Murdock, and went on to dismiss her work with the simplistic argument that “we can fully explain every element of the Gospel nativities by appealing to (1) their Jewish background… (2) their Hellenistic background.. and (3) their immediate inter-community context … That leaves nothing for Luxor to explain.”
    Yet, the Luxor material, as Murdock explains, provides examples of the Annunciation, the Conception, the Birth and the Adoration. These parallels look very plausible as contributing to Christian myth. You call this ‘parallelomania’, and ignore how it fits within a broad range of parallels with Osiris, Horus, Isis, Set and Anubis, for starters. Your focussing on sexual imagery looks to be a way to downplay the Egyptian parallels in line with your “fully explain every element” argument that excludes Egypt despite its massive size, proximity, longevity and relevance.
    There are abundant Egyptian antecedents for Christian myth, and your restriction to a Greco-Judaean framework is narrow and wrong. This cultural prejudice against Egypt is the irrational argument that has led to Murdock’s exclusion from academia.
    It is disingenuous for you to claim you were not associating Murdock with Graves. You moved straight from a ‘parallelomania’ attack on Graves to an attack on Murdock. It is perfectly reasonable for Murdock to call you out on this as suggesting guilt by association, especially given the fact that Murdock has resiled from her earlier citations of Graves, as I am sure you well know.
    Your post systematically trawls Murdock’s reply to cast her in the worst possible light, giving the impression you are wanting to join the in-crowd of scholars who regard Egyptian astrotheology with contempt. One example here is your discussion of Murdock’s statement that ‘mythical beings do not possess genitalia’. How I would read this is that Murdock argues that ancient religion understood Gods as symbolic metaphors, especially for cosmic bodies and cycles. But you insist on the degraded fundamentalism at play in the trial of Socrates as if that was the reality of ancient vision.
    My summation of this argument is that you have assessed that attack on Murdock will win you brownie points among apologists and further your academic career. Good luck Richard, but you have no grounds to complain if people question your motives.

    Robert Tulip

    • says

      Robert Tulip: I agree with Murdock on astrotheology and the Egyptian origins of Christian myth. These ideas are not seen in academia, and there is a reasonable case that this reflects systemic prejudice.

      I agree there is tremendous academic prejudice (of many varieties). And indeed that does make it harder for consensus challenges to be heard and taken seriously.

      But it would be a fallacy fallacy to conclude that therefore astrotheological theories of Christian origins (or any consensus-challenging theory about anything) is true or has merit. The one does not follow from the other.

      I think the idea of an astrotheological theory is at least plausible enough to entertain (a certain measure of astrotheology was the rage at the time) but I have never seen a methodologically valid case made for it having governed the origins of Christianity or even the construction of the Gospels (which I will remind you are again not the same thing–the Gospels substantially post-date the origins of Christianity and in many ways do not represent its original form). If someone ever produces such an argument, I will be interested in reading it. But I cannot read thousands of pages of bad arguments. I have better things to do with my time.

      An example of a methodologically valid argument for astrotheological origins (of Mithras cult) is Ulansey’s Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, although key elements of his thesis have since been refuted (by the works of Beck principally), and therefore his work is now largely obsolete. But there are four lessons to take from this analogy:

      (1) Look at how Ulansey argues (what evidence he requires to validate a conclusion, what scholarship he cites, how he cites it, how he summarizes it, how he draws inferences from it) and notice how different it is from Murdock on every measure. Ulansey’s book is a model for how to do this correctly. If someone wants to make the same case for Christianity, they need to do work at least as good as this.

      (2) Ulansey used the proper protocols and channels to seek to persuade the expert community. Murdock doesn’t seem to ever do that. And there is a reason why that’s bad: it is precisely the effort to learn how to do that, and to frame your work so as to do that, and the resulting debate and dialogue with expert peers, that refines and perfects your methodology, purges errors, and produces quality, persuasive work. If you avoid doing all those things, you avoid the benefits. And that’s what makes the difference between pros and amateurs. (I have much more to say on this point in the second chapter of Proving History).

      (3) Ulansey’s main thesis was ultimately refuted. That’s how scholarship makes progress. Sometimes you are just wrong. You acknowledge it and revise. Murdock has insulated herself from even the possibility of this happening to her. That, again, is the difference between pros and amateurs.

      (4) Even though Ulansey’s main thesis is probably false, not everything he argued is, and in fact much of his work is now incorporated into the latest work by others, building on what he got right. Chief among the results of this is that we are still certain there was some sort of astrotheological origin, and it probably resembles in outline what Ulansey proposed, but we don’t have all the information we would need to completely reconstruct it (notably even Ulansey admitted as much from the start, that much was still uncertain even to him). And that’s an important lesson, perhaps the most important lesson of all: most of the time in ancient history we simply don’t have enough information that survives for us to know what happened or why. We might have many plausible speculations, but if we can’t prove them, we can’t affirm them. We can mention them, as possibilities. But that’s it.

      This last is where I see astrotheological origins of Christianity: we just don’t have the information we would need to know what role if any astrotheology actually played in the origins of Christianity (compare the data we have on Mithraism, with what we have on Christianity, and you’ll see why the latter is so much worse in this respect).

      To give just one example, the theory that “Great Year” reasoning, and the rise of the age of the fish, led to originating Christianity, has background plausibility (e.g., Charlesworth’s 1977 article “Rylands Syriac Ms. 44 and a New Addition to the Pseudepigrapha: The Treatise of Shem, Discussed and Translated” in the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 60: 376-403). But it has insufficient direct evidence to support it. It therefore remains a mere possibility. By contrast, the Danielic timetable, which was based not at all on astrotheology but entirely on a desperate attempt to reinterpret a failed prophecy in Jeremiah (which then failed again, leading to another reinterpretation, this time of Daniel), is far more demonstrably the basis for Christianity originating when it did. Therefore, the “Great Year” thesis has nothing to explain. At best it was ancillary, if even a factor.

      As for the remainder of your comments, they simply ignore everything I actually said in my original post That Luxor Thing and its attached comments. If you don’t listen, you can’t learn. And that makes dialogue pointless.

      I have no cultural prejudice against Egypt (an absurd thing to claim, considering that I have explored influences from Osiris cult before and found some plausible, just often not provable; I even referred you to an example last time and discussed its differences from Murdock’s theory with you, which you now conveniently forget about). I have a prejudice against fallacious arguments and asserting a certainty well out of proportion to the evidence.

      It’s a fallacy to argue that some influence existed, therefore everything in the Gospels is just revamped Osiris cult; and it’s a fallacy to argue that such influence existed in building the Gospel narratives, therefore the entire nativity story is based on it; and it’s a fallacy to show that influence is possible, therefore it’s probable; and it’s a fallacy to ignore alternative explanations of the evidence and the need to compare their relative probabilities; and it’s a fallacy to ignore the need to establish causality when arguing for a theory of causation; and so on.

      It is disingenuous for you to claim you were not associating Murdock with Graves.

      No, it isn’t. It is paranoid behavior to assume that because I argue we should not trust Graves that therefore I am arguing that Murdock was using Graves or using his same methods or evidence. If I were to intend either of the latter, I would have said them. To assume I “meant” secret things is evidence of paranoia, not evidence of just actually reading what in fact I actually wrote and taking it as meaning what it actually says.

      What is disingenuous is Murdock not even agreeing with me that Graves is unreliable, but attempting to have it both ways, simultaneously defending him and claiming she is nothing like him and doesn’t rely on him. Since I never denied the latter, her saying it doesn’t contradict me; but it is strange that she won’t even concede the common assumption here that we can’t trust Graves. That you find it offensive for me to compare the two suggests you agree Graves is terrible; so why doesn’t Murdock say that? I should have expected her to say, “Yes, we can’t trust Graves. That’s why I have double-checked his claims and kept only what I could confirm in primary evidence, and here is that evidence.”

      Your post systematically trawls Murdock’s reply to cast her in the worst possible light, giving the impression you are wanting to join the in-crowd of scholars who regard Egyptian astrotheology with contempt.

      This is more paranoid behavior. I never attacked “Egyptian astrotheology.” I never wrote one word about it (much less “with contempt”). So why are you now attacking me for having attacked what I never even mentioned, much less attacked?

      You seem to have a hard time distinguishing analyses of Egyptian religion, from claims that Christianity was originated by lifting specific ideas from Egyptian religion. Those are not even remotely the same things.

      You also seem to have a hard time distinguishing “I don’t find that one specific causal connection plausible” from “I hold Egyptian astrotheology in contempt.” Somehow when I say the former, you “read” the latter. That’s illogical.

      Your descent into illogicalities, and ignoring and conveniently forgetting our past conversations, and reading me as saying things I never said, is precisely what I was talking about when I said I had no interest in engaging with Murdock’s fanatical followers. This is a silly waste of my and everyone’s time. Go away.

  4. D. Simone says

    Both you and Acharya are experts in your fields. I don ‘t think it is favorable to you to criticize her as “paranoid”, are you a psychologist too? You also made your point that she is unprofessional and has poor methodology. My training was in psychotherapy and I detect moderate misogyny deep in your subconscious… it seems what you really think of Acharya is that she is a (a little Freud here) a hysterical dumb blond who does sloppy housekeeping. I’m looking forward to your new book. I think your fans should read CHRIST CONSPIRACY to judge Acharya for themselves.

    • says

      D. Simone: I don ‘t think it is favorable to you to criticize her as “paranoid”, are you a psychologist too?

      You don’t have to be a psychologist to identify and label human behavior.

      My training was in psychotherapy and I detect moderate misogyny deep in your subconscious…

      Apparently being a psychologist is negatively correlated with accurately identifying and labeling human behavior.

      It seems what you really think of Acharya is that she is a (a little Freud here) a hysterical dumb blond who does sloppy housekeeping.

      I never mentioned any such terms or parallels. That you thought of them worries me.

  5. Roo Bookaroo says

    Can you do us a favor and instead of saying “mythers” could you please use the more correct expression of “mythicists”?

    Archibald Robertson introduced the word in his book “Jesus – Myth or History” (1946). He does not explicitly use “mythicism”, but instead he continuously refer to “mythicists”, or “the mythicist” (does this or that, thinks that, claims that, etc…)
    He opposes “the mythicist” to “the historicist”.

    Excellent article on Murdock, who seems more interested in building her image as a leader of a group of fans, a kind of latter-day guru, than being a rigorous scholar, for which she has no real training except the influence of Barbara Walker’s fuzzy books.

  6. F says

    Crap, so some people expect that this is your job? I see it a lot, but if there is a consistent group of people who expect you to respond, fact-check, accommodate them, &c., then pffft, wow. But yeah, I guess I’ve seen others with an historian pretense latch on to you previously, in other things I’ve read.

    I’m more than happy to read your take on whatever, but I certainly wouldn’t demand you address some particular thing constantly regardless as to what, if any, side of the argument I find convincing. That’s just rude.

    The post is yet enjoyably educational (although it raises a sense of frustration in me, due to the motivation for producing the content), as were the hours of reading I did as a result of following links until the subject matter was tenuously related at best. And now I’ve come to think that any history on the internet is only 2 links away from a reference to my old buddy Plotinus. ;)

  7. Loren Petrich says

    Although divine impregnation and god-human hybrids were very common in the eastern Mediterranean and nearby, I think that there’s at least one exception. The writers of the Old Testament. Literal, quasi-biological divine paternity seems absent from their writings, or at least not very prominent.

    If I had to point to a source for the New Testament’s making Jesus Christ a god-human hybrid, I’d point to Greco-Roman mythology. It featured deities having numerous love children, including historical people like Pythagoras, Plato, Alexander the Great, and Augustus Caesar. It was right next door, and it was contemporary.

    Seems like Acharya S was overdoing her quest for parallels — it’s unlikely that anyone who wrote the New Testament was very familiar with the Luxor inscriptions. But I think that such parallels have more general value — they demonstrate that such mythemes as god-human hybrids and dying and rising gods are older the Christianity, something much older. It’s a favorite talking point of some Christian apologists that pagan parallels were documented only well after the origin of Christianity, and therefore that the influence was likely Christian -> pagan rather than pagan -> Christian.

    • says

      Loren Petrich: Although divine impregnation and god-human hybrids were very common in the eastern Mediterranean and nearby, I think that there’s at least one exception. The writers of the Old Testament. Literal, quasi-biological divine paternity seems absent from their writings, or at least not very prominent.

      I made the point in my earlier post that in fact the Jews did have a divine sonship theology (see Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 247-57, with 76-78), it just operated on the principle of insertion of the Holy Spirit. Which is thus the obvious basis for a Holy Spirit birth of Jesus; all that had been absent before is the removal of a physical father from the process, which is a notion that only made sense from importation of pagan ideas of virgin births and questions of patrimony, which had not been an issue before, and do not appear to have been in the earliest Gospel, Mark, or anywhere in Paul. The Jews also had a cosmic divine sonship theology (angels were literally sons of god; and the first man created was an angelic model of man who resides in heaven, see the previous citation for details), which only needed the addition of a mortal woman to convert it into a parallel to the pagan concept of a demigod.

      If I had to point to a source for the New Testament’s making Jesus Christ a god-human hybrid, I’d point to Greco-Roman mythology. It featured deities having numerous love children, including historical people like Pythagoras, Plato, Alexander the Great, and Augustus Caesar. It was right next door, and it was contemporary.

      And politically relevant (since the Caesars, occupying Judea, were making much of this ideology as legitimizing their rule in the East, as the Seleucids had before that). It’s notable that Jesus was assigned all the royal titles claimed by Hellenistic kings and their Imperial successors (see Goodenough’s 1928 article “The Political Philosophy of Hellenistic Kingship” in Yale Classical Studies 1: 55-102, which as background evidence has been multiply verified by more recent scholars, e.g. Peter Green, From Alexander to Actium).

      This was the religio-political context in which Christianity was born.

      It’s a favorite talking point of some Christian apologists that pagan parallels were documented only well after the origin of Christianity, and therefore that the influence was likely Christian -> pagan rather than pagan -> Christian.

      Indeed. And yet that claim is so very easily refuted it ranks right up there with creationists claiming we haven’t found “the missing link” or that the Grand Canyon proves the Great Flood and not vast geologic timescales.

  8. James says

    Glad to see someone of your calibre call out Acharya S.

    I was given a copy of TCC and in the introduction she floats the suggetion that Hitler was Jewish so right away I knew her methodology was skewed.

    The trouble is, people like Robert Price and others seemed to be defending her.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think Bart Ehrman may mention her in his new book coming out next week.

  9. Roo Bookaroo says

    Murdock’s full text should be appreciated, for it is a classic of a polemical gem:
    ” He’s releasing a new book about mythicism; hence, he’s trying to get attention by attacking others in the field who seem to have a significant following, in order to garner those followers to himself. Such “professional jealousy” constitutes classic behavior – and something I avoid.
    Indeed, I am very helpful and supportive of other scholars in this field, as my reviews of Earl Doherty and Bob Price’s books reveal. I could have done the same for Carrier, but he seems to be interested in competition rather than cooperation. (Notice that my review of Doherty’s book garnered 180 votes, while Price’s received 165 thumbs up – Carrier could have benefited likewise, had he not chosen to be adversarial.)

    It’s too bad fellow mythicists feel the need to attack me in order to promote themselves. We should all be working together.”

    It means: scratch my back,and I’ll scratch yours, and forget about scholarship and textual and high criticism.
    You see, both Earl Doherty and Robert Price are very lucky to see their reputation enhanced by Murdock’s Amazon reviews.
    So, you see, Carrier is making a big mistake by alienating Murdock and forgoing the great positive review she could have contributed in favor of his new book.
    Carrier doesn’t want to play the game? Too bad, for now he’ll have to earn his approval votes on Amazon the old-fashioned way, by wowing his readers with the value of his own scholarship, and the brilliance of his arguments — without the “friendly” support from Murdock and her happy band of followers, who are now, alas, ready to crowd in and post their negative reviews and “unhelpful” evaluations of reviews and comments on Amazon.
    And perhaps, he may be more interested in the positive reactions of the established scholars in the field than in the Amazon meters of popular votes.

    • Will says

      I agree! in fact, it looks to me like Acharya is guilty of the petty motives that she was projecting onto Carrier.. I couldn’t believe she said some of the things she did… she seems to be emotionally married to her intellectual positions… which is anathema to the necessity of scholarly detachment needed to progress and develop ideas in the search for truth.

  10. says

    I don’t know Richard, you seem to have a knee jerk reaction type of response which opens the door to stacking more error as you go along. She clearly laid out a situation where The oldest birth cycle inscription included some “sexy” parts, about century later Amenhotep III repeated the older birth sequence leaving the bulk of the “sexy” parts out. And from there many Greco-Roman nativity type birth cycles follow behind these older Egyptian ones and continued right into the common era and beyond. And she feels that this evolution of nativity scenes starting in Egyptian may have influenced the gospel effort, especially in light of the mountain of evidence she presented in CiE for Alexandrian origins through Philo’s “Therapeutae” and the various “collegia” brotherhood network spread throughout the entire region.

    This is hardly grounds for you to then respond that Murdock thinks that Amenhotep III complete re-wrote the older nativity scene. You are in fact beating away at a straw man in this case, wildly swinging at that. Just calm down. Take a breath. Leaving out the bulk of the “sexy” parts of the older inscription in no way constitutes suggesting that it was re-written. And through this you continue to miss the point which is that over time there was a tendency to present these birth cycles ‘without sexual’ intercourse. Finally, arriving at the gospel myths, we find the result of an evolution starting in Egypt and spreading around where kings were conceived by a God and less sexual in nature through time. That’s what she had already presented in her books.

    • says

      tat tvam asi: She clearly laid out a situation where The oldest birth cycle inscription included some “sexy” parts, about century later Amenhotep III repeated the older birth sequence leaving the bulk of the “sexy” parts out.

      He did not, though. The long redaction is already coy; the short redaction is simply an abbreviation of the same coy narrative, and has proportionally as many hints as before (as I quoted an example of). All the differences between them can be explained by simply that fact: abbreviation. By contrast, so radically changing the fundamental character of the story (from sexual to asexual conception) would require explicitly stating what has changed, not simply abbreviating it. As otherwise anyone of the time who read the short redaction would understand it in light of the long one, the latter being already the one most familiar and established. Her theory therefore defies all probabilities. That it is based on additional speculations only makes it less likely. Because by comparison, my theory (which every Egyptologist agrees with) requires none.

      And she feels that this evolution of nativity scenes starting in Egyptian may have influenced the gospel effort, especially in light of the mountain of evidence she presented in CiE for Alexandrian origins through Philo’s “Therapeutae” and the various “collegia” brotherhood network spread throughout the entire region.

      I am not getting into what’s wrong with all of the latter; it’s just more bad methodology. And like I said, I don’t have time for this nonsense. The only issue here is “may have influenced” is a useless theory (anything “may” have influenced; what we want to know is what did). By contrast, we can show causal and conceptual influence from the OT and surrounding (non-Egyptian) pagan and political teachings to explain every feature of the Gospel nativities. Thus, her theory rests on a vague and unprovable “maybe,” while the more obvious and mainstream theory rests on abundant facts and sound inferences.

      This is what I mean by the difference between good and bad methodology. Indeed, had she actually argued a mere “maybe” she would be on stronger footing. But she does not. She insists with absolute certainty that she is right, and everyone who suggests otherwise is an incompetent liar out to get her.

      It would actually be fruitful to discuss the plain evidence of Egyptian divine nativities around the era of Christ what the evidence plainly indicates without excess ad hoc assumptions (along the lines of the quality scholarship of Frankfurter’s 1998 Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance), and not speculations or radical new interpretations, but what experts already conclude, from citing current peer reviewed literature or equivalent, then maybe trace this status quo back to Luxor show change over time, and then compare this with other nativity traditions in surrounding cultures (including Jewish, e.g. Moses), to see if any differential influence can be indicated. But she doesn’t do any of this. She relies on hundred year old articles by amateurs declaring certainties, doesn’t summarize the current state of scholarship on key pieces of evidence or Egyptian belief, and she doesn’t test her theory against alternatives (such as that Matthew is weaving adaptations from the narratives of Moses, Balaam, Daniel, and Hellenistic kings, using provably extant Jewish holy spirit and divine son theology).

  11. D. Simone says

    Mr. Carrier, the main points you are trying to make about Acharya S is that she is “paranoid”, “unprofessional” and you also critized her “methodolgy”. My point, as a trained therapist who sees signs of misogyny in your writings against the CHRIST CONSPIRACY author, are what you really think of her in your subconscious mind ( I interpret as) “she is a hysterical dumb blonde who does sloppy housework”. I did not say you wrote those words. So don’t “worry” about me. And since you continuosly claim she is “unprofessional”, I would ask you if it is “professional” of you to call her “paranoid”? Criticize her work not her character or mental state, for a label of “paranoia” is, first, not your expertise, and second could be slanderous to her reputation. Both of you are experts at your work, both of you as well as other expert authors, make mistakes as you already conceded. Since I am a Freethinker I read eveyones work on the historicity of Jesus so i can find the TRUTH. And your work is in my top ten list.

    • says

      D. Simone: My point, as a trained therapist who sees signs of misogyny in your writings against the CHRIST CONSPIRACY author…

      A trained therapist would not diagnose someone from a few isolated writings and no cross examination. Your competence is thus cast in doubt by the fact that you are doing what any professional will tell you you shouldn’t do.

      You can’t read someone’s “subconscious mind” in the way you pretend to, without considerable conversation, usually in person, or an analysis of extensive writing samples that show a continuous trend that can’t be explained in any other way.

      “she is a hysterical dumb blonde who does sloppy housework”. I did not say you wrote those words. So don’t “worry” about me.

      What worries me is that it even occurred to you to go there.

      You seem to be the one stuck on strange stereotypes. And then projecting them on others. All as an excuse to ignore valid criticisms of someone’s work.

      I would ask you if it is “professional” of you to call her “paranoid”?

      When someone explicitly says others have nefarious motives and are out to get them, they are by definition exhibiting paranoid behavior. I don’t have to read her mind to conclude that. I just have to read what she wrote. Because it’s not innuendo. It’s openly stated.

      Notice the difference between what I am doing and what you are doing: I demonstrate a fact by showing her explicit words, and infer nothing more; you have no explicit words, indeed no words at all to appeal to that imply what you attribute to me, yet leap to wild and unsupported conclusions about my hidden motives and thoughts.

      Criticize her work not her character or mental state, for a label of “paranoia” is, first, not your expertise, and second could be slanderous to her reputation. Both of you are experts at your work, both of you as well as other expert authors, make mistakes as you already conceded.

      Um, excuse me? She impugned my character and said things about me that were factually false. If anything, she has unprofessionally slandered my reputation, not the other way around. Everything I have said is a documented fact. And I kept it all relevant to the distinction between sound method and unsound method, and how we as scholars should behave in that regard.

      You seem hell bent on making up excuses to ignore that, and thus to not ever see what she is doing wrong.

  12. D. Simone says

    I’ll let you have the last say…oh by the way therapists do not use “cross-examination ” only lawyers do…and take deep breaths, it really works for anxiety….all the best.

    • daniellavine says

      @D. Simone:

      One can use the phrase “cross examination” to refer to similar practices outside of law. If you’re a mental health professional I seriously hope your diagnoses are based on information gained by asking patients a series of questions related to their problems. If not, I’d have to wonder how you DO diagnose anyone.

      Then again, based on your interactions with Richard Carrier here, it looks like you make diagnoses based on your magical mind-reading powers. Is Simone your real last name? Just want to make sure I never go to someone as crazy as you apparently are for treatment.

    • Roo Bookaroo says

      D. Simone:

      I expected something more solid from you about this confrontation of two strong personalities accusing each other of misrepresentation and malicious intent.
      Instead you play the psychotherapist on the Internet, by claiming to “see signs of misogyny” and claiming to “detect” “what you really think of her in your subconscious mind” — like that, online, without any other kind of clinical evidence or effective interaction with your subject.

      Reading somebody’s “subconscious mind” so easily and so fast at a distance on the Internet is simply miraculous. No wonder psychiatrists came to the conclusion that Freud was not a scientist but a fabulator, gifted yes, but in spinning psychological fantasies.

      I simply guess that you are another female who “detects” that if a male dares to criticize a female who pretends to be a scholar, he shows a manifest “sign of misogyny” lying deep in his “subconscious”.

      You claim to be, as “a trained therapist”, the only capable reader of people’s motivations in this dispute. But why is any “therapist” needed to follow this kind of scholarly disagreement? And where is any need for “therapy” involved? “Therapy” as such is foreign to this discussion about the interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, and your claim as a “therapist” does not give you any real specific insight.

      And in your other claim that ” I read everyone’s work on the historicity of Jesus so i can find the TRUTH,” I cannot help but “detect” some “subconscious” naivety.

      If anybody could really “find the TRUTH,” life would be much simpler, and there would be no dispute between students and scholars of history.

  13. D. Simone says

    To the two gentlemen who are criticizing my comments on Carrier’s subconscious mind or “mindreading”, first, have you ever heard the phrase “If (his or her or their) lips are moving, they are lying”? That could also be said about a person’s writing. I am not an expert on the subject of Carrier or Acharya’s field, that is why I’m reading their books, as well as Ehrman’s and others. But what I was trained at is to pay attention to the theme or metaphor of what a person is saying or writing, not their actual words only. When I read a male critique of a female, in this case both of them authors, and the male is continuing to use the word “paranoid” to debunk her, for example, it appears to me like a personal attack rather than a professional one. And in my experience, whether in my personal, professional or social life, men who attack a women using character-assassinating terms are, at minimum, misogynists. Do you really think Carrier would have used The word “paranoid” over and over again to criticize a male competitor? If he has, please let me know…

    • D. Simone says

      yep, I misspelled a few words, wish I had edited it before I pressed the button…”mail” instead of “male” is one of them…

    • says

      Just FYI to everyone, you can always send extra comments like this one, requesting that I fix a typo in a previous comment you sent. (Which I did in this case; I fixed all I could find in Simone’s last post, but only those I am certain were typos, and I may have missed some.) I know how frustrating it is to not be able to edit typos after hitting “send.” And I have the ability to rectify the error. So I’m glad to. Normally, I would delete the comment asking for the fix (since it’s no longer needed), but I went ahead and posted this one so I could make this comment for everyone’s benefit.

    • says

      I’ll let you know: I had exactly the same reaction to the paranoid behavior of R. Joseph Hoffmann. So much for your theory then.

      This is the problem with the fallacy of hasty generalization: if you assume “every” time someone describes a woman as “paranoid” he is wrong, then you are tacitly declaring that no women can ever be paranoid or act paranoid. Otherwise, how could we ever tell, since you will always reject every report of it?

      This is a serious flaw in someone who claims to be a professional therapist. It suggests you are incapable of actually understanding what people say, incapable even of allowing for any statement to be true that contradicts your presuppositions.

  14. D. Simone says

    Mr. Carrier, I will list the times you called Acharya S ” paranoid”…these are the ones I caught through bleary eyes having to read your extremely long and sleep-inducing criticism of her again:

    1- “…weirdly paranoid claims…”
    3- “…mean-spirited paranoia…”
    4- “Contrary to her paranoid fantasies…”
    5 – “…her paranoid behavior…”
    as regards to:
    4 – “her paranoid fantasies…”: sounds like you did what you accused me of doing to you: unprofessional mindreading without cross-examination ( cross-exam is not done by therapists but mostly lawyers or others, as one of your friends corrected me on)
    5- “her paranoid behavior…”: has to mean you have observed her behavior over a period of time, because you cannot observe behavior from a person’s writing!

    As for the example you supplied me to prove you called a male author paranoid, to defend my insight of you having a trace or more of misogyny against the female author of THE CHRIST CONSPIRACY – which was something I asked you to do – you gave me a link to a review of R Joseph Hoffman that you wrote to prove you called a male competitor “paranoid” as well…..yet as I read through another one of your mile long comments , I couldn’t find the word “paranoid”, not even once. Let’s just move on…all the best to you…

    • says

      There is more than one cognate of “paranoid.” You do know that, right? I mean, you know how the English language works? And you know how to search a web page for “paranoi”? Now go try that.

      (Honestly. I feel like I’m teaching kindergarten here.)

    • Robert Tulip says

      Richard, you are the one who started your first post on this theme accusing Murdock of “mania”. Why do you then complain when she asks why you are out to get her? Will you weasel out of that by saying that trashing somebody’s reputation is not trying to get them?

      By the way, I was rather mystified by your attempt to explain away the connection between Mary and Isis in the Lazarus story. You state “John is not saying ‘Lazarus was Osiris and Mary was Isis.’ Rather, he is saying Lazarus and Mary are real and Osiris and Isis are not.”

      Do you believe that the author of the Gospel of John believed that Jesus was real? If you accept the mythicist hypothesis, would it not make more sense to suggest that the gospel authors were aware that they were writing fiction, and did not realize how literally their words would be taken? At what point do you think the transition from fiction to belief occurred?

      It seems to me more likely that in John, Lazarus is a coded symbol for Osiris (through ‘el-azar’), giving ongoing life to the old myth. This looks like the sort of parallel that would have been well known at the time, but for some strange cultural reason was kept secret, and was then repressed, ignored, forgotten and denied.

      Murdock has written informatively on this Osiris=Lazarus parallel, including on the two Maries. As with the Luxor material, I fear you are too hasty in jumping to condemn her with your ‘mania’ suggestion.

    • says

      Robert Tulip:

      You are the one who started your first post on this theme accusing Murdock of “mania”.

      I did not accuse her of “mania” but of “parallelomania,” as in, seeing parallels where there are none, not having a manic personality disorder. And someone criticizing your arguments does not mean they are “out to get you.” It only means they are criticizing your arguments. The usual response to that is to improve your arguments (or change your conclusion). Not avoid this by accusing them of being out to get you.

      Do you believe that the author of the Gospel of John believed that Jesus was real?

      I believe he wanted his readers to believe that. As to what the author of John himself believed I have no idea.

      Anyway, your interpretation of his literary aims in that passage make no actual sense.

  15. says

    “…make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry” – Ozzie Osbourne Paranoid.

    The whole paranoia thing is pretty much laughable at this point. But honestly, you did initiate this entire Luxor debate Richard. You decided to lash out at her for whatever reason and you made several errors in the process. It sounds like you heard complaining about Murdock from your peers in the past and decided to put up a stone wall right then and there. Others who have done the same but then decided to actually read her work, follow the citations and source material, have had major changes in opinion, such as Robert Price.

    What you’re doing is hardly different from Bart Ehrman has just done recently. Ehrman completely screwed up by thinking he could take a cheap shot at Murdock and because he didn’t bother to follow through with checking the citations and sources a public mockery has resulted with Ehrman being termed “Errorman” at this stage of the game. And guess what, you’ve been dubbed Richard “Errier” in likewise fashion.

    You guys are both trying to use academic bullying and it’s not working out too good for either of you. I read where you blogged about Ehrman acting like a closet homosexual abusing open homosexuals. Well come on, how is what you’re doing any different than what “Errorman” is doing? Do tell…

    • says

      tat tvam asi:

      But honestly, you did initiate this entire Luxor debate Richard.

      Technically, she did, by making the claim. It is fallacious to assume nothing she asserts can be debated.

      You decided to lash out at her for whatever reason and you made several errors in the process.

      Only one error. Which made no difference to the conclusion. And I did not “lash out at her.” I was asked, as a scholar, to review one claim many years ago, and the person who asked me bought me a copy of Brünner in exchange for my opinion on it, and so I did that. She then responded by lashing out at me. Which many people then asked me what my reply was. So I gave my reply (the one you are calling the “lashing out”). That’s what actually happened. Attempting to rewrite history doesn’t help your case.

      Well come on, how is what you’re doing any different than what “Errorman” is doing? Do tell…

      I made one minor error and corrected it. Ehrman made numerous major errors, and so far, has not issued any corrections.

      That’s just one huge difference between us. Others are that he attacked academic freedom; I did not; he criticized people for their conclusions, not their methods or arguments (an invalid process); I criticized their methods and arguments (a valid process); he conflated different scholars and theories and treated them all as the same; I did not; and so on.

  16. Roo Bookaroo says

    D. Simone seems to be a female coming to the defense of Murdock being criticized by a male scholar, as so many of her “fanboys” do, but this time by accusing Carrier of “misogyny.”

    It is remarkable that Murdock herself used the same argument of “sexism” against other male critics.
    Her book, “The Christ Conspiracy” got thoroughly criticized by Mike Licona, a Christian apologist who nonetheless, in his “Refutation of Acharya’s Christ Conspiracy,” was able to make some pertinent objections to Murdock’s fanciful claims to “scholarship”. Still posted in “ANSWERING INFIDELS”
    Ironically, Licona was echoing at the time similar comments already made by Robert M. Price, he a non-believer mythicist, but an insightful critic, in his famous initial review of Murdock’s book. That review has been withdrawn from Price’s Website, but enough passages were quoted by Licona himself in his initial “Refutation”, and later his “Answer to Acharya’s Rebuttal.”

    Here are some of Murdock’s answers to this male critic in her “Rebuttal to Mike Licona’s Refutation”, still posted on her site “Truth Be Known”.

    “To these suspicious detractors, I say, why don’t you just ask me where this information, research, etc., comes from, instead of writing polemics and ad hominems against me? Why are you taking my dissection of Christianity so personally that you are getting personal with me? There are obviously some unresolved psychological issues, and the behavior is childish. As well as macho, blustering, pompous, arrogant, conceited, etc. Probably even sexist….And why are these men attacking me, a living, breathing, feeling human being, over an intangible, imaginary man in the sky? …Their knee-jerk reactions without inquiring of me or my research–even recommending a snooty, sophomoric and obnoxious response of ignoring me at all costs–are a sign of a personality problem, not of their cleverness or erudition.”

    In this kind of mental universe, Murdock feels “attacked” by male critics, who react to her because of “sexist” behavior, “unresolved psychological issues,” and “personality problem.”

    Small wonder that a “trained therapist” like D. Simone feels the need to enter the tourney as another defender of the honor of the noble lady so unjustly and unfairly defamed.
    No male can dare criticize Murdock’s far-out speculations, be it about religions, mythology, the supernatural or astrotheology, without being pursued by the (quasi-religious) wrath of the great teacher’s students, devotees, and followers.

    She is even now, in her latest blog, threatening Bart D. Ehrman with the possibility of a law suit because of criticisms in his just published book “Did Jesus Exist”, concerning the famous priapic cock allegedly hidden in the Vatican’s archives — a very entertaining story anyway, mixing antiquity, Christianity, sex, mystery and forgery themes.
    Among her devotees, there must be not only therapists, but also “trained” lawyers willing to come to her rescue — a whole retinue of followers able to come to bat to assist her in any kind of “scholarly” dispute. Murdock deserves credit for her charisma. Very few religion/mythology writers are able to develop this kind of enthusiastic fervor.

  17. Roo Bookaroo says

    Here is the link to the amusing story already mentioned, of the “priapus gallinaceus” allegedly hidden in the basements of the Vatican.

    We all deserve a laugh once in a while. It’s not everyday that arch-serious Biblical studies provide us with such an opportunity.

    Bart Ehrman has a tough job on his hands. There’s no escape for the male critic who dares dispute with Murdock. Which of Bart’s followers will come to his rescue against the maligned Teacher’s ire?

    This is another case for quoting famous Proverbs 26: 18-19 (ESV)
    “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
    is the man who deceives his neighbor
    and says, “I am only joking!”

  18. says

    Richard, this came just in time for me! I ran across the article defending the priapic cock, by Acharya S. / D. M. Murdoch. Just by the name she goes by, I thought she was a guru of some nonsense but she proceeded to make research noises. thought, “She’s so sure of herself! She’s quoting books and descriptions of this thing.” I began to doubt Dr. Ehrman’s scholarly accuracy. I’m far too trusting in arguments so it’s good to have you providing the reality check.

    • says

      I haven’t researched that dispute, so I can’t comment on who is right. It isn’t relevant to our Luxor dispute, so I think it’s a bit off topic in this thread.

  19. says

    I read Doherty’s book over 10 years ago & all of Ehrman’s books & have read your blogs & articles among others & continue to doubt the Jesus myth theory. But BOTH sides can’t make a slam dunk case. Really, to me, just theory & the odds games as to the existence of Jesus of Nazareth existing as a man who later had big tales told about him just as it happened to dozens of other persons with more recent cases being Billy the Kid & Jesse James. And there is the character of John Henry whom it is debated by historians (mostly historians local to the areas where it was supposed to happened) about not only the tall tales of his great strength while working for the C&O railroad but his actual existence as a human being and where did the match between Henry and his nine pound hammers and the steam powered machine take place.

    But may I focus your attention on Paul & D. M. Murdoch. On her blog Acharya S. rejects also a historical Paul and unlike even the most critical/skeptical scholars of Christian origins (Miller, Mack, Edwards, etc) who hold that only 7 of Paul’s 13 letters are genuine with the rest forgeries, Miss Murdoch rejects ALL of the Pauline epistles as from Paul. Why? Because Paul never existed either!

    This is from her blog: “I question the historicity of not only Jesus but also of Paul the Apostle. My conclusion is that the character called “Paul” in the New Testament is a composite of both historical and mythical figures, including the Sauls of the Old Testament and Josephus, as well as Josephus himself, the mythical Greek figure Orpheus and the godman Apollonius”.

    With all due respect to the lady and we all are human being with feelings and this is nothing personal towards her or anyone, only thoughts about her claim, would you Dr. Carrier, give the view that Paul is a composite of these historical and mythical figures and all of Paul’s letters are fakes any chance of being correct?

    Thank you and have a great Easter! Yes Easter. I know us atheists & agnostics still think about it being Easter & try to enjoy the weekend.

    • says

      The probability that all of Paul’s letters (and Paul himself) are a 2nd century fabrication is extremely small. I don’t see it as a theory worth considering.

  20. XSC says

    Dr. Carrier, where can I read the evidence that Marduk died and was resurrected, either in the scholarly literature or in an ancient primary source? Thanks

    • says

      Everything relating to that is analyzed and presented in Tryggve Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East (2001) and “The Dying and Rising God: The Peregrinations of a Mytheme,” in Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia, ed. W.H. van Soldt (2005): pp. 198-210.

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