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OHJ: The Covington Review (Part 2)

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.Last week I did a series on early reviews of my book On the Historicity of Jesus. If you know of reviews I haven’t covered, post them in comments (though please also remark on your own estimation of their merits).

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One of those early reviews began a series by Nicholas Covington. Last week I commented on part 1. Here is my commentary on part 2, which deals with Paul’s reference to James. More to come. Here I’ll just comment item by item. But those who want to can skip all the commentary and go directly to my two-paragraph summary.

Of course, if “James, brother of the Lord” meant “James the Christian” we must ask why Paul needed to specify that the James in question was a Christian (wouldn’t that have been obvious enough?) – See more at: http://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2014/06/29/on-the-historicity-of-jesus-part-2/#sthash.xdcUbfwC.dpuf
Of course, if “James, brother of the Lord” meant “James the Christian” we must ask why Paul needed to specify that the James in question was a Christian (wouldn’t that have been obvious enough?) – See more at: http://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2014/06/29/on-the-historicity-of-jesus-part-2/#sthash.xdcUbfwC.dpuf
Of course, if “James, brother of the Lord” meant “James the Christian” we must ask why Paul needed to specify that the James in question was a Christian (wouldn’t that have been obvious enough?) – See more at: http://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2014/06/29/on-the-historicity-of-jesus-part-2/#sthash.xdcUbfwC.dpuf
  • Of course, if “James, brother of the Lord” meant “James the Christian” we must ask why Paul needed to specify that the James in question was a Christian (wouldn’t that have been obvious enough?)

As he points out, I give the reasons why (more than he mentions). But that will be apparent to anyone who reads the book on this point (ch. 11, § 10).

  • Under the proposition that Jesus really lived, Jesus had a brother names James who must have later on played a role in the church (perhaps not as an apostle, but as somebody at least) and that explains the two passages reasonably. The probability of the evidence is close to 100% under the historicist framework.

Notice that I do not agree with this reasoning. The evidence is actually to the contrary that James “must have” played a later role. In fact, not even the evidence that he merely “may have” is sound. I make all the following points in the book, although not necessarily in the same place (you can check “brothers of the Lord” and “James” in the subject index to find every discussion):

Mark has Jesus simply disown his brothers. Mark has no evident awareness that any were even in the church later, much less famed leaders of it. Ditto every other Gospel. And Acts (written by Luke at the end of the century) also evinces no knowledge of a James the brother of Jesus ever being a leader in the church. Luke simply assumes generically that his brothers were Christians; but in Acts they disappear from history thereafter (I even have a whole section on this point, ch. 9, § 9). The notion that any brother of Jesus became an apostle (much less a leader) does not appear until a century or more after the cult began, and then only in manifestly absurd legends (e.g., see my discussion of Hegesippus in ch. 8, § 8).

Meanwhile, it is a demonstrable fact that all baptized Christians were brothers of the Lord. This means that if there were biological brothers, Paul would have had to make that distinction (e.g., by saying something like “brother of the Lord in the flesh,” or something akin). Yet Paul shows no awareness of any need to make that distinction. That means Paul only knew of one kind of brother of the Lord. And the only kind we can prove Paul knew of, is the fictive (see “fictive kinship” in the subject index), not the biological. Paul never anywhere shows any awareness of there being biological kin for Jesus; he even in some places conspicuously omits them; and his use of the phrase in 1 Corinthians 9 actually contradicts such a notion (ch. 11, § 10).

All of this I discuss and explain in OHJ. We mustn’t skip over that.

This is relevant, as Covington says “it seems to me that under historicism it is equally likely that either (a) Paul would use ‘brother of the Lord’ to refer to a literal brother or (b) use it to denote someone was a Christian,” but per above I do not believe that is soundly assumed. To the contrary, under historicism, Paul would need to distinguish those two groups from each other. He could not therefore refer to a biological brother of Jesus as “brother of the Lord” and mean distinctly a biological brother rather than a baptized Christian. Thus, under historicity, the probability that he would do so is low, not equal. The evidence therefore does not fit historicity–unless Jesus existed and had no brothers in the church, or his brothers were treated as equals and thus not singled out with any special phrase but treated like, and referred to like, every other baptized Christian, but in either case the Galatians passage ceases to be evidence for historicity.

Likewise, under historicity all the other evidence is very unlikely. Mark would know James became a revered leader of the church (or at least a member) and would write accordingly (barring ad hoc assumptions, which lower the prior); as would all the other Gospels; and Acts would record this as well; and our first evidence of it would not be in absurd, century-late myths and legends.

Covington does not take any of this into account in his calculations. So his final math, if he does not include these facts, won’t be accurate (it will violate the rule of total evidence).

The omission in Acts one could say is already covered by the likelihood ratio for Acts (OHJ, pp. 371-75, 603-05). But the omission in the Gospels and the absurdity of later legends about the brothers of Jesus either become background evidence for estimating probabilities in the Epistles (and thus lower the consequent probability of their contents on historicity) or else by “enhancing” the historicity hypothesis with the a priori assumption (since it is then not otherwise in b) that Jesus had brothers who were leaders in the church, the consequent probability of what’s in the Gospels and extrabiblical evidence goes down (further than already argued in chs. 8 and 10). Either way the mathematical effect is the same.

Also lowering the probability of the extant Epistles is the expectation that Paul, if there really were biological kin of Jesus in the church for Paul to refer to, would have to have made a distinction between them and the adopted brethren of Jesus. That he isn’t aware of any need to is to some degree (I would say a significant degree) less probable on historicity than mythicism (or else requires ad hoc assumptions that lower the prior:  OHJ, pp. 584-85). In fact, on the historicist hypothesis (enhanced with the addition “Jesus had brothers in the church”), Paul would more probably have made clearer and more frequent reference to such a remarkable group within the church. Which further entails his not doing so is less probable on historicity than on mythicism.

  • It is also my judgement that the fact that Paul identifies this “brother” as someone with the same name as one of the brothers listed in Mark is more probable under the historicist explanation than under the mythicist explanation.

Here I think Covington uses the wrong math. In fact, he makes a similar error to the blogger who argued that Jesus is more likely fictional because he had an unusually large family (see commentary here). Because there would have been dozens of men named James in the church even if historicity is false, therefore mentioning one for Paul is not unlikely. Indeed, as Covington points out, the apostle James whom Paul immediately discusses in Galatians 2, was conspicuously not the brother of Jesus. Likewise, the grammar in Galatians 1 entails the James being referred to there was not an apostle (contrary to every legend claiming the brother of Jesus became a leader in the church). I discuss this in OHJ, pp. 588-92. Paul thus means a non-apostolic Christian. Curiously, as I note in OHJ, it appears that when Paul most needs to distinguish non-apostolic Christians from apostles (due to the required force it has on his argument), he always uses the full term for a Christian, “brother of the Lord,” rather than its abbreviation, “brother.”

So what is the probability that Paul would sometimes refer to a baptized Christian named James as a brother of the Lord, given that all baptized Christians were known to Paul and his congregations as brothers of the Lord, and Paul needed to distinguish between an apostle and a non-apostolic Christian, so as to strengthen his claim not to have spoken to anyone who could tell him the secrets of the gospel until long after he had been preaching that gospel, thus proving he learned the gospel from the revealed Jesus and not human testimony? (Which is the entire argument he is making in Galatians 1.) I point out in OHJ that just saying “brother” would not suffice, since that could be mistaken as referring to a biological brother of Cephas; and not saying anything would not suffice, since that would leave unclear why this person is being mentioned at all (if Paul just met some Jew or catechumen, it would not be clear why he was mentioning them; that he met a baptized Christian in addition to an apostle would be relevant, however, as I there explain).

Covington’s reasoning is that it would be a coincidence (and thus not 100% expected) if Paul called a Christian by the name “brother of the Lord” who just happened to have the same name as what was later claimed to be one of the brothers of Jesus. But this is not the case if all baptized Christians were known by the name “brother of the Lord.” And they were. On mythicism we should expect Paul to not always use the full phrase, because it was a pleonasm (the same reason we don’t say President of the United States Obama every time we talk about President Obama), so we should expect it only occasionally, especially when a particular contrast needed to be emphasized (expecting most of the time just the abbreviated “brother” and “brethren”). Whereas what we should expect if historicity is true is for Paul to be even more specific than he is in Galatians 1, distinguishing the fact that he means not just a baptized Christian, but a biological brother of Jesus–who was not even an apostle, and yet still needed to be mentioned for some reason.

Thus the evidence is actually contrary to expectation on historicity, and not at all unusual on mythicism, wherein there would have been many men (non-apostolic, baptized Christians) whom Paul could sometimes fully refer to as James the brother of the Lord. Note that I am not positing this ad hoc (against which coincidence might be a relevant argument); that all baptized Christians were known to be (and thus could by anyone be called, at any time) brothers of the Lord is an established fact (OHJ, element 12, p. 108), and that pleonasms will appear less frequently than their abbreviations is a universal truth of human language use.

Meanwhile, the notion that Jesus had a brother named James appears only decades later, in a mythical text, in which Jesus disowns said brother (yet not even by name, just all his siblings collectively), and where no knowledge is evinced of said brother being subsequently special in any way at all, much less joining the church (even less leading it). And all subsequent stories concur for several decades on, even the first history of the church–except by then (decades even after the first Gospel is written) the assumption is finally made that those brothers joined the church, but then never do or say anything or appear in history at all–and none become leaders, or are described as meeting Paul. Then, many, many decades later, wild legends are composed that have this James, for the first time, being an apostolic leader of the church.

That sequence of events is improbable on the historicist reading of Galatians 1. And that has to be factored into the math. As does the fact that under historicity, Paul would need to be more specific if he meant to distinguish a biological brother from a baptized Christian. As does the fact that “brothers of the Lord” can’t mean biological kin when Paul uses it in 1 Cor. 9 (as I show in OHJ, pp. 582-88), which decreases the chances that he meant it so in Gal. 1. As does the fact that had the biological brothers of Jesus joined the church, Paul would be more likely to mention this remarkable fact at several other points in his letters (such as I note in OHJ, e.g. p. 524).

These things have to be calculated, in one way or another, as discussed in the preceding section above–depending on whether “Jesus had brothers” is treated as an ad hoc assumption that then generates expectations in other evidence like the Gospels, or a post hoc assumption based on placing this data, e.g. from the Gospels, in b (as Covington effectively does).

  • [T]he probability of the evidence in question is close to 100% under the historicist theory whereas it is about 25% probable under the mythicist theory.

Covington’s mathematical assumption here requires that, on historicity, Paul could not refer to another person this way, e.g. “Matthias the brother of the Lord,” but that’s not true (and therefore his prediction of 100% for a legendary brother’s name here is incorrect). That the phrase “brother of the Lord” would mean baptized Christian is in our background evidence (OHJ, p. 108): it is not an enhancement to the mythicist theory, but an established fact, that Paul could refer to another person that way, even on historicity. So contrary to Covington’s assumption, Paul’s ability to do so is not a peculiarity of the mythicist theory. In fact, the probability is essentially the same, since there will be by proportion just as many Jameses etc. who were baptized Christians as would have been biological brothers of Jesus, since the name frequencies in the general population commute to both sets, and Paul’s infrequency of using this particular pleonasm would be the same either way (absent ad hoc assumptions like those I discuss on pp. 584-85).

Indeed, I dare say if Paul wrote “Matthias the brother of the Lord,” historicists would insist this is still evidence of historicity, and that the Gospels just forgot this one guy or got his brothers’ names wrong, thus exposing their assumptions are irrationally dogmatic–because they can never be falsified. But what if indeed Paul had said that? The probability of historicity would drop even further than I estimate, because then we would have a direct mismatch between what historicists need to be true (the assumptions or background data they are relying on to bolster h), and what the evidence actually contains. And all mismatches entail reductions in probability. That there is a match only keeps the estimated probabilities where I generously have them.

I discuss this mathematical effect, using the impact of our having or not having the trial records of Pontius Pilate, in Proving History, pp. 219-24. That our not having them is expected on b (just as it is expected on b that Paul will sometimes refer to any random James as a brother of the Lord) does not significantly reduce the probability that he crucified Jesus (any more than Paul sometimes referring to a James as a brother of the Lord significantly increases the probability that Jesus existed). There would arguably be an effect, but it would be too small to care about mathematically (as in the case of Pilate’s lost records).

On historicity, even if we set aside all the considerations I laid out above, it remains at best only trivially more likely that Paul would refer to a biological brother of a coinciding name using the exact same term as an adopted brother (i.e. a baptized Christian), just as it is only trivially more likely that Pilate didn’t crucify Jesus given that we don’t have Pilate’s trial records (see PH for how this works mathematically). And when we don’t set aside all the considerations I laid out above, it is actually considerably unlikely that Paul would do this even on historicity.

  • Moreover, this [passage about James in Galatians 1] is about the only piece of evidence for an historical Jesus of which I know (I’ve looked into the issue before, and have come to the conclusion that most claimed evidence is actually very doubtful).

In the end it is reassuring that someone else sees the same point. Indeed, this is just about all the evidence there is. In my final calculation, when arguing a fortiori in favor of historicity, I only find two pieces of evidence have any strength, the two references to brothers in Paul and the two references to parents in Paul. I actually think these argue the reverse, due to considerations like those above, so in my a judicantiori estimates I find these passages to be very bizarre (= unexpected = improbable) on historicity, contrary to the assumptions of historicists, who don’t actually think very hard about these passages. But even when counting them as evidence for Jesus, I end up finding historicity improbable.

Covington might concur. Although, per above, I think he violates the rule of total evidence when assigning the evidence in Galatians 1 too high a likelihood ratio favoring historicity. Other considerations that he doesn’t assess drag it back down. And I think he uses the wrong math to generate a likelihood ratio of Paul using a legendary brother’s name on either historicity or myth (e.g. after putting the “legendary brothers’ names” data from the Gospels into b). Because due to Element 12 being in b (OHJ, p. 108), P(~e|h.b), that Paul would have used a non-legendary brother’s name in Gal. 1, is not zero, but in fact pretty much the same as P(~e|~h.b). Consequently, P(e|h.b) is pretty much the same as P(e|~h.b). (See PH, pp. 230, 255, 302n13.)

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See my commentary on part 3. And my commentary on part 1. I will eventually blog on all of Covington’s entries in this series (his continuing index is here). He has also responded to this commentary on part 2 and I have replied in turn (see comments). And after that and further thought and discussion with other commenters, Covington came to rethink his position on the James passage in Galatians. He discusses his reevaluation in part 9. He now comes out roughly in agreement with my a fortiori estimate in OHJ. But nothing he has so far said has convinced me to alter my a judicantiori estimate. For the same reasons laid out above.

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For a complete list of my responses to critiques of OHJ, see the last section of my List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus.

Comments

  1. Giuseppe says

    I start to read OHJ next month, but, although finding very strong your arguments even from now, I have some doubt:

    Marcion erased from pauline epistles, according to the consensus, all the clues to servile dipendence of Paul to the Pillars, because only Paul was the unique true apostle for Marcion.

    Now, at the moment I don’t know if Galatians mutilated version of Marcion had the ”brother of Lord” costruct or not, but :

    1) if Marcion preserved it in his mutilated version of Galatians, he had no reason, in virtue of his theological interests, in not removing it, because in a historicist view (and Marcion was historicist) that costruct alone might collapse the entire theology of Marcion: Paul saw the brother of Jesus and then is inferior to him.

    2) If Marcion erased that costruct, then his opponents already used Gal 1:19 to streghten their ”proto-othodox” historicism in anti-docetic function: Jesus was effectively born like his brother James and then he was not a phantom or ologram.

    On the Jesus Myth theory, I find more probable as effect the 2 option, but the 1 option is more probable on historicity. In other terms, to think that Marcion did not erase ”the brother of Lord” would imply only that he, even if historicist, realized that costruct as not referred to a carnal brother of Jesus, but only to a Christian baptized ”thus proving he [Paul, the apostle of Marcion] learned the gospel from the revealed Jesus and not human testimony”: but it’s impossible that Marcion thought something of this kind, because any Christian historicist (and Marcion was) virtually means ”the brother of Lord” in a biological sense. Then, if point 1 is verified, it’s evidence against mythicism, since even who had all the interest (like Marcion) to minimize the Paul’s dependence to Pillars, was forced to recognize that pure and simple fact (that Paul was submitted to James because James was the brother of Jesus).

    Am I right?

    Very thanks,
    Giuseppe

    • says

      Marcion erased from pauline epistles, according to the consensus, all the clues to servile dependence of Paul to the Pillars, because only Paul was the unique true apostle for Marcion.

      That is a radical fringe view unsupported by any solid evidence. It is not “according to the consensus.”

      I rely on as many consensus positions as possible so as not to reduce my conclusion’s probability by requiring any unnecessary or difficult-to-prove conjectures. Like this one.

  2. Steve Watson says

    We have Paul’s writings and Christianity is said in large part to be a Pauline creation. If there were a James, brother of a real Jesus and a Cephas/Peter who was this Jesus’ best mate, how would that happen? Yes, I really am going to take the word of someone who has had a bang on the head and is now seeing things over that of Jesus’ brother and someone who knew him very well and in person.

    OHJ should arrive tomorrow and I very much look forward to reading it but it doesn’t say a great deal for our societies that we have come so late to the bleeding obvious, that every quibble has to be knocked on the head in excruciating detail, and even when this has been done it will make hardly a dent to the numbers that fall for this god guff.

    • says

      Paul travels widely, establishing groups all over; his preaching omits or minimizes the role of James & Cephas. James stays put; Cephas mostly stays put; thus everyone who follows them remains concentrated in and around Jerusalem. And then Jerusalem gets bulldozed in the Jewish War….

    • Steve Watson says

      Paul complains a lot about having to counter people following him round and undoing his work, some of them from James. None of these people being sent out from Jerusalem are using this, to me at least, obvious argument for distrusting him. All of these people seem to be getting their teachings from visions or others who have had visions.
      And then, I agree, the Jewish War pretty much scuppers being able to check back. Until now.

      But even then, people had tools for thinking clearly. Which is one of the reasons all the post-War literature was manufactured: people kept pointing out that this is not what they had originally been taught, what they could read for themselves or made any sense. As far as I can see all the so called “heresies” are earlier “orthodoxies” that wouldn’t succumb to the latest thing that had been made-up by Anastasius, “Timothy” or whoever, to make things more palatable to them or their group.

  3. Bernard says

    Dr. Carrier,
    you wrote,
    “Meanwhile, it is a demonstrable fact that all baptized Christians were brothers of the Lord. This means that if there were biological brothers, Paul would have had to make that distinction (e.g., by saying something like “brother of the Lord in the flesh,” or something akin). Yet Paul shows no awareness of any need to make that distinction. That means Paul only knew of one kind of brother of the Lord.”
    .
    No, it is far from certain that Paul and his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.
    You made a very poor job in demonstrating that in your very short element 12, for something which is so important for your case, and when you had a lot of opponents when the matter was discussed on your blog.
    .
    Paul started to call his Christians “sons of god’ in his last letters, but never in 1 Corinthians, where “the brothers of the Lord” appears.
    .
    Furthermore, it looks the three occurrences of “Son of God” in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians were part of later interpolations. Paul started to call Jesus “Son of God” in 2 Corinthians. I can supply ready-made argumentation for that.
    .
    Furthermore, in Romans 8:29 “firstborn among many brothers” Paul missed his chance to confirm the firstborn had brothers (in a familial and spiritual sense). Because he would have written instead “firstborn among HIS many brothers” or “firstborn OF many brothers” (with “brothers” in the genitive case which he used all the times for familial relationship of all natures, such as “son(s) of …” & “father of …”).
    .
    Furthermore, if plain “brothers” means Christians everywhere in the Pauline epistles, why would it not mean that in Ro 8:29, instead of (familial) brothers? Certainly here, Paul did not give any indication he wanted the word brothers” to be understood otherwise than just “Christians”.
    .
    Furthermore nowhere in the Pauline epistles Paul said clearly his Christians were brothers of the Lord.
    Or his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.
    .
    Furthermore spiritual familial relationship is not as mathematical as real familial relationship. For example,
    some Christian believers call their pastor “father”. That does not mean they think they are his sons & daughters. They do not go one step further and think they are brothers and sisters between themselves because they have the same “father”. And even if they did, they certainly would not think, because of that, they are brothers and sisters with the real flesh & blood sons and daughters of the pastor.
    You simply cannot treat spiritual familial relationship as the same than totally real flesh and blood familial relationship.
    .
    According to these observations, the probability that Paul thought his Christians were brothers of Jesus is null. And we have no evidence whatsoever the Christians themselves thought they were, in some way, brothers of the Lord.
    .
    Cordially, Bernard

    • says

      No, it is far from certain that Paul and his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.

      Read OHJ, pp. 584-85, with p. 108, incl. n. 101.

      If you won’t even address the book, what the fuck are you doing?

      Paul started to call his Christians “sons of god’ in his last letters, but never in 1 Corinthians, where “the brothers of the Lord” appears.

      So you are proposing the completely implausible and ad hoc assumption that the entire Christian religion radically changed in the interim, so that baptism became an adoption ceremony and Christians only started regarding themselves as the adopted sons of God in the late 50s but not the early 50s?

      That reduces the prior probability of historicity by requiring that ad hoc assumption, for which you have no non-circular evidence, and which is inherently implausible. You are acting exactly like a Christian apologist, making shit up and claiming it’s a fact, in order to use it to challenge what is an actual documented fact. That’s how cranks behave, Bernard.

      This is especially ridiculous, because Paul says baptized Christians are the adopted sons of God in Galatians, which all scholars date to around the same time as if not earlier than 1 Corinthians (remember, 1 Cor. is not the actual first letter to the Corinthians–we don’t have that: 1 Cor. 5:9, 11), and certainly not significantly later (the difference can be but a few years). The detail is also in 2 Corinthians (6:18), so you are even proposing the entire Christian religion radically changed in between two letters to the same church, composed within a year or two of each other.

      Your ad hoc apologetics-style baloney hypothesis is also irrelevant, because “brother of the Lord” also appears in Galatians, exactly where Paul says baptized Christians are the adopted sons of God, which would necessitate his making a distinction. As I explain in the book. The book you haven’t read.

      Likewise, in 1 Cor. 9, Paul cannot be referring to the kin of Jesus, wholly independently of this point. As I explain in the book. The book you haven’t read.

      And Paul explains why we share the sonship of Christ in 1 Cor. 12 (the baptized are all part of the same body of Christ and thus share his body’s identity). And he says God is “our” father (1 Cor. 1:3) and Paul frequently calls Christians “brothers” in 1 Cor. How are they brothers? By sharing the same father, by being one in Christ.

      So, in short, I call bullshit.

      Furthermore, it looks the three occurrences of “Son of God” in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians were part of later interpolations. Paul started to call Jesus “Son of God” in 2 Corinthians. I can supply ready-made argumentation for that.

      So now you are making your ad hoc thesis even more elaborate and thus even more improbable by also claiming that Christians didn’t even consider Jesus to be the son of God?

      Holy shit, Bernard, that’s your most pathetic and desperate move yet.

      Furthermore, in Romans 8:29 “firstborn among many brothers” Paul missed his chance to confirm the firstborn had brothers (in a familial and spiritual sense). Because he would have written instead “firstborn among HIS many brothers” or “firstborn OF many brothers” (with “brothers” in the genitive case which he used all the times for familial relationship of all natures, such as “son(s) of …” & “father of …”).

      Wow. Not even William Lane Craig would try such a dumb argument.

      All these sentences mean the same thing. So you are arguing for a distinction that doesn’t exist.

      Indeed, you are so foolish you didn’t even think this through.

      “For you received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” … hmm, where does Paul say that again? Oh, right, the exact same chapter in Romans.

      Furthermore, if plain “brothers” means Christians everywhere in the Pauline epistles, why would it not mean that in Ro 8:29, instead of (familial) brothers? Certainly here, Paul did not give any indication he wanted the word brothers” to be understood otherwise than just “Christians”.

      This is not an intelligible argument. I cannot fathom what point you are trying to make. But it sounds like you want to deny that Paul had regarded all worldly connections to be dissolved, and all Christians equals regardless of birth status (Gal. 3:28, 1 Cor. 12:13, etc.).

      Furthermore nowhere in the Pauline epistles Paul said clearly his Christians were brothers of the Lord.
      Or his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.

      That Christians considered themselves the adopted sons of God (Rom. 8:15), sharing the same body as the first son of God (1 Cor. 12), and thus were the brothers of that firstborn (Rom. 8:28), because they share the same father (1 Cor. 1:3), etc. etc. etc., is saying the exact same thing.

      Hence my argument in OHJ, pp. 584-85. Which you haven’t read and are failing to respond to.

      Furthermore spiritual familial relationship is not as mathematical as real familial relationship. For example, some Christian believers call their pastor “father”. That does not mean they think they are his sons & daughters.

      Because what modern Christians think in a modern culture with no significant fictive kinship tradition anymore, tells us exactly all we need to know about how ancient Christians thought in an ancient culture filled with common fictive kinship identities. Right.

      Again, in my book I document how different our two cultures are on exactly that point (see “fictive kinship” in the index to OHJ). The book you haven’t read.

      (I also suspect you are unaware of the huge cultural difference in regard to what people believe about adoption; today, adopted children are treated like not really their parents’ children, but in antiquity it was quite the reverse. I can refer you to literature on that point, although I suspect you wouldn’t read it.)

      And yet we needn’t rest on that, either. For Paul is repeatedly explicit that the baptized are the adopted sons of God and literally share the body of the son of God and thus are the brothers of Jesus in a literal, metaphysical sense. So you don’t have any leg to stand on here.

      Bernard, you are a crank. Your arguments are illogical; you don’t get the facts right; you omit damning evidence against you; you ignore the differences in historical context; you don’t even read the arguments you claim to be rebutting and consequently aren’t even responding to them; and you make shit up.

      You are only embarrassing yourself here.

    • says

      Thanks.

      Just briefly:

      Given that Mark doesn’t write anything about the early history of the church, I think this is a weak consideration. Mark could have written something about James later returning to the church or something, but I don’t think there is any overpowering reason he would have, so this is a very weak argument from silence.

      That’s an ad hoc speculation. Whereas if Mark knew James would join the church (and thus poetically become the brother of Jesus again), he would not so casually have Jesus disown him, and never correct or explain this slight anywhere in his whole story. This is expected if Mark had no idea. But if Mark knew, it’s weird. And weird = uncommon = infrequent = improbable.

      Analogously, Mark has Peter’s failure (Mk. 14:7-72), but had Jesus even predict this and give a lesson about it (Simon of Cyrene does what Peter was supposed to do), and then intimates that Peter will be redeemed (Mk. 16:7). Whereas Jesus simply disowns all his brothers. And that’s it. No muss, no foreshadowing, no redemption, no lesson as to why he was disowning even someone who would in future head the church or actually in fact be re-owned by Jesus. James isn’t even named (his name comes up elsewhere). He is thus not even distinguished. Mark shows no knowledge of there being anything special about James at all, and unlike Peter, gives no hints at his redemption, of his becoming Jesus’s brother again, by Jesus’s own stated terms.

      James the brother might’ve just played some subsidiary role during the birth of Christianity (and I see no reason to rule this out), and if that’s the case the argument from silence wouldn’t be so strong.

      But these things still accumulate.

      If you abandon the notion that James was important, and thus embrace instead the assumption that he was so insignificant no history about him got to Luke or was worth mentioning–not even, we would have to conclude, Paul’s having met him at his first meeting with Peter–then its effect on the probability is smaller, but still not inconsequential. The notion that Jesus’s brothers “must have” been in the church is the claim I am challenging. There is no basis for the word “must.” And even the “may have been” is challenged by the fact that we see the legendary development go the other direction: from no knowledge, to perfunctory presence and insignificance, to legendary apostolic leader. And of course we have to be agreeing here that in reality James was not even an apostle (as surely an apostle who was the literal brother of Jesus could not fail to be historically significant, even for Luke to invent stories about him), which would agree with Paul’s grammar.

      Add these to all the other factors I enumerate, and you get a diminishing probability, not a parity.

      Under the historicity hypothesis, I grant that we’d be a little more likely to see an unambiguous phrase like ‘brother of Jesus’ or ‘brother of the Lord according to the flesh,’ I just feel very iffy about granting that this would be highly likely under historicity. It’s only a gut feeling, but it’s really all I have to go on.

      The question to ask yourself is what is P(~e|h.b) for the name-title conjunction in Gal. 1? That is, what is the probability, that if Paul was just entitling a random baptized Christian here, the name would be something other than a name matching a legendary brother of Jesus?

      Once you answer that, P(e|h.b) = 1 – P(~e|h.b). If that outcome contradicts your gut, your gut is wrong. Because [1 - P(~e|h.b)] is the likelihood that Gal. 1 would contain what it actually now does. And it won’t be the number you calculated.

      Humans are indeed uncomfortable with coincidence. That’s why we are prone to all sorts of fallacies like agency overdetection. “My gut is uncomfortable with the idea that this rain, which caused me to get injured immediately after I was mean to a stranger, isn’t some deity punishing me” is a tempting line of reasoning. But not at all valid.

  4. says

    Do historicists generally agree that 1 Cor. 9 does not refer to biological brothers? Because it seems to me that if they grant this, they can’t possibly claim that Gal. 1 is more than a wash between historicism and mythicism. Of course you could still argue that ‘brother of the Lord’ meant different things depending on context, but you can’t argue that it definitely means a biological brother and at the same time agree that it sometimes does not.

    • says

      Do historicists generally agree that 1 Cor. 9 does not refer to biological brothers?

      No. Like most passages like this, the actual context and argument of 1 Cor. 9 is not really looked at objectively, it’s just washed over with assumptions (based on vague Christian traditions) that don’t match the text.

      You’ll even hear some serious scholars saying that Paul is arguing that he should be allowed to get married. That is not at all what is being argued there. But more to the point, the actual rhetoric of Paul’s argument requires that the people he lists as comparands in 1 Cor. 9:5 be of the same rank as him or lower, which refutes both the notion that Cephas was a “disciple” (since Paul must be assuming, and assuming the Corinthians agreed, that Cephas was “only” an apostle like Paul and thus the same in rank; no room remains for a higher ranking position like hand-picked “disciple”) and that the “brothers of the Lord” there were the biological kin of Jesus (Paul would not use them as an example unless he could claim the same or higher status…but not being the kin relation of the Lord, how could he?). What Paul is clearly doing is arguing that other apostles, even rank-and-file Christians get subsidized, therefore so should a top-ranking apostle like Paul.

      Seeing this requires realizing what the rules of Greek rhetoric require, and actually questioning why he names the groups he does in 1 Cor. 9:5, i.e. how does that win his argument?

      I elaborate in OHJ (11 § 10).

  5. Ben Holman says

    Dr. Carrier,

    Question while reading your book, though not directly related to this review…. On page 403, n36 of OHJ, you mention other nation’s kings taking actions to symbolically free the land of sin, etc..

    Typically, when fundamentalists have asked me, “are you a sinner?”, or “do you believe you’ve sinned?”, I’ll respond by clarifying that I believe I’ve committed objectively wrong/bad actions, and that objective morality exists, but that I don’t believe ‘sin’ exists, because that implies the existence of a god (to sin against), of which there’s no good evidence etc..

    Do you happen to know if “sin” was a broader concept/idea among all nations? Was it just a synonym for morally wrong conduct, or did they all (beyond Jews, such as Babylonians, Assyrians, etc..) actually envision some type of metaphysical/mystical force or quasi-contagion associated with ‘sin’?

    Thanks!
    Ben

    • says

      It varied a lot culturally, but the short answer is yes. Sin was a substance that a sinner accumulates, and inherits.

      For example, in Egyptian and Persian theologies (and thus eventually in Stoic cosmology) evil added weight to the soul, preventing the soul from rising to heaven or even dragging it into a subterranean furnace that melted the sin out of you (this is essentially what is described in Virgil’s Aeneid; I’m oversimplifying a bit), or, in the Egyptian system, ensuring your soul weighed more than a feather when placed on a scale, by which it was decided whether your soul would become demon food or you got to move on to bliss.

      In Judaism, it appears at first that what accumulated was God’s anger, and not a substance or property inhering in the sinner’s body itself. But eventually Jews picked up that notion as well, although it’s hard to pin down when or in which sects. It paralleled (or was influenced by) the Platonic idea that all matter is corrupt and flawed, and so perfection can only be achieved by abandoning matter and living as pure spirit. Combining God’s accumulated anger with Jewish contagion beliefs (the Torah and Talmud are rife with obsessions about spiritual contamination that can be transmitted by contact, even contact with something’s shadow) and this notion of matter being corrupt, and you get the idea of sin as a substance that has to be washed out of you by magic rituals.

      The pagans did have similar ideas: hence a baptism for the dead to remove sin from their souls so they could float to heaven was in Eleusinian cult long before Christianity (Conzelman cites inscriptions, and I cite Conzelman in OHJ, likewise Plato). But these too appear to have evolved out of a wrath doctrine, e.g. the inherited sin of the Oedipus family that dogs them for generations was originally imagined to be the result of actual deities punishing them. The conversion of that into a substance that inheres in bodies or even souls developed later, but still pretty early (it’s taken for granted already in Plato, but not by everyone).

  6. Giuseppe says

    Hi Richard,
    I’m following with interest the debate at Covington’s blog and I find there an objection to your case about Philo from GakuseiDon (that I suspect to be an Christian apologist) here and in successive comments (in essentia: Philo calls ἀνατολή as Logos but he refers not to Zech.’s Jesus but to Adam cited before in Philo). It’s credible as objection? I am not sure, because I dont’know Philo very well. Feel free to respond when you will review officially other posts of Covington.

    Very Thanks,

    Giuseppe

    • says

      He is confused. Philo is saying the Jesus in Zech. 6 is the same person as the primordial Adam, which is the Logos, not the Adam of Adam and Eve fame. So this is not either/or. Philo is saying they are the same person.

      And it would be completely unintelligible for Philo to pluck a random verse out of context and perform an exegesis on it and at the same time intend that its context was wholly irrelevant (why then quote the passage at all?). Not least because Philo is saying that that is what the verse he quotes means. So he clearly means when we read that verse, we are to take it as meaning that. Which transforms the meaning of Zech. 6 exactly as I observe. It would make no sense to say the verse means x, but then expect it to mean ~x whenever you read it in context. And even if such a wildly bizarre notion was what Philo intended, it would be so bizarre he would have to explain it (e.g. he’d have to say that the verse does not mean what he says in context, but only when taken out of context). And then he would be contradicting himself (because he says anatolê is a weird thing to call a man, therefore it must not be referring to an ordinary man; that’s his whole argument; yet in context, without Philo’s interpretation, it refers to an ordinary man, directly refuting Philo’s whole argument that it can’t be).

      So this is just a silly excuse to reject the obvious by someone who hasn’t really thought their own notion through very much. They just want this to not be true, and so just shoot out some random, poorly thought rationalizations to convince themselves it’s not so.

      I would add that they must not have read the book, since I point out theories like theirs require positing enormously improbable coincidences (OHJ, pp. 201-04). Which is typical of Christian apologetics: they often like to deny reality by insisting something very improbable happened instead.

  7. Bernard says

    Dr. Carrier,
    .
    RC: No, it is far from certain that Paul and his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.
    Read OHJ, pp. 584-85, with p. 108, incl. n. 101.
    If you won’t even address the book, what the fuck are you doing?
    .
    BM: It is legitimate I challenge on what appears on your blog. Furthermore I have the text of element 12 in your OHJ book where you discussed very briefly the whole business of baptized Christians being “the brothers of the Lord”.
    .
    RC: Paul started to call his Christians “sons of god’ in his last letters, but never in 1 Corinthians, where “the brothers of the Lord” appears..
    So you are proposing the completely implausible and ad hoc assumption that the entire Christian religion radically changed in the interim,
    .
    BM: Oh YES, the entire Christian religion was radically changing during Paul’s public life. Evolution affects religion also, more so at their beginning.
    .
    RC: so that baptism became an adoption ceremony and Christians only started regarding themselves as the adopted sons of God in the late 50s but not the early 50s?
    .
    BM: Where did Paul write the baptism of converts made them “the brothers of the Lord”?. Nowhere
    .
    RC: That reduces the prior probability of historicity by requiring that ad hoc assumption, for which you have no non-circular evidence, and which is inherently implausible. You are acting exactly like a Christian apologist, making shit up and claiming it’s a fact, in order to use it to challenge what is an actual documented fact.
    .
    BM: No, Paul considering his baptized Christians, or the same ones considering themselves, as “the brothers of the Lord” is not an evidenced fact.
    .
    RC: This is especially ridiculous, because Paul says baptized Christians are the adopted sons of God in Galatians, which all scholars date to around the same time as if not earlier than 1 Corinthians.
    .
    BM: Are you bluffing or unaware? Actually some scholars consider ‘Galatians’ as being one of his last letters. As for me, I explained my reasons on that web page, at section 3):
    http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3xx.html
    There is no unanimity about the dating of ‘Galatians’: anywhere from 50 to 57 AD. Even the NIV has to acknowledge that. I suspect many apologists prefer an early date just to show Paul’s christology & theology were the same from beginning to end of his public life.
    .
    RC: (remember, 1 Cor. is not the actual first letter to the Corinthians–we don’t have that: 1 Cor. 5:9, 11), and certainly not significantly later (the difference can be but a few years). The detail is also in 2 Corinthians (6:18), so you are even proposing the entire Christian religion radically changed in between two letters to the same church, composed within a year or two of each other.
    .
    BM: You must mean 2 Cor 6:14-18 which I regard as an interpolation:
    http://historical-jesus.info/co2a.html#ada
    As for 1 Cor 5:9, 11, you made a good point: I also noticed that long ago. That put to 7 the minimum number of letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthians: see
    http://historical-jesus.sosblogs.com/Historical-Jesus-Blo-b1/43-Justifications-for-1-Corinthians-and-2-Corinthians-being-for-each-one-a-combination-of-three-letters-by-Paul-b1-p47.htm
    where I explained my reasons. And, if we do that, then it becomes obvious that Paul’s christology & theology went through a rapid inflation, more so when, after the dispute at Antioch, Paul was cut off from the Church of Jerusalem and the one of Antioch, even Barnabas. And, as he became on his own, with all the freedom which came with that, Paul progressively incremented his doctrines to make them more appealing to his Gentiles. But I am digressing here …
    .
    RC: Your ad hoc apologetics-style baloney hypothesis is also irrelevant, because “brother of the Lord” also appears in Galatians, exactly where Paul says baptized Christians are the adopted sons of God, which would necessitate his making a distinction. As I explain in the book. The book you haven’t read.
    .
    BM: So what: baptized Christians as “sons of God” is not the same as “brother of the Lord”, just because the two expressions appear in the same epistle. Why making a distinction? If James was already known as brother of Jesus by these Galatians, then “James, the brother of the Lord” would not need to be distinguish from “sons of God”.
    .
    RC: Likewise, in 1 Cor. 9, Paul cannot be referring to the kin of Jesus, wholly independently of this point. As I explain in the book. The book you haven’t read.
    .
    BM: I already read the relevant part of that book. I do not agree with you. Paul can certainly refer to Jesus’ true brothers by “the brothers of the Lord”. I got two points about your interpretation on specifically 1 Cor 9:5: You quickly assume that “the brothers of the Lord” in 1 Cor 9:5 are Christians travelers on church business. But would “brothers of the Lord” be a proper expression to describe those? Simply “brothers” would have been enough (with the context suggesting travelers on church business) or, much better, “helpers in Christ”. The “brothers of the Lord”, as you think are generally all baptized Christians, is highly confusing and inadequate for indicating Christian travelers on church business.
    Furthermore in the next verse, Paul complained that only him and Barnabas had to work for a living. That seems to indicate the  preceding group (apostles, brothers of the Lord & Cephas) did not have to work for a living permanently, which would not be the case for these helpers.
    .
    RC: And Paul explains why we share the sonship of Christ in 1 Cor. 12 (the baptized are all part of the same body of Christ and thus share his body’s identity). And he says God is “our” father (1 Cor. 1:3) and Paul frequently calls Christians “brothers” in 1 Cor. How are they brothers? By sharing the same father, by being one in Christ.
    .
    BM: If it was so obvious that, from the Pauline epistles, Christians are brothers of Jesus (spiritually by adoption), that would be heard often by apologists, Christian scholars, preachers, priests, pastors, etc. That certainly would make the believers feel good. But that’s not the case. Who, except yourself, made that point?
    Sharing the body of someone else in any ways, or symbolically eating it, does not make you a brother of the entity with the body.
    I do not object about Paul calling his Christians “brothers” and having the same spiritual “father”. “One in Christ” does not make you brother of Christ, maybe brother in Christ.
    .
    RC: Furthermore, it looks the three occurrences of “Son of God” in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians were part of later interpolations. Paul started to call Jesus “Son of God” in 2 Corinthians. I can supply ready-made argumentation for that..
    So now you are making your ad hoc thesis even more elaborate and thus even more improbable by also claiming that Christians didn’t even consider Jesus to be the son of God?
    .
    BM: This is not ad hoc. I made that thesis well before you turned mythicist, even before I learned about Doherty and yourself. I did not say “Christians didn’t even consider Jesus to be the son of God”, just Paul did not write it before 2 Corinthians. Here are my reasons here:
    1 Th 1:10, 1 Cor 1:4-9 and 1 Cor 15:23-28 are very likely latter interpolations. I want to stress the authenticity of the aforementioned passages is contested because of many suspicious items, not only because of “Son”. But let’s say, in ’1Thessalonians’ and ’1Corinthians’, Paul was unlikely to mention Jesus as “the Son”, because he wrote:
    “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 1:1)
    “our God and Father” (1 Th 1:3, 3:13)
    “our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus” (1 Th 3:11)
    “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords, [for Paul, as it seems here, "lords" are not "gods"]
    ` yet for us there is one God, the Father … and one Lord Jesus Christ …” (1 Cor 8:5-6a)
    “the heavenly man [Jesus]” (1 Cor 15:48,49)
    For more justifications, click on:
    http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3xx.html#1th1:10
    and
    http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#ada
    and
    http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#add
    .
    RC: Holy shit, Bernard, that’s your most pathetic and desperate move yet.
    Furthermore, in Romans 8:29 “firstborn among many brothers” Paul missed his chance to confirm the firstborn had brothers (in a familial and spiritual sense). Because he would have written instead “firstborn among HIS many brothers” or “firstborn OF many brothers” (with “brothers” in the genitive case which he used all the times for familial relationship of all natures, such as “son(s) of …” & “father of …”).
    Wow. Not even William Lane Craig would try such a dumb argument.
    All these sentences mean the same thing. So you are arguing for a distinction that doesn’t exist.
    Indeed, you are so foolish you didn’t even think this through.
    .
    BM: You are not addressing what I wrote head on. You seem to me you are avoiding about what I wrote on Ro 8:29. You are not answering the specifics.
    .
    RC: “For you received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” … hmm, where does Paul say that again? Oh, right, the exact same chapter in Romans.
    .
    BM: Yes, that makes Christians adopted “sons of God”, which is confirmed in ‘Galatians’ and ‘Romans’; also that would make the Christians brothers between themselves, as confirmed in all the Pauline letters. But again I do not see why, because that appears in the same chapter (8:15) than 8:29, it would make the “many brothers” here other than “many Christians”.
    .
    RC: Furthermore, if plain “brothers” means Christians everywhere in the Pauline epistles, why would it not mean that in Ro 8:29, instead of (familial) brothers? Certainly here, Paul did not give any indication he wanted the word brothers” to be understood otherwise than just “Christians”.
    This is not an intelligible argument. I cannot fathom what point you are trying to make. But it sounds like you want to deny that Paul had regarded all worldly connections to be dissolved, and all Christians equals regardless of birth status (Gal. 3:28, 1 Cor. 12:13, etc.).
    .
    BM: I did not say that. But It just happened that Paul never made a worldly connection consisting of Christians being brother of the Lord. He certainly made that worldly connection in the expressions “sons of …”, “Son of …” and “father of …”.
    Furthermore nowhere in the Pauline epistles Paul said clearly his Christians were brothers of the Lord.
    Or his Christians considered themselves “brothers of the Lord”.
    .
    RC: That Christians considered themselves the adopted sons of God (Rom. 8:15), sharing the same body as the first son of God (1 Cor. 12), and thus were the brothers of that firstborn (Rom. 8:28), because they share the same father (1 Cor. 1:3), etc. etc. etc., is saying the exact same thing.
    .
    BM: I went through that already. No, none of these bits says that Christians saw themselves as brothers of the Lord.
    .
    RC: Hence my argument in OHJ, pp. 584-85. Which you haven’t read and are failing to respond to.
    Furthermore spiritual familial relationship is not as mathematical as real familial relationship. For example, some Christian believers call their pastor “father”. That does not mean they think they are his sons & daughters.
    Because what modern Christians think in a modern culture with no significant fictive kinship tradition anymore, tells us exactly all we need to know about how ancient Christians thought in an ancient culture filled with common fictive kinship identities. Right.
    Again, in my book I document how different our two cultures are on exactly that point (see “fictive kinship” in the index to OHJ). The book you haven’t read.
    (I also suspect you are unaware of the huge cultural difference in regard to what people believe about adoption; today, adopted children are treated like not really their parents’ children, but in antiquity it was quite the reverse. I can refer you to literature on that point, although I suspect you wouldn’t read it.)
    .
    BM: If it was as you said, Paul would have written his Christians are the brothers of Jesus without any ambiguities. Certainly a good thing to say to his Christians. But he never did.
    .
    RC: And yet we needn’t rest on that, either. For Paul is repeatedly explicit that the baptized are the adopted sons of God and literally share the body of the son of God and thus are the brothers of Jesus in a literal, metaphysical sense. So you don’t have any leg to stand on here.
    .
    BM: I went through that already.
    .
    Cordially, Bernard

    • says

      This is standard Bernard. Your rambles get longer and longer and longer, yet address the actual relevant issues less and less and less.

      You are simply not responding to the arguments in the book. Your responses are therefore useless and a waste of everyone’s time here.

      Moreover, you have simply admitted that you are resting on wildly implausible conjectures based on no evidence. And yet somehow think that’s a winning argument.

      My last comment already refutes you. And when your rebuttal is already soundly refuted by the text it is rebutting, you have lost the argument.

      Case in point:

      BM: Where did Paul write the baptism of converts made them “the brothers of the Lord”?. Nowhere

      That’s simply a lie. Paul says in the passages I cite that baptism makes us sons of God like Jesus, and thus Jesus is the firstborn of the brethren. And so on and so on. I’ve already cited the passages here and in the book. You are just gainsaying obvious facts at this point.

      The rest of your arguments are ridiculous. No scholars place Galatians more than a handful of years away from 1 Corinthians, for example, so your window of radical change in the entire religion (a radical change you just completely made up, based on no evidence or even plausibility) is barely five years. You want every passage that disagrees with you to conveniently be an interpolation. You absurdly try to claim that two men having the same father does not make them brothers. You even claim that Paul’s saying Jesus was the firstborn of many brethren is “ambiguous” as to whom those brethren were brothers of! You even try to argue that Jesus both was and wasn’t considered by Christians to be the son of God (depending on when admitting this is suicidal to your argument). And in every case you keep ignoring what I say in the book (as for example on 1 Cor. 9). The book you are critiquing, but by your own admission you have not read. And you keep ignoring even what I say here in this thread (such as what I’ve said about Romans 8).

      Seriously. Pack it in.

  8. Azuma Hazuki says

    Dr. Carrier: this is somewhat off-topic, but can you tell us more about the Persian and Stoic theologies? I was told the Persians believed in eternal torture, and were the first to invent “ironic hells” as it were, and that the Egyptians also believed you would suffer forever in Amenti.

    • says

      No, Zoroastrianism did not advocate eternal torment, the great fire was purgative just like in Stoicism (in fact the Stoic system appears to have been lifted from Zoroastrianism with just a few tweaks; the Jewish system likewise, albeit tweaked differently). The saved get to live forever in paradise, because their souls were not tainted with sin and thus would not be consumed in the great fire that would burn the world (burning away all that is evil). Those tainted with sin must burn until those evils are burned out of them (Virgil placed some few persons as doomed forever; I don’t know if there was such a category also in Zoroastrianism, but his Tartarus lot could be derived from prior Greek mythology instead). Egyptians varied as to whether you suffered or were simply consumed, but either way your fate was decided by the actual physical mass that accumulated sins attached to your soul (making it weigh more than a feather).

  9. messing says

    I have been considering your many “responses” to my criticisms of your works and your replies. Cleary, this hasn’t amounted to much. Would it be better if I reviewed your works (mostly PH & your latest work) in detail in the form of a review, and as such I wouldn’t need to rely upon dialogue defined by you? That way, I could address your misuse of your own sources, your logical blunders, and so forth, in ways that you could continue to dismiss without addressing And you need not shy away from using Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Coptic, nor whatever you think your expertise makes you a specialist in (I am not saying you are not a specialist; you undoubtedly are). I simply wish to be able to address your blatant and clear errors of basic logic and probability without having to rely on your inadequate knowledge of either. If this is unacceptable, and as you are looking for reviews of your work to attack. I can write my such a review instead; however, as I don’t yet know why you have presented such an obviously flawed illogical argument, I don’t wish to yet. Would it be acceptable if I posted or emailed a response before writing such a review:

    • says

      What I would want is simple:

      (1) a clear statement as to which premise in any syllogism is false or not probably true, or which step in any syllogism is invalid.

      (2) And where I don’t provide the syllogism already but just argue in plain language or mathematical notation,

      (2a) that in the first instance you model my argument as a syllogism so as to form a clear statement as to which premise in it is false or not probably true, or which step in it is invalid,

      (2b) and that in the second instance you identify an exact actual error of arithmetic, or explain why a probability I estimate is wrong (which entails stating what then the correct probability is, or what its range is, given what we know).

      Anything else is a waste of everyone’s time. Including yours.

    • Anonymous Coward says

      Messing,

      I’ve followed your dialogue with Carrier with interest. What I think you need to be careful to do is not just say “you make a mistake of type X” but rather “you make a mistake of type X when you say Y on page Z.”

      You almost never supply the Y and the Z, and this makes it fairly impossible to respond to your criticism, and gives no reader a good reason to take them seriously.

      That you seem to have a lot of knowledge of the concepts involved makes me not dismiss you out of hand, but also means I _really_ want to see you supply that X and Y. Otherwise I’ve got nothing to evaluate.

      I also want to point out that where I _do_ have subject matter expertise in your dialogue with Carrier (formal logic) the criticisms you’ve made seem very unduly pedantic. In a way I agree with you that sometimes Carrier doesn’t use the language of validity and soundness with absolutely perfect precision. But on the other hand it’s utterly clear to me that Carrier understands these concepts perfectly. I feel it should be clear to any fair reader. I mean, quibbling over whether there can be a proof that’s not sound is really seriously not to the point here. The most rigorous logician in the world will refer to formal arguments starting from false or unestablished premises as “proofs” and we all know perfectly well what he’s doing.

    • says

      Just FYI, messing has a bunch of comments waiting in the queue that I’ll put through shortly that appear to do what you ask for. (I haven’t read them yet and won’t have time to comment for a while; I just confirmed they met the posting standards.)

      Feel free to reply to them yourself. (That goes for anyone here. Just try to be polite.) I might not be able to get to them myself for a while due to other work I have to catch up on (they are extremely verbose, as you’ll soon see).

    • Anonymous Coward says

      To illustrate the pitfalls of pedantry, I note that at one point in your discussion, you make the following claim:

      “…valid arguments need not be true…”

      But of course this is the kind of thing I urgently encourage my students not to say. Arguments don’t get to be true or false. They get to be valid or invalid.

      You know this, and I know you know this. And it’s absolutely obvious that what you meant was “valid arguments need not have true conclusions.” But whatever you meant to say, this is not what you actually said, and were I to take the pedant’s approach, insisting you’d made a mistake and refusing to move forward til you retracted the statement or something, I’d be thereby excluding myself from any constructive discussion. The discussion would move on without me.

  10. Bernard says

    Dr. Carrier,
    .
    BM: Where did Paul write the baptism of converts made them “the brothers of the Lord”? Nowhere
    .
    RC: That’s simply a lie. Paul says in the passages I cite that baptism makes us sons of God like Jesus, and thus Jesus is the firstborn of the brethren. And so on and so on. I’ve already cited the passages here and in the book. You are just gainsaying obvious facts at this point.
    .
    BM: We went through that already. And Romans 8:29 does not say “the firstborn of the brethren” but “the firstborn among many brethren” with “brethren” not in the genitive case (as he would be in “the firstborn of the brethren”, if indicating a familial connection). The rest of your passages never says Christians are the brothers of the Lord. Period.
    .
    RC: The rest of your arguments are ridiculous. No scholars place Galatians more than a handful of years away from 1 Corinthians, for example, so your window of radical change in the entire religion (a radical change you just completely made up, based on no evidence or even plausibility) is barely five years.
    .
    BM: I placed 1 Corinthians written in 53-55 CE, and Galatians written either late 57 or early 58 CE. So I am in agreement with scholars.
    Yes during 5 years, Paul had all kinds of problems with his Corinthians. Furthermore he faced intense competition from Cephas, Apollos and apostles, some superlative, some false. In this context, we can expect a lot of evolution. And I documented all that on my website, with explanations and evidence and justifications.
    .
    RC: You want every passage that disagrees with you to conveniently be an interpolation.
    No, that was not my criteria. If you read my website, you would know I took a lot of thinking and exposed a series of justifications for each pieces I declared to be interpolations.
    You did the same for two passages in the Pauline epistles. But it happens also these two passages also conflict with your views. Am I going to accuse you of removal because they are against your ideas? No.
    .
    RC: You absurdly try to claim that two men having the same father does not make them brothers.
    .
    BM: In religious matter, this is not automatic. And Paul, despite many opportunities, never declared clearly that his Christians were (spiritually, honorarily) brothers of Jesus. And I do not know any “fathers” of the church who did that.
    .
    RC: You even claim that Paul’s saying Jesus was the firstborn of many brethren is “ambiguous” as to whom those brethren were brothers of!
    .
    BM: “Brothers” here means “Christians”, like every where else in the Pauline epistles for “brother(s)” on its own.
    .
    RC: You even try to argue that Jesus both was and wasn’t considered by Christians to be the son of God (depending on when admitting this is suicidal to your argument).
    .
    BM: I said Paul declared Jesus as the Son of God not before 2 Corinthians, even if “Son of God” appears (only three times) in earlier letters. I justified the passages with these three occurrences as being interpolations, not only because of “Son of God” but for other several reasons. I do not see how you can extrapolate your above remark from that.
    .
    Cordially, Bernard

    • says

      And Romans 8:29 does not say “the firstborn of the brethren” but “the firstborn among many brethren”

      Bernard, that’s just a meaningless distinction. They mean the same thing.

      And as for the rest, you just confirmed everything I said.

  11. Bernard says

    Dr. Carrier,
    .
    BM: And Romans 8:29 does not say “the firstborn of the brethren” but “the firstborn among many brethren”
    .
    RC: Bernard, that’s just a meaningless distinction. They mean the same thing.
    .
    BM: “the firstborn of the brethren” (with “brethren” in the genitive case”) means Jesus has (familial) brothers (in a spiritual, honorary way).
    However “the firstborn among many brethren”, as it is written in Ro 8:19, (with “brethen” not in the genitive case) means Jesus was firstborn among many Christians. There is no indication here that Paul changed the meaning of “brothers” from “Christians”, when just “brother(s)” everywhere else in the Pauline epistles, means “Christian(s)”.
    .
    Cordially, Bernard

  12. EmmaZunz says

    Hi Richard.

    Can you explain how you parse the James, brother of the Lord verse please.

    If it is best read as “No apostles except James” then it would seem that James is an apostle, not an ordinary non-apostle Xian.

    Apologies if I have missed this in your published works.

    Many thanks.

  13. Giuseppe says

    Hi Richard,
    your argument about ”brother of Lord” in OHJ is very sound. But I listen that, about the brother of Lord in Gal 1.19, Parvus haven’t yet ruled out another possibility: that the kyrios of Gal 1.19 can be human, even if not Jesus.
    In essentia, only clues in this sense are the two letters that precede the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies where a James is addressed as “the lord and bishop of the holy church” and “the lord and the bishop of bishops.” He can be the brother of John ”son of Zebedee”. But the Homilies does clear he is the brother of Jesus. I remember Robert Eisenman’view about an ancient Judeo-Christian stratum into the Homilies that was later catholicized (obviously, I don’know if to believe or not in Eisenman). For example, I read:

    Wherefore, above all, remember to shun apostle or teacher or prophet who does not first accurately compare his preaching with that of James, who was called the brother of my Lord, and to whom was entrusted to administer the church of the Hebrews in Jerusalem,—and that even though he come to you with witnesses(11, 35)

    If (the Judeo-Christian stratum of) Homilies is anti-Acts, then that text must have the same value of Acts (if not more), and because you bring in evidence Acts, I wonder if an identical treatment is to be given to Homilies, too.

    thanks for your clearing up about.

    Giuseppe

    • says

      Possible does not get you to probable.

      Speculation in, speculation out.

      So, neat. But not useful.

      To get to what’s probable, we have to argue from what’s established. Not from what’s merely possible.

      BTW, the Homilies were written centuries later and use “lord” as a regular address to everyone of authority in the church, which (a) would negate the value of using “the Lord” this way (which Lord?) and (b) is nowhere evident as a practice in Paul (and would not likely be, as he was an egalitarian, and would thus abhor the classist practice of calling certain persons in the church Lord). The Homilies are also not specifically anti-Acts but anti-all-things-akin. It’s thus a fiction written in reaction to other late fictions. It has no use as history.

  14. Giuseppe says

    I know that your entire argument about Gal 1.19 is based on previously having soundly argued (in the same paragraph) that 1 Cor 9.5 refer to generic Christians-not-apostles, by ”brothers of Lord”.

    I am reading this:

    Another example [after a list of other cases that show a latent implicit conflict between Paul and Pillars] is in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 7 Paul praises his own ability to remain unmarried while allowing that marriage is acceptable for people who are ”unable to control themselves” (7:8-9); then just two chapters later he alludes to the married status of ”the brothers of the Lord [James] and Chepas [Peter]” (9:3-6). The effect, and quite possibly the intent, of these two passages is to portray in a negative light the men who opposed Paul in Jerusalem and Antioch.
    (Tom Dykstra, Mark, Canonizer of Paul, OCABS Press, p.34-35)

    the problem, with this view, is that it assumes Paul is talking about the right to be married. But you refute this false assumption (at p. 583 of OHJ).

    In the same book, talking about the Pillars in Mark, this author says that James the Pillar ‘son of Zebedee’ is brother of Jesus because Mark ”may have used subtle means to disparage James and John in particular … the name Zebedee ascribed to their father has negative associations, and the word misthotòs (they were found in a boat with ”hirelings”) has negative connotations, as can be seen from John 10:12-13) (p. 119, n. 149)

    This may be a subtle clue to possibility that Mark has cloned the James brother of Jesus in more Jameses, among them the son of ”Zebedee” (and likely there is a pun in the name ”Zebedee” against the Pillars, even if I don’t recognize it immediately: mr. Zebedee in Mark, like mrs. Zebedee in Matthew, is not more probable to be existed than the carpenter Joseph of Nazaret).

    Then you cannot argue easily that, only because James the Pillar is called son of ”Zebedee” in Mark, then he cannot be ipso facto son of carpenter. This opens the possibility that the James ”brother of Lord” (Gal 1.19) is the same James Pillar of Gal 2 but without precluding a priori his possible identity with a real brother of Jesus. If not so, at least this can imply that only the Pillars can be called ”the brothers of Lord” as a rank cultic tiltle.

    Or I am missing something?

    Thanks for all your clarifications.
    Giuseppe

    • says

      On the first point:

      Correct.

      Dykstra has fallen victim to a common Christian faith assumption about the 1 Cor. 9 passage (you find this same mistake from the pulpit often; yet rarely in academic commentaries on 1 Corinthians). Worse, Paul’s argument entails that Paul or Barnabas had a wife whose living Paul is arguing for. He is thus not against supporting the wives of missionaries; he is actually claiming that as something he and his entourage have the right to. We can suppose from his other remarks elsewhere that probably Paul did not have a wife, so this must be about Barnabas (we can’t know for sure, because the original rest of that letter is missing, where Paul would have explained the argument he is answering and to what purpose).

      Dykstra has also lost track of the fact that there is a break between chapter 8 and 9: these were not originally in the same letter. Someone has clipped 9 out of some other letter and pasted it in here (as I show in OHJ), since it sort of loosely connects with the subject of chapter 8 (both are about disputes connected to food, but the connection is too loose for the transition to make any sense for Paul to have written it as-is; and the explanation of the argument he is answering in 9 is missing).

      On the second point:

      This is just a mountain of possibiliter fallacies. That is not how to argue. Dykstra needs to step back and rethink this. You can’t just pile on a bunch of speculative suppositions (which aren’t even all that plausible) and then conclude “therefore, it’s so.” Speculation in, speculation out. So if you rest on a premise “maybe x” to get to a conclusion z about James, your conclusion z can only be “maybe z.” And “maybe z” is a useless conclusion. “Maybe Jesus existed” doesn’t get you anywhere near “probably Jesus existed.” Even with a premise that’s 50/50 you can’t do that.

      It’s also weird to hear Dykstra claim Zebediah (that’s what Zebedee means) is disparaging. It’s a common and prestigious biblical name, which means (essentially) “Gift of Jehovah,” i.e. “God’s Gift.” And how can he disparage James for having employees? Mark does not claim James was a hireling…he says he had hirelings! (Or his family did.) That’s actually prestigious, not disparaging. So Dykstra’s logic here makes no sense to me.

      Mark certainly does depict them as vain and thus poor leaders. But there is no sign that he is disparaging them this way. Nor would it make sense for him to disparage the brother of Jesus by concealing him as another character. If Mark’s aim were to discredit the brother of Jesus, he would discredit the brother of Jesus. Mark thus has Jesus completely disown all his brothers, as a collective whole, with nary a sign that any one of them ever amounted to anything, and without in fact disparaging them (he simply renounces his earthly family and declares his new fictive kinship group, which anthropologists recognize as an etiological myth: Jesus is being used as a fictional character to exemplify how Christians are to behave, and how this switch from biological to fictive kin group was supposed to work, and to give it a supreme authority). Dykstra’s thesis thus predicts a completely different Gospel than Mark produced.

  15. Giuseppe says

    Hi Richard,

    I suspect the point that Paul want make in Galatians 1 is that he was chosen only by God to be an apostle, and that he has not confided in no Christian before, coming to approach only Peter and James only for the purpose to show how useless and meaningless was their testimony and authority, staying with them only 15 days, in comparison to the value of his personal vision of the heavenly Christ Jesus whom Paul had always with him, and not just for mere 15 days. So James ”the brother of the Lord” is introduced with Peter (representative of all the apostles) to emphasize the idea that visiting for a few days those who are respectively the greatest apostle and ”the brother of the Lord’ is useless as a learning of the sacred Mysteries than learning the Gospel by direct heavenly revelation from the angel Jesus in person.

    This means that Peter and James ”the brother of the Lord” alone are met by Paul not by pure chance (as required by your view), but deliberately, to serve his point. So Paul argues: not only I have not heard the Gospel from other Christians because I’ve never met, but even if I only met the supreme leaders (ie Peter and James), to stay only 15 days with them not helped me at all to know the sacre Mysteries of the Gospel, which instead I have them totally and magically learned, all the time, only by direct revelation from heaven, thus proving to be a true apostle (as you Galatians want me to try).

    Therefore, this interpretation leads me to conclude that the expression ”the brother/s of Lord”, even if it was introduced to distinguish the non-apostle James from the Apostle Peter, however, is used to indicate a prominent figure in the early church, not necessarily the biological brother of Jesus.

    So in conclusion James the brother of Lord may be the biological brother of Jesus (less likely), or a Christian of rank higher than that of an apostle (more likely), probably ”brothers of the Lord” = Pillars.

    If this hypothesis is true, then the Pauline Mark has invented from scratch a terrextrial Jesus complete with family who rejects him (and the Gospel) to reaffirm, in his Gospel, the criticism of Paul against the Judeo-Christian leaders of his time who first proclaimed themselves ”brethren of the Lord”. The idea that the expression ”brethren of the Lord” arose before Paul within the Judeo-Christian church referring to a specific elite is not entirely without foundation:

    1) The Son of Man in Daniel is originally an allusion to Israel,
    2) the Son of Man is now, in particular, a reference to the Lord Jesus (like so many other titles)
    3) Ergo who is especially zealous in the Law of Israel – as the three Pillars James and Cephas and John were – is himself the Son of Man for (1), and therefore ”the brother of Lord” for (2).

    So perhaps I suspect that before that Mark invented literary biological brothers of Jesus, someone before him was already ‘anthropomorphizing’ the expression ”brethren of the Lord” to arrogate to a particular elite – likely the Pillars – a privileged seeming ‘blood’ channel to the mythological Jesus Christ.

    What do you think? Is it possible? If you do not find it probable (the guess ”brethren of the Lord” = Pillars), it is more probable than the historicist traditional guess ?

    I’m sorry for my too many questions, but I’m too curious to know your views.
    Very thanks,
    Giuseppe

    • says

      That’s too speculative.

      The grammar entails Paul means James is not an apostle. And the way he adds him as an aside entails he was of lower rank than apostle, i.e. just an afterthought (and indeed there is no plausible way James could have held a significantly higher rank than Cephas). The only reason Paul mentions this character is that he had to because he was swearing (literally, swearing) that he confided with no Christian experts before then. Though he does later argue that they added nothing to him, his argument in Gal. 1 is to swear up and down that he never spoke with anyone about the correct content of the gospel for years. And it was only long after that that they started raising a stink that required him to confront them (Gal 2). That it took so long for them to raise an objection is part of Paul’s argument.

      This is all entailed by the text as we have it. The suppositions you add are not, however interesting they may be. They have to be inserted into the text ad hoc. That reduces their probability (Proving History, pp. 80-81).

      Likewise the special-rank thesis. But as I note in OHJ (ch. 11.10), the special-rank thesis has the same probability as the policed-language thesis, so we can’t get to “biological brother” without facing an equal likelihood of “special rank” instead. So that is worth exploring, in all its possible ways (you suggest one of many), insofar as it becomes relevant as soon as historicists start inserting ad hoc theses of their own to rescue the “biological brother” thesis. But logically that’s all bogus. We shouldn’t be adding ad hoc theses at all, when they aren’t required. And when we don’t, when we just read the text as written, and only in light of established facts elsewhere in Paul, we get my reading. Which, having the fewest ad hoc suppositions, by Occam’s Razor is the most likely interpretation.

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