Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?

Ad poster for Joseph Loduca's soundtrack for the Starz TV show Spartacus, displaying the actor playing Spartacus all covered in dirt and blood and holding a sword and looking menacing.It’s always something. First it was, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for the contemporary emperor Tiberius.” Matthew Ferguson annihilated that one. Then it was, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for Alexander the Great.” Which I annihilated in On the Historicity of Jesus (pp. 21-24). Or it was, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for Socrates.” Which I also annihilated in OHJ (Chapter 8.2, “The Socrates Analogy”). Or it was, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for Pontius Pilate, the guy who allegedly killed him.” Which I’ve also annihilated. And then it was, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar.” Which I just annihilated. Now the claim going around is, “We have better evidence for Jesus than for Spartacus,” the enslaved gladiator of Thrace (now mostly Bulgaria) who led a nearly successful slave revolt against the Romans in Italy in 73-70 B.C.

Just like Julius Caesar (as I explained in my last post about this), and everyone else in these comparisons, when it comes to determining the probability of historicity, Spartacus differs from Jesus in two respects:

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Sex and Sexism in Ancient Rome (Columbus, Ohio)

Photograph of an ancient 79 AD painting recovered from a brothel in Pompeii, which had visual menus on the wall for ordering services, this one depicts a bisexual MMF, a man having sex with a man having sex with a woman in doggystyle position on the courtesan's bed..In two weeks I’ll be speaking in Columbus, Ohio. On what you ask? Sex and Sexism in Ancient Rome: Crossroads of Sexual Freedom & State Oppression. Co-hosted by PolyColumbus and the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. This will be Tuesday, July 14 (2015), at 7pm until 9pm EDT. Location: Kafe Kerouac (2250 N High, Columbus, Ohio 43202). It will be both naughty & entertaining and illuminating & disturbing (when you realize what life was really like back then for the would-be sexually liberated). With Q&A. But probably no visuals (so the talk can be posted to the internet without incident, copyright or otherwise).

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The Historicity of Paul the Apostle

Face of Paul as found in a Renaissance painting by Albrecht Durer.I am often enough asked what evidence there is for the historical existence of Paul that a summary write up would be handy to refer people to. This also has use as some scholars ignorantly claim that any standard that would deny the historicity of Jesus would entail denying the historicity of Paul (like that renowned fool James McGrath). Such a statement can only be uttered by someone who stalwartly doesn’t know (or is stubbornly refusing to hear) why the historicity of Jesus is said to be improbable.

The best formal attempt to argue for the non-historicity of Paul is that of Hermann Detering (see The Fabricated Paul). I cannot ascertain his qualifications in the field. But his writings are well-informed. They just trip over logic a lot. His case is not sound. Nor is anyone else’s I’ve examined. They falter on basic methodology (like ignoring the effect prior probability must have on a conclusion, or conflating possibility with probability) and sometimes even facts (e.g., Detering seems to think self-referencing signatures commonly appear only in forgery; in fact, they are commonly found on real letters—I’ve seen several examples in papyrological journals).

By contrast, the following is a basic run-down on why the historicity of Paul is actually, unlike Jesus, highly probable… [Read more…]

Reminder: Learn How to Question or Defend the Historicity of Jesus

Hey! Want to know how to defend the historicity of Jesus against naysayers? This class is for you. Want to know how to be the most irrefutable naysayer? This class is also for you. Join now. Ask all the questions you want for a month. Offer all the challenges you want. Bend the ear and get the thoughtful responses of an expert with a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University who has extensively studied the subject. Encounter the best attempts to rebut him (me!) and the best arguments pro and con. Class starts tomorrow! Registration will remain open for the next five days. And note that the course text is available not only in print but also on kindle or nook and epub.

New Course This June on the Historicity of Jesus!

I have updated my course on Questioning or Defending the Historicity of Jesus to account for the reception it’s had this past year. And now I’m offering it again over the course of June, which means this new class starts under two weeks from now (details and registration here).

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The Josephus Testimonium: Let’s Just Admit It’s Fake Already

Stylized and modern iconographic drawing of a bust of Joephus, essentially imaginary.A new article just beats this dead horse deader still. Hat tip to Vridar and Peter Kirby. Honestly. The evidence that the Testimonium Flavianum (or TF) is entirely a late Christian forgery is now as overwhelming as such evidence could ever get. Short of uncovering a pre-Eusebian manuscript, which is not going to happen. All extant manuscripts derive from the single manuscript of Eusebius; evidently everything else was decisively lost.

The new article is by Paul Hopper, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University, “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63,” in Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob, eds., Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers,  (2014: de Gruyter), pp. 147-169 (available at academia.edu).

So in addition to all the evidence I and other scholars have amassed (summarized, with bibliography, in On the Historicity of Jesus, ch. 8.9), including the fact that what was once thought to be an Arabic testimony to a pre-Eusebian version of the text actually derives from Eusebius (as proved by Alice Whealey), and the peer reviewed article by G.J. Goldberg that proved the TF was, as a whole unit, based on the Gospel of Luke (and thus even if Josephan, not independent of the Gospels) and my own peer reviewed article (now reproduced in Hitler Homer Bible Christ, ch. 19) that added even more evidence, including proving the other brief mention of Jesus  in Josephus was also fake (an accidental insertion made centuries after Josephus wrote), and the literary evidence produced by Ken Olson that the TF is far closer to Eusebian style than Josephan style, now Paul Hopper shows that grammatical and structural analysis verifies all of this.

For those who want to understand how this new evidence from Hopper works to produce that conclusion, here is a quick summary: [Read more…]

Back in Manteca Next Month!

Logo for Stockton Area Atheists and Freethinkers, with a picture of Richard Carrier, and the word Colloquium, all against a blue-purple graphical background.Last year in I spoke on Proving History. Now I’m back to cover the second half of the story: On the Historicity of Jesus. I’ll survey some key details of ancient history and outline the theory defended in the book. There will also be a preshow dinner, and I’ll be attending, for those interested.

All the details here. In brief… [Read more…]

Did No One Know Blue in Ancient Rome?

So, apparently “No One Could See the Color Blue Until Modern Times.” I have it on the high authority of the Princeton Archae…er, I mean, the science section of the Business Insider. So its totes true.

Hm. This is the weirdest thing I’ve seen yet. Someone asked me (understandably, me being a guy with a Ph.D. in this stuff), “Is this true!?” Right away I thought…Iiiiiiiii doubt it.

Picture of the Ishtar Gate, an enornous ancient monument literally covered blue with lapis lazuli. Erected in the 6th century BC in Babylon, it survives intact to this day, in the Berlin Museum. [Read more…]

On the Historicity of Jesus Now on Audio!

Cover image for Audible edition of On the Historicity of Jesus written and narrated by Richard Carrier.My book On the Historicity of Jesus is now available in audio format. As for all my other audiobooks, I voiced the text myself for Pitchstone Publishing. You can buy the audio edition of Historicity now through Audible.com or Amazon.com and (eventually if not already) iTunes.

This did come out a week ago or so, but I had to delay my official announcement until I completed and uploaded the bibliography file for the visually impaired to use with text-to-speech software, as I have done with most of my other books before this, all of which you can find on audio as well. See bibliographies for the full list of these companion resources for those books. Or go direct to the OHJ PDF bibliography to get the companion file for Historicity.