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.

Bart Ehrman on How Jesus Became God

Cover of How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.In this latest book from Bart Ehrman we get a mixed bag of results. On the one hand, he is back in form writing a good popular book on a subject often misunderstood by the lay public. In How Jesus Became God, Ehrman demonstrates that Jesus was worshiped as a god from basically day one. The notion that High Christology developed later, false. On the other hand, I am starting to see a trend in his writing now, wherein he gets right anything he simply culls from existing scholarship and distills for public understanding, but doesn’t always get right everything he tries to add of his own or off the cuff. And the problem with that is that lay readers won’t know which is happening, and thus can’t always trust what he says.

The best rule I can advise is, if Ehrman cites scholarship for a statement he makes, he is at least telling you correctly what that scholarship says (which itself may be wrong, but not by any fault of Ehrman’s). If he doesn’t cite any scholarship for a statement he makes, he might be wrong and you should aim to double-check before relying on it. The rest you have to figure out from the merits of his logic, judging from premise to conclusion. And sometimes that’s solid. Sometimes it’s not.

The rest of this review breaks that down, the good and the bad, into the Devil’s details. [Read more…]

My Online Course on the Bible Starts Tomorrow. Join in. Learn Cool Stuff!

How screwed up are the manuscripts of the New Testament? What aren’t Christian preachers and apologists telling the public? How can you know when they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes about what’s in the Bible…or if they even know they are reporting the facts correctly?

How can you tell which Bible translation is the most honest for any given passage?

How have books been transmitted to us from the ancient world two thousand years ago? Is their text reliable enough to trust? Why? Or why not?

Do the Gospels really disagree on when Jesus was born? Do modern Bibles really contain known forgeries? Has the Gospel of Mark been doctored after the fact?

Answers to those questions, and more, will be covered in this course.

But what questions do you have about the New Testament? Like about its formation and transmission, its survival and accuracy, how it’s translated, what Christians claim about what it says. Or any question in the subject of New Testament studies, or the study of Greco-Roman texts generally.

This is your chance to ask an expert and get as full a response as you want, with as much follow up as you want, within the month of February. So join this class and take advantage of it!

Only one course text is required (and you can get it on kindle): my anthology Hitler Homer Bible Christ.

See you there!

Join My New Course This February: Intro to Biblical Scholarship on the New Testament

Starting February 1 (2015) I will be teaching an online course, Introduction to Biblical Scholarship on the New Testament. Click that to register.

The required course text (which students should purchase as soon as possible) is my personal anthology Hitler Homer Bible Christ (available there in print or kindle). We will use its contents as springboards for learning and discussing all manner of issues related to textual, historical, and literary analysis in New Testament studies. All other course materials (articles and/or video lectures) will be provided for free, including research papers by various scholars we’ll discuss, and excerpts from critical scholarly editions of the Bible in the original Greek (and no prior knowledge of Greek will be required), public online tools, and other readings and resources. And that’s not all…

Official Course Description:

[Read more…]

A Bayesian Brief on Comments at TAM

I was asked about remarks made by Chris Guest (President of the Australian Skeptics, Victorian Branch) at this year’s TAM. He gave a quick twenty minute talk on Bayesian reasoning and its abuses, with which I entirely concur. (This talk begins with Guest’s introduction at timestamp 48:30.) He criticizes my work briefly at the end, but understanding his remarks there require understanding his remarks throughout the talk. His only mistake is that when he gets to my work, he makes one crucial mathematical error that invalidates his entire critique…
[Read more…]

James Lindsay on the Historicity of Jesus

Philosopher James Lindsay (not to be confused with CFI Director Ron Lindsay), author of God Doesn’t; We Do has written an interesting piece about my book, On the Historicity of Jesus, but tangentially, i.e. he isn’t reviewing the book but responding to the way some people might use it. See Why I Really Don’t Care If Jesus Existed or Not.

Notably I have long agreed with his overall thesis: objectively, the historicity of Jesus is no more important than the historicity of Socrates, and is really only an interesting question in history. It’s not an earth-shattering thesis in counter-apologetics. It would be only if we had smoking-gun scale evidence against historicity, and we don’t, due to the paucity of evidence survival and its hugely compromised state (OHJ, chs. 7 § 7 and 8 § 3-4 and § 12; also chs. 4, Element 22, and 5, Element 44). For example, if Christianity were based on the belief that a flying saucer was found at Roswell and alien bodies recovered from it and autopsied by the government, the evidence against that even having happened would certainly be exhibit A in any refutation of Christianity. But we have in the Jesus case nothing like the survival of evidence we have in the Roswell case. Hence I’ve made the point before: Fincke Is Right: Arguing Jesus Didn’t Exist Should Not Be a Strategy.

My interest in it is because I’m a historian, whose specializations include ancient religions and the origins of Christianity, I was paid with a research grant to study the issue, and the way Christian dogma and faith beliefs have infected even secular study of the subject is a serious issue long overdue for a correction. Exactly as happened for the Patriarchs: Christian dogma and faith beliefs infected even secular study of that subject until a serious corrective effort was launched in the 1970s which has resulted in what is now a mainstream consensus among non-fundamentalist experts that the Old Testament Patriarchs are mythical persons who almost certainly never really existed. Christianity was not thereby overthrown. But the shift was nevertheless necessary to maintain the respectability of biblical history as an honest profession. The same is now true of the debate over the historicity of Jesus, as even historicity advocate Philip Davies has said.

The end result has been, I believe, a lot of increased clarity and discovery concerning many issues in the origins of Christianity, and not just the target issue of how certain we can be that Jesus was even a person. Readers of my book will notice that every chapter has wide utility for counter-apologetics without even having to mention much less affirm the non-existence of Jesus; you will recognize a lot of cherished Christian apologetical shibboleths being demolished there, and the citations of sources and scholarship extremely useful to anyone taking them on. But even apart from counter-apologetics, our understanding of ancient religion, ancient culture, ancient politics, and earliest Christianity, is significantly advanced and made more coherently clear by the effort. Which is as it should be. That’s a historian’s job.

So some corrections are still warranted to Lindsay’s analysis.

[Read more…]

List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus

Now that my new book On the Historicity of Jesus has finally become available, for convenience I will be collecting here links to all the responses I’ve published to defenders of the historicity of Jesus. So this article will be continually updated with new entries, and I will keep the order alphabetical by last name of the scholar responded to (when I know it). I have also sorted them into generic debates, and responses to my books specifically.

If anyone sees responses or reviews (in print or online) to my books on this topic (On the Historicity of Jesus or Proving History), please direct me to them in comments here. Please also remark upon any merits you think the response has (or if you think it’s rubbish). I won’t bother replying to all of them. But I’d like to keep a running collection in any case.

-:-

Replies to Generic Defenses of Historicity

Akin, Jimmy (conclusion: argues by assertion rather than evidence).

Bermejo-Rubio, Fernando (conclusion: thoughtful, but circular, and argues from credulity).

James Bishop (conclusion: ignorant to the power of ridiculous).

Casey, Maurice (conclusion: grossly illogical, probably insane).

Craig, William Lane (conclusion: dishonest and illogical Christian apologetics).

Crook, Zeba (conclusion: good effort, but doesn’t quite get there).

Crossan, J.D. (conclusion: only two premises, one factually dubious, the other illogical).

Ehrman, Bart (conclusion: makes major factual and logical errors, then lies about it).

Goodacre, Mark (conclusion: relies on premises he didn’t know were false).

Horn, Trent (conclusion: gets the text wrong, flounders on weak arguments).

MacDonald, Dennis (conclusion: muddled and not well thought-out).

Mykytiuk, Lawrence (BAR) (conclusion: outdated and unresearched).

-:-

Replies to Criticisms of Proving History

Antony, Louise (conclusion: doesn’t understand math).

Brown, Kevin (conclusion: standard Christian apologetics).

Fisher, Stephanie (conclusion: didn’t read the book, lies about it; doesn’t understand math; probably insane).

Ian of Irreducible Complexity (conclusion: pedantic; retracted all substantive criticisms).

McGrath, James (conclusion: didn’t have much to criticize; and what he did, got wrong).

-:-

Replies to Criticisms of On the Historicity of Jesus

Covington, Nicholas (conclusion: poses good questions, is mostly persuaded).

Hallquist, Chris (conclusion: makes horribly embarrassing mathematical mistakes).

Lataster, Raphael (conclusion: valid concerns, already dealt with in the book).

McGrath, James (conclusion: screws up on facts and logic to the point of being useless).

Ramos, F. (conclusion: dishonest and illogical fundamentalist apologetics).

Rosson, Loren (conclusion: almost persuaded, remaining objections addressed).

Waters, Kenneth (conclusion: didn’t do his homework; just angrily gainsaid everything).

-:-