Did the Apostles Die for a Lie?

Photo of a medieval wooden diptych with twelve frames, six on each side, showing in paintings the legendary martyrs deaths of all twelve Apostles (Paul substituted for Judas).Do we have good evidence that Paul or any of the original twelve Apostles died for their belief in the risen Jesus? Nope. Nevertheless, Justin Bass claimed so in a lecture you can view online (Evidence of the Apostles’ Martyrdom).

I may eventually write a commentary on the whole Carrier-Bass debate, now that it’s available for viewing online.

But first I want to post my observations of that previous lecture he gave that pertains to the subject. I viewed and annotated that in preparation for our debate, and had all my notes ready at the table. And yet, though Bass leaned on this claim in our debate (the famous “No One Would Die for a Lie” gambit), I didn’t need to get into much detail to refute his argument against the clock.

As I noted in the debate, he couldn’t establish that they died for anything more than a vision, and visions are ubiquitous across religions—even now, but then especially. He couldn’t even establish that they could have avoided their deaths by recanting. Or even that what they died for was their belief in the resurrection, rather than their moral vision for society, or (I could have added) some other belief they wouldn’t recant—such as their already-Jewish refusal to worship pagan gods, the only thing Pliny really ever killed Christians for (the resurrection was never even at issue); and that’s the only explicitly eyewitness account we have of any Christians being killed for anything in the whole first hundred years of the religion.

But there is a lot more to be said.

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Speaking in Melbourne! (The One in Florida, Near the Spaceships)

Section of map showing central Florida, Orlando, and the "Space Coast" region east of it that includes MeBourne and also, of course, Cape Canaveral.I’ll be speaking on why we know the Gospels are myths—with many amusing and entertaining examples, and a smattering of literary theory–in Melbourne, Florida, on Friday, May 13 (2016), at 6:30pm, for the Humanist Community of the Space Coast, the Brevard Area Atheists, and the Secular Student Alliance of the Florida Insitute of Technology. I’ll be selling and signing my books after. Come join us! It will be at the Florida Insitute of Technology, Room 118 (Auditorium) in the Olin Engineering Building. Mark it on your calendar!

(And remember I’ll also be speaking on ancient science and Christian fascism two days after in Orlando!)

More details on FaceBook, and on Meetup…

Dr. Richard Carrier “How We Know the Gospels are Myths.”

Friday, May 13, 2016, 6:30 PM

Olin Engineering Building, room 118, Auditorium
FIT Melbourne, FL

14 Members Attending

Humanist Community of the Space Coast, our Sister Group Brevard Area Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance of Florida Institute of Technology is proud to present an Evening with Dr. Richard Carrier. Dr. Carrier will be discussing  “How We Know the Gospels are Myths,” followed by an audience Q&A and book signing.  Lets make sure we give Dr. Carr…

Check out this Meetup →

Science Then: The Bible vs. The Greeks Edition

Did the Bible predict modern science better than ancient scientists did? Funny to ask. Because naive Muslims have been making the same embarrassing claim for the Koran. Over a decade ago I published an article showing how silly conservative Muslim apologists were for claiming the Koran miraculously predicted scientific facts, by demonstrating that the Epicureans (and I just used the De Rerum Natura of Lucretius at that, and thus left out many other items that could have been added), who were the least fully scientific of the philosophers of the era who produced scientific results, got right a hell of a lot more, and more precisely and clearly declared their results, than the Koran, and all explicitly through just armchair reasoning from basic observations. No miraculous communications from angels. No telecom with the gods.

That article was Predicting Modern Science: Epicurus vs. Mohammed. In that I show several logical flaws in these kinds of arguments: (1) they use a fake translation (they ignore the actual language of the text in its actual context) to “invent” a better fit with modern science post hoc (a common scam run by psychics called retrofitting); (2) they ignore the fact that mere armchair thinking often had already produced the same conclusion or comparable conclusions and often in fact more and better conclusions (thus negating any claim that such “hits” required miraculous powers or informants); (3) they get ancient science wrong (e.g. they claim that ancient scientists hadn’t discovered a thing, when in fact they had); (4) they cherry pick bizarre data so as to rely on luck giving them hits (in any vast enough tome of baloney, you will inevitably find random matches with the truth by mere chance), but miss the fact that if one actually had a miraculous line to prescient scientific knowledge, you’d be reporting way more useful shit than this (compare the relative utility of knowing that cosmic expansion or heliocentrism are true, and knowing the germ theory of disease or the basic principles of electricity—for a religion that supposedly prioritizes the welfare of humanity).

Now there is an image going around (evidently even favorably shared by actual scientists in some cases) making the same stupid claim for the Christian Bible. It’s so bad I was laughing out loud before I even finished the third line. It has been debunked before (e.g. here and here). But since ancient science is my field, I figured my own fisk would be of use to the world. So here goes… [Read more…]

Appearing in Kenya! (And You Can Watch)

Blue meme ad for the event, with the twitter hashtag #christisahoax, 31 October 2015, Metro Hotel 5:00pm, and twitter handle @atheistsinkenya.Early this Saturday morning I’ll be joining Robert Price, David Fitzgerald, and Harrison Mumia of Atheists in Kenya in a live broadcast event held in the Metro Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. I won’t actually be in Africa (at least not this time!). This will be a Google Hangout and Q&A before a live Kenyan audience. The subject? The existence of Jesus and the truth of the Bible, Old Testament and New. Expect interesting questions from the audience in this highly religious country. And experience a feel for the rise of atheist activism in Kenya, as Mumia is heading what may be the highest profile organization of nonbelievers on the continent.

The event Presentation: Did Christ Ever Exist? will happen this Saturday, October 31 (2015). Though it will be an evening event there, it will start at 7am in the morning here in California. And it will be possible to watch from around the world. For more details follow the link!

(The link for viewing should be posted on that Facebook page shortly before it airs. Many thanks to Mythicist Milwaukee for inspiring and helping put on this event!)

My Online Course on the Bible Starts Next Week. 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!

Learn the Basics of New Testament Scholarship & How to Make Good Use of It

By popular demand! I am teaching again my online course, Introduction to Biblical Scholarship on the New Testament. This is for anyone who wants to be better equipped to debate the Bible or understand the Bible. You will learn in it a lot of useful and surprising facts and skills (more on that below).

So if this is something that interests you, click above to register. And if you know anyone who you think would love to take a brief, affordable course like this, let them know about it!

The only required course text (which students should purchase as soon as possible) is my  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 (no prior knowledge of Greek will be required), public online tools, and other readings and resources.

Starting October 1 (2015).

So what exactly will be covered?

Official Course Description:

[Read more…]

Rare Fine Bound Editions of My Books: Special Auction!

Photograph of the three fine bound volumes in dark brown artificial leather with gold lettering and decoration, standing on Dr. Carrier's desk..Yep. You might want. These are fabulous. And presently unique. But even if duplicated, they will remain extremely rare. I’m giddy at the craftsman’s work on them. They are an aesthetic achievement that harkens back to the old days of leather-bound books in private libraries. And I’m auctioning them off to help support my continuing enterprise as an independent scholar. So I have just two simple questions. Do you want an elegant fine bound hardcover edition of my most popular books? And at the same time to help support my continuing work, research, and activism? Then get in on this rare opportunity!

Summer is always slow for paying gigs. So I need to make up a $2000 shortfall in projected revenue for this quarter if I am to hit my target to get through the year. I have several special things in the works to do that. And this is the first: I have commissioned a local master craftsman and bookbinder to convert three of my books into what you see depicted. I have taken one copy each of Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and had them hand-bound in high quality artificial leather by an expert European craftsman, with gold lettering and styling, and stitched pages. Each will be inscribed personally, by me, in pen, to the auction-winner’s specifications (reasonable requests only, of course).

Any of these lovely books will adorn a library in prestigious fashion, old school, reminiscent of the days when monographs were elegantly crafted. It’s why I made them. Aesthetically, this is what books should always look like. But alas, few publishers produce books that look like this anymore.

Same as before, only the books are scattered and at different angles to see their binding and fronts.Four things to note: [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…]

I Am on Wired Magazine’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

Logo for the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, the title in 3D letters floating in a 1950s style cartoon version of outer space and Saturn.Bible scholar Robert Price and I were asked about our thoughts on the movie Noah on the Geek’s Guide to the Universe podcast, sponsored by Wired Magazine and hosted by David Barr Kirtley.

The episode (108) first features an interview with author Christopher Moore, who has been rewriting and merging Shakespeare tales from the perspective of different characters in them. This guy does a lot of interesting research for his fiction, and discusses that and how it led to the form of his latest book, The Serpent of Venice, a bizarre comedy-monster-bondage-erotica-horror novel blending Othello and the Merchant of Venice…not kidding, you might want to listen to this half of the show. They also touch on a lot of other things, like the aesthetics of hiding political values in fiction. They even talk about the Noah story a little (between minute 38:40 and 42:10), because Moore wrote Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (which the host says is taught in seminaries, although that seems odd).

Our panel starts at 42:52 and goes a little over an hour from there. We laugh a bit and talk about everything Noah. Whether it was a good movie. How far it deviated from the Old Testament story. Where on earth the changes came from, or what the point of them was. What myths are for and how best to react to them. Why Christians who repudiate the film might be showing their true colors a bit more than they intend. You’ll get all kinds of info and analysis from both of us on how the writers of the film took genuine germs of ideas from the apocrypha and Talmud about the Noah tale and expanded them with their own creative additions. Want to know why there are rock monsters? Or why Noah is a militant vegetarian environmentalist? Or where the idea of that exploding crystal came from? Or where on earth they got the idea of Methuselah burning a million soldiers to death by shoving a sword in the ground? Or how the film is actually more Christian than the Bible story itself? Sci-fi and fantasy geeks will be especially amused.

We also ponder what the aesthetic point might have been behind various decisions the filmmakers made (director Darren Aronofsky, who co-wrote with Ari Handel), and compare how they treated this story with how other films treat mythical tales that are safely pagan (and thus no one notices or cares when they change everything). We even touch on the criticism that went around (like Greta Christina wrote about a while back) that the casting might have been a tinge racist.

Near the end (starting around 136:41) we go a little into my work on Bayesian method and the historicity of Jesus, and an unusual new project Robert Price is involved in that is well worth learning about, and whatnot. Check it out!