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

Photo of the aged title page an old 19th century English translation of the New Testament; reads: The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Newly translated out of the Original Greek: and with the Former Translations diligently compared and revised.By popular demand! I am teaching my course, Introduction to Biblical Scholarship on the New Testament online in June. This is for anyone (you don’t have to be an expert) 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 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 June 1 (2016).

So what exactly will be covered?

Official Course Description:

Richard Carrier (Ph.D.), who has years of training from Columbia University in paleography, papyrology, and ancient Greek, will teach anyone the basics of how to investigate, criticize, and study the New Testament from the perspective of how its text is constructed from manuscripts, as well as how to work from the original Greek without learning anything more than the Greek alphabet and the international terminology of grammar, and how to investigate and make the best use of academic and peer reviewed biblical scholarship.

Students will learn how to: locate words in the Greek text of the Bible, and find their definitions using online resources, and to use that skill to critically examine English translations; check if the manuscripts disagree on what the text says at that point, and what to make of that if they do; talk and reason about disagreements in the manuscripts, as well as the differing valences of words between modern translations and ancient originals; discern what kinds of errors and deliberate alterations are common in the biblical manuscripts; and how to use scholarship on the New Testament critically and informedly.

This course will also be a basic introduction to the contents of the New Testament and its composition, textual history, and assembly. After a month you will have a much better understanding and skill-set for studying, discussing, and arguing over, the content and history of the Christian Bible, as well as learn fascinating and interesting things about ancient history and how we know what we know about it from the perspective of how all ancient writing has been preserved yet distorted in transmission.

As usual, these courses are one month long, and you learn at your own pace and on your own time, and participate as much or as little as you want (many just lurk and read the assigned readings and resulting discussion threads).

There is also a special discount available this year, too. If you are on the staff or an active member of any nonprofit organization, you can receive a coupon code for $10 off the registration. All I need is an email from an officer of the organization (also CC’ing you) confirming you are an active member and would like to receive the discount. I’ll then send you the discount code to use during registration. So let everyone you know who is working for or participating in a nonprofit org about this discount!

Learn the Science & Philosophy of Moral Reasoning: Take My May Course!

Come join my online course on moral reasoning! It starts next month. It lasks a month. Study and participate at your own pace and on your own time.

We don’t just cover the philosophy of morality and moral reasoning, and why be moral and how to get better at moral decision making. We also cover what the sciences have discovered about all this. Which is more than you might think!

You can register now. And spread the word. Let anyone know you think might be interested. Especially let your local or national clubs or organizations know (any nonprofit), because there is a discount you or they might be able tap (see end paragraph).

The only required course text you need to order is Personality, Identity, and Character (eds. Darcia Narvaez and Daniel Lapsley). To save money on that I highly recommend just renting it on kindle for the month (unless you want to buy the kindle edition or a used print copy). All other materials will be provided at no extra cost.

-:-

Why take this course?

[Read more…]

Affordable One-Month Course on the Science & Philosophy of Free Will…and a whole lot of other things going on!

If you haven’t already, do consider taking my online course next month on the science & philosophy of free will—or recommend it to anyone you think might be interested! It starts in just two days. You can get in within its first six.

Meanwhile, a brief update and foreshadow:

  • I’ve been spending the last week starting a new relationship, so I’ve been AFK a lot. She’s a noted polyamory activist and all-around kickass, known by her handle Joreth Innkeeper. And I confess I’m very smitten. I am now meeting someone else in the next few days who might smite me as well. She practically already has. And all the while staying with a girlfriend who already smote me. So I’ll be AFK a bit more.
  • Further consuming my time is all the work I’ve been engaging in planning several upcoming tours (Southern California in April and Florida in May), two major debates, and one big move. Yes, by this summer I shall no longer be living in California. Stay tuned for that news. Because I’m going to do something fun with it.
  • Of course I consumed a lot of time prepping and engaging in the Carrier-Bass debate a week ago. The video is now up. IMO, that went badly for him. He’s a very competent presenter. He did well on all the skills of debate. Except for what gives you a technical win. So given his confident and charismatic presentation, you might not have noticed that he didn’t really rebut most of my arguments; and those he even properly took on, he ended up relying on argument by assertion. Assertions any fact-checker will be able tell aren’t all that credible. I’ll blog more on that in coming weeks. But that’s even more time to task!
  • Now I have the Kennesaw debate with Craig Evans coming up, on the historicity of Jesus. Don’t forget that! If you can make it, you may want to. It will be an important one. And of course, prepping for that, is also consuming my time.
  • In SoCal I’ll be speaking on why they invented Jesus and what’s up with feminism. There may be even more. Stay tuned.
  • In Florida I have two events of considerable interest going. I’ve announced one. Stay tuned for the other! [To be announced here.]
  • I’ll also be at Frolicon in Atlanta, Georgia. Just FYI. Not as a presenter. Just among the invisible happy masses attending, with my new paramour. But if you happen to see me, do say hi! And don’t worry, I won’t out you. Not without your enthusiastic consent.
  • I’m near to completing my first of two books on ancient science. Yep. If all goes to plan, Science Education in the Early Roman Empire will be released before the end of this year. I’ll announce that, and what it’s about, as soon as it can be pre-ordered. But needless to say, this is also consuming a lot of my time! Since I finished my fan-funded Jesus project (which resulted in three books, Proving History, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ), I’ve been able to blow the dust off of my dissertation and start turning it into some books. It just needs updating (since much has been published in the last six years I’ve been spending on the funded project). So I’m on that now.
  • I also have contracts for at least two other books to come (and am working on a fourth). More on that later. But I’m eager to get to them.
  • And on top of all that I have more things I want to blog than I’ll have time for! Including two new important articles on Jesus mythicism, one in a major Canadian magazine (Macleans), another in a major academic journal (Think).

So I’m a very busy man. Now taking a brief break. With his CostCo Jameson.

Photo of Richard Carrier's Apple computer screen, keyboard, and mouse, mostly out of frame, but more centered is a giant Costco style bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and a whiskey glass with a shot of Jameson in it, all by the soft light of evening lamp, on a blond wooden desk.

 

 

The Science of Free Will as a Gateway to Philosophy & Social Justice: Join My Online Course Next Month!

Cover of Sam Harris's Book Free Will, which is the course text we will be using next month, red puppet theatre box showing the letters of the title hanging from puppet stringsNext month (April 2016) I will be teaching my online course on the science & philosophy of free will, my favorite class! Spread the word. Or take the class yourself. Or both!

There is also a special discount this year. If you are on the staff or an active member of any nonprofit organization, you can receive a coupon code for $10 off the registration. All I need is an email from an officer of the organization (also CC’ing you) confirming you are an active member and would like to receive the discount. I’ll then send you the discount code to use during registration.

So let everyone you know who is working for or participating in a nonprofit org about this discount! (You can also let them know there is also a course you can get the same discount for that is running concurrently with mine: Why Create Humanist Community, and How To Do It, with Jen Hancock and Ann Fuller.)

Even without the discount, each course is very affordable, only $59. Register at The Secular Academy.

Why take a class on the science and philosophy of free will?

Anyone who joins in will find in it a fascinating way to introduce yourself to the whole of philosophy, as it touches on everything from semantics to metaphysics to epistemology to political and moral reasoning, even aesthetics (such as through analyzing the lived experience of feeling free or trapped). It even leads you to a better understanding of consent, justice, and responsibility, and the social role and value of personal autonomy, and the substantial reality of what it means to increase your own self actualization, and what it actually takes to do that (and what it actually means to fall short of it), and how social systems can get in our way.

I think these are really good reasons to tell people they might be interested in taking my course, especially if exploring these things with an experienced expert interests them.

You’ll also need to have or get a copy (print or electronic) of Sam Harris’s Free Will. We will engage a close reading of that throughout the course, alongside a number of documents and research articles illustrating applications of free will concepts in the real world, and other philosophical and scientific perspectives. Those other reading materials will all be provided to students for free. Only the one book by Harris you need purchase.

The course officially starts this April 1st.

For a full course description (from the topics studied to how the course works) see here.

Learn the Foundations of Humanism: Take My Course on What’s True in Philosophy if There Is No God

Cover of Richard Carrier's book Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism. Image on cover is Carrier's One and Only Oil painting, of a spaceman on the ladder of a planetary lander somewhere with alien plant growth.Why be moral? What is moral? Does atheism have a rational foundation? If we are just atoms in motion, how can anything be right or wrong? How can rationality even exist? Christians and Muslims have been challenging atheists with these questions lately even more than ever. Learn how to answer them…and with something more coherent and well thought out than they even think their answers are! Thinking through the answers to these questions can also make you smarter, wiser, with a better grasp of the world and your place in it.

Get a leg up on both goals, by taking my course next month (this March) on Naturalism as a Worldview: How to Build a Philosophy of Life. It establishes the philosophical foundations of humanism. And I think it’s the best way to introduce yourself to doing philosophy and thinking like a philosopher!

We will get at questions like: What is the nature of reality? What is the nature of humanity? What is the nature of love? What is the nature of beauty? And what consequences do these have? How do we decide on what’s best or what’s true if there is no God? Why live? Or care? About anything? Why is faith unreliable? What is reliable? How reliable? Why? What exists? What doesn’t? How do we know?

Learn about all aspects of naturalism as a philosophy of life, and how to use it in practical ways, and improve on it, to develop a better personal philosophy of life, the world, and everything. In the process you will learn many of the basics of college-level philosophy, and how to think like a philosopher, an important skill for those who know religion is bunk, but that we still need a better way of understanding ourselves and the world.

The course is one month online. You study and participate at your own pace, as much or as little as you like, and you get to ask me any questions you want about the course topics all month long, and read and participate in online discussions with me and other students. I will direct and comment on readings each week and give weekly course assignments which consist of answering questions about what you’ve learned and what you think about it. The course text you have to buy is Sense and Goodness without God (which you should purchase in the format you want as soon as possible). All other readings and media will be provided to students free of charge (all you have to provide is your access to the internet).

-:-

Official Course Description: Build the foundations for a practical philosophy. Learn how to develop and defend your own naturalistic worldview from studying and critiquing a model example, and how to employ it in your daily lives and your understanding of the world. Learn the basics of how to develop and test a philosophy of epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics (theory of existence), ethics (theory of morality), aesthetics (theory of beauty), and politics (theory of government), using logical, evidence-based reasoning. Based on assigned readings, lectures, and weekly class discussion online with Dr. Carrier (Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University).

Specific Topics Addressed Include: (1) “Naturalism, Supernaturalism, Philosophy, and Worldview Theory,” in which we learn what naturalism is, and how it differs from supernaturalism; what a worldview is, and the basics of how to think about and construct a worldview; and what philosophy is, and how to think like a philosopher. (2) “Naturalism and the Universe, Your Self, Your Mind, and Your Freedom,” in which we learn what naturalism can say about the nature and origins of existence, of the universe and all its contents, but also in particular of you as a person, and thus of consciousness, thought, and freedom (your personal autonomy). (3) “Naturalism on Morality, Society, and Politics,” in which we learn what naturalism can say about whether there is any moral or political truth, what it’s nature is, and where it comes from, and what this means for how we should strive to organize society. (4) And “Naturalism on Meaning, Purpose, and Beauty in Life,” in which we learn what naturalism can say about the meaning of life and its purpose or value, and about the nature of beauty and ugliness, and what value they have, what they signify, and where they come from.

Tuition: $59

The course could fill so register soon! Late registration is possible but not guaranteed. Let your local organizations know about this course, too. There may be other members interested!

February Course: How to Critically Assess Claims about History!

Logo for Partners for Secular Activism. The letters PSA in blue, in an art decco font, over a light grey watermark of a compass pointing near to north, all on a white backround.I shall again be teaching my online course on historical methods in the coming month (February 2015): Thinking Like a Historian: Historical Methods, Practice and Theory. Why not join in! Or recommend it to anyone you know who might be interested.

Learn how to question and investigate claims about history. Learn not only the logic of historical reasoning and argument, but also a lot of the practical tips and tricks real historians employ to test and check claims. And hone your skills of skeptical and critical thinking about history.

Primary topics: Best practices among historians; historical methods as modes of reasoning (both criteria-based and Bayesian); examples of flawed reasoning and bad arguments in peer reviewed history journals and monographs (and how to spot them as a layperson); and what to do to critically examine a claim using both immediate criteria and procedures for more labor-intensive inquiry…

[Read more…]

January Counter-Apologetics Course: Now Including Islam!

Logo for Partners for Secular Activism. The letters PSA in blue, in an art decco font, over a light grey watermark of a compass pointing near to north, all on a white backround.Next month I’ll be teaching my popular course Counter-Apologetics: The Best Ways to Refute Arguments for God. And this time I am including material on how to counteract Islamic apologetics. The required course text is still Murray’s comprehensive yet succinct Atheist’s Primer (which you should get as soon as possible in print or Google). Material on how to interact with Islamic apologists will be provided in-course for free, and is based on Dr. Carrier’s considerable experience debating Muslims (in podcasts, stage debates, and articles), and his contact with ex-Muslims, including some who became “ex” because of his work. He can provide key insights from that.

Most of the course will remain focused on generic arguments for and against the existence of God (and miracles and religious experiences generally), because they are equally effective, or equally necessary, against all forms of theism. And special attention will be given as always to popular Christian apologetic tactics and arguments, not only because they are increasingly being adopted and adapted by Muslims in defense of their own religion, but also because by far the largest barrier to material and moral progress, and human and civil rights, in the West, is still Christians and Christianity.

More details on the course structure and content:

[Read more…]

Celebrate the Holidays with My Class on the Historicity of the Baby Jesus!

Color drawing of the bust of Jesus, eyesturned up to heaven and head cocked to the side as if he is on the cross dying or dead, and over his crown of thorns has been placed a crown of colored Christmas lights. Source: I-Mockery.I’ll be teaching my one month online course on the historicity of Jesus this December: the best arguments pro and con, the cultural and historical background, the competing theories of the origins of Christianity, and more. We’ll go through my book chapter by chapter and discuss its contents, and look at some additional resources and challenges. And by the end you’ll be able to converse informedly about all the main issues in the debate: what the best evidence is for the historical Jesus, why it can be questioned and how, and how you can decide for yourself whether theories without one are better or not. You will also have the opportunity to ask me all the questions you want, challenge me with all the arguments you’ve run into, and otherwise pick my brain on all the related issues you think important.

The course, Questioning or Defending the Historicity of Jesus, begins December 1 (my birthday, incidentally!) and goes one month, covering four units, one per week. There are no timed events so you can do the readings or post questions or engage in the forum discussions whenever you want, any day and time that suits you. All the course materials, including the discussions, stay available for you to consult or download for an additional month after that.

The only course text you must acquire (if you don’t already have it) is my book On the Historicity of Jesus. Everything else will be provided. For a more complete course description, and how to register, visit the course announcement page.

Please acquire the required text in print or kindle or any format available, except the audiobook, which won’t be functional for the needs of the course. So you should only get that in addition to another version, if you get it at all. And be aware it probably won’t work with the whisper function either, since the read text differs from the printed text (I had to incorporate footnote commentary into the main text, and read out descriptions of diagrams and tables, so the audiobook is complete, but not verbatim or in the same order as the kindle text; the audio also doesn’t contain the useful indexes and reference lists and citations).

New & Improved Critical Thinking Course

Cover image of Bo Bennett's new edition of Logically Fallacious.I’ll be teaching critical thinking skills online this November. With a new, easier, lower priced textbook: Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies, the new Academic Edition, by Bo Bennett of The Humanist Hour. Get your copy now! And register today! Class starts November 1.

Learn the basics you need in logic, cognitive science, and reasoning about probability, to be a better, sharper thinker, about everything that matters in your life.

Or spread the word. Tell any of your friends or contacts who might be interested. Lots of people might want to hone their knowledge and skills in this domain. And this class is all about helping with that.

What will this course cover? Why take it? Here is the course description…

[Read more…]

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!