Tim Hendrix on Proving History

Tim Hendrix wrote a critical analysis of my book Proving History two years ago, and recently made it available online. Coincidentally I also just discovered a review of the book in College & Research Libraries Reviews, which had been published in June of 2012 (pp. 368-69). That was only one long paragraph, but I was surprised it understood the book and took a positive angle on it, concluding:

The use of a mathematical theorem to establish reliable historical criteria can sound both threatening and misguided. However, Carrier describes and defends the theorem in layman’s terms, demonstrates that historians actually think in terms of probabilities while rarely quantifying them, shows how all other axioms and rules in historical methodology are compatible with the theorem, and then gives it a practical workout on recent studies on the historicity of Jesus … [in which] Carrier shows how the criteria for judging whether or not Jesus was a historical figure (coherence, embarrassment, multiple attestation, contextual plausibility, etc.) are replaceable by Bayes’s Theorem, which “if used correctly and honestly . . . won’t let you prove whatever you want, but only what the facts warrant.”

Hendrix (who has a Ph.D. relating to Bayesian studies) gives it a much closer look on its technical aspects in applying Bayes’ Theorem. There are some issues of grammar that suggest English might not be Hendrix’s first language (he also uses British spelling conventions), but his writing is good enough to work around that (most of the time).

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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…]

Speaking at American Atheists in Puerto Rico!

Photo of the hotel the convention is at, the Sheraton hotel and casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the statement Aug 21, American Atheist Regional Convention 2015 at Puerto Rico.American Atheists is putting on an excellent conference in Puerto Rico this August (21st-23rd, 2015). And I’m one of the honored speakers. Atheists in Puerto Rico wanted me to speak on my work on the historicity of Jesus, and so I will. I’ll also be attending the whole convention and happy to converse with anyone there, so feel free to say hi! (Although, alas, I don’t speak Spanish, I’m pretty sure plenty of folks will speak English well enough to chat or translate.)

I will also be staying in PR after the conference for about a week to do more events locally (whether casual or formal), but for news on that, keep your eye on the Facebook wall that week of Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico.

American Atheists may or may not be selling some of my books that weekend. I haven’t gotten confirmation on that, but I’m sure they are making an effort. But no matter what I’ll happily sign anything you buy or bring.

And it’s not just me there. There’s an awesome lineup!

Read on…

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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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Want to See Bart Ehrman Debate the Historicity of Jesus?

Yes, Ehrman consistently refuses to debate me (because I’m ‘too mean’). But he has agreed to debate Robert Price, another prominent and well-qualified doubter of the historicity of Jesus. As long as the event gets funded, in order to demonstrate sufficient interest and demand to warrant his time (I do believe that though Ehrman charges a lot to speak or debate, he gives it to charity). So…do you want to see that debate happen? Then help fund the kickstarter. And spread the word to others who might.

(Note that I am not in any way involved in this. But I am certainly curious to see it happen!)

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).

Description: [Read more…]

41 Reasons We’re, Like, Totes Sure Jesus Existed!

Photo of James Bishop about town, young rugged man in a blue toque, white t-short and grey vest, hip beard.People often ask me about Christian apologist James Bishop’s “41 Reasons Why Scholars Know Jesus Really Existed.” Because it’s the highest number of reasons anyone has attempted to claim (apart from the 10/42 apologetic, which Matthew Ferguson thoroughly annihilated).

This piece doesn’t try that. Thank the Lords of Kobol! But it is still a travesty of being lost in the bubble of Christian distortion, of course. Bishop is in South Africa studying theology at college, and says enthusiastic things like, “I wish to exercise my faith in a powerful manner to reach as many people as possible.” Aww.

I’ll just be brief and explain where everything he says has already been refuted. So here we go… [Read more…]

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…]