Brief Note on Euhemerization

This is just a brief note for those interested in my thoughts on Tim Widowfield’s article “What Is Euhemerism?” about what he thinks are confusions regarding the terminology of “Euhemerization.” For the context, see my article “Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did.”

Widowfield is confusing what Euhemerus did, with why he did it. This is a basic mistake of Aristotelian categorization. The efficient cause is the act itself that brings about the effect. The final cause is the reason why, the goal being sought, by doing that. Those are two different things.

Aaron Adair, the astronomer who wrote the best book ever on the Star of Bethlehem (seriously, I highly recommend it, for all who want the definitive take-down of that miracle claim), will be presenting an equally well-written paper at the upcoming national meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature on this point that documents what I’m saying extensively, but it will be awhile before that will be available to cite.

TL;DR, Euhemerization is doing what Euhemerus did: convert a non-historical deity into a deified historical man (in contrast to deification, which is when an actual historical man is converted into a deity). Why he did that is actually widely debated. We don’t actually have the text in question, only hostile reactions to it, which quote selectively from it or paraphrase it (how accurately we can’t tell). But whatever his reasons for doing it, his reasons for doing it are not what he did, but why. And as Adair shows (and as do I, though less directly, in OHJ, e.g. in my discussions of Romulus and Osiris), many people did the same thing (used the same process) to accomplish different things. Some wanted to rationalize cosmic myths. Some wanted to hide them from the uninitiated. Some wanted to polemicize against them. But what they all did in common, is the same one thing: convert a non-historical deity into a deified historical man. A trend begun by Euhemerus. And thus so called.

This is the problem with trying, as Widowfield does, to create an analogy between Darwinism, which is by definition not teleological, with an actual goal-oriented human activity. The latter differentiates between the act itself and its purpose. And as such, the same act (smelting steel, say) can be turned to many more purposes than its originators intended or imagined (you can smelt steel to make swords, plowshares, or literal flying machines). What you create is different from how you use it. Euhemerus did not invent his idea, but he popularized it. How people thus inspired then used that idea varied, as each user had their own goals, which his idea could be turned to accomplishing.

And this is demonstrated in the historical record.

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 →

Why the Smart Money Is on the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Being a Forgery

Photo of the Gospel of Jesus's Wife papyrus fragment, a rectangle with seven or eight lines of sloppy writing in Coptic, courtesy of Harvard University.I was going to do a news roundup of several new developments in ancient manuscript studies, until one of them turned out to be a roller-coaster ride down a rabbit hole filled with all manner of twists and turns. The subject? The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. The other news I’ll post on separately. Because this one. Boy. It needs an article all unto itself.

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Notes & Interviews

Just some random stuff today:

  • I’ve lost track of all the many pods and vids in which I’m interviewed or featured. But I shall try to link to more of them in notes like this as they come up. Anyone who knows of others from this year, please add them in comments.
  • Kim Ellington conducted a great interview with me on my historicity of Jesus research, and a little on the intersection of history, philosophy, methodology, and epistemology, for The Humanist Hour (Episode 161).
  • Related to that and expanding on it is my interview by a renowned Jewish creationist and biblical literalist, Nehemia Gordon, in episode 13 of his show Hebrew Voices. I help him “sort out the genuine pagan influences on Christmas, from modern-day myths” that often stem from “dodgy scholarship.” We touch on Tammuz & Inanna, Isis & Osiris, Mithra, and discuss ancient comments by Philo, Justin, Plutarch, Euhemerus, Plato and more.
  • I spoke at a rally on the capitol steps of Boise, Idaho for this year’s National Day of Reason, on behalf of the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason. The video is now available (and I have provided a rough transcript here). My speech is an amusing and rousing demonstration that our Christian legislators are simultaneously trying to outlaw Sharia Law and enact Sharia Law—and don’t know how democracy works, or the point of the Constitution, or that what they are doing is precisely what the Founding Fathers feared and denounced.
  • It’s well known that Luke used Josephus as a color source for his Gospel and Acts (see bibliography in OHJ, pp. 267, n. 26; and my summary of only some of the evidence here). In a new article, Lena Einhorn extensively collects even more evidence & bibliography on this (so those interested in that subject will find a lot of use there). But she discusses it in the context of her defense of a separate thesis: that Jesus was actually crucified under Claudius in the 40s, not under Tiberius in the 30s. This will be of interest to those who noticed that I document that there actually were early Christians who thought that (OHJ, Ch. 8.1). Of course, Einhorn’s thesis doesn’t argue for an actual crucifixion (she is presuming that it was an actual event), and as such it just as well supports the fact of Christian disagreement over when to place that event (and possibly the existence of lost Gospels that did).

In Which James McGrath Reveals That He Is a Fundamentalist Who Has Never Read Any Contemporary Scholarship in His Field

The title of this article is a joke. Sort of. But maybe not as much as you think. As I’ll show. Because James McGrath has added another entry to his bizarrely uninformed critique of On the Historicity of Jesus, and this time is the most dishonest of the bunch. For to get the result he wants, he has to essentially become a Christian fundamentalist, denying there is any mythmaking in the Gospels at all, and reject all non-fundamentalist scholarship of the last fifteen years.

I kid you not.

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Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did

Photograph of a marble statue depicting Euhemerus as a bearded toga wearing bare shouldered man in thoughtful pose.Just a quickie today. Several people have asked this question in one form or another:

I’ve read a number of people who claim that your use of the term “euhemerization” is incorrect. These typically give definitions along the lines of the following in Wikipedia: “Euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages.” This is consistent with what you say about Euhemerus in Element 14 [of On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 114-24], but in Element 45 [Ibid., p. 222] you use the term in the inverted sense, [whereby] people were invented based on gods, rather than gods being invented based on people.

I do wonder where the confusion arose among people (and I’ve seen a lot of them online) thinking euhemerization means turning a real person into a god. That’s not euhemerization. That’s deification. Julius Caesar was deified. He was not euhemerized. Euhemerized gods are always historically non-existent.

Obviously the word “euhemerize” means doing what Euhemerus did. That’s what the word means. Even just in its grammar (the -ize suffix in Greek and English means “to do like,” hence “to do like Euhemerus did”). But also in how it originated and why. Euhemerus took celestial (ahistorical) gods (Zeus and Uranus) and then turned them into historical men. Not the other way around. Therefore, anyone who does that is doing what Euhemerus did. They are therefore euhemerizing a god. Just as Euhemerus “euhemerized” Zeus and Uranus.

I don’t know why anyone thinks otherwise. Or how it would even make sense to think otherwise. But maybe this is what’s confusing people…

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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…]

Old Timey Radio Presents: The Amazing Whitey Spidey!

Comic voice bubble in which is said Peter Parker Cannot Be Black!Narrator’s voice to be heard as in the style of an old timey radio narrator…

LYRICAL CHORUS: O-l-d T-i-m-e-y R-a-d-i-o!!!

NARRATOR: We bring you back to the amazing adventures of The Amazing Whitey Spidey Man! The scene opens when another Dick Driver, a black teen wearing a Dr. Who t-shirt and sporting his beloved camera about his neck is about to be bitten by a radioactive spider…

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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…]