rjosephhoffmann:

Several colleagues will be responding on this site in a week to claims made by atheist blogger and amateur “logician” Richard Carrier concerning the historical Jesus (contra Bart Ehrman) and his abuse of Bayes’s theorem. In the meantime, this from 2011.

Originally posted on The New Oxonian:

In a recent post responding to a blog review of Sources of the Jesus Tradition by atheist blogger Richard Carrier, I made the point that his own contribution to the book does not rise above the level of pedantic lecturing on a theorem of dubious value to engage the literary matter.

Carrier has claimed on a number of occasions that his approach is revolutionary, a tour de force and essentially over the heads of New Testament scholars.  Apart from the naivety of saying anything like this in a field littered with the corpses of dead theories and “discoveries,”  this is scarcely where you’d want a revolution to be fought.

Strauss

There are numerous critical issues attached to using a theorem that is primarily about probability to assess material that isn’t.  It is, however, a common feature of forensic (i.e. controversialist) approaches to the Bible on both the fundamentalist side and the atheist side to engage the material on a literal level.  This is so because both sides have to meet…

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  1. Pingback: Mythicism and James the Brother of the Lord (A Reply to Richard Carrier) « Exploring Our Matrix

  2. I have been banging my head on how Carrier used the Bayes theorem for “the brother of the Lord”. That looks irregular to me mathematically, but more important is the data (generated by his biased opinion) he used and how he manipulated it before being fed into his equation. And the Bayes theorem can only be used with a set of data with a certain relationship between the factors, which seems to be absent in this case.
    Carrier always appeals to logic & math, but the Bayes theorem is only a front for his bullying statement “all Christians were “brothers of the Lord”” , based on Carrier own theological extrapolation.

  3. Nowhere in 1 Corinthians (and 1 Thessalonians written earlier) the Christians are declared “sons/children of God”. However Paul said he considered these Christians as his children:
    1Cor4:14 RSV “I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (See also 1Cor4:15 & 1Cor4:17 & 1Th2:11)
    Therefore Paul considered the Christian males of Corinth as “his sons” (spiritually) but not yet as “sons of God”.
    Consequently Paul did not see then these Christians as “brothers of the Lord” (1Cor9:5) because sons of different fathers are not brothers.

    That’s for 1 Corinthians. For Galatians, the following can be argued:
    In Galatians, the first mention of Christians as “son(s) of God” comes at verse 3:26, that is two chapters after Gal1:19. Furthermore, “son(s) of God” seems to be a new concept introduced then by Paul to the Galatians. So Paul did not intend to have the Christians of Galatia thinking “the brother of the Lord” in 1:19 meant “the Christian”: they were not aware yet a Christian is “son of God” (with the same father than Jesus and consequently brother!).

    So going back to the infamous Bayes theorem of Carrier:
    P(2) = (.33 x .9) / [(.33 x .9) + (.67 x 1)] = .297 / (.297 + .67) = .297 / .967 = 0.31
    The “1” stands for “Christians being the brothers of the Lord has a 100% chance of being true (as I proved it did)” (quote from RC). But I demonstrated, in the specific context of 1 Corinthians and Galatians, this is untrue and the “1” can be replaced by a “0”, which would render the overall result of the equation = 1

    I have also more arguments which would solify even further the “1” such as:
    a) James and the Church of Jerusalem were not Christian (explaining why Paul never called them as “brother(s)”, “in the lord” or “in Christ”).
    b) In 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, Paul did not adopt yet Jesus as “Son of God” (despite in passages which I think (for several reasons explained in my website) are interpolations: 1Th1:10, 1Cor1:4-9 & 1Cor15:23-28).
    c) positive arguments towards explaining the “brothers of the Lord” and “brother of the Lord” do mean “blood brother(s) of Jesus” (which I will not explain here but I already stated on Richard Carrier blog).

    Finally, I have very strong reservation that the Bayes theorem is applicable in that case, and whatever values Carrier entered as variables.

  4. Bernard Muller says the following:

    “That’s for 1 Corinthians. For Galatians, the following can be argued:
    In Galatians, the first mention of Christians as “son(s) of God” comes at verse 3:26, that is two chapters after Gal1:19. Furthermore, “son(s) of God” seems to be a new concept introduced then by Paul to the Galatians. So Paul did not intend to have the Christians of Galatia thinking “the brother of the Lord” in 1:19 meant “the Christian”: they were not aware yet a Christian is “son of God” (with the same father than Jesus and consequently brother!).”

    What about:

    καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοί ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

    • Galatians 1.2f.? First, the passage contains a salutation to the brethren, not to “brothers of the Lord.” That “relationship” in fact is contrary to the way the term kyrios is used in the passage God our Father and Jesus our Lord (not brother); taken consecutively the titles are: “Brothers”; “God our Father”; “Jesus Christ”; “the Lord Jesus Christ…” There is no apposition implied or explicit between the brethren and Jesus Christ, let alone any delimited sense of the title brother as it is applied to James at 1.19. And by no stretch of imagination is the unique use of James the Lord’s brother at Gal 1.19 as an honorific related to this salutation in 1.1ff.; even if there was corroborating usage elsewhere, why would Paul apply it to James and not to other super-apostles like Peter?, especially in light of Paul’s implicitly slighting reference to James in 1 Corinthians 15.3-7, as well as the disjunction between “brethren” and “elders” in Acts 15.13-31. If a particular historical precedence is not being associated for James, you are now obliged to explain (a) Paul’s hostility toward James and the special status of Jams in Acts; (c) the redactional muddle in the gospels (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, etc.) in their effort to diminish his relationship to Jesus in favour of the Peter tradition, and even the perdurance of the brother tradition in the apocryphal gospels, where one could have expected it to be set side (e.g., the Protevangelium of James). More to the point: why are you arguing usage outside a discussion of the famous opponents controversy within which these special usages occur? This is what inerrantists do–basing arguments on text without context. Is the point of this tortured attempt to overcome the James tradition simply an effort to obliterate a piece of historical data that reflects on a historical Jesus by nuking it with unconvincing assumptions and inferences piled on inferences, most iof which aren’t even supported by grammar let alone text? May I politely suggest that the skills you are wasting on exegesis might more profitably be used on demolishing old buildings with a ball and crane.

      • “why are you arguing usage outside a discussion of the famous opponents controversy within which these special usages occur?”

        Because my contention is simply with Bernard’s assertion that Christians were not aware that they were sons of God until Paul mentions it chapter 3 of the epistle.

        If God is our father and Jesus Christ is God’s son then Christians, probably every human being ever born in fact, are brothers of Jesus Christ by default.

        I made no comment regarding any specific meaning for ‘brother’ in 1:19, other than to point out the issue with an argument which asserts that, prior to Paul’s mention of the fact in Gal 3, Christians were unaware that they were sons of God and, by default, brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      • It’s extraordinary that incompetent atheists can rely exclusively on fundamentalist Christian scholars to support their claims, oblivious to their fundamentalism, blinded, because the fundamentalists’ conclusions conveniently fit the fantasy claims the atheist incompetents want to prove. Thus inconvenient tradition reflecting a historical Jesus is “nuked” out of history with flawed assumptions. This is glaringly obvious in Carrier’s ‘Proving History’, where for example, in order to dismiss Aramaic theories which nobody believes anyway, he cites Stanley Porter, who not only is not a competent Aramaist, he is a fundamentalist Christian. Porter thinks Jesus spoke Greek and ‘his words’ in the New Testament, are ipsissima verba, word for word. And the reason Porter believes students should learn Greek? “I love the challenge of developing students who are passionate about learning New Testament Greek, the language that God used when he wished to communicate with us directly about his Son, and in which the New Testament is written.” … History needs a bunker.

  5. I would like to bring these arguments against common objections:

    a) “The phrase “James the brother of the LORD” therefore, has little if any evidential force, in the case for a biologically-evidenced, historical Christ.”
    BM: But in the same epistle, Jesus is declared a descendant of Abraham and having come from a woman, “under the Law”.

    b) “While Paul suggests that biological ties between Jesus and so forth, are unimportant.”
    BM: But in Rom16:13 & 15, Paul identified two women by blood relationship (mother and sister) with a named man. So blood relationship was used by Paul in order to single out one individual among others such as:
    In ‘Galatians’, this is the first reference of “James” in ‘Galatians’. But at the time (around 38) of Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion (as narrated in Gal1:18-20) there was another prominent member of the “church of Jerusalem” named James, the brother of John, who got executed around 42 (according to Ac12:1-2). Therefore, Paul probably wanted to identify the “James” he met then, more so because this one became most important later. But why write “the brother of the Lord” instead of “the brother of Jesus”? ‘Jesus’ was a common name then, but “Lord” is very specific in that context and identifies precisely that ‘James’.

    c) BM: In 1 Cor11:3 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God.”
    It is clear that Paul put Christ above man, which does not hint to a parallel relationship such as spiritual brothers between Christians and Jesus. And Paul had no interest into suggesting equality between believers and Christ, which would lower the later.

    d) BM: Paul wrote many times “Jesus”, “the Lord” (meaning Jesus) and “Christ”. Paul also wrote many times “brothers” meaning Christians. But never he wrote this brotherhood also included Jesus, such as “our brother Jesus/the_Lord/Christ”.
    Paul had several times the Christians as (spiritually) sons/children of God (2Cor, Php, Gal & Rom) and even explained why they would be called “sons/children of God” (Gal3:26-4:7; Rom8:14,16).
    But there is no explanation about any spiritual understanding of “brother(s) of the Lord”.

    Bernard

  6. About the singularity of “brother of the Lord”: this is how Carrier explain it (Ref: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/749#comments RC posting dated March 27, 2012 at 11:27 am):

    RC: “Accordingly, because of how composition was taught in antiquity, we should expect Paul to stick mostly to an idiom ["brother(s)] but occasionally vary it. This entails the prediction that we will see occasional variations in the way he refers to Christians. Pleonastically including the complete phrase “brother of the Lord” would be one possible form of that variation;”
    BM: But “brother in the Lord” is no more pleonastic and certainly beyond confusion, because “brother” and “in the Lord” are used by Paul for “Christian”. So why Paul did not used “brother in the Lord”?

    RC: “That he would on rare occasion use the complete phrase “brother of the Lord” would not be unexpected. The more so if Peter had a brother named James, as that would require Paul in this instance to distinguish the apostle James from James the brother of Peter, in which case saying just “brother” wouldn’t do, necessitating the full epithet “brother of the Lord,” i.e. not of Peter (because Paul says he met with “Peter” and no other apostle except this James).”
    BM: Peter having a brother called James is never stated in the NT.

    RC: “I think the most probable explanation is another one entirely: that part of Paul’s point in Gal. 1 is that he is not on intimate terms with the Jerusalem Pillars (the same Peter, James, and John of Gal. 2), and one way to rhetorically emphasize that is to use the complete formal expression “brother of the Lord,” since truncating to “brother” implies more familiarity (which Paul does not want to do here), and Paul’s most common idiom (of saying “my/our/your” brother) implies more than familiarity, but actual intimacy (it is an endearment),”
    BM: But Paul called the Christians of Rome “my brothers” (Ro 7:4, 9:3, 15:14) even if he never met most of them. He also called the churches of Judea as being “in Christ” although their members never saw Paul (Gal 1:22).

    RC: “The next most probable explanation is the possibility (which has been entertained even under peer review, as I discussed in the previous thread) that Paul is saying the James he met is not the pillar but not even an apostle, possibly a mere companion of Peter, which is why he would have to mention him, so as to make sure no one can accuse him of lying (Gal. 1:20) by pointing out that another Christian was present when Paul met with Peter, just not an apostle (Gal. 1:18-19).”
    BM: If in one article, I write “President Obama”, then later I refer to just “Obama”, who is going to think that the later ‘Obama’ is not the President but someone else?
    Paul first introduced James as the “brother of the Lord”, so the ‘James’ mentioned later is the same person, that is one of the pillars.

    My conclusion: that’s a bunch of lame excuses.
    Bernard

    • Yes indeed Bernard. These Carrion comments are a bunch of extraordinary speculations desperately invented to reject inconvenient historical tradition. He has absolutely no argument or evidence or demonstration of a grasp of the first century cultural environment, including the irrelevant ‘how composition was taught in antiquity’, so we should not ‘expect’ what he wants us to believe. Perhaps it would seem to be disingenious to criticise Carrier for not providing evidence on a comment thread, in much the same way as it would be disingenious for Carrier to make ‘Ehrman look foolish’ (final words in the title of a blog post celebrating Carrier, by blogger Tom Verenna) on the basis of a brief article by Ehrman introducing his book, or for someone to refute any book on the basis of somebody else’s review, a regrettable thing that continues to occur. However, Carrier is not capable of providing critical argument and evidence to support his speculations as his much self promoted book, ‘Proving History’, makes overwhelmingly clear.

    • Huh? Can you plug this reasoning into Bayes or Bayes into it?

      RC: “That he would on rare occasion use the complete phrase “brother of the Lord” would not be unexpected. The more so if Peter had a brother named James, as that would require Paul in this instance to distinguish the apostle James from James the brother of Peter, in which case saying just “brother” wouldn’t do, necessitating the full epithet “brother of the Lord,” i.e. not of Peter (because Paul says he met with “Peter” and no other apostle except this James).”
      BM: Peter having a brother called James is never stated in the NT.

  7. to robertb,
    I understand your point but there is a big step from calling somebody of importance “father” and considering oneself the adopted son/daughter of that father.
    Priests are called “father” but their parishioners are unlikely to feel they are spiritual sons/daughters of them. And in the ancient Roman world, senators were also called “fathers” as a title.
    There is also a big step between considering Jesus and regular Christians as brothers, which Paul is never clearly evidenced to have done.
    Furthermore Paul was very loose on the matter of sonship for his Christians. In Galatians, his male followers are sons of Abraham (3:7), sons of God (3:26, 4:6-7), sons of the heavenly Jerusalem (4:26) and sons of Sarah (4:31). Paul used these “sons/children of …” only to make points, not to create theology.
    But Carrier is very dogmatic about Jesus being the brother of Christians although it is not apparent in Paul’s writings. And James and the other members of the church of Jerusalem are never said to be “in Christ”, “in the Lord” or simply “brothers” (nor did he get his gospel from them).

    • I think the whole line of reasoning is appalling: The very idea of Jesus’ Lordship as Paul uses it rules out the notion that Jesus is anyone’s brother. The equality of Christians can be expressed this way, though here the word doulos, or slave of Jesus Christ is the operant metaphor, not brotherhood. This is not just about terminology, it is about a fundamental musundertanding of Paul conceptually, ie in terms of how Christians attain equality as servants under the Lordship, not brotherhood of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 8:6 “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” While the Letter to the Ephesians is not by Paul, the author draws out the logic of the hierarchy pretty well at 4.13.

  8. RC wrote: “And nowhere in those letters does Paul mention Jesus having had specifically biological brothers. But he frequently talks about Jesus having adopted brothers: all Christians.”
    BM: where did Paul talk about Jesus having adopted brothers: all christians?
    Nowhere, as far as I know.
    But that claim is what makes the result of his Bayes theorem so much in favour of his mythicist cause.
    PS: I posted the same by mistake in the wrong blog entry. Sorry!

  9. Another argument on 1 Cor 9:5 “brothers of the Lord”:
    Carrier said the expression means “all Christians”. But, if it is the case, just “brothers” would have been sufficient. There was no need to add “of the
    Lord”, more so when ‘Lord’ is already used three times in the preceding four verses.

    Carrier wrote: “I also showed (e) that they believed Jesus had explicitly called them his brothers and (f) they explicitly said Jesus was only “the firstborn among many brethren.””
    BM: but RC placed the quote totally out-of-context. NO, Jesus is not the firstborn here! The Christian elect is.

    Rom 8:29-30 RSV “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
    And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified”.

    • The word “explicitly” usually means without equivocation or ambiguity: where does this happen explicitly? It is utter nonsense and shows a glaring ignorance of the gist and details of Paul’s theology. One does not need to agree with that theology to understand that it is formative in determining his meaning and the universe of his ideas, and Jesus [is] our brother is nowhere to be found in his subordinationist idea that Jesus Christ is Lord. To say that Christians are “brethren” is one thing, abd Paul uses this largely as a salutation. To assert that “Jesus is our brother” is meant or (anywhere) implied by Paul is another and nowhere attested. And to use what is not attested to claim that, therefore, James can be grouped into what has been falsely claimed is a general usage is simply dishonest. I cannot imagine what sorts of “probabilities” can be educed from this dog’s breakfast of unsupported speculation.

      • This is how Carrier demonstrates the explicity of “a Christian is a brother of the Lord.”, in his own words:

        “Second, you seem not to understand how logic works. Let’s show you:

        P1. The evidence in Paul proves Christians called Jesus the Lord.
        P2. The evidence in Paul proves Jesus was the adopted son of God.
        P3. The evidence in Paul proves baptized Christians were the adopted sons of God.
        P4. By definition, sons of the same father are brothers of each other.
        P5. By definition, if P2 and P3, then Christians and Jesus were sons of the same father.
        C1. Therefore, (baptized) Christians and Jesus are brothers of each other.
        C2. Therefore, (baptized) Christians and the Lord are brothers of each other.
        P6. In the Greek language, when A is the brother of B, this is stated by saying “A is a brother of B.”
        C3. Therefore, in the Greek language when [a Christian] is the brother of [the Lord], this is stated by saying “a Christian is a brother of the Lord.”
        C4. Therefore, “a Christian is a brother of the Lord.”

        Since this follows by logical necessity from P1-6, and P1-6 are all undeniable facts, this conclusion is undeniable.”

      • Carrier’s logic is risible; every one of his premises is frontloaded with bad assumptions to validate his conclusion, and the conclusion is false because the premises are flawed. Everyone knows you can do this with something as simple as a syllogism; Carrier goes through a longer process but with no more validity than saying All cheese is green. Take only P1: Paul calls Jesus Lord; there is no evidence that “Christians called Jesus Lord,” except in Phil 2.5-11 where Paul quotes from a hymn and the phrase in Greek is exhortatory not declarative. Do all Christians know this hymn? Clearly not, because Paul is trying to teach it to them. The only thing we can prove is that Paul is trying persuade Christians that Jesus is Lord. Beyond this, the whole “evidence’ and “proves that” formula” is risible on the face of it. He is trying to litigate the truth of ambiguous and inconsistent statements. From P2 downward, his premises get shakier and shakier; what we are left with in the end is green cheese.

      • “Since this follows by logical necessity from P1-6, and P1-6 are all undeniable facts, this conclusion is undeniable.”

        I would hate to set Plantinga loose on these premises, let alone someone whose philosophy I agree with. How do you educe undeniable facts from evidence that cannot support an assertion, let alone a premise?

  10. When Paul used the word “brothers”, most of the times he meant “Christians”, male and female (Paul never used “sisters”). And Carrier said that “all Christians were “brothers of the Lord””.

    Let’s consider the following verse:
    1 Cor 9:5 NIV “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?”

    Here, these “brothers” are male because they are accompanied by (believing) wives; and they are travelling: that definitively limits their number!
    “the brothers of the Lord” refers to some travelling married men (minimum two), but not including Cephas/Peter. What about them being apostles? Maybe, but they were set apart from the others by Paul.

    Therefore 1 Cor 9:5 is not a good showcase for Carrier’s theory, certainly not demonstrating “the brothers of the Lord” means “the Christians” as in:
    “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and [the Christians] and Cephas?”
    Note: that sounds rather odd! Why mention “Christians” when few of them were travelling? Sure because of their relative large number, some were, and among those, a few with their wife (and even less with a believing one –1Cor7:12-14). It’s like saying: “Don’t we have the right to go to Hawaii for vacation with a dog, as do the family next door, the Canadians and my boss?”

    Most likely, the expression refers to some itinerant men, excluding the apostles and Peter, but significant enough to be mentioned by Paul to strengthen his point. Who would they be?

    • @Bernard: I think you say too little on behalf of 1 Cor 9:5 NIV “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” Clearly it cannot mean “all the others” ie all other Christians in this context. If we were being blunt, it would mean those who are not either Paul and his troupe, the apostles excluding the Lord’s brothers (i.e, James, Joses, Judas, Simon per the Nazareth tradition) and Peter. Tt cannot reasonably mean “everyone.” Of course the Nazareth tradition is highly inconvenient to the mythtic position; better not to mention it. And if this verse implies Paul not only knows of it but alludes to it, better to deny the existence of Nazareth itself, which of course is a core tenet of mythticism.

  11. The five fundamentals of mythticism: the non existence of God, the non existence of Jesus, the non existence of Nazareth, the non existence of blood brothers, and everything attributed to Jesus had been said before and therefore could not have been repeated. To these five fundamentals, add lashings of Bayes, and Trickery Dickery Doc…

    • steph, did you read my website? It is in 2nd place on Google.com for “historical Jesus” and I got enthousiastic reviews, even from people who made independant studies on the topic for years.
      I also have a critique on Doherty’s first book where I also put forward arguments for the existence of Jesus.
      That would be in your alley.
      Of course, I would be honored if Mr Hoffmann would take a look also.
      Bernard

      • Yes I did Bernard. I think I clicked on your name or something. You’ll have to forgive me though. Despite having had too much to do with Earl’s recent work, assisting in the research of a forthcoming refutation of mythticist arguments by Professor Maurice Casey, Earl is really really really NOT in my alley and neither is Dick… thank the good Lord God of Battles. ;-)

    • I carelessly omitted two vital fungusmentals:
      The seven fungusmentals of mythticism: the non existence of God, the non existence of Jesus, the non existence of Nazareth, the non existence of blood brothers, the non existence of external evidence because it is unreliable and inaccurate so therefore not worth mentioning, the non existence of internal evidence because it depends on circular arguments and is therefore invalid, and everything attributed to Jesus had been said before and therefore could not have been repeated. To these five fungusmentals mythtics remain faithful, with alotta “Lunacy Bayes at the Moon”*, and Trickery Dickery Doc…

      * r.joseph.hoffmann

  12. Carrier wrote: “Christians were not brothers in the Lord, they were actually the brothers of the Lord.”
    BM: That did not prevent the author of Colossians to write:
    1.2a “to the saints in Colossae, and to the faithful brethren in Christ: …”

  13. @ Dr. Hoffmann,
    I have been looking at Romans 8:29b, “εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς:” that is “that he [might] be the firstborn among many brethren.”
    According to what precedes “he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son”, it seems that Paul postulated, that once in heaven, the Christians (“brethren”) will resemble the Son, and the later, as the firstborn, will be among them.
    I do not see here any allusion the Son is also a brother of these brethren. Am I right?
    What would be expected is “his” as “among his many brethren” in order to validate Carrier’s theory.
    I also noted “many” and “brethren” have the dative case. If Paul wanted to indicate the Son was part of the brethren, would he need to use the genitive case, with or even without “his”?
    Carrier made great use of Rom 8:29b to prove his point.

    • Yes it would have helped if Paul had done any of these things but Dick is hopelessly biased and cannot interpret Paul.

    • Bernard

      I have been away for a bit and am just getting to this: In about a week there will be a major response to Carrier’s Crackpot Conclusions from Maurice Casey, myself and Stephanie Fisher, and in the meantime I will write a longer note for NO on the Romans 8.29, which is about as far from saying what Carrier wants it to say as it is possible to say. Perhaps he should make sausage instead of trying his hand at NY studies?

      I also hope that the three not so weird brethren (of the Lord?) who will be responding will then go on to produce an anthology that puts these crazy ideas away in the intellectual attic they escaped from. Suggestions for a title welcome, but What are the Mythtics Mything is my first choice :) WElcome your involvement.

  14. Bayes’ theorem is mathematically valid, and, given some input to it, output from it also is mathematically valid. This is inarguable.

    …assumptions usually should have no place in Bayesian argument, as its conclusions will only be as strong as their weakest premise, and an assumption is a very weak premise indeed. Carrier

    Yes, an assumption is a very weak premise indeed. But how to avoid using weak premises?

    The correct procedure is to choose values for the terms in the equation that are at the limit of what you can reasonably believe them to be, [and] to reflect a wide margin of error[.] ibid

    So, it is inarguable that Bayes’ Theorem is mathematically valid. And it is inarguable that output from Bayes’ Theorem is mathematically valid with respect to the input (i.e., values chosen for the terms in the equation).

    But it is also inarguable that the quality of the output depends on that of the input (i.e., garbage in, garbage out (if this should happen to be the case)).

    And it is likewise inarguable that to hold that output from Bayes’ Theorem is true by virtue of the fact that Bayes’ Theorem is mathematically valid is an obvious fallacy.

    Yes, I know it’s more than 10 days, and that old news is old news. But I don’t think it hurts to refresh the old fact, even if obliquely, that validity and truth are horses of a different color.)

  15. Just a few notes:

    a) Carrier wrote: “Christians were not brothers in the Lord, they were actually the brothers of the Lord.”
    BM: That did not prevent the author of Colossians to write:
    1.2a “to the saints in Colossae, and to the faithful brethren in Christ: …”

    b) For Romans 8:29, “the firstborn of many brothers” would have helped Carrier’s case.

    c) For 1 Cor 9:5, “the brothers of the Lord” (as also the apostles and Cephas/Peter, but NOT Paul), according to what transpires in the whole of Chapter 9 (more so 9:1-14), were not working for a living, were financed by the Christian communities they visited, had all expenses paid (including the ones of their accompanying wives).
    These “brothers of the Lord” commanded a lot of respect among some distant Christian communities (who were willing to fork money for them).
    The solution is obvious.

  16. Pingback: Carrier’s “Proving History”, Chapter 3(a) — Review « Vridar

    • Vridar has a knack for using words like ignorantly to disguise his utter ignorance: there is nothing ignorant about accusing Carrier of having a crackpot theory made up of ersatz-logic pretending to be a logical knock down argument for his myth theory. Godfrey has become a cheerleader and postmaster for the mythtics, but hardly has anything worth contributing himself. This is what vetting and critique look like; it is what happens when NT scholars float ideas and theories. It is time for Carrier to respond to these criticisms with facts. He is frontloading assumptions into his Bayes machine and coming out with sausage. None of the assumptions as far as I can tell bear scrutiny–but we’ll get to that on this site in about a week…

      • Vridar has a knack for…

        I see what you mean.

        A little research turns up the curious fact that he wrote, My past cult experience taught me that no matter how clever and diligent one was in researching and “proving” a set of beliefs, the results of such studies were all an illusion if the whole enterprise had been built on faulty assumptions.

        Yet here he is, popping a gasket over what he considers to be an ignorant accusation, namely the statement that,

        [I]t is…inarguable that to hold that output from Bayes’ Theorem is true by virtue of the fact that Bayes’ Theorem is mathematically valid is [to commit] an obvious fallacy.

      • Vridar extracts a passage from the conclusion of Schweitzer’s ‘Jesus’. This ambiguous passage out of context, is often hijacked by mythtics and used in a way that assumes Schweitzer’s agnosticism on historicity, and assumes that he acknowledges a lack of historical controls and methodology.

        Schweitzer, writing a century ago with a different philosophical idea of ‘truth’, was following Weiss and his conclusion that Jesus was a mistaken prophet. Schweitzer was a deeply philosophical and religious man and this malicious mythtic messy and muddled misleading misrepesentation of him reflects a failure to recognise his historical context and poor comprehension of his philosophy and outstanding intellectual contribution to the advancement of culture and ideas. Vridar impregnates his own ideas into the passage, inserting them in square brackets, failing to acknowledge that he, Vridar, is dealing with mixed material, and consequently he clearly contradicts the message Schweitzer was conveying in the context of discussion.

        Vridar, like Carrier, has no method of differentiating tradition which is composite. They both fail to recognise the difference between primary, and secondary tradition, legendary and myth mixed accretion. Both are oblivious to the history of tradition criticism. Carrier has no method of distinguishing the difference and this renders his Bayes a complete muddle. Vridar consistently misrepresents arguments and evidence, with mere sloppiness as well as pure dishonesty, and is deliberately misleading and characteristically cloudly and unclear.

        Vridar messily misquotes Hoffmann, and having falsely accused Hoffmann of basing his academic criticism on a personal dislike of Carrier, he falsely accuses Hoffmann of criticising himself “because I pointed out with quotations from Richard Carrier the falsity of a claim about Carrier’s argument on Hoffmann’s blog” which is utterly erroneous. Vridar hadn’t pointed out the falsity at all. He merely contradicted the accusation but simultaneously reinforced its truth, by quoting Carrier’s demonstrating the accusation accurate. Carrion inserts invalid assumptions into his equation and therefore all conclusions are invalid. However Carrier assumes that HIS assumptions are true.

        “[Bayes'] conclusions are always necessarily true — if its premises are true. By “premises” here I mean the probabilities we enter into the equation, which are essentially the premises in a logical argument.” (p. 45)

        Yet Carrier’s premises which he assumes true, are false, and the claims eliminate variables, therefore conclusions are necessarily false. Neither atheist blogger – Vridar nor Carrier, has the historical knowledge or critical skills to determine evidence of which there is none. Carrier has not ‘proved’ any truth. Historians do not ‘prove’ but aim to demonstrate with argument and evidence, and Carrier has neither.

        Yet Carrier declares, claiming proof and evidence with a fantastical concept of logic and cultural lunacy:

        “P1. The evidence in Paul proves Christians called Jesus the Lord.
        P2. The evidence in Paul proves Jesus was the adopted son of God.
        P3. The evidence in Paul proves baptized Christians were the adopted sons of God.
        P4. By definition, sons of the same father are brothers of each other.
        P5. By definition, if P2 and P3, then Christians and Jesus were sons of the same father.
        C1. Therefore, (baptized) Christians and Jesus are brothers of each other.
        C2. Therefore, (baptized) Christians and the Lord are brothers of each other.
        P6. In the Greek language, when A is the brother of B, this is stated by saying “A is a brother of B.”
        C3. Therefore, in the Greek language when [a Christian] is the brother of [the Lord], this is stated by saying “a Christian is a brother of the Lord.”
        C4. Therefore, “a Christian is a brother of the Lord”

        Perhaps on this logic, or cultural lunacy, the evidence in the gospels ‘proves’ that Jesus existed, if Paul claiming Christians called Jesus the Lord ‘proves’ that they did. The ‘evidence’ or writing in Paul’s letters, don’t ‘prove’ that Jesus was the adopted son of God. If it did then it would ‘prove’ that Jesus must have existed, according to this fantastical premise. If Paul writes something does that make it literally true? In any case, Carrier’s logic assumes there are no blood brothers in antiquity. Carrier, regrettably fails to interpret Paul’s theology and merely makes an anachronistic jumble.

        “…assumptions usually should have no place in Bayesian argument, as its conclusions will only be as strong as their weakest premise, and an assumption is a very weak premise indeed…. The correct procedure is to choose values for the terms in the equation that are at the limit of what you can reasonably believe them to be, [and] to reflect a wide margin of error”

        Simple formulas to not correspond with complex composite historical texts. Carrier has too much misplaced faith in the value of his own assumptions.

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