Mythtic Pizza and Cold-cocked Scholars

Over at the Freethought Blog Ghetto, Atheist blogger and part-time Jesus-denier Richard Carrier has recently been applauded by atheist blogger and full-time loudmouth P Z Myers for “coldcocking” New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman.  This suggests that the sewer of internet-facilitated nastiness that exists, among other places, in the US Congress is also fully flowing into what used to be called academic discussion.

Except this isn’t discussion and it certainly isn’t academic.

The reason for the cheering?  Professor Ehrman had the audacity to suggest that Jesus actually existed.

For those of you not paying attention, the New Atheism has a new postulate:  Not only does God not exist but Jesus didn’t exist either.  It is a theory that zips past Planet America every fifty years or so, like a comet, then fades away until a new generation of nutters tries to resuscitate it.  Lucky us: We are living at the right time.

Just to give you the flavor of the discussion—header: Richard Carrier Coldcocks Bart Ehrman

 This is great: Richard Carrier Blogs totally destroys Bart Ehrman’s argument for the reality of a historical Jesus.  Jesus is a legend, like King Arthur or Robin Hood or Paul Bunyan. There may have been some individual in the past who inspired the stories, but he’s not part of the historical record, and the tall tales built around him almost certainly bear little resemblance to the long-lost reality. It’s simply bad history to invent rationalizations for an undocumented mystery figure from the distant past.

I’ll make a deal with PZ Myers: I don’t try to lecture him on grasshoppers and he doesn’t lecture anybody on Jesus and “bad history.”  I can’t quite imagine that the combined religion faculties at Harvard, Claremont and Tuebingen are awaiting further instruction on Bayes Theorem from Richard Carrier or packing up their offices, having been served notice that an associate professor of biology at the Morris campus of the University of Minnesota has discovered that Jesus is just like Robin Hood—and Paul Bunyan.  I know it gives the mythtics a rush to think that the scholarly establishment discourages revolutionary ideas but in fact it is designed to discourage error and non-revolutionary discredited ideas. Like these.

Piltdown Man Discovered

On the other hand, this had to happen: the coalescence of God deniers and Jesus deniers I mean.  After all,  if God is a “story,” like Robin Hood and King Arthur then it stands to reason (inarguable Carrier might say) that a story about a god’s son is just a myth—EZ, PZ.  But more to the point, the endorsement of amateurs by amateurs is becoming a rampant, annoying and distressing problem for biblical scholarship—one that apparently others in my discipline think will go away by assuming, as I do not, that saner heads will prevail. We can just ignore the provocative ignorance of Myers, Jerry Coyne, Neil Godfrey, and Richard Carrier et al. like so many mosquitoes.

Except mosquitoes are tough to ignore, and some carry Dengue and Malaria.  If the last two years has proved anything, it is that the spawn of the new atheist movement, like Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, will not be ignored. Insult works. Spew works.  Faitheist baiting works. What works works.

The disease these buggers spread is ignorance disguised as common sense. They are the single greatest threat, next to fundamentalism, to the calm and considered academic study of religion, touting the scientific method as their Mod Op while ignoring its application to historical study.

***

When you reach the conclusion that Jesus did not exist before you start your journey, everything falls neatly into place:  after all, the ancient world is populated with gods and every god has his myth.  And as the new atheists have so deftly shown (though without footnotes) the fact that none of these gods has ever existed, increases the probability that the one in the Bible has to go too.  Jesus is in the Bible, isn’t he? He has to go.  Covers shut, case closed.  Now all we have to do is “cold- cock” scholars who think otherwise and jerry-rig new methods to make their work look like the baseless, faith strewn twaddle it really is.

It is almost cruelty to begin picking on the methodological wowsers implied in the reasoning of the mythtics–the Jesus- deniers, who conflate God denying and Jesus denying as though they were on the same level of discussion and susceptible of the same kinds of proof.

Embarrassing–really–because these same folk who hold up the scientific method to religionists want to walk past the complex evidence of textual and linguistic studies as though it weren’t there.  “Hermeneutics” for them is just a word theologians like to throw around to impress seminarians: how can it be useful in forming assumptions that lead to premises that force foregone conclusions?  Like God-denying, Jesus-denying is tidy, simple and efficient.

In their own areas, it would be as though the supporters of flat earth theory and spontaneous generation were given equal time at the podium and a spotlight to scoff at astronomy and biology, but—the impoverished reasoning seems to run—this is Biblical studies—how serious do you have to be?  “Atheist biblical studies” as it is represented by Carrier and company is nothing more than a conspiracy theory in search of respectability.  Since that isn’t forthcoming through the normal channels of recognition—scholarship I mean—it has to rely on trivializing the settled or nearly-settled conclusions of modern scholarship itself, and if that doesn’t work, bashing the scholars.  For some very strange reason, they like to quote Schweitzer.  But Schweitzer famously refused to give up the historical Jesus.  Prove me wrong and divide an extra hundred dollars.  The likelier result is that I can prove to you that the mythtics don’t read complete verses in the texts they quote from.

The free thought rabble have chosen Carrier as their standard bearer, without any reason to put their trust in his inane conclusions and methods—a man who has never published a significant piece of biblical scholarship, never been peer reviewed (peers?), never been vetted, and never held an academic position.  His “reputation” depends on deflecting his mirror image of himself as a misunderstood, self-construed genius onto a few dozen equally maladroit followers. This billboard for poor method, we are now asked to believe by freethought’s bad boy, PZ Myers, has cold-cocked a senior New Testament scholar for saying something as reasonable as “Jesus existed.”  Only in the age of instant misinformation and net-attack is this kind of idiocy possible.  Only in the atheist universe where the major premise– “religion is a lie so the study of religion is a study of lying”—infects everything is this kind of lunacy possible.  Unfortunately, we have Richard Dawkins to thank for the original formulation of that premise.

Carrier is committed to making up methods as he goes along and pretending that he has found an evidence-based way of approaching the biblical books.  He is about to re-publish (he had vanity published it already) his “research” on this subject with Prometheus Books,  and scores wait with bated breath for his results, though from what I have seen of it so far, he could have saved us all the trouble by simply telling us what we already knew: that the Buddha, Jesus Christ, and King Arthur are all figments of the teenage imagination and never really existed. If they had, presumably, they would have studied grasshoppers.

In any case, Carrier has had plenty of time to build up the suspense of this little drama:  he blogs about himself, frolics at other sites that tout the fact that he has a PhD in ancient history, and disses the work of any one who disagrees with him, which leaves him both a very lonely and a very busy man.

Sticking to the main point however—the cold-cocking of Bart Ehrman: let me say straight off that Bart and I have a difference of opinion about many things.  We disagree especially on the influence of Marcion (a second century “heretic”) on the shaping of the New Testament canon.  I have always been ready to accept that I may not be right about Marcion, and other scholars have been gracious enough, including some very conservative ones, to say that although I am probably wrong there is a thin chance that I am right.  In the push and tug of historical scholarship, you take what you can get if you can’t sell it for the price you ask. That is the way the game is played.

But Carrier’s challenge is not about “How the New Testament canon was shaped.”  I suspect that prior question is of comparatively small interest to him as a meat and potatoes sensationalist.  It is about a fundamental question that I and my critics have answered positively:  While there is some very slight chance that Jesus did not exist, the evidence that he existed is sufficiently and cumulatively strong enough to defeat those doubts.  To get around this evidence, you have to begin by excluding second- order questions which can be answered, and have been answered for a hundred years negatively– questions, which up until recently Carrier was focused on: Did Jesus rise from the dead or perform miracles?  Was he born of a virgin, or at Bethlehem, or say all of the things ascribed to him? Then there is the perennially dull question that was laid to rest in the writings of the French triumvirs almost a century ago—Loisy, Goguel and Guignebert–who were not strangers to radical conclusions: where was the Nazareth that Jesus was supposed  to be from?

The study of the gospels is often the study of the lacunae of ancient history: we know less than we would like to know to form a coherent picture of Jesus, and the sources for knowing as much as we know are not disinterested reporting but the writings of believers propagating a certain message about him.  This is not new.  This is not radical.  This is where discussion starts.

By the same token we know more about Jesus than we know about a great many figures that we think existed, from far fewer sources—often from faint allusions in the work of only one ancient writer. Did Diogenes exist?  Cincinnatus? Outside the gospels, Pontius Pilate is virtually unknown except for a reference in Tacitus and mentions in Philo and Josephus, if we discount the so-called Pilate stone

Does his central role in the gospel nullify these sources or corroborate them?  Alexander the Great believed he was the son of Ammon; Plutarch believed that Alexander’s mother gave birth after being penetrated by divine lightening, and was seen in the embrace of a giant snake. In the gospels, Caiaphas and Augustus are also mentioned in the historical frame, and they are well known outside it; do we assume that they were merely added to a gospel as historical ornamentation, while names like Joseph of Arimathea and Simon of Cyrene, or the “Sons of Zebedee,” or James the Lord’s brother, are made up in the writer’s head?  How would we justify that assumption? The difficulty of being certain should not lead to the conclusion that nothing can be known, and the fact is, we know a great deal more for certain, especially of his historical context, than we did a century or two centuries ago.

Given a literary tradition that begins with statements of belief from Paul and his associates rather than the tantalizingly difficult accounts called gospels, can we be sure of anything a gospel has to tell us about Jesus?  These are all fair questions, and questions that New Testament scholars, including scholars like Bart Ehrman, have thought about for a long time.

You can cold -cock them if you want to, but they will still be there to haunt you.

This little rant (and it is a rant, I acknowledge and I do not apologize for it: somebody’s got to do it) will be followed  next week by three essay-length responses to Richard C. Carrier’s ideas:  The first by me, the second by Professor Maurice Casey of the University of Nottingham, and the third by Stephanie Fisher a specialist in Q-studies.   We will attempt to show an impetuous amateur not only where he goes wrong, but why he should buy a map before starting his journey.  Other replies will follow in course, and we invite Carrier, his fans, and anyone else interested in this discussion to respond to it at any stage along the way.

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254 thoughts on “Mythtic Pizza and Cold-cocked Scholars

  1. Glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight, but I’m afraid the barbarians are at the gate, and they have the numbers.

    “The disease these buggers spread is ignorance disguised as common sense. They are the single greatest threat, next to fundamentalism, to the calm and considered academic study of religion…”

    But you should keep saying this as loudly as possible…

  2. Looking forward to what’s upcoming. I advise you to follow the sage guidance of Josey Wales and get “plumb, mad-dog mean.” I say this not to stir up anything, but rather to make sure we all know–as we do–that the Internet can me a mean and vicious place, lawless and chaotic. Beat your foes with better facts and better inferences. That’s Dylan: “to live outside the law you must be honest.”

      • I disagree with your take on mythicism, starting with the word. (That said, I’m not a Gnu by any means.) Were I to offer Bayesian-like odds, based on current levels of scholarship, I’d offer 10 percent odds, maybe 20 percent, that Yeshua bar Yusuf never lived. In other words, high enough probability for it to be legitimate discussion. That said, PZ is really ridiculous here. While Ehrman believes in the actual existence of Jesus, he’s always, from what I’ve seen, been cordial about the issue. And, I know that from personal experience

        And, quoting Paul? The only thing he says in an authentic letter is that Jesus was “born of a woman.” That says nothing about his historicity, and could be interpreted as nothing more than an anti-Gnostic statement.

        Q? Q says nothing historically grounded about Jesus’ existence other than his baptism, and thousands of people were baptized by him.

        As for mentions of Caiphas, etc.? Well, Matthew mentions a likely non-historic “massacre of infants.” Mark has no birth account. Luke of course botches the historicity of Jesus book and in a royal way, enough to argue AGAINST anything else he claims that is alleged to be historical.

        Besides, as I’ve said, there’s option 3: Yeshua was the Pharasaic Yeshua crucified by Alexander Jannai. That gives more than a century for the myth to develop adn the history to be replaced.

      • “And, quoting Paul? The only thing he says in an authentic letter is that Jesus was “born of a woman.” That says nothing about his historicity, and could be interpreted as nothing more than an anti-Gnostic statement.

        “Q? Q says nothing historically grounded about Jesus’ existence other than his baptism, and thousands of people were baptized by him.

        Does Paul seem anti-gnostic to you? Can you name a place where he names gnostics?

        Q is a sayings source. The dialogues of Plato do not say anything about the historical Socrates by your standard. If the baptism of Jesus is part of Q (not sure), how can you say that it says nothing about his existence?

        I’m afraid I don’t understand the logic of either of these assertions. Do you?

      • Hi Dr. Hoffmann,

        You asked “Does Paul seem anti-gnostic to you? ”

        Bart Ehrman, _The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament_, in chapter “Anti-Docetic Corruptions of Scripture” page 238 documents that orthodox scribes continued to tamper with Galatians 4:4 and Romans 1:3-4 even *after* we reach the extant texts (3rd century and later), and comments on how likely this makes it that tampering occurred in the second century when the stakes were even higher.

        Thus Ehrman should be aware that his very own research undercuts the argument for a historical Jesus in the Pauline epistles. He already knows these passages are best understood as anti-docetic corruptions by the proto-orthodox. With a little more study, we can establish that these passages not in Marcion’s version, and possibly that these passages were never in the earliest Pauline text at all.

        Jake Jones IV

      • By tampering you mean redaction, presumably–not to quibble. I do not agree with Ehrman about the provenance of these passages. For one thing, Paul’s salvation myth is too synthetic to be recognizably gnostic and “docetic” is a made up word to describe a kind of soft belief in a physical Jesus. It is totally useless outside its own heresiological matrix. The categories we use to describe these emphases are really pretty useless before Irenaeus’s typology at the end of the 2nd century, but as for me I am not convinced that there is any fully fledged gnostic system behind any of Paul’s writings, not do I think (agreeing here with you) that Paul can be used for any serious discussion of historicity. But I limit this to information: I am pretty certain that Paul’s view of the historical Jesus is apologetically driven…. Will be interested in your response to what we produce next week!

      • But Jake: If you think the historical Jesus is elusive, I can promise you that you will break your teeth trying to establish the “text” of Marcion’s gospel–which is what opponents like Tertullian wanted.

      • Dear Dr. Hoffmann,

        You wrote, “For one thing, Paul’s salvation myth is too synthetic to be recognizably gnostic and ‘docetic’ is a made up word to describe a kind of soft belief in a physical Jesus. It is totally useless outside its own heresiological matrix.”

        Just to clarify, in the later half of the second century and early third century, certain heretics were appealing to the Pauline Epistles to support their Docetic Christology.

        ‘Of course the Marcionites suppose that they have the apostle on their side in the following passage in the matter of Christ’s substance— that in Him there was nothing but a phantom of flesh. For he says of Christ, that, “being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant,” not the reality, “and was made in the likeness of man,” not a man, “and was found in fashion as a man,” (Philippians 2:6-7) not in his substance, that is to say, his flesh; just as if to a substance there did not accrue both form and likeness and fashion.’ Tertullian AM 5.6

        The proto-orthodox (Bart Ehrman’s term) then redacted certain other Pauline texts (e.g. Romans 1:1-3, Gal 4:4) to sweeten the support of their Incarnational Christology, i.e. that Christ became real human flesh. These texts concern the very real Christological battles of the second century. To jump forward to the present day discussion, the appeal to these texts in the Historical Jesus debates are misplaced.

        ——-
        Dr. Hoffmann, you wrote “But Jake: If you think the historical Jesus is elusive, I can promise you that you will break your teeth trying to establish the text of Marcion’s gospel–which is what opponents like Tertullian wanted.”

        It is relatively simple to reconstruct Marcion’s text of Gal 4:4 from Tertullian AM 5.4.2.
        “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son”— the God, of course, who is the Lord ……

        If Marcion’s text had contained “born of a woman, born under the law” Tertullian would certainly have used it to refute Marcion’s docetism and antiomianism. Indeed, I am not aware of a single scholar argues that Marcion’s text of Gal 4:4 was other than “God sent forth his son.”

        Best Regards,
        Jake Jones IV

      • No, it is not at all easy–you have not read Tertullian’s story of how he had no copy of Marcion in front of him–more troubling, you have not read my book on the topic.

      • “Q? Q says nothing historically grounded about Jesus’ existence other than his baptism, and thousands of people were baptized.”

        Not sure of your critieria without argument and evidence, for ‘historical grounding’. Not sure either, how, or even if, you claim, which Jesus tradition material, is or is not ‘historically grounded’.

        Q is a hypothetical sayings source based on the double tradition material in Matthew and Luke and some of the triple tradition is sometimes included in hypothetical reconstructions, such as the baptism story. It is an over-simplified hypothetical single written Greek document hypothesis and it’s supposed existence has been refuted by Goulder, Casey, Goodacre and other recent critical scholarship. But even John Kloppenborg who is Q’s most prominent proponent, concedes “Synoptic hypotheses are simplifications … [p]arsimony, however, is a virtue of explanatory logic; it is not a feature of historical or literary realities” (Excavating Q pp.50-1). Nevertheless, despite this extraordinarily honest and logical concession, the Klopp himself proceeded to reconstruct a document based on just such a simplistic hypothesis, squeezing the complex evidence to fit the simple theory called Q. He then co-edited it in “THE Critical Edition of Q” assuming it existed. Some of the Q material is primary tradition, some secondary and myth mixed accretion. There are strong arguments for plausible historicity in some of the primary material. But the Q material is various and stronger arguments demonstrate plausible models of multiple sources, some Greek, some Aramaic, some oral. The arguments for multiple sources are arguments of cumulative weight and are based on scientific historical methods and literary textual criticism and evaluate the texts synoptically with multiple criteria.

        Applying Bayes theorem, a historically inappropriate mathematical formula, to composite historical texts, is like applying a lawnmower to an unshaved chin – or a banana to a hockey ball. They do not correspond.

      • Dear Dr. Hoffmann,

        Thank you for patience with me!

        You wrote that I have not read the story of how Tertullian had no copy of Marcion before him.
        Would you be so kind as to cite this passage?

        The general accepted guideline is still stated by Harnack:
        „Daß Tert.s Wiedergabe des Marcionitischen Textes zuverlässig ist, weil er Sorgfalt übte und weil er fast ausschließlich nur diesen Text vor sich hatte … zeigt fast jede Seite“ (Harnack Marcion 45*).

        Cmp. from modern view of point: Eva Maria Becker, S. 107 in: May, Gerhard (Hg.) (2002): Marcion und seine kirchengeschichtliche Wirkung. 2001

        You are right, I do not have your book at hand, an omission that will soon be corrected. But not all readers will have access to your book. Could you please cite the passage that pertains to this subject?

        But back to Gal. 4:4.
        Cmp Van den Bergh, Marcion 1, S.34 „ Daß Christus als „unter das Gesetz getan“ bezeichnet wird (Gal 4,4), steht im Gegensatz zu 3,10, wo Marcion nicht las, was der Redaktor daraus gemacht hat und was offensichtlich einer fremden Ausdrucksweise entspricht: „Alle, die aus den Werken des Gesetzes sind, sind unter dem Fluch.“ Marcion las deutlicher: „Alle, die unter dem Gesetz sind, sind unter dem Fluch.“ Hätte Christus, wie die kirchliche Lesart es will, unter dem Gesetz gestanden bzw. wäre er darunter geboren, dann hätte er selber unter dem Fluch gestanden und hätte andere nicht erlösen können. Erst am Kreuz wurde Christus zum Fluch (3,13). Die Lesart des Marcion: „Gott sandte Gott seinen Sohn, damit er die unter dem Gesetz loskaufte, damit wir die Sohnschaft erlangten.“ Das Gesetz als eine gottfeindliche Macht, die zu den stoicheia oder Elementen dieser Welt gehört, das ist gnostischer Dualismus.“

        Best Regards,
        Jake Jones IV

      • Harnack was so optimistic about so much wasn’t he? Including the accuracy of much of the teaching of Jesus as recorded. By the time Tertullian wrote his third version of the work (AM 1.1) he claimed, using Evans’s trans from 1972,

        “My first edition, too hurriedly produced, I afterwards
        withdrew, substituting a fuller treatment. This also, before enough
        copies had been made, was stolen from me by a person, at that
        time a Christian but afterwards an apostate, who chanced to have
        copied out some extracts very incorrectly, and shewed them to a
        group of people. Hence the need for correction. The opportunity
        provided by this revision has moved me to make some additions.
        Thus this written work, a third succeeding a second, and instead
        of third from now on the first, needs to begin by reporting the
        demise of the work it supersedes….” It is not unusual for ancient authors to work from memory, but this is quite a literary bungle. The further arguments are a bit complicated but show that most of what Tertullian says about Marcion’s “positive” statements are framed as suppositions using terms like nescio (I do not know [what Marcion might say]) or I suppose, or the Marcionites will say (rhetorical). This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try to reconstruct the main lines of Marcion’s literary output (as you know, many have tried) but the result will be/is highly speculative–compared say to Origen’s lengthy reporting of Celsus.

      • Dear Dr. Hoffmann,

        You wrote, “This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try to reconstruct the main lines of Marcion’s literary output…”

        Quite so.

        Do you consider the priority of Paul was with Marcion?

        Best regards,
        Jake Jones IV

      • Dr. Hoffman: You end your essay “On Not Finding the Historical Jesus” in Sources with a provocative rejoinder to the observation that in the case of Newman’s empty tomb, a priest responded, “It’s enough that he was here”. You end your insightful article (here I disagree with Carrier) with the previously mentioned rejoinder, “In the cas of Jesus of Nazareth, we cannot even say that.”

        Earlier in that essay, you observe, “Historically, then, the reality of Jesus cannot be indubitable because his existence does not meet the high standard of proof we set for other historical figures.”

        You say further, “Indeed, nothing is more unsupported by the sources than the standard liberal critical perspective that Jesus’ death was unexpected, the Gospels attempt to theologize away the embarrassment of the early church, and the residual parts of the tradition developed ‘backward’ from the seminal moment–the catastrophe–of his mission.”

        Have you rethought these points? It seems like observations like these are exactly what lead some people to hypothesize that there was no Jesus of Nazareth at the birth of Chrisitianity. Is it so far from your statements here to consider that the idea of Jesus evolved out of suffering servant/failed messiah motifs?

      • Don’t misunderstand: There is a difference between the myth theory and the question of the historical Jesus. I continue to believe that the question of the historical Jesus is open; the myth theorists traditionally consider it closed or “probably” deiced in favour of Jesus not having existed. Frankly, the gospels on their own (in my opinion) do not provide sufficient evidence to close the case, but as I look increasingly at the shape of controversy and context from the end of the first century,I am more persuaded that the historicity 9though they would not call it that) of something is being defended. I don’t know where this interrogation will end; to call it a change of mind would be extravagant. I doubt it will be solved by screaming “I am right and others are lying” from the roof tops.

      • A commenter named Geoff has just written a comment which epitomizes the sad state of where Carrier had driven this discussion: It has become this year’s fave as a debating topic in the Rational Response Squad Agenda and now is all about “defending positions.” This is not war. It is not a football line. It’s not whistle-blowing on ‘conservative” or “mainstream” scholarship. Like any other field of inquiry, scholars in biblical studies and Christian origins go where the evidence takes them; to take a position and never budge is what dogmatists do, not people who practice the academic craft. In the last 48 hours, Carrier has called me crazy (not the first time), Ehrman a liar and a dissembler (as well as ignorant) and as far as I know, no one has commented substantively on any of the online pieces I have written on the topic nor any of the essays in Sources of the Jesus Tradition. I have never said (and don’t believe) that saying Jesus did not exist is equivalent to Holocaust denial and UFO abductions–if Ehrman said this, then I disagree with him. But let’s be clear about the merits of disagreeing in moderated tones and calling (even erroneous) opinion the work of “dicks,” “insane people,” and “liars.” It is that kind of approach and these polemical tactics that disqualifies people like Richard Carrier from a tenured position, or even surviving a first round interview.

    • After some short detention in the ultimate junkyard, Joe is good to go, it appears. And boy, is he pissed.

      I fear for Grasshopper, this could end in ex-communication from academia, Macadamia, and the Green Bay Packers.

      Do you think the A-holes will ever guess that Jesus was actually a Marshall McLuhan type; living and detailing an evolving species consensus around progressive social constraints attending the urbanizing Med? No?

  3. The best satire is not only wickedly accurate and brutally witty, but it is also profoundly and ironically sad. It splits your sides and makes your heart bleed simultaneously with frustration at the idiocy. But what can you do? Just laugh. And critique their contradictions precisely. I disagree with Jeremy a bit though – the mythtics and other antics don’t have the numbers. They just have the volume in noise. Nonsense speaks more loudly than sense, especially metaphorically on the internet.

    • “The free thought rabble have chosen Carrier as their standard bearer, without any reason to put their trust in his inane conclusions and methods—a man who has never published a significant piece of biblical scholarship, never been peer reviewed (peers?), never been vetted, and never held an academic position. ”

      Indeed so.

      “While there is some very slight chance that Jesus did not exist, the evidence that he existed is sufficiently and cumulatively strong enough to defeat those doubts.”

      I wondered what you thought of philosopher Stephen Law’s paper on EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS (Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011).and recently made available here:

      http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/published-in-faith-and-philosophy-2011.html

      Unlike PZ or RC, he could enter into a sensible and civil conversation and countenance the suggestion he might be wrong – or not fully informed – about something.

  4. Pingback: Response to Carrier « Christianity in Antiquity (CIA): The Bart Ehrman Blog

  5. “Ehrman had the audacity to suggest that Jesus actually existed.”

    Clearly this wasn’t Dr. Carrier’s point. He was clear that he was hoping for a *scholarly* account of the historicist’s perspctive while all Dr. Ehman presented was… well, less than that, if Dr. Carrier is to be believed. I’m looking forward to a more thoughtful, well rationed response, because clearly this self-admitted “rant” is no better than what you claim Dr. Carrier’s critique is.

    I don’t see why historicists are making this a political/popularity issue. Take Dr. Carrier’s critique for what it is, never mind the tone. It’s not “ad hominem” as Dr. Carrier is critiquing *clear* omissions of fact and *clear* misapplication of methods and reasoning; he’s not atacking Dr. Ehrman’s character.

  6. Excellent post, Joseph, as usual. Looking forward to that discussion. Unfortunately, and I apologize for the ” religious” vocabulary, you are preaching to the choir here. The ignorants usually don’t read scholar texts, except to dissect sentences that they fit to their to their agenda. In that sense, there is not difference between PZ Myers, Dick Carrier and followers and the Westboro church : same ignorance and fanaticism, just different “hate” goals

    • Viv, “The ignorants usually don’t read scholar texts,…” simply classifies those who disagree with you as ignorant. You proceed to call them fanatic and hateful. Yet I am mildly persuaded that no person named Jesus existed, I read scholarly publications and books on the subject, and I’m looking forward to the discussions to be posted here. Why do you dislike me? I want the truth.

  7. Thank you, this is the best response to the attacks on Ehrman yet, and to the bizarre anti-academic attacks on the study of religion and New Testament among many unfortunates in the New Atheist movement.

    • I’m trying to understand: how could any rational person think Hoffman’s piece above is a good response? It’s just a slew of bluster and invective with nary a fact to be found. Carrier’s posts have been chock-full of facts and arguments discussed at length, he pretty much vivisects Ehrman’s article in the HuffPo and anyone can go and see the remains for themselves.

      Now it may be that in the end the historicists actually have a strong case (although it’s hard to imagine one strong enough to bear Hoffmann’s arrogance), but so far they’ve demonstrated a gross incompetence at making it to the general public. Maybe Hoffman will lay out a devastating critique of Carrier in his promised posts, but given his inability to understand or accurately report what the ‘New’ Atheists are saying I’ve got my doubts.

      • No one has an obligation to lay out a devastating critique of Carrier; his views are not unassailable and are far from being proved let alone accepted. If we are going to litigate scholarship, the normal procedure would be for Carrier to be tested in the usual way.Can you name one senior biblical scholar–someone who actually knows what he or she is doing–who accepts his thesis? Or do you regard the deck so stacked against his self-advertised revolutionary ideas that he cannot get a fair hearing from the “establishment”?

      • You never know Josh, the atheists may still have their day.

        Here’s a point you may find kind of neat. The biggest problem critics have with Paul’s story of his conversion is that he was going after Christians, then he had his conversion experience, then he became Christian. But the former people he was working for never went after him for joining the Christians, which would have been the policy at the time. The book, “Operation Messiah” makes the argument that Paul lied about his conversion experience: It may have all been a conspiracy to start a new religion that would control the people really well.

        It is historically possible. Plato in the Republic advocates the “noble lie,” deceiving the people so the rulers can get them to behave properly. “The noble lie” is a reference to Euripides’ Baccahe where someone says even though Dionysus isn’t a God, pretend that he is because it would be better for the people. There is a very slim chance that may be the reason behind the reference to Dionysus in this midrash from the gospel of John:

        The Gospel of
        John2. Water into Wine
        (2:1-11)
        Though the central feature of
        this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt
        comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the
        story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX (Helms, p. 86). The widow of Zarephath,
        whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O
        man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi,
        17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to
        the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi,
        gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of
        provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And
        just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that
        you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples
        to put their faith in him (v. 11).

        But whether Paul was being honest about his conversion experience is anyone’s guess. Comes down to an act of faith I guess. Anyway, I thought you might find that kind of neat.

        John Andrew MacDonaldI

      • Carrier’s “facts” contain numerous problems, as saturated as his responses might be with them.
        I consider this a good response in part because it laments what many of us in philology have lamented: that those in the Freethinkery ridicule every day people who make outlandish assertions that fall far outside of scholarly consensus in the sciences, but seem to be just ducky with using the precise same methodology in dismissing the findings of Biblical and classical scholars, almost all of whom find problems with the mythicist position. Hoffman’s piece is admittedly a rant, but it’s one so many of us in the related fields have been making to ourselves over the past month amid this bizarre fervor.
        It might be true that established scholars have not won the public over with their critiques, which are by nature more complex and far less sensational. But that doesn’t really mean anything. After all, a sizable plurality of the general public in America still doesn’t accept evolutionary theory.
        That said, I look forward to the additional material on this, and applaud the scholars involved for doing so, even though it will inevitably lead to more attacks by the mythicist faithful.

  8. Pingback: I think someone just Cold-cocked a ‘scholar’ | Unsettled Christianity

  9. ‘What could Stephen Law possibly contribute to this subject?’

    Presumably rather more than Richard Carrier.

    It just seemed an interesting paper by a reputable philosopher. I thought your opinion on the paper might be interesting and sharing your opinion with Law might be useful. Just a thought.

      • ‘the existence of Jesus is not a philosophical question’

        Agreed. But philosophers might be (thought) able to say something useful about what history, as a discipline is able to reveal.in this connection. In any case, I think Law covers some of the general arguments that might be seen to justify scepticism ‘(not mythicism). Its worth a skim – I suspect you will find these arguments thrown in your direction along with the mud cast by
        the ‘Free Thought’ Bloggers who make me embarassed to call myself an ‘atheist’.

      • I had a look. Stephen Law merely demonstrates his oblivion to first century culture, language and context and doesn’t actually engage with any critical scholarship. He is merely applying an abstract philosophical approach, or law, which does not correspond with ancient historical texts. Making up silly analogies in a twenty first century context and assuming their similarity to all the complexities of first century culture (of which Law is unlearned), made very little sense. It’s call anachronism generally. He’s a philosopher, not a historian. There is an assumption among the mythtics, who do not comprehend historical approaches, that there is some homogenous historical method and set of facts which all scholars apply and yet reach different results. This is a mythtic allusion and they assume it because they are untrained in methodology and cannot distinguish between different approaches or differentiate between an apologetic scholar and a critical one. Instead they select whomsoever supports their assumptions but then appeal to those persons out of context. The mythtics ultimately have no method, but they assume alot of assumptions to be unarguable.

      • The mythtic problem is essentially what you say–a template of facts they think holds true throughout time. It begins with their definition of myth, or rather their unawareness of discussions about myth since the time of Strauss, especially of the way myths have enlarged our understanding of the traditions and customs of ancient civilization in anthropology and the social sciences. I have no trouble using the expression the Jesus myth for example when referring to a literary device found in the gospels and letters. But the Jesus myth overlays historical tradition–it neither overrides it nor cancels it out.

      • And the mythtics have no comprehension of, or method of differentiating tradition which is composite. Abstract philosophical approaches and simplistic mathematical formulae applied to composite historical texts fail to recognise the difference between primary, and secondary tradition, which is legendary and myth mixed accretion. Consequently they are not equipped to say anything useful about history because they can’t see it through the myth…

      • Law is discussing the methods used in historical Jesus studies. Seems perfectly reasonably for a philosopher to do that.

      • @Michael Macrossan: Sure, why not? It is perfectly reasonable for anyone to discuss anything. My question was, What by dint of his being a philosopher would you expect him to contribute to historical Jesus studies? I know Stephen Law and he is a very nice chap. So the question is not about that: it is about technical expertise

    • J. Quinton,

      Actually, I’m not surprised to hear this. in my experience of listening to mythicists, including Richard Carrier, in order to discover the core of their argument I find out that theirs is not an alternative view of history at all. Rather, it is an extreme form of skepticism about any facts associated with Jesus.

      That is, they don’t seek to prove that Jesus was a myth who came to be regarded as historical; they simply assert that no history of Jesus is trustworthy.

      In other words, because they can accept no facts about Jesus, he is ipso facto a myth. That’s very different from demonstrating historically that Jesus was considered a mythical figure before he erroneously came to be regarded as historical.

      Therefore, to understand them properly you have to recognize that they are not historians with a different view. They are ahistorical or anti-history in outlook.

    • I didn’t either, though I did have problems with some of his contentions. I thought his point was simply “there are massive errors, and can we trust the conclusion of a scholar who makes massive errors”.

      I have no idea whether there are actually massive errors, though I have Ehrman’s book (unread as of today), and am interested in seeing the evidence. I thought, for instance, his contention concerning the statue with the cock-nose seemed more like a misreading of Ehrman, than a refutation of error. It depended on how one read Ehmans’s statement.

      I also got the impression that Carrier doesn’t believe Jesus exists, that he was more myth than man, at best, but for reasons unrelated to what Ehrman wrote. He did, however, seem to get a bit unprofessional in his attack, in my not-so-informed opinion. He wasn’t dispassionate in his criticism. Nothing wrong with that, but it takes away from his air of impartiality.

      In any event, I look forward to a thorough airing of the whole thing, because I think it is important to the theism/atheism debate. I suspect Ehrman himself will get involved somewhere.

    • J. Quinton,

      Actually, I’m not surprised to hear this. in my experience of listening to mythicists, including Richard Carrier, in order to discover the core of their argument I find out that theirs is not an alternative view of history at all. Rather, it is an extreme form of skepticism about any facts associated with Jesus.

      That is, they don’t seek to prove that Jesus was a myth who came to be regarded as historical; they simply assert that no history of Jesus is trustworthy.

      In other words, because they can accept no facts about Jesus, he is ipso facto a myth. That’s very different from demonstrating historically that Jesus was considered a mythical figure before he erroneously came to be regarded as historical.

      Therefore, to understand them properly you have to recognize that they are not historians with a different view. They are ahistorical or anti-history in outlook.

      • I disagree. They do indeed seek to prove that Jesus was a myth who became historical.

        There is very little written about Jesus and so much of what is there is riddled with miracle stories and the like which we know didn’t occur. The miracles break basic laws of physics and biology. Aside from the miracles, there are also demons, this God character, and events that archaeologists and historians have proved to be untrue (the slaughter of the innocents, the census). With so many inaccuracies and confabulations, how does one (one being a Biblical historian, Historian of Ancient History with a focus on the Christian era, i.e., both Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier, or any other qualified individual, including ) decide which parts of the Bible are historical and which are not?

        If Jesus did exist, what can actually be said of him? He was a guy who said some things that earned him some followers and got himself executed? And how is this teased out from all the palpable nonsense that comprises the majority of the NT?

      • (responding to pulseteresa)

        Isn’t it closer to the truth to say, or concede, that Jesus was both a historical character and a mythical character, as he is set forth in the Gospels? There are parts of the narrative that could certainly be grounded in history, and many more parts that clearly are interpolations added by myth-makers.Was he born of a virgin? Doubtful, though his birth may have occurred. Did he perform miracles. Not likely. Was he executed by the Romans? It’s possible. Did he rise from the dead three days later. Highly unlikely.

        Even conceding the possible historicity of his existence, and perhaps some of the non-miraculous events surrounding him, the basis for Christianity is not grounded in his historicity, but his divinity. Christians don’t worship a mere mortal born in 3 BCE. They worship a god, and the portions of the Gospel that relate to his God-ness are almost certainly myth.

        And you really don’t need a whole lot of “scholarship ” to arrive at that conclusion. In fact, you don’t need any, IMHO.

  10. Forget Carrier – I am a fan of Erhman and I was hoping for a book that would clearly refute the like of Price and Doherty. He didn’t do that at all. Instead he resorted to ad hominem. I have no more information regarding the arguments for an historical Jesus than I did before the book was published.

    I am eagerly looking forward to legitimate NT period historians actually taking the arguments of Price, Doherty, et. al. and dispensing with them.

    Will they agree? Perhaps not. But we the people are the judge and jury not them.

    Will you and your colleagues at Harvard, Claremont and Tuebingen condescend to convince me and provide me with real arguments I can use to discuss with my friends?

    As it is, Erhman’s efforts, independent of the intemperance of Carrier, have done more to cause me to question whether there was an historical Jesus than to convince me.

    • I agree. Perhaps when the promised essays are posted here they will not focus on Carrier but provide pointers to the firm scholarship that lies behind Ehrman’s populist writing. Most of the scholarship I’ve read interprets the gospels as largely fiction and the non-gospel sources seem quite weak: propositions that Ehrman largely agrees with, although he retains conviction that there was a man behind the legend.

      • Alnitak: This has never been about Ehrman per se and the essays coming up are about the mythtics, including Carrier. I’ve always felt Bart could fend for himself, but Carrier’s attack is another example of trying to assert poistions by telling the establishment to go to hell: To cite Bart:
        “… Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog. He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal. He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] look irresponsible,” that I am guilty of “sloppy work,” that I “misrepresent” my opponents and “misinform the public,” that what I write is “crap,” that I am guilty of “arrogantly dogmatic and irresponsible thinking,” that I am “incompetent,” make “hack” mistakes, and do not “act like a real scholar.” It would be completely irresponsible if all scholars in this field didn’t take offense at this kind of clutter.

      • What I am looking for is something written for the layman, where the author(s) don’t have an ax to grind, something that lays out the arguments for and against both historical and mythical interpretations.

        Erhman wants to dismiss Doherty, Price, et. al., but doesn’t do so by dismissing their arguments.

        In the world of lay readers interested in this topic, their ideas have credibility and if they are really not credible, it would be nice if someone could demonstrate this.

        Maybe taking this approach will neither advance one’s academic career nor will it sell books, so nobody is interested in writing it.

        If this is out there, I haven’t found it.

        Maybe these essays are a start?

      • If this field is really nearly closed as far as new information, and that the new information trickling in is really in favor of an historical figure, then it should be possible to write a (nearly) definitive work on this, one that would indeed be timeless.

      • I doubt we will get new information that would satisfy the most scathing skepticism. What we do have is a puzzle, and there are right and wrong ways of piecing it together.

      • Given the jig saw puzzle analogy, what we really have is a handful of pieces which probably came from several thousand-piece puzzle boxes. Nearly all of the pieces are long gone, if they ever existed. Working under the assumption that it is possible to fit them into a meaningful picture seems to me an effort without much purpose.

    • Lowen Gartner: As it is, Erhman’s efforts … have done more to cause me to question whether there was an historical Jesus than to convince me.

      You must have missed Ehrman’s Ch. 4, “Evidence for Jesus from Outside the Gospels.”

  11. I am an atheist and even a new atheist in the sense that I critique religion whenever it wants to teach scientific falsehoods or if it harmes the lives of people.
    I must say that I am absolut with Prof. Ehrman and with the author of this blog. History and historical evidence are important and I must say that I am shocked that Coyne and PZ are not that critical when it comes to history. I think they don’t care much about these things, but the way they behave is quite shocking.
    I have seen a series of lectures on the historical Jesus by Prof. Ehrman on the internet and I think that Jesus of Nazareth existed.
    Hopefully the author of this blog doesn’t find that all new atheists are bad or fundamentalists…

    • +1.

      I don’t think it’s fair to call the Jesus Myth theory a postulate of New Atheism .That said, I also find it embarrassing to see other atheists – who are used to dealing with the tactics of creationists – dismiss an entire academic field as a mere front for the ideological agenda of the other side and even play the “academic freedom” card. Where have we heard all of that before…?

  12. Just a few points: having read Carrier’s review, I see nothing in it that is not exlcitly directed at Ehrman’s argument. You insinuate here that Carrier engages in ad hominem, but I just do not read it that way. In fact, he praises much of Ehrman’s previous work and his overall scholarly ability. He calls this book,DJE, “an aberration.” Carrier, I note, can be equally harsh on what he calls “bad mythicist” arguments.

    Second, As one of the unwashed masses, I have to express my rsentment at your insinuation that Ehrman follows proper form by treating Carrier and Price with a modicum of repect, but has no such responsibility toward those not safely esconced in the ivory tower. Many of your fans probably do not understand how academia works–the competition for tnured positions, the a**-kissing that doc students have to go through in their departments, ther committees–it is no wonder that deviant positions rarely get through those departments. So this position, in my opinion, is deeply flawed.

    Third, I had to snort in derision at your appeal to the argument to the historicity of Pilate. To paraphrase, just so we can all get another good laugh: If it were not for the Pilate stone, we would have no evidence for Pilate. Oh, except for a passing mention in Philo, a throughly contmporary source. Oh, and Josephus who writes extensively about Pilate. But for these, the evidnce for Pilate is much the same as the evidence for Jesus. Oh, except that in the case of Jesus, we do not have a mention in Philo. We do not have inscriptions, and we only have a disputed passage in Josephus.

    Thanks for your time.

    • The real irony of your comment is that you are ignorant of something to which Hoffman alludes in this very post. That is, if academia were as closed and unimaginative a system as you and Carrier seem to think, then Hoffman’s dissertation would never have been approved let alone published by AAR. Scholars are full of bold proposals (if you doubt it I invite you to attend the annual meeting of the SBL/AAR in Chicago this year), but they know that their argumentation will be vetted. If I go to SBL and say something stupid, I’ll get pilloried. It’s a winnowing process that is extremely useful, and it is a mistake to think that such criticism is a mere reflection of closed-mindedness.

      • Jeremiah–Really? Could you link to it, because if it was that groundbreaking, I am sure it is worth reading.

      • I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, provocative certainly. The book is called Marcion: On the Reconstitution of Christianity. It was published by the AAR, and copies are hard to come by. You basically need access to a theological library. If you decide to read it, I recommend doing so in conjunction with at least one other biography so you can get a feel for the debates. Sebastion Moll published one called the Arch-Heretic Marcion quite recently that is somewhat less revisionist than Hoffman’s work.

      • Jeremiah, I have read a lot about Marcion. I have read the very book Hoffman recommends, Marcion and Luke-Acts by Joseph B. Tyson. The door to this path was opened by Knox, there’s no reason to think that Marcion upsets the academy. Read Hector Avalos on the SBL.

    • “Third, I had to snort in derision at your appeal to the argument to the historicity of Pilate. To paraphrase, just so we can all get another good laugh: If it were not for the Pilate stone, we would have no evidence for Pilate. Oh, except for a passing mention in Philo, a throughly contmporary source. Oh, and Josephus who writes extensively about Pilate. But for these, the evidnce for Pilate is much the same as the evidence for Jesus. Oh, except that in the case of Jesus, we do not have a mention in Philo. We do not have inscriptions, and we only have a disputed passage in Josephus.”

      While you are snorting, please add to your list as evidence for Jesus a few texts called gospels more nearly contemporaneous than the disputed reference, which I reject, in Josephus. What form of apriorism permits you to disregard these artefacts? The references to Pilate in both Josephus and Philo have been disputed for two centuries by the way.

      • They are artefacts, yes, but they don’t relate events that actually happened. We both know this ground, you don’t have to play dumb to your choir here.

  13. I find it difficult to understand why these atheist apologists prefer the outlandish theories of mythicism over Ehrman’s reconstruction of the historical Jesus. I would think that viewing Jesus as a misunderstood 1st-century Jewish revolutionary who didn’t expect to die would be right up the New Atheist’s alley. Frankly, if Carrier wants anyone to take him seriously, he needs to come to SBL/AAR and present his views there. After all, he touts his PhD from Columbia as giving him academic credentials, so why not participate in the guild?

    • Because some of the theories are not outlandish at all.

      “A misunderstood 1st-century Jewish revolutionary who didn’t expect to die” is not what the evangelists wrote about at all. Their character very much expects to die, and in fact lets the reader in on that secret in the story. The evangelists also make it clear from early in the story that the Pharisees want to kill Jesus. They did not a real Jesus or the witness of real Pharisees to construct this story.

    • I think this is a possibility. In fact, I used to believe this. There are problems with the theory, though. It doesn’t explain some very basic facts. Your hero, R. Joseph Hoffman, here has written on this very point. I agree with Hoffman. The reason I lean toward (notice the wording “lean toward”) “mythicism”–which to me means that Jesus-belief evolved out of Jewish suffering servant/messiah motifs, is because I believe it explains more pieces of the first century puzzle than any of the HJ theories. I don’t choose my theory to suit some over-arching goal such as serving some atheist or political goal. That is outright fallacy promoted by Ehrman.

      • LOL @ Hoffman being my “hero.” We’ve never met, and before this semester when I started doing research on Marcion for some seminars I’d never heard of him. If it sounds like we are aligned, it is probably because I’m a grad student who knows the field and not some internet dilettante with half-baked theories about Christian Origins.

  14. In reading the very long Carrier review, he identifies several points he believes to be historically inaccurate in Mr. Ehrman’s book. My question to you are Carrier’s points on target regarding these innaccuracies irrespective of his conclusion regarding Jesus as fact or fallacy?

  15. For what it’s worth, I consider myself one of the “new atheists” (those who want to treat religious claims the same way we all treat secular claims), and I think the Jesus myth theory is crap.To me “atheism” (the absence of one particular subset of ujustified beliefs) is just the inevitable consequence of caring for the truth and respecting logic and evidence. The same commitment to truth, logic and evidence that leads me reject theism also forces me to reject the Jesus myth theory. The mythcists seem to be motivated by a different agenda. They don’t speak for me, and I don’t want to be associated with them in any way..

  16. Hi Dr. Hoffmann. To be fair to the Christ-myth supporters, you can show certain very central bible stories may not contain any historical content, so they’re not just being completely silly.

    For example, The Passion of the Christ in Mark:

    Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

    The only thing is, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark was doing a haggadic midrash on Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, is where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

    Then, as Dr. Robert Price says

    The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts
    in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 7:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p. 362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and
    let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his
    adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
    As for other details, Crossan (p. 198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p. 168). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be
    a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

    And so we can at least propose there may not be any historical content with a fairly comprehensive haggadic midrash reading of The Passion of the Christ in Mark.

    I don’t think the Christ Myth theory is right, but they do at least have some reasons for thinking what they think.

    Take care,

    John Andrew MacDonald
    Ontario
    Canada

      • Hi Jeremiah

        The Reason Dr. Price’s argument has some minor degree of plausibility, is that midrash in the New Testament may be the result of Oral traditions about Jesus being shaped in the synagogue.

        References to the synagogue appears appears 11 times in Mark, 9 times in Mattthew, 16 times in Luke, and five times in John (The Christian movement was expelled from the synagogue around 88CE, which is probably why the references drop off in John). And there is (possibly) a heavy lining of Midrash in the gospels. Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). So it is not impossible that Robert M. Price could be reliable on content.

        Only in the synagogue did people ever hear scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus could have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue. And the gospel stories may also be shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion may be shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah.

        So as it says in Acts, they would read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus may have then recalled their memories of him which that Sabbath elicited. This could be where all the midrash is coming from. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They went through this process for about forty years before the gospels were written.

        If this is what happened, it doesn’t exclude Dennis MacDonald’s argument.

        Whether you agree with the whole midrarsh of the Passion as I proposed it, I think the point still stands that it is at least a plausible comprehensive haggadice midrash interpretation of Mark’s use of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.

        Take care,

        John Andrew MacDonald
        Ontario
        Canada

      • “The memory of the historical Jesus could have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue.”

        I would omit the word only as no culture operates this way, and women would not have been incuded though we have reasons to name them as transmitters of tradition as well. There is also a fairly strong tradition–see Wayne Meeks on the evidence–that expulsions from these “synagogues” were erratic ((Mk 13.9, vat. ex evnt.)but based on the closeted tradition about Jesus. If the Paul tradition reflected in 2 Corinthians 6.3 (cf Acts 18.17f) is accurate, it would be an example of Paul being singled out for punishment for the same offense.

      • Hi Jeremiah.

        One last thought.

        An argument can reasonably be made on textual grounds that a midrash on Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 is the basis for the passion narrative. All Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians about the crucifixion is just one line: “Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”

        Paul may have recorded no narrative details of that event because there were no narrative details at the time he was writing. That is quite possible, because Mark tells us that when Jesus was arrested ALL the disciples “took flight and fled (14:50).” There is no reason for Mark to recount the embarrassing abandonment if it were not true. This would mean Jesus in all probability died alone, without any eyewitnesses. This would, of course, have made the details of the crucifixion impossible to record, since no one witnessed the event.

        The story also seems fictional because of us being told what Jesus said from the cross, but also what Jesus and the high priest said to each other, and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?).

        John Andrew MacDonald
        Ontario
        Canada

      • “The [crucifixion] story also seems fictional because of us being told what Jesus said from the cross, but also what Jesus and the high priest said to each other, and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?).”

        It is indeed remarkable that the central event of the religion utterly lacks any historical memory attached to it, and is instead recreated (or created?) using silent allusions to lines in the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Wisdom of Solomon. This makes great theological literature, for sure, but history? I tend to doubt it.

  17. Hi Dr. Hoffmann.

    Thank you for posting my message. I noticed I spelled “about” incorrectly. I wrote “aboout”

    Could you please fix it for me?

    Thanks
    John Andrew MacDonald
    Ontario
    Canada

  18. My what a cornucopia of (promised) riches! Can’t wait! And no doubt Hoffmann and co., like Ehrman, would rather be doing “more serious work” than responding to the rabble that seem to be rudely kicking their way through the polished mahogany door of their gentlefolk’s club.

  19. Hi there,

    First-time visitor (was directed here by Dr. Ehrman who put up a link to this article on Facebook).

    As a “new atheist”, I’m really looking forward to your and your colleagues’ responses to Carrier’s review of Dr. Ehrman’s latest book.

    I might actually learn some essential things about historical methodology that can help me separate the good from the bad arguments, and the bad from the really bad.

    Thanks for putting in the effort. :)
    Wim
    Sweden

  20. Keep in mind this is the Myers who has the “Courtier’s Reply” which is essentially saying “I’m too lazy to study the subject matter because it’s blatantly false on the face and I don’t need to study to have an opinion.”

    • Ummm, no, but that interpretation is not unusual. Actually, I think the Courtiers Reply essentially said “Why bother studying a subject matter which is incapable of being properly studied?”

      Laziness has nothing to do with it. Futility is the driving force.

      • Futility?

        It seems to me if we look at the last 200 years, there has

        1) been little or nothing added to support the idea of a divine, miracle working Jesus

        2) there has been substantial scholarship to show that the miracles and other evidence of divinity are borrowed from the OT and pagan sources

        3) there has been, at best, minor additions to the evidence in support of an historical Jesus

        4) there have been a significant increases in the methodology and data supporting the idea of a mythical Jesus

        It seems that at this point, all but the true believers in the scholarly community find no merit in the case for divinity.

        As for a historical Jesus, the mainstream scholarship community may still lean toward this interpretation, and that may never change. But it seems to me, short of finding a legitimate artifact, that the opinion will continue to creep toward the side of a mythical Jesus.

        The whole effort doesn’t seem futile to me, even if there is no apparent hope of a conclusive answer. The efforts of scholars and armatures are advancing knowledge as a result of this process.

      • “4) there have been a significant increases in the methodology and data supporting the idea of a mythical Jesus” False.

        Actually, the evidence has trended much the other way. The myth theory was much stronger at the turn of the twentieth century. Scholarship has made the position increasingly untenable, especially in the last fifty years.

  21. The only thing that looks credible in this self-admitted ‘rant’ is that the exchanges btw Ehrman and Carrier aren’t a discussion, much less an academic one. The fact of the matter is that Ehrman published a book much under his standard, to characterize and badmouth a theory about the origins of Christianity which has outraged the theologo-nicologists since mid 19th century. He brought nothing new to the table, except near-idiotic drool about Paul being personally acquianted with Jesus brother. He does not even realize that the gospels claiming Jesus had a brother has no bearing on the claim that James was the leader of the Jerusalem messianists. Outside of the pathetic insert in Antiquities 20.9 the claims of Jesus’ family connections do not come to play until the 3rd century. Luke knows nothing about James (casually introduced by Peter’s mention in Acts 12) being Jesus’ sibling. Eusebius (H.E. 1.12) calls James one of Jesus’ ‘alleged brothers’. How could that be ? One surely will not get an answer from Ehrman, who forgot to inform himself about the Dutch Radicals. Van Eysinga ponted out in 1880′s (!) out that neither Irenaeus or Tertullian (in some of his writings) knew about Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, where Paul supposedly met James, the brother of the Lord. On the second visit, the church believes to this day, Paul met him again and called him a ‘so-called pillar’ who ‘added nothing’ to him as apostle. And you wonder why there are mythical hordes baying outside the gates.

      • Please read the whole sentence; I said Luke knows nothing about James (the one leading the church) being Jesus’ brother. Second, I am not talking about van Eisynga’s theories but textual issues he brought up. Whether the named fathers refer to a version of Galatians which did not record the first visit, can be factually verified. You look at Schweitzer’s dealing with the “mythicists” and Ehrman’s and you will see the difference. One knows the works and issues and can respond to them in a credible manner, the other fails on both counts.

      • I did read your whole sentence. It evokes two more questions: Why does Luke single James out at all if status is not being accorded to him in a leadership role, and second, what presses you to think that the writer of Acts who is also one of the makers of the birth story would want to claim biological kinship between James and Jesus? Acts is a second century composition with apologetic intent, so the fact that James’s historical role is preserved at all is significant, far more significant than any suggestion of biological relationship which is already clear from Paul and earlier gospels. If you are happy with Carrier’s tortured attempts to explain these allusions, fine. But I’m not. Parsimony dictates that the most efficient way to explain a verse not otherwise compromised by contradictory information is to let it stand: Mark 6.3. (and Mt 13.53) look pretty clear. But Luke plays his hand regarding the “brother tradition” by omitting any reference to brothers while in 3.30 employing names close to those in Mark 6. Your ball.

      • PS I am in short frontally challenging your idea that “Luke knows nothing of James being a sibling of Jesus.” Absence of evidence re Mk 6.3 is not evidence of absence.

    • Hi Soloview,

      You have made a very important point here that seems to have been overlooked.

      Bart Ehrman, in his book DJE, puts a great deal of emphasis on James the brother of the Lord, as do all historists. Indeed, this is probably the lynchpin of Ehrman’s book. So I am going into a bit of detail to illustrate that B.Ehrman has barely understood the depth of the ahistorist position.

      Bart knows that if this is deemed a spiritual relationship (like the OT Ahijah, i,e “brother of Yahweh”) instead of a physical relationship (which is explicitly denied in 1 Apoc of James 24:10-16), then one of the “pillars” (pun intended) of the Historical Jesus argument collapses and the whole edifice begins to crumble.

      But there is another reason that Bart Ehrman, of all scholars due to his study of orhtodox corruptions of scripture, should beware of appealing to Galatians 1:19!
      We read in our canonical version of Galatians that Paul made a trip to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders there three years after his conversion.

      Here is the text.
      Galatians 1
      18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.
      19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.

      Tertullian, in Against Marcion 5.3.1, does not mention the alleged first visit of Paul to Jerusalem. (Neither does Irenaeus in AH 3.12.14.) cf AM 1.20.2, cf De praescr. haer. 23,6f:

      Here is Tertullian’s text.
      But with regard to the countenance of Peter and the rest of the apostles, he tells us that “fourteen years after he went up to Jerusalem,” in order to confer with them about the rule which he followed in his gospel, lest perchance he should all those years have been running, and be running still, in vain, (which would be the case, ) of course, if his preaching of the gospel fell short of their method. Tertullian AM 5.3.1 http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-35.htm#P7223_2090790

      Please notice that the first trip is unmentioned, even though that would have regarded the countenance of Peter. Please notice that when Tertullian quoted from Galatians 2:1 the word “yet” is missing.
      This implies his text of Galatians did not mention it either, even into the early third century CE. If it had, Tertullian would surely have used it against Marcion. It would have clearly implied that Paul was subordinate to the Jerusalem authorities, something that Tertullian was very anxious to do. He didn’t, and this implies that he didn’t have gal 1;18-19 to use. Thus, it is in all likelihood a later insertion designed to abet the notion that Paul did go to Jerusalem as soon as possible to submit himself to Cephas and James. “Again” was added to Galatians 2:1 at the same time by way of harmonization. Tertullian apparently mentions the visit of 2:1-10 as the visit, not the second visit. See Robert Price, The Pre-Nicene New Testament, page 317, note K.

      But the interpolator had a problem. The text of Galatians was already well known without the “first” visit. He had to “thread the needle” in order to plausibly insert the new information into the text. When we examine the passage carefully within the context of what was there before, we can see quite clearly that this is what he did, and it was quite clever. The initial problem is that the earlier version had stated that “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood…” confirming that Paul had gotten his gospel 100% from revelation, as in Gal 1:1. It would be 14 years before he visited Jerusalem (Gal 2:1). Thus the plausible “three years” was chosen; not long enough to make Paul independent of the Jerusalem apostles, but long enough to satisfy “not immediately.”

      Paul was unknown in Judea, never having been seen in person. Galatians 1:23-24. Thus, the “first” visit of Paul to Jerusalem must have been a *secret* and that is why it had never been heard of before. And this is exactly what the interpolator posed. Paul was only seen by Cephas and James, it was the only way to preserve his general anonymity! Can we imagine Paul sneaking in and out of Jerusalem in the dead of night, and hiding in Peter’s dwelling through his alleged 15 day stay? Or should we imagine him wearing a clever disguise, or should we imagine Paul cleverly exiting and entering in a basket? The only alternative to subterfuge is that Paul walked in openly and freely, during his two week visit, the only Christians in Jerusalem were Cephas and James! I find all of these scenarios rather less likely than the first trip was an interpolation.

      But do we have any indication within the text itself that the passage was an interpolation, i.e. new material? Indeed we do. We read in Galatians 1:20 “Now in this recounting, I swear before God: I am not lying!” Now, why take an oath before God about the truth of what we are supposed to believe was an otherwise unremarkable prosaic trip? It can only be that new information has been inserted into the text, and the oath is meant to reassure the reader of the trustworthiness of the “secret” trip.

      Best Regards,
      Jake Jones IV

      • “Tertullian, in Against Marcion 5.3.1, does not mention the alleged first visit of Paul to Jerusalem. (Neither does Irenaeus in AH 3.12.14.) cf AM 1.20.2, cf De praescr. haer. 23,6f:”
        This is wholly random: Why would Tertullian who does not even quote Acts if he knew it mention such a visit in his diatribe against heresy? What are these ridiculous e silentio arguments you lot keep invoking?

  22. Jesus is not a regular guy about which a few grandiose claims have been added. Jesus on a plain reading of the NT is a myth; a supernatural being, born from a Virgin and a Ghost, a walking phantom, performing miracles, and rising from the dead.(allegedly).

    There is a poles apart difference between any imagined historical Jesus and the Jesus of the plain reading of gospels. Once you remove the mythical elements, the story falls apart. The myth is central, the historization secondary. Historists must first reject and discredit the gospels and then invent their own HJ. Once we remove all the supernatural and claims of great fame that cannot be substantiated, the most part of the gospel is shredded!

    Almost 100 verses in the gospels–including synoptic parallels–claim Jesus acheived great fame in his lifetime. These events include the Trumphal Entry (something that would never have escaped the notice of the Romans), the Cleansing of the Temple (something that would never have escaped the notice of the Jews), huge crowds following him about the length and breadth of Judea to Decapolis to Galilee. Widespread fame for healing multitudes. Two miraculous feedings of 4,000 and 5,000 men (not counting women and children). His fame even reached Herod. Even Pontius Pilate was allegedly frightened by hostile crowds of Jews into executing Jesus instead of Barabbas. He raised the dead and sent a herd innocent pigs to their death by casting demons into them. then on his death, a Zombie parade of OT Saints emerged from their tombs and marched around Jeruslem. How did Josephus miss that?

    So why weren’t these illustrous events from the career of Jesus record anywhere except the Gospels and Acts? Not in the Roman Historians, not in the Jewish historians, not even in the NT epistles. Because none of them ever happened.

    The gospels are religous propaganda written long after the alleged events by unknown authors in undetermined locations. They made mistakes in geography and first century Jewish practices that make it unlikely that any of the evangelists were familiar with Judea. The author of Mark didn’t even know the Ten Commandments. There are no eye witness accounts of Jesus, and no accounts that necessarily incorporate anything that goes back to an eyewitness account.

    New Testament scholars have customarily assumed that early Christians started with remarkable facts from the life of Christ, and after the fact searched the Jewish scriptures for predictions of them. But now it is apparent that the stories of Jesus Christ were created directly from the scriptures (and other literature) by a creative exegesis.

    Almost all of the details in Jesus life can be shown to have originated in literary precedents. Every time you read a claim in the gospels that Jesus fulfiled some prophecy, you can be sure it isn’t true. It is not prophecy fulfilled but prophecy (as misunderstood by the Christians) historicized. Robert Price, in his recent book, _The Christ Myth and Its Problems_ demonstrates this in detail.

    This is the the dilemma that historists face. They imagine if they merely strip away the layers that to them seem implausible, what remains will be historical fact. But no matter how much we peel away (supernatural, miracles, fame, prophecy, etc) whaever is left is no more assured of historical accuracy than what has already been thrown in the historical scrap heap.

    Jesus is an illusion.

    Jake Jones IV

    • Interesting, Jake. If you knew as much serious scholarship as mythtic pap your points would be better formed. I am curious about one thing, however: Why do you say the author of Mark didn’t know the Ten Commandments? I mean where do you infer this?

      • Dear Dr. Hoffman

        Thank you for the reply. “Do not defraud,” Mark 10:19, an error corrected by Matthew and Luke. Perhaps you want argue that the phrase μη αποστερησης was a scribal corruption that became the majority reading?

        The world of the New Testament is only the real world superficially; it is a fictional construct in which impossible things are imagined to happen routinely. It is a world dominated by spirits, and has a cosmology completely at odds with science. Fantastic events are reported as common place. It is over this framework that the alleged deeds of Gospel Jesus are accreted.

        The researchers for the Historical Jesus have failed their quests like the Christs they create for themselves. At most, only one of these alternative historical Jesus theories can be right, and perhaps none. By comparing the various arguments there must be some sort of systematic flaw in the methodlogies, else such widely varying conclusions would not be obtained.

        But the very idea of a “Historical Jesus”, a Jesus stripped of all divinity and pre-existence, conceived as mere man whose mission had failed, is an idea that the Church Fathers would have rebelled against with all vigor. This is a conceit of the “Quest for the Historical Jesus” movements. Are we on now on the third or fourth quest?

        The Jesus of the early Christians was not conceived of as a human failure. He pre-existed in heaven in some sense. He ascended as surely as he descended. He rose as surely as he died. He was glorified as surely as he was humbled. This is the language of faith, it is the world of myth.

        Modern researchers into the Historical Jesus meet with a daunting challenge. The “Historical Jesus” must be wrenched from the text, regardless of the violence done to the stories. If you will forgive an analogy, it is like shattering a vintage Ming Dynasty vase, and trying to put together a coffee cup from the shards.

        Best Regards,
        Jake Jones IV

      • Jake says: “It is a world dominated by spirits, and has a cosmology completely at odds with science.” But everyone knows this. Esp. NT scholars. And everyone knows that the world imagined by ancient historians until the end of the Middle Ages was so populated and at odds with science.

    • “The myth is central, the historization secondary. Historists must first reject and discredit the gospels and then invent their own HJ. Once we remove all the supernatural and claims of great fame that cannot be substantiated, the most part of the gospel is shredded!”

      I do not agree. Someone can be attributed all that and still have been a regular human.
      Once we remove all the extraordinary claims, plus some ordinary ones, such as itinerant + teacher + parables and other items (see here for a very minimal HJ, in a few words: http://historical-jesus.info/digest.html ), we still have a HJ acting as a trigger point for starting a religion after his death, as I explained here: http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3x.html

      From my website:
      “Paul has a few things in his letters confirming, in the relative near past, the existence of an HJ:
      When eyewitnesses were still alive, Paul wrote about a minimal Jesus (but also, for Paul, pre/post-existent as a heavenly deity) who, from “Israelites, … whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh …” (Ro9:4-5 YLT) and “come of a woman, come under law” (Gal4:4 YLT), “found in appearance as a man” (Php2:8) “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Ro8:3), “the one man, Jesus Christ” (Ro5:15) (who had brothers (1Co9:5), one of them called “James”, whom Paul met (Gal1:19)), “humbled himself” (Php2:8) in “poverty” (2Co8:9) as “servant of the Jews” (Ro15:8) and, after “the night in which he was delivered up” (1Co11:23 Darby), “was crucified in weakness” (2Co13:4) in “Zion” (Ro9:31-33 & Ro11:26-27).”

      And “Mark” had to take in account testimony of eyewitness(es) when writing his gospel. He did not have a free hand in order to create pure fiction. This testimony gave him a lot of problem because it did not divinize in any way HJ, making him very much unlike a Son of God, Christ, Lord, etc. That was not acceptable anymore for “Mark” and his community and he had to force divine extraordinary stuff in Jesus’ last year.

      From my website again, here are some examples:
      “As already explained in HJ-2a, HJ-2b & HJ-3a, “Mark” had to address eyewitness(es)’ “against the grain” reports, duly noted silences on critical points and lack of prior attestations (i.e. on crucial stories generated by the author!).
      Why?
      Because those testimonies were still remembered by his community. If it was not the case, why create problems & raise doubts!
      Here is an abbreviated list of items where “Mark” tried to counteract the embarrassment (E) or explain the silence (S):
      a) Disciples NOT saying Jairus’ daughter was resurrected (5:42-43) (S)
      b) Rejection of Jesus in his own village (6:2-4) (E)
      c) Disciples NOT “seeing” the miraculous feeding(s) (8:17-21) (S)
      d) Disciples NOT claiming Jesus was Christ (8:29-30) (S)
      e) Peter NOT comprehending (as a Christian would) Jesus’ Passion (8:31-33, 9:31-32) (E)
      f) Disciples NOT telling about the events on the high mountain (9:9-10) (S)
      g) Disciples NOT knowing what is meant by resurrection (9:10,31-32) (E)
      h) Disturbance in the temple (11:17) (E)
      i) Peter saying Jesus cursed at a fig tree (11:21-24) (E)
      j) Disciples falling away after Jesus’ arrest (14:27) (E)
      k) Disciples NOT knowing about the empty tomb and Jesus’ rising (16:8) (S)
      Note: the subsequent gospels eliminated some (GMatthew), more (GLuke) or most (GJohn) of these items, one way or another (deletion, “correction” or addition). How to explain their author could do it?
      Either enough time went by, causing the (oral) “testimonies” to be forgotten, or the author’s community was never visited by any eyewitness(es).”

      “Mark” did not dare to feature a bodily reappearance. That will be done later (I also think the “empty tomb” passage was an early interpolation).
      He fashioned extraordinary events, such as the miraculous feeding, with incorporation of trivial (but likely true) elements to bring some credibility to his story. But he had to admit several times the disciples did not notice any multiplication of food: they just remembered, after a crowd ate together outside, they were able to pick up basketfuls of left over.
      For more about “Mark” “forced” miraculous events, see here:
      http://historical-jesus.info/hjes2.html then search on: 15.

      PS: I wish some scholar would develop a case for the existence of HJ along the lines I just sketched.

      Bernard

  23. Pingback: Let’s get specific, shall we? « Choice in Dying

    • What alot of over confident hot air and fluff from Canada. As usual he makes up silly analogies and throws it in to his incompetent muddle.

  24. Bart Ehrman claims to have evidence that Jesus was a historical character and liking those who believe that the character was fictional as akin to holocaust deniers. Bart Ehrman’s scholarship can be demonstrated to be incorrect.

    Here’s an example of Bart flawed scholarship.

    One of the principles Ehrman’s uses to determine historicity is “dissimilarity”. This approach looks for passages that would be ‘dissimilar’ to what a biased author would be expected to compose and therefore indicate history rather than fiction. (This approach overlaps the one called ‘embarrassment’ – which in NT criticism looks for passages that would be embarrassing to a Christian author.)

    Ehrman cites the baptism of Jesus by John as a ‘dissimilar’ passage. In other words Ehrman claims that the story is likely historical because since John does the baptizing Jesus looks inferior to him and this this not something a biased follower of Jesus would record if it were not true. (Jesus Interrupted P 154 or listen to chapter 9 http://www.archive.org/details/HistoricalJesus )

    While the principle of “dissimilarity” has limited analytic strength under the best of circumstances, Ehrman’s applying it to the baptism story is demonstrably incorrect and exposes a catastrophic weakness in Ehrman’s scholarship – his inability to recognize fictional typology.

    As far as I can determine, Ehrman made no attempt to parse out the typological fiction from the history in the Gospels’ different baptism stories. Had he bothered to go through the process he would have recognized that the entire story of John’s baptism of Jesus was developed out of Malachi and none of it is historical.

    I won’t go into every typological detail in the baptism stories but just cite a few:

    The baptism of Jesus and its place in the storyline was chosen to fit it into the sequence of the “New Covenant’ Moses/Jesus typology.

    OLD TESTAMENT MATTHEW

    Gen. 45-50 Joseph goes to Egypt 2:13 Joseph goes to Egypt

    Ex.1 Pharaoh massacres boys 2:16 Herod massacres boys

    Ex.4 “All the men are dead which sought thy life”
    Matt 2:20 “They are dead which sought theyoung child’s life”

    Ex.12 From Egypt to Israel 2:21 From Egypt to Israel

    Ex.14 Passing through water (baptism) 3:13 Baptism

    Ex.16 In the wilderness “Tempted by bread”

    Matt 4:4 In the wilderness “Tempted by bread”

    Ex.17 “Do not tempt God” 4:7 “Do not tempt God”

    Ex.32 “Worship only God” 4:10 “Worship only God”

    The location of the story – the river Jordan – and John clothes are based upon those of his ‘type’ Elijah in 2 Kings 2.7‐8.

    The actual ‘baptism’ of Jesus was invented to mirror the ‘passing through water’ by the Israelites that led to their laws being given by God from a mountain top. The passing through water by Jesus leads to another concept from Exodus the law giving from a mountain top – the sermon on the mount.

    Moreover, understanding that the passage is typology shows that Jesus had to go through water at this point because Israel had been established as a ‘type’ for Jesus in Matthew. 2: 15 – “and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Since the nation of Israel was the ‘type’ for Jesus, Jesus must pass through water at this point simply because that is what ‘Israel’ did during the exodus. Notice that if someone was shown Matthew’s Exodus typology absent the baptism story they would be able to predict both the story and its place in the narration.

    All of the dialogue between John and Jesus is based upon Malachi. John’s ‘fiery’ declarations of Matt 3: 7-13 simply repeat the theme of Malachi 4: 1-2. In Matt 3: 13-15 John states that Jesus should baptize him but Jesus replies that John must do the baptizing “to fulfill all righteousness”. Matthew is operating completely within the Malachi’s ‘new covenant’ typology established in his prior passages and Jesus is therefore “the sun of righteousness who will rise with healing” predicted in Malachi 4:2.

    John’s statement in GJohn where he calls Jesus the “lamb who will take away the sins of the world” is more ‘new covenant typology talk’. In other words, John is predicting that Jesus will become the human Passover lamb whose sacrifice will atone for the “unrighteousness” that ended the old covenant.

    Any close inspection shows that Jesus’s baptism story does not reflect a tradition of a historical event held by a group of peasant believers in a first century Rabbi Christ. It is a tip to stern fiction written by highly trained specialists in typology.

    The only interpretive framework that explains the typology is that following the Roman-Jewish war the authors of the Gospels simply took Malachi’s story about the end of the ‘old covenant’ between God and the Jews’, which described an angry visit by the “Lord” preceded by an Elijah ‘type’ forerunner and created a sort of Hebraic cartoon where Malachi’s characters came to life and both behaved typologically and made predictions about the coming war with Rome and a new covenant.

    Joe Atwill

    • Joe, with due respect for your careful recitation of typology–nothing you use here is unknown to NT scholarship; it was mainstream NT scholarship that identified the parallels in the first place. As I say in my “rant,” discussion begins after the mythological elements of the gospels are acknowledged. NT scholarship is not interested in “proving” an historical Jesus, in any case: it is interested in making the best sense of the artifacts of early Christianity. In order to do that, naturally all evidence must be assessed for what it tells us and not governed by presuppositions about What really happened. That is the way sound scholarship proceeds–not by analogy but ny the tools of inference.

      • Hi Joseph:
        Are you claiming that a detail of Jesus’s baptism story is historical? If so, which one?

        Joe

      • The baptism of Jesus if this is addressed to Joseph me) is formally an epiphany story. That has been known for 100 years. If you ask on the other hand, is it plausible that Jesus was baptised I would answer yes. Two different issues.

  25. Have you wondered why there is so little, if any 1st century writings about Jesus, except for Paul’s epistles? Why was it not until 2nd century before so much relevant literature started appearing? It’s this unexplained lack of 1st-century writings about Jesus that helps fuel the Jesus-never-existed cause.

    May I sketch out my findings on this (as briefly as possible)?

    Suppose his name at birth had been Immanuel, not Jesus. Only then would Isaiah’s prophecy have had a chance of being thought to be fulfilled. The writer of Matthew evidently knew his name had been Immanuel, otherwise it makes no sense why he would include his reference to Isaiah 7:14 as support for “Jesus” being the Messiah. No sense at all. But he had to say he had been named “Jesus” in his Gospel, as that was the name he had come to be known as, by the later dates that the Gospels were written.

    It was Paul of course who didn’t like to think of the man he worshiped, after his conversion, as being the Immanuel he,Saul, had once persecuted (or he had at least persecuted his followers). So Paul had to think of him by another name, one that would fit his new theology of being saved by God, namely Yeshua or Joshua or Jesus. It must have taken decades later before Paul could convince most others, disciples and all, to call him “Jesus.” By then, late first century, there would have been some writings about Immanuel, and these of course would let everyone know he had most certainly existed. These writings had to be destroyed by the eartly churches, which had gone over to Paul’s belief system. So there was a great shortage of writings about the man from the mid- to late first century to survive.

    Paul’s views won out due to his persuasiveness as a speaker and writer, but not without a decades long fight. However, there are a few gnostic writings that indicate his real name was not to be spoken, which have survived.

    Hence, the lack of evidence upon which the deniers thrive. Key thoughts — think how much Saul must have hated Immanuel and his teachings before recognizing his voice on the Road to Damascus. Think how he later would not wish to pray to the hated Immanuel, but rather to a resurrected “Jesus.”

  26. I had given Carrier the benefit of the doubt, as someone who went through the work of becoming a PhD, that he had some novel theory for explaining Jesus as a mythical construct, but his response to Ehrman has shown that he has no such thing. His arguments are insulting to intelligence and I suspect that his goal as a historian is the make a few bucks and have his ass kissed by gullible new atheist, whom he seems to correctly have pegged as emotional vulnerable marks. To those that are disappointed that Bart does not elaborate more on the evidence and arguments for the historical Jesus, I have to say it is a slam dunk case and anyone on the fence about it should reevaluate their methods for rational thinking. The responses here show that Carrier’s fan base is completely ignorant of history which is a bad sign for a supposed historian.

    • @Michael: as to the responses here, yes–they are alarmingly similar and profoundly underinformed except by mythtic ideology. Before they are permitted near a Bible they need a basic lesson in the synoptic problem, a smattering of the languages needed to trace redaction and text history, and a basic class in historiography. Fortunately they could begin with Van Harvey’s The Historian and the Believer if they have time, and learn how to formulate warrants for historical assertions and “beliefs”– not specious premises based on false assumptions stemming from poor analysis of texts.

  27. I’m excited by this project, even though I’m somewhat grumpy you won’t go the “whole hog” and acknowledge the truth of Christ’s divinity and his miracles.

    Anyway, just thought you should know, PZ Myers is actually a professor at the University of Minnesota. Wisconsin and Minnesota are next to one another here in the midwest.

    • Minnesota? whups. Really? Reminds me of the joke about the woman from Boston who met a woman at a cocktail party and on being told she was from Ohio said “Rally deah? except in Boston we pronounce it ‘Iowa’”

    • Well Fake, no one is trying to argue either miracles or divinity, the question is the existence of Jesus; proof of miracles is an entirely different matter.

  28. March 11, 2012:

    “But I have decided to stop writing about atheism. Because I believe that atheism is to religion what counting on your fingers is to mathematics. It works, to a point. But it ends where the serious questions and complexities begin.” — RJH.

    Well, that didn’t last long, did it?

    • When in this essay Dr. Hoffman writes about atheism?
      Are you so sensitive that a member of your FAITH gets attacked on a subject he knows less than he or his followers believe?

  29. Joseph: “I did read your whole sentence. It evokes two more questions: Why does Luke single James out at all if status is not being accorded to him in a leadership role, and second, what presses you to think that the writer of Acts who is also one of the makers of the birth story would want to claim biological kinship between James and Jesus? ” …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Answer to # 1 : I have not the foggiest, and it is irrelevant to establishing whether the writer of Acts knew that James the Just was a kin of Jesus. Answer to #2 : I have not the foggiest, and it is irrelevant to establishing whether Luke knew that James the Just was a kin of Jesus. IOW, if your 2nd question admits Luke not claiming biological kinship between James and Jesus, (even tho Jesus’ family appears briefly in Acts – so there would be an opportunity for Luke to reveal the kinship), you have made my case. Luke knows nothing of this relationship, and neither does Clement of Alexandria. Eusebius discounts the idea. His Church History gives an account by Hegesippus who apparently believed in the Davidic descent of James and Simon of Jerusalem. But the problem is that Hegesippus wants you to believe that James operated the church of his brother for thirty some years in a city of sixty thousand, but when he first makes public his faith in his sibling as the Savior he is promptly thrown down the parapet and clubbed to death. So what presses you to think that the ‘monarchical bug’ hit the church before well into the second century ? Ehrman’s ‘ipse dixit’ ?

    Joseph: “PS I am in short frontally challenging your idea that “Luke knows nothing of James being a sibling of Jesus.” Absence of evidence re Mk 6.3 is not evidence of absence.” ………………………………………………………………………. Again, you are continuing to ignore my original point. By what feat of logic do you connect James of Acts 12:17 to James of Mk 6:3 ? To a rational sceptic like myself, it is not really clear at all.

      • In other words, you have no way of connecting the two Jameses by an orderly process that would withstand informed scrutiny. But that is not the problem; the problem is that on the information available to us one cannot dismiss “mythicism” quite the way Ehrman and you are doing. Am I a mythicist myself ? Do I agree with Carrier’s idea of using Bayes theorem to determine whether there is a historical figure behind the gospels ? If you are tempted to ask those questions you are missing my point.

      • This is absolute rubbish: For one thing, the names Peter, James and John appear as a phrasal combination five times in the synoptics: at the Transfiguration (Mt 17,1; Mk 9,2; Lk 9,28), in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26,37; Mk 14,33), at the “raising” of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5,37; Lk 8,51), and as the audience (along with Andrew) for the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and for Jesus’ “Little Apocalypse” (Mk 1,29-31 and 13,3) (thus appearing “alone” with him only “three” times). What do you mean “by an orderly process that would withstand informed scrutiny.” Start with a concordance, then work your way up to inference, and ask yourself what interest Luke would have in inventing another James. The mythtic interest in defeating the James tradition is beginning to rival the Catholic apologetic one in denying his biological brotherhood–the latter in the interest of making Jesus an only child, the former to make him unhistorical. This is pure nonsense.

  30. ‎”I happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist” – R Joseph Hoffman, 2007, Point of Inquiry

    When did you change your mind, and why?

  31. Dr. Hoffman, I just listened to your interesting appearance on “Point of Inquiry” (15 June 2007) and was surprised to hear you deny the historicity of Jesus. Do you still hold to that? Because I had gotten the opposite impression from reading your blog.

      • Joseph,
        Good that you have come to your senses again. I must admit that I was worried about your credentials as a historian when you claimed to be in the camp of the Jesus mythers some years ago. And I look forward to reading your riposte to the pompous Mr Carrier next week…

      • It is interesting how this agumment gets framed. Here you say that you have doubted that Jesus, and that, in fact, many scholars do. Yet I read out of the academy that there ia a near consensus on this point and that one need be insane to entertain doubts. Ehrman says that explicitly in his Huffington Post article. Below, you say that you “lean” toward Jesus having existed. In your article above, you say there is a “slight” chance that Jesus did not actually exist. It seems like you sway with the wind. “Lean” gives the impression that you are, say, 51%, sure. “Slight chance” seems to suggest a near 100% certainty. That leaves me confused. If one can argue that “lean toward” for and “slight chance” against equal the same thing, then how firm is the consensus for the hisoricity of The Jesus who hailed from Nazareth? And if all this is the case, I have to wonder at extreme reactions from scholars like Ehrman who liken the consideration of this alternative hypothesis for the Origins of Christianity to Holocaust denial, UFO abductions, and Young Earth Creationism. Ehrman even says that deigning to even make this argument should automatically disqualify one for a tenured position. Really? You want to defend these positioons?

      • Grog,

        You will cease to be puzzled when you recognize that the skeptics who have sired mythicism are now denying paternity.

        The skeptics feel ashamed so they distance themselves – and the mythicists feel betrayed by the distancing.

        Belief in Jesus is far more congenial to common sense than either of these two camps.

    • I still think the question is intrinsically interesting. Everything depends on how it’s approached. What I have said ultimately in a series on the topic is that the evidence doesn’t permit us to judge absolutely; I think I am still in that camp, though I tend to be persuaded more and more that Jesus existed.

      • So, is it a “slam dunk” or does “the evidence doesn’t permit us to judge absolutely”? I am buffled, expecially since all that Carrier has always said is that mythicism is *slightly* more probable than historicism. So, is this a respectable position, or just madness?

      • The conclusion isn’t “impermissible”–it may not be reachable (as I’ve said); but the method, which is what matters, is madness–especially in forming the premises that have been used to reach it.

      • There you go ! I knew that the former prez of CSIR had it still in him ! So, just in case you really want to write something interesting, take a listen to Ehrman, on March 2011 radio show – he said that no “serious” scholar he knows “doubts” the existence of Jesus. -> http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8013.

        This has to be some of those quirks that most bright people have. There is an issue on which they are simply not accessible. Arthur Koestler once wrote that he had some brilliant Indian scientist friends, whose minds were razor sharp and could analyze anything, …well, except the capacity of their favourite guru to levitate.

      • Interesting then. I am confused by your overt hostility to mythicism then. I see it as just another hypothesis of Christian origins, one that interests me. Yet what I see is a hostile over-reaction from Ehrman and, here, from you. You’d never know, I only knew by reading your chapters in Sources of the Jesus Tradition.

  32. Here’s a little fact about Myers that has been buried. He was on a tenure-track position with the biology department at Temple University from 1993-2000. He ended up in Minnesota only because he didn’t even bother applying for tenure at Temple. Why? During his seven years there, he published ONE paper. That one paper he published back in 1998 was his last paper he ever published. In other words, Myers is a failed research scientist who spends his time blogging about atheism and religion instead of doing scientific research.

    • Ah! I wonder if in his solo article he insults his readers for being so fucking stupid he just can’t stand it. I’m sure his fate was sealed by a conspiracy fomented by Baptists and Pentecostals posing as scientists?

  33. Pingback: Fight Club! Historical Jesus Scholars Take On the Christ Mythicists! « Vridar

    • Using the usual ad hominens he deplores in others so much – it’s called self righteous hyprocrisy in the real world. His post is completely inaccurate from beginning to end and loaded with misleading assumptions as usual. And the idea that critical scholars in Europe, where many of them, including for example Casey and Richard Burridge, have first degrees in Classics, including Ancient History, and in the Antipodes, where degrees are generally broader anyway, never stop to think of anything like this, and take the existence of Jesus for granted, is completely remote from their lives and works. This will be stated clearly for people too ignorant to know any such thing in forthcoming books by Casey and others, which are taking some time to write because such scholars do take time to think, and do not let fly with fantasies at the back of their heads. Casey also discusses this in his forthcoming contribution on this site.

      This project isn’t about Ehrman or about defending his recent work at all and any timing is completely coincidental. This is about genuine critical enquiry and the prospects for research into the historical Jesus. It’s also about refuting incompetent, over confident, muddle and mistakes in mythtic methods, assumptions, fantasies and theories.

      • To add to Steph’s comment: The Jesus Prospect is moving ahead and is totally independent of the Center of Inquiry, whose work in atheist advocacy made any further association between a scholarly project and its partisan lobbying impossible. The essays presented here on NO next week will be followed by a collection of studies on methodology in establishing criteria for a new Jesus quest. A number of the leading lights of the Jesus Project will contribute to this collection. Neither Richard Carrier nor Bart Ehrman are among the contributors.

  34. I wish advocates of the historical Jesus position would take a bit of time to tackle the more critical question of the existence of the historical John Frum. Given that John Frum is due back soon with plenty of cargo, it would be enlightening to demonstrate the reality of his historical existence. Surely this is a subject worthy of some devoted study.

      • Well, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.

        But seriously, I’m not understanding exactly why this topic is more substantial than the John Frum’s existence (or not). There seems to be an awful lot of heat generated over rather poorly defined terms, like “historical Jesus”. What exactly distinguishes this idea from “biblical Jesus”? And how many “biblical Jesus” attributes must be stripped away before we’re pondering trivialities, like whether there was a guy named “Ebenezer” in London in 1322?

      • No, I mean as in John Frum. The parallel is much more direct than Ned Ludd as the former is a root character in cult activities and the latter is not.

        So… how important is it where there was a guy named John Frum? Does it matter much if his name was really John Frommer or Jan from New York? Isn’t his character defined by his ability/promise to bring lots of cargo to us?

        So, if you start picking away at the biblical Jesus, and strip all of the fantastic parts… no more walking on unfrozen water, no more feeding of multitudes with a few crumbs, no more raising of the dead and such… When you have pulled all of that away, what are we arguing about? That Romans crucified people? That there were Jewish mystics wandering around? That some guys were named “Jusus” (or a pre-translated version of the name)? Aren’t these trivial questions?

        Aren’t interesting questions of the form: “What goes into the making of a cult?” or “How did the Abrahamic myths develop?”

        Is “Was there a historic Jesus?” even a coherent question once you strip off the divine attributes?

      • I detect an allusion to cargo cults, which are impt in anthropology esp in the study of Pacific religions. But I think the immortality and salvation cults represent a different and more esoteric pattern, at least from what i know of the difference–cargo cults being more this-worldly materialistic. You cna argue of course that when you strip the idea of heaven of its gold acoutrements you have basically the same problem as you have with a Jesus who has been stripped of his defining acts and teaching. But I don’t think the question, or the answer, is as simple as you want to make it (sorry).

      • Why? What is the substantive differenced between Jesus, stripped of miracles, and John Frum, stripped of the cargo-to-be-delivered? (Besides two thousand years and the number of believers who are really only interested because of the magic stuff.)

        I don’t see the basis on which you think this is a too-difficult-to-take-seriously question.

  35. Andrew said:

    April 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    “The [crucifixion] story also seems fictional because of us being told what Jesus said from the cross, but also what Jesus and the high priest said to each other, and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?).”

    It is indeed remarkable that the central event of the religion utterly lacks any historical memory attached to it, and is instead recreated (or created?) using silent allusions to lines in the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Wisdom of Solomon. This makes great theological literature, for sure, but history? I tend to doubt it.

    rjosephhoffmann said:

    April 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

    I’m not sure you can call the gospels great theological literature:wrong species.

    Dr. Hoffmann is right.

    Genre is a clue:

    Mark is not interested in origins, education and inner development of Jesus, but narrates the history of the fulfillment of the divine promises from his perspective. In this focus Mark resembles a historical biography like Suetonius’s Lives of Caesars.

    • And since Mark is not interested in origins, education and inner development of Jesus, but narrates the history of the fulfillment of the divine promises from his perspective, this in turn puts into question the historicity of any story in Mark by virtue of the principles of form criticism. It doesn’t imply mythicism, of course.

      John Andrew MacDonald
      Ontario
      Canada

      • And I guess the other point is, ‘Midrash” as a genre of writing in the New Testament presents an interesting problem. There are two poles of interpretation, with a lot of room in between. On one end, we could argue that in a midrash narrative like Matthew’s Jesus infancy account the gospel writer started with information about the historical Jesus and then added some material to make it seem like the story about Moses from the Old Testament. On the other end, we could say that the gospel writer simply wanted to rewrite a story from the old Testament and apply it to his times because he didn’t know any details about the birth of Jesus, in which case there is no reason to think there is any reliable information about the historical Jesus at all in the midrash narrative. And there is a lot of room between these two poles. When we present the problem in this way, it becomes a hard and sophisticated problem to try to determine what part of the midrash narrative (if any) presents information about the historical Jesus. This is the problem that comes up when the issue of “Midrash” is introduced as a New Testament genre. The question is: What criteria or method do we use to determine which part of the “Midrash” narrative is giving us information about the historical Jesus? Can we assume that any part of the “Midrash” narrative is representing the historical Jesus? If the midrash narrative says that Jesus did “such and such,” does this mean the historical Jesus actually did it, or was this characterization of Jesus just the author’s way of rewriting the Old Testament story (and the historical Jesus never did it)? If Jesus says something in the gospels, did he really say, it or was it just invented like Herodotus used to do. John Dominic Crossan, in “The Power of Parable,” shows many of Jesus’ speeches were probably creatively invented by the gospel writers. Even if a part of the narrative is actually representing the historical Jesus, how could we know that?

  36. I’d like to comment as a vocal atheist, that could be labelled as a ‘new atheist’ I find your lumping together of all ‘new atheists’ under one banner as crass as PZ pronouncements on Jesus’ historicity. I’ve read Ehrman and some others and have come to two conclusions: I am not well read enough to come to a decision of any value on myth/history issue and if I do come to a decision it will make no difference to my atheism. While PZ may not believe in a historical Jesus other actual ‘new atheist’ authors do, as do many, many atheists. I think Carrier is a bit of a fool, and I lost patience with people like PZ, Darryl Ray etc. some time ago. Please, try not to do what you accuse us, en masse, of doing.

    • @Ciaran: The blog post you refer to was adequately identified as a rant. It does not try to be a careful approach to Carrier’s ideas. That is clear. I am glad you have lost patience with PZ and Co. because they are really doing atheism a huge disservice. But then so do mythtics who serve warmed over analogies as new method.

    • Yes, this is highly worthwhile–Ehrman’s I mean, and very charitable. I think we need to stress that although Carrier’s Ehrman review is the occasion for my “rant”, the essays following and the book coming out on the topic of historicity are more particularly concerned with mythicism and Carrier’s errors, not as such his unsuccessful attempt to demolish Ehrman.

    • This is indeed a satisfying reply from Ehrman. I have noted in the past that his writing is prone to error in detail, and he admits as much here; he also acknowledges that his writing was sometimes not very clear. It is interesting that the above “rant” considered Carrier unworthy, while Ehrman sees the criticism a notable if unkind.

      On to the greater question-has Ehrman established that Jesus was historical?

      • IMO, not only has he not established that Jesus is “real”, but he has either been silent on, or ineffective in countering that major arguments that Jesus is “not real.”

      • No: I see Carrier as engaging in unworthy polemic–see below, and I find his methods risible. I also identified my piece as a rant since I have responded to Carrier’s attacks on me elsewhere in this space. But i agree that we need to move on to the larger question and let Error take the hindmost. And by the way: Ehrman does not say he is prone to error in detail: you and Carrier do.

      • No, Ehrman shows that Carrier is a hypocrite. Carrier expects a charitable interpretation from his readers, but shows no such thing when he obsesses with nitpicking Ehrman. Carrier’s “victories” are cheap internet bragging rights but show us why he can’t secure a position within academia – he is a crackpot.

  37. Mr. Hoffmann, may i ask you how on earth you once held the position that Jesus was likely not historical? I dont understand this at all, i have tried to make some sense of the mythicist position but to no avail. It is caveman insanity.

    • Entertaining possibility is not at all the same as taking a position. I have never in my work taken or defended the argument for the non- historicity of Jesus and I do not believe the mythtic position is credible. I have certainly looked at the arguments, and continue to look at them.

      • My apologies then. Another question if you have the energy to answer it. I read somewhere here on your website that you believe that the TF is a complete forgery, if I am not mistaken again. What would be your strongest reason for this?

      • The question is for you mr. Hoffmann, sorry for the confusion. TF = Testamonium Flavium, the longer Josephus paragraph on Jesus. I read somewhere on your website, I think, that you are in that camp who believes it is a complete forgery. If I am not mistaken, could you please tell me your strongest reason for this?

      • as you know the history of 18.3.3. is confused and the current state of knowledge is not adequate to permit us to judge. I tend to agree with Feldman that Origen’s silence may be construed simply as nollo contendere–too bad it wasn’t Tertullian doing the looking. I do regard the relative lateness of Eusebius’ contribution problematical and the later MS tradition suspicious. I do not think TF is a secure basis for establishing a historicity argument. (I probably said so in Jesus outside the Gospels.)

      • Would you not consider the Agapian texts, which show no signs of interpolation, to be a more secure bet? I understand the concern about Eusebius being the first one quoting it directly, but as far as I know, Josephus Antiq. are only mentioned 13 times up until Eusebius, and most of these mentions involves the church fathers using Josephus for polemics against Jews, in fact, most often quoted passages are exactly those that dealt with the fate of the Jewish people after 70 Ad. Especially an incident revolving a young Jewish women trapped inside Jerusalem dying from starvation, she ends up eating her own baby – an incident highly popular in the early church as they thought it represented the horrible destiny the Jews had to suffer for rejecting christ. If this is the case, I might be mistaken, is it still reasonable to suggest that the TF should have been quoted earlier? I mean if it had no real serving agenda for the church. Also have you considered Steve Masons argument, that if the church corrupted the TF, why did they not do it to Philo? He was a contemporary to Jesus and they certainly had the chance to do it if they wanted to since they kept his works from perishing. But not a single suspicion of forgery is suspected in Philo. Would it not then be more plausible that Josephus did write a longer paragraph about Jesus which later got interpolated? Excuse me for my horrible English mr. Hoffmann, it is not my native Tongue.

    • Samuel, re: Jesus mythicism being “caveman insanity,” what should we make of spurious epistles, not written by their alleged apostolic authors (which Ehrman calls forgeries), which insist upon the integrity of their witness and especially the historicity of Jesus? Isn’t this a case of protesting too much?

  38. One last point. Dr Ehrman says in many cases Dr. Robert M Price is suggesting cases of midrash that are far from obvious. I think the real problem is how do you prove a possible case of midrash is in fact historical and not midrash. There would be no way to make such an argument.

      • Hi Dr. Hoffmann:

        I just think Dr. Ehrman was a little too tough on Dr. Price. I think Dr. Price is correct for the most part about the cases of midrash he cites, and it’s interesting how the recently published “Jewish Annotated New Testament” carries on this issue in a fruitful manner. I think very highly of Dr. Price and think he is quite brilliant, but I disagree with him about the Christ Myth Theory. I think an historical Jesus makes for a much better explanation as to why Midrash is going on in the New Testament. I don’t see a reason why the people of that time would take a vague savior myth and then fill in the details by rewriting the Old Testament. That doesn’t fit in with what I understand about the people of that time.

        Kindest regards,

        John Andrew MacDonald

    • John Andrew MacDonald, re your comment: “I think an historical Jesus makes for a much better explanation as to why Midrash is going on in the New Testament. I don’t see a reason why the people of that time would take a vague savior myth and then fill in the details by rewriting the Old Testament. That doesn’t fit in with what I understand about the people of that time.”

      What if the people were gentiles (like Mark) who had possession of copies of the OT and were desirous of monotheism but didn’t want to be subservient to rabbis or treated as second class citizens within Judaism? That would supply a simple reason why the “vague savior myth” of the Kyrios Christos would be adapted for anti-Judaic polemics by a fledgling church. In other words they started with the OT and then developed the savior myth afterward.

  39. Pingback: Bart Ehrman svarar Richard Carrier | Lindenfors blogg

  40. There is no reason to sweepingly characterize Jesus Mythicism as being part and parcel of “new atheism,” or any significant percentage of atheists at all. Critiquing Carrier or other specific mythicists is fine and fair, but it’s neither fair nor accurate to try to generalize those views to all or most atheists. It’s not even really a feature of “new atheism.’ Dawkins, Hitchens etc. Don’t take that position. Bart Ehrman himself is an atheist and obviously is not a mythicist.

    • I suspect the new atheists will want to run from mythic ism when they discover how error prone its advocates are, and needless to sAy there is no necessary connection except the natural propensity of free thought for excess.

      • I’ve only heard that phrase “new atheist” used by religionists and don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, but I do know that Jesus Mythicism is not something most atheists ahve embrace or even taken any notice of.

    • Technically, I don’t think Ehrman has ever gone so far as to say he’s an atheist. Agnostic, yes, but to some, that’s just splitting hairs.

  41. Philosopher Law, who’s generally a sensible fellow, holds that
    Where testimony/documents weave together a narrative that combines mundane claims with a significant proportion of extraordinary claims, and there is good reason to be sceptical about those extraordinary claims, then there is good reason to be sceptical about the mundane claims, at least until we possess good independent evidence of their truth.
    Now, he correctly observes that historically the gospel narratives “combine mundane [plausible, true] claims” with “extraordinary [implausible, false] claims.” We have then mundane claims, MC, and extraordinary ones, EC, from the same source. He holds (and I think he thinks this is a philosophical, not a historical, point) that EC contaminate MC. If the source is emitting both static (a misleading metaphor, I realize) and information, we must be skeptical about the information.

    [Law also offers—again, he thinks philosophical—criticisms of the criteria of multiple attestation, embarrassment, and discontinuity. I pass these criticisms by, but Law is clever and generally sensible, and they’re no doubt worth a good look.]

    Ours is a credulous age. Theirs—first-century Palestinians’—was probably even more so. At least, they lacked and we have the germ theory of disease and some notion that there could be no Hades below or heaven above. But even in our age of more demanding epistemic standards, we know people who provide highly reliable reports of the mundane doings of certain human beings and yet also attribute to them extraordinary ones that flunk any reasonable evidentiary test. Which is to say, Law’s thesis of contamination is quite mistaken. In fact, there are engineers and scientists who when at work are epistemically extremely diligent and highly reliable, but when at church are great fools—Mormons, for instance, or transubstaniationalists.

    So the contamination thesis fails to account for how we come to know and think we know, and a comparamentalization thesis—allowing for reliability in one realm and sheer zaniness in another—is closer to the truth.

    It’s a fact, that Jesus was widely believed to perform exorcisms. He doubtless himself believed he did, too. Few of us would take what he did to be accurately described as “driving out demons.” But should we then dismiss him as a charlatan? Or should we merely conclude “there are no demons, hence Jesus never effected a cure of any sort”? And then go on to argue “reports of exorcisms are incredible, hence reports Jesus was baptized and crucified are contaminated and dubious enough to be subjected to higher than usual standards of acceptance as true.” It seems to me that’s more or less what Law does. From which I conclude he’s a not so hot psychologist and historian, and a very skilled but overreaching philosopher.

  42. Pingback: A Short Review of Why I Am Not A Christian (Richard Carrier) « Diglotting

  43. If anyone is interested in reading a little more about that post I made about the possible relationship between Christianity, Dionysus, Midrash, and the idea that Paul was lying, I wrote a short story about it in 2009. It’s a little different than what I posted, but some of the same ideas still apply. There’s a little swearing, so if that offends you don’t read it. I think it will be helpful and informative.

    John Andrew MacDonald

    “Have I been Understood? Dionysus Versus The Crucified”, Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

    Here it is: http://www.caseagainstfaith.com/the-eternal-return.html

  44. Soloview: “In other words, you have no way of connecting the two Jameses (Acts 12:17, Mark 6:3) by an orderly process that would withstand informed scrutiny. But that is not the problem; the problem is that on the information available to us one cannot dismiss “mythicism” quite the way Ehrman and you are doing…..”
    …………………..

    Joseph:” This is absolute rubbish: For one thing, the names Peter, James and John appear as a phrasal combination five times in the synoptics: at the Transfiguration (Mt 17,1; Mk 9,2; Lk 9,28), in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26,37; Mk 14,33), at the “raising” of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5,37; Lk 8,51), and as the audience (along with Andrew) for the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and for Jesus’ “Little Apocalypse” (Mk 1,29-31 and 13,3) (thus appearing “alone” with him only “three” times). What do you mean “by an orderly process that would withstand informed scrutiny.” Start with a concordance, then work your way up to inference, and ask yourself what interest Luke would have in inventing another James. The mythtic interest in defeating the James tradition is beginning to rival the Catholic apologetic one in denying his biological brotherhood–the latter in the interest of making Jesus an only child, the former to make him unhistorical. This is pure nonsense.”
    ……………….

    I have responded to this in a civil and factual manner. My response was not posted as Dr. Hoffmann evidently needs to have a last word in the debate, or is simply embarrassed by his mixing up his Jameses.

    • “I have responded to this in a civil and factual manner. My response was not posted as Dr. Hoffmann evidently needs to have a last word in the debate, or is simply embarrassed by his mixing up his Jameses.” Mixing up Jameses? Oh my: Who is mixing up Jameses?

      • I find your attention to James quite amusing. If you think you have the right stuff, please solve it for me. Does mythticism stand or fall on this? Maybe it does. Carrier seems to think so too. But really: read a bit of the scholarship and especially read what Dieter Georgi did with the opponents controversy 25 years ago–then get back to me. You are living in the dark ages scholarship wise. And the only embarrassment comes from your trying to use the most conservative scholarship as scions of your cause.

  45. Pingback: The air is full of feathers | Butterflies and Wheels

  46. In terms of form criticism, suggesting a link between Christianity, Dionysus, Midrash, and the idea that Paul was lying about his conversion experience, is the most plausible way to defend the Christ Myth Theory

      • Hi Dr Hoffmann:

        By definition, post modern form criticism only yields negative results. By virtue of the very role of ‘devil’s advocate,’ the form critic’ s method is constrained by definition. As Dr Jacques Derrrida quite rightly saw,

        “… all the conceptual oppositions of metaphysics (signifier/signified; sensible/intelligible; writing/speech; passivity/activity; etc.) – to the extent that they ultimately refer to the presence of something present (for example, in the form of the identity of the subject, who is present for all his operations, present beneath every accident or event, self-present in its “living speech”, present in its enunciations, in the present objects and acts of its language, etc.) become non-pertinent(Positions pp 28-30).”

        As I said, as a matter of procedure the presentation is only historically possible. Plato in the Republic advocates the “noble lie,” deceiving the people so the rulers can get them to behave properly. “The noble lie” is a apparently a reference to Euripides’ Baccahe where someone says even though Dionysus isn’t a God, pretend that he is because it would be better for the people. That may be the reason behind the reference to Dionysus in this midrash from the gospel of John, although I did my best to demonstrate that it was.

        This is the midrash that in my opinion most directly connects Dionysus to Paul’s conversion experience, so it is the correct choice, or at least the one I prefer.

        So I used, from Dr. Price,
        .
        The Gospel of John2. Water into Wine (2:1-11)Though the central feature of this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX (Helms, p. 86). The widow of Zarephath, whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi, 17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples to put their faith in him (v. 11).

        But as I said, whether Paul was being honest about his conversion experience is anyone’s guess. It comes down to an act of faith, because the method proceeds by pointing out what we don’t know (Devil’s advocate)

        Take care,

        John Andrew MacDonald
        Ontario
        Canada

      • I do not agree with you at all mr. MacDonald that Pauls honesty regarding his conversion experience comes down to faith. He was a persecutor of a church that had absolutely no authority what so ever! Why would he lie? To gain mammon? From who? To gain mercy from authority for his crimes? Absolutely not ( the opposite happened – he was imprisoned!). There is no real reason at all to suggest that he was lying.

      • Good question. Maybe I should publish an interpretation of what I wrote. But only if you promise to buy one. lol

      • Samuel, re your comment: “Why would someone who was a persecutor of the early church lie about his conversion experience?”

        This is much the same as asking why would Peter have denied Jesus three times unless it really happened. The evil Pharisee who mends his ways and instantly abrogates Mosaic law once Christ had appeared to him is yet another convenient polemical concept for the anti-Judaic factions of the early church.

    • Perhaps you ought to read Samuel Sandmel on parallelomania, John. I wonder why Paul would lie to send himself into Hades rather than lie to his advantage.

  47. There is no real reason at all to suggest that he [Paul] was lying.

    Perhaps he had an “experience” during an epileptic seizure that led him to honestly believe he was hearing a message from God? In that sense, he wouldn’t be lying. One has to know that what one says is not truthful for it to be a lie. ;)

    • Key word in your argument: “honestly”. I am not invoking a supernatural explanation for his vision, only that it’s much more probable, considering the background information, that he was not lying about having a revelation from Jesus Christ.

      • I agree. A natural explanation is more likely, more in line with Occam. Brain chemistry could account for all of Paul’s motivations, and he would believe everything he says. No lies needed.

  48. To pulseteresa and Spanish Inquisitor,

    Like the mythicists, neither of you is seeking history. You are simply assuming in advance what can and cannot happen and therefore only accepting as history anything supports your assumption. That’s like the detective deciding in advance of the investigation that there’s no way the butler could have done it. If the butler actually did do it, there’s no way that detective will ever find out.

    • “You are simply assuming in advance what can and cannot happen ”

      You mean, like miracle that defy all known laws of physics and biology? Yes, I am assuming that, but then, I would venture to say that Prof. Hoffman does the same thing, elsewhere in this thread, when he concede that much of the stories of the Gospels are not true, while still following evidence for the historicity of the man.

      And all that fluff that’s discarded? The stuff of myth-making. Maybe I don’t have full grasp of what Hoffman calls “myth” (I tend to equate it with “fiction” – the opposite of History) but it still seems that there are strong elements of myth-making in the creation of the Gospels.

      If you think an assumption that miracles don’t happen is not warranted, then by all means, provide evidence that they do, and I will no longer assume that.

      To borrow your analogy, that’s like a detective assuming the butler committed the murder by calling on a demon from hell to cast a spell on the victim. If he assumes that, he’ll never figure out that the wife of the victim poisoned him.

      • Spanish Inquisitor,

        For me, a decision about miracles is simply an outworking of the more fundamental decision about God. That is, if we have no Creator then miracles are not possible. If there is a God, who am I to say He can’t do a miracle when He wants?

        As to your question about my view of Dr. Hoffman on this issue, i suspect he will side with your skepticism. And to that end please see my comment to Grog as he was interacting with Dr. Hoffman elsewhere on this page, time-stamped April 30, 2012 11:34 am.

  49. Pingback: Den fortgående debatten kring Bart Ehrmans ”Did Jesus Exist” « Jesus granskad

  50. Greetings Joseph,

    Now an intriguing debate or your studied opinion, if so, of the likelihood of the Flavian hypothesis as interpreted by Chris Carrington on the net as well as Joseph Atwill in his book Caesar’s Messiah has any bases from your prospective.

    I just put this curiosity to Richard Carrier and conveniently found your link right below in a post. I am not saying it’s providence, perhaps synchronicity.

    ~metta

    • Carrier’s post is full of despicable falsehoods and ridiculously bitter nonsense.

      Carrier’s claim is deluded and pathetic. There is absolutely no doubt that Hoffmann is completely sane. I didn’t realise Carrier was a qualified psychiatrist as well. He’s not. He does not have “evidence” – that is ridiculous and untrue from beginning to end. I wonder if he knows what evidence is given the quality of his analysis of historical evidence. He does however have an extraordinarily high opinion of himself as having a multitude of areas of expertise – just read his ‘profile’. This extraordinary sort of fantastical egotism is not normal in intelligent society. He’s just bitter that he has not been embraced by critical scholarship. Does he realise that without qualification to diagnose he is liable to be accused of libel? Does he realise that critical thinking people change their mind with critical argument and evidence? That’s how scholarship works. It’s called skepticism, and it’s about being self critical, something Carrier is not. Instead Carrier boasts “I am no less a philosopher than Aristotle or Hume. My knowledge, education, and qualifications are comparable to theirs in every relevant respect… For you cannot be successful in anything of importance if you have a poor or even incorrect grasp of yourself”. Does he have evidence of Hoffmann ‘praising and loving’ his work? As far as I am aware his book ‘Proving History’ was vanity published first and was advertised to be released by Prometheus in April. I received my copy which was supposed to be vanity published but it arrived as a Prometheus edition a couple of weeks ago. Hoffmann never claimed to have read Proving History. He never claimed to be responding to Carrier’s points directly – in fact quite the contrary which he makes clear in this comment thread. This post is an overall impression from his previous ‘work’ and posts on his atheist blog. Carrier’s inability to distinguish between an error and a lie is astonishing. It is unfortunate that he always finds it necessary to use such vile language and falsehoods to express himself publically, and I think it might be helpful to his credibility if he started being a little more careful and honest. Carrier’s ridiculous rant is full of falsehoods from beginning to end.
      http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/love3141509.shtml

  51. One very simple question please. Have you changed your mind about the historicity of Jesus? You clearly stated on “Point of Inquiry” in 2007 that you did not believe he was historical, but you now seem utterly dismissive of that position. Thanks for clearing this up.

    • It is a very simple question. I hope it will not offend you if I say there is not a simple answer. It depends entirely on what you mean by historical Jesus. If you mean the figure in the gospels in every particular, then I do not know many NT scholars of any repute who believe that. If you mean “Did Jesus exist?” as an historical postulate, my answer is yes, but with reservations. Bultmann falls into this camp–and I assume you know his arguments? If you ask, “Is Jesus a myth,” then my answer is, No. First because a myth is a specific literary genre that mythicists including most atheists usually get wrong. Second because it usually implies a deception which cannot be attributed to the sources or their transmission. Does this clear things up? I very much doubt it. If on the other hand you ask me whether I have changed my mind: that is simple. No. But in order to understand what this means, you would need to read a bit and not listen to a podcast from 2007–my views go back to works as early as 1984. And that requires a bit of effort and concentration. To help you out: I will tell you that I regard the question of historicity a real question. At this point, I regard the question to have been answered affirmatively: the preponderance of evidence sways in the direction of a historical Jesus. I have said so repeatedly. And finally it is a matter of evidence, not what I “think”or “believe.” Richard Carrier’s arguments have done nothing to convince me that there was no historical Jesus, and indeed, I find his entire methodology ignorant, intellectually flawed, and useless.

      • Thank you for your reply. My understanding of Bultmann on this point is that Jesus was an actual person, who was mythologized by the people who later wrote and spoke of him. (Unlike yourself, Bultmann goes on to espouse some muddled theology in an attempt to retain a Christianity).
        The statement you made on the CFI show (which was specifically about the ill fated Jesus Project) was “I believe Jesus of Nazareth did not exist”, without any qualification. Since the point of the Project was to examine the case for the existence of an historical person, Jesus, your statement seemed pretty clear. In any case, , what I don’t understand is your now seeming contempt for those persons, like Dr. Robert Price who feel that the evidence weighs against an historical Jesus.

      • And yet…(and, no Dr. Fisher, I am not a stalker, I am just interested in this discussion)…in Sources of the Jesus Tradition (2010) you (Dr. Hoffmann, I am now addressing) write “…there is nothing in the tradition that requires a real death..Is it not just as plausible that the Passion narrative is a drama based on the binding of Isaac…?” and later: “Either way, the movement from the ‘ordinary’ to the
        ‘extraordinary’ upon which the Jesus-to-Christ model depends is implausible.”

        What other plausible model exists for the HJ?

        I understand that one is constantly skeptical, even of one’s own previously held views. But we seem to have had a sudden and abrupt change in tone and attitude toward this question. It really is counter-intuitive. To the point where you seem to mock those who hold the very same views that you held as recently as two years ago. I thought those essays were insightful. You are an engaging, observant writer. So what’s happened? Do you now repudiate your past views? Do you now find the Jesus to Christ model plausible? If not, what model do you propose to explain the development of Christianity that began with an historical Jesus? What can you tell us about this historical Jesus?

    • Critical scholarship is about being constantly skeptical and self critical and evaluating all new evidence and arguments. It isn’t about holding convictions and formulating arguments to support them. Research involves investigation, engaging with learned critical arguments and evidence and having an ability to change one’s mind. Ideas evolve in conjunction with new insights, and conclusions are not always conclusive but in state of flux, constantly changing and evolving. Only in the fundamentalist worlds do people make up their minds and refuse to change them.

      • Over at the Freethought Ghetto, for anyone who missed it, Dick Carrier has written a flatulent fact-free reply to Ehrman’s reply to him in which he alludes to something called Hoffman’s [sic] Madness. http: //freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1117 This comes from a man who compares himself to Aristotle and Hume, thinks the scholarly establishment is out to get him, and that the whole discipline of New Testament scholarship, in his word, is “fucked.” I would write more about my psychiatric state but me and the Apostles have work to do in Jerusalem before I die.

  52. It is interesting that Carrier still hasn’t approved my comment (which I re-paste below) or any other comment on his post. It grieves me to acknowledge that Carrier’s flatulent fact-free flight of fancy demonstrates that he is regrettably deluded and committed to a fantasy world which convinces him of his extraordinary and inflated importance. He has made unqualified psychological diagnoses of ‘lunacy’ on at least three occasions (links pasted here for sad amusement), as if repetition makes something true. It is tragically no more than psychological projection. He appeals to his ‘evidence’ which naturally is not ‘evidence’. Instead it consists of a bitter rant about how he has been criticised by Hoffmann for academic incompetence. It is however tragic evidence that Carrier is quite unfit for normal intelligent society and taht he certainly shows no signs of ever being fit for academic posting. His incompetence is transparent and he shows no genuine desire or need to learn. Thom recently demonstrated Carrier’s incompetence and his inablity to provide valid evidence: http://religionatthemargins.com/2012/04/the-death-of-richard-carriers-dying-messiah/

    and the ludicrous projections:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/01/03/on-accusations-of-fraud-and-making-weird-sexual-jokes/#comment-50556

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/sources-of-jesus-tradition.html?showComment=1306873573247

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1117

    My unapproved comment on Carrier’s tantrum or typical emotional outburst:

    Carrier’s post is full of despicable falsehoods and ridiculously bitter nonsense.

    Carrier’s claim is deluded and pathetic. There is absolutely no doubt that Hoffmann is completely sane. I didn’t realise Carrier was a qualified psychiatrist as well. He’s not. He does not have “evidence” – that is ridiculous and untrue from beginning to end. I wonder if he knows what evidence is given the quality of his analysis of historical evidence. He does however have an extraordinarily high opinion of himself as having a multitude of areas of expertise – just read his ‘profile’. This extraordinary sort of fantastical egotism is not normal in intelligent society. He’s just bitter that he has not been embraced by critical scholarship. Does he realise that without qualification to diagnose he is liable to be accused of libel? Does he realise that critical thinking people change their mind with critical argument and evidence? That’s how scholarship works. It’s called skepticism, and it’s about being self critical, something Carrier is not. Instead Carrier boasts “I am no less a philosopher than Aristotle or Hume. My knowledge, education, and qualifications are comparable to theirs in every relevant respect… For you cannot be successful in anything of importance if you have a poor or even incorrect grasp of yourself”. Does he have evidence of Hoffmann ‘praising and loving’ his work? As far as I am aware his book ‘Proving History’ was vanity published first and was advertised to be released by Prometheus in April. I received my copy which was supposed to be vanity published but it arrived as a Prometheus edition a couple of weeks ago. Hoffmann never claimed to have read Proving History. He never claimed to be responding to Carrier’s points directly – in fact quite the contrary which he makes clear in this comment thread. This post is an overall impression from his previous ‘work’ and posts on his atheist blog. Carrier’s inability to distinguish between an error and a lie is astonishing. It is unfortunate that he always finds it necessary to use such vile language and falsehoods to express himself publically, and I think it might be helpful to his credibility if he started being a little more careful and honest. Carrier’s ridiculous rant is full of falsehoods from beginning to end.

    • Carrier claims on his ‘free’ thought ghetto blog:
      Richard Carrier is the renowned author of Sense and Goodness without God, Proving History, and Not the Impossible Faith, as well as numerous articles online and in print. His avid fans span the world from Hong Kong to Poland. With a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University, he specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism, the origins of Christianity, and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, with particular expertise in ancient philosophy, science and technology. He has also become a noted defender of scientific and moral realism, Bayesian reasoning, and the epistemology of history. For more about him and his work visit http://www.facebook.com/l/sAQF1TFvpAQFOEFL27QRhKLJaQmCjSJQ1xZZwxdFMN2qj8w/www.richardcarrier.info.

      It is worth noting that Aristotle aka Hume aka Carrier is also an expert on food science, animal psychology and ethics. He has announced with authority in this extraordinary piece of research and analysis, that all reasons for vegetarianism are ‘irrational’, all vegetarians are therefore ‘deluded’ and vegetarianism is a delusion. He sprinkles the eff word liberally throughout, but you know, he just got passionately worked up about it all. I guess this means that all fruvegrians are bananas.
      http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/87

      • Proving History was released earlier than advertised according to my copy (which with deep regret I read). However while the bookseller promised to send a vanity published copy, the copy which arrived has a publication page with ‘Prometheus’ printed on it. However the quality of print on this particular page is peculiar and I suspect it might be a facsimile. Proving History has not had an academic review to my knowledge although it has been endorsed by the notorious Hector Avalos and Malcolm Murray of the Atheist Primer. The epithet ‘renowned’ is egotistical nonsense.

      • If Aristotle were alive, I’m sure he would rebuke Carrier for his incompetence and Carrier would respond, charging Aristotle with insanity. Mind you, Aristotle probably wouldn’t have given him the time of day in the first place.

    • Wow, Stephanie Fisher, you really do get worked up over this don’t you? I, like you, think Carrier is full of himself. Toning down his rhetoric would serve him well, in my opinion. However, you do a good job demonstrating how scholars who go against the grain are received. For example your characterization of Avalos as “notorious.” You are starting to sound like a shrill apologists, you know. Do you know that?

      • Oh hi again Grog – you’re becoming a bit of a stalker. It’s a bit creepy especially considering you hide behind a pseudonym. Perhaps you’re just a bit worked up as an apologist for Carrier. I’m quite comfortable and familiar with going against the grain. It’s all part of independence. And Hector can look after himself.

      • Oh hi again Grog – you’re becoming a bit of a stalker. It’s a bit creepy especially considering you hide behind a pseudonym. Perhaps you’re just a bit worked up as an apologist for Carrier. I’m quite comfortable and familiar with going against the grain. It’s all part of independence. And Hector can look after himself. Do you know that?

      • This Stephanie Louise Fisher is simply unbearable. There’s absolutely nothing to learn from reading her. It’s all emotional outpour. Better skip over it every time she comes in.

        And speaking of being full of oneself, it does look to an outside observer that every poster is full of himself, or herself, in her case.

      • Agreed. I thought the joke about Carrier having a penis for a nose was very telling. One side is as bad as the other, IMO.

  53. I find it hard to believe that Carrier still has emails from you from four years ago — if he did, why wouldn’t he just post them so we could read them in entirety and not just lines from them lifted out of context?

  54. To MIke Gannt

    “,i>For me, a decision about miracles is simply an outworking of the more fundamental decision about God. That is, if we have no Creator then miracles are not possible. If there is a God, who am I to say He can’t do a miracle when He wants?

    So you make assumptions to? All kinds of assumptions about the existence of god, his powers and abilities, his role in this earthly existence, etc. I make assumptions about the nonexistence of miracles. So, when you say:

    You are simply assuming in advance what can and cannot happen and therefore only accepting as history anything supports your assumption…”

    This could be applied equally to both of us.

    So, then the question is, which assumptions can be substantiated and worthy of retention, and which are not, when you are applying them to historical inquiry?

    You probably can guess my answer to that.

    • Spanish Inquisitor,

      I was was agnostic on the question about God and therefore agnostic on the question of miracles. What changed my mind was reading the New Testament documents and learning firsthand from it about the claims Jesus made regarding God. He was so polarizing i found it impossible to be agnostic about Him. He was either who He said He was, or else He was not. I found the evidence more compelling for the former than for the latter. Thus my decision about God and about miracles flowed out of my decision about Jesus of Nazareth.

      The deficiency of your position is not that you are making an assumption per se, but that you are making one which prevents evidence from coming your way. If you want to make a wise decision, you want a full flow of evidence.

      • Thus my decision about God and about miracles flowed out of my decision about Jesus of Nazareth. The deficiency of your position is not that you are making an assumption per se, but that you are making one which prevents evidence from coming your way. If you want to make a wise decision, you want a full flow of evidence.

        Well, again. Goose. Gander.

        You are making assumptions that prevents you from accepting a lack of evidence for extraordinary claims (i.e miracles). Absence of of evidence is not evidence of absence in all cases, but it is in some, especially in the claim for miracles. Your belief in miracles, stemming from your assumptions about Jesus of Nazareth, prevents you from accepting that there simple is no evidence for miracles. This means that in a question of the historicity of Jesus, you assume the existence of that which you are trying to prove.

        Sounds a bit circular to me.

      • Spanish Inquisitor,

        My belief that God can do a miracle does not require me to believe every person who says they have witnessed a miracle. Therefore, I am able to discriminate between accounts and am not committed a priori to a judgment. Your position does not allow you the same freedom. You have to reject all claims, and the absence of any valid claims legitimizes your decision. Therein is circularity.

  55. My belief that God can do a miracle…

    …assumes God

    …does not require me to believe every person who says they have witnessed a miracle. .

    However, you just don’t know, and can’t ever know, (and, after, all knowledge is what were are seeking here) because the God you assume CAN do miracles. So how do you know, one way or the other? How do you test the veracity of the claim? You can’t, you have to take it on faith, which is a lousy methodology for testing historicity. Ask R. Joseph up there. He doesn’t use faith to arrive at whatever conclusion he reaches about the historicity of Jesus, (and if he does, his conclusions are next to worthless – No, they’re worthless.)

    Therefore, I am able to discriminate between accounts and am not committed a priori to a judgment.

    A totally useless exercise if you are using faith to “discriminate between accounts”.

    I, on the other hand, until evidence to the contrary arrives, assume the natural order of the world precludes miracles, and hence any accounts of miracles are specious, and can be discarded as the product of fancy (myth). I don’t a priori preclude miracles. I simply strip them of their supernatural elements and assess them in the light of all human knowledge.

    Of course, I would accept a supernatural element to the claim IF one could be proven. But by definition ofsuper-nature, it can’t. So why even consider it?

    • Spanish Inquisitor,

      Faith is something we all – skeptics and believers alike – practice all day long. That is, we are constantly accepting information from others and relying on it without independently validating it. (My daughter texted my wife yesterday. How do I know? My wife told me.)

      If we are wiling to place faith in human beings who have earned the right to be trusted by us, how much more we ought to be willing to trust our Creator.

      • But if your wife was a habitual liar, what faith would you have in her comment?

        You’re confusing trust in evidence with faith in revealed truth.

        Understandable, but not very reliable.

        I trust my car will start, even though sometimes it might not, because the evidence I’ve received over 40 years of driving plus the education I’ve received about the role of engineering, science and manufacturing in my car allows me to trust that it will. I don’t have any “faith” that God will start it.

      • Spanish Inquisitor,

        I think you’re the one who’s confused. And, specifically, you’re confused about the nature of trust (i.e. faith, belief).

        My wife is trustworthy. That’s why I trust her. If she were a habitual liar, I could not trust her.

        I trust people who deserve my trust.

        I do not trust my car. I may expect my car to operate properly, or I may not. But I would never trust it. It is an inanimate object. Trust is something personal.

        As for God, I would not trust Him to start my car, but I would trust Him to do anything that He promised through the Scriptures to do. I would also trust Him to do what is right and consistent with His responsibilities in any and every circumstance – even if I don’t always know what those responsibilities are. (I’m pretty sure it’s not His responsibility to start cars.) He deserves my trust. He deserves it first of all as my Creator, and secondly by virtue of the way He behaved Himself when He walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth. Thus I have more than sufficient reason to trust Him.

  56. Mike Gannt

    …the nature of trust (i.e. faith, belief).

    The confusion is yours, Mike. No offense, but you are using trust, faith and belief synonymously. While in vernacular speech, that may be sometimes OK, when you are doing scholarly work relating to the historicity of the Bible, it’s not. They have different meanings, and you cannot conflate them.

    My wife is trustworthy. That’s why I trust her. If she were a habitual liar, I could not trust her.

    And why is that? Is it because someone whispered in your ear that she was to be trusted, i.e. they “revealed” her trustworthiness to you and you accepted it? Doubtful.

    Or is it because your experience with her, years of trusting her and finding that she followed through every time causes you to now continue to trust her implicitly? That’s more likely. In short, the evidence you’ve gleaned from the years you’ve been in a relationship with her supports your trust, not someone telling you she’s trustworthy. The first time you met her, would you have given her your life savings to invest? Or did it take a little time to get to know her?

    Evidence-based trust is not the same as revelation-based faith.

    The former is what scientists and historians do. The latter is what theologians do.

    I do not trust my car.

    Yes you do, or you wouldn’t own it. You investigated the car before you bought it. You looked at reviews, you spoke to people who had knowledge about it and got their opinions, you may have owned the same brand in the past (I keep buying Toyota) and found it reliable, you looked at reliability surveys, and you test-drove it before you bought it. You obtained evidence about it. You trust your decision to buy the car, and your trust that it will start, just like it usually does, every time you turn the key.

    Sure, you know that sometimes even the most perfectly well built and maintained cars have parts that fail, but you actually “trust” that occasionally your car will too. But even that lack of trust is evidence based. It’s not revealed to you by a superior being, which you accept on faith, like you do in miracles, if I may take us back to where we began.

    Faith is the belief in something without the necessity of evidence, indeed, sometimes in the face of evidence to the contrary. That’s religious faith described to a T. You don’t have faith in your car.

    Your “faith” in your car only goes as far the evidence to justify it. As soon as the evidence says it’s an unreliable car, that’s when you start looking for a new one. You don’t wait for God to tell you when to purchase a new car, do you?

    As for your last paragraph, well, this is where we will have to agree to disagree. I’m not trying to convince you of anything, other than the error of using your faith in Jesus as a means to prove his actual historical existence, which is circular. You seem to be already well convinced not only of his historical existence, but of his divinity, so I’m not even going to try to talk you down off that ledge. ;)

    But really, you need to be able to differentiate between the “trust” we use in everyday life that is based on evidence we constantly accumulate, and the “faith” in a revealed god. They are apples and oranges.

    • Spanish Inquisitor,

      I’ll stick with my “vernacular” understandings. I welcome scholars, but life is too important and too personal to leave it entirely to their definitions.

      The crucifixion of Christ, particularly when understood in its Second Temple Judaism and Greco-Roman context, gives me all the evidence I need of the character and trustworthiness of God. Even if you don’t believe Jesus is divine, God’s resurrection of him on the third day after his death is ample attestation to the rightness of his course and the vindication of all who follow him.

      If it makes sense to trust the name of Toyota, how much more sense it makes to trust the name of Jesus.

      • Can’t say I’d ever want to drive a Jesus. Unless I needed to get across a body of water quickly, and there were no bridges. ;)

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