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Carrier on historical methodology 
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Post Carrier on historical methodology
I borrowed Flann's comment from another thread.

Flann 5 wrote:
geo wrote:
Flann, Have you read the section where Carrier discusses historical methods?


Hi Geo,
Historical method is good. Unfortunately Richard Carrier's entire career is largely devoted to "debunking" Christianity,so I think his approach is biased here from the start.
The other talk he gave on youtube is titled; "Acts as historical fiction."
I have only found incomplete and sketchy responses from Christians to this,but it's fairly recent and there's quite a lot to respond to in it.
Whatever about the whole myth or history debate itself,I think Carrier is clearly wrong with a central plank of his theory. That Paul and the early Christians believed Jesus was an incorporeal being out there in space and that this is what Paul's writings show.
This is hopelessly wrong. Here's a link to show just this. "What was Paul's view of Jesus?"
http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/pauline/Jesus.htm


Carrier does seem motivated to debunk many of Christianity's central beliefs, but he also seems genuinely capable of being able to parse the true from the false. He has an exceptional bullshit detector. I can imagine that you would disagree with him on many points, but it might be very difficult to challenge his methodology or his conclusions. The man is freakishly meticulous and exhaustive in his approach. Also, I would argue that your religious beliefs are emotion-based, and it must be very difficult to justify them from a purely rational approach. I guess that's why religion and science are constantly clashing. Because science is a purely empirical, rational enterprise and religion is almost purely emotional.

If you can get a sense of how pervasive Christian beliefs are in modern society, maybe it's easier to appreciate what Carrier is doing. On the other hand, you don't have to take Carrier's word for it. He's very meticulous and clear in explaining his approach. Do you agree with his methodology? If so, where does he go wrong as he applies his own methodology to the Gospels (for example)? I guess you would only do this if you're interested in how things really are.

A scholarly examination of holy texts will throw out all supernatural claims or any other claims that arise from scientific ignorance. The first sentence of your link starts out "Paul encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus." To Paul, the vision of Christ may have seemed very real. But a modern scholar would cast a skeptical eye. We understand that people have hallucinations and that sometimes they are interpreted as religious experiences. When someone thinks they see Jesus in a mold stain on a piece of bread, we don't take it very seriously whereas In ancient times, a new cult might be launched. As Carrier points out, the time period when Paul lived was rife with superstition and ignorance. We simply can't trust Paul's interpretation of events. And why should we except that we have been taught to accept these beliefs on faith and, more importantly, we want to believe them.

Anyway, you say Carrier is is hopelessly wrong in his evaluation of Pauline Christology. Maybe he is. But even Christians don't agree on how to interpret many such documents. Who's to say one interpretation is right over another? Again, if Carrier fails to apply his own rigid methodology show us where he goes wrong.

There's a real problem of religious bias in looking at any "holy" text, understanding that these documents were written by true believers at a time in history that was rife with superstition and ignorance. How much can we glean from such documents that are trustworthy from a scholar's perspective? I don't know the answer myself, but I would argue that a non-believer's interpretation is probably going to be more trustworthy than a true believer's. For the same reason, we can't rely on FoxNews entirely to report on the success or failure of one of Obama's policies. The network is hopeless biased.

I thought the section where Carrier challenges Christian apologist Douglas Geivett's claim that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus meets “the highest standards of historical inquiry.”

Here in his usual take-no-prisoners approach, Carrier completely obliterates Geivett's claim. This illustrates very well the problem of religious bias when it comes to the history of religious subjects.

Quote:
1.2.5 The Argument from Evidence

Another way of approaching historical questions is the argument from evidence, which precedes the argument to the best explanation: for before we can apply that tool, we must first prove that we have a believable fact to explain in the first place. And the degree to which we can trust a claim about the past is directly related to the scope and variety of the evidence, and how much we can trust it. There are five specific classes of evidence to account for: the more a claim fits these features, the more believable it is (leaving out here indirect evidence that increases the plausibility of a claim, by supporting the underlying generalization). These categories of evidence are:

First, what I call “physical-historical necessity.

Second, direct physical evidence.

Third, unbiased or counterbiased corroboration.

Fourth, credible critical accounts by known scholars from the period.

Fifth, an eyewitness account.

To illustrate the application of these criteria in assessing evidence, I will draw upon a comparison made by modern Christian apologist Douglas Geivett, who declares that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus meets, and I quote, “the highest standards of historical inquiry” and “if one takes the historian’s own criteria for assessing the historicity of ancient events, the resurrection passes muster as a historically well-attested event of the ancient world,” as well-attested, he says, as Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C.

Well, you heard me mention earlier the known tendency of Christian writers to exaggerate or outright lie, and here is a good example. Let’s take Geivett up on his claim and apply the historian’s own criteria to these two events and see how they come out. Let’s start with Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon river.

First, the physical-historical necessity of this event is exceedingly great. The history of Rome could not have proceeded as it did had Caesar not physically moved an army into Italy. Even if Caesar could have somehow cultivated the mere belief that he had done this, he could not have captured Rome or conscripted Italian men against Pompey’s forces in Greece. On the other hand, all that is needed to explain the rise of Christianity is a belief—a belief that the resurrection happened. There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection. Thus, an actual resurrection is not necessary to explain all subsequent history, unlike Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.

Second, we have lots of direct physical evidence. We have a number of inscriptions and coins produced soon after the Republican Civil War related to the Rubicon crossing, including mentions of battles and conscriptions and judgments. On the other hand, we have absolutely no physical evidence of any kind in the case of the resurrection. No documents exist, and no inscriptions were commissioned by the resurrected Jesus, or by witnesses like Peter or Joseph of Arimathea—and the Shroud of Turin is a proven Medieval forgery (and even if authentic, it would not prove Jesus was resurrected any more than, say, vaporized or flash-frozen).

Third, we have unbiased or counterbiased corroboration. An unbiased source is someone who certainly would know if the story was true or false (such as an eye-witness or contemporary), but for whom there is no identifiable or plausible reason to be credulous, or to lie or distort the account in the ways (or with respect to the details) that concern us. Though they could still be wrong, at least we can rule out some very common causes of falsehood, and this is what makes sources like this so weighty in assessing the historicity of an event. On the other hand, a counterbiased source is someone who is actually notably biased against the event being reported, so that if even they admit it happened, there is good chance it did. And so, we find that many of Caesar’s enemies, including his nemesis Cicero, refer to the crossing of the Rubicon, as did friends and neutral observers, whereas we have no hostile or even neutral records of a physical resurrection of Jesus by anyone until over a hundred years after the event, fifty years after the Christians had already been spreading their stories far and wide, and well after any facts could be checked.

Fourth, we have credible critical accounts by known scholars in antiquity. In fact, the story of the “Rubicon Crossing” appears in almost every history of the age, by the most prominent scholars, including Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Plutarch. Moreover, these scholars have a measure of proven reliability, since a great many of their reports on other matters have been confirmed in various ways, and they are especially trustworthy on public political events like this. In addition, in their books they all quote and name many different sources, showing a wide reading of the witnesses and documents, and they often show a desire to critically examine claims for which there is serious dispute. If that wasn’t enough, some cite or quote texts written by witnesses and contemporaries, hostile and friendly, of the Rubicon crossing or its repercussions.

In contrast, we have not even a single historian mentioning the resurrection until two or three centuries later, and then only Christian historians, who show little in the way of critical skill. Others simply repeated what the Christians told them. And of those Christians who describe the resurrection within a century of the event, none of them show any wide reading, never cite any sources, show no sign of a skilled or critical examination of conflicting claims, have no other literature or scholarship to their credit that we can test for their skill and accuracy, are mostly unknown, and have an overtly declared bias towards persuasion and conversion. No one of these facts renders a source useless, but each diminishes its weight, and their cumulative force greatly reduces credibility.

And fifth, there is an eyewitness account of the Rubicon crossing. For we have Caesar’s own word on the subject. Indeed, The Civil War has been a Latin classic for two thousand years, written by Caesar himself (and completed by one of his generals, a close friend). In contrast, we do not have anything written by Jesus—and we do not know for certain the name of the author of any of the accounts of his physical resurrection. Contrary to popular belief, the names of the four Evangelists were assigned to their respective Gospels decades after they were written, and on questionable grounds. And Paul, of course, did not actually see the resurrection, since he only encountered Jesus years later in a vision, and he mentions no other kind of evidence than that.

It should be clear that we have many reasons to believe Caesar crossed the Rubicon, all of which are lacking in the case of the resurrection. In fact, when we compare all five points, we see that in four of the five proofs of an event’s historicity, the resurrection has no evidence at all, and in the one proof that it does have, it has not the best, but the very worst kind of evidence—a handful of biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses.

You really have to look hard to find an event in a worse condition than this as far as evidence goes. So if we are charitable, Geivett at best is guilty of a rather extreme exaggeration. This is not a historically well-attested event, and it does not meet the highest standards of evidence. If Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon were miraculous—if, say, the Rubicon had been a sea of lava, and his army flew over it at the behest of an Egyptian spellcaster—then we would have pretty strong evidence that a miracle happened in history, and I think it really would be a believable miracle. It would certainly be mysterious enough to wonder at.

Instead, when we look at the evidence for actual miracles, we always come up with very poor evidence indeed, a trend that cannot be an accident. Christ’s resurrection is one of the best attested and most widely believed and celebrated miracles in history, and yet here we have seen that it is one of the worst supported historical claims we have. The readiest explanation for this lack of evidence is that it isn’t really true, given all we know about the time and place in question, about historical sources and human nature and the natural world in general.


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Last edited by geo on Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Hi Geo. Thanks for your lengthy post.
I think it is important to remember that Richard Carrier has an entire thesis of his own about how Christianity arose.
This includes positing that the first Christians and Paul "hallucinated" an imagined incorporeal being who they believed had various adventures,not on earth, but out in Space. This includes believing that this incorporeal being was crucified,buried and resurrected out in Space.
He then maintains that much later, writers who were not eyewitnesses or contemporaries made up fictional stories giving this formerly imagined spiritual being a biography including a physical earthly existence etc which are now found in the gospels.He has a "Euhemerisation" theory to explain how this supposedly happened.
He grudgingly admits background historical accuracy in such as the book of Acts (though he makes a few challenges to this).He largely explains this as the writer of Acts copying Josephus from an A.D.93 published history of the Jews.

I gave the "What Paul says about Jesus" link to show that Paul's writings contradict his spiritual Jesus in outer space hypothesis.This was by no means extensive and many clear assertions of Christ's humanity and earthly existence are clearly articulated throughout new testament books that Carrier is willing to accept as being by Paul, and other books such as Hebrews which he uses himself.He has no excuse for getting this wrong which he plainly does.

He has no idea who wrote the gospels and Acts or when. When it comes to deciding who wrote the gospels and when, he simply discounts the historic written evidence relating to this, where early Christian writers quote extensively from already existent gospels. He also discounts historic attributions of authorship which are documented.
This is not good historic method.To discount what can discovered in ancient documents in favour of a speculative theory.

There are good reasons to think that Acts was written earlier than Josephus in which case Luke was not copying him.

Because Luke in Acts writes about Paul's travels in the Aegean region,which Josephus has nothing to say about,he surmises that the writer must have had access to some other history (now lost) about that region to get the background historic data right,which Luke does. This is ad hoc surmising to fill a big hole in his thesis.
Many of the mythicist arguments which Carrier makes about borrowings from pagan mythologies have been well and extensively refuted. I provided one such example in the thread on Carrier and spirituality earlier. Carrier also throws Homeric epics into the mix citing MacDonald.

I'm going to provide some links you can check. First off I can't get a good link to a very good response to Carrier's, Jesus never existed,talk. You have to Google; Why Jesus never existed; A Richard Carrier lecture review.
The article is on site called scienceandotherdrugs This writer also shows the fallacy of Carrier's "euhemerisation" theory.

On MacDonald and his; Homeric epics and the gospel of Mark; which Carrier uses,here's a critique;
http://www.tektonics.org/gk/homermark.php
On; Who wrote the gospels? here's a link to a talk by Dr Timothy Mc Grew. This is a crucial issue in the debate.

http://www.vimeo.com/57485839

Finally; Carrier debated Lane Craig on the resurrection of Jesus. It's on youtube and anyone interested can see for themselves how this went.



Last edited by Flann 5 on Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:21 pm, edited 3 times in total.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Quote:
I guess that's why religion and science are constantly clashing. Because science is a purely empirical, rational enterprise and religion is almost purely emotional


My bullshit detector just went off.

This is either intentional bullshit, or just a severe degree of naive'ism. I'm guessing you are simply naive about this and have been for some time now.
I am actually witnessing more atheists calling out "new atheism" for its running amok with its own set of beliefs that are based on a bad understanding of science. And as a result, creating their own myths about the scientific enterprise.

We are emotional animals that are influenced and motivated emotionally to a degree greater than we are consciously aware of.
The evolutionary development of the brain recently (on an evolutionary time scale) utilized for higher cognitive abilities is still influenced strongly by the much older lymbic sections, crucial for millions of years to the functionality of our ape like ancestors - AND still crucial today.
The "tools" of scientific methodology do not transform our world into an entirely objective world, as if we are looking through some magical looking glass that separates emotional/subjective man from nature. It certainly does improve of view of nature, while improving our descriptions of phenomena. That is not disputed. But it doesn't turn the practitioner into "Mr. Spock."

Guess what? ..,

Scientists are people too.
Scientists have motives
Scientists have personal goals and objectives.
Scientists are influenced by their personal and political persuasions.
Scientists are influenced by their personal worldviews, motivated by their worldviews, and often influence analyses accordingly.

Scientists asks questions of nature. Nature offers "answers" that are subject to subjective interpretations of data.
Hypotheses (aka scientific questions) are often discarded or developed into BETTER questions.
Theories (a collection of facts strung together) stronger than FACT are always, ALWAYS, subject to further development, sometimes leading us in directions we did not expect a theory to lead us toward.
That is because scientific paradigms change our worldviews. What was considered to be purely "rational" shifts because of a change in the context of a new paradigm.
This has been proven by history.

Both the history and philosophy of science should help you not to be so gullible about the notion that scientists are our Mr Spocks - our men of the future - purely rational creatures, dedicated to empiricism.

Here is a great little article by Alva Noe:

Alva Noe:

Quote:
Noë received his PhD from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has recently begun a performative-lecture collaboration with Deborah Hay. Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.


http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/09/1 ... ptain-kirk

Here are some highlights:

Quote:
Scientists supported Hitler the same as anyone else. Their scientists and engineers made missiles and gas chambers. Ours made atomic bombs.

I'm pro-science, but I'm against what I'll call "Spock-ism," after the character from the TV show Star Trek. I reject the idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior.

Spock-ism gives us a false picture of science. It gives us a false picture of humankind's situation. We are not disinterested knowers. The natural world is not a puzzle.

Part of what Spock-ism gets wrong is that science isn't one thing. There's no Science Party or Scientific Worldview. Nor is there one scientific method, advertising to the contrary notwithstanding
.

Look at this..,

Quote:
Spockians like to pretend that science has proved that there is no God, or that fundamental reality consists only of matter. But both of these claims are untrue. The first is untrue because science doesn't concern itself with God one way or they other. As for the second: Science has no more proved that only matter is real than it has proved that there is no such thing as love, humor, sunsets or knuckleballs.


I have said something similar to what this Harvard professor is saying: science /scientists arent searching for God.
Any scientists (hello Dawkins, hello Kraus) that do claim science has disproven God exists are speaking, READY? - EMOTIONALLY.

I agree with the Harvard professor in this last quote:

Quote:
The big challenge for atheism is not God; it is that of providing an alternative to Spock-ism.



A great disservice is committed against science whenever it is depicted as being some magical looking glass that turns people into purely empirical, purely rational beings that are alien-like to earth AND their evolutionary influences and limits.

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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Carrier is obviously driven strongly by emotion in his manifesto.

I think it was Dexter who said that he wished Carrier had spent more time on the philosophical arguments against some of his metaphysical/naturalist views instead of using them to refute christian/religious tenets.

Why wasn't this the case? It perhaps might have made for a better book. And Carrier, who evidently thinks so little of Christianity, might have had his worldview challenged to a greater degree.

But why didn't he?

Um.., let me guess, because Christianity offered the greatest challenge to his worldview?
I don't think even Carrier believes that.

Maybe he was just being emotional about this, largely speaking.

Or maybe he wanted to sell more books because this is currently the hot topic for armchair philosophers.

I applaud his money-making skills :appl:
The boy knew an emotionally charged manifesto would sell better than whatever else he had to offer.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
geo wrote:
These categories of evidence are:

First, what I call “physical-historical necessity.

Second, direct physical evidence.

Third, unbiased or counterbiased corroboration.

Fourth, credible critical accounts by known scholars from the period.

Fifth, an eyewitness account.


The early Christian accounts claim to be by eyewitnesses in the case of John's gospel and Luke says he spoke with eyewitnesses. Carrier may want to dispute Christian accounts of the executions of Paul and Peter by Nero though such persecution is historically documented. And accounts of the exile of John to the island of Patmos.
If true they show their belief in what they advocated.
This is why I find fault with Carrier for his approach to dating and authorship.There is well documented evidence of the early existence of the gospels from those who quote from them extensively.Why an historian simply discounts this for an untenable theory is the question to be answered, though I think I know why.
Incidentally,how many of these criteria does Carrier's own theory fit?



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
-Hi Flann,

Generally I don't like to watch videos on the computer because I spend enough time on the computer as is. So I probably won't watch Carrier's lecture, but this blogger goes through the lecture and finds many of the same problems you do. So you make some great points and this blogger does as well.

http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.c ... re-review/

I'm inclined to accept that Carrier is starting with a conclusion about Jesus and cherry-picking data to support it. So right there he's violating some of his own methodology. It was me actually who mentioned earlier that Carrier is a little too emotionally invested against religion and that his book suffers in places with long passages that are self indulgent along these lines.

This conflict about Jesus as man or myth seem absurd anyway. And anyway, it has always made sense to me that Jesus was a real man and a probably a rabble rouser who ran afoul of the Roman authorities. Borrowing a page from Carrier's playbook, the narrative of Jesus as rabble rouser makes more sense and also relies on fewer ad hoc assumptions. It makes more sense that mythological elements were later grafted onto the legend inspired by a real man.

And, yet, Carrier in the passage I quoted makes a good case against supernatural causes and also shows how religious belief can really much things up. The historian absolutely has to take human bias into account as Carrier himself says. Fortunately, Carrier's main thesis has to do with individual responsibility to form a coherent personal philosophy and worldview. This book really shines when he's making that case.


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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Flann 5 wrote:
The early Christian accounts claim to be by eyewitnesses in the case of John's gospel and Luke says he spoke with eyewitnesses. Carrier may want to dispute Christian accounts of the executions of Paul and Peter by Nero though such persecution is historically documented. And accounts of the exile of John to the island of Patmos.
If true they show their belief in what they advocated.
This is why I find fault with Carrier for his approach to dating and authorship.There is well documented evidence of the early existence of the gospels from those who quote from them extensively.Why an historian simply discounts this for an untenable theory is the question to be answered, though I think I know why.


Aside from particular cases that might be argued about -- an argument that seems pointless to me -- nearly everyone is willing to concede that many Christians sincerely believe in their religious claims. Many have been willing to die for them. Why do you find that so convincing in evaluating the truth of these claims? There are vast numbers of people in the world who believe in contradictory religious claims, some of them kill or die for them. Most of them must be wrong. Does it even occur to you to investigate all these claims for truth? You have surely dismissed them completely, because there is simply no reason to consider them if you haven't been brought up in that culture.

Yet I assume you have incorporated much of what science has added to our understanding of the world (the age and size of the universe, the existence of subatomic particles, etc.), because it is obvious that it has increased our understanding.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
ant wrote:

Guess what? ..,

Scientists are people too.
Scientists have motives
Scientists have personal goals and objectives.
Scientists are influenced by their personal and political persuasions.
Scientists are influenced by their personal worldviews, motivated by their worldviews, and often influence analyses accordingly.


Yeah, I would never claim that a scientist doesn't have the same biases and prejudices that everyone else does. What I'm saying is that science itself is about making sense of the real world (materialistic). Where as religious beliefs as more of a subjective pursuit to make sense of the world emotionally.

Someone (I forget who) said that anyone who uses Science to disprove God, or the Bible to disprove Science has greatly misjudged the purpose of both. I think whenever you have a clash between science and religion, you'll find someone who is misjudging the purpose of one or the other.


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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Thanks Geo,
That was the article I was struggling to get a link for, so I appreciate your getting it in your post.
Carrier can seem persuasive but a lot of the mythicist arguments are old even centuries old, and have been answered many times. You get new stuff like MacDonald's which eventually gets debunked in time.
Carrier's talk on Acts has new criticisms and will take a bit of time to be fully addressed but they will be.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Dexter wrote:
Aside from particular cases that might be argued about -- an argument that seems pointless to me -- nearly everyone is willing to concede that many Christians sincerely believe in their religious claims. Many have been willing to die for them. Why do you find that so convincing in evaluating the truth of these claims? There are vast numbers of people in the world who believe in contradictory religious claims, some of them kill or die for them. Most of them must be wrong. Does it even occur to you to investigate all these claims for truth? You have surely dismissed them completely, because there is simply no reason to consider them if you haven't been brought up in that culture.

Hi Dexter,
Thanks for your comments on this.
I think what is important here is trying to determine what actually happened historically in early Christianity.This means finding a coherent explanation for these things, and approaching questions of the authorship and dating of the gospels in the same kinds of ways such things are done for determining similar questions for other ancient histories and writings.
The gospel writers claim to be writing eyewitness accounts, for example in John's gospel, and all early and agreed written attributions of authorship say Matthew (an eyewitness) wrote another and that Mark wrote under the guidance of Peter,(an eyewitness).
If they were indeed eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection(in finding an empty tomb,and seeing him alive after his death) then some sense can be made of their being willing to die for this conviction.
I don't find Carrier's hallucinations theory at all convincing for reasons I've already given and his overall explanation is incoherent and doesn't match what he claims Paul is saying in his writings.
It may be said that this is a matter of interpretation,but I think that anyone who fairly looks at Paul's writings would not draw the conclusions Carrier does,but the opposite.
If they fabricated a fictional account,it makes no sense that they would die for something they knew they had fabricated.
People die in suicide bombings or cult mass suicides because they believe what they are told by leaders and writings of these religious groups. But not for things they themselves know they have deliberately fabricated.
Unless you buy Carrier's hallucinations theory, what explanation can you give for their being willing to die for what they claim to be eyewitnesses to,if they weren't?
I just realised that I hadn't actually addressed the hallucinations theory, so here's a link to an article to address this and some other related theories such as conspiracy. www.philvaz.com/apologetics/num9.htm



Last edited by Flann 5 on Mon Sep 22, 2014 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Sep 22, 2014 9:01 am
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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
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If they fabricated a fictional account,it makes no sense that they would die for something they knew they had fabricated.
People die in suicide bombings or cult mass suicides because they believe what they are told by leaders and writings of these religious groups.


Yet in so many of those cases, the leaders die with the members. People are crazy with their beliefs.

The same issues all exist. How do you explain why the first copies of the "eyewitness testimonies" didn't appear until decades after Jesus died? Either they waited way too long, casting doubt on the entire works. Or they wrote some of it during the time of Jesus, and it was edited and harmonized during the following decades. Why else would we be missing any and all manuscripts from earlier? What historian uses methods that allow this deviation?

Regarding dying for something they claim to be eyewitness to, it still hasn't been shown that they were eyewitness to an actual man Jesus. Has it been shown that the authors of the gospels truly died for what they wrote? Their deaths can be confirmed with more rigor than that of Jesus?

I'm chiming in as ignorant of much of the scholarship, but these are the questions I would ask.


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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Interbane wrote:
Yet in so many of those cases, the leaders die with the members. People are crazy with their beliefs.

The same issues all exist. How do you explain why the first copies of the "eyewitness testimonies" didn't appear until decades after Jesus died? Either they waited way too long, casting doubt on the entire works. Or they wrote some of it during the time of Jesus, and it was edited and harmonized during the following decades. Why else would we be missing any and all manuscripts from earlier? What historian uses methods that allow this deviation?

Regarding dying for something they claim to be eyewitness to, it still hasn't been shown that they were eyewitness to an actual man Jesus. Has it been shown that the authors of the gospels truly died for what they wrote? Their deaths can be confirmed with more rigor than that of Jesus?

I'm chiming in as ignorant of much of the scholarship, but these are the questions I would ask.

Thanks Interbane. I think you have to compare like with like. What mass suicide and death of a cult leader is comparable to the new testament accounts and Christian accounts of persecution and execution of such as Stephen, Paul and Peter? In fact Paul appealed to Caesar when tried, though he was prepared to die if necessary,and eventually was beheaded by Nero.
When the Christians were persecuted in Jerusalem many fled and were dispersed as in fact Jesus told the apostles to do in the gospel account.At the same time when the issue was forced about worshiping Caesar as God ,many did in fact die.
I don't see why your either/ or distinction must apply concerning how much of the gospels(entire or partial) were written early though it's thought they were written probably two,three and more decades later. Christian accounts place John's gospel in the 90s which is late but if in fact John wrote it,what is the problem?When Luke wrote his gospel he mentions that other accounts had already been written.
I don't think the waited far too long argument is valid.The apostles initially preached the teachings of Jesus and later the gospels were written down.If Matthew and Mark wrote gospels even thirty years later,Matthew was an eyewitness and the early Christians who were still alive would know if they were historically accurate or not and their enemies would have quickly pointed out if these were myths or fabrications.
As I've said before, it's simply a matter of physical reality that papyrus is perishable and this applies to all writings using papyrus.This is why original versions of all ancient historic writings don't exist unless written on animal hides or engraved on stone or other materials that are not as perishable.
That such as Polycarp writing very early in the second century quotes extensively from the gospels indicates they already existed and those in the church he wrote to, possessed copies of them as they did of Paul's much earlier letters.

Were they witnesses to an actual man? They certainly claimed they were.Just as historians distinguish between Julius Caesar and Apollo and writings concerning them the same kind of criteria should be applied to the historicity of Christ.
I'm not a scholar on all this myself Interbane. Certainly there are recorded accounts from Christians relating to the executions of Paul and Peter in Rome and Tacitus for one records the persecution of Christians at that time by Nero.

I think the whole editing and harmonising argument has not been proven. Sceptics never weary of pointing out what they consider to be glaring contradictions between the gospels. Either the harmonising editor was a complete bungler and not a Machievellian genius or in fact there was no such editing.
In reality though, the transmission of the gospels by copying indicates varied streams of manuscript traditions from all over the world and no such centralised editing and harmonising would have been possible in these circumstances.
Here's a link to an article by textual critic Dan Wallace and another on new testament transmission by Jeffrey Krause on the reliability of the biblical text. www.appliedapologetics.wordpress.com/ta ... l-wallace/
I fear I may be turning you into a theologian,Interbane!



Last edited by Flann 5 on Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
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I don't think the waited far too long argument is valid.The apostles initially preached the teachings of Jesus and later the gospels were written down.


It is of course a logically valid argument. It is also a powerful argument. It is a well known fact that our memories are far more faulty that we believe. We trust in them without justification. Our minds edit the details of memories after we re-tell the story even a single time. Imagine retelling a story countless times. It would be impossible, after a while, to tell the embellishments from the truth.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02 ... n-the-past

This is the way memory works, the way the world works. It isn't a conspiracy or a theory. If the authors of the bible waited 30 years to write things down, it is impossible that even a decent amount of the story did not change. What's even more alarming is that the stories have obviously been harmonized. Not only is the chinese telephone game of memory bad enough, but then the stories have a process of deliberate selection applied to them.

The very best stance you can take on the majority of the contents of the bible is to be agnostic. We don't have enough information to know they are true or know they are false. Only a select number of mundane facts and passages are corroborated.


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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
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What's even more alarming is that the stories have obviously been harmonized


No - this is incorrect and exposes your scriptural ignorance.
The accounts are not harmonized.

It is not uncommon for witness testimony to differ from person to person.
Actually, it is both natural and expected.
An entire event isn't dismissed because testimony is not in harmony or is too harmonized.

Ever been on a jury panel before?

The next time you are, pay close attention.



Last edited by ant on Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Carrier on historical methodology
Flann, I would guess the reason you are devoting so much time to Carrier's mythicist theories is to poison the well against Carrier so you don't have to address the actual arguments being put forth. All this mythicist stuff is really a distraction. If this was a court of law, the other side might very well submit that Carrier is wrong simply because it's not relevant to the facts of this case.

At any rate, Carrier's argument above against the resurrection hasn't been touched with a ten-foot pole. What is relevant is that miracles have never been documented in all of human history except as a manifestation of belief or hallucination. Many religions feature miracles and/or divine intervention. Whether or not Christianity was inspired by a real person or a figment of someone’s imagination is not relevant to whether the beliefs of miracles are true. You are so willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to your own religion. But do you believe Muhammad was actually visited by the Arch-angel Gabriel? Do you believe Joseph Smith was guided by revelation from God? I'd be very interested in your thoughts on that.


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