Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Your comment involves some circular presuppositions. If Jesus in fact did not exist, then of course the idea that Jesus did not exist must at some point have occurred to ancient authorities. That is a simple and obvious logical point.
Even if first century knowledge that Christ was invented was rapidly lost by church authorities, as early writers such as Ignatius of Antioch make plain, it makes no sense to say that mythicism never occurred to the authors of the gospels. You are the one begging the question here, assuming your conclusion that Jesus actually existed, which is precisely the point about which Carrier’s book explains why we may have reasons for doubt, in his magnificently understated subtitle.
Docetism is traditionally interpreted as a derivative heretical Gnostic claim that Jesus of Nazareth only seemed to be human because as fully God he could not be imagined as also fully human. But this orthodox definition of Docetism again begs the question, assuming that Jesus was a person who lived in Nazareth, albeit one of unique miraculous divine nature.
My reading is that this definition of Docetism is just a classic case of history as written by the victors, and is a distorted misunderstanding of a real original mythicism. If Mark and Paul wrote at two levels, a secret mythicist level for initiates and a parabolic literalist level for the public, then we are wrong to try to interpret the secret level by assuming literal claims are actually true. The problem here is that the original mythicist meaning of faith was suppressed, forgotten, ignored and denied, and then continued only in the distorted fragmentary memory of Docetism as a caricature.
Suppression of Gnostic ideas began long before Constantine, and is explicitly present in the New Testament Letters of John, and then a major theme of second century heresiologists such as Irenaeus of Lyon. It was only after the institution of Christendom by Constantine in the early fourth century that heresy became criminalized by the state, as the former prejudices of curial law acquired the full force of the backing of the sword.
Well I do. For my philosophy, certainty about simple scientific observations of the nature of reality in the universe is at the foundation of systematic logic. We should agree on certainty that night follows day, since without such basic points of agreement we are lost in a hopeless relativistic miasma.
I do not claim to be certain about dubious ideas, but there is a continuous spectrum from the certain to the doubtful. Knowledge is by analytical definition certain, since if you have any uncertainty about a belief you cannot class it as knowledge. This pertains to basic logical ideas of sanity and insanity, since to doubt certain claims such as that night follows day is insane. This point is about the foundations of logic.
You are mixing up feelings and logic. The feeling of certainty is irrelevant to certainty unless it is backed by rigorous factual demonstration. Just because some morons wrongly feel certain that miracles break the laws of physics at the whim of an intentional God does not mean I am wrong to be certain that night follows day. Such radical doubt about basic empirical facts is nihilistic and wrong.
The fact that night follows day has everything to do with how we relate to each other, since the structure of terrestrial time provides the entire basis for our common shared sense of order and meaning. People who aren’t sure that night follows day are crazy. Agreement on the foundations enables sensible discussion about more dubious questions.
You are expressing the false postmodern relativist dogma that we can only be certain of our own uncertainty. This false theory has grown up as a political stratagem to counter ideological claims of certainty, but is utterly incoherent in logical terms. Your claim that feelings of certainty bear no relation to truth implies we have no basis to compare the certainty of claims from distinguished scholars against those of charlatans. We do have a basis, evidence and logic. That means that when claims from distinguished scholars are questioned, as in the case of the existence of Jesus Christ, the terrain for this discussion should be evidence and logic, not the sentimental comfort of emotional feelings.
Again you are jumping between contradictory and incompatible theories of certainty, as a property of feelings or as a property of fact. My point was that in historical discussion we should confine claims of certainty to claims that are beyond doubt. Ehrman argues that the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth has this sort of rock solid certainty as absolute knowledge. But Carrier disputes this on the basis of evidence and logic. Bringing feelings into the discussion is a complete distraction from the core debate about evidence and logic, and enables apologists to say that because they feel in their hearts that Jesus Christ is the greatest man in history he must exist. Without evidence such feelings are worthless as historical arguments.
But if we make emotional impact primary, then we bury detailed systematic analysis. This is actually a core problem in discussion about religion, which due to its mythical structure rests more on emotion than on evidence. The question of whether Jesus existed is not answered by feelings, even though those sentiments carry what you call a ‘higher level of meaning’. Belief that Jesus connects us to God may be essential to the believers sense of identity, but that sense of identity may be based on untrue assumptions. The point of philosophy and historical analysis is to test all assumptions against evidence and logic, even while we may recognize that dubious assumptions serve a useful social purpose at times.
No, I am not assuming my conclusion, which is a phrase I prefer since your phrase begging the question is so widely misused due to its failure to mean what it says. I have not assumed any conclusions in discussion here, but have invited analysis of the historical evidence for Jesus Christ. Carrier provides a compelling detailed argument that the data we have is entirely compatible with invention of Jesus and not with his existence. The burden of proof for the existence of any entity rests on those claiming that the entity exists. No one should believe any claim that is unsupported by evidence, since to do otherwise is a path to ideological delusion, as amply demonstrated in the history of Christianity.