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Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier) 
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 Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)



Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:50 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier is correct that the default position of Jesus being historical is maintained through methodology that is shoddy and poor. Under the heading "The Basic Problem," he points out that many apologists and other opponents of mythicism will pick out the weakest mythicist arguments and use that to dismiss all other mythicist arguments (pardon me while I sneeze--ah-ahh-ahhh-ah-ahhh-TURKEL!! Gesundheit). Another method is to make specious claims as "We have more evidence that Jesus existed than we do that Alexander the Great (or Julius Caesar) existed." This is simply false. Cynically false. We have statues of Alexander made in his lifetime, for example. While biographers came some centuries later (how many were there likely to be in the 4th century BCE?), they were not worshipers of Alexander but dispassionate historians with no agenda other than to document the great man's life. No miraculous claims, no deification. In fact, they based their work on true eyewitnesses of Alexander. So this kind of apologist rubbish doesn't fly. And it angers me because they either know what they are saying is BS or, at the very least, they should know it. We all have the internet today, folks, it's a simple matter of looking up a few entries. When you don't even do that, you're either too lazy to research or you're too stupid. No excuse either way.

Then you have people like Flann who can disprove any and all mythicist claims because Paul said this and Mark said that and John said something else. As though that cinches it. These people said it and there is no possibility that they were wrong or were lying. The standard of evidence is extremely poor in these cases. According to the Flannites, Paul said 500 brethren saw the risen Christ so it had to have happened. Paul couldn't have made it up or be exaggerating or be repeating something he heard from some other professional bullshitter, Paul said so it cannot be argued with and anybody who argues with it is engaging in a faulty method. Never mind that Paul doesn't name a single one of these 500 or where they were when they saw this or what they even saw. We know Paul wasn't there when it happened because he names his own encounter as happening later. Yet we are to believe it without question because Paul said it. Never mind that we know little about who Paul was to the point where we can't even be truly sure he existed (not mentioned outside church literature and not even mentioned by Justin Martyr who wrote about 1st century Christianity).

The gospels are even worse. They are anonymous accounts written by no one who saw or met Jesus and not based on accounts by anyone who saw or met Jesus. These accounts are painfully contradictory to the point where it is impossible to construct a coherent biography of Jesus based on them. For example, only one gospel says he was from Bethlehem, only two say he was born there, two contain entirely different paternal lineages of Jesus and neither can get him into the same timeframe, They give few historical details or even attempt to sequence events but rather recount incidents with introductory phrases as "One time...," "Another time...," "And when he was alone with them...," "Soon afterward...," "About this time...." But these are unassailable accounts, folks.

But Flann is a layman and he can be forgiven these indiscretions. The professional historians are a much bigger problem. I wouldn't allow these guys to testify at a trial or sit on a jury because they are incompetent and display a complete lack of critical faculties. I would expect a true historian to know how to weigh evidence. Anonymous accounts have to sit at the bottom of the barrel of historical accuracy. How can you possibly give an account even the tiniest amount of credence when you don't know who wrote it?? Especially when it is clear it was copied from an earlier writing?? When I hear some guy with a college degree who stands out in his field of expertise say something like, "An examination of the New Testament writings indicates that there was a real man at the center of it all, this man called Jesus," I can only roll may eyes and shake my head. He has NO RIGHT to come to that conclusion because the available evidence does NOT suggest any such thing and he, of all people, should damn well know it.

Some defenses of the historical Jesus written by scholars with impressive credentials are so poor and so ill-conceived that I have to wonder if this person is the great mind he is touted to be. Usually he has great credentials in a field as ancient manuscripts and is fluent is several ancient languages and he is an authority in that area but when he gets out of that area and starts dabbling in opinions about Jesus, he is clearly out of his element. When this happens, I lose a bit of respect for him. How can someone with such a good mind use it for so ill a purpose, to not even be capable to using it any better? But the fact that the historical Jesus is the default position among these scholars is truly mind-boggling. Not one of them can think outside the box? And it's a TINY box!!!

Again, applying Bayes Theorem to the question of the historical Jesus what evidence should we expect to find if we posit that he is historical? What evidence would we expect to see if he is not? Well, for starters, we have enough writings from the time in which he lived that he himself should have written something. If he did, nothing of it survives. There should be people outside of Church literature referencing him. Other than a forged passage in Josephus there is nothing. Other references, which are very scant, merely reference the Jesus legend and don't tell us anything about a historical Jesus. We don't see what we expect to see of an historical Jesus. What would advocate of a non-historic Jesus see today? No writings from this Jesus--check. No credible references to him in his time or the generation after--check. Earlier personages that are similar to Jesus who would have lived in the same general region such as Joshua ben Pandira and the Teacher of Righteousness--check. Some of the earliest artwork depicting Jesus were actually of Hermes the Good Shepard--check. The earliest known image of the crucifix depicts a man with an ass's head splayed on a cross. The standard bearded, silken-headed Jesus didn't come about until the 6th century. That's checkmate, mate.

Now I must get back to my reading of this truly fascinating book.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
:nothingtoadd:

:-D

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Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:04 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
specious claims as "We have more evidence that Jesus existed than we do that Alexander the Great (or Julius Caesar) existed." This is simply false. Cynically false.
Carrier’s analysis of this amazing line is a superb demolition of the type of idiocy that faith can produce, giving religion such an appalling reputation for mendacity and corruption.

Carrier systematically summarises the vast, abundant, incontrovertible, various, obvious, major evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great, and then asks where this alleged “more evidence” for Jesus Christ is to be found. There is none. None.

So the amazing thing is the bare-faced impudence of this Big Lie, with this typical Christian apologist line applying Hitler’s dictum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_lie that

Hitler wrote:
“in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”


The appalling thing here is that there are many people, notably the 42% of Americans who believe in Young Earth Creationism, who want to believe there is more evidence for Jesus than for Alexander, and so will be willingly sucked in by this and similar Christian Big Lies.
DB Roy wrote:
We all have the internet today, folks, it's a simple matter of looking up a few entries. When you don't even do that, you're either too lazy to research or you're too stupid. No excuse either way.
I loved Carrier’s use of the internet to check on the existence of Betty Crocker http://www.walkerart.org/minnesotabydes ... ty-crocker https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Crocker and Colonel Sanders https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonel_Sanders. Checking the evidence for Jesus is almost as easy.
DB Roy wrote:
I would expect a true historian to know how to weigh evidence. Anonymous accounts have to sit at the bottom of the barrel of historical accuracy. How can you possibly give an account even the tiniest amount of credence when you don't know who wrote it?? Especially when it is clear it was copied from an earlier writing?? When I hear some guy with a college degree who stands out in his field of expertise say something like, "An examination of the New Testament writings indicates that there was a real man at the center of it all, this man called Jesus," I can only roll may eyes and shake my head. He has NO RIGHT to come to that conclusion because the available evidence does NOT suggest any such thing and he, of all people, should damn well know it.
This pervasive delusion of religious scholarship illustrates the power of emotional sentiment in governing people’s beliefs, as well as the corrupt desire for personal advancement. Bart Ehrman’s apostasy from scholarship to craven apologetics got him onto the cover of Newsweek, although some might say he sold his soul. ImagePreferment in religious institutions and endorsement from mass media is based on toeing the line, in a syndrome that creates genuine belief in the Historical Jesus, with an ability to suppress the cognitive dissonance between this false belief and all legitimate methods of scholarship.
DB Roy wrote:

applying Bayes Theorem to the question of the historical Jesus what evidence should we expect to find if we posit that he is historical? What evidence would we expect to see if he is not?
This summarises the key principle of method in Carrier’s book, and presents an amazingly powerful logical and evidence based argument that the whole idea of a historical Jesus is an absurd forgery. The simple case, which Carrier assembles like a skilled attorney, is that at every point, the real data fits with the hypothesis that Jesus was invented and does not fit with the hypothesis that Jesus was real. That is such an important basic finding that I am going to say it again. The simple case, which Carrier assembles like a skilled attorney, is that at every point, the real data fits with the hypothesis that Jesus was invented and does not fit with the hypothesis that Jesus was real.

No data contradicts the mythicist hypothesis, and no data supports the historicist hypothesis. This is an amazing massive historical scandal, illustrating that human psychology is vastly more fallible and irrational than is generally assumed. This is an important discovery for what it says about the propensity for mass delusion, and the dangers of similar delusions occurring again where they are politically convenient. This is why Hitler’s Big Lie comment presents such a cautionary comparison.
DB Roy wrote:
Well, for starters, we have enough writings from the time in which he lived that he himself should have written something. If he did, nothing of it survives. There should be people outside of Church literature referencing him. Other than a forged passage in Josephus there is nothing. Other references, which are very scant, merely reference the Jesus legend and don't tell us anything about a historical Jesus. We don't see what we expect to see of an historical Jesus. What would advocate of a non-historic Jesus see today? No writings from this Jesus--check. No credible references to him in his time or the generation after--check. Earlier personages that are similar to Jesus who would have lived in the same general region such as Joshua ben Pandira and the Teacher of Righteousness--check. Some of the earliest artwork depicting Jesus were actually of Hermes the Good Shepard--check. The earliest known image of the crucifix depicts a man with an ass's head splayed on a cross. The standard bearded, silken-headed Jesus didn't come about until the 6th century. That's checkmate, mate.
Excellent and incontrovertible summary of the application of this simple powerful logical tool of Bayes Theorem to the Bible. The only way to rebut your arguments here is to depend on blind faith. Alas that is an all too common expedient.
DB Roy wrote:
Now I must get back to my reading of this truly fascinating book.
Me too.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Combine Hitler's big lie with Goebbel's rule of good propagandizing: "Repeat a lie enough times and people will come to believe it." Christianity has also done this quite well. So tell the big lie and tell it often. That's basically it. After that, as Hitler points out, it doesn't matter what evidence you introduce to prove the lie; it will not be accepted or believed. That old standard of Christian intelligence confirms it: "I believe it precisely because it is impossible." I can't believe people want to make themselves look this foolish. They may as well believe in Cold Fusion and the Cardiff Giant which is certainly less ridiculous than creationism.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
After whittling away the many "facts" about the gospelic/historic Jesus--none of which are supported in the epistles, Carrier presents his version of the historic Jesus--this is the Jesus that can be supported by both the gospels and the epistles and so have some hope of being historical, what Carrier calls his "minimal theory of history":

1. An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.
2. This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.
3. This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod).


If even one of these can be proven wrong, it proves the historic Jesus to be non-existent. In other words, when we speak of a historic Jesus, we must mention a man who gained followers, was executed and was regarded as a living god. If any of these three points are absent from the picture then we are not talking about that particular Jesus but another (and there were plenty of people named Jesus back then as Carrier also points out--just read Josephus).

The prior probability for this minimally historic Jesus could be fairly high, let's say as high as the mythicist Jesus. But if it proves unsustainable (and it will, Carrier assures us) then it could only be salvaged by a more elaborate theory that is sufficient to overcome the probability of mythicism. But even if this happens, the prior probability of the historicist theory would then drop far below that of the mythicist's. In fact, it effectively becomes zero. How? Because this theory would have to be something we are not currently aware of and so there is no prior probability of it, that is, it is not something we could know before the gathering of evidence to prove it. Without that prior probability, we have no reason then to even advance a theory of the historic Jesus. So to get it off the ground, we must have prior probability.

So, basically, this is the historic argument we currently have, there are no others (well, there are, actually, but they are not minimalist in nature). And now we must look at a minimally mythicist theory.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Just to note, in both of these longer posts asserting lack of any historicity regarding Jesus, two views that used to be kept separate are conflated. The one view is that of the Christian faithful, which in general would attest to the occurrence of acts and events in the Gospels. The other is that of the majority of academic historians of Christianity, in which judgment of the reality of those events is suspended, but the assumption that Jesus lived is retained. These historians see a milieu in which belief in Jesus arose from the ground up, somehow organically. That is what they study. Scholars such as Crossan, Borg, Ehrman, Aslan, and, indeed, Elaine Pagels, have conventionally been placed in opposition to theologians and historians with direct affiliation to Christianity, i.e., apologists. Under the mythicist view, the two groups have become one, apologists all.

Historicity can be a little tricky to define. It's intended primarily to indicate things that really happened, but in another sense it can refer to things believed to have happened that became an influence in subsequent history. So the notion of Jesus has obvious historicity, which mythicists wouldn't deny, I'm sure. What they deny is that the belief originated in the way it was said to have done throughout the ages. They are saying there is a different historicity surrounding the origin of Jesus that was buried intentionally or simply obscured because of the manner in which Jesus needed to be translated from heaven to earth. That's the mythicist's task, to demonstrate that other historicity. It parallels the task of the from-Jesus-to-Christ historians who have been rashly labeled apologists.

Which side owns the weight of evidence will never be answered objectively. The assessment required doesn't depend only on bits of discrete, claimed evidence, but on judgments that must often appeal to the audience's sense of appropriateness, likelihood, compatibility with the culture of origin. and impartiality. Each side sees each of these matters in different light. The mainstream now holds that Jesus, if not actually historical, arose as if from a human being. If there truly is a paradigm shift underway, as Robert believes, the balance will shift and the from-Christ-to-Jesus side will gather force.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
Just to note, in both of these longer posts asserting lack of any historicity regarding Jesus, two views that used to be kept separate are conflated. The one view is that of the Christian faithful, which in general would attest to the occurrence of acts and events in the Gospels. The other is that of the majority of academic historians of Christianity, in which judgment of the reality of those events is suspended, but the assumption that Jesus lived is retained.
The distinction you describe here between faith and scholarship should be the case, but unfortunately it is not. The historicity of Jesus Christ is a unique problem, at the centre of western civilization, framing the dominant cultural theory of meaning, and this immense immense influence bleeds over into scholarship, with interest in these questions often driven by confessional motives. If we look at academic historians of Christianity like Michael Grant in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, we find an assertion that “The author looks at the gospels with an historian's eye, in search of the authentic Jesus. He seeks to separate those portions of the gospels that refer to the true career and teachings of Jesus, from the subsequent additions or inventions by the evangelists. The gospels are studied in the same way as other ancient historical sources, endeavouring to reconstruct what really happened and to uncover the truth of the historical Jesus.”

Is this assertion of sound method borne out in Grant's text? No. There are massive problems about the reliability of the gospels which Grant simply ignores, taking on face value claims that should be understood as purely parabolic. You cannot work with the assumption that Jesus lived and suspend judgement on the gospels. The two are mutually incompatible. The assumption that Jesus lived involves a failure to suspend judgement.
DWill wrote:
These historians see a milieu in which belief in Jesus arose from the ground up, somehow organically. That is what they study. Scholars such as Crossan, Borg, Ehrman, Aslan, and, indeed, Elaine Pagels, have conventionally been placed in opposition to theologians and historians with direct affiliation to Christianity, i.e., apologists. Under the mythicist view, the two groups have become one, apologists all.
That critique applies to Ehrman and Aslan, but not in my view to Crossan, Borg and Pagels, whom I respect despite their acceptance of historicity.

If we go back a bit in time to the high point of Protestant intellectual theology in the middle of the twentieth century, it still remains useful to read the works of towering figures such as Tillich, Barth, Brunner, Bonhoeffer, Cullman and perhaps Bultmann. Their power of intellect means that despite the dark glass of historicity that they look through, to paraphrase Paul, they find an ethical meaning in the text which remains valid regardless of the historicity assumption. The fact that they are sincere apologists for Christian faith only marginally detracts from the value of their work.

Pagels, Borg and Crossan are similar in my opinion, as writers who are primarily interested in deriving ethical lessons. I have read quite a bit of their work, and with Pagels especially, my sense is that there is a careful avoidance of sensitive questions of historicity which could get her in trouble with the pious. Her work on Gnosticism is controversial enough without buying into the mythicism debate. Unlike Ehrman, Pagels does not make untrue assertions.

As for Ehrman, his political tract Did Jesus Exist? is worthless rubbish, reflecting an intent that he thought would be easy but once he got going found impossible, since his historicist assumptions are controverted by the evidence. But he had to keep going and publish his tract to save face, since he had staked his reputation in popular terms upon this book which reflects more an emotional outpouring of his subconscious faith than any rigorous academic analysis. His standing is only protected by his excellent other work.

Ehrman’s political attack on mythicism owes more Torquemada and Dominic than to any serious scholarship. The recrudescence of inquisitorial attitudes in this work makes it a disturbing example of apologetic rationalization. It shows how it really is difficult for some people to be aware how severely their assumptions are influenced by ideas that they almost imbibed with their mother’s milk.
DWill wrote:
Historicity can be a little tricky to define. It's intended primarily to indicate things that really happened, but in another sense it can refer to things believed to have happened that became an influence in subsequent history. So the notion of Jesus has obvious historicity, which mythicists wouldn't deny, I'm sure.
The notion and the man are two completely separate things, as Carrier explains regarding similar examples such as King Arthur. Of course the myth of Arthur was immensely influential in the English construction of cultural identity, but that is a completely separate question from whether Arthur actually lived, which is what historicity asks about.

The Christ Myth is central to the European conquest of the world, providing moral comfort to the Conquistadors as they baptized infants before killing them. But the beliefs held by a Cortez do not pertain to the historicity of Jesus.
DWill wrote:
What they deny is that the belief originated in the way it was said to have done throughout the ages. They are saying there is a different historicity surrounding the origin of Jesus that was buried intentionally or simply obscured because of the manner in which Jesus needed to be translated from heaven to earth. That's the mythicist's task, to demonstrate that other historicity. It parallels the task of the from-Jesus-to-Christ historians who have been rashly labeled apologists.
No, mythicism contradicts the task of conventional views, by applying the same standards of evidence to the gospels as historians apply in other less culturally fraught topics of study. Your calling this a ‘parallel’ only creates confusion by asserting more validity in apologetic literature than it deserves.

I agree that reconstructing a plausible story of how the non-historicity of Jesus was forgotten remains an immensely difficult problem. For Carrier, the task is to show that it was forgotten, and the problem of why and how this happened is something for further research. [eta - So his focus is more on the method of Christianity than its motive. That is a core theme I will return to.]

For example, in the Carrier article about Ehrman that I recently linked, he attacks Freke and Gandy in florid language that I consider entirely baseless. This to me illustrates that Carrier too labors under the influence of cultural presuppositions, notably his support for secular atheist rationalism, and opposition to mystical new age thinking. That is perfectly understandable, given that mysticism has such a bad reputation in academic circles, and Carrier is already struggling against the immense hostility towards the mythicist hypothesis. He just does not need that extra burden of engaging with dubious social movements.

Providing a rational explanation of how astral ideas could have influenced Christian origins is fraught, since it touches on highly irrational cultural traditions such as magic, theosophy and astrology. Carrier explicitly brackets that agenda as something he does not wish to discuss in OHJ, as does Earl Doherty. To my reading this means both of them only provide a preliminary platform for explanation of how Christianity evolved, a platform that deliberately avoids some of the big questions about how the originators of Christianity actually thought. The whole problem of how a celestial Jesus was imagined is something Carrier and Doherty just don’t discuss in detail, partly because it would steer too close to the shoals of cultural traditions that are broadly regarded with contempt.
DWill wrote:
Which side owns the weight of evidence will never be answered objectively.
I disagree. In all this debate, I am reminded of Bertold Brecht’s great play The Life of Galileo, in which Galileo mocks the Pope for refusing to look through the telescope. Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem is like Galileo’s telescope, a technical method that is viewed with fear and ignorance by those who are not familiar with it. But the clarity and elegance of this simple method means that the weight of evidence can be considered objectively.

You might find it surprising, but Carrier is highly charitable towards historicism in assessing the probability of its prior assumptions. Even with charitable reading, he demonstrates that the probability of many core historicist assumptions about Christian origins is minimal to nonexistent.
DWill wrote:
The assessment required doesn't depend only on bits of discrete, claimed evidence, but on judgments that must often appeal to the audience's sense of appropriateness, likelihood, compatibility with the culture of origin. and impartiality. Each side sees each of these matters in different light.
“Appropriate” is a highly charged political term. Believers don’t find it “appropriate” for people to prove that their beliefs are false.
DWill wrote:
The mainstream now holds that Jesus, if not actually historical, arose as if from a human being. If there truly is a paradigm shift underway, as Robert believes, the balance will shift and the from-Christ-to-Jesus side will gather force.
Those two small words “as if” in the middle of your comment here conceal a great mystery. That is the Docetic Heresy, which was a capital crime for more than a thousand years, saying that Jesus only seemed to be real.

As Carrier points out, the winnowing of the data by the highly selective sieve of the church means we don’t have any Docetic writings, only tender instructions from bigots that we must block our ears to such Satanism or face the wrath of the executioner. The great fear instilled by the kings who killed off all these “as if” writers and pulped their books remains a palpable cultural force, pushing this whole debate into the margins, and out of the mainstream. We can talk about it on the internet, but there is nothing in universities or the media about this great “as if”. Like the suffering servant, this whole discussion is despised and rejected.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Let me give an example of how the church intimidates scholars who present this "as if" approach to the historicity of Christ.

Thomas Brodie's case is described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_L. ... ontroversy

Brodie is a distinguished Irish Catholic scholar, with an extensive list of books published by Oxford University Press. His 2012 book Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery caused controversy when Brodie endorsed the Christ myth theory and expressed the view that Jesus of Nazareth was not a historical figure, a belief he reports he has held since the 1970s. In response, the Roman Church banned him from speaking or teaching and sacked him, or perhaps invited him to consider his position. They reviewed the case and determined his views were "imprudent and dangerous".

Truth being no defence when it comes to religious bigotry, Brodie has been cast into the outer darkness.

This vile act of intimidation of knowledge has been broadly ignored but is a major scandal, sending ripples of fear through scholars in the church, illustrating that the powers of darkness within the church will still act with methods derived by the hounds of God from the Hammer of Witches.

You need the courage of Christ to stand up to bear witness to the truth in such a context. Sadly such courage stands under the interdict of hypocrisy when it comes to courteous scholarly dialogue with organised Chrimestianity.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Robert Tulip wrote:
The distinction you describe here between faith and scholarship should be the case, but unfortunately it is not. The historicity of Jesus Christ is a unique problem, at the centre of western civilization, framing the dominant cultural theory of meaning, and this immense immense influence bleeds over into scholarship, with interest in these questions often driven by confessional motives. If we look at academic historians of Christianity like Michael Grant in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, we find an assertion that “The author looks at the gospels with an historian's eye, in search of the authentic Jesus. He seeks to separate those portions of the gospels that refer to the true career and teachings of Jesus, from the subsequent additions or inventions by the evangelists. The gospels are studied in the same way as other ancient historical sources, endeavouring to reconstruct what really happened and to uncover the truth of the historical Jesus.”

Is this assertion of sound method borne out in Grant's text? No. There are massive problems about the reliability of the gospels which Grant simply ignores, taking on face value claims that should be understood as purely parabolic. You cannot work with the assumption that Jesus lived and suspend judgement on the gospels. The two are mutually incompatible. The assumption that Jesus lived involves a failure to suspend judgement.

Be all that as it may, my point was to question the lumping of two distinct groups with the designation 'apologist.' If we're going to preserve the distinctions that meaning depends on, it seems we need to acknowledge that someone whose one similarity with orthodox believers is that she feels that some Jesus was at the origin of what became Christianity, isn't an apologist. The older word for such a person was apostate or heretic. The conflation of the two hints of the crude sectioning of politics and even of propaganda, as does the allegation that in historicists the power of reason is zapped by unconscious "confessional motives."
Quote:
Pagels, Borg and Crossan are similar in my opinion, as writers who are primarily interested in deriving ethical lessons. I have read quite a bit of their work, and with Pagels especially, my sense is that there is a careful avoidance of sensitive questions of historicity which could get her in trouble with the pious. Her work on Gnosticism is controversial enough without buying into the mythicism debate. Unlike Ehrman, Pagels does not make untrue assertions.

Surely you have enough respect for Pagels not to believe she would hold back from fear of offending the pious. The pious are not her audience.
Quote:
The notion and the man are two completely separate things, as Carrier explains regarding similar examples such as King Arthur. Of course the myth of Arthur was immensely influential in the English construction of cultural identity, but that is a completely separate question from whether Arthur actually lived, which is what historicity asks about.

The Christ Myth is central to the European conquest of the world, providing moral comfort to the Conquistadors as they baptized infants before killing them. But the beliefs held by a Cortez do not pertain to the historicity of Jesus.

The idea of Arthur is part of history, just as the idea of Jesus is. Myths that we now see as fiction, without any controversy, are part of history, too, since they were carried forth and arguably influenced events. Of course the belief has no bearing on the historical reality. The aspect that is my only interest in this topic is the historicity of the belief, the description of how the belief in Jesus arose. Historical accuracy regarding any person need have little to do with that question.
Quote:
No, mythicism contradicts the task of conventional views, by applying the same standards of evidence to the gospels as historians apply in other less culturally fraught topics of study. Your calling this a ‘parallel’ only creates confusion by asserting more validity in apologetic literature than it deserves.

I'm talking about the works of such people as you and I have mentioned, not writers of apologetics. The confusion may be caused by your regarding these writers as apologists, an assessment with which I strongly disagree.
Quote:
I agree that reconstructing a plausible story of how the non-historicity of Jesus was forgotten remains an immensely difficult problem. For Carrier, the task is to show that it was forgotten, and the problem of why and how this happened is something for further research. [eta - So his focus is more on the method of Christianity than its motive. That is a core theme I will return to.]

It's also difficult to explain how Jesus became Christ, so there are difficulties on both sides, and I'm glad you don't underestimate the distance left to go in your own task.
Quote:
I disagree. In all this debate, I am reminded of Bertold Brecht’s great play The Life of Galileo, in which Galileo mocks the Pope for refusing to look through the telescope. Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem is like Galileo’s telescope, a technical method that is viewed with fear and ignorance by those who are not familiar with it. But the clarity and elegance of this simple method means that the weight of evidence can be considered objectively.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Bayes Theorem works in here regarding the Jesus Christ story or myth as we find it in the Gospels. If it claims to provide proof that these events could not have been true, that can not extend to the kind of minimal historical reality that historicists of the stripe I am talking about (non-apologists) assume. I also am content to let others believe what their faiths dictate. I don't see the need to prove to them that their belief is impossible.
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“Appropriate” is a highly charged political term. Believers don’t find it “appropriate” for people to prove that their beliefs are false.

I would change that word if it makes you think of propriety. I had in mind more of an intellectual appropriateness. And again, believers aren't part of the picture I'm painting.
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Those two small words “as if” in the middle of your comment here conceal a great mystery. That is the Docetic Heresy, which was a capital crime for more than a thousand years, saying that Jesus only seemed to be real.

That's not where I was going with the "as if." With Docetism, there was someone there, but he was not really a mortal. That belief would make it easier to believe that he rose as spirit, since he already was one.
Quote:
As Carrier points out, the winnowing of the data by the highly selective sieve of the church means we don’t have any Docetic writings, only tender instructions from bigots that we must block our ears to such Satanism or face the wrath of the executioner. The great fear instilled by the kings who killed off all these “as if” writers and pulped their books remains a palpable cultural force, pushing this whole debate into the margins, and out of the mainstream. We can talk about it on the internet, but there is nothing in universities or the media about this great “as if”. Like the suffering servant, this whole discussion is despised and rejected.

Seeing that Docetism is not far removed from ideas found in the Gnostic writings, we do have expression of it, though the Church of the time would rather that not to have been the case.

Bigotry is something always to be avoided, and the churches, certainly including the Protestant sects, have been guilty of it often. Bigotry might also sneak up on us in our oppositions, without our knowing it. I like to keep that in mind when thinking about traditional faith. Faith has been called an enemy by Harris and others, but that can easily lead to bigotry.

If the debate between mythicists and historicists is going to be a reasoned one, each side will need to tone down the crusading, attacking statements, as difficult as these may be to suppress.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
I should point out that Carrier's minimal historical Jesus is intended to present the BEST case of historicity and not a straw man to be easily knocked down. While there are more extensive points in other historical lists, Carrier strips them away because they can be discounted from the outset (e.g. contradicted by other gospels, not mentioned in any epistle, etc.) He presents only what is found in the gospels as well as in the epistles. As you can see, it's not much and that, in itself, should tell you something.

The knocking down of the historical Jesus is, I feel, of paramount importance to our society's well-being. Society draws its mores from its chosen religion and it is dangerous to apply the mores of a tribal society of 2000 years ago to modern times where it has no place and cannot cope with a rapidly changing world. I recently lent a CD to a Catholic friend. It's called "Songs of Mary."

Image

He was put off by the cover art because "her hair isn't covered." Mary, he explained, is supposed to be modest and the most outward sign of her modesty is to cover her hair. All the ancient art depicts her with her hair covered. As I recall, Paul also said women must cover their hair in church. My friend found the cover blasphemous. Now, how is this any different than Islam where Muslim men spit at and even sexually molest women not wearing a hijab? It stems from the same misogynistic, outmoded tribal laws that teaches that women are not worthy of respect. Muslim men don't respect women, they respect the hijab she's wearing. If she doesn't wear one, she is spit on and raped.

And from it extends the belief prevalent in American society that women who get raped ask for it if they dress "provocatively." I've seen rapists walk after their lawyers parade their victims perfectly ordinary dresses and slacks as evidence that these women must have wanted it. It's sickening. Far from safeguarding morals, religions are cancers that eventually destroy any semblance of morals a society may have left after centuries of putting up with their bullshit.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
my point was to question the lumping of two distinct groups with the designation 'apologist.' If we're going to preserve the distinctions that meaning depends on, it seems we need to acknowledge that someone whose one similarity with orthodox believers is that she feels that some Jesus was at the origin of what became Christianity, isn't an apologist. The older word for such a person was apostate or heretic.
Can I first say DWill, how very much I have appreciated our conversations here at booktalk over the years, addressing complex and deep problems through civil and courteous dialogue. I simply do not see the same quality of conversation elsewhere, since people lack the patience and interest and knowledge and opportunity for sustained engagement.

Yesterday I looked at a discussion board on Carrier and was appalled by the extreme rudeness of the conversation, the degeneration into insults without any effort to address the substantive point, which as here, was that a consensus of academic historians agrees that Jesus of Nazareth was a real man, and that the argument from Carrier that Jesus was not a real man is a disreputable fringe opinion with no academic standing. That situation is precisely why Carrier insisted his book be subject to academic peer review and be published by a reputable company, Sheffield Phoenix Press,.

Now getting back to responding to your comment, your use here of apostate and heretic appears wrong. Much more than “she feels that some Jesus was at the origin of what became Christianity” is required for heresy. I recently read a superb book on the history of heresy, which pointed out that a heretic must be willful and stubborn in their rejection of dogma. It is not enough that a person expresses an unorthodox opinion. They must be given the opportunity to recognize their supposed error and recant. In the olden days few required the apparatchiks to show them the instruments of torture, as happened to Galileo, to encourage them to decide to return to the bosom of mother church. Only when a person resisted such encouragement did they need to have their tongue removed and be burnt alive at the stake.

And the term apologist is also somewhat ambiguous. Traditional apologetics is the scholarly activity of explaining the faith. It is a positive task, focused on describing holy truth. Only in the last centuries have the rationalists become so emboldened and audacious as to have the impudence to defy the holy role of the apologist by insinuating that church ideas and doctrines have a nethereal quality.

So when writers such as Flann maintain that Carrier is full of shit, but never manage to explain exactly how, apologetics crosses the line into propaganda. I don’t regard apologetics as an intrinsically evil practice, since there is much of great value within conventional Christianity that can be retained, but the Goebbels-type activity of incessant repetition of proven falsehoods is another matter.
DWill wrote:
The conflation of the two hints of the crude sectioning of politics and even of propaganda, as does the allegation that in historicists the power of reason is zapped by unconscious "confessional motives."
Earl Doherty explains this extremely well in his analysis of the common historicist claim that the mythicist theory has long been disproved, showing that the alleged disproof does not actually exist anywhere. Sadly this is not some crude caricature by Doherty, but a dispassionate objective analysis of how historicists actually speak.

So when the notable apologist NT Wright entirely wrongly compares mythicist ideas to the claim the moon is made of cheese, as a demeaning effort at mockery and silencing, we see here an unconscious assumption of the old power of Christendom to assert its domination of culture, and a failure to engage on evidence and logic.
DWill wrote:
Surely you have enough respect for Pagels not to believe she would hold back from fear of offending the pious. The pious are not her audience.
In my reading of a number of her books, I have noticed that Pagels appears to carefully, astutely, systematically and deliberately avoid any statements that could be construed as indicating belief that Jesus Christ existed historically. Considering what has happened to Brodie, as explained in my last comment above, that looks like an understandable strategy by Pagels.

Of course the pious are not her audience, but they do still have power in relation to an institution like Princeton University, which was established to train Presbyterians, even though Calvinist direct influence is less now. Her positive interest is to promote historical knowledge of Gnosticism, and my impression is that she treats the mythicist debate as one she won’t buy into, for whatever reason. I don’t think it is because she believes in Jesus.
DWill wrote:
... my only interest in this topic is the historicity of the belief, the description of how the belief in Jesus arose. Historical accuracy regarding any person need have little to do with that question.
I completely disagree here. I have characterized the rival models of the evolution of Christian belief as a Big Bang, expanding rapidly from Jesus Christ as a single founder, or a Cambrian Explosion, a diffuse tipping point reflecting cultural changes that were widespread. The question of the real existence of Jesus Christ as the founder of Christianity is central to how the belief in him arose.
DWill wrote:
I'm talking about the works of such people as you and I have mentioned, not writers of apologetics. The confusion may be caused by your regarding these writers as apologists, an assessment with which I strongly disagree.
Pagels does not buy into the historicism debate as far as I can tell so cannot be called an apologist. The Wikipedia article on The Historical Jesus states “Most scholars in the third quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable,[11][60][62][63] as do Bart Ehrman,[63] former priest John Dominic Crossan[11] and theologian James Dunn.[9]”

I consider this “indisputable” assertion to be an example of unjustified apologetics by Crossan and Ehrman, since it crosses the line from a personal assertion of belief to a denigration of those who disagree. Something that is “indisputable” is only disputed by a moron or willful heretic or crank. But when we look carefully at mythicist writers such as Carrier they are hardly moronic.
DWill wrote:

I'm glad you don't underestimate the distance left to go in your own task.
Carrier’s opinion is at the social margins, and we are in the midst of a remarkable flowering of effort to explain the new paradigm. Many of the blooming ideas will wither like the grass and go the way of all flesh, but some will emerge as coherent, articulate, elegant, persuasive and eventually compelling, robust, fecund, stable and durable.

There is much pruning of the underbrush of ideas needed before such a result will eventuate. If Carrier is like a mythicist Galileo, we have to remember that Galileo held extremely wrong views on topics such as tides, and did not have access to the brilliant theoretical synthesis subsequently provided half a century later by Newton.
DWill wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Bayes Theorem works in here regarding the Jesus Christ story or myth as we find it in the Gospels. If it claims to provide proof that these events could not have been true, that can not extend to the kind of minimal historical reality that historicists of the stripe I am talking about (non-apologists) assume. I also am content to let others believe what their faiths dictate. I don't see the need to prove to them that their belief is impossible.
As DB Roy explained, Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem in OHJ is directed to analysis of the probability of the minimal historical thesis that an actual man named Jesus acquired followers who continued a movement to worship him after his execution by the authorities in Jerusalem. There is already general scholarly agreement that the tales of fantabulous events breaking the laws of physics are not literal. Mythicism disputes historical minimalism by arguing that the Bible is myth historicized not history mythified.
DWill wrote:
That's not where I was going with the "as if." With Docetism, there was someone there, but he was not really a mortal. That belief would make it easier to believe that he rose as spirit, since he already was one.
Carrier points out that the complete loss of all Docetic writing means this depiction you repeat here is only a caricature from hostile enemies. The real Docetics may well not have believed “there was someone there”. My view is that Docetism coheres precisely with an astral observation based on precession in which there is no “someone there”.
DWill wrote:
Seeing that Docetism is not far removed from ideas found in the Gnostic writings, we do have expression of it, though the Church of the time would rather that not to have been the case.
Carrier disagrees with you on that, as I do. Your comment is like saying that if all we had were VI Lenin’s writings about capitalism we would have expression of capitalism. Not true. The Gnostic writings we have from Nag Hammadi are far later than the Gospels, and in my view do not represent the same Gnostic astral thinking implicit in the Gospels and John’s Book of Revelation. The task as I see it is to explicate the most coherent implicit set of ideas that gave rise to the texts as we have them.
DWill wrote:
Bigotry is something always to be avoided, and the churches, certainly including the Protestant sects, have been guilty of it often. Bigotry might also sneak up on us in our oppositions, without our knowing it. I like to keep that in mind when thinking about traditional faith. Faith has been called an enemy by Harris and others, but that can easily lead to bigotry.
Yes, and this question of the value of faith is a debate I quite regularly have with atheists, who argue, to pick one recent example, that religion will soon become as obsolete as slavery, a claim made last year by the astrophysicist Laurence Krauss. I love Christianity, and see the agenda as shifting its foundations from myth to science, as something that is entirely possible as a way to revive the astounding depths of ethical meaning in the Gospels.
DWill wrote:
If the debate between mythicists and historicists is going to be a reasoned one, each side will need to tone down the crusading, attacking statements, as difficult as these may be to suppress.
There is a big difference between, for example, the Dominicans sacking Thomas Brodie in 2012 for publishing reasoned scholarly arguments, and critics of the church pointing out that this action was somewhat ott. I agree with you that opinions that secularity will completely replace all sense of the sacred involve a superficial polemic which does not make a constructive contribution to understanding. That is not to say though that there is no place for crusading missionary zeal. The state of the debate brings to mind Margaret Mead’s famous observation that "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
my point was to question the lumping of two distinct groups with the designation 'apologist.' If we're going to preserve the distinctions that meaning depends on, it seems we need to acknowledge that someone whose one similarity with orthodox believers is that she feels that some Jesus was at the origin of what became Christianity, isn't an apologist. The older word for such a person was apostate or heretic.
Can I first say DWill, how very much I have appreciated our conversations here at booktalk over the years, addressing complex and deep problems through civil and courteous dialogue. I simply do not see the same quality of conversation elsewhere, since people lack the patience and interest and knowledge and opportunity for sustained engagement.

Thank you, Robert. I appreciate that very much. As much as I agree with your assessment of what goes on over the rest of the internet vs on Booktalk, I don't always feel good about what I post on the site and would change a few of the statements I've made. You're a hard guy to keep up with, by the way, but I enjoy the challenge.

The reality I confront now is about 35 inches (yes, determinedly non-metric here) of snow in our front yard. Quite amazing to see.
Quote:
Now getting back to responding to your comment, your use here of apostate and heretic appears wrong. Much more than “she feels that some Jesus was at the origin of what became Christianity” is required for heresy. I recently read a superb book on the history of heresy, which pointed out that a heretic must be willful and stubborn in their rejection of dogma. It is not enough that a person expresses an unorthodox opinion. They must be given the opportunity to recognize their supposed error and recant. In the olden days few required the apparatchiks to show them the instruments of torture, as happened to Galileo, to encourage them to decide to return to the bosom of mother church. Only when a person resisted such encouragement did they need to have their tongue removed and be burnt alive at the stake.

Well, we live in far different times, but surely, using the distinction you provide, she would be a candidate for heresy by writing popular books in which Jesus is discussed as a man only. That is directly counter to the understanding of 'Christian apologist,' so I still question the reasonableness and fairness of putting the minimal historicists in that camp.
Quote:
And the term apologist is also somewhat ambiguous. Traditional apologetics is the scholarly activity of explaining the faith. It is a positive task, focused on describing holy truth. Only in the last centuries have the rationalists become so emboldened and audacious as to have the impudence to defy the holy role of the apologist by insinuating that church ideas and doctrines have a nethereal quality.

Nethereal! I at first thought you were giving a vocab lesson and looked it up before deciding you made a rare typo. I don't think that in the current atmosphere there's much chance of 'apologist' regaining its positive connotation.
Quote:
So when writers such as Flann maintain that Carrier is full of shit, but never manage to explain exactly how, apologetics crosses the line into propaganda. I don’t regard apologetics as an intrinsically evil practice, since there is much of great value within conventional Christianity that can be retained, but the Goebbels-type activity of incessant repetition of proven falsehoods is another matter.

Flann, of course has never been that coarse. Unlike you, apparently(?), I regard Flann highly and think he does his best--which is really quite good--to offer supporting evidence and reasoned argument in a mannerly and graceful way. No, it would never occur to me to mention Goebbels and Flann in the same breath.
Quote:
Earl Doherty explains this extremely well in his analysis of the common historicist claim that the mythicist theory has long been disproved, showing that the alleged disproof does not actually exist anywhere. Sadly this is not some crude caricature by Doherty, but a dispassionate objective analysis of how historicists actually speak.

So when the notable apologist NT Wright entirely wrongly compares mythicist ideas to the claim the moon is made of cheese, as a demeaning effort at mockery and silencing, we see here an unconscious assumption of the old power of Christendom to assert its domination of culture, and a failure to engage on evidence and logic.

But is this possibly cherry-picking and assigning the fault of one to an entire class? Your own rhetoric against the so-called (I need to use that term) apologists is quite harsh. I'm not sure if you're saying that you'd stop it they would.
Quote:
In my reading of a number of her books, I have noticed that Pagels appears to carefully, astutely, systematically and deliberately avoid any statements that could be construed as indicating belief that Jesus Christ existed historically. Considering what has happened to Brodie, as explained in my last comment above, that looks like an understandable strategy by Pagels.

Since I haven't read as much of her, I can't completely dispute that. However, how any writer can talk about Jesus' milieu or society, as I believe she does, without thinking of some person, escapes me. At bottom, what I doubt at this point is that scholarship of the religion of the period can even really exist outside of the context of belief that Jesus began as a man, not a vision. You will object that Carrier is a bona fide scholar, and I'm not denying that, but his work that is being discussed is more polemic than original scholarship, which is not a slight on him but a description of his purpose.

Pagels has no connection with the Catholic Church, and the Church would have no reason to single her out, any more that it would any of her similarly-minded colleagues. If it did, I can't imagine she would be upset by it, and certainly her post at Princeton would not be in jeopardy.

I guess you can tell from the above that I find it pretty dubious that Princeton's origin would equate to a stifling force against Pagels. She does avoid engaging the mythicist debate, true, and I don't think, either, that the reason is that she believes in Jesus. One doesn't need to believe in Jesus to have the view that I think she has: that in the period, Jesus was believed to have existed, by the people, without any supposed implanting by a clever writer known as Mark. Whether she does herself believe that the man existed is almost irrelevant. But if she does, that is not 'belief in Jesus' is any meaningful sense. It's clear that believing in Jesus has definite hallmarks, none of which Pagels gives us reason to think she adopts.
Quote:
I completely disagree here. I have characterized the rival models of the evolution of Christian belief as a Big Bang, expanding rapidly from Jesus Christ as a single founder, or a Cambrian Explosion, a diffuse tipping point reflecting cultural changes that were widespread. The question of the real existence of Jesus Christ as the founder of Christianity is central to how the belief in him arose.

It's a colorful metaphor. I like it, but on human scale I believe that the MH (minimal historicist) view accommodates diffusion better than you think. After all, in our terms, 50 years is quite a long time; think of how remote the 1960s appear to us now. It's a lot of time for development. The MH view doesn't entail belief in the founding given in the Gospels, but rather looks at possible ways that the unlikely growth from a marginal figure to avatar could have really happened. I did say 'unlikely,' just so you know that I don't minimize the difficulties inherent in the view I'm promoting.
Quote:
The Wikipedia article on The Historical Jesus states “Most scholars in the third quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable,[11][60][62][63] as do Bart Ehrman,[63] former priest John Dominic Crossan[11] and theologian James Dunn.[9]”

I consider this “indisputable” assertion to be an example of unjustified apologetics by Crossan and Ehrman, since it crosses the line from a personal assertion of belief to a denigration of those who disagree. Something that is “indisputable” is only disputed by a moron or willful heretic or crank. But when we look carefully at mythicist writers such as Carrier they are hardly moronic.

Okay, that was Wiki's word, 'indisputable,' not that of the writers necessarily. But I see that if they do put it this way, it's a bit over the top, certainty-wise. It doesn't, though, seem a lot different from 'proven falsehoods.'
Quote:
As DB Roy explained, Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem in OHJ is directed to analysis of the probability of the minimal historical thesis that an actual man named Jesus acquired followers who continued a movement to worship him after his execution by the authorities in Jerusalem. There is already general scholarly agreement that the tales of fantabulous events breaking the laws of physics are not literal. Mythicism disputes historical minimalism by arguing that the Bible is myth historicized not history mythified.

I think the scholars properly don't set out to prove that the miracles didn't happen or are only meant to be taken figuratively. There is no way they can prove it, anyway. Those are minor matters. They do revise or outright doubt other, non-miraculous parts such as the trial, the census called for by the prelate, and what you call the Big Bang theory of the establishment of Christianity. My impression is that they don't go after the resurrection, either, but leave it alone. Trying to prove it couldn't have happened hasn't been seen as a task of history. I think that's the right way to look at it.
Quote:
Carrier disagrees with you on that, as I do. Your comment is like saying that if all we had were VI Lenin’s writings about capitalism we would have expression of capitalism. Not true. The Gnostic writings we have from Nag Hammadi are far later than the Gospels, and in my view do not represent the same Gnostic astral thinking implicit in the Gospels and John’s Book of Revelation. The task as I see it is to explicate the most coherent implicit set of ideas that gave rise to the texts as we have them.

I know the manuscripts are dated later, but I wonder whether that means their content reflects only their time of composition. If there can be talk of a gnostic Paul, why can't those manuscripts summarize a long tradition?
Quote:
Yes, and this question of the value of faith is a debate I quite regularly have with atheists, who argue, to pick one recent example, that religion will soon become as obsolete as slavery, a claim made last year by the astrophysicist Laurence Krauss. I love Christianity, and see the agenda as shifting its foundations from myth to science, as something that is entirely possible as a way to revive the astounding depths of ethical meaning in the Gospels.

I agree that atheists may lack imagination in not being able to conceive of what faith means to some people, except for granting that it allows them comfort. It can be much more than that, a way of organizing life morally, and can be uncomfortable, to listen to testimony such as that of the Catholic socialist Dorothy Day. That I don't have any of that experience, and don't expect to, doesn't mean that I can't appreciate that faith can have a positive function. I'm really very little concerned with whether it entails consent to miraculous happenings; that doesn't disturb me in itself.
Quote:
There is a big difference between, for example, the Dominicans sacking Thomas Brodie in 2012 for publishing reasoned scholarly arguments, and critics of the church pointing out that this action was somewhat ott. I agree with you that opinions that secularity will completely replace all sense of the sacred involve a superficial polemic which does not make a constructive contribution to understanding. That is not to say though that there is no place for crusading missionary zeal. The state of the debate brings to mind Margaret Mead’s famous observation that "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

The criticism of the Dominicans is justified, of course. At the same time, perhaps Brodie will find himself able to express himself more freely on the outside. You may be more cut out for missionary zeal than some of the rest of us.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
35 inches (yes, determinedly non-metric here) of snow in our front yard. Quite amazing to see.
I lived near New Haven as a teenager when my Dad was at Yale, and I still remember the Christmas night with six inches of snow settling quietly on every twig. But Snowzilla is something else.
DWill wrote:

[Pagels] would be a candidate for heresy by writing popular books in which Jesus is discussed as a man only. That is directly counter to the understanding of 'Christian apologist,' so I still question the reasonableness and fairness of putting the minimal historicists in that camp.
The meaning of heresy and apologetics has shifted over the years. A heresy is basically an assertion that is greeted by shock in the broader culture. Often this shock is justified, for example regarding Swift’s famous satirical modest proposal. But equally, shock can lead to cultural change, as seen in the reception of Darwin’s Origin of Species, first seen as heretical but now accepted as a framework for sound thinking. For Pagels, traditional fundamentalists will see her as a heretic simply for taking historical method seriously.

Against modern rational standards Elaine Pagels is no heretic. However, Carrier certainly is. He sets out to shock the faithful by explaining why their cherished beliefs are false. And the faithful here are not only those now labeled as fundamentalists, but all who hold as a matter of faith that Jesus Christ was a real man.

The reason this is so shocking is that it is an unexamined assumption for most. In my own case, it was only when Frank013 introduced me to Earl Doherty’s ideas here on booktalk that I first encountered the question of whether Jesus was real, after decades of rather passionate interest in philosophical theology. So if mythicism was shocking for me, I can only imagine how pious biddies in the pews would react. That is why parsons are so assiduous to protect their flocks from such bewildering research that destroys their framework of meaning.

Just as Darwin shifted the goal posts regarding the meaning of heresy, so too Carrier is now shifting the playing field about the content of apologetics, by presenting the implication that anyone who claims that Jesus Christ really existed is using arguments grounded in faith rather than reason.
DWill wrote:
Quote:
church ideas and doctrines have a nethereal quality.

Nethereal! I at first thought you were giving a vocab lesson and looked it up before deciding you made a rare typo.
Pardon my obscure neologism. I was insinuating that apologists speak from their nether regions, leading into my next comment about Flann.
DWill wrote:
I don't think that in the current atmosphere there's much chance of 'apologist' regaining its positive connotation.
It is fascinating to see how theology and metaphysics have gradually become terms of intellectual insult. From the popular scientific viewpoint, metaphysics is intrinsically illogical, so anyone defending metaphysical claims is irrational. My view is that the philosophy of science has gone too far in this regard, for example in Dawkins’ assertion that faith is a vice.

We see this problem in Carrier, who addresses the problem of Christ in purely historical evidentiary terms, with no famous theologians or philosophers or mystics making his name index in OHJ except for a couple for purely historical research. The prejudice against apologetics extends to a broad prejudice against religion which I think is unjustifiable.

Speaking of famous theologians, I will start a thread about Paul Tillich, whom I just mentioned in reply to Harry Marks in a thread on Harrison’s Good Thinking book. I see myself as following Tillich in such matters as the value of faith, a topic that is entirely valid as an apologetic question, even if its encrusted fables can be radically excised.
DWill wrote:
Flann, of course has never been that coarse.
Sorry, I was just offering a clue to my nethereal joke. It is irritating to me that Flann routinely argues that if we only follow his clickbait through to turgid fundamentalist ramblers we will see the light regarding Carrier’s simple mistakes.
DWill wrote:
I regard Flann highly and think he does his best--which is really quite good--to offer supporting evidence and reasoned argument in a mannerly and graceful way.
Flann reminds me of the defenders of creationism who argued against Darwin, sincere defenders of faith with good ethical motives, but an almost congenital inability to see how their paradigm had collapsed.
DWill wrote:
No, it would never occur to me to mention Goebbels and Flann in the same breath.
The same paragraph is not the same breath. I find that some of the apologists whom Flann cites use propaganda language that, while of course bearing no comparison to Nazi evil in terms of what it advocates, nonetheless does reflect the methods of the Big Lie. That may seem a shocking heresy, but here I agree with youkrst’s recent point about how religious ideas shape social values. If people repeat often enough that Jesus was real it becomes impossible to doubt it.
DWill wrote:
Quote:
NT Wright entirely wrongly compares mythicist ideas to the claim the moon is made of cheese

But is this possibly cherry-picking and assigning the fault of one to an entire class?
No. Doherty’s point was that historicism routinely uses the fallacious argument of proof by consensus. Mythicists are shunned as heretics and pariahs, with their opinions censored from public gaze. Wright is hardly marginal, but is among the most respected Anglican theologians in the world.

Wright’s views intimidate the debate, suggesting that even to host a civil conversation with Carrier would be career death for any aspiring academic or journalist. I will be proven wrong when I see any mythicist debate in mainstream media or university conferences.

This shunning is a cultural pathology. It is unfortunate that Carrier accedes to this shunning by constructing a false dichotomy between good and bad mythicists in order to win respect and curry favour.
DWill wrote:
how any writer can talk about Jesus' milieu or society, as I believe [Pagels] does, without thinking of some person, escapes me.
Your comment here superbly illustrates the shocking heretical nature of mythicist thinking against prevailing current assumptions. If Jesus was invented, his inventors did not think of him as a person, any more than Rowling considers Harry Potter to be real.

It is like the problem of how anyone can talk about Plato’s ideas without imagining that he thought that ideas are things. Jesus Christ is an idea, not an entity or thing or person. Entification is a pervasive modern prejudice, based on the empirical assumption that only matter is real.
DWill wrote:
At bottom, what I doubt at this point is that scholarship of the religion of the period can even really exist outside of the context of belief that Jesus began as a man, not a vision.
Carrier demolishes that paradigm through careful, rigorous, detailed, contestable analysis.
DWill wrote:
You will object that Carrier is a bona fide scholar, and I'm not denying that, but his work that is being discussed is more polemic than original scholarship, which is not a slight on him but a description of his purpose.
That comment illustrates that you have not read his book. It reminds me of the comment of his patron when Gibbon presented his Rise and Fall “Another damned thick book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?” (Attributed to Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, 1781).

If you read OHJ, you will find Carrier is at pains to avoid mere polemic, sticking instead to facts and logic.
DWill wrote:
Pagels has no connection with the Catholic Church, and the Church would have no reason to single her out, any more that it would any of her similarly-minded colleagues. If it did, I can't imagine she would be upset by it, and certainly her post at Princeton would not be in jeopardy.
The issue here is appetite to cause shock. Religion is a highly emotive topic. Distinguished academic reputations often rest upon an ability to present new ideas in ways that do not shock conservative opinion into mobilized opposition. Even Pagels’ critique of Christian sexual morality in Adam Eve and the Serpent http://www.amazon.com/Adam-Eve-Serpent- ... 0679722327 sits within a broad modern secular consensus, unlike Christ Myth Theory. For Pagels, her analysis of the Gnostic Gospels in purely scholarly terms is shocking enough without adding a direct assault on Catholic dogma on the existence of Jesus, like Brodie mounted.
DWill wrote:
I guess you can tell from the above that I find it pretty dubious that Princeton's origin would equate to a stifling force against Pagels. She does avoid engaging the mythicist debate, true, and I don't think, either, that the reason is that she believes in Jesus.
It is not origins alone, but rather a sense of how far it is possible to push the envelope in a society where conventional religion retains a strong and respected presence, and where this debate is not even a matter of awareness, let alone one taken seriously.
DWill wrote:
One doesn't need to believe in Jesus to have the view that I think she has: that in the period, Jesus was believed to have existed, by the people, without any supposed implanting by a clever writer known as Mark. Whether she does herself believe that the man existed is almost irrelevant. But if she does, that is not 'belief in Jesus' is any meaningful sense. It's clear that believing in Jesus has definite hallmarks, none of which Pagels gives us reason to think she adopts.
You are jumping here between two meaningful meanings of belief in Jesus. “Accept As My Personal Lord And Savior” is quite different from “think was a real man”. But if we reject the latter, the entire construction of western history and identity is upheaved. That is relevant. And the timing and implant process of first belief is a major question for the enduring problem of the psychology of mass delusion.

It makes me think of Wilhelm Reich’s 1933 book The Mass Psychology of Fascism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mass_ ... of_Fascism even if a merely Freudian analysis of such events is superficial: “Reich noted that the symbolism of the swastika, evoking the fantasy of the primal scene, showed in spectacular fashion how Nazism systematically manipulated the unconscious. A repressive family, a baneful religion, a sadistic educational system, the terrorism of the party, and economic violence all operated in and through individuals' unconscious psychology of emotions, traumatic experiences, fantasies, libidinal economies, and so on, and Nazi political ideology and practice exacerbated and exploited these tendencies. For Reich, fighting fascism meant first of all studying it scientifically, which was to say, using the methods of psychoanalysis. He believed that reason—alone able to check the forces of irrationality and loosen the grip of mysticism—is also capable of playing its own part in developing original modes of political action, building on a deep respect for life… The book was ordered to be burned on request of the FDA by a judge in Maine, United States in 1956.”

There is a genuine modern heretic for you. http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archi ... ascism.pdf
DWill wrote:
[evolution of Christian belief as a Big Bang, expanding rapidly from Jesus Christ as a single founder, or a Cambrian Explosion, a diffuse tipping point] is a colorful metaphor. I like it, but on human scale I believe that the MH (minimal historicist) view accommodates diffusion better than you think. After all, in our terms, 50 years is quite a long time; think of how remote the 1960s appear to us now. It's a lot of time for development. The MH view doesn't entail belief in the founding given in the Gospels, but rather looks at possible ways that the unlikely growth from a marginal figure to avatar could have really happened. I did say 'unlikely,' just so you know that I don't minimize the difficulties inherent in the view I'm promoting.
As Carrier argues, that long time lapse between event and description is vastly more probable against the mythicist observation that it gives enough time to invent a story since the alleged witnesses were all dead. For example the utter irrelevance of the life of Jesus (as distinct from his death) for Paul is better explained by an imaginary founder than a marginal one.
DWill wrote:
I think the scholars properly don't set out to prove that the miracles didn't happen or are only meant to be taken figuratively. There is no way they can prove it, anyway. Those are minor matters. They do revise or outright doubt other, non-miraculous parts such as the trial, the census called for by the prelate, and what you call the Big Bang theory of the establishment of Christianity. My impression is that they don't go after the resurrection, either, but leave it alone. Trying to prove it couldn't have happened hasn't been seen as a task of history. I think that's the right way to look at it.
Carrier argues the task of history is to assess what events most probably happened. That is a sound objective, and use of Bayes Theorem is a sound method. Russell’s orbiting teapot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot can’t be proved either, but like the resurrection it has low probability. I don’t agree that the meaning of miracles is a minor matter – as Tillich argues literalist faith in such stories fails to engage with their real intent.
DWill wrote:
I know the [Gnostic] manuscripts are dated later, but I wonder whether that means their content reflects only their time of composition. If there can be talk of a gnostic Paul, why can't those manuscripts summarize a long tradition?
That is a question I am raising here, although I have not seen it discussed elsewhere, in terms of the continuity between the Gnosticism of Valentinus and an older secret mystery wisdom.

I consider there is a strong case to understand the New Testament as Gnostic in the sense that it is allegory for a celestial Jesus, but in a somewhat different and more profound way than is described in later Gnostic literature.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Hypothesis of Historicity (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Quote:
The meaning of heresy and apologetics has shifted over the years. A heresy is basically an assertion that is greeted by shock in the broader culture. Often this shock is justified, for example regarding Swift’s famous satirical modest proposal. But equally, shock can lead to cultural change, as seen in the reception of Darwin’s Origin of Species, first seen as heretical but now accepted as a framework for sound thinking. For Pagels, traditional fundamentalists will see her as a heretic simply for taking historical method seriously.

Against modern rational standards Elaine Pagels is no heretic. However, Carrier certainly is. He sets out to shock the faithful by explaining why their cherished beliefs are false. And the faithful here are not only those now labeled as fundamentalists, but all who hold as a matter of faith that Jesus Christ was a real man.

My purpose in mentioning heresy was only to say that Pagels, far from being an apologist for her minimal historicism, would rather qualify as a heretic by traditional standards. I don't think that 'heretic' is helpful in the discussion and gives it a political charge. The implication is that the academic establishment or various apologetic writers are like the old Church, which would react defensively against any threat to its orthodoxy by branding dissent as heresy. So to use 'heresy' in the present debate is to imply this sort of lashing out against dissent, purely to protect a base of power. The idea is promoted that the dissent must have touched a nerve, settled on a weakness, and therefore point the way to the real truth. In reality, though, dissent has no special claim to being right, as we can see with theological heresies. They were just different takes that the Church didn't want to accept. Or consider alternative systems such as homeopathic medicine, which adherents surely see as heretical against the dominant paradigm, with the opposition to homeopathy allegedly being based on entrenched belief rather than real science. 'Heretic' in fact today is used in a largely positive sense, somewhat metaphorically and romantically as well. I prefer to leave such a word out and say simply that one party charges that the other is wrong.

Labeling as one of the faithful someone who thinks that Jesus was a real person around whom legends coalesced, gives another whiff of politics. It implies that it has to be the irrational draw of faith, even should that person be atheist, that impels him to the wrong judgment. That word, 'faithful,' is ad hominem and a faulty part in the argument, asserting what instead needs to be proved by evidence.
Quote:
The reason this is so shocking is that it is an unexamined assumption for most. In my own case, it was only when Frank013 introduced me to Earl Doherty’s ideas here on booktalk that I first encountered the question of whether Jesus was real, after decades of rather passionate interest in philosophical theology. So if mythicism was shocking for me, I can only imagine how pious biddies in the pews would react. That is why parsons are so assiduous to protect their flocks from such bewildering research that destroys their framework of meaning.

Yes, I've heard similar statements of the "I was once one, too" variety, which imply that the speakers' present position could only be the result of moving from benightedness to enlightenment. But conversion from one view to an opposite one is no proof that the individual has arrived at the truth. Supposedly delivering a shock is no indication, either, that the iconoclast must be right. He would like to think so, but his chances of being right aren't increased. You say that mythicism is shocking to the nervous system of entrenched interests, but there is bias in the word ('shocking'); it implies a shaking of the foundations with a truth that must be suppressed. But all that's going on is that the matter is under review.
Quote:
Just as Darwin shifted the goal posts regarding the meaning of heresy, so too Carrier is now shifting the playing field about the content of apologetics, by presenting the implication that anyone who claims that Jesus Christ really existed is using arguments grounded in faith rather than reason.

I don't need to have read Carrier's book to disagree that he is able to do any such thing as establish that dissension from his view equates to unreason. By the very title of his book (Why We Might Have Reason to Doubt) he suggests a very tentative conclusion, so are you misinterpreting him or is his title way off? Bayes Theorum won't make his proofs ironclad. The facts that he inputs would need to be beyond dispute. For example, he has stated flatly that in Paul's writings there is nothing that about Jesus that is not a product of personal revelation. That is highly disputable.

The 'grounded in faith' part is for me largely a "duh" in the first place. Of course the Bible Jesus is a faith figure; even many Christians will tell you that without claiming they can logically support such beliefs. If it's instead fundamentalism that is being refuted, why go to the trouble, what's the point?
Quote:
It is fascinating to see how theology and metaphysics have gradually become terms of intellectual insult. From the popular scientific viewpoint, metaphysics is intrinsically illogical, so anyone defending metaphysical claims is irrational. My view is that the philosophy of science has gone too far in this regard, for example in Dawkins’ assertion that faith is a vice.

You and Harry Marks have been talking about this topic. Very interesting. It begins to sound trite, but is nevertheless true, that scientists often see what they do as a method, not as an entire worldview, so that they have room for metaphysics, too, just like others who lead their daily lives as modern rationalists.
Quote:
We see this problem in Carrier, who addresses the problem of Christ in purely historical evidentiary terms, with no famous theologians or philosophers or mystics making his name index in OHJ except for a couple for purely historical research. The prejudice against apologetics extends to a broad prejudice against religion which I think is unjustifiable.

I'm getting a mixed message, Robert. Not complaining about it, really, but wonder about what I experience as a shift in the valence of 'apologetics.' I actually don't think I'd expect to see Carrier bring in theologians. Scholars on the academic historicist side don't do that, either.
Quote:
Speaking of famous theologians, I will start a thread about Paul Tillich, whom I just mentioned in reply to Harry Marks in a thread on Harrison’s Good Thinking book. I see myself as following Tillich in such matters as the value of faith, a topic that is entirely valid as an apologetic question, even if its encrusted fables can be radically excised.

That could be interesting if you have the time.
Quote:
Flann reminds me of the defenders of creationism who argued against Darwin, sincere defenders of faith with good ethical motives, but an almost congenital inability to see how their paradigm had collapsed.

As I said, I like Flann and think that his creationism is the most sophisticated I've come across. He's not really dogmatic about it, if you pay close attention. I'm also aware that he knows far more than I do about both Christian origins and the biological issues relating to evolution, so I have to respect that. But where I share a view with him is just in this matter of Jesus having been viewed as appearing from the ground up.
Quote:
The same paragraph is not the same breath. I find that some of the apologists whom Flann cites use propaganda language that, while of course bearing no comparison to Nazi evil in terms of what it advocates, nonetheless does reflect the methods of the Big Lie. That may seem a shocking heresy, but here I agree with youkrst’s recent point about how religious ideas shape social values. If people repeat often enough that Jesus was real it becomes impossible to doubt it.

Well, apparently it's quite possible to doubt it! I still find any association with the Nazi propaganda machine to be a stretcher, quite melodramatic. There has been no brainwashing through repetition that Jesus was a real person. This has been an organic belief for many centuries, of course.
Quote:
No. Doherty’s point was that historicism routinely uses the fallacious argument of proof by consensus. Mythicists are shunned as heretics and pariahs, with their opinions censored from public gaze. Wright is hardly marginal, but is among the most respected Anglican theologians in the world.

You're very familiar with the climate change debate. Quite often advocates of the AGW thesis cite the consensus of the world's climate scientists. They do this as a shorthand indication of the weight of the evidence, banking on the credibility that the science community has. They can easily produce the facts behind the consensus. The situation with historicism is the same as with climate change. The vast majority of authorities are on one pole of the argument, and this is observed as kind of a summary statement, banking on the credibility of the academic community. But then the evidence for the consensus can also be provided, and has been by at least a few academicians. So, although you don't agree that the evidence the historicists give is any good, it's not accurate to say that historicists just rely on consensus.
Quote:
Wright’s views intimidate the debate, suggesting that even to host a civil conversation with Carrier would be career death for any aspiring academic or journalist. I will be proven wrong when I see any mythicist debate in mainstream media or university conferences.

It seems unlikely to me that Wright alone, or even in combination with other apologists, would be intimidating academics who otherwise would be eager to explore the questions mythicism raises. As a 100% sold mythicist, you're assuming the case for mythicism to be so strong that no one in his right mind would reject it, so the reason for the academy's lack of attention must lie elsewhere.
Quote:
This shunning is a cultural pathology. It is unfortunate that Carrier accedes to this shunning by constructing a false dichotomy between good and bad mythicists in order to win respect and curry favour.

You mean to say that no mythicists should be criticized because it harms the cause? Has Carrier dissed someone you like?
Quote:
Your comment here superbly illustrates the shocking heretical nature of mythicist thinking against prevailing current assumptions. If Jesus was invented, his inventors did not think of him as a person, any more than Rowling considers Harry Potter to be real.

I doubt you'll find anyone using the word 'heretical' against mythicists. That's your gloss on the commentary, and it puts mythicists in a pretty favorable light, actually. As for the first Gospel writer being a identical to a modern-day fantasy writer, that speaks volumes about presentist assumptions and shows a lack of grounding in cultural history.
Quote:
The issue here is appetite to cause shock. Religion is a highly emotive topic. Distinguished academic reputations often rest upon an ability to present new ideas in ways that do not shock conservative opinion into mobilized opposition. Even Pagels’ critique of Christian sexual morality in Adam Eve and the Serpent http://www.amazon.com/Adam-Eve-Serpent- ... 0679722327 sits within a broad modern secular consensus, unlike Christ Myth Theory. For Pagels, her analysis of the Gnostic Gospels in purely scholarly terms is shocking enough without adding a direct assault on Catholic dogma on the existence of Jesus, like Brodie mounted.

Again you're asserting that mythicism is objectively true and that someone like Pagels has to know it and is only deterred from showing her true colors by fear. You claim to possess knowledge of motives that you really don't have access to.
Quote:
It is not origins alone, but rather a sense of how far it is possible to push the envelope in a society where conventional religion retains a strong and respected presence, and where this debate is not even a matter of awareness, let alone one taken seriously.

This is based on the same faulty assumption that the only possible reason for ignoring mythicism is that it is too upsetting to contemplate. If you look around at other alternative systems of belief, I'm sure you won't assume that they're valid just based on their supposed shock value.
Quote:
You are jumping here between two meaningful meanings of belief in Jesus. “Accept As My Personal Lord And Savior” is quite different from “think was a real man”. But if we reject the latter, the entire construction of western history and identity is upheaved. That is relevant.

This doesn't make sense to me in terms of the mythicist argument, Robert. If Paul had created the idea of Christ, not based on a real man, was that idea perfectly capable of carrying forward the doctrine of Christ 'as my personal Lord and Savior'? Of course it was, that was exactly what Paul wanted the members of the congregations to do. The transference of Jesus from heaven to earth was not needed, based on mythicism's own convictions, for Christianity to have arisen. Given the decisive influence of Paul in the creation of the Church several centuries later, mythicists would need to say that the not-a-real-man approach worked well to create the faith.
Quote:
And the timing and implant process of first belief is a major question for the enduring problem of the psychology of mass delusion.

Has a science-fictiony quality for me somehow. I have to just say right off the top of my head that this sounds, well, a bit whack to me, I'm sorry.
Quote:
It makes me think of Wilhelm Reich’s 1933 book The Mass Psychology of Fascism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mass_ ... of_Fascism even if a merely Freudian analysis of such events is superficial: “Reich noted that the symbolism of the swastika, evoking the fantasy of the primal scene, showed in spectacular fashion how Nazism systematically manipulated the unconscious. A repressive family, a baneful religion, a sadistic educational system, the terrorism of the party, and economic violence all operated in and through individuals' unconscious psychology of emotions, traumatic experiences, fantasies, libidinal economies, and so on, and Nazi political ideology and practice exacerbated and exploited these tendencies. For Reich, fighting fascism meant first of all studying it scientifically, which was to say, using the methods of psychoanalysis. He believed that reason—alone able to check the forces of irrationality and loosen the grip of mysticism—is also capable of playing its own part in developing original modes of political action, building on a deep respect for life… The book was ordered to be burned on request of the FDA by a judge in Maine, United States in 1956.”

The Food and Drug Administration ordered the book burned? That would be a story in itself. The comparison you're trying to make? For some it will appear reasonable, for others it won't, and I would be among the latter.
Quote:
As Carrier argues, that long time lapse between event and description is vastly more probable against the mythicist observation that it gives enough time to invent a story since the alleged witnesses were all dead. For example the utter irrelevance of the life of Jesus (as distinct from his death) for Paul is better explained by an imaginary founder than a marginal one.

I agree that the time lapse between supposed event and the writings that exist allow time for beliefs to accumulate and be added in. For your thesis to be correct, though, no time at all would be required. Why couldn't someone have invented the tale we see in Mark at any time, without any lag? The authorial invention view negates the existence of either earlier, non-extant, written sources (such as Q) and an oral tradition. It's interesting that mythicists have agreed with ardent believers that Q didn't ever exist.
Quote:
Carrier argues the task of history is to assess what events most probably happened. That is a sound objective, and use of Bayes Theorem is a sound method. Russell’s orbiting teapot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot can’t be proved either, but like the resurrection it has low probability. I don’t agree that the meaning of miracles is a minor matter – as Tillich argues literalist faith in such stories fails to engage with their real intent.

I would wager, though, that as a historian Carrier doesn't see assessing whether events really happened to be the only, or even the main, task of history. The reconstruction of the time is the main point, similar to archaeology but non-materially. Often we don't know what happened and are just trying to put together the urn with the pieces we can find. If I can offer a criticism of mythicism based mostly on what I've seen on Booktalk, it's that the detailed look at the cultures that produce the beliefs and traditions is slighted, seen as apparently of little importance. For example the beliefs of other cultures that are superficially similar to those in Israel are assumed to have easily syncretized with indigenous beliefs or even to have supplanted them wholesale. The cultural historian gets much closer to the scene to examine the unique values the culture holds. For mythicists, the existence of rising and falling gods in Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere means that Jesus was one of these, too, never a man. That is too superficial to satisfy a historian.
Quote:
That is a question I am raising here, although I have not seen it discussed elsewhere, in terms of the continuity between the Gnosticism of Valentinus and an older secret mystery wisdom.

Don't you get the impression that some of what Paul cautions the congregations against in his letters to them partakes of a spirituality that Paul found to be unruly and too individually-based? That could be indirect evidence of the earlier gnosticism, of which Paul might have shared some, but wanted to place a cap on it.
Quote:
I consider there is a strong case to understand the New Testament as Gnostic in the sense that it is allegory for a celestial Jesus, but in a somewhat different and more profound way than is described in later Gnostic literature.

It is allegory, as written? Or was Jesus meant to be allegory, but then translated to earthly terms with the first Gospel, and the allegory covered up? That was the occasion for 'implantation' of the historical Jesus, according to Carrier and you. There may be confusion around this.



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