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Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier) 
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 Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)



Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:50 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
The minimal mythic Jesus that Carrier advance to go up against he minimal historic Jesus he lays out for us in Chapter 2, goes thus:

1.At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.

2. Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophecy, past and present).

3. Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.

4. As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.

5. Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only 'additionally' allegorical).

Carrier says that any of the first four premises are false, then Jesus at least began as a historical person. Any of the first four could be false without mythicism being disproved but would make it so untenable that the prior probability would be as low as to render Jesus, to some degree, historical. Moreover, both minimal theories are complementary. Proving one wrong proves the other right.

I did a search on the Greek gods and found this:

The ancient Greek gods normally took on human form and lived in a society similar to human society. They exhibited all the emotions of human beings and frequently intervened in human history. The most significant difference between the Greek gods and humans was that the gods were immortal and human beings were not.
http://www.allabouthistory.org/greek-gods.htm

Sound familiar?

As for the deities communicating to us in visions and dreams, let us not forget oracles--defined as:

a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in classical antiquity.

Apollo spoke through the oracle at Delphi, for example. Paul made himself an oracle of sorts--he saw or claimed he saw visions of Jesus who revealed things to him which he preached as his gospel.

Myths tell the same story over and over again. Jesus hidden away in Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the innocents, Moses floated down the Nile in a basket to escape a similar slaughter, Zeus hidden away saw that his father, Cronus, couldn't swallow him.

Yep, it's all Greek myth to me.



Last edited by DB Roy on Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
exactly, the mythological motifs are so common that the only way you could be unaware of them is to not read mythology.

and having had them pointed out the only way you could fail to see them is if you have a heavy psychological investment in one particular mythology as being true thus forcing you to have to hand wave dismiss the others so as not to be forced to admit the blinking obvious...

orthodox christians have been dumb enough to mistake mythology for fact.

they have been trapped in their own metaphors because they refuse to admit that that is what they are

symbols, poetic images.

nooooooooooo, not mah Jaysus, He's real i tells ya :x



Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:18 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Fortunately, there's nobody like that here.



Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:23 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
Yep, it's all Greek myth to me.


in this video Pierre Grimes shows how the gospel according to Mark is a classic greek tragedy, it follows the pattern to a T.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76D0CBXTAU0



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Yes, I watched this some weeks ago when you posted it on another thread and found it quite informative.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
i was hoping others would watch it as well and a heap more besides :-D

i think i was mainly hoping Flann would watch it 8)



Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:19 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
I watched it this afternoon, Jesus the Christ as Greek tragedy, it seemed to fit the diagram Pierre laid out.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
youkrst wrote:
i was hoping others would watch it as well and a heap more besides :-D

i think i was mainly hoping Flann would watch it 8)


I watched it Youkrst. Not convinced really,but it's the sort of thing that looks persuasive unless you know the problems with it.

http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/q_linnemann.pdf



Last edited by Flann 5 on Sat Jan 30, 2016 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
oh, the Q stuff, i was more interested in this aspect...

http://www.metrum.org/gosen/fromtraggospel.htm

Quote:
Ever since the Enlightenment, when the gospels began to be studied in a rationalistic frame of mind as literary works within their ancient context, parallels have been drawn between the passion of Jesus and the rituals and mysteries of the dying and resurrecting gods such as Dionysus and Osiris. The death and resurrection of Osiris was enacted annually in a dramatic performance. Greek tragedy evolved from sacred plays in honor of Dionysus. Did primitive Christianity, too, begin as ritual drama?

The economy of the Gospel narratives is related to the ritual commemoration of the Passion; taking them literally we run the risk of transposing into history what are really the successive incidents of a religious drama,

so wrote Alfred Loisy, one of the most perceptive New Testament scholars of our time.[2] J. M. Robertson went even further, claiming that the story of the passion is

the bare transcript of a primitive play... always we are witnessing drama, of which the spectators needed no description, and of which the subsequent transcriber reproduces simply the action and the words...[3]



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Flann wrote:
it's the sort of thing that looks persuasive unless you know the problems with it.


oh like virgin birth and resurrection you mean :-D



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier's goal is to create a simple and minimalist myth hypothesis. As such, I question why he includes Proposition 2. To me, it seems unnecessary and possibly confusing. The propositions for his myth hypothesis are not as elegantly constructed as the ones for historicity.

Myth Proposition 2 states: Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus communicated with his subjects only through dream, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophesy, past and present).

Why include this? It could easily be false without debunking the 'myth'. What if, like many other celestial deities, this Jesus dropped down from the heavens from time to time and communicated with the natives - possibly by whispering through the trees or in human form. However, this would not mean that he was then, in turn, a real person (or believed to be real).

Does anyone 'get' why Carrier included this point within his propositions?



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Dakota Red Cat wrote:
Carrier's goal is to create a simple and minimalist myth hypothesis. As such, I question why he includes Proposition 2. To me, it seems unnecessary and possibly confusing. The propositions for his myth hypothesis are not as elegantly constructed as the ones for historicity.
Hello Dakota Red Cat, and firstly may I extend a very warm welcome to you to Booktalk. I wish that more first time posters here would engage with the book discussions as an entry point rather than asking us to be interested in their own work. Your post presents an excellent engagement with the problems in OHJ, so I hope that you will stick around and we can delve further into this problem you have raised, which I have also raised in other threads in related ways.

Your point about how elegantly constructed his hypothesis is opens the question of whether Carrier has properly understood what the ancients thought about celestial deities, and therefore whether his formulation of minimal mythicism is in fact minimal and parsimonious as a scientific research program. I do think that my take on this problem is different from yours though.
Dakota Red Cat wrote:
Myth Proposition 2 states: Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus communicated with his subjects only through dream, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophesy, past and present).

Why include this? It could easily be false without debunking the 'myth'. What if, like many other celestial deities, this Jesus dropped down from the heavens from time to time and communicated with the natives - possibly by whispering through the trees or in human form. However, this would not mean that he was then, in turn, a real person (or believed to be real). Does anyone 'get' why Carrier included this point within his propositions?
Yes, great observation! Carrier’s restriction of how a celestial Christ communicates to humans, including only dreams, visions and inspiration, has to be tested against whether these imagined mental phenomena are the only channels of claimed communication compatible with a minimal myth theory.

Your example of whispering through the trees is interesting as a way of asking how the eternal logos, the original connecting connectedness of being in Heidegger’s definition, is manifest as physical presence in the world. Trees do contain the timeless logic of evolution, and could be imagined as somehow communicating to us some timeless truths. Your example of ‘human form’ picks up Paul’s language in Romans 8:3 describing Jesus as “in the likeness of human flesh”, a Docetic Gnostic phrase analysed at length at http://www.theancientsacredmysteries.co ... stic_2.htm

My thought on all this, building on my conversation on the second chapter especially with DWill, turns on the philosophical presuppositions we bring to the precise meaning of the phrase ‘celestial deity’.

Our twenty centuries of stony sleep, to use Yeats’ memorable phrase in The Second Coming, have created a pervasive assumption that the ancients thought of Gods as existing intentional entities in the same way that conventional literal Christianity presents. I believe this is a serious misreading.

When Homer speaks in the Iliad of Poseidon’s anger at the impiety of the Athenians, our natural tendency is to assume the Greeks believed that the Gods on Olympus were actual beings. I personally think there may well be a lot more symbolic allegory in god language than such ‘entification’ assumes.

If Poseidon is actually the sea, and Apollo is actually the sun, and Zeus is actually the sky, it is reasonable to think that the natural fear of the power of these big forces, together with the ritual practices to placate their wrath, establishes only an allegorical, not an actual, theory of the existence of gods as discrete entities that are distinct from the forces of nature in which they present. This difference between the allegorical and the actual is of the first importance, and is something that I do not believe Carrier conveys in his discussion of Christ as celestial deity.

Jesus Christ is the same in this respect as the Greek Gods. As divine logos, or celestial reason, Jesus represents the universal logic of the cosmos as it impacts on humans. Now in modern science we understand that the order of the cosmos operates by blind physical laws, which do not have discrete intentional deliberate existence as entities separate from the matter in which they are embodied.

It is entirely possible, and in my view probable, that ancient astronomer-priests had a similar intuition of the blind impersonal nature of fate as determining the course of time. And yet, action to placate fate through worship and ritual sacrifice could still be justified as a way to inculcate popular awe and reverence for these determinant forces of nature.

There is constant psychological and social slippage in such matters from what Plato described in his dialogue The Sophist as pure concept to imagining that nothing is real that is not material. So we think of the laws of nature as a person, anthropomorphizing to explain, and then by a telephone game of Chinese whispers this explanation degenerates into fossilized dogma. Paul Tillich has a great discussion of this process of dead faith in his great book The Dynamics of Faith.

So my critique of Carrier’s second Proposition is different from Dakota Red Cat’s critique. I think Carrier goes too far by assuming the ancients saw minimal mythicism as requiring that Jesus Christ as celestial deity was an intentional entity. It is entirely possible for a deity not to be an entity, and yet be entirely real as allegory for observed natural force.

When Carrier expands on his celestial deity theory to speak of Jesus imagined as existing in outer space, he applies a crude physicalism to what are entirely conceptual symbolic ideas. We do not say the laws of evolution and physics exist in a place, even though the axioms of scientific consistency require that these laws are omnipotent and omnipresent.

Nor should we demean the ancient inventors of Jesus by assuming they failed to understand Plato’s theory of ideas, which establishes a clear categorical distinction between ideas and things. Ideas are purely conceptual linguistic formulations that describe common features of material things.

Ideas do not have material existence in some imagined celestial zoo, but must instead be respected as pure concept, eternal, invisible, immaterial, logical. Ideas are not entities. As soon as we imagine that a celestial deity has deliberate intentions, we fail the basic Gnostic Platonic hurdle inscribed above the door of Plato’s Academy, ‘let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.’


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Feb 20, 2016 8:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Thanks Robert Tulip for making the points regarding the definition of celestial deity.

It led me to ponder 2 things:

1) What would be a preferable term to 'celestial deity' in the myth propositions? Or indeed, more broadly, are there preferable myth propositions?

And then I played around with that idea for far far too long. In the end, I decided probably yes, but it was a futile mission as the book will be based on the original propositions regardless and I don't really have a mission myself to prove or disprove Jesus' historicity.

2) Proposition 3, which states: Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.

Why this proposition is time-locked as occurring 'originally' - meaning before the allegory tale? It seems unnecessary as the resurrection story could have been created with the allegorical one.

Concluding ...

The myth propositions are not as well constructed as the historicity ones. In fact, they seem to be based on evidence that Carrier has on hand. To your point, Carrier could disprove the this 'celestial deity' myth propositions but other myths could still possibly be true because his definition is too narrow and propositions contain unnecessary elements.

Although Carrier professes to be using the best methodology and highest rigor, I am not very impressed with his framing of the myth question. And, as Voltaire says, judge a man by his questions versus his answers. Although unfortunately, I am now reading the chapter where he is starting to present his answers (starting with the Ranlan scale) and ... well ... I am not yet very impressed with that. Shame. Hopefully it will get better.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: The Hypothesis of Myth (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Dakota Red Cat wrote:
And then I played around with that idea for far far too long. In the end, I decided probably yes, but it was a futile mission as the book will be based on the original propositions regardless and I don't really have a mission myself to prove or disprove Jesus' historicity.
The point of Proposition 2 that the Christ Myth originated in beliefs about communication from a celestial deity is not in fact foundational to Carrier’s arguments. His analysis of the Bible using Bayes Theorem would entirely stand without this Proposition, which simply reflects a false assumption on his part.
Dakota Red Cat wrote:
2) Proposition 3, which states: Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
Again, Carrier’s use of the term “realm” falsely spatializes an originally spiritual idea. My own hypothesis of the celestial Jesus is that the ancients saw the position of the sun in spring as marking celestial aeons, and astronomers could see for hundreds or even thousands of years before the imagined time of Christ that the sun was very slowly shifting its position. This use of the stars as markers like the numbers on a clock face provides a sufficient basis for the Christ Myth, but does not at all require that Christ exists in a celestial realm. If we continue the clock analogy, we can see that the movement of time is shown by an hour hand going past a number on a clock, but the number is solely a symbolic marker, and does not at all imply some “realm” let alone a “supernatural realm”.
Dakota Red Cat wrote:
Why this proposition is time-locked as occurring 'originally' - meaning before the allegory tale? It seems unnecessary as the resurrection story could have been created with the allegorical one.
Yes, you are correct. Carrier’s use of Bayes Theorem does not at all depend on this false proposition about a supernatural realm, which degrades the symbolic thinking of ancient myth into a form of literalism. I think this illustrates that in reading Carrier we should radically separate his history as good from his theology as incompetent.


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