2014-11-16

Ten Elements of Christian Origin

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by Neil Godfrey

pentecost1Richard Carrier addresses the question of the historicity of Jesus in On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt in the following order:

First, he defines the points that will identify a historical Jesus and those that will be signs of a mythical one.

Second, he set out 48 elements that make up all the background information that needs to be considered when examining the evidence for Jesus.

Third, only then does he address the range of evidence itself and the ability of the alternative hypotheses to account for it.

What Carrier is doing is enabling readers to think through clearly the different factors to be assessed in any analysis of the question: the details of the hypotheses themselves, our background knowledge (none of it must be overlooked — we must guard against tendentious or accidental oversights) and the details of the evidence itself. The book thus sets out all the material in such a way as to enable readers to think the issues through along the following lines:

— given hypothesis X, and given our background knowledge, are the details of this piece of evidence what we would expect? how likely are these details given hypothesis X and our background knowledge?

and (not “or”)

— are the details of this particular evidence what we would expect given the alternative hypothesis (and all our background knowledge)? how likely are these details given our alternative hypothesis and our background knowledge?

That, in a nutshell, is what his Bayesian analysis boils down to. The point of the assigning probability figures to each question and simply a means of assisting consistency of thought throughout the entire exercise. (At least that’s my understanding.)

I’ll put all of this together in a more comprehensive review of Carrier’s book some time in the not too distant future, I hope.

Meanwhile, I’d like to comment on the first ten of his background elements: those of Christian origins.

1. The earliest form of Christianity definitely known to us originated as a Jewish sect in the region of Syria-Palestine in the early first century CE. (pp. 65-6)

103aI have sometimes had questions about this common belief but as a rule I’ve run with it for the sake of argument. One alternative sometimes raised is that Christianity began in Alexandria; I have sometimes wondered if Asia Minor is where we can locate our earliest indicators.

There’s also the temporal side of the question. What confirmation do we have that any Christian documents really were composed in the mid-first century? Are not our first independent witnesses to Paul’s letters from the mid-second century?

To add to the complexity of the question we might even ask how we would recognize the “earliest form of Christianity”? Are the Odes of Solomon Christian? The Epistle of James? The first version of the Ascension of Isaiah (or at least the first version of its Vision scenario) and a possibly earlier rendition of the Book of Revelation? At what point do sectarian and philosophical texts focusing on Enoch, Melchizedek, the Logos and Son of God cease to be “Jewish” and become “Christian”? Was the literary activity after the fall of Jerusalem (“after” meaning within ten or forty years of that event) creating Christianity de novo or reacting against (or attempting to salvage) something that that had gone before?

I have sometimes wondered if the traditional spatial and temporal locations of Christian origins have been overly influenced by Gospel settings that are arguably more theological metaphors than historical references. Galilee (in both Mark and Matthew) appears to some scholars and astute lay readers as symbolic of gentile regions where the church was located as opposed to Judea represented by Jerusalem.

Against the entirely symbolic interpretation we have Paul’s letter to Galatians in which he describes his visit to Jerusalem and church leaders there. But some have argued that even this is a metaphor for Rome and the account is a cover for Marcion’s confrontation there.

And what if Brodie’s suggestion that Paul’s letters were literary compositions from the hands of various authors belonging to a “school” or “schools” of some sort can be sustained?

Was there ever a clear beginning point of Christianity? Was it something that emerged in fuzzy areas somewhere on a continuum of various movements and ideas? Is what we see post-70 a phase-two development? If the phase-two development is closer to what we would recognize as Christianity then should we relegate earlier movements to something else?

In the end it is probably easier to justify a Syria-Palestine provenance than any other, and it is easier to argue that it is more probable that Paul’s letters preceded the fall of Jerusalem than that they were created later. The earliest independent evidence for Paul’s letters appears to coincide with their being riddled with proto-orthodox interpolations. Moreover, there was presumably some notable first century figure that was the basis for the importance of the Paul who was so hotly debated in the second century.

I’m quite willing to work with an early-mid first century Syria-Palestine origin. The possibility of the other questions serve to remind me that all reconstructions and hypotheses can only ever be tentative. But that’s true of any and all truly scientific hypotheses.

2. When Christianity began Judaism was highly sectarian and diverse. (p. 66)

No question. My questions are directed at the works of those scholars who write as if this were not so. Maurice Casey and James Crossley, for example, build much upon the assumption of what Jesus would inevitably have done and taught on the basis of his being “a Jew”. Levitical rules are assumed to have been observed by all “typical Jews” as if they were all mandated legislation from a central legislative and educational body.

3. (a) When Christianity began, many Jews had long been expecting a messiah: a divinely chosen leader or saviour anointed . . . to help usher in God’s supernatural kingdom, usually (but not always) by subjugating or destroying the enemies of the Jews and establishing an eternal paradise.

(b) If these enemies were spiritual powers the messianic victory would have been spiritual; or both, as in the Enochic literature.

(c) Jewish messianic expectations were widespread, influential and very diverse. (pp. 66-7)

I am not sure I know all of the evidence upon which all of this rests. To what extent should we extrapolate from sectarian literature popular social attitudes? Are not the rebel movements depicted with messianic trappings by Josephus from the years immediately preceding the Jewish War rather than from the “early first century”? Is there not some ambiguity about the messianic status of those figures anyway? Do we need popular messianic ideas to account even in part for Jewish rebellion against Rome?

No doubt there were messianic hopes among the Qumran sect. Should we consider them representative of the rest of Judaism, however? Does not Matthew’s Gospel imply that popular expectation of a coming messiah was not in the popular consciousness but that messianic ideas were the preserve of esoteric intellectual inquiries among the scribal elites?

But it’s a while since I’ve read around this question. I should read the works Carrier lists in his extensive bibliography before commenting further.

4. (a) Palestine in the early first century CE was experiencing a rash of messianism. There was an evident clamoring of sects and individuals to announce they had found the messiah.

(b) Christianity’s emergence at this time was therefore no accident. It was part of the zeitgeist.

(c) Christianity’s long-term success may have been simply a product of natural selection. (pp. 67-73)

Carrier opens his discussion of this element with:

This element is often denied, or its basis not well understood, so I will pause to establish it before moving on. 

That sounds like he’s addressing me among others. His discussion is certainly in depth and accompanied by much supporting literature. As above, I will need to take time to read the works Carrier cites.

I confess I did begin to find myself giving some ground on my former doubts when I read pages 67 to 73. The darts that started to take their toll on my earlier views:

  • Philo’s messianic references in Rewards and Punishments
  • Reminders that acts of Joshua (e.g. parting the Jordan and having walls of cities tumble) are indeed related to varieties of Second Temple messianic concepts
  • That Simon Magus (and John the Baptist) were or could well have been viewed as messianic figures
  • The relationship between Exodus narratives and motifs and messianism

5. Even before Christianity arose some Jews expected one of their messiahs heralding the end-times would be killed before the final victory. (pp. 73-81)

This was not an area I had given much thought to before. The evidence Carrier laid out convinced me that this certainly is a “background fact” and not a mere “maybe it was possible” speculation.

Angel restores Joshua

Joshua restored

6. The suffering-and-dying servant of Isaiah 52-53 and the messiah of Daniel 9 have numerous logical connections with the “Jesus/Joshua Rising” figure in Zechariah 3 and 6. (pp. 81-83)

I know these Zechariah passages well from various prophetic speculations in my cult days. I had tended to push them out the back-door of my mind after I left that stage of my life but Carrier has pointed to sound reasons to take them seriously in the context of this question. Zechariah does, after all, feature heavily in the Passion accounts of the Gospels. The passages were no doubt included in discussions among Second Temple Jews concerning messianic expectations.

The raw concepts that were refined by Christianity as we think of it were surely being turned over in discussions before clearly recognizable Christianity itself emerged on the scene. As I mentioned above — can we be certain Christianity actually had a clearly definable starting point? This was one of Earl Doherty’s themes.

7. (a) The pre-Christian book of Daniel was a key messianic text, laying out what would happen and when, partly inspiring much of the messianic fervour of the age.

(b) The text was widely known and widely influential, widely regarded as scripture by early Christians. (pp. 83-87)

Do books really inspire movements or is it movements that discover books as they are needed? (I’m not asking that rhetorically.)

Carrier supports this claim with reference to the “many copies and commentaries on Daniel recovered from Qumran” but his additional evidence is less secure in my opinion: “it’s evident also in the fact that the Jewish War itself may have been partly a product of it.” I’m not sure that we should be using a “may have been” as evidence for a claim. Rather, the Jewish War “may have been” an indicator that the book of Daniel was very popular.

But no matter. Either way, yes, I am open to the likelihood that Daniel was such a popular work at the time. Carrier’s argument suggests we should keep such a cultural phenomenon clearly in mind in any discussion of Christian origins.

8. (a) Many messianic Jewish sects were searching the (Hebrew and Greek) scriptures for secret messages.

(b) It follows that the Jews who became the first Christians had been searching the scriptures this way this long before they became Christians. (pp. 87-88)

Good point. The traditional narrative that the first Christians only began searching the scriptures for explanations of messianic expectations after the death of Jesus is not consistent with what we know of the Second Temple era.

9. The early first century concept of scriptures embraced not only writings that became canonized but many more works, many of which no longer exist; further, of those that do still exist, including canonical texts, the early first century versions were sometimes quite different in details. Texts in places were been modified, changed, before their canonical versions were finally settled. (p. 88-92)

Again, a point worth remembering. It’s not a good idea to build monumental cases upon fragile textual nuances and partial manuscript witnesses. When variant readings are testified in the literature it is a good idea to take these seriously.

10. Christianity began as a Jewish messianic cult preaching a spiritually victorious messiah. (pp. 92-96)

I won’t repeat the nine subparts to this element. As Carrier notes, “None of this should be controversial.” Some, he acknowledges, may question the idea that the earliest Jesus cult attributed an atoning power to the sacrifice of Jesus, but I’m not one to raise such a question. I have posted on this extensively in the past, in particular when addressing Levenson’s book, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, as well as other works (e.g. Isaac bound) on the Akedah (the Genesis story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac).

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Something I found useful

When in high school I read a series of seven books on mnemonics that my father bought me. They were about a “Trent” memory system. I haven’t used its tricks for years now but I did use it extensively soon after reading the books. It was so good it caused me thrills of guilt when doing exams because all the details I needed to recall were set out there in my mind as vividly as if on an open book right beside me. I decided to drag it out again to help me keep in mind all of Carrier’s 48 background elements (Trent provides an easy way to recall up to 100 things in sequence). When discussing and evaluating details of evidence pertaining to the question of Jesus’ historical existence Carrier regularly refers back to particular background elements by number. That would normally mean I’d have to be flicking back through pages or consulting written notes to see what he was referring to so I was glad I made that small effort to have them all ready for recall in my mind.

24 Comments

  • Sili
    2014-11-16 19:32:07 UTC - 19:32 | Permalink

    I’ve never been able to use mnemonic techniques (and I’ve never understood no-book exams). I simply can’t do the invention and fabulation necessary.

  • Blood
    2014-11-17 13:14:49 UTC - 13:14 | Permalink

    It sounds like Carrier is still reading the texts way too literally. The divide between a hypothetical Syro-Palestinian messianic sect of Judaism and Gentile Greco-Roman “Christianity”
    writing most or all of the primary documents in the early second century may not be bridgeable. How could the former have possibly led to the latter?

    • Bertie
      2014-11-17 20:45:40 UTC - 20:45 | Permalink

      Well, Carrier doesn’t think all the primary documents are early 2nd Century. He explained in his book why he did not attempt a ground-up redating of early Christian texts (a shorter form of an expanation he made years ago), and as you may remember me arguing in the other forum, such a move, deferring to (abundantly cited) scholarship, is a justifiable one, albeit mythicists and fellow-travelers seem to wish he had expended more effort to address the question. There’s lots of other places where Carrier doesn’t engage with minority alternatives to consensus. Markan Priority is, I believe, all but assumed (I don’t remember if he even bothered with a passing footnote). His ideas of which letters Paul actually wrote are the usual ones. And so on. All justified, if you’re defending a radical enough thesis as is and you want to keep your book from getting to N.T. Wright length (that is, four digit page counts).

      (Interestingly, one place where Carrier does offer a somewhat out-of-consensus dating for a text, thus meaning he must and does actually give evidence for the point, is 1 Clement, which he puts early. I’m thinking he may be right, and I’ve always thought the “traditional” 95 CE dating stood on terrible ground. On the other hand, there’s one dating point I wish he had defended at greater length, and that is his putting Hebrews pre-70 on the supposed grounds of the temple still existing; lots of scholars disagree that the historical temple instead of the OT ones are relevant to the author, and Carrier ought to have engaged that point more.)

      • Neil Godfrey
        2014-11-17 21:07:30 UTC - 21:07 | Permalink

        One detail Carrier did not address (as far as I recall) re the date of Mark is the context of persecution. He does acknowledge that it does carry a message of encouragement for those facing persecution (in his discussion of the gospels) but this is not linked to his earlier discussion of the date of Mark.

        • Bertie
          2014-11-18 00:14:46 UTC - 00:14 | Permalink

          But does the persecution have to be anything other than ad hoc persecution by (some) Jews, not Romans? While you are right Carrier doesn’t address this directly, it is pretty easy to see how persecution could be a valid concern at the writing of Mark; it is attested a few times in the Epistles (even taking out the 1 Thessalonians bit) and that’s pre-Mark. Post-Mark, persecution by (some) Jews becomes a more blatant, non-allegorical theme in the Christian writings for some time (Matthew, Acts). Now the actual historicity of all this isn’t really important for the problem at hand here; all that would need to be the case for Carrier’s persecution-including reading of Mark to be non-problematic with his dating of Mark would be for persecution to be a something that Christians are thinking and writing about, whether or not their fears are justified; that isn’t a terribly hard bar to clear.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2014-11-18 20:31:29 UTC - 20:31 | Permalink

            Possibly, but does not the gospel suggest that persecution is the lot of anyone who would follow Christ? Of course if persecution is a allegory for something else, such as simple self-denial and death of the old self or war with demons, then that would change things, but how could we determine if that is the case?

        • Roger Parvus
          2014-11-19 19:59:28 UTC - 19:59 | Permalink

          I suspect that what the author of Revelation viewed as persecution was different from what Paul meant by that word. For Revelation, persecution was something primarily physical and the state was the one behind it. I strongly suspect that was not the case for Paul.

          In Gal. 5:11 the Apostle says: “But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the stumbling block of the cross has been removed.”

          Here he sees his “persecution” as somehow caused by his refusal to preach circumcision any longer. And he connects this with the “stumbling block of the cross.” In the context of Galatians, it looks like the persecution that he’s talking is opposition from the Christian Jews who were undoing his work in Galatia. They were lying about him and turning his flock away from his crucified-Christ gospel to one that was Law-observant.

          In 1 Cor. 4:10-13 and 16 there is this: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and wandering about, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things… I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

          Here “when persecuted” is situated with “when reviled” on one side and with “when slandered” on the other. The Apostle sees himself as being the object of insults and lies. So the persecution again appears to have been verbal. If, as I suspect, he was Simon of Samaria, people may have been saying he was a megalomaniac, or a crazy man, or a deceiver, or an enemy of the true church. But there is no indication that the state was the one doing this to him. In Corinthians the persecution seems to be coming to him from Christian Jews connected with the Jerusalem church.

          In 2 Cor. 4:8-11 we have this: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

          Here the persecution is immediately surrounded by suffering that is mental (“perplexed”) on one side and possibly physical (“struck down, but not destroyed”) on the other. But there is still no indication that the civil authority is behind either. So it could be that for the Apostle, persecution is anyone or anything that opposes him or his gospel. Bearing that opposition is what he sees as taking up the cross of Jesus, i.e., “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus… always being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake.” He and his followers had no expectation that the state might want to literally crucify them.

          In short: the persecution of Christian Jews in Judaea may have been different from that of the Pauline churches. Indeed, Christian Jews may have been the main persecutors of Paul and his followers.

          And, as I see it, if proto-Mark was Simonian, the type of persecution that the Markan Jesus prepared his followers for was persecution by Jews and Christian Jews. This received a modification when proto-Mark was turned into canonical Mark by a proto-orthodox interpolator. I suspect the changeover was largely accomplished by inserting John the Baptist material into it, including the great prophecy in its 13th chapter. If that prophecy was originally emitted by the man who was “a prophet and more than a prophet,” the persecution it speaks about was physical and came from the state and from Jews who collaborated with it.

          • 2014-11-20 02:32:51 UTC - 02:32 | Permalink

            I look forward to seeing your discussion on the Gospel of Mark. The concern I have at the meantime is that this gospel appears to be so tightly structured that it is difficult to think of certain scenes being interpolated by someone other than the author responsible for that literary structure.

            The John the Baptist introduction currently appears to stand in balance against the messenger motif at the conclusion and this is only one of a cluster of bracketing motifs. Such an argument does not disprove interpolation of the John the Baptist introduction but it would seem to make an argument for interpolation more complex.

            • Giuseppe
              2014-11-20 06:53:43 UTC - 06:53 | Permalink

              Precious info about the topic of persecution in Paul, thank you Roger. In my view, these observations are valid beyound the identity Paul/Simon.

              Where 1 Clement (that for Carrier is pre 70 EC) talks about Paul’s death as a martyr, it’s maybe possible that Paul was killed by a fanatic Judeo-Christian.

              • Roger Parvus
                2014-11-20 19:13:01 UTC - 19:13 | Permalink

                I think Joseph Turmel is right that 1 Clement was written in the 140s and has an anti-Marcionite purpose. It is a letter that ostensibly meanders, but its meanderings have a funny way of countering, one after another, doctrines held by the Marcionites. It undercuts Marcion without even taking explicit notice of him, for its tactic is to make it look like the subapostolic Roman and Corinthian churches were both on the same page as Paul and clearly proto-orthodox in belief. Just as the author of Acts succeeded for so long in convincing people that he wrote in the 60s, the author of 1 Clement has been largely successful in pulling off the same thing for the 90s. For some of my other thoughts on 1 Clement, see my comment to Neil’s 2011-04-06 post “Reasons to assign Paul’s letters to the first century (distilled from Doherty)”

              • Giuseppe
                2014-11-21 15:39:59 UTC - 15:39 | Permalink

                This is typical from proto-orthodox. I find that the entire idea of a James ”being brother of Jesus” is appealed by Hegesippus always in order to polemize against Marcion.
                With the result that now many people believe that ”behind” Hegesippus there is a historical core (obviously ”confirmed” in Josephus).

            • Bertie
              2014-11-20 16:31:08 UTC - 16:31 | Permalink

              Probably an even bigger issue for positing John the Baptist interpolation in Mark is the Synoptic Problem — I believe all the John the Baptist bits in Mark are in Matthew and Luke as well and that the level of intertextuality among them is usual for the Synoptics (in fact, the John the Baptist stuff is one of the “standard” examples explaining the Synoptic Problem to people).

              So assuming Markan Priority, an interpolation has to thread the needle between Mark and Matthew (or between Mark and both Matthew and Luke under the Two Source Hypothesis). That probably makes the Synoptic-paralleled parts of Mark (that is, almost all of it), the most problematic place in early Christian writings for speculating interpolations.

              • Roger Parvus
                2014-11-20 19:15:38 UTC - 19:15 | Permalink

                Bertie,

                I think the authors of gMatthew and gLuke went further down the same path blazed by the interpolator who created canonical gMark. They saw how he used some John the Baptist material (that is how I would characterize “Q”) to modify the Jesus figure, and they tapped the same source to push the makeover even further.

            • Roger Parvus
              2014-11-20 19:11:39 UTC - 19:11 | Permalink

              Neil,

              You are probably more familiar than I am with structural theories regarding Mark, but I am not sure if the removal of John the Baptist from the introduction also removes the messenger motif from it. The first prophet mentioned in gMark is “Isaiah the prophet” (Mk. 1:2) and it has always been noticed that, although at the beginning of the verse the author prepares to quote him, an Isaian quote isn’t actually brought forward until verse 3. The quotes in verse 2 are from Exodus and Malachi. So from the perspective of my Simonian hypothesis, I am wondering if the prophet who was originally connected with the beginning of the gospel was Isaiah, not John the Baptist. In this scenario the “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Is. 40:3) at “the beginning of the gospel” (Mk. 1:1) was Isaiah’s (of Vision of Isaiah fame). The insertion of the Malachi quote about Elijah would be part of interpolator’s maneuver to make the preaching of John the Baptist the beginning of the gospel.

              In any case, my question is this: Based on your understanding of gMark’s structure, would there still be a sufficient messenger motif if the introduction was originally only about the prophet Isaiah and his role in the revelation of the gospel?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2014-11-20 20:36:26 UTC - 20:36 | Permalink

                On one hand I’d be disappointed to see the references to rough clothing and wilderness being removed from the beginning since they are so nicely interpretable though the one in fine garments in the tomb at the end of the gospel (both announcing Jesus: one physically and to die etc the other spiritually and victorious etc).

                One can also see in the hybrid quotation of the prophet Mark’s typical chiasmic structure: the name Isaiah and the line from Isaiah bracket the central reference that comes from Malachi/Exodus. The container is the filter through which we interpret the contents.

                On the other hand, as Rikki Watts reminds us (with reference to Gundry), given the role of opening sentences in antiquity (and the unusual placement of the scripture quotation at the beginning instead of at the end of the narrative) one would expect those lines to be more comprehensively about the broader theme of the whole gospel, not just about John.

      • Geoff
        2014-11-18 03:56:23 UTC - 03:56 | Permalink

        “…lots of scholars disagree that the historical temple instead of the OT ones are relevant to the author, and Carrier ought to have engaged that point more.”

        Is the perspective colored though by unexamined assumptions concerning the origins of Hebrews. I am thinking in particular of the fact that the academy has operated under a “Jesus to Christ” theory for some time know. Hebrews fits that paradigm better as a late artifact, rather than an early one.

        I found Carrier’s discussion of both 1 Clement and Hebrews to be especially intriguing. To me, probably the most interesting new insights in his book.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-11-17 20:47:28 UTC - 20:47 | Permalink

      On the other hand, the literature that we see in evidence as the precursors of Christian ideas is from Syria-Palestine, and the region was a crossroads for peoples and ideas, and Paul does speak of pillars who preceded him being based in Jerusalem, and his own conversion happening in that region, and a central theme of much of the earliest evidence is the replacement of the Temple itself with its spiritual counterpart — and if Mark itself is to a large extent a critique of violent attempts to deal with Romans as well as of worldly messianic claimants associated with that war. . . . such details do favour the the Syro-Palestine and Judaist-messianic provenance, I suppose.

  • John A. Broussard
    2014-11-19 20:07:23 UTC - 20:07 | Permalink

    The whole business of applying rational analysis to religion is really silly. Once a miracle is allowed for any event, then it’s obviously the answer for all events that needs explanation.

    Jesus born of a virgin? No problem. Goddidit.
    Joshua stops the sun? No problem. Goddidit.
    Need anything in the bible explained? No problem. Goddidit.

  • Sili
    2014-11-20 21:38:22 UTC - 21:38 | Permalink

    Re Mark there’s also Michael Peppard’s reading of Jesus as the mirror image of the emperor. That requires the descending dove at the baptism as the counterpart of the imperial eagle. In fact, I think I read that here originally.

    A better dating of 1 Clement would be awesome. It sounds like Carrier is going early like Alvar Ellegaard did on linguistic grounds, but I don’t know the details of that argument. I don’t think it was in his book.

    On the other hand, that would make Clement our earliest witness to the Pauline letters, woouldn’t it?

    • 2014-11-21 06:42:39 UTC - 06:42 | Permalink

      Yes, though it seems to me “Clement” only knows of one letter from Paul to the Corinthians.

      • Sili
        2014-11-21 23:11:11 UTC - 23:11 | Permalink

        All the more odd if he’s writing from Rome. On the other hand perhaps he couldn’t expect *them* to be familiar with anything but the letter written to them.

  • Lowen Gartner
    2014-11-29 01:13:11 UTC - 01:13 | Permalink

    >The point of the assigning probability figures to each question and simply a means of assisting consistency of thought throughout the entire exercise.

    Carrier’s book brought so much together for me across many sources (and years) of reading.

    I also appreciated the outlining of the element followed by asking “what would we expect to find with H1 and H2?”. The probability figures though interesting, are almost a distraction from the main points.

    Can you outline your mnemonic?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-11-29 09:09:12 UTC - 09:09 | Permalink

      We had much the same response. Yes, at one level the figures certainly do seem superfluous. The background information set out like that enabled me to see the arguments relating to the evidence much more clearly and logically.

      The mnemonic is the Trent system set out in summary form at http://www.searchengine-guy.com.au/seo/memory.html
      It was a bit of work at first, but fun, learning how to associate certain images with numbers 1 to 100. That was back in my high school years; haven’t used it for ages so was surprised how easily it all came back to me when I thought of applying it to Carrier’s list. The key is visualization — then repetition for the first few days. Each image must be kept absolutely distinct from any other. But as a warm up to the real thing the books began us with a simple list of 10 — drum (or was it ‘sun’? – I forget! ;-/), shoe, tree, door, hive, sticks, heaven, gate, wine, tent.

      After a little repetition one soon enough finds the props are no longer (or less) needed.

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