Richard Carrier Replies: McGrath on the Rank-Raglan Mythotype

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by Neil Godfrey

Richard Carrier continues his response to James McGrath’s criticism of Carrier’s On the Historicity of JesusMcGrath on the Rank-Raglan Mythotype. He begins: 

Yesterday I addressed McGrath’s confused critique of portions of On the Historicity of Jesus (in McGrath on OHJ: A Failure of Logic and Accuracy). He has also published a second entry in what promises to be a series about OHJ, this one titled “Rankled by Wrangling over Rank-Raglan Rankings: Jesus and the Mythic Hero Archetype” . . . . This entry is even less useful than the first. Here are my thoughts on that.

Once again Neil Godfrey already tackles the failures of logic and accuracy in the very first comment that posted after the above article. Which he has reproduced, with an introduction, in better formatting on his own blog: Once More: Professor Stumbles Over the Point of Rank-Raglan Mythotypes and Jesus.

I could leave it at that, really.

TL;DR: McGrath doesn’t understand the difference between a prior probability and a posterior probability; he uses definitions inconsistently to get fake results that he wants (instead of being rigorously consistent in order to see what actually results); and he shows no sign of having read my chapter on this (ch. 6 of OHJ) and never once rebuts anything in it, even though it extensively rebuts his whole article (because I was psychic…or rather, I had already heard all of these arguments before, so I wrote a whole damned chapter to address them…which McGrath then duly and completely ignores, and offers zero response to).

That’s pretty much it.

But now for the long of it…

McGrath on the Rank-Raglan Mythotype



  • Darth Ballz
    2017-05-21 22:04:25 UTC - 22:04 | Permalink

    When you try to read on to see the full article, it says “This site has been archived or suspended.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-05-22 02:39:12 UTC - 02:39 | Permalink

      I have updated the link to the new site: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/6840

      • Darth Ballz
        2017-05-22 19:51:09 UTC - 19:51 | Permalink

        I read Carrier’s response to McGrath

        All Carrier’s application of the Rank Raglan scale shows is that the legendary portrayal of Jesus may have been modelled on one or more of the figures the RR scale itself was modelled on (e.g. Oedipus). Folklorist Alan Dundes has noted that Raglan did not categorically deny the historicity of the Heroes he looked at, rather it was their common biographies he considered as nonhistorical. Furthermore, Dundes noted that Raglan himself had admitted that his choice of 22 incidents, as opposed to any other number of incidents, was arbitrarily chosen.

        • Darth Ballz
          2017-05-22 20:24:43 UTC - 20:24 | Permalink

          It wouldn’t be odd to think Jesus was partially modelled on the Greek figure of Oedipus, since in another context we know of Greek influence where Jesus is modelled on Dionysus (as in the Gospel of John’s wine miracle), and specifically the New Testament Narratives suggest strong influence from the Euripides’ Bacchae.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-05-22 23:20:42 UTC - 23:20 | Permalink

          I myself have said repeatedly that mythical overlays in a narrative (and there is nothing “mythicist” about that — most critical scholars say the gospels are theological or ahistorical overlays and the “historical Jesus” is hidden from view) do not prove Jesus did not exist. I have also said they give us no reason to believe he did exist either.

          I have never argued anything else, if my memory serves. So we agree.

          So why do most people just assume that Jesus was a historical figure? (That’s something of a leading question — it’s one I used to address quite a lot here.)

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