A mythicist publishing in a peer-reviewed journal?

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by Neil Godfrey

According to most scholars with anti-mythicist viscera I have come across, the very idea of a mythicist publishing in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal is not supposed to be possible. So it is heartening to see a mythicist’s publication in a pay-wall journal (you can’t read it unless you pay the publisher — and it doesn’t matter if you were one of those who contributed financially to Richard Carrier’s research grant) and not only that, but one that is noticed and publicized by a much wider constituency — Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True blog.

At least evolutionist Jerry Coyne himself is able to outline some of the pertinent points related to this argument. Richard Carrier himself blogs to point to evidence he did not cite in his article.

I’d be even more gobsmacked if I ever learn that Carrier at any point acknowledges any debt whatsoever to Earl Doherty for any point at all in his case about supposed Christian references in Josephus.

But that’s how the world works, I guess.

In my real-life job I am heavily involved in programs that advocate the open-access of scholarly publications. This particular case strikes me as a propos. Hundreds of people contribute financially to support Richard Carrier to do his research, and then they must pay again to read the results of his research!



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20 thoughts on “A mythicist publishing in a peer-reviewed journal?”

    1. As you have demonstrated, Goldberg’s article is openly accessible online. Carrier’s article — the result of what many public volunteers paid for — is not. I am not taking issue with Carrier on this, except insofar as it behooves all academics to give thought to the contracts they sign with publishers. Many academics, especially rising ones, are understandably willing to sign anything without any thought to the fine-print if it means being published in a prestigious journal. Older academics have more recently (this year) begun to rebel against certain publishers like Elsevier. There is a way to go in this battle. I’d like to see those who have given financial support to Carrier now pressure him to publish in peer-reviewed and prestigious open-access journals. If that means the author has to pay in some cases, an invitation can be sent to all interested to fund that publication so it can be accessible to all. If impact and citation hits are what Carrier wants, then that is the way to go.

      1. Older academics have more recently (this year) begun to rebel against certain publishers like Elsevier.

        Maybe it’s a recent thing in humanities, but in Math (and I believe sciences) the rebelion against unscrupulous publishers like Elsevier goes back at least to the early 00’s, for example full editorial boards have resigned at once and founded new journals.

        In general in math and physics (probably other sciences too) there is a greater openess, there are preprint servers where people put their papers before publication and practically all publisheres (with varying degrees of reluctance) have agreed to allowing these preprints to remain in the server even after the publication. I wonder what’s the reason for this cultural difference.

        1. Interesting question. I wonder if the reason might have something to do with many of those involved with the sciences have been more aware of the developments in the internet as they have been happening, and the benefits — given the overlap between information tech skills and interests among many in the sciences. By no means all of the non-sciences have been slow to keep up, but there may be a larger ratio of these who by disposition have shunned anything techie, mathematical . . . . ? I have been at times in recent years been quite taken aback at the way some biblical scholars have expressed such disdain for information found on the web. They truly have been out of touch, though there is less of that sort of talk now than there was a few years ago.

          1. I’m sure that scientists and mathematicians being more tech-savvy is part of the answer. I wonder whethe there is some deeper reason, though. Something having to do with how secure people are about their criteria for determining the validity of a theory, if you have pretty solid methodology where a given theory comes from is not that important in order to determine its validity.

            1. Maybe. But I don’t know if the humanities as a whole are opting out of the open access opportunities. Check the discipline coverage of open access journals at http://www.doaj.org/

              Once they see the personal advantage in having greater citation hits academics generally come around pretty quickly. But other factors can play a part, too, of course, especially funding conditions and academic rivalry. Chemists, for example, seem to be notorious worldwide for their (by comparison) outright fear and avoidance of open access to their research.

  1. If, as suggested by Neil, Richard Carrier has indeed drawn without acknowledgement on certain points from Jesus: Neither God Nor Man in presenting his own case (do we really know without having public access to his material?) can we assume that he took them only from that 10% of the book that was not its “90% speculation and digression”?

    Of course, as I’ve said before, Carrier’s comment is ridiculous. In-depth argument and a wealth of literary evidence backing up that argument is hardly pointless speculation and digression. Making demands on a reader’s attention span may be something entirely different, but if Carrier prefers the more succinct and less demanding “The Jesus Puzzle” why dump on a fuller edition which simply seeks to cover all bases and make the most thorough case possible (something appreciated by many readers)?

    Sometimes I think non-historicists can be their own worst enemies. I can’t for the life of me understand Carrier’s motivation in this. Does he want to cut a fellow writer off at the knees in preparation for the publication of his own book? Incomprehensible behavior like that naturally raises less than flattering speculation. It also gives ammunition to unscrupulous apologists like GDon who will gleefully promote Carrier’s comment in his devious and despicable “review” of the book on Amazon (see Neil’s much appreciated comment added to that review).

    As a corollary it also enables apologists to portray the mythicist camp as squabbling and at odds with themselves. The same kind of overwrought condemnation of Acharya even by some who sympathize with mythicism is self-defeating. And it’s fodder as well for those declared atheists and agnostics found all over the internet who for unfathomable reasons treat the mythicist case as scholarly charlatanism and virtually tantamount to raping their grandmothers. I regularly get sick of the whole thing.

    1. Earl, Carrier has always credited you with pushing him out of the historicist camp. He recommends “The Jesus Puzzle” at every turn. What else do you need? This is just drama. Btw, Robert Price treats the two books the same as Carrier does.

      1. Thanks for the time stamp because I thought I had it right, thus the question, but relistening confirmed it. The $20k was for two books, the latest and the forthcoming one. I can’t imagine that any agreement was made for all academic papers to be provided to the public (either volunteers or the general) because of the grant. That would make no sense. What does make sense is that Carrier went through the normal channels of publishing in journals and has no control over the accessibility or fee for the paper after it is published. Now he may have given a pre-publication version to some people.

  2. Regarding the Goldberg link, while I’m persuaded by his case that there could be a relationship between Luke and the TF, I’ve been wondering if this could simply be another example of Luke’s use of Josephus, like the ones Carrier points out in his review of Mason.

    Though I agree with the argument of others that Eusebius was the author of the TF as we have it, Goldberg’s idea (plus the idea that Luke probably used Josephus), makes me wonder if there was an original version that was later Christianized, first by Luke, then by Eusebius.

  3. Neil (somewhat off topic),

    Not sure if you are going to get to this, but Hoffman posted an outline for a book he has in mind. In this, he states clearly what he thinks is the most likely history story. I am wondering if you are aware of essays written as short and clearly about what Carrier, Price, Doherty, et. al. think is the most likely mythicist history of how the greatest story came into being. It surely would be useful to have these.

    Of course, in the end, we want to know why they think what they think….but, at least for me, it would sure be useful to have a distilled version of what they think as a guide to learning about why. I think I’ve read every post and comment on this site for the last year, and still can’t put together a “what did happen”, just “what didn’t”.


    1. Yes, I’ve seen Dr R. Joseph Hoffmann’s outline and have drafted a response to it.

      You are not the only one to point out this particular “problem”. Unfortunately, here the historicists have something of an advantage. All they need to do is make up a dramatic narrative that you can visualize as a good movie. They can imagine a dramatic narrative to explain it all, with characters, places, and events.

      Unfortunately for the mythicist, his/her argument is about the evidence we have and explaining that evidence — not rationalizing its mythical content it by substituting for it an alternative narrative.

      That is, the mythicist scenario is the history of how ideas emerged. It is about how various ideas evolved from the literary and theological/philosophical landscape of the day. And the history of ideas is by nature not as easy to visualize as the dramatic story of a scholar’s projections. (I suspect Hoffmann has, like most other HJ scholars before him, merely found a Jesus who is like him!)

      The mythicist is saying that the narrative outline of a man, disciples, movement, death, revival, preaching is a myth and it will not do to simply rewrite that myth without the supernatural aspects (as Hoffmann along with everyone else is doing).

      The mythicist concedes that we simply don’t know the specifics of who thought what, when, and why, and the narrative details of all we’d like to know. Carrier, for example, sees a very suggestive link between Philo’s commentary on Zechariah where the Logos is a spiritual high priest (iirc) related to his earthly counterpart named Jesus. We have other “Christian-like” ideas in Enoch and other Second Temple literature. But we have no evidence explaining the how and the who and the what and the went of how these ideas fed into what became early Christianity.

      What the mythicist can do is to lay out all the evidence as we have it and offer explanations that account for it all in the most plausible manner possible. Any such explanation will leave a lot of shades of grey and murkiness around the edges.

      1. Thank you for the reply! I do understand the problems with a mythicist narrative. And understand that much of it would be guessing to fill in the blanks between pieces of data. Yet, I suspect that each of the mythicists to have a “pet” explanation/story based on their understanding of the data. Perhaps these are not written because it wouldn’t be scholarly and would subject them to further scorn by the “legitimate” scholars. I guess I just have to get luck and meet one in a bar someday.

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