The Hurtado-Carrier debate has become unpleasant

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by Neil Godfrey

There is no justification for public intellectuals, for trained leaders in public opinion and attitudes, for any kind of professional, to publish the following:

Earlier posts in this series: Reply to Larry Hurtado; On Larry Hurtado’s response; Focus – but not blinkered, and others addressing Jesus mythicism and historical methods more generally.

Gee, Dr. Carrier, You’re Really Upset!

Carrier and the mythicists are unhinged nutbags and Maurice Casey proved it years ago in his last book.

Larry Hurtado vs. the Jesus Mythicists

All power to Larry Hurtado, he kicked the beehive of crazy, amateur, angry conspiracy theorists who deny that the historical Jesus existed. Read his blog posts here and here, and the comments show just how inane, vapid, and vacuous Jesus mythicism is.

Gee, Dr. Carrier, You’re Really Upset!

If you want to read a blogger going ape-shit, troll through Richard Carrier’s recent belligerent, intemperate response (here) to my posting in which I showed that his three claims that supposedly corroborate his “mythical Jesus” view are all incorrect.  It’s really quite amusing, or maybe sad. . . .

Richard Carrier as False Prophet

Calling Carrier a False Prophet is Too Complimentary. The Truth is, He’s an Absurdity

All the above are the “Christian” scholars who claim the moral high ground over Richard Carrier’s known penchant for calling certain others “liars” and “lazy” and “bizarre”. You will say I am biased, but I honestly could not see most of what I read of Carrier’s posts as “intemperate”, “ape-shit” “rants”. I was reminded how easy it is to approach the work of a person we don’t like and imaginatively read into it a hostile tone that a more neutral person would simply fail to see. If you think I am bound to defend Carrier, then understand (1) that Carrier and I disagree on a number of points of argument, and (2) that I do feel uncomfortable with Carrier’s accusations of lying and other “language” against some of his critics.

I wish he would write the same way he talks in live debates in front of audiences.

In the past I know I have come to the brink of the same kind of accusation (of lying and blatant dishonesty) against one or two others. I wish I had the grace and skill of a Michael Goulder who could use humour to undercut the unprofessional responses of some of his critics, or of an Earl Doherty who could respond with a light-hearted fun-yet-serious article against bitter sarcasm that had been aimed at him.

The unfortunate reality is that once a person who is not in a position of power accuses another of lying then they put themselves on the defensive, no matter how powerful they momentarily feel for making the accusation. They become all-too-easy targets of those in power who feel no need to defend themselves.

Besides, even the worst of us rarely believe they are lying; or if deep-down they do, then they believe it is justifiable for the greater good.

I have come to think that it is better to do all one can in order to stick to a calm, reasoned, analytical response and let the readers draw their own conclusions, if necessary, about professional dishonesty. Let the facts speak for themselves, in other words.

I’d love Carrier and his supporters to take a step back and focus on regaining the moral high ground, the genuinely scholarly tone, even under the extreme provocations of unprofessional, childish, bitter, fearful and outrageously false attacks.

The scholars we recall with most admiration, often enough, are those who do manage to maintain their cool and respond professionally, even with humour, under extreme provocation.

I have no hope for the likes of the scholars I cited at the opening of this post. They evidently have most to lose and are reacting like fearful children. The onus is on the outsider to expose their unprofessionalism by example and humility.



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Neil Godfrey

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35 thoughts on “The Hurtado-Carrier debate has become unpleasant”

  1. Responding in kind to these honorable scholars is a losing proposition. Now that becomes the center of the story instead of what Deane Galbraith aptly described as “indefensible” behavior by Hurtado:

    Hurtado makes many good points in reply to Jesus mythicism. But it is never responsible to comment in respect of a book which one has not even read. I can understand simply ignoring Jesus mythicism as an unfeasible position, and not deigning to comment on it. But to engage a specific author, and a specific book, without having read it, is indefensible practice.

    So, let us step back for a moment and focus on what Bird, McGrath, and the rest of the usual suspects are doing: They are cheerfully defending the indefensible.


    1. Wouldn’t it be great if this had a broad effect of Christian-appeasing scholars losing all credibility. Christianity has been going downhill for a while. The need to have their political or financial support should be going with them.

  2. This is all so pointless. The first question should be “do you believe in salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus?” If the answer is not an unequivocal “NO!!!!” there should be no second question.

  3. Michael Bird has said this –

    “.. I serve on the editorial board for the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, where we have an editorial team of people from all faiths and none, celebrated experts in their fields; and I can tell you that the Jesus mythicist nonsense would never get a foot in the door of a peer-reviewed journal committed to the academic study of the historical Jesus.”


      1. The indefensible must be maintained, else the coffers will dry up and then what will these fairy tale teachers do? Get jobs?

        Both global warming and church history just happen to be two of my own personal “most important subjects” of private personal study. Like diet (which can kill you), people won’t change their behaviors or beliefs if they are personally vested in their perpetuation. No matter what the real world has to “say” about it, or the evidence. Fantasies Forever is what we should call the Christian Church and global cooling connedspiracy. Reality points to a very different set of facts.

    1. Yes, I am sure at the Journal for the Study of the Mythological Jesus, the editorial team of people from all faiths and none would not allow the Jesus historical nonsense from getting a foot in the door. Of course the mythological Jesus has already faced this problem: Mark 2:4 “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.”
      I wonder what Jesus was thinking when he heard the noise above him from the cutting of the hole on the roof. I think if I was Jesus, I would have thought something like “Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on up there.” I assume that the hole would have been at least three feet by three feet in order to have room enough to get the paralytic man and his mat down. Did the paralytic man offer to pay for repair of he hole in the roof after Jesus forgave his sins? I think if I was Jesus, I would not have forgiven the man after he made the hole in my roof. I would have said something like, “Who do you think you are, buddy? You make a hole in my roof without my permission. If I were to heal you now, assuming I can, it would just encourage other sick and ill people to commit crimes and act desperately and thoughtlessly in order to be cured. It would encourage sick people to join all kinds of horrible cults. Why would I want that?”
      Jesus was apparently oblivious to the destruction of his roof. He did not worry about the rain damage, nor the dirt that would come through the huge gap. He forgave the man his sins. I suppose that is why he is Jesus and I am not.

      1. No doubt Jesus healed the hole, making the roof whole again. After all, John says he did more things than could fill more books than the world could contain.

        1. Yes, Neil, I think he probably did. That would make him a roofer and a carpenter. Woody Allen in “Love and Death” wondered how much Jesus charged for bookshelves. I recently had part of my roof fixed due to Hurricane Irene. Now I’m wondering how much Jesus charged for roofing projects. Is he still making bids?

    2. ” I can tell you that the Jesus mythicist nonsense would never get a foot in the door of a peer-reviewed journal committed to the academic study of the historical Jesus.””

      Perhaps you should read the blog posts referenced in this very post by Richard Carrier, who has indeed published in a peer-reviewed journal on the lack of evidence for a historical Jesus. You might find it interesting reading.

  4. Michael Bird has got to gooooo!!

    “The Jesus mythicists are a group of enthusiastic atheists who through websites and self-published books try to prove the equivalent of a flat earth.”

    MB should not have equated the Jesus Mythicists with the flat earth movement. Everybody knows the earth is flat. Is so Obvious! 🙂

    1. The flat earth theory has always been a utility of Christians to point at something more stupid than their own beliefs. They get really annoyed if you point to any verses supporting it.

  5. Where is that quote from? I find it interesting that the theme of “attacking Christianity” keeps resurfacing. Leads one to suspect that that’s their real fear — the consequences for their faith. That’s what their fight is about. If only they could relax….

        1. T o’N appear in the comments below that article, first as himself and then, after he had used the 4-comments-in-24-hrs-limit, he appeared as ‘The Mad Rabbi’ pushing his own web-blog.

  6. “They evidently have most to lose and are reacting like fearful children.”

    What’s really curious is McGrath: years ago I sent him a chapter of my book to read (which argued against Christian apologetics) and he read it and commented on it objectively. Why he becomes so irrational about the Christ myth theory is beyond me. Why he continues typing up blog post after blog post with no evident interest in actually understanding the ideas he criticizes, or being a true educator instead of a historical-Jesus apologist.

  7. In the early days of this blog McGrath and I exchanged friendly comments. He quite liked my ideas and said he found them stimulating, etc. He was also keen to know my thoughts on one of his books. But then, one day, the Jesus myth topic came up, and “the rest is history”.

  8. We’re seeing the equivalent of Hurtado et al’s heads exploding. Their usual magical incantations about “scholarly consensus” are less and less effective. It may be true that the consensus among New Testament scholars is that Jesus was a historical figure. The consensus among chiropractors is that all disease occurs as a result of subluxations of the spine.

    1. Because he can’t simply accuse people of heresy and demand their excommunication. Technically mythicism draws from gnostic threads and modern protestants take it for granted Catholics wiped them out when in reality the surviving Cathars ended up becoming protestants.

      Christians imagine Jesus as a pre-existent being who only took human form temporarily before returning to “outer space” again. It’s just that temporary bit being disputed, the part where he Saves Mankind of course, but Paul seemed to believe he could do that in outer space. So what’s the damn problem?

  9. I can see a case for a mythical Jesus. I can see a case for his being historical, though I’d have to admit to knowing little about him. I incline to the latter view but have no bone to pick with people who incline to the former. All is clouded by uncertainty.

    The people whom I cannot fathom are those who believe the nativity yarns of Matthew and Luke. Jehovah doesn’t shag women. Zeus does; the nativity is a Greek notion intruded into stories set in a Jewish milieu.

    By contrast Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection are stories that are plausible in a Jewish milieu. I don’t believe in them, but only because I don’t believe in the supernatural. I see them as authentic but false. The nativity I reject as not only false but inauthentic. But then: if the nativity stories are conscious lies why should I believe anything else told by Luke and Matthew?

    The case with the OT is much simpler: everything in it of the first importance is false. And that says little for the acumen of Jesus and his followers.

    1. The objective basis of mythicism is that the human life of Jesus, which included the miracles, were tacked on later while the oldest, original narrative doesn’t treat Jesus as human. What you mean by authenticity holds little water here. We don’t even know who wrote any of these, and even if whoever wrote them could have believed they were true, even that is really implausible given the way they speak to each other. They don’t argue about the details or facts of Jesus life as you would see in a biography, they argue theologically about how one goes about salvation.

      Comparatively, older narratives (eg. Gilgamesh) has roots in a man, usually a king, as kings were often deified. I use Gilgamesh because many ancient kings were deified in their lifetimes but we can see the development from king to legend to god. But Jesus definitely didn’t start out as a king or even a man.

      1. “What you mean by authenticity holds little water here.” Then let me explain. Matthew and Luke have Jesus undergoing physical resurrection. As I understand it there were many 1st century Jews who believed in the possibility of physical resurrection after death; in that sense the story is authentic – Jews in that time and place could have believed the story. Similarly for Jesus’ miracles: there were plenty of people of that era (including Galileans, it seems reasonable to suppose) who believed in miracles e.g. to do with healing. So again such parts of the gospels are authentic – true to the circumstances of which they are told. They are also baloney, but that’s because miracles don’t in fact happen.

        But the nativity yarns, both of them, are inauthentic.

        1. Maybe nevermind that if you ask what is authentically Jewish, Christians will be lining up to tell you. Strictly speaking Christianity teaches that Jesus must return soon (2000 years ago soon) because the dead are asleep. The Gospels become desperate in this regard simply because the Temple had been destroyed and Jews were desperate for the Messiah to come. Maybe you need to check Elijah or Elisha for the Jewish belief in miraculous healing.

  10. Ha! Just another time when things seems to be way easier outside eastern Europe!

    So, mythicist guy was compared to flat earth’s believer? Oh, believe me, that’s nothing. Here in Poland we have catholics from postman to biblical professor, all well aware that once communists printed in millions of copies great encyclopedia of Soviet Union, where Jesus Christ was in the very first sentence described as “mythological figure”. They printed and forced us and the rest ow Warsaw Pact to buy it – because they understood where REAL Enemy were! I know that, because I’ve heard that many times as a child from pulpit in my parish about that encyclopedia. So, as, you can imagine, here situation is much more transparent. Mythicist are not seen just as some strange guys believing in flat Earth (that is not a sin BTW). No, they are seen as actual agents of bloodthirsty foreign power that made GULAG and kill or deported millions of Poles and even tried to force us to believe in mythicist theory! Now, that’s the power of the dark side! Deal whit that, kind Westerners;)

    1. Eliza, I like the idea of socialism, but I despise the experience of Russia and the Soviet Union, which I see not as a socialist state at all, but as a tyrannical establishment with precious little, if anything, to do with genuine socialism. By all means deplore tyranny, as we do here. But don’t let anything interfere with a genuine scholarly inquiry. Nazi Germany extolled physical fitness. That does not mean that physical fitness should be condemned along with Nazism.

      1. Neil, I’m sorry, for sure my english skills are to weak to carry such amount of irony that i put in previous post. It was really ironical one.

        I am myself socialist and Jesus mythicist. When I read about that situation around the Hurtado-Carrier debate, I tried to imagine similar debate in Poland, and I think that reactions would be even worse. If in my country one day some biblical scholar would say that we have reasons to doubt in historicity of Jesus, condemnation would skyrocket. First, we would hear from rest of biblical scholars: “yeah, we’ve heard that already from commies, don’t you know? People like you, who denied historicity of Jesus are worst than devil himself and all know that”. Unfortunately, that stupid encyclopedia from soviet era will serve their cause well.

        That is even more stupid and more powerful than comparing Richard Carrier to flat-earthers.

  11. It isn’t worth getting too worked up about. It’s pure cultural bias, and nothing more. We need to keep saying it: these same scholars would not hesitate a moment writing off Krishna as a myth. Why? Because they have no emotional, intellectual, cultural, or professional attachment to the Hindu scriptural tradition.

  12. All one needs to know about the real Jesus (story) is to examine the present, modern-day world, and it’s appalling lack of evidence of well, everything found in the bible. The contradictory behavior of Christians and Jews, the rabid extremism, the hatred for non-believers, the missing miracles, prophetic fulfillment, the absence of morality, charity, brotherly love and compassion, the “full retard” acceptance of prosperity and materialism, and the acceptance and propagation of non-doctrinal, non-historical, fantasy based creeds and modern-age doctrines reveals an enormous amount of actual, real world evidence that this belief system is pure fabrication and historical nonsense.

    Personally, I’m quite thankful in a non-christian way for the efforts of so many to expose what has proven to be “so little” when it comes to church facts, history and evidence. It was obvious to me that something was seriously amiss with Christianity early on, but the research now accomplished by many others has made this fact and not suspicion.

    There will be many who will cling to their stupidstitions and religiosity out of pure necessity and fear, but nobody should ever assume that these edifices and monuments are “proof” of anything, when they’re clearly not. What they really represent is fear, manipulation, control and subjugation based on lies and deception, of which only the “enlightened” will choose to free themselves from.

    Humanity will remains saddled with stupidstitions indefinitely – it is our way of trying to explain the unknown, and to retain presumed authority over others. It works – until it doesn’t, but then there is always a new generation to indoctrinate and bamboozle.

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