2018-08-09

Continuing Gullotta’s Review of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

Earlier posts:

Daniel Gullotta presents his review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus as a sound scholarly perspective that rises beyond the religious partisanship of previous efforts to address the Christ myth theory.

In the rare instances where these theories have been addressed, they are predominantly countered by self-confessed (and typically evangelical) Christian apologists and scholars.

(Gullotta, p. 312)

“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. 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.” — Michael Bird, Dec 2014.

Unfortunately, while drawing attention to the “self-confessed Christian” bias of previous responses to mythicism Gullotta indicates that his own effort has been compromised when he expresses “particular” thanks to a number of scholars who are themselves not only “self-confessed Christian apologists and scholars” but also well-known for their disdain for the Christ myth theory (e.g. Craig Evans, Larry Hurtado, James McGrath and others) for their assistance in the preparation of his own review. Even the choice of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus as the publisher of the review adds to the irony given that one of its more stridently apologist editors has said the editorial board is hostile to the very idea of Jesus mythicism (see box insert).

Gullotta selects six features of Carrier’s argument to address:

The focus of my response will center on Carrier’s

  1. claim that a pre-Christian angel named Jesus existed,
  2. his understanding of Jesus as a non-human and celestial figure within the Pauline corpus,
  3. his argument that Paul understood Jesus to be crucified by demons and not by earthly forces,
  4. his claim that James, the brother of the Lord, was not a relative of Jesus but just a generic Christian within the Jerusalem community,
  5. his assertion that the Gospels represent Homeric myths,
  6. and his employment of the Rank-Raglan heroic arche-type as a means of comparison.

(Gullotta, p. 325. my formatting/numbering for quick reference)

I hope to further address Gullotta’s confession that he failed to understand Carrier’s methodology in a future post. Here I address his discussion of Carrier’s “claim that a pre-Christian angel named Jesus existed”.

Inspired by the central idea of Doherty’s work, Carrier’s foundational argument is that Jesus was not understood within the earliest days of Christianity as a human-historic figure but rather as a celestial-angelic being, akin to Gabriel in Islam . . . . According to Carrier, ‘some [pre-Christian] Jews already believed there was a supernatural son of God named Jesus — because Paul’s contemporary Philo interprets the messianic prophecy of Zech 6.12 in just such a way’. Carrier draws this conclusion from Philo of Alexandria’s On the Confusion of Tongues 63, which evokes the story of the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak, in Zech 6. He then compares the common language used by Philo to describe the logos with the language used by Paul to describe Christ as evidence of their shared belief in this heavenly being named Jesus.

…..

The most damning argument against Carrier’s claim is that there is no literary or archeological evidence within the entirety of the Mediterranean world and Second Temple period that validates the existence of this pre-Christian celestial Jesus. In surveying references to angels during this time, one of the most common features in the names of angels is the appearance of the element of ‘el’. This survey reveals that the most common angelic characters of this period were named Michael, Gabriel, Sariel/Uriel, and Raphael.

…..

At no point does an angel or celestial being called Jesus appear within Second Temple Judaism, and ‘Jesus’ exhibits all the signs of a mundane name given to a human Jewish male within the period.

(Gullotta pp. 326f)

My response is double-edged. While Gullotta throws Carrier’s argument out of all perspective Carrier has opened himself up to unnecessary criticism with the manner of his discussion of Philo’s interpretation of Zechariah.

I begin with Gullotta’s point.

By associating the Philo argument for a pre-Christian celestial Jesus with the inspiration for Carrier’s mythicist view (Doherty’s “central idea”), by making it the first of his six criticisms, and in couching it in excessive rhetoric (“the most damning argument” … “within the entirety of the Mediterranean world” …  “that validates the existence of this pre-Christian celestial Jesus”), Gullotta catapults the significance of this discussion well beyond its actual place in Carrier’s thesis. In fact, Carrier could have omitted this entire section from his book without significantly lessening the overall strength of his argument.

Carrier’s assessment of Philo’s interpretation of Zechariah (with its apparent indication of a belief among some pre-Christian Jews in a heavenly figure of Jesus) is #40 in a total of forty-eight items of background information that a historian needs to keep in mind when interpreting any particular piece of evidence in the exploration of Christian origins. Background information is used to contextualize evidence. It is not the focus of the argument itself.

It is therefore misleading to single out such a point and criticize it as if it were one of the planks or significant steps or key pieces of evidence in Carrier’s assessment of mythicism. It is one of 48 bricks in the wall against which the evidence is weighed. If it were missing entirely from the book Carrier’s final argument would not be greatly affected, I believe, since there is more than sufficient evidence within Paul’s letters and other Second Temple writings to sustain the conclusion of On the Historicity of Jesus.

Before moving on to my second criticism I should not neglect to add that Gullotta has inadvertently misrepresented the argument against Carrier’s point even further by indicating that all archangels included “el” in their names. He has overlooked the fact that Philo (as Carrier points out) the “Jesus” or “Logos” figure in question, according to Philo, has many names. We are mistaken if we argue that this figure bears no other name than that of Jesus. A more complete historical and inter-disciplinary knowledge of the question would also alert Gullotta to possibilities that have been raised

(1) in biblical studies – that Jesus was a name that was assigned to the purported founder of Christianity after his death (see Charles Guignebert), and

(2) in classical studies – that a common name like Jesus could indeed be associated with divine figures (see John Moles).

Either possibility renders less than absolutely “damning” the arguments he mounts on the basis of “a prosopographical analysis of the names” of Second Temple angels.

Now to Carrier’s presentation of the Philo-Zechariah argument.

I said I also find myself at odds with Carrier on this point. Gullotta cites an earlier publication by Carrier, “Bayes’s Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method” in Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (2010), and I will address Gullotta’s citation in a future post. At this point I will quote another section overlooked by Gullotta, and (dare I suggest?) by Carrier in OHJ, too …..

In Bayes’s Theorem . . . all the probabilities in the equation are conditional probabilities — conditional on the truth of our background knowledge. Therefore, only background knowledge should be included . . . not background assumptions or mere beliefs. Indeed, the very difference between professional and unprofessional history is the acceptance in [background knowledge] of only what has been accepted by peer review as an established fact (or an established uncertainty of some degree, as the case may be). So the contents of [background knowledge] should be limited to the confirmed consensus of expert knowledge.

(my emphasis)

In the case of Philo’s interpretation of Zechariah Richard Carrier has courageously stepped out and added his own argument to the “background knowledge” that by his own earlier admission should be limited to what is “confirmed consensus of expert knowledge”. Either the argument would have been better served if submitted to a journal for wider peer discussion before it appeared in the book, or alternatively if presented as a possibility for consideration in an addendum. Given its idiosyncratic/controversial nature (I understand that Carrier does consider it to be his own original insight) it would have been better set apart from a section that rather “should be limited to the confirmed consensus of expert knowledge.”

Other criticisms of Gullotta to be addressed in future posts.


Carrier, Richard. 2010. “Bayes’s Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method.” In Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth, edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.

Carrier, Richard. 2014. On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Gullotta, Daniel N. 2017. “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15 (2–3): 310–46. https://doi.org/10.1163/17455197-01502009.


 

 

24 Comments

  • leon santiago
    2018-08-09 18:32:46 UTC - 18:32 | Permalink

    Is Gullota still at it? Didn’t he say, during his “debate” with Fitzgerald a couple of years ago, that he wasn’t engaging mythicism any more after that? He’s so bad at critiquing the myth theory and at defending historicity that i applauded when i heard him say he wouldn’t go there any longer.

  • lreadl
    2018-08-09 18:33:44 UTC - 18:33 | Permalink

    Help me out. The first believers in the Jesus savior cult were Jews, right? The Jews of the second temple period were divided into several sects who were antagonistic to each other regarding many things; each asserting that their particular methodology and practice were the “proper” ones. This is patently evident from the Qumran materials. Philo’s description of the logos does coincide abundantly with many of the most salient attributes assigned to the Jesus character and is presented as evidence that the existence of such a heavenly entity was not antithetical to authentic Jewish practice and belief. Whereas the concept of the human embodiment of God was. So, how is Carrier overstepping his bounds in including this as a background element in the larger analysis?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-08-09 23:46:27 UTC - 23:46 | Permalink

      The sticking point for Hurtado (it appears to me that Gullotta took his core criticisms from Hurtado) is that Carrier interprets Philo as speaking of a specific heavenly angel figure called Jesus. That may be a possible interpretation of Philo’s text but it is nonetheless at least debatable, I think. The principles you point out — Philo’s logos sharing attributes of Paul’s Christ, etc — are certainly justifiable background information.

    • db
      2018-08-10 04:00:25 UTC - 04:00 | Permalink

      Comment by Richard Carrier (23 May 2018) per “Historicity Big and Small: How Historians Try to Rescue Jesus”. Richard Carrier Blogs. (25 April 2018):

      The distinguishing characteristic of a Christian sect would be the archangel Jesus having died.
      […]
      there probably were pre-Christian sects (one of which probably became Christian, by novel revelation) that did revere the archangel Jesus and probably even taught he would be the coming messiah, but had not yet come to the conclusion that he’d died to effect his plans, thus had already initiated the end times timetable. There are hints in the Dead Sea Scrolls that the sect(s) represented there did have some such view (and may even have written up pesher prophecies of that angel’s future planned death). But we don’t know that for sure, we don’t know if the only such sect simply became Christianity, we don’t know if any members of that sect protested the revelation and stuck to the original timetable and thus broke away, we don’t know if there were other sects never impacted by the revelation who continued preaching their own thing. Paul does say there were sects preaching “another Jesus” whom the Christians should shun. So those could have been any of the above, for example.
      […]
      there could well have been sects still revering or expecting the Jesus angel as not having died, and who (like possibly Philo) thought it absurd that he would ever do so, and/or who (like possibly the Qumran sect) thought it was not time yet for it to happen, who were competing with Christian sects. They could be the “other Jesus’s” Paul talks about. But we sadly just don’t know.

    • MrHorse
      2018-08-11 01:17:10 UTC - 01:17 | Permalink

      Philo’s description of the logos does coincide abundantly with many of the most salient attributes assigned to the Jesus character and is presented as evidence that the existence of such a heavenly entity was not antithetical to authentic Jewish practice and belief.

      I agree. Philo’s commentary may reflect may reflect what others were thinking or be a forerunner of what was to come. The way Carrier has commented has left him more open for rebuttal that if he had been more propositional.

      —————

      The first believers in the Jesus savior cult were Jews, right?

      Hard to know … there are a number of possible permutations.

  • 2018-08-10 00:27:19 UTC - 00:27 | Permalink

    “The most damning argument against Carrier’s claim is that there is no literary or archeological evidence within the entirety of the Mediterranean world and Second Temple period that validates the existence of this pre-Christian celestial Jesus.” Gullotta is correct. The early Christians (that is those at the very beginning of the movement) believed that the Messiah has appeared on earth in human form. That rumour at a time of existential crisis for the Jews – their religion and temple were destroyed – initiated the cult. Paul and others then proved that the “appearance” was genuine by recourse to the Jewish (and other) Scriptures.

    • db
      2018-08-10 04:45:54 UTC - 04:45 | Permalink

      Fact: Philo’s angel is the same deity that the first Christians thought their Jesus was, even if Carrier is wrong about the name of Philo’s angel.

      Not yet proven: “Gullotta is correct”. If the experts moot the name of Philo’s angel, they may find that Carrier is not wrong.

      • Paul George
        2018-08-11 01:14:45 UTC - 01:14 | Permalink

        You don’t need to be an “expert” to follow the evidence. It’s that simple.

    • Mr Horse
      2018-08-11 01:24:10 UTC - 01:24 | Permalink

      ” .. there is no literary or archeological evidence within the entirety of the Mediterranean world and Second Temple period that validates the existence of this pre-Christian celestial Jesus.”

      Perhaps not, but there is evidence there was increasing expectation of a Jewish messiah-saviour. The only thing wrong with Carrier’s proposition is the degree to which he asserted there was concrete pre-Christian belief in an archangel name Jesus.

      Whether “The early Christians (… at the very beginning of the movement) believed that the Messiah has appeared on earth in human form” is debatable. It is possible there were several Christian cults with various celestial and various part of fully ‘earthly-saviour’ beliefs.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-08-11 03:01:03 UTC - 03:01 | Permalink

        I question whether there is evidence for increasing expectation of a messiah-saviour at that time. See posts @ https://vridar.org/?s=messianic+expectation

        • MrHorse
          2018-08-11 04:07:30 UTC - 04:07 | Permalink

          Michael Bird in chapter 2 of Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Baker Academic, 2009) refers to increasing albeit patchy Jewish messianism (that chapter 2 is titled ‘Messianic Expectations in Second Temple Judaism’) eg. –

          “.. the rise and demise of the Hasmonean dynasty, in the context of the sociopolitical milieu of Palestine in the mid-second century and onward…provided the catalyst for a radical reinterpretation of certain scriptural traditions that eventually developed into Jewish messianism”

          “… renewed interpretation of Israel’s sacred traditions… [p]rovided a number of potential messianic paradigms that were subsequently taken up by others.”

          “.. Some conceived of the Messiah as an earthly warrior (IQM; PSS. Sol. 17-18), while others conceived of him as a preexisting and transcendent figure (1 Enoch; 4 Ezra).”

          “… some, like those at Qumran, could conceive of two Messiahs, one of Aaron and one of Israel (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13.20-22; 14.18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B1.10-11; 2.1; 1QSa 2.17-22).”

          “This pattern might be predicted on a traditiion of the duumvirates of Aaron-Moses and Joshua-Zerubbabel and even replicated later with Eleazer-Kosiba in the 132-5 CE revolt.”

          “The notion of two Messiahs may be indebted to Zech 6.11 and Jer 33.14-18 (as well as T. Reub 6.8; T. Jud 21.2-5; T. Mos. 9.1)”

          “The “Messiah” of the Psalms of Solomon has priestly functions ascribed to him (17.30, 36, 48-9), and the ‘Servant of the Lord’ in Isaiah exhibits royal, priestly, and prophetic traits, citing Nickelsburg GWE (2003) Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation (Minneapolis: fortress), 92-3, 105.”

          “Before 70 CE the word Messiah in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like ‘Messiah of Israel’, ‘Messiah of Aaron’, ‘Messiah of the LORD’, or “his Messiah”: the designation is always qualified rather than absolutized, and no single meaning is ever assumed.”

          “… Messianic figures could go by a variety of names other than “Messiah”, including Son of David, Son of god, Son of Man, the prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth.”

          Bird refers to an idealization of the Davidic dynasty or something like that we may call ‘proto-messianism’ and refers to 2 Sam 7:12-16, the Psalms, Daniel, and says Psalm 89 explicitly reiterates 2 Sam 7:11-16.

          He refers to Dan 2:29 in footnote 30 –

          29 As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel+2&version=NKJV>

          – and says Justin Martyr in Dial 70, 100, 126; 4 Ezra 13,6-7, 36; Didascalia (Eth.) 30 v.20; and Num. Rab. 13:14 interpret the subsequent stone/mountain messianically

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-08-11 04:53:54 UTC - 04:53 | Permalink

            Have a look at my own comments on such claims in the posts I linked. Bird repeats those common assertions for which I find scant evidence re popular messianic expectations in the early first century.

            (I rather suspect that the popular claim that there was an increasing interest in messianic hopes is essentially an apologist trope that arises from a need to find support for so-called gospel history.)

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-08-11 05:03:37 UTC - 05:03 | Permalink

            To take just a few examples:

            “.. the rise and demise of the Hasmonean dynasty, in the context of the sociopolitical milieu of Palestine in the mid-second century and onward…provided the catalyst for a radical reinterpretation of certain scriptural traditions that eventually developed into Jewish messianism”

            This is an assertion. Evidence is needed to support the implication that a “radical reinterpretation” of scriptures was in any way connected with early first century messianic expectations.

            “… renewed interpretation of Israel’s sacred traditions… [p]rovided a number of potential messianic paradigms that were subsequently taken up by others.”

            Examples are needed. We have no evidence that I know of for messianic paradigms taken up by anyone in the early first century. There were rebels, of course, just as there were almost anywhere else in the Roman empire. But that’s not “messianism”.

            “.. Some conceived of the Messiah as an earthly warrior (IQM; PSS. Sol. 17-18), while others conceived of him as a preexisting and transcendent figure (1 Enoch; 4 Ezra).”

            Yes, there were different interpretations among certain sectarians. But it is a long step to infer from that that there were popular messianic expectations, let alone in the early first century.

            “… some, like those at Qumran, could conceive of two Messiahs, one of Aaron and one of Israel (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13.20-22; 14.18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B1.10-11; 2.1; 1QSa 2.17-22).”

            Yes, but see my previous comment. Same applies.

            “This pattern might be predicted on a traditiion of the duumvirates of Aaron-Moses and Joshua-Zerubbabel and even replicated later with Eleazer-Kosiba in the 132-5 CE revolt.”

            Again, there is nothing here to support popular messianic movements or expectations in the time of Jesus.

            And so forth.

            • MrHorse
              2018-08-11 05:24:43 UTC - 05:24 | Permalink

              Those first two passages are just introductory ones, setting the scene.

              I don’t get the impression that Bird was proposing “there were popular messianic expectations”. Rather, he was proposing [& maybe still is] that, as you say, “there were different interpretations among certain sectarians [/sects].”

              Bird provided specific references to Jewish texts that support his general premise –

              “.. Some conceived of the Messiah as an earthly warrior (IQM; PSS. Sol. 17-18), while others conceived of him as a preexisting and transcendent figure (1 Enoch; 4 Ezra).”

              “… some, like those at Qumran, could conceive of two Messiahs, one of Aaron and one of Israel (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13.20-22; 14.18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B1.10-11; 2.1; 1QSa 2.17-22).”

              “The notion of two Messiahs may be indebted to Zech 6.11 and Jer 33.14-18 (as well as T. Reub 6.8; T. Jud 21.2-5; T. Mos. 9.1)”

              And, note Bird’s reference to Zech 6.11 which somewhat ties in with Carriers argument centred on Philo of Alexandria’s On the Confusion of Tongues 63, which evokes the notion of a messianic prophecy based on the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak, in Zech 6.

              I think you’re too quick to dismiss or sideline all that.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-08-11 12:45:19 UTC - 12:45 | Permalink

                Just reading an academic or scribal interpretation of scriptures tells us nothing about whether sectarians were actually anticipating a messiah at the time of Jesus. Yes there were different views of the messianic prophecies as there were different interpretations about many points in scriptures. None of the evidence Bird appears to have presented is any different from what I have addressed in the above posts — and it tells us nothing about sectarian expectations at the time of Jesus.

                If you think I’m too quick to dismiss the evidence have you yet read my posts addressing the evidence? @ https://vridar.org/?s=messianic+expectation Can you tell me where in those posts I am “too quick to dismiss” anything?

          • MrHorse
            2018-08-11 08:56:25 UTC - 08:56 | Permalink

            Here is a link to a view of that Chapter 2, titled ‘Messianic Expectations in Second Temple Judaism’, –

            https://books.google.com.au/books?id=FyLeIQ5WFZIC&pg=PA31&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-08-11 12:49:09 UTC - 12:49 | Permalink

              Is there anything Bird addresses in that chapter that I haven’t addressed in my earlier posts? @ https://vridar.org/?s=messianic+expectation

              As with Hurtado, one knows that any work of his will lo-and-behold prove the historical truth of some apologetic literalist belief in the gospels.

              (I have seen Bird speaking in videos and have read some of his stuff and I have to confess I find him to be one of the more obnoxious apologists (who even — i want to wretch when i think of this — boasts his “australian-ness”) I have had the misfortune to have encountered. Please don’t ask me to read an entire chapter, let alone book, of his.)

  • Steven Watson
    2018-08-10 20:49:01 UTC - 20:49 | Permalink

    “the confirmed consensus of expert knowledge”

    There are two things Vridar has copiously demonstrated for me over umpteen years: that there is no consensus and precious few “experts”. In fact the only “expert” in command of a near totality of the relevant material appears to be Dr Carrier.

    • db
      2018-08-11 00:16:54 UTC - 00:16 | Permalink

      Per Carrier (14 October 2017). “Jonathan Tweet and the Jesus Debate”. Richard Carrier Blogs:

      I am currently the world’s leading expert on the specific, hyper-narrow question of the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus. […] Every historian in this field [of early Christianity] is more knowledgeable than me on something, if not indeed most things, that aren’t directly on the question of historicity. Indeed even most of what I base my own case on, comes from the greater expertise of other published authors, on other hyper-narrow questions that are not directly about that single question [of the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus]…

  • 2018-08-11 12:25:14 UTC - 12:25 | Permalink

    The claim about Jesus not being an angle because angels had names like Michael is easily countered with the Enoch. Or rather, I would say that Jesus was not conceived as an angel, but as the Son of man.

    “16 The Ancient of days came with Michael and Gabriel,
    Raphael and Phanuel, with thousands of thousands, and
    myriads and myriads, which would not be numbered.
    17 Then that angel came to me, and with his voice saluted
    me, saying, You are the Son of man, who art born for righteousness,
    and righteousness has rested upon you.”
    —The Book of Enoch, chapter 70

    This is when it is revealed to Enoch that he is the Son of man. Enoch’s name doesn’t end in el either…

    And anyway, the Son of man wasn’t an angel, he, along with the elect, were superior to angels and were to sit in judgement of them.

    At any rate. The attitude of Gullotta and others is clearly becoming all the more desperate. They try to dismiss things out of hand because the evidence is stacking up. In reality, when you step back and look at it, the defense that Paul was describing a real human Jesus has become absurd. In order to make such a defense it requires finely parsing a few cherished morsels, while ignoring broad themes in Paul’s writings.

    But if Paul knew that Jesus was a real person, it wouldn’t be a few sentences here and there that, if you look at them a certain way you can argue hat they are talking about a real person, it would have been evident all over his writings. The fact that his writings are so vague that we are even having this discussion tells you enough.

    There are dozens and dozens of places in Paul’s writings that one would expect him to have made clear statements about the real life Jesus if he had known that Jesus was areal person. The whole nature of Paul’s writings isn’t at all what one would expect from someone writing about someone who had just been on earth.

    Forget parsing tidbits, if a cult in the mid 1st century existed that was inspired by the life and teachings of a real person, and they produced writings that were trying to convince people of that person’s divinity, power, and wisdom, they would have produced writings radically different than what we see in the letters of Paul.

    Even Christian scholars admit that Paul was “not concerned” with the human Jesus, but Jesus as he lived in heaven. But the only reason this was not originally considered a problem was because the early church fathers all believed that the Gospels were written before the letters of Paul, and even though modern scholars now recognize that this isn’t true, they still act as if it is true.

    And it’s not just the letters of Paul, the epistle of James shows the same signs as do many other early works. So we go on with this charade that the fact that all the first writers about Jesus “weren’t concerned with his earthly ministry.” And this justification is actually taken seriously. I mean this is so stupid.

    So this guy was real, but the first people to write about him were unconcerned with his earthly existence, not even concerned enough to make clear note of the fact that God or his Son had actually taken human form. Yet, for all of the later Christians, who came along after the writing of the Gospels, the fact that Jesus was human was of the utmost importance!

    So even these scholars have to say, “For early Christian the fact that Jesus was human was totally unimportant, but for later Christians the fact he was human was of prime importance… and this makes sense.” I mean come on. This is basically the current state of accepted scholarship.

    When you really step back and stop parsing the nuances of Paul’s letters, the current scholarly consensus on the real life of Jesus is totally absurd. It’s hanging on the thinnest of threads, that can only be seen when you squint and look from a certain angle, and the fact that people claim this thinnest of threads is so meaningful is all based on maintaining a view established by traditions that are widely acknowledged as false even by the scholars trying to maintain them.

    The idea that Jesus was a real person would never have been established in the first place if the modern understanding of the New Testament works had been known from the start.

    • db
      2018-08-11 12:40:10 UTC - 12:40 | Permalink

      Per Carrier (2014):

      I must first define some terms I will frequently use. . . . These definitions are not intended to be normative. So there is no sense in arguing whether my definitions are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They merely specify what I mean when I use those terms, regardless of what anyone else might mean, or what any dictionaries say, or any other conventions. As long as you treat my definitions as nothing more than explanations of what I mean, confusion will be forestalled. I shall use god to mean any celestial being with supernatural power, and God to mean a supreme creator deity. Though by this definition angels and demons are indeed gods, I’ll sometimes (but not always) use angel or archangel to refer to ‘gods’ that are believed to be acting as messengers or servants of God . . . —(On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 60)

  • Paul George
    2018-08-11 12:42:58 UTC - 12:42 | Permalink

    Messianic hopes were highest just prior to the year 66, NOT during the reign of Tiberius. Suetonius records a fervent Messianic expectation during the reign of Vespasian. “A firm persuasion had long prevailed through all the East, that it was fated for the empire of the world, at that time, to devolve on some who should go forth from Judea. This prediction referred to a Roman emperor, as the event showed; but the Jews, applying it to themselves, broke out into rebellion.” p. 221 Jesus of the Books: A Pragmatic History of the Early Church.
    “Due to the costs sunk into the belief that a political Messiah would appear (a psychological product of the War and religious
    expectation), the minds of the first believers were channelled into accepting that Jesus had appeared. The lack of physical evidence in
    the confusion and chaos of the War was no hindrance to that belief. The War itself proved that he had come. This was the interpretation of a minority of traumatised Jews who expected their brothers to follow, and were genuinely surprised and disappointed when they didn’t.” p.100 Ibid
    Once you get the basics right, that is the correct timeframe, it all falls into place. The expectation, the events all coincided at the time the Jewish religion was destroyed and naturally this is when (Jewish) Christianity, as a substitute religion, as a deviant sect of Judaism, was born. It did not succeed but its offshoot, Gentile Christianity as espoused by Paul and others, did.

  • Pingback: Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus, point #4, “James, the brother of the Lord” |

  • El Cid
    2018-08-14 22:06:07 UTC - 22:06 | Permalink

    There were many names for God: 1) El, as Elohim, was one. But 2) Yahweh or Jahweh was another.

    Some might propose that Jesus’ name came from the latter. Meaning “Jehovah saves”?

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