For an annotated list of previous posts in this series see the archived page:
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In the previous post we began to look at Daniel Gullotta’s treatment of Richard Carrier’s argument that the gospels are more like myth than remembered history and concluded with a look at a quotation taken from page 396 of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. In the next sentence Gullotta refers to another sentence of Carrier that is taken from a full 40/41 pages after the first one.
Carrier’s claims that ‘Mark updated Homer by recasting the time and place and all the characters to suit Jewish and (newly minted) Christian mythology’ is principally based on the work of Dennis R. MacDonald.93 After heavily citing the work of MacDonald, Carrier claims, ‘[i]n constructing his Gospel, the first we know to have been written, Mark merged Homeric with biblical mythology to create something new, a mythical syncretism, centered around his cult’s savior god, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his revelatory message, the ‘gospel’ of Peter and (more specifically) Paul.’94
93 Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 436.
94 Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 437.
Gullotta, p. 337
That is a misrepresentation of Carrier’s argument. Carrier’s “claim” did not follow on “after heavily citing the work of MacDonald”. The words Gullotta quotes in fact followed a single citation of MacDonald.
In those 40 pages separating the quotes Gullotta has fished out Carrier set out details of his case for reading the gospels as myth rather than history and peppered his discussion with supporting (sometimes contradicting) views of other scholars. There are 83 footnotes in those 40 pages and Dennis MacDonald appears in no more than 5 of them. Others cited in those 40 pages of establishing his case for the Gospel of Mark being constructed as a mythical narrative are:
Christian apologist Richard Bauckham, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, attempts to argue otherwise, but there are far too many implausibilities in his case, combined with an over-reliance on the possibiliter fallacy (Carrier, Proving History, pp. 26·29).
See the various critiques in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 6 (2008);
and the critical review of Dean Bechard (of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome) in Biblica 90 (2009), pp. 126-29;
and the argument of Thomas Brodie, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: A Memoir of a Discovery (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012), pp. 115-36.
Likewise, Christian apologists Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, in The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids, M I : Baker, 2007), also attempt to argue as Bauckham does, but their case is even more mired in implausibilities, contradictions and undemonstrated assertions,
as illustrated by Ken Olson in his review of their book for the online Review of Biblical Literature (December 20, 2008) at http://www. bookreviews.org/pdf/6281_6762.pdf;
and by Robert Price in his extended critique in ‘Jesus: Myth and Method’, in Christian Delusion (ed. Loftus), pp. 273-90.
David Gowler, ‘The Chreia‘, in The Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison, and Crossan), pp. 132-48.
Tim Whitmarsh. Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001);
Raffaella Cribiore, Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001)
There is a good survey of the evidence and scholarship on this aspect of ancient education and composition in Brodie, Birthing of the New Testament, pp. 2-79.
I am rejecting outright all apologetic arguments, such as that of Mark Strauss . . . . Mark Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007], p. 388) . . . .
Gary Porton. ‘The Parable in the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Literature’. in The Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), pp. 206-21;
and in the same volume, Herbert Basser, ‘Gospel and Talmud’, pp. 285-95;
Peter Flint, ‘Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls’, pp. 110-31;
and Craig Evans, ‘The Recently Published Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus’, in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluation of the State of Current Research (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans; New York: E.J. Brill, 1994), pp. 559-61;
and Craig Evans, ‘Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran Cave 4’, in Eschatology. Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Craig Evans and Peter Flint; Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans, 1997), pp. 91-100.
Reuben Swanson, New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: Luke (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1995), pp. 73, 317 and 411.
Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah from Gethsemane to the Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1994), I, pp. 814-20 (§ 34.C);
and Robert Merritt, ‘Jesus Barabbas and the Paschal Pardon’, Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985), pp. 57-68.
William John Lyons, ‘The Hermeneutics of Fictional Black and Factual Red: The Markan Simon of Cyrene and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 4 (June 2006). pp. 139-54 (149-50 for the translation of ‘ Barabbas’).
A.H. Wratislaw. ‘The Scapegoat-Barabbas’, Expository Times 3 (1891/1892), pp. 400-403.
Daniel Stokl ben Ezra, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity: The Day of Atonement from Second Temple Judaism to the Fifth Century (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), pp. 165-73;
Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean, ‘Barabbas, the Scapegoat Ritual, and the Development of the Passion Narrative’, Harvard Theological Review 100 (July 2007), pp. 309-34,
and many others (from William Arthur Heidel, in The Day of Yahweh: A Study of Sacred Days and Ritual Forms in the Ancient Near East (New York: Century, 1929], p. 298, to Nicole Wilkinson Duran, in The Power of Disorder: Ritual Elements in Mark’s Passion Narrative [London: T. & T. Clark, 2008), pp. 85-87).
Reuben Swanson, New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: Matthew (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), pp. 279-80;
See G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson (eds.), Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 235-37:
and Darrell Bock, ‘The Function of Scripture in Mark 15.1-39’, in Biblical interpretation in Early Christian Gospels., Vol. 1. The Gospel of Mark (ed. Thomas R. Hatina: New York: T. & T. Clark, 2006), pp. 8-17.
Roger Aus, Barabbas and Esther and Other Studies in the Judaic Illumination of Earliest Christianity (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1 992), p. 12.
See Bruce Chilton, ‘Targum, Jesus, and the Gospels’, in Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), pp. 238-55.
Henk Jande Jonge, ‘The Cleansing of the Temple in Mark 11:15 and Zechariah 14:21’, in The Book of Zechariah and its Influence (ed. Christopher Tuckett; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), pp. 87-100.
Mark Black ‘The Messianic Use of Zechariah 9-14 in Matthew, Mark and the Pre-Markan Tradition’, in Scripture and Traditions: Essays on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Carl R. Holladay (ed. Patrick Gray and Gail R. O’Day; Boston: Brill, 2008), pp. 97-114
See Helms, Gospel Fictions, pp. 65-67.
see Adam Winn, Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010).
See Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007);
and T.D. Benedikston, ‘Structure and Fate in Suetonius’ Life of Galba’, Classical Journal 92 (1997), pp. 167-73.
Matthew Ferguson, Thematic Rings and Structure in Suetonius ‘ De Vita Caesarum (MA thesis, University of Arizona, 2012), available at http://www.richardcarrier.info/ FergusonSuetonius.pdf.
Norman Petersen, ‘The Composition of Mark 4:1-8:26’, Harvard Theological Review 73 (January-April 1980), pp. 185-217.
Paul Achtemeier in ‘Toward the Isolation of Pre-Markan Miracle Catenae’, Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (September 1970), pp. 265-91;
and Paul Achtemeier, ‘The Origin and Function of the Pre-Marcan Miracle Catenae’, Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (June 1972), pp. 198-221.
see Thomas Mathews, The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).
Robert Price, The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press, 2011), pp. 93-94.
Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 2001), pp. 206- 209.
See the analysis in Crossan, Power of Parable, pp. 162-68.
Bart Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 2005), p. 68.
David Ulansey, ‘The Heavenly Veil Torn: Mark’s Cosmic “lnclusio'”, Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (Spring 1991), pp. 123-25.
Deborah Krause, ‘The One Who Comes Unbinding the Blessing of Judah: Mark 11.1-10 as a Midrash on Genesis 49.11, Zechariah 9.9, and Psalm 118.25-26’, in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals (ed. Craig Evans and James Sanders; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), pp. 141-53
Calum Carmichael, ‘The Passover Haggadah’, in Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), pp. 343-56.
Chilton, ‘Targum, Jesus, and the Gospels’, in Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), p. 247.
Theodore Weeden, ‘Two Jesuses, Jesus of Jerusalem and Jesus of Nazareth: Provocative Parallels and Imaginative Imitation’, Forum N.S. 6.2 (Fall 2003), pp. 137- 341;
Craig Evans, ‘Jesus in Non-Christian Sources’, in Studying the Historical Jesus (ed. Chilton and Evans), pp. 443-78 (475-77).
George Nickelsburg, ‘The Genre and Function of the Markan Passion Narrative’, Harvard Theological Review 13 (January-April 1 980), pp. 153-84.
Robert Miller, ‘The (A)Historicity of Jesus’ Temple Demonstration: A Test Case in Methodology’, in Society of Biblical Literature 1991 Seminar Papers: One Hundred Twenty-Seventh Annual Meeting (ed. Eugene Lovering: Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1991), pp. 235-52.
R.G. Hamerton-Kelly, ‘Sacred Violence and the Messiah: The Markan Passion Narrative as a Redefinition of Messianology’, in The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (ed. James Charlesworth; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), pp. 461-93 (467-71).
See David Neville, Mark’s Gospel–Prior or Posterior? A Reappraisal of the Phenomenon of Order (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), pp. 258-66;
Francis Gerald Downing, ‘Markan Intercalation in Cultural Context’, in Doing Things with Words in the First Christian Century (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), pp. 118-32;
T. Shepherd, ‘The Narrative Function of Markan Intercalation’, New Testament Studies 41 (1995), pp. 522-40;
G. Van Oyen, ‘Intercalation and Irony in the Gospel of Mark’, in The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck, Vol. II (ed. Frans van Segbroeck; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1992), pp. 943-74;
J.R. Edwards. ‘Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives’, Novum Testamentum 31 (1989). pp. 193-216.
See Victor Eppstein, ‘The Historicity of the Gospel Account of the Cleansing of the Temple’, Zeitschrift fur neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der alteren Kirche 55 (1 964), pp. 42-58.
Robert Funk, ‘Do the Gospels Contain Eyewitness Reports?’ in Finding the Historical Jesus: Rules of Evidence (ed. Bernard Brandon Scott; Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 2008), pp. 31-39 (32).
Somehow the name “MacDonald” appears to have so blinded Gullotta that he missed all of those citations and the details of 40 pages of Carrier’s argument for the gospels being myth and not history.
Finally Carrier comes to the point where he discusses Dennis MacDonald’s contribution to the question. He begins by quoting a single passage from MacDonald before the words Gullotta asserts follow “after heavily citing the work of MacDonald”:
As MacDonald explains:
Mark and Luke wrote not to convert their readers but to provide the burgeoning Christian movement a literary narrative to shape its identity, much as classical Greek poetry-Homeric epic above all-had shaped Greek culture, including religion. In this respect, Mark and Luke-Acts are similar to the Aeneid, which was composed about a century earlier. In this Latin epic, Vergil transformed Homeric epic and other literature into a lavish and powerful mythology that profoundly shaped Roman politics, society, and culture.102
102. MacDonald, ‘Imitations of Greek Epic’, pp. 374-75.
(Carrier, p. 436)
Gullotta follows immediately with a criticism of Dennis MacDonald’s thesis
MacDonald’s proposal is that Mark was not written as history, but rather to emulate Homer’s epics; thus, the author constructed the life of Jesus to mirror the trials of Odysseus and Hector. In short, ‘Mark wrote a prose epic modeled largely after the Odyssey and the ending of the Iliad’.95
(Gullotta, p. 337)
From this point Gullotta loses sight of Carrier’s own line of reasoning, sometimes erroneously conflating MacDonald’s and Carrier’s views, and even at one point distorting the meaning of MacDonald’s words in order to fire a salvo at “mythicists” in general.
As I said, trying to get a complete handle on Gullotta’s fifth point is a long haul. I’ll set out the evidence for the assertions in the previous paragraph in my next post.
More to come.
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.
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