Further Daniel Gullotta Disrepresentation of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

For an annotated list of previous posts in this series see the archived page:

Daniel Gullotta’s Review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

Daniel Gullotta criticizes Richard Carrier’s purported argument that the first canonical gospel (the Gospel of Mark) constructs its Jesus primarily as a counterpoint to the Greek hero Odysseus, declaring that Carrier has hewed essentially to the “discredited” arguments of Dennis MacDonald in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. In previous posts I have attempted to demonstrate that Gullotta’s representation of Carrier’s argument on this point in particular is without foundation; in fact, it is contrary to the clearly expressed and detailed argument that Carrier in fact does make.

Gullotta concludes this section with

Yet while Odysseus was an important figure within Greco-Roman culture, Romulus and Aeneas were far more important characters. . . . .

Furthermore, although Mark does make use of sources in constructing his gospel, the most obvious source is that of the Jewish scriptures. Given the high esteem the early church held for the Jewish scriptures, along with the numerous references and allusions made by Mark and the other evangelists to them, the Hebrew Bible is obviously the primary source for Christian literary inspiration, whereas no direct quotation or reference to Homer is anywhere to be found within the Gospel of Mark.

(Gullotta, p. 339)

Anyone reading the above words would think that Richard Carrier asserted that the Gospel of Mark Jesus primarily on Odysseus instead of, say, Romulus and, more importantly, anyone from the Jewish Scriptures. But read what Richard Carrier did in fact say:

Jesus in not only the new (and better) Moses and Elijah and Elisha, he is also the new (and better) Odysseus and Romulus (see Chapter 4, §1, and Element 47), and the new Socrates and Aesop (Element 46).

(Carrier, p. 436)

Consult the index of Carrier’s OHJ and one finds the following entry for Romulus:

There is no index entry for Odysseus.

Moreover, Chapter 4, §1 and Element 47 refer to seven pages(!) of discussion of the gospel parallels with Romulus, whom Gullotta said Carrier “should”(!) have compared with Jesus, not noticing that he in fact did — in far more extensive detail than he did with Odysseus.

Carrier early in his discussion of the gospels does indeed point out how the Roman poet Virgil drew upon and changed incidents in the epics of his Greek predecessor, Homer, but that is before he brings MacDonald into the discussion, and anyone who studies ancient Greek and Roman history will be familiar with the literary technique Virgil followed in imitating yet changing Homer’s stories. The same technique was evidently followed by the evangelists in their use of the Jewish Scriptures.

Gullotta appears to have dozed through well over forty more pages (as we began to address in the previous post) in which Carrier discussed gospel comparisons with characters from the Jewish Scriptures!

I cannot understand how Gullotta could have written such a totally false portrayal of what Carrier in fact argued. We cannot doubt that he read the book he reviewed. We cannot doubt that he has at minimum average reading comprehension and attention span. So how is it that he could write such a patently false portrayal of Carrier’s work?

Gullotta further writes that

Likewise, Carrier cannot reasonably justify why Mark chose to subvert the image of Odysseus, when other and more logical candidates were available. . . . .

That sounds like we are about to read how Gullotta introduces us into Carrier’s flawed explanation but in fact we find that Gullotta has failed to give Carrier a chance. Gullotta fails to inform readers that Carrier offers a rather reasonable justification for Mark’s comparison of Jesus with the many figures from both Jewish Scriptures and gentile literature: it was all about creating a new identity and a “higher morality” than they all represented. Gullotta may not think Carrier’s justification is adequate, but he needs to explain why and not simply declare, without at least some reference to the contrary evidence, that he cannot do a good job of it.

Another detail:

[A]ll of the evidence renders [Dennis MacDonald’s] position of Homeric influential dominance untenable. The ultimate shortcoming of MacDonald’s thesis, and thus Carrier’s use of it. . . . . 

(Gullotta, p. 340)

By now we have surely offered sufficient citation and evidence to demonstrate that Carrier by no means, not at all, follows MacDonald in asserting that Homer was the “dominant influence” on the Gospel of Mark. Most of Carrier’s argument to demonstrate the literary (non-historical, non-eye-witness) sources of the Gospel of Mark has been squarely grounded in Mark’s use of Jewish Scriptures, at minimum forty pages of in depth comparisons with Jewish Scriptures! Carrier’s references to MacDonald’s comparisons have been very scant by comparison.

As I said, I cannot understand why or how Daniel Gullotta could possibly have presented such a palpably false indication of Richard Carrier’s argument. The misrepresentation extends to Gullotta actually conveying the clear message that Carrier did not argue for a predominant influence of the Jewish Scriptures on the Gospel of Mark when that is the diametric opposite of the facts. Carrier’s use of MacDonald’s thesis was minimal yet Gullotta asserts the very opposite of what we must believe he read. I am at a loss trying to find a charitable way to excuse such disrepresentation of Carrier’s argument.


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Neil Godfrey

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7 thoughts on “Further Daniel Gullotta Disrepresentation of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

  1. Daniel N. Gullotta (16 January 2015) [now formatted]. “What is Parallelomania?”. danielngullotta.com :

    [S]cholars such as White and Crossan in arguing the use of the Hebrew Bible as a source of Christian inspiration for the life of Jesus, establish the early Christians intimate knowledge of these Jewish texts within their own Jewish matrix, culture, and location.

    In making a connection between the Gospels and the Homeric literature (Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?), Dennis R. MacDonald studies the educational practices of the Greco-Roman empire and formulates a solid thesis that anyone who was trained to read and write (which was a extremely small amount of people) would have certainly had contact with the Odyssey and the Iliad.

    The point is that these scholars make a connection that is plausible and reasonable. —(Web archive: 15 March 2015)

    1. We see these sorts of reversals from time to time. There seems to be a rule: say one thing when addressing one’s peers on questions of interest to one’s peers; say the opposite if it serves the purpose of slamming those who question the very foundations of our work.

  2. Daniel N. Gullotta (4 November 2014). “On the Challenges of Engaging and Not Engaging the Christ Myth Theory”. danielngullotta.wordpress.com :

    As a part of my Honors Degree and research with the University of Newcastle, I wrote a critical book review and response to Richard Carrier’s book On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, which I am currently in the process of reworking and revamping to have it peer reviewed and hopefully published. —(Web archive: 18 November 2014)

    1. There is talk in universities of scholars who have been found out having falsified their research, and of students who have cheated. Should Gullotta be exempt from being checked? If we were to find that Gullotta presented a clearly false review of Carrier’s OHJ should his Honors Degree be stripped from him?

      1. Neil Godfrey: I seriously think that you should submit this series of blog posts (or at least this one especially) to some more academic source – either the University of Newcastle or the scholarly journal where this review was published. Even if Gullotta was not dishonest in writing this review, he seems to have been so incompetent that other scholars should be informed about it.

    1. Per the podcast above:

      [23:20] Gullotta >>> In my studies of mythicism — I am actually not that interested in mythicist theory . . . I fail to see its explanatory power at all. And the leaps and bounds and forced readings they have to put on to the text and the sources — at times frankly it baffles me.

      [46:00] Gullotta >>> [W]hen you go into the second century for example, and the late first century, if these passages in Josephus and Tacitus and the gospel traditions we get, if they’re all somewhat reliable — even if they’re not completely 100% eyewitness accounts or whatever — these people are promoting Jesus as a man in history, as a Jew, like situated in a certain point of time in recent memory. . . . . It’s not as if he is a figure of the distant past like Hercules — he is contextualized in a very recent part of recent Jewish history. Even within the gospels — if Jesus lived roughly in the 30s . . . and the first gospel is written in the year 70 roughly — Mark. That’s still recent history, that’s still in the local memory.

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