Gullotta’s Concluding Comments on 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

After setting aside a discussion of Richard Carrier’s Bayesian method as “unnecessarily complicated and uninviting” (p. 325) and opting instead to focus on six points in Carrier’s argument, Daniel Gullotta concludes:

After examining numerous fundamental problems with Carrier’s overall thesis for Jesus’ non-historicity, Carrier’s final Bayesian conclusion that ‘the odds Jesus existed are less than 1 in 12,000’ is untenable and disingenuous.

Gullotta, p. 344

That statement is misleading insofar as Gullotta has not addressed Carrier’s “Bayesian conclusion” at any point in his review. (Gullotta has not even addressed the Bayesian method except to compare it, misguidedly, with Richard Swinburne’s “use” of Bayes to prove Jesus’ resurrection.) One might infer, then, that the six points of Gullotta’s focus were “fundamental” to “Carrier’s overall thesis for Jesus’ non-historicity”, yet we have seen in the previous posts that such a suggestion seriously misunderstands (ignores) both Carrier’s Bayesian argument and the weight that Carrier himself assigned to those six points. Far from being “fundamental problems” we have seen that Gullotta’s

* Had a review addressed Carrier’s Bayesian method it would have acknowledged that this claim was but one of nearly 50 data points of background information and not a point of primary evidence to be assessed in the light of competing hypotheses;

** Had the discussion addressed the Bayesian analysis it would have informed readers that yes, Paul’s claims can be used to argue strongly for Jesus’ historicity, but that the competing hypothesis also needed to be addressed along with all other related evidence and the two hypotheses then weighed against each other.

1. focus on Carrier’s claim that a pre-Christian angel named Jesus existed erroneously shifts one of nearly 50 background data points, a point that is quite dispensable without any significant loss to Carrier’s argument, into a “fundamental” plank of Carrier’s argument;*

2. focus on his understanding of Jesus as a non-human and celestial figure within the Pauline corpus inexplicably failed to acknowledge that Carrier conceded the argument that Paul’s claim that Jesus was born of a woman was 100% expected in the argument for historicity, that Carrier argued a fortiori giving here the highest score in favour of Jesus being historical;**

3. focus on his argument that Paul understood Jesus to be crucified by demons and not by earthly forces demonstrated that he, Gullotta, lacked awareness of the range of scholarly views on this question, and in particular on the competing interpretations of the critical passage in 1 Corinthians;

4. focus on his claim that James, the brother of the Lord, was not a relative of Jesus but just a generic Christian within the Jerusalem community inexplicably failed to acknowledge that Carrier conceded the argument that Paul’s claim to have met the brother of the Lord was 100% expected in the argument for historicity, that Carrier argued a fortiori giving here the highest score in favour of Jesus being historical;**

5. focus on his assertion that the Gospels represent Homeric myths, inexplicably failed to acknowledge that Carrier made far more detailed and comprehensive arguments that the gospels were, as Gullotta himself seemed to acknowledge, primarily based on a “midrashic-like” retelling of stories from the Jewish Scriptures and emulation of Jewish heroes from those scriptures;

6. focus on his employment of the Rank-Raglan heroic arche-type as a means of comparison demonstrated Gullotta’s (a) contradictory arguments, (b) ignorance of what folklorists themselves have said and demonstrated about the function of, and ways to use, the RR archetypes, and (c) inexplicable failure to acknowledge Carrier’s points about the use and significance of the RR scale.

Surely, then, Gullotta has not “examined numerous fundamental problems” with Carrier’s thesis nor has he addressed (in fact he has consciously avoided) Carrier’s “Bayesian conclusion”.

Gullotta has failed to address what he began by acknowledging was the fundamental point of Carrier’s argument:

Simply put, the main objective of Carrier’s work is to test the ‘historicity hypothesis’ against the ‘myth hypothesis’, and after calculating the background knowledge, prior probability, as well as the evidence from the primary and secondary sources related to Jesus’ historicity, see which one seems more probable.

(Gullotta, p. 321)

  • With respect to points #2 and #4 above Gullotta had two excellent opportunities to address that “main objective” but failed to do so.
  • With respect to #1 Gullotta failed to take into account Carrier’s “main objective” and the place of nearly fifty points of “background knowledge” in that objective.
  • With respect to #3 and #6 our reviewer’s discussion lacked awareness of the wider scholarly views, firstly within biblical studies and secondly in an external field.
  • With respect to #5, Gullotta simply failed to notice about forty pages of argument belying his criticism and confused Carrier’s primary thesis with that of Dennis MacDonald, criticizing Carrier for points he nowhere makes.

A final irony

Daniel Gullotta damns Richard Carrier with faint praise when he implies at the end that Carrier’s criticisms of the methods of historical Jesus scholars are well-known in the field and that Carrier’s “contribution” was therefore superfluous.

Paradoxically, Carrier’s main contribution may wind up being seen not as an advancement of mythicism, but as a criticism of current methodologies employed by scholars of the historical Jesus. Because of this, Carrier’s work is an ironic contribution to the quest for the historical Jesus. Put simply, Carrier’s methodological complaints represent a long and ongoing trend which other scholars have addressed.127

127 Many of Carrier’s concerns and criticisms have been longed (sic) noted and echoed by other historical Jesus scholars. See

Chris Keith, ‘The Narratives of the Gospels and the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates, and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 38.4 (2016), pp. 426–455;

Jonathan Bernier, The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Towards a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies (London: T&T Clark, 2016);

James G. Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015);

James H. Charlesworth and Brian Rhea (eds.), Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014);

Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne (eds.), Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (New York: T&T Clark, 2012);

Rafael Rodriguez, Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text (London: T&T Clark, 2010);

James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný (eds.), Jesus Research: An International Perspective (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009);

Anthony Le Donne, The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009);

Rafael Rodríguez, ‘Authenticating Criteria: The Use and Misuse of a Critical Method’, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7.2 (2009), pp. 152–167;

Bernard Brandon Scott (ed.), Finding the Historical Jesus: Rules of Evidence (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 2008);

Stanley E. Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (London: T&T Clark, 2004);

Hyeon Woo Shin, Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem in Historical Jesus Research (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2004);

Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2002).

(Gullotta, pp. 344f, my formatting of the footnote)

I have bolded the publication years of first four works listed as being among those “long noted” to draw attention to their appearance after (or simultaneous with) the publication of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus (2014).

Another “ironical” detail is the inclusion of Scott’s Finding the Historical Jesus: Rules of Evidence in the list. Far from being an instance of a “long-standing methodological complaint” Scott’s volume is in fact a whole-hearted support of the methods. As Carrier himself noted in his companion volume to OHJ, Proving History,

The discussion of the same criteria in the Jesus Seminar’s manual on method, edited by Bernard Brandon Scott, Finding the Historical Jesus: Rules of Evidence (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 2008), is almost wholly uncritical and entirely unresponsive to any of the literature above.

(Carrier, Proving History, p. 294, my bolding)

And what is that “literature above” to which Carrier refers? Irony of ironies….

Stanley Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000)

James Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný, eds., Jesus Research: An International Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2009)

Dale Allison, “The Historians’ Jesus and the Church” and The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2009);

Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria, trans. M. Eugene Boring (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2002);

Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne, eds., Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (T & T Clark, 2002);

….. Similar doubts can be found almost anywhere the criteria have ever been critically discussed, e.g.,

M. D. Hooker, “Christology and Methodology,” New Testament Studies 17 (1970): pp. 480–87;

John Gager, “The Gospels and Jesus: Some Doubts about Method,” Journal of Religion 54, no. 3 (July 1974): 244–72;

Eugene Boring, “The Beatitudes in Q and Thomas as a Test Case,” Semeia 44 (1988): 9–44;

John Meier, “Criteria: How Do We Decide What Comes from Jesus?” A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 167–95;

Christopher Tuckett, “Sources and Methods,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus, ed. Markus Bockmuehl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 121–37;

H. W. Shin, Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem in Historical Jesus Research: The Search for Valid Criteria (Dudley, MA: Peeters, 2004), pp. 135–220, pp. 320–34;

Eric Eve, “Meier, Miracle, and Multiple Attestation,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 3, no. 1 (2005): 23–45;

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, no. 2 (June 2006): 139–54 (cf. 150–51, n. 51)

and “A Prophet Is Rejected in His Home Town (Mark 6.4 and Parallels): A Study in the Methodological (In)Consistency of the Jesus Seminar,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 6, no. 1 (March 2008): 59–84; and

Rafael Rodríguez, “Authenticating Criteria: The Use and Misuse of a Critical Method,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7, no. 2 (2009): 152–67.

Also cited:

Anthony Le Donne, The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009)

I have bolded the works listed and discussed by Carrier that Daniel Gullotta also listed by way of implying that Carrier or others reading his works may not realize demonstrate that scholars are well aware of flaws in their methods. The irony is that Carrier informed his readers of all but one of those works and may others in addition. Gullotta has evidently not grasped the way Carrier has actually addressed this scholarship, nor even the fact that he has addressed it. (Several of the titles are again cited by Carrier in OHJ.)

A swift hard kick out the door

Gullotta’s final paragraph may appeal to many readers but I think it concludes on an unnecessary and unfounded imputation of undesirable motives. I think it is especially noteworthy that Gullotta provides no references to the book he is reviewing to justify the following remarks in his concluding paragraph:

Scholars, however, may rightly question whether Carrier’s work and those who evangelize it exhibit the necessary level of academic detachment. If David L. Barrett was right, ‘That every generation discovers the historical Jesus that it needs’, then it is not surprising that a group with a passionate dislike for Jesus (and his ancient and modern associates) has found what they were looking for: a Jesus who conveniently does them the favor of not existing anywhere except in the imagination of deluded fundamentalists in the past and present. Whereas mythicists will accuse scholars of the historical Jesus of being apologists for the theology of historic Christianity, mythicists may in turn be accused of being apologists for a kind of dogmatic atheism.

(Gullotta, p. 346)

Evangelize? A group with a passionate dislike for Jesus? Found what they were looking for? Mythicists will accuse scholars? Apologists for dogmatic atheism?

Where do all of those descriptors come from? By concluding that way Gullotta signals to anyone who may question the historicity of Jesus that he or she will be considered an “apologist for a kind of dogmatic atheism”, someone who has a “passionate dislike for Jesus” and is “looking for” a justification to believe he no longer existed. How can anyone expect a reasonable debate or discussion with anyone who approaches another with such presumptions about their motives and character?

Gullotta quoted Carrier’s positive hope that his book would improve the standard of arguments and methods of both mythicists and “historicists” in his final paragraph he roundly slaps down Carrier and anyone who might question the historicity of Jesus.

When I first heard of the possibility that Jesus may not have existed I was an atheist but I did not say, Hey, great, that’s just what I want to believe! No, I was like many other atheists and was quite shocked, and certainly sceptical, on hearing that anyone argued for such an idea. My past experience with a fundamentalist cult did not leave me with a bitter hope or wish that Jesus never existed but it did leave me with a painful awareness of just how wrong and deceived I could be, and how important it was to be extra careful before embracing any other radical idea. I have also seen both today and in the past that some mythicists have had a deep respect for Christianity, some continue to identify themselves as devout Christians. Many atheists dogmatically oppose the very idea of mythicism.

As an atheist I have no need to think Jesus was nonhistorical and I am sure that many other atheists think the same way. I seem to recall that the main reason many supported Richard Carrier’s enterprise was to come up with a method that could hopefully settle the question either way.

With limited academic jobs available following the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2007, he turned to his fan base and proposed a research project investigating the historicity of Jesus in order to help pay off his student debt.20 Carrier’s appeal was answered and he received a total of $20,000 in donations, administrated by Atheists United as a charitable research grant.

20 See Richard C. Carrier, ‘Calling All Benefactors’, Richard Carrier Blogs (2008), para. 1–12. Online: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/04/calling-all-benefactors.html [accessed ca. 2015].

Gullotta could have been a little more charitable and pointed out that in that same blog post and in a follow up comment that Carrier did not promise an argument in favour of mythicism but prepared readers that there was some possibility at least that it might go the other way, though he thought it unlikely at the time. Carrier was not addressing Jesus haters who were craving a slam dunk to prove Jesus did not exist, contrary to what Gullotta seems to suggest in his concluding paragraph. Does Gullotta really think that atheists are incapable of being fair minded or honest in their approach to the question of Jesus? Gullotta appeals to Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman when he makes his damning claim, but we have seen in other posts that their comparable accusations are equally unsupported and gratuitous.


One more post to complete this series.


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

Carrier, Richard. 2012. Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.

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


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53 thoughts on “Gullotta’s Concluding Comments on Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

  1. Well, this certainly doesn’t bode well for getting objective assessment of the material.

    I do think that the case and research I put forward in my book is much stronger than that put forward in On the Historicity, but my problem is that I lack credentials so I can’t even get my book reviewed by scholars at all.

    I’ve submitted my book to the SBL, but haven’t heard back and will be surprised if they do anything other than just dump it in the trash. It’s a very frustrating situation because I’m certain I’ve put together the most solid case on this subject that’s ever been presented, but without a PhD after my name there is little I can do to get the book taken seriously. By far the easiest thing for scholars to do is ignore my work, because the material itself can’t be brushed aside or dismissed nearly as easily as Gullotta did with Carrier’s material. So the easiest thing to do is just ignore it and not review it at all.

    I’d send Gullotta a copy of my book if I thought he’d actually read it and address it, but I sure he wouldn’t. Seeing the treatment that a work like Carrier’s gets certainly doesn’t engender confidence.

    Thanks for this review of his review.

    1. Think of it from a scholar’s point of view. If you were a Professor of Astrophysics at X University, would you be interested in spending your time reading a book on String Theory that had just been published by an amateur?

      1. To quote what I wrote in another comment at a better place (I hope): I wonder whether anyone would be granted a PhD in biblical studies if he/she were to be known as a Jesus mythicist (regardless of the quality of his/her arguments and research) simply because of coming to bad conclusions. Ditto for those who might believe that Paul was a confidence trickster (regardless of Jesus’s status).

          1. By confidence trickster, I mean, in the context of Paul, a person whose teachings are not based upon sincere belief but rather upon a desire to exploit in various ways followers. As an example of a figure who may be a useful model to compare Paul to (according to the discussion at http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=857), consider Dwight D. York (born June 26, 1945), also known as Malachi Z. York, Issa Al Haadi Al Mahdi, and Dr. York. York founded numerous orders under various names during the 1970s and 1980s. These were at first based on pseudo-Islamic themes and Judaism (Nubian Islamic Hebrews). Later he developed a theme derived from “Ancient Egypt,” mixing ideas taken from black nationalism, cryptozoological and UFO religions, and popular conspiracy theory. He last called his group the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, or Nuwabians. Yet eventually, evidence revealed that he was sexually and financially exploiting his followers, and it is widely believed that he shaped his eclectic religion to maximize his power over his followers and minimize the authorities’ ability to track him down – and that he never believed any of it.

            In the same way, it might be possible to construct a narrative in which Paul constructs his own religion based upon other religious ideas (possibly including the recent death of a historical Jesus) solely as a way to gain financial (and perhaps other) benefits from recruits – see the forum discussion that I linked to earlier in this comment.

            1. Weil, Joseph R. (2011). “Yellow Kid” Weil: The Autobiography of America’s Master Swindler. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84935-052-5 :

              [Per Weil] The desire to get something for nothing has been very costly to many people who have dealt with me and with other con men. But I have found that this is the way it works. The average person, in my estimation, is ninety-nine per cent animal and one per cent human. The ninety-nine per cent that is animal causes very little trouble. But the one per cent that is human causes all our woes.

            2. I am curious why you ascribe this confidence trickery only to Paul while it just as well applies to the personage of Jesus in the gospel of Mark. Begs the question whether Paul was inspired by Mark, or the other way around.

              1. As as I show in my book, it’s definitive that the author of the Gospel Called Mark based his Jesus character on Paul and used Paul’s teachings as Jesus’ teachings in his story.

              2. Re: db
                That’s essentially what my book is about. I’m a data analyst took that approach to analyzing the texts of the Gospels vs the “Old Testament” and other works of the New Testament. My findings show significant dependencies across the works, far more than has been recognized by any other scholars, by orders of magnitude…

              3. Martin Klatt: I discuss Paul as a confidence trickster because the letters attributed to him (whether written by him or not is another issue) contain references to his collecting money (allegedly to give to others), reveal his efforts to retain control over his followers, talk about an apostle’s being supported by the congregation, mention an apostle’s having a wife, and perhaps other issues – all of which are reminiscent of issues that more modern religious confidence tricksters (such as L Ron Hubbard who founded Scientology) have had to deal with. In contrast, the Jesus of the Gospels, with no wife, no collection of money, only one (unsolicited) instance of a followers giving him a gift, and his practicing and encouraging an itinerant begging life style, is less reminiscent of a religious confidence trickster than Paul is (although some can and have made such an argument).

              4. @ A Buddhist

                In the gospel of Mark there are substantial instances where the persona Jesus shows an interest in sharing meals with lots of people in the story:
                the mother in law of Simon is put to work(I think cooking dinner, don’t you?), he invites himself to dinner with tax collectors and sinners, invites himself to dinner in the household of Jaïrus, organizes open air BYO’s with crowds(who contribute lots more than the host puts up, large baskets of remaining leftovers are collected) and most importantly becoming more greedy tries to cajole rich people to give up their wealth to the “poor” in order to inherit eternal life, the “poor” who can best be identified as the “teacher” and his cronies(they will have the poor with them always when the bridegroom is taken away). The sole instance in his home town where his scams are thwarted instigates the sending out of the disciples to try and do the exorcism scam in duo’s without him because the power of Jesus to provide is lacking there.
                Classic pattern of confidence trickery of a master scammer with accomplices.

              5. Mythicist Robert M Price points out a “possible Con” in the Gospel of Mark. Price writes concerning Mark 1:21-28:

                Mark’s larger goal here is not merely to show how great Jesus was, but, beyond this, to drive home the authority of his teaching, because that is the logically erroneous inference of the synagogue congregation. His authority is verified for them by the fact that he can perform exorcisms. Here is a prime case of what Dostoyevsky warned against: mystery, miracle, and authority. A con job, though perhaps not intentionally. The supposed miracle-worker may draw the same conclusion himself: ‘Wow! If I can do this, I must be privy to the truth of God!’ But obviously not, right? Would Superman necessarily be infallible ex cathedra? Would his super-strength, invulnerability, super-speed, and X-ray vision verify his opinion, if he had one, about Anselm’s Ontological Argument? It’s like when Jerry Seinfeld was trying to convince George Costanza that Superman must have a super sense of humor if everything else about him was super. It’s like thinking some actor or rock star’s political opinions should be taken seriously (Robert M Price, “Holy Fable Volume 2,” pg. 29, 2017).

              6. Re: John MacDonald
                I don’t think RMP has it right there. #1 many such scenes are really literary allusions and the real meaning is to be found in the alluded to text. #2 There is no attempt by the author of Mark to “show how great Jesus is”. The whole point is to show how dumb, misguided, corrupt, greedy, etc. the Jews were (according to the author, who was himself most likely a Jew).

                The point of the miracles is to show that the Jews were given good reason to accept Jesus the messiah, but despite this, they still failed. The Jesus character is really just a foil. The point of the story is to show why the Jews deserved the destruction that befell them with the First Jewish-Roman War. Jesus is the foil that makes the case.

                The whole story isn’t even about Jesus, it’s about the war and how the failings of the Jews and the leaders of the early Jesus cult led to the war.

              7. @John MacDonald

                That performance in the synagogue is the birth of the method Jesus is employing.
                In the previous lines the first disciples are called as “fishers of men”. They are the accomplices to do the exorcism. One of them is playing demoniac and inadvertently calling Jesus by his name, that’s why Jesus rebuked him into silence, because they pretended to be strangers to one another, it was a bungle. Hilarious joke.

              8. Re: Martin Klatt
                That’s not correct. The “fishers of men” line is a literary allusion to Jeremiah 16, which is a passage about how God is going to punish the Jews. It’s meant to show that the “disciples” are agents of destruction. The scene with the demoniac is also a literary allusion.

              9. @r.g.price

                I appreciate the work you did in the allusions to scripture. Saves me time looking ‘m up myself, but it shows only the craft of Mark concocting his satire with multiple layers, the layer of satire being present more in line with the action under hand. If the political allegory you seem to fathom is eluding me, the slapstick and satire is obviously eluding you. Maybe we are both right and Mark did a masterpiece eluding everybody most of the time.

              10. I tend to paint religions with a broad stroke. I think the charlatan Joseph Smith and his witnesses of the golden plates from heaven are the rule, not the exception. And there is a rich database of historical analogies for this.

                For instance, regarding the ruling class seeing religion as “useful,” for example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was cleverly instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was strategically introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.

                Also, And Regarding Numa Pompilius, Livy wrote

                “And fearing lest relief from anxiety on the score of foreign perils might lead men who had hitherto been held back by fear of their enemies and by military discipline into extravagance and idleness, he (Numa) thought the very first thing to do, as being the most efficacious with a populace which was ignorant and, in those early days, uncivilized, was to imbue them with the fear of Heaven. As he could not instil this into their hearts without inventing some marvellous story, he pretended to have nocturnal meetings with the goddess Egeria, and that hers was the advice which guided him in the establishment of rites most approved by the gods, and in the appointment of special priests for the service of each.” (Livy 1 19).

                Plutarch also suggests that Numa played on superstition to give himself an aura of awe and divine allure, in order to cultivate more gentle behaviours among the warlike early Romans, such as honoring the gods, abiding by law, behaving humanely to enemies, and living proper, respectable lives. The reference to Plutarch is Plutarch, “The parallel lives, Numa Pompilius, §VIII”

                In this regard, I argue the original Christians might have been liars, not for financial gain or stuff like that, but rather because they thought their lies would create a better world.

                Along these lines, Carrier writes that

                “Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.”

              11. Re: Martin Klatt
                The “its a ruse” idea is an interesting one, but I don’t think that’s what the author really intended. However I do agree that the overall work is actually a a sort of tragic comedy.

                From the following versus:

                “23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!””

                This is, again, a reference to the war. “Have you come to destroy us?” Yes, yes he has. The reason that Jesus doesn’t let the demons speak is because he doesn’t want them to prevent him from fulfilling the agenda of destroying the world, or, in this case, Israel. Jesus’s role in the story is to bring about the destruction of Israel.

                I don’t think the intent here was that the “man” who stood up was one of the disciples posing as a possessed person.

                I mean, its an interesting concept, that the disciples and Jesus were charlatans pulling tricks like the faith healers that plant folk on crutches whom they miraculous make walk again, but I don’t think that’s what going on in the narrative. That would make sense if one thought the narrative were based on observation of a real Jesus actually pulling that routine, but that’s not the basis of the narrative.

                I think the point of the narrative is to portray Jesus as the real savior, whom the Jews reject or fail to recognize.

                Although, I must admit, making a play about Jesus as a charlatan pulling faith healing tricks on people would be quite amusing 🙂

              12. @R G Price:

                As Carrier points out, the original Christians were an anti-temple sect, like the Qumran sect. The point of Mark’s gospel, Carrier suggests, is to show faith in Jesus replacing the temple cult. To this end, Mark wraps the story about the withering of the fig tree around the temple pericope. The point is that just as it is no longer the season for figs, so too is it no longer the season for the temple. Carrier envisions the Gospel of Mark as a manual for evangelizing. Carrier has a wealth of videos on Youtube that outline this.

              13. @John MacDonald
                I disagree wit that. I’ve got a whole concrete analysis of the temple scene showing its a literary allusion to a passage in Hosea 9 about how God is going to punish the Jews via military destruction. The bracketing is purely a part of the structure of the literary allusion because that’s how the underlying passage in Hosea 9 is written. The scene in Mark just follows the pattern in Hosea. And this isn’t speculation this is hard evidence.

                And I don’t think that the point of Mark’s story at all.

              14. @r.g.price

                That’s just the point, it is a play. The audience as initiates has just witnessed the earlier call to be fishers of men. They know exactly what is going on because they remember the play masks of the previous scene so recognise the man who plays having the impure spirit. The audience, being in the know, don’t need more explanation in the text and are shown easy to understand stereotypes: charlatans and their credulous dupes. Mark is a very competent playwright and wordsmith and is in total control of the story. Of course Jesus is not a real person, it’s fiction.
                I would make a movie of it, some scenes like the ones on the lake would fare better if we can shoot on a real lake and not simulate waves with two stagehands twirling and waving bedsheets, but in comedy you could even outdo real life with stunts like that on stage. 🙂

              15. @Martin Klatt
                Well I don’t think that’s the intent, but nevertheless we agree its fiction, and well written fiction at that. We also agree that its satire and that the author intended his audience to be in on the jokes. Quite honestly I don’t see how this story was ever taken literally. It’s all just so absurd and IMO the author made no attempt at all of hiding the fact that the story is fictional. I mean, the story is openly mocking the disciples and really, IMO, the entire “Christian” movement. It’s basically playing everyone for fools, the disciples, the Jewish leaders, the followers. The only people that aren’t fools in the whole thing are the Gentiles. But, that’s the real tragedy of it, is that that message wasn’t totally lost on the Roman Christians and sadly the story, as wonderfully written as it is, has led to centuries of real suffering by Jews due to being blamed for “killing Jesus”, which never even happened.

                So I mean that’s the sad thing. It’s interesting to analyze the story and all, but its disturbing when you think about what the Jews have suffered through the centuries because of it.

                Oh, and as for a play, I can imagine now showing Jesus working with his disciples to setup healing tricks on people to scam money out of them, and getting followers to give him all their possessions, and then him going off with stolen money to a band of gypsies with prostitutes and gamblers when the Pharisees bust in on him while he’s gambling with a hooker on his lap, and he’s like, “No, no, this is God’s work!” LOL, yeah, that could be a great play 😀

              16. @r.g.price

                Don’t take me wrong, but I am not trying to parody the gospel of Mark. And on the contrary of your assertion that people took the story literally, I think they didn’t read it literally enough. If they had they would have suspected the same ruse I see. Instead they bought the theological sophistry that mystified even the crudest jokes into revelations with higher Christological meanings you can only strive to understand if you just believe the traditional Christian tenets.
                I am primarily looking at the original Greek text, but also explore alternative early manuscripts and translations, inspect all internal and external allusions(Septuagint, Homer, Hesiod etc)and try to identify contaminations from other gospels and than there are a few enigmatic passages that seem to be either intentional or unintended copyist mistakes or strays from who knows where that I so far hesitate to delve into. In the end I will solve the whole story I hope, but not to try and find it’s place in history or theology, just for the story because it’s so incredibly funny.
                I expect even that by clarifying this gospel to make finally sense of all the nonsense.

                I leave you with a quote:

                “Nonsense is nonsense, but
                the history of nonsense is a very
                important science.”

              17. @ R. G. Price

                The relevant passage in Mark reads:

                28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

                Your interpretation is

                The Hebrew scriptures are filled with praise for the poor and condemnations of the rich. It is indeed one of the most consistent messages of the Old Testament – that God cares for the poor and opposes the rich. There are dozens of passages to this effect in the Old Testament. Lines 28 – 31 may be a reference to Paul and the conflicts between Peter and Paul. Paul called himself the least, or last in rank, of the apostles, while James, John, and Peter were considered the first in rank of the apostles. Paul also often talked about his sacrifices and what he gave up to preach the gospel, so this passage may well be an homage to Paul while at the same time a slight against Peter and the other known leaders.

                Isn’t the plain meaning of the text that the itinerant, fallible (Mark 6:5) prophet Jesus from backwater Nazareth and his band of peasant followers will become first in the coming Kingdom of God, while the corrupt elite will become the least? Is this not the “good news” or “gospel” of Mark 1? You think Mark’s use of the word “gospel” is sarcasm, but reading the text to say it’s not about the good that is to happen in the new age for Jesus and his faithful seems weird.

              18. @John MacDonald
                My view of the narrative is heavily informed by the literary allusions, subtext and related passages. As I said re: Mark 10:31, I think the fact that the phrasing there is very similar to 1 Corinthians 15:9 AND a few lines down we have a very clear reference to 1 Corinthians 9 (that is also of a similar nature) leads me to think that Mark 10:31 is actually based on 1 Cor 15.

                I view the whole story as being anti-Peter/James/John and subversively pro-Paul. But these things can’t be assessed on a single line by line basis, it takes a holistic view. I think taken on the whole the evidence is overwhelming that the writer of Mark was using the letters of Paul. There are at least a dozen very clear references and over another dozen less clear but strongly suggestive parallels, kind of like the examples here of Mark 31 vs Mark 44, where its undeniable that Mark 10:44 is a reference to Corinthians and suggestive that Mark 10:31 is.

                But again, given that Mark 10:44 is making a reference to Corinthians I find it more likely that Mark 10:31 is as well.

                And as for the opening, I think the interpretation is pretty clear based on the analysis of the referenced passages.

                The reference in Mark 1:2 to Malachi 3:1 is a direct reference to a passage about destruction and how no one will be able to endure the coming of the Lord.

                And again, this isn’t taken in an individual context. This happens in the work over and over and over and over again. If this were a single instance of this type of thing I may think that, oh, that’s just a coincidence that the passage being referenced happens to be talking about destruction, but this happens close to 50 times in the story and there are no cases of literary references that seem to have a random context. That’s not coincidence. Every reference in the story, either overt or implicit, refers to passages that are either directly relevant to the narrative, like identifying John the Baptist as Elijah, or they deal with how God is going to destroy his people for being unfaithful to him. Every single one.

                So from my perspective, these references are critically important for understanding the story and they provide the deeper “hidden meaning” of the story. The story is intentionally written to appear one way superficially and very different when you look at the subtext… IMO.

              19. Re lost mark ending:
                I think it’s certainly possible because I think there is an entire lost version of Mark. I think all the “Q” material comes from the lost version of Mark. It’s not clear to me if the lost version of Mark is an original version or was another version that was created by a different author. I personally can’t determine that, but as I say in my book, I was never able to identify any literary allusions or references to the Pauline letters in Q, so it makes me think it was written by a different author. I think there is enough testimony and other indications of lost versions of the Gospels to think that there was at least one other version of Mark, if not more than that as well.

              20. Re: I’m curious as to your take on Dr. Price’s approach?

                I’ll wait and see what he says about my book first :p He’s working on a review of it now, so I’ll see what he says.

              21. Robert M. Price’s new book will be welcomed; I’d like to get it too. Do you know the name of it ? As to the trickery and fiction aspects of the NT, the view that makes sense to me is that the Roman Catholic church was behind it all as propaganda to control their subjects, particularly the Jewish ones whom they feared would rise up out of control in other places such as Alexandria, after the tumult of the destruction of Jerusalem. It does seem that the NT is a fraud, so trying to psychoanalise characters like Paul, and the gospel writers may be a waste of time if they are fictional anyway. Rather psychoanalise the real authors. Richard Carrier went some way to to this in his presentation “Why Invent the Jesus?” but I question whether he looked enough at the Flavian emperors and their motives.

        1. Paul thinks seeing the risen Christ is a necessary condition of being an apostle (1 Cor 9:1). But why did Paul not have to go through the lengthy mentoring process Jesus required of his disciples in the Gospels? A revelatory Jesus seems to explain this better than an earthly one.

      2. We can compare the way many scientists take the trouble to address creationist literature. Surely there are exceptions but we generally find the scientist authors honestly representing the creationist argument and taking the trouble to explain clearly and with sound argument and evidence why evolution is the better explanation. One can find many books by scientists like that in various bookshops. I have purchased several and posted on one or two of them here.

        Scholars closer to God, it seems, don’t have that patience or honesty to work with those who challenge their views.

        But Carrier is not an amateur, it should be noted, and his book is not the work of an amateur by any means.

          1. Hmm, that is an interesting observation. What then is an amateur? Is it even possible an amateur could be right and get the job done?
            One evening you get home and find your home burgled and completely ransacked, you call it in and the policeman that comes to inspect the scene of the crime concludes the deed was done by amateurs because they made all kinds of sloppy mistakes and even failed to notice some of your prize belongings being of value, having smashed them up. Do you feel any better being robbed by amateurs? Are you less robbed by that conclusion?
            Was Jesus a professional Son of God, or a bungling dilettante amateur confidence trickster? Does that matter for the end result?
            I don’t buy the overall theories of R.G.Price, but then I don’t buy the theories on the matter by most of cited authors here regardless of their scholarly status being considered sound and professional or mere (talented) amateur. I still buy their books if it tickles my fancy enough or if I accidentally run into them at bargain bins, heck I even bought Allegro and Carotta and laughed my ass of. If our Price manages to sell his writings to an amount he can afford a home and a daily meal by the fruits of his pen alone you might call him an professional anyway, good for him then, but still no PhD.

              1. Why not? What if you are that gifted talent and I missed out because of my haughty prejudice?
                Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

              2. Alas, I read it before and was not convinced by your talent then, and in re-reading now again don’t get it. You don’t bring a theory but string along partial theories by others only connecting them with some of your interpretations and almost, but not just yet, tipping over to the Carotta story of Julius Caesar being Jesus Christ.
                I think you better try reading R.G.Price’s book, because he is not beneath you in originality and talent, his method is more advanced and at least he is looking at the text under scrutiny instead of just parroting others. That said, I don’t believe he is right, but worthwhile reading nonetheless, the connections to the Septuagint are mostly undeniable, his conclusions however debatable. If he wants a peer review, maybe you can play the role.

              3. My position is the same as Carrier’s. He says in OHJ that the Noble Lie Theory of Christian Origins is a possible interpretation of what was going on with Cephas and the Twelve, or with Paul, but it is not demonstrably probable, and hence is not required when formulating the mythicist position. It’s just fun to speculate about!

              4. Carrier says:

                I do allow for the possibility that when the religion was “created,” it was based on a fabricated celestial (but not yet earthly) Jesus, but I explain in detail why no such assumption is required (see Element 15, Ch. 4, OHJ, esp. p. 131 with note 176).


                It’s one thing to ask how likely it is the resurrection appearance claims were a hoax. It’s altogether another to ask how likely it is they were like every other divine appearance experience in the whole history of all religions since the dawn of time: a mystical inner vision. Just as Paul tells us. Our only eyewitness source. Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.

  2. I think that if Jesus was a heavenly being, this would strengthen Christianity. The Jesus of the gospels (who serves as the basis for the historical Jesus) is not a pleasant or wise person. But a heavenly saviour Jesus is on a level equal to Amitabha Buddha, who is another heavenly saviour.

    I wonder whether anyone would be granted a PhD in biblical studies if he/she were to be known as a Jesus mythicist (regardless of the quality of his/her arguments and research) simply because of coming to bad conclusions. Ditto for those who might believe that Paul was a confidence trickster (regardless of Jesus’s status).

  3. I am grateful to Neil Godfrey for his analysis of Carrier and Gullotta’s arguments. I hope we can have another public debate in Australia about the mythicist vs literal view. But can we get speakers who will take each other seriously, or at the very least have a healthy professional respect ? I hope I get time soon to read up on Bayesian analysis again, which was a topic in my undergraduate BCom (Marketing) degree many years ago. I recall that the concept of “the expected value of perfect information” (in dollar terms) was tied in with Bayesian theory e.g. estimating and predicting consumer demand for competing products. In our historical context it would relate not to dollars but personal contentment knowing we arrived at the correct conclusion i.e. that it is more likely / or not, that the NT Jesus existed. To me the Bayesian concept is exemplified in asking e.g. “How often was it that water was turned into wine supernaturally, when it did turn into wine ?” i.e. rather than that some natural chemical process did it. I think we don’t have official data on this, to assist with the Bayesian probabilities. If we did have all such statistical data to allow us to assign the “prior probabilities” required in the Bayesian formula for the Jesus question, that would be “perfect information” and our conclusion about the mythical proposition would be more solid, at least we would derive a reliable percentage on the final probability that he existed, and if greater than 50%, we’d feel better about adopting that view. Christians place a high prior probability on their personal encounter being real i.e. 100%, so that skews the value they assign to the prior probability that water turned into wine by supernatural means. Likewise it skews their final percentage in the Bayesian formula.

  4. Per the methods of historical Jesus scholars are well-known in the field.

    The following is a listing of Gullotta′s variance from Carrier (2012). Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Prometheus Books. p. 11, 293f, n. 2-7. ISBN 978-1-61614-560-6 :

    • Keith, Chris (2016). “The Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research”. Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 38 (4): 426–455. doi:10.1177/0142064X16637777.

    • Bernier, Jonathan (2016). The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Toward a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies.

    • Crossley, James (2015). Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus. Oxford University Press.

    • Charlesworth, James H.; Rhea, Brian, eds. (2014). Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions : the Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Princeton 2007. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

    • Rodriguez, Rafael (2010). Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text.

    • Le Donne, Anthony (2009). The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David. Baylor University Press.

  5. db the works you cite seem to all be of authors who believe that there was an actual Jesus figure who lived, but that the Bible has embellished on his life and teachings. Unless the possibility that Jesus was a fictional character fraudulently dressed up as historical is credibly considered, then I believe we should read broader, such as Carrier, Price, Zindler, Murdoch and Atwill. After all, if you believe that embellishment occurred, then those who did so could not be trusted, unless independent evidence existed. If you believe such evidence was destroyed then your view of who destroyed it and why must fit the picture. If the Romans destroyed it then why would they not reproduce something credible later when they later revived the religion as Catholicism ? How could the Jews have destroyed the evidence unless they were in league with the Romans ? Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know they were not.

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