2018-10-24

Response #3: Non Sequitur’s Tim O’Neill presentation, The Ascension of Isaiah

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by Neil Godfrey

This is why people like me when you read Carrier’s book you think, What the f*ck are you talking about? — Tim O’Neill
Response #1: Motives
Response #2: No fame outside Galilee

Tim spoke those words seconds before leading listeners to infer that he had checked the ancient text that Carrier was misrepresenting, the Ascension of Isaiah [AoI].

Listeners were led to understand that only readers with superior knowledge of the texts would know Carrier was giving them false information.

So to prove that Carrier did not know what he was talking about, that the AoI said the very opposite of what Carrier claimed, Tim quoted a passage from it.

What Tim failed to tell his viewers, and perhaps what Tim himself over time has forgotten, was that he was actually reading the same passage in the AoI that Carrier himself quoted and discussed in his book. One did not have to turn from Carrier’s book to check the AoI for oneself — as Tim clearly implies — but one simply had to read the so-called damning passage in Carrier’s text itself.

Tim’s claim that “only knowledgeable readers would know Carrier had no idea what he was talking about” makes no sense if Tim was alerted to the existence of the passage by Carrier himself. Tim did not draw upon his specialist background knowledge to expose Carrier’s “misinformation”. He simply read a translation of the very same text Carrier himself was quoting and discussing.

—o0o—

From Evan T, On the Way to Ithaca

Tim O’Neill informs us that Richard Carrier “tries to get around the lack of evidence” for mythicism by (in part) appealing to the Ascension of Isaiah. He begins giving some explanatory background to this text:

I’m responding to the presentation between 53:00 – 59:00 of the Non Sequitur video.

Tim:

It’s a fairly obscure text and we’ve got it in fairly fragmentary form … an Ethiopian translation … in Slavonic … in Latin… So it’s quite hard for us to piece together exactly what it would have said originally, because originally it would have been written in Greek.

What Tim does not make clear to his listeners is that those translations, and even different manuscript versions in the same language, contain very different contents in places. It is not just that we have different translations of a lost Greek version that causes difficulties. The difficulties arise because of the significantly varying content in the different versions. That’s an important point that we will see Tim appears not to recognize. Tim continues:

But we can work out that it was probably written maybe in the late first century, possibly early second century. . . . That puts it around the same time the gospels were being written. . . . It’s a Christian text and it describes a vision supposedly seen by the prophet Isaiah . . . . But in this text, Isaiah sees a vision, and he sees Jesus descending from the upper heavens, from the seventh heaven, down through the various heavens, and sees him crucified, and then sees him ascend when he rises from the dead back up through the heavens. And the whole point of this text is that no-one knows that it’s Jesus because he takes on a different form as he moves through these different heavens, and then it’s not until he rises from the dead and that he ascends back up through the heavens that he reveals himself to be the messiah and in some sense divine. And so the whole point of the text is that they thought they killed him but he fooled them and as he ascends back up through the seven heavens to take his place with the throne of God again he demonstrates who he really was.

If Carrier is right, then there’s your evidence

Now what Carrier argues is that this is the smoking gun. So he argues that this is a text that as I said did not exist, which is supposedly a text that has Jesus coming from the upper heavens, descending not to earth but to the lower heavens, so to what’s called the firmament, and he gets crucified there, not on earth, and then he rises from the dead there and then he ascends back into the heavens. He gets crucified there, by demons, not on earth by human beings.

Now if Carrier is right, then there’s your evidence. There’s the evidence that there actually was a belief in a Jesus who was purely celestial and not historical; purely heavenly, and died in the heavens, not earthly, and died on earth.

I do find myself wearying of this false dichotomy between celestial and historical. Literature is crammed full of nonhistorical figures who “lived” on earth. I suspect there are many times more earthly human form mythical figures in literature than there are celestial ones.

But there’s a problem. And the problem is that actually if you’re familiar with the text — this is why people like me when you read Carrier’s book you think, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ If you actually read Carrier’s book, he says, ‘Well, he descended just to the firmament and nowhere else, and he gets crucified on a tree that’s not a real tree, it’s a kind of celestial version of a tree, and he’s never depicted as going to earth.’

The only problem is that if you actually turn to the Ascension of Isaiah you read this:

And I saw one like the son of man (that’s Jesus, the messiah) dwelling with men and in the world and they did not recognize him.

It also says that an angel talks to Isaiah saying Jesus … taking on your form; in your form, human form.

So, the text does actually have Jesus coming to earth, it actually does have Jesus dwelling among men.

Tim could not be clearer. Tim is saying that we read one thing in Carrier’s book and quite something else if we turn to the Ascension of Isaiah itself. The clear suggestion is that Carrier does not know what the AoI says and one will not know of the “incriminating” passage unless one “went to” the AoI itself. Contrary to this clear inference, Carrier in fact informs readers by quoting and discussing that same passage.

But what the farnarkling is he talking about?

Now when I heard that my first thought was, ‘What the farnarkling are you talking about?’ Tim does not give us the source for the translation he is reading from but it sounds as good as Carrier’s own translation.

From p. 43 of On the Historicity of Jesus by R. Carrier

Tim’s translation sounds similar to one found in a footnote as an alternative manuscript reading by R. H. Charles and revised by J. M. T. Barton in The Apocryphal Old Testament edited by H. F. D. Sparks.

From p. 809, Sparks

There is nothing amiss with Carrier’s translation. It conveys the same meaning as that by Charles/Barton.

Carrier is quoting, or rather he is translating, a section from what is known as the “second Latin” or L2 manuscript that varies significantly from the main manuscripts that normally serve as the basis for English translations. This particular L2 passage is not elsewhere only in another Latin translation of the Slavonic manuscript:

The Latin original is found in part in R. H. Charles’ Ascension of Isaiah and in full in Paoli Bettiolo’s text and Enrico Norelli’s commentary:

Et uidi similem filii hominis, et cum hominibus habitare, et in mundo, et non cognouerunt eum.

Charles concludes that the L2 words are not original to the Ascension of Isaiah (it was originally composed in Greek) and Norelli finds evidence that the line has been taken from passages in the New Testament Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John. Tim provides his viewers with none of this pertinent information.

How far does one have to look outside Carrier’s own quotations of the AoI?

We return to something I have previously labelled a “Sam Harris moment” of doublespeak. Tim assures us that anyone who did not know the text of the Ascension of Isaiah before reading Carrier’s argument would be misled into thinking that that text does not describe an earthly descent of Jesus, but at the same time he somehow concedes that Carrier does actually discuss the passage and acknowledge that it describes a short appearance of Jesus on earth.

Does it matter if the passage is “absurdly brief”? The passage is so brief that it even omits to mention Jesus’ death, his crucifixion. It simply says he came down to earth then went back again. Nothing in between except that he was not recognized. Obviously there has been some tampering with the text.

So how does Carrier deal with this? He kind of sort of does. He says on page 43 of his book … that this does describe some sort of earthly sojourn but in an absurdly brief fashion. Well, it doesn’t matter if it’s “absurdly brief”. The point of the text is that he descends, he dies, and then he ascends. It says, he dwelt, on earth. He didn’t visit. It’s not a sojourn. It says he lived there. Now it says that they didn’t recognize him; that’s the whole point of the text….. but he does come to earth. So there goes the smoking gun. There’s no way you can argue your way around this. Carrier is just wrong.

Tim says a more knowledgeable reader with the requisite background knowledge would need to “turn to” the text in order to learn about the text even though Carrier quotes and addresses the very same passage of the AoI.

Tim accuses Carrier of misinforming readers that the AoI does not say Jesus dwelt on earth and informs listeners that only someone who knows the material would not be deceived. But on the other hand he accuses Carrier of quoting and explaining the very words in the AoI that he is supposed to be hiding from readers, and that only better informed readers will know exist and contradict Carrier!

More than just “absurdly brief”

So what is Carrier saying about that passage in L2? Carrier agrees with those specialist scholars of the Ascension of Isaiah who enumerate reasons for believing that a large portion in our most complete manuscript, a portion that describes Jesus being born to Mary and then being crucified on earth and sending out his twelve disciples after his resurrection (11:2-22), was not part of the original text. It was inserted much later. In an attempt to decipher what might have been in place of that interpolation originally Carrier turns to the L2 manuscript and repeats (with his own take) a number of arguments that are again found among the specialist scholars of the AoI. These arguments are that neither was this short passage (the one Tim read out, presumably from Carrier’s translation, convinced that it was the original text!) part of the original Greek text. Carrier agrees with those scholars who see in that short passage a later hand inspired by other texts such as Baruch 3:38 that speak of God dwelling on earth among men.

What is missing, in Carrier’s view, is what earlier chapters of the AoI have led us to expect. I list the prophecies in the text that the reader is waiting to see fulfilled in this 11th chapter, but finds instead only tampered and interpolated passages instead:

9:14 And the god of that world will stretch forth his hand against the Son, and they will crucify Him on a tree, and will slay Him not knowing who He is.

9:17 And then many of the righteous will ascend with Him, whose spirits do not receive their garments till the Lord Christ ascend and they ascend with Him.

10:12 And they shall not know that Thou art with Me, till with a loud voice I have called (to) the heavens . . .

We never read of those events being fulfilled and one is left wondering if their accounts originally occupied the questionable lines in the extant 11th chapter.

In fact, Carrier’s discussion informs readers that scholars who study the Ascension of Isaiah are fully aware of variant texts in the different manuscripts and the problematic questions of interpolations and otherwise doctored and omitted passages. The way Tim presents the passage he reads from the AoI (from Carrier’s translation?) misleadingly suggests that there is no doubt among scholars about the originality of the passage. I know of no scholar who accepts that passage as original.

“Those of us who actually know the material”

So Tim is not strictly correct when he says that Carrier “sweeps aside” the passage on the weak grounds that it is “absurdly brief”. Carrier’s view coheres with mainstream scholarship on the Ascension of Isaiah.

And the interesting thing about this is that people who read Carrier’s book, who don’t then go and check the texts in question, who don’t have the background — because that is a very complicated text — don’t have the background to be able to do that, are going to read Carrier saying, “Ah, well, here’s a text that says he didn’t come to earth, that he died in the heavens, and ascended back into the upper heavens,” are going to think that he’s making a good argument. Whereas those of us who actually know the material, we read Carrier’s book and page after page after page you come across arguments like this and you just think, “He’s wrong!” But most people don’t have the background to be able to tell that he’s wrong.

No, they only have to read Carrier’s book to read the very passage you indicate they would not suspect exists. Tim appears to be unaware of the scholarly doubts surrounding the passage he reads.

—o0o—

One more point Tim brings to our attention is that the AoI says Jesus will take on human form. Tim equates this with an account of a historical Jesus. A number of scholars, however, see such references as further interpolations and indicators of a later theological warfare between docetists and “orthodox” Christians.

—o0o—

I have focused on Tim’s review of Carrier’s Ascension of Isaiah argument in this post. I have not attempted to present a wider discussion of the AoI. There are other possibilities and interpretations that belong to another post another time.


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

Charles, R. H. (Robert Henry). 1900. The Ascension of Isaiah : Translated from the Ethiopic Version, Which, Together with the New Greek Fragment, the Latin Versions and the Latin Translation of the Slavonic, Is Here Published in Full. London : A. and C. Black. http://archive.org/details/cu31924014590529.

Jesus, What A Question! 2018. The Non Sequitur Show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUDP0Wc31o8.

Norelli, Enrico. 1995. Ascensio Isaiae: commentarius. Turnhout: Brepols.

Norelli, Enrico. 1993. Ascension du prophète Isaïe. Turnhout: Brepols.

Sparks, H. F. D., ed. 1985. The Apocryphal Old Testament. Oxford : New York: Oxford University Press. (contains the Charles’ translation)
Perhaps someone knows another source for Tim’s translation.

Norelli, Enrico. 1995. Ascensio Isaiae: commentarius. Turnhout: Brepols.

Norelli, Enrico. 1993. Ascension du prophète Isaïe. Turnhout: Brepols.


31 Comments

  • MrHorse
    2018-10-24 11:53:26 UTC - 11:53 | Permalink

    “Norelli finds evidence that the line [of the L2 manuscript: Et uidi similem filii hominis, et cum hominibus habitare, et in mundo, et non cognouerunt eum; And I saw one like a son of man, dwelling among men, and in the world, and they did not know him] has been taken from passages in the New Testament Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John”

    One might wonder which direction the passage might have really taken ie. could the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John have taken it from the ‘second Latin of the Ascension of Isaiah?

  • db
    2018-10-24 17:32:31 UTC - 17:32 | Permalink

    • I suspect that O’Neill′s Translation Faux Pas was derived from some previous “Defender of the Historicity of Jesus”, but I did no find it in McGrath′s 2014 review.

    McGrath, James F. (October 2014). “Did Jesus Die in Outer Space?“. The Bible and Interpretation.

    Carrier’s chapter summarizing that mythicist core begins with the Ascension of Isaiah, a text which was central to Earl Doherty’s mythicist case, and in turn has played a key role in Richard Carrier’s. If their interpretation of the work is correct, Ascension of Isaiah provides an example of an ancient mythicist work.

    Neil Godfrey (1 November 2014). “McGrath Reviews Carrier: Part 2, Ascension of Isaiah“. Vridar.

    [Per James F. McGrath] I now discuss his [McGrath’s] primary focus — the Ascension of Isaiah (AoI). I should be able to say that I will discuss McGrath’s treatment of what Carrier himself writes about the AoI but just as we saw with McGrath’s treatment of Earl Doherty’s mythicist case McGrath gives readers very little idea of what Carrier himself is actually arguing.

    Cf. Carrier (18 June 2014). “List of Responses to Defenders of the Historicity of Jesus“. Richard Carrier Blogs.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-24 21:58:48 UTC - 21:58 | Permalink

      Yet in none of those sites, including anything by McGrath, is the 11:2 L2 passage quoted. I have very little confidence in McGrath’s competence and diligence to notice, let alone comment on, the L2 passage in Carrier. Tim speaks very well and persuasively, but his content is b.s. His true colours are on display when he writes.

      • db
        2018-10-26 00:23:03 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

        Perhaps derived from: “Review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus“. (May 2015).

        The Ascension of Isaiah (hereafter AoI) is an early Christian text dating from the Second Century CE.
        […]
        Carrier acknowledges that an earlier Latin version has the Beloved on earth, “dwelling among men, and in the world, and they did not know him” (page 43). Carrier writes that this “describes a kind of earthly sojourn, but in an absurdly brief fashion.” Maybe so, but it is consistent with other early letters, which also provide similar brief and vague statements. (See the ‘Epistle of Barnabas’ analysis in Section 3)

        In the end, what we have in the S/L versions, is another example of a text that has a Jesus appearing on earth, but with few details, and certainly no Gospel details. This is consistent with other early texts, like 1 Clement, 1 Timothy, 1 Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, etc, and, I would argue, consistent with the letters of Paul and the Pastorals as well. But that is an argument for another day.
        […]
        Let me be clear: Carrier is wrong on AoI to support the idea of ‘death in outer space’. Anyone can check the S/L versions and confirm this for themselves.

        • db
          2018-10-26 10:03:04 UTC - 10:03 | Permalink

          Per the above post I had to redact the Author: “GDon” and the .au (Australia) website: “optusnet” —else the post did not display (went to spam/block folder?).

          * * * International Skeptics Forum Thread * * *

          -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
          Thread : Did Paul exist?
          Started at 5th December 2017 03:52 AM by davefoc
          Visit at http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=325355
          -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
          […]
          [Post 517]
          Author : GDon
          Date : 18th December 2017 07:08 PM
          […]
          Here I’d like to tip my hat to Tim O’Neill. He reminded me that even in the earlier Latin text, it has Jesus “dwelling among men, and in the world”. I went back to reread Dr Carrier’s OHJ at this point. It shows how he is ‘reconstructing’ from what is actually there, to produce a version amazingly consistent with his theory.
          […]
          [Post 518]
          Author : TimONeill2
          Date : 18th December 2017 08:16 PM
          […]
          Carrier is indulging in his usual eisegesis – reading the text so that it fits his a priori thesis. Which is something crackpot theorists love doing.

          Why anyone takes this guy seriously is beyond me. Correct that – why anyone who claims to be a rationalist and to check things takes him seriously is the mystery. I can see why emotionally driven ideologues who just want someone to wave in the face of anyone who criticises Mythicism accept his stuff without question. Carrier is like the Ken Ham of pseudo history.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-10-27 08:22:31 UTC - 08:22 | Permalink

            It is not hard to see why Tim chooses carefully those whom he engages in discussion. If he is obliged to argue with respect and civility and accept another view is not necessarily “garbage” he will always, from my observation, go quiet or retreat. Without his rhetoric his arguments are leveled to an equality with others that enable observers to fairly assess the logic and merits of each.

    • db
      2018-10-25 20:29:27 UTC - 20:29 | Permalink

      Carrier″s—5 March 2015—response to McGrath per “McGrath on OHJ: A Failure of Logic and Accuracy”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

      I only assign the effect of the Ascension a Bayes’ factor of 4/5 against historicity in my a fortiori column (and even just 1/2 in my a judicantiori column: p. 357), and even that is not for the Ascension, but the combination of the evidence in the Ascension with the evidence in Ignatius, so if we teased out the Ascension by itself, its Bayes’ factor would be even lower.
      Note how small a factor 4 in 5 is. It barely makes a dent against the probability of historicity. And it would be wholly impotent against real evidence for historicity (e.g. good evidence would have a Bayes’ factor of 5 to 1 or more, which would immediately overwhelm a poor 4 to 5 odds the other way). It is only because there is no such evidence for historicity that the evidence in the Ascension of Isaiah has any appreciable effect at all. Thus by waving his hands at a minor piece of evidence like this, McGrath gets to ignore the real elephant in the room: why such a weak piece of evidence can have such a notable effect on the probability of historicity. Answer: because the evidence for historicity sucks.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-10-26 08:14:09 UTC - 08:14 | Permalink

        Good point. I should have done what you did and point back to the weight Carrier gives it. I was sidetracked by Tim’s chutzpah in such a b.s. presentation.

  • db
    2018-10-25 05:18:17 UTC - 05:18 | Permalink

    • Per Gwern Branwen (17 June 2018). “Gwern’s review of On the Historicity of Jesus”. goodreads.com.

    Tim O’Neill comments—3 July 2018—“r/slatestarcodex – gwern reviews On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt”. reddit.

    The problem is that the Ascension actually does depict Jesus descending to earth and living there. The text is quite clear on this:

    “And I saw one like a son of man, dwelling among men, and in the world, and they did not know him.” (Ascension 11:23)

    This is also not in the later interpolated parts of the text, but in the earlier Latin/Slavonic elements that Carrier correctly identifies as most likely original. So how does he deal with this element, given that it directly contradicts his argument? Here is where we see the kind of fancy footwork I referred to above. Carrier dismisses this rather awkward element in a remarkably brief single paragraph tucked away on p. 43. There he argues that “this looks like a rewrite of the Jewish scripture of Bar[uch] 3.38, where God himself was ‘seen on earth and conversed with men. He then leaps from how “it seems” that this text is rewriting Baruch to assuming it definitely is in the space of one sentence. He then says “it’s notable how this Ascension text transforms Baruch: it does not have Jesus converse with men or seen by men, but has him only among men, yet completely unknown to them.” So he dismisses this reference to his supposedly completely celestial Jesus coming to earth, saying the verse “describes a kind of earthly sojourn, but in an absurdly brief fashion” and continues with his interpretation of the Ascension as describing a purely celestial Jesus who is crucified in the heavens on a “copy” of an earthly tree by demons.
    Except this is all rather blithe and tricksy. Firstly, if the whole point of his argument is that the text doesn’t depict Jesus coming to earth at all, he can’t just brush a reference to him coming to earth aside by saying it is mentioned “in an absurdly brief fashion” and then breeze on. The Ascension’s emphasis is on the descent through the heavens and the subsequent triumphant re-ascent and return, so it makes sense that there is only a brief mention of Jesus’ time on earth. Carrier claims that Jesus only descends to the lower firmament and that “he goes no further”, but this is directly contradicted by this pesky reference to dwelling among men on earth. Carrier claims that the crucifixion happens in the lower heaven, but the text does not actually say that. Carrier claims that the “tree” he is crucified on is a “copy” of an earthly tree, but the text does not actually say that either. And while the text does attribute the crucifixion to demonic powers, the belief was that they permeated the earthly sphere as much as the lower heavens and it was standard to regard the humans who crucified Jesus as agents of demonic forces. So there is nothing in the text to contradict the standard view of Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection – he descended from the upper heavens, lived on earth among men, was crucified thanks to demonic forces, rose from the dead and ascended back to the upper heavens in triumph.Carrier’s blithe dismissal of the clear reference to Jesus “dwelling among men, and in the world” depends on his claim that this is a “rewriting” of Baruch 3.38. Whether it is or not, a careful reader should note what Carrier is doing here: he says that unlike in Baruch the Ascension text “does not have Jesus converse with men or seen by men, but has him only among men, yet completely unknown to them.” But the fact that it doesn’t specify him conversing with anyone or explicitly say he was “seen” by them does not mean Carrier than then leap to something else the text does not say – that he was “completely unknown to them”. The Ascension consistently emphasises that, as he descends through each of the heavens, Jesus’ true nature is concealed and he appears in a form appropriate for that realm. And it constantly refers to the fact that he isn’t recognised or “known” as being the Son of God and is only revealed as such after he rises from the dead and reascends into the upper heaven. So the reference to him coming to earth does not say he was “completely unknown to [men]”. It simply continues the theme that, as the text says, “they did not know him” – i.e. they did not recognise him as the Son of God. This reference does not give any indication how long he was “dwelling among men”, but there is nothing to justify Carrier’s assumption that it was just some brief “sojourn” any more than there is anything to substantiate his assumption that they didn’t “converse” with them or was not “seen” by them. Like the supposed “copy” of a tree he is crucified on or the idea that this crucifixion happened in the heavens, these are all elements of his thesis that he reads into the text. And then turns around and proclaims this eisegesis somehow, by circular logic, confirms his thesis. This is pure sophistry.It’s interesting that I just had to take four long paragraphs and 1000 words to pick apart just one argument and one brief paragraph of Carrier’s 700 page book. But this kind of “smoke and mirrors” argument is found throughout Carrier’s work, including in his many blog posts. . . . Over and over again, when you put Carrier’s arguments under the microscope, they just fall apart.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-26 08:23:24 UTC - 08:23 | Permalink

      Tim’s claim that Carrier thinks 11:2 in the L2 manuscript is “most likely original” is a slight distortion. Carrier writes on p. 43 “I suspect this version of 11.2 is closer to the original, but that it was followed by a more detailed explanation of what this meant and what happened (all as anticipated in chaps. 9 and 10).”

      I would have preferred Tim to stick with the broader scholarship and was more reasonable and accurate in his treatment of Carrier’s argument. The best way to refute an argument is to restate it in its strongest form possible before starting. Tim does the reverse, and then suggests you are “nitpicking” or something if you try to pull back on his rhetoric.

  • Austendw
    2018-10-25 18:55:09 UTC - 18:55 | Permalink

    You write: “This particular L2 passage is not found in any other manuscript of the Ascension of Isaiah”. That’s not correct: it appears (with very minor textual variation) in the Slavonic version…. as shown in your image of p.133 of H. R. Charles’s edition, above.

    Also, O’Neill’s translation of part of this passge isn’t absolutely identical to Carrier’s:

    O’Neill: And I saw one like the son of man… dwelling with men and in the world and they did not recognize him.
    Carrier: And I saw one like a son of man, dwelling among men, and in the world, and they did not know him.

    The Latin is pretty basic, so O’Neill presumably translated it all by himself.

    You write: “Charles concludes that the L2 words are not original to the Ascension of Isaiah.” But I hope your next post on the subject will point out that he does so in the context of accepting vv.2-22 as an integral of the original text. I haven’t read Norelli, so don’t know what his position is on those verses.

    • db
      2018-10-25 21:22:35 UTC - 21:22 | Permalink

      • Perhaps O’Neill quoted from the following:
      Cathar Texts: The Vision of Isaiah“. The Gnostic Society Library. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011.

      [Archive Notes] This version of the text is based on the translation in Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (2 ed., New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 449ff. The text given here contains minor corrections, rephrasing and general reformatting of the versification.
      […]
      [Chapter VI] And I saw one like the Son of Man dwelling with men and in the world. And they did not recognize Him.

      • However per O’Neill′s quote in “r/slatestarcodex – gwern reviews On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt”. reddit. (3 July 2018) [see comment above]. This does appear to be from Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 43.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-26 09:00:34 UTC - 09:00 | Permalink

      You are correct, of course. I should have mentioned the Slavonic.

      I trust you have seen nothing in this blog that would lead you to suspect I might present any argument with deliberate dishonesty.

      • Austendw
        2018-10-26 20:12:13 UTC - 20:12 | Permalink

        Nope. I didn’t suspect anything like that. I knew it was a slip. Latin2 & the Slavonic are closely related anyway – as db points out.

    • db
      2018-10-26 11:14:59 UTC - 11:14 | Permalink

      • For the record:

      Charles, Robert Henry (1900). The Ascension of Isaiah: Translated from the Ethiopic Version, Which, Together with the New Greek Fragment, the Latin Versions and the Latin Translation of the Slavonic, is Here Published in Full. A. & C. Black. pp. xxv–xxvi.

      I have already shown (p. xxi) that S is made from the same Greek text as L2, i.e. G2. It is, however, more faithful and full than L2. Thus where L2 omits words, phrases, or even whole sentences . . . the lacunae are supplied by S in agreement with E. Thus these passages that are lost in L2 go back to the archetype G.

    • db
      2018-10-27 02:13:45 UTC - 02:13 | Permalink

      Per Charles (1900). The Ascension of Isaiah. p.133:

      [L2: XI.15]
      […]
      Et vidi similem filii hominis,
      et cum hominibus habitare et in mundo,

      [S: XI.20]
      […]
      Et ecce vidi similem * ut filium hominis;
      et cum hominibus * cum habitasset in mundo

      • Norelli writes that “Et vidi similem filii hominis…” depends on three verses in the New Testament.

      Norelli, Enrico ed. (1995). [now formatted] Ascensio Isaiae: Commentarius (in Italian). Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum (CCSA 8). Turnhout: Brepols. p. 536:

      Ora, a me pare che l’intero periodo

      et vidi similem filii hominis et cum hominibus habitare et in mundo, et non cognoverunt eum

      (così L2 ; trascurabili le varianti di S) dipenda in realtà da tre versetti neotestamentari…

    • db
      2018-10-30 11:43:31 UTC - 11:43 | Permalink

      Austendw writes:

      You [Neil Godfrey] write: “Charles concludes that the L2 words are not original to the Ascension of Isaiah.” But I hope your next post on the subject will point out that he does so in the context of accepting vv.2-22 as an integral of the original text.

      • Neil has re-posted a previous article commenting on “vv.2-22 as an integral of the original text”.

      Roger Parvus ap. Neil Godfrey (29 October 2018). “Crucified on Earth? — What Did the “Ascension of Isaiah” Originally Say?“. Vridar.

      But from the recognition that 11:2 of the L2/S branch is a sanitized substitute, it does not necessarily follow that 11:2-22 in the Ethiopic versions is authentic. That passage too is rejected by some (e.g., R. Laurence, F.C. Burkitt). And although most are inclined to accept it as original, they base that inclination on the primitive character of its birth narrative. Thus, for example, Knibb says “the primitive character of the narrative of the birth of Jesus suggests very strongly that the Eth[iopic version] has preserved the original form of the text” (“Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah: A New Translation and Introduction,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by J.H. Charlesworth, p. 150).

      Cf. Roger Parvus (27 January 2014). “A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 8: The Source of Simon/Paul’s Gospel (continued)“. Vridar.

  • Booker
    2018-10-26 22:36:52 UTC - 22:36 | Permalink

    Thanks both to Neil and db for the extra information on this subject. If I’m reading everything correctly, is this an accurate summary of what’s going on here?

    – Tim O’Neill states that if the AoI says what Richard Carrier says it does that this is a smoking gun in favor of an early belief in a mythic Jesus and therefore would support the Carrier/Doherty theory

    – O’Neill then states that the AoI actually does state that Jesus came to earth and appeared among men, thus disputing the non-historical Jesus theory, and that Carrier engages in “tricksy” methodology to try to dismiss/deny that part of the AoI

    – However, in stating that the line in question is probably not original to the AoI, Carrier is actually following the scholarship of specialists on the AoI who have argued against the authenticity of the line stating Jesus dwelt among men

    – So Carrier’s reconstruction is actually following arguments made by authorities on the subject as opposed to hand waving away what is inconvenient to him, while O’Neill engages in hand waving away Carrier’s argument based on insufficient knowledge of the subject

    Is that about right?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-27 08:30:04 UTC - 08:30 | Permalink

      That is close, yes. I have appreciated the comments that have been added here that show Tim has at least argued the point more fully in other forums, but my post was targeting what he was presenting (and how he was presenting it) on the Non Sequitur show. He clearly led listeners to understand that one would not know the AoI (in any of its manuscript lines) said Jesus dwelt on earth, but that one had to have an above average knowledge of the texts to know that Carrier was pulling the wool over readers’ eyes.

      My point was not to address the technicalities of the AoI texts (I have more questions than answers at the moment and am not able to do that anyway) but to point out what some people might maliciously attribute to outright dishonesty on Tim’s part. I suspect, however, that Tim was just careless and was using notes he has used long before and had forgotten or not been fully mindful at the time he was speaking that his passage had in fact been taken from Carrier’s own book.

      Let’s just say, to be charitable, that Tim showed he was very careless and therefore seriously misleading on that Non Sequitur program.

    • db
      2018-10-27 11:15:46 UTC - 11:15 | Permalink

      • The Slavonic (and L2) material may attest a more ancient reading—missing in other extant translations.

      • O’Neil should not uncritically appeal to the the Slavonic (and L2) material, given the possibility of Christian interpolation.

  • Scytale
    2018-10-29 06:43:33 UTC - 06:43 | Permalink

    Wonderful argumentation. Thank you both, Neil abd DB, for such intellectual exercise.

  • Pingback: Updated post |

  • Amer
    2018-11-10 12:40:55 UTC - 12:40 | Permalink

    Just a bit of clarification from the noob over here. I believe the Docetists were a very early sect, if not a very early Christian group that later anachronistically were deemed heterodox by what became the proto-orthodox (if you agree with that term). Are there some parallels between the Docetists and Jesus Mythicists? If so, how do we distinguish between early scriptural references as being mythic or docetic supporting?

    If they are not similar – how are they different?

  • MrHorse
    2018-11-10 19:46:03 UTC - 19:46 | Permalink

    … if you actually turn to the Ascension of Isaiah you read this:

    “And I saw one like the son of man (that’s Jesus, the messiah) dwelling with men and in the world and they did not recognize him.”

    Except ‘the son of man’ in the Ascension of Isaiah might not be the Jesus of Nazareth –

    ie. it is as likely (or, perhaps, even more likely) to be reference to another entity; perhaps a celestial, angelic being.

  • MrHorse
    2018-11-10 20:02:40 UTC - 20:02 | Permalink

    The Latin original is found in part in R. H. Charles’ Ascension of Isaiah and in full in Paoli Bettiolo’s text and Enrico Norelli’s commentary:

    Et uidi similem filii hominis, et cum hominibus habitare, et in mundo, et non cognouerunt eum

    Charles concludes that the L2 words are not original to the Ascension of Isaiah (it was originally composed in Greek), and Norelli finds evidence that the line has been taken from passages in the New Testament Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John.

    The line may not have been taken from passages in the NT Book of Revelation and[/or] the Gospel of John –

    there are a number of possible scenarios: a number of possible origins, or paths or directions such a passage or line may have taken.

    • MrHorse
      2018-11-10 22:37:32 UTC - 22:37 | Permalink

      That should be set out thus –

      The Latin original is found in part in R. H. Charles’ Ascension of Isaiah and in full in Paoli Bettiolo’s text and Enrico Norelli’s commentary:

      Et uidi similem filii hominis, et cum hominibus habitare, et in mundo, et non cognouerunt eum

      Charles concludes that the L2 words are not original to the Ascension of Isaiah (it was originally composed in Greek), and Norelli finds evidence that the line has been taken from passages in the New Testament Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John.

  • Steve Watson
    2018-11-11 16:29:26 UTC - 16:29 | Permalink

    Even in his blog, where perhaps one would think one could be a little lazy, Richard references copiously. You can follow his argument back to the sources he is making it from and generally by several routes. Some might hit a paywall but there is always enough that don’t to check his work. He in fact more often than not will write that you should check it yourself.

    One thing he will say time and time again is that there is almost nothing new in what he is writing, he is merely the first scholar in modern times to aggregate disparate knowledge to the standards of the academy. Because he is virtually the only scholar that has looked at all the material bearing on historicity/ahistoricity, he is virtually the only scholar with an overview of the entire subject. Others take refuge, and comfort themselves, in the thought that while their particular narrow interest might undermine consensus, the work of three others with different narrow interests supports consensus. Each is unaware the others have the same findings as themselves about their own narrow fields of study.

    You have to stand back to see the elephant; if you never stand back, what then?

    • db
      2018-11-11 19:08:15 UTC - 19:08 | Permalink

      Per Carrier (14 October 2017) [now bolded]. “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]…

      • See Carrier’s cited sources per the PDF Bibliography for On the Historicity of Jesus (2014).

      • MrHorse
        2018-11-11 21:17:48 UTC - 21:17 | Permalink

        Per Carrier

        “…”most of what I base my own case on comes from the greater expertise of other published authors …

        Except Carrier is not engaging with scholars who are providing a new platform for which to question the traditional view of the genesis of early Christianity ie. those looking at some or all of the canonical gospels as being developed concurrent to or even after Marcion (while Marcion was editing ‘his’ gospel.

        Per Carrier, previously –

        “I am currently the world’s leading expert on the specific, hyper-narrow question of the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus. No one has published as much or studied as much or knows as much on that singular topic. Because they just haven’t studied it as much (and their ignorance on so many facts pertaining to it evinces that point ..” https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13366

        Robert M Price would give him a run for his money on that score (but Price gets written off for being a little eccentric. People could parse Price’s commentaries better ie. discern the essence of what he is saying).

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