2019-04-19

Well, I Sure Got That Wrong

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by Neil Godfrey

Tom Holland, an amateur historian with some excellent and some not so excellent writings in history.

I thought Tom Holland was a historian. I am talking about the author of In the Shadow of the Sword, a history of the seventh century Arab conquests and emergence of Islam which I posted about three times in 2013. I had read the book after a fascinating interview with Holland on Australia’s Radio National’s Late Night Live show with Philip Adams. Presumably Tom Holland had been introduced as a historian and it never crossed my mind to doubt that that was his profession.

But today I was struck by something I read in Richard Carrier’s new post today, No, Tom Holland, It Wasn’t Christian Values That Saved the West. My first reaction was that somewhere Holland was re-hashing his apology and praise for Christian values and even the heritage of the Christian church itself. Of course there’s nothing wrong with “love thy neighbour”, but Holland goes well beyond that. He credits Christianity with having, in effect, saved the world from barbarism. I certainly acknowledge many good programs throughout history by some Christians and some Christian organizations, but it is going too far to claim, as Holland does, that the difference between pagan and Christian values in ancient times was as stark as night from day.

I was somewhat incredulous that such a “reputable historian” could come out with that sort of … somewhat debatable viewpoint. So I posted:

I was just as dismayed when I noticed Tim O’Neill’s wearing of a Tom Holland praise badge on his website:

“A brilliantly erudite blog that stands sentinel against the wish-fulfilment and tendentiousness to which atheists, on occasion, can be no less prey than believers” – Tom Holland, best-selling history writer

I have demonstrated (most recently here) just how lacking in erudition and how thoroughly tendentious O’Neill’s History for Atheists actually is in some of its posts.

But Richard Carrier has shown that I myself have been caught out merely assuming Tom Holland was a credentialed/trained historian. Here is Carrier’s opening to his new post, No, Tom Holland, It Wasn’t Christian Values That Saved the West

Novelist Tom Holland just wrote an article for The Spectator titled “Thank God for Western Values,” declaring the “debt of the West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many might presume.” Everything he says is false.

The Back Story

Holland is another amateur playing at knowing what he’s talking about. He has no degrees in history, and no advanced degrees whatever. He has a bachelors in English and Latin poetry. He dabbled in getting a Ph.D. in Byron but gave up. No shame in that; but it still doesn’t qualify you to talk about ancient history, or even medieval. So keep that in mind. As to faith, he might be called a Christian atheist.

Now I squirm with that “another amateur playing at knowing what he’s talking about” put-down, but I was determined not to be caught out again so I checked and tried to find some credible source. I followed up the following citations in Holland’s Wikipedia page:

 

Sure enough (and Carrier links to the first of these) Tom Holland never studied history at a tertiary level. Never. He has no formal studies in history to his credit. (Nor, by the way, does Tim O’Neill, who also studied literature, medieval literature in his case.) Even I have more “formal training” in university level history than Tom Holland, but more than that, I have built on my formal training (an arts degree majoring in history units, both ancient and modern) with trying to keep reasonably abreast of the scholarly debates and controversies about the nature of history ever since.

So I am finally getting my ear down close enough to the penny-in-the-slot-machine to hear the dropping action inside.

If you are wondering, by chance, in what way Holland might be incorrect when he leads a New Statesman article with

It took me a long time to realise my morals are not Greek or Roman, but thoroughly, and proudly, Christian.

then no doubt you will find some reasons in Carrier’s own post (I have not yet read it myself but I am sure with Carrier’s qualification in ancient history there will be some pretty good pointers there), and/or you can check out a post or two on this blog, such as:

Even Pauline Christianity is arguably built on the principles of Stoic philosophy:

 

 

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50 Comments

  • shea mcduff
    2019-04-19 12:22:26 GMT+0000 - 12:22 | Permalink

    I can recommend Hector Avalos’ book “The Bad Jesus’ as a debunking that Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels [Avalos specifically steers around the HJ/MJ issue] is not as good a guy or epitome of a worthwhile value as is generally perceived.
    He devotes a chapter or so to each of the following – love the enemy, hate, violence, suicide, imperialism, anti-Semitism, inequality [the poor] misogyny, the disabled, medicine, and somewhere in there, the environment.
    The verdicts are not favourable to Jesus.

    • james
      2019-04-19 15:11:37 GMT+0000 - 15:11 | Permalink

      see the part where jesus tells his disciples that preventing his body from the stink of death is better than feeding hundreds of hungry children? this sounds kind of contradictory to the story about giving up riches and living a life of suffering .

    • james
      2019-04-19 15:15:06 GMT+0000 - 15:15 | Permalink

      ” love the enemy”

      avalos wrote that even love entail violence in christian religion.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-04-19 22:36:38 GMT+0000 - 22:36 | Permalink

      Chrisitan ethics, and their rationalization via changing interpretations of their Scriptures, have changed with the times. Poor houses, capital punishment, slavery, diminution of women, come quickly to mind.

  • db
    2019-04-19 12:30:55 GMT+0000 - 12:30 | Permalink

    Holland channels the full Tim O’Neill.

    • Holland, Tom (20 April 2019). “Thank God for western values”. The Spectator.

    [Per] the New Testament. There is no reason to doubt their essentials. Even the most sceptical historians have tended to accept them. In the words of one of the most distinguished, Geza Vermes, ‘The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is an established fact, arguably the only established fact about him.’

    Comment by Neil Godfrey—19 September 2016—per “Tom Holland: Still Wrong About Christianity”. Vridar. 16 September 2016.

    People may claim that their ethics are Christian or Muslim of Buddhist or whatever — but that’s just the packaging for what are human ethics for most part. Everyone believes in honesty and justice, being kind to strangers, etc — at least in theory or as ideal aspirations — whether Christian or not.

    Christian ethics did not suddenly originate out of the clear blue sky with the words of Jesus. The ethics of the Bible were drawn from the ethics known and prized in the ancient world. Some of those ethics have moved with the times as society learns more about human nature and behaviour.

  • 2019-04-19 13:37:03 GMT+0000 - 13:37 | Permalink

    Well, I’m eventually going to get around to writing a book that directly refutes Holland’s thesis, I’ve just gotten side-tracked on mythicism along the way. But most certainly, didn’t save us from barbarism, if anything it contributed to it.

    http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/understanding_evolution.htm

  • JBeers
    2019-04-19 17:00:59 GMT+0000 - 17:00 | Permalink

    I have no interest in defending Mr Holland, but I would like to defend amateurs–or at least point to how good amateurs can be. I want to emphasize why it can be right to ‘squirm with that “another amateur playing at knowing what he’s talking about” put-down.’

    I concede that amateurs will frequently, and probably most of the time, do things badly compared to credentialled pro’s. They typically know their field and are paid and given backup resources to learn more and more. However–

    Understanding in a given field can become so sclerotic or stagnant as the pros do little that’s substantial or innovative, and they can tend to spend time reinforcing each other’s errors. They can be too full of their own dogma and the opinions and favors of other professionals and those who pay them. In some cases professionals may be paid (sometimes by governments or large corporations) in large part to defend dogma or at least a general way of approaching things.

    Sometimes the self-trained (amateur) or the professional in a different but allied field can make a big difference–in any case, an outsider without the usual credentials. An extreme, yet highly pertinent, example is Einstein who, if I recall correctly, published 4 separate papers, each more or less revolutionary, on 4 separate topics within about a year, causing him, a patent clerk, to be quickly recognized as one of the major theoretical physicists of his day.

    I can think of any number of fields when I will have to recognize that because the pro’s know endlessly more than I do, I must not dismiss their conclusions out of hand, yet where I sense enough stagnation, dogmatism, and complacency that I probably need to be potentially somewhat open to an amateur who seems knowledgeable and logical.

    • 2019-04-19 18:34:04 GMT+0000 - 18:34 | Permalink

      Well, to be fair, Einstein did have an extensive education in physics. He had is doctorate by that point.

      A better example, IMO, is Harry Houdini, who had literally no education at all, could barely even write, but proved a large number of professionals wrong in regard to Spiritualism. Scientific American was publishing papers by credentialed naturalists and psychologists affirming that is had been proven that it was possible to contact spirits of the deceased, etc. Houdini came in and said, no, that’s nonsense, you guys have all been fooled and then had to proceed to prove it to them.

      There is a lot written about this whole issue, so you can look it up easily enough on your own.

      There is another really good example, but I can’t think of the guys name. If I recall he was an amateur geologist maybe in the late 19th century or early 20th who revolutionized the field. I read something about him around a year ago, but its fuzzy now :p

      Anyway… Yeah, credentials have meaning, but they can’t be everything. This is especially true in history, where, to a large degree, so many people are out of their field of specialty anyway.

      • db
        2019-04-19 20:44:57 GMT+0000 - 20:44 | Permalink

        “Carl Nägeli was a Swiss botanist. He studied cell division and pollination but became known as the man who discouraged [the amateur] Gregor Mendel from further work on genetics.” (“Carl Nägeli”. Wikipedia.)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-04-19 23:03:19 GMT+0000 - 23:03 | Permalink

      I don’t mean to demean amateur historians by any means. What pulled me up was my assumption that he had a professional background as a historian: that seems to have been a combination of my own lazy assumption and the way he has been presented in much of the media. This information deserves to be known when the author finds himself in controversies with other historians. Not because that lessens the value of his arguments, but that the reader has a right to understand the context, and to be on the more alert lookout for underlying methods and sources — on both sides.

      Forthright disclosure gives a reader initial confidence. (Failing to fully disclose, as, for example, Tim O’Neill fails to make clear he has no formal training in history even though he regularly ridicules Carrier’s PhD in history, potentially leads to an unfounded confidence.)

      Nor do I question that Tom Holland is a historian. He obviously is a historian. Some quotes from books about another author who was far more controversial than Holland should make the point:

      I suggested that, instead of arguing that David Irving is a sloppy historian or bad historian, he posit that he was not a historian at all. Evans dismissed this out of hand. “It is an absurd semantic dispute to declare someone who has written two dozen books about history not to be a historian. (Lipstadt 2006: 45)

      And again,

      Despite all this, Irving had never held a post in a university history department or any other academic institution. He did not even have a degree. He had started a science degree at London University but never finished it. “I am an untrained historian,” he had confessed in 1986. “History was the only subject I flunked when I was at school.”4 Several decades on from his self-confessedly disastrous schoolboy encounter with the subject, however, Irving clearly laid great stress on the fact that the catalogue of his work demonstrated that he had now become a ‘reputable historian’:5

      As an independent historian, I am proud that I cannot be threatened with the loss of my job, or my pension, or my future. Other historians around the world sneer and write letters to the newspapers about ‘David Irving, the so-called historian’, and they demand, “Why does he call himself a Historian anyway? Where did he study History? Where did he get his Degree? What, No Degree in History, then why does he call himself a Historian?” My answer to them, Was Pliny a historian or not? Was Tacitus? Did he get a degree in some university? Thucydides? Did he get a degree? And yet we unashamedly call them historians—we call them historians because they wrote history which has done (recte: gone) down the ages as accepted true history.6

      This was true. Irving could not be dismissed just because he lacked formal qualifications. (Evans 2002: 5-6)

      Interestingly we see some people dismiss certain “mythicists” on the grounds that they lack formal qualifications although they do promote the work of unqualified authors who agree with them.

      But always beware of the slackers even among the professionals:

      The case was heard and decided by a judge alone, without a jury. His judgment was an extraordinary victory for Professor Lipstadt. But then came what was to me one of the most astonishing and disturbing events in the whole story of this case. Most commentary in Britain on the judgment in Deborah Lipstadt’s favor was enthusiastic. But two professional historians dissented. Donald Cameron Watt wrote a column for the Evening Standard of London, published the afternoon of the judgment, that was headlined “History Needs David Irving.” Watt said, “Show me one historian who has not broken into a cold sweat at the thought of undergoing similar treatment”— similar to the trial’s exposure of Irving’s lies. (Lipstadt 2006: xv)

      • Evans, Richard J. 2002. Lying About Hitler. New York: Basic Books.
      • Lipstadt, Deborah E. 2006. History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. New York: Harper Perennial.
    • JBeers
      2019-04-20 19:19:34 GMT+0000 - 19:19 | Permalink

      I recently happened on a quotation from Marx (apparently comes from Preface to 2nd ed of vol 1 of Capital) on ‘vulgar economics’:

      ‘It was henceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested enquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic.’

      I believe this sort of thing probably occurs in fields other than economics (civil engineering, religious studies, pharmacology, history….), but as in economics it is typically tempered by the style of professionalism and some degree of uniformity (quality control).

      A good thing about credentialled people and academic departments and other official bodies is that they usually go by set standards, explicit and implicit, so that just the right amount of influence is wielded and in a discreet way–enough to make a difference but rarely so unusual as to be too shocking to too many observers, in a style that will seem convincing and proper. There is typically no outright craziness or fraud screaming at you.

      A bad thing about the credentialled and their organizations is that they go by these set standards.

      Outsiders are more likely to get things really wrong (crackpots etc or total shills for scams) but they (including outright crackpots) can get things right by going where the officials and professionals won’t or can’t go.

  • db
    2019-04-19 17:10:10 GMT+0000 - 17:10 | Permalink

    • Per Holland, quoting Daniel Boyarin, Christianity was: “the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world”.

    Holland, Tom (31 March 2018). “The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, by Bart Ehrman – Review”. spectator.co.uk. The Spectator (Book Reviews).

    Christianity . . . has long outlasted the empire in which it was born. It has become the dominant religion in entire continents unknown to the Caesars. Few would think to dispute the description of it by the great Jewish historian, Daniel Boyarin, as ‘the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world’.

    There are plenty of people today who still interpret the spectacular spread of Christianity across the globe much as Eusebius did: as evidence that God wished it to triumph. Historians today, though, do not tend to explain the past in terms of divine intervention. Bart Ehrman, in The Triumph of Christianity, his panoramic new survey of the religion’s growth in its first four centuries, writes in a vein that could hardly be less reminiscent of naive apologetics.
    […]
    Hurtado differs from Ehrman . . . by emphasising what the early Christians aspired to destroy alongside the worship of the gods. Ancient paganism, as both scholars are at pains to point out, focused on cultic practices: sacrifices, festivals, divinations.
    […]
    It is left to Hurtado, though, to tease out what the implications of this might be for anyone looking to explain the appeal of Christianity to potential converts. That the poor should be as worthy of respect as the rich; that the starving should have a claim on those with the reserves to feed them; that the vulnerable — children, prostitutes, slaves — should not be used by the powerful as mere sexual objects: all of these novel Christian doctrines must surely have had some influence on ‘the triumph of Christianity’ among the teeming masses of Roman cities.

    • Hurtado, Larry W. (2016). Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World. Baylor University Press. ISBN 9781481304733.

    • Ehrman, Bart D. (2018). The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781501136726.

  • nightshadetwine
    2019-04-19 18:38:26 GMT+0000 - 18:38 | Permalink

    People who say things like “Western morals” are unique to Christianity usually have no idea what they’re talking about and obviously don’t know much about pre-Christian culture. You can pretty much find all these morals in pre-Christian religion. Especially Egyptian.

    As Egyptologist Christiane Desroches Noblecourt wrote in her book “Gifts from The Pharaohs: How Ancient Egyptian Civilization Shaped the Modern World(Flammarion, April 17, 2007)”:

    One of my rare courageous colleagues wrote a sentence which now seems indisputable ‘It was the Egyptian religion that paved the way to Christianity.’ Christianity did not need the Hebrew religion to be introduced into Egypt. There was no need for this agent because, from its origins, Egypt had already shown signs of Christian thinking

    Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt by by Jan Assmann:

    Egyptian texts speak of the redemptive aspect of righteousness with an intensity that we cannot dismiss as ideological padding. What the norms of maat imposed on the individual in the way of self-control and self-abnegation was based on the redemptive powers of these norms, which were believed to save human existence from transitoriness. This was an ethics conceived on the basis of death. Act always — so we can summarize the “categorical (or better: cultural) imperative” of the Egyptians — so that your actions need not fear examination in the Judgment
    of the Dead. Place your conduct of life and the style of your actions on a basis that has proved to be truly lasting in this life and also serves as a standard for lastingness in the next life. The norms of maat not only have the power to integrate the individual into society, they also endow life itself with temporal continuation…

    The individual thus appears before his divine judges and avers that he has lived according to maat:

    See, I have come to you —
    there is no wrong, no guilt in me,
    no evil in me, no witness against me,
    and there is no one I have wronged.
    (For) I live on truth, I nourish myself on truth.
    I have done that which men advise
    and with which the gods are pleased.
    I have pleased the god with what he loves.
    I gave bread to the hungry,
    water to the thirsty,
    clothing to the naked,
    a ferry to the boatless.

    To the judges of the dead, the deceased reckons up the same sum of his life that, in anticipation of this step, he had already caused to be displayed in his tomb as an account to be read by later visitors to the tomb:

    I have gone forth front my city,
    I have gone down from my nome,
    after doing maat for its lord
    and pleasing the god with what he loves.
    I have spoken good and repeated good,
    I have spoken maat and done maat.
    I gave bread to the hungry
    and clothing to the naked.

    I have honored my father
    and been loved by my mother.
    I have said nothing bad,
    evil, or malicious against anyone,
    for I wished that it go well with me
    and that I might be an ??? in the presence of the god and of men
    forever.

    This text makes it clear that the idea of the Judgment of the Dead and the rules of conduct affirmed in the eighty-two declarations of innocence constituted the guiding principles of a responsible conduct of life in this world…

    Baki closes his inscription with an appeal to emulate him. Whoever conducts himself according to maat will have the enjoyment of doing so daily, but above all, it will be useful to him after his death. Baki reinforces his advice with a citation from the Instruction for Merikare, showing that this passage from the instruction was in fact, for the ancient Egyptians, the classic exposition of the idea of the Judgment of the Dead:

    Hear what I have said,
    all you men who will exist!
    Be happy with maat every day,
    as with a grain with which one cannot be satisfied.
    If you do it, it will be useful (111) for you;
    the god, the lord of Abydos, lives on it daily.
    You will spend your lives in happiness
    until you rest in the Beautiful West.
    Your bas will have the power to enter and go forth,
    “striding freely like the lords of eternity,”
    abiding with the forefathers.

    This is an ethics dominated by consciousness of the inevitability of death, of the transitoriness of earthly life, and of the reckoning of a lifetime that will be made in the Judgment of the Dead according to the concept of resultativity.

    • nightshadetwine
      2019-04-19 19:00:52 GMT+0000 - 19:00 | Permalink

      To add to my last comment:

      Osiris: Death and Afterlife of a God By Bojana Mojsov

      The same moral ideals were asserted on the stelae set up in the cemetery of Abydos. A man professed the following in his epitaph: “I gave bread to the hungry and clothes to the naked and ferried across in my own boat him who could not cross the water. I was a father to the orphan, a husband to the widow, a shelter from the wind to them that were cold. I am one who spoke good and told good. I earned my subsistence in Ma’at.”

      Ogden Goelet, in The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day –
      The Complete Papyrus of Ani Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images

      The Book of the Dead promised resurrection to all mankind, as a reward for righteous living, long before Judaism and Christianity embraced that concept.

  • 2019-04-19 18:50:58 GMT+0000 - 18:50 | Permalink

    The worst thing Christianity brought about was absolutism. That’s the main innovation of Christianity. Pretty much everything else was preexisting.

  • Sili
    2019-04-19 19:04:38 GMT+0000 - 19:04 | Permalink

    I really appreciate your willingness to publicly be uncertain and admitting to being wrong. Much too rare qualities.

  • db
    2019-04-19 19:24:47 GMT+0000 - 19:24 | Permalink

    • Holland questions a humanist assumption.

    Alom Shaha (20 December 2013). “Secularism is Christianity’s greatest gift to the world | historian Tom Holland explains how he reconciles his scepticism with his enduring Christian faith”. newhumanist.org.uk.

    [Tom Holland identifies as a Christian because the story of Jesus appeals to him]

    “Jesus, the figure of Christ, worked against the cruelty of the Greek gods, the classical gods and of the classical word. I liked the idea of a faith which has at its heart an omnipotent deity who is humiliated and crushed because it channels the kind of fear I have of how the world functions, of the cruelty of the world”.

    Tom told me that identifying as a Christian was his way of “paying a debt of honour to the wellsprings of [Christian] values and ethics” that he has. He feels strongly that it is a debt that more secularists ought to acknowledge…

    Holland, Tom (20 April 2019). “Thank God for western values | The debt of the West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many might presume”. The Spectator.

    The humanist assumption that atheism and a concern for human life go together was just that: an assumption. . . . The primary dogma of humanism — ‘that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others’ — finds no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated.

    “Amsterdam Declaration”. Wikipedia. “The Amsterdam Declaration explicitly states that Humanism rejects dogma, and imposes no creed upon its adherents.”

    Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.

  • Mike
    2019-04-22 00:15:34 GMT+0000 - 00:15 | Permalink

    when did Carrier change if so? I just exchanged emails with him on his website and he says 1 in 3 chance Jesus existed, possibly 2 in 3

    • db
      2019-04-22 00:33:33 GMT+0000 - 00:33 | Permalink

      Per Carrier (OHJ 2014), the probability that Jesus existed (“Historicity Jesus”), could not reasonably be higher than 1 in 3 (i.e. ~33%).

  • Mike
    2019-04-22 00:41:22 GMT+0000 - 00:41 | Permalink

    ok . . . anyway this is what I heard back after expressing surprise that he considers Peter and James to be real

    In my peer reviewed monograph On the Historicity of Jesus I conclude there is perhaps a 1 in 3 chance Jesus existed.

    I think you need to read that. Because it sounds like you’ve been misinformed regarding its thesis.

    My book compares two hypotheses: minimal historicity (the least ambitious and easily defended theory, or meta-theory, that Jesus existed) and minimal mythicism (the least ambitious and easily defended theory, or meta-theory, that Jesus did not exist). The latter theory holds that Christianity began when a certain sect of Jews began claiming to receive mystical revelations that a Christ-figure had died for their sins in another (probably celestial) realm; then a lifetime later, stories were invented imagining he had come to earth and preached in Palestine. (And a sect that took those stories literally is the sect that gained imperial power and decided all records survival.)

    So on minimal mythicism, Christianity began when Peter had a vision. Then his colleagues had visions confirming his. And this group declared themselves Apostles, “the sent-ones” or “messengers.” Pharisees tried suppressing this movement, then a few years later one of them (Paul) claimed to have also received one of these visions and thus also to have been elected an Apostle. Paul then changed the sect; and his sect is the only one that survived the next few hundred years.

    Thus, Peter, James, and so on are all real people, who really did (at least claim to) have visions of Jesus (1 Cor. 15) just like Paul (Gal. 1), and Paul had to convince them to accept him and his new version of the gospel (whose innovation was to allow Gentiles to join without converting to Judaism), and so on.

    I find in the end that this scenario has about a 2 in 3 chance of being correct on the available evidence; with a 1 in 3 chance it’s not what happened, and some “earthly Jesus” theory is true instead.

    • Mike
      2019-04-22 01:08:26 GMT+0000 - 01:08 | Permalink

      I misread the 2/3 part. bad skimming habits

    • db
      2019-04-22 01:11:19 GMT+0000 - 01:11 | Permalink

      • The following is held to be true on minimal mythicism and on minimal historicity:

      My interpretation of Carrier (OHJ 2014):

      Paul upon joining the sect perhaps called the “Brothers of the Lord”—that we term “Christians”—held that his “Lord”, the second-god, had died while incarnate in a human body.

      Circa 50 ce list of historical sect members:
      Apostles
      • Peter
      • James
      • Paul
      • etc.

      non-Apostles
      • James (distinct from the Apostle James)
      • etc.

      Per Carrier, “The New Gathercole Article on Jesus Certainly Existing”. Richard Carrier Blogs. 27 February 2019.

      [Per Christians] the original belief was indeed that Jesus became a human man, wearing a body of Jewish (indeed Davidic) flesh formed by God, in fulfillment of prophecy, long enough to be crucified in it by demonic powers, all to effect God’s cosmic plan to stymie Satan. The question is not whether the original Christians taught or believed that had happened, but where they believed that had happened.

      • mike
        2019-04-22 01:26:58 GMT+0000 - 01:26 | Permalink

        I’ve been trying to dig out who actually “invented” Jesus so for Carrier that is Cephas/Peter

        • db
          2019-04-22 02:02:08 GMT+0000 - 02:02 | Permalink

          • Belief in celestial Jesus, the second god, existed prior to the sect we term “Christians”. The innovation of the original Christians was that this same celestial Jesus was killed.

          Carrier, Richard (2014). “The Bible and Interpretation – Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt: Should We Still Be Looking for a Historical Jesus?”. bibleinterp.com.

          Christianity, as a Jewish sect, began when someone (most likely Cephas, perhaps backed by his closest devotees) claimed this “Jesus” had at last revealed that he had tricked the Devil by becoming incarnate and being crucified by the Devil (in the region of the heavens ruled by Devil), thereby atoning for all of Israel’s sins, so the Jerusalem temple cult no longer mattered, the sins of Israel could no longer hold back God’s promise, and the end of the world could soon begin.

          • mike
            2019-04-22 06:56:10 GMT+0000 - 06:56 | Permalink

            <“Jesus” had at last revealed that he had tricked the Devil by becoming incarnate and being crucified by the Devil (in the region of the heavens ruled by Devil), thereby atoning for all of Israel’s sins, so the Jerusalem temple cult no longer mattered, the sins of Israel could no longer hold back God’s promise, and the end of the world could soon begin.>

            Carrier doesn’t directly attribute this to anything/anyone and without looking I don’t remember it from Paul(?) I’m writing a little essay for some friends so they can more understand what I’m babbling about, but I don’t think I can get this past them by just saying Cephas said it was so

            thanks for all of your informative help

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-04-24 23:04:48 GMT+0000 - 23:04 | Permalink

      Mike’s quotation of Carrier’s response is from https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7643#comment-27642.

      Mike — as others have pointed out now, Carrier has always said he believes 1 in 3 are the best probabilities that Jesus existed. See his On the Historicity of Jesus:

      I find I cannot by any stretch of the imagination believe the probability Jesus existed is better than 1 in 3. (600)

      Instead, with the evidence we have, the probability Jesus existed is somewhere between 1 in 12,500 and 1 in 3. (601)

      The original a fortiori sequence . . . produces exactly the same conclusion: nearly a 1 in 3 chance Jesus existed. No more. (606)

  • mike
    2019-04-25 04:44:32 GMT+0000 - 04:44 | Permalink

    “misunderstood something”

    yes I did bad skimming habits as admitted earlier led to my mistake. if I’m now reading it right he’s giving 2/3 chance that Paul and apostles did exist and worshiped a celestial jesus, laving 1/3 chance that this is wrong and there was a physical Jesus

    • db
      2019-04-25 05:24:16 GMT+0000 - 05:24 | Permalink

      If you ever decide to crunch the numbers yourself (see Carrier′s Bayesian analysis on evidential assumptions) you may find the probability that Jesus existed (“Historicity Jesus”) to be 1 in 100 (i.e. 1%) or even IMO: worse than 1 in 1000.

  • mike
    2019-04-25 05:42:13 GMT+0000 - 05:42 | Permalink

    or to further clarify Carrier appears convinced some or all of the apostles including Paul definitely existed and worshiped either a celestial Jesus (2/3 chance) or a physical Jesus (1/3 chance)

    • db
      2019-04-25 13:06:58 GMT+0000 - 13:06 | Permalink

      • That is correct.

      Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 9781909697492.

      I find I cannot by any stretch of the imagination believe the probability Jesus existed is better than 1 in 3. —(p. 600)

      NB: The historicity of Paul, Peter, etc. (the members of the first Christian sect) is not dependent on the historicity of Jesus; or the ahistoricity of Jesus.

      • mike
        2019-04-26 01:21:15 GMT+0000 - 01:21 | Permalink

        If Paul worshiped a celestial not physical Jesus then in the gospels any apostle that had physical interactions with a physical Jesus have to be figments of somebody’s imagination though they could be “based” on actual people associated with Paul.

        Except for the obvious case of Peter, which was a neat way of hiding Paul’s Cephas behind a fictional character.

        Jesus gives Simon the son of John a new name, renaming him Peter and explicitly saying “Peter which is also Cephas.”

        Whichever author that was had to know the truth about Paul’s Cephas. The author was deliberately helping to hide the true nature of Paul’s Cephas from any prying eyes. It’s only in the last century I think that somebody started putting forward the claim that the gospel Peter and Paul’s Peter were two different people.

        Cuz according to Paul, Cephas is the inventor of the claim that Jesus died for Israel’s sins (the celestial Jesus in heaven, later transformed by the historicizers into having happened on earth). Thus Cephas is also ultimately the inventor of the Jesus contained in the New Testament.

      • mike
        2019-04-26 02:12:36 GMT+0000 - 02:12 | Permalink

        did Justin Martyr “ignore” Paul for the same reason? they knew all too well Paul worshiped a different Jesus. Later on though the historicizers realized Paul would be perfect to bridge the gap between the crucifixion and the creation of the historical church. Thus began the Paul forgery and rewrite factory

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-04-26 02:53:27 GMT+0000 - 02:53 | Permalink

          There’s no necessary conflict between a human Jesus and a celestial Jesus: Christians today all worship the “celestial Jesus” though most believe he was once a human on earth.

          (Justin quite likely ignored Paul because he was the Apostle of Marcion, a heretic in Justin’s view.)

          • mike
            2019-04-26 03:24:58 GMT+0000 - 03:24 | Permalink

            then why forge and rewrite Paul to add entirely historicizing elements? why hide Paul’s Cephas behind the gospel Peter? I think more is afoot here especially as no historian of the time chronicles any earthly events especially Josephus who should have had a ton more to write about those events.

            After all the father of Josephus was Mattias a Jerusalem temple priest (lived first century 6-70) who would have been a direct witness to the Jesus events.

            To say church father and historian son would not have discussed these things is beyond the realm of possibility. As in: HEY DAD! Were you there when that Jesus guy trashed the Temple? especially if after Jesus the church spread like wildfire as claimed. In his books Josephus heaps praise on his father, so there was no rift.

            They both would have lived through and witnessed the rise of the inherently Jewish church if it had happened as early as claimed. Josephus just not liking the church and leaving it out doesn’t pass muster either, cuz if the church existed all of his non-Jewish fellow historians would have called him out on the omission.

            I think it’s at least possible that Josephus as he was nearing the completion of his book noticed enough Christians wandering around that he tossed them a note, and in our view whatever he wrote was “damaging enough” that Eusebius had to obscure it to maintain the historicizer version.

            • mike
              2019-04-26 03:39:47 GMT+0000 - 03:39 | Permalink

              re Josephus should have added “as he was nearing the completion of his book in 96 AD”

              • mike
                2019-04-26 03:47:27 GMT+0000 - 03:47 | Permalink

                an added point should be consider those who were converting to the religion since other than people having children that was the only for the religion to grow. Surely by 100 AD and well into the 2nd century they would be taking into consideration these two conflicting stories in deciding which of the dozen sects to join.

                Pointing to the historicizer version and saying well I read the histories and it’s not there, it didn’t happen, so such and such (for example Marcionism) must be the right one so that’s the church I’m joining.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-04-26 04:05:02 GMT+0000 - 04:05 | Permalink

              I don’t see why any of those things follow from a possibility that Paul had some idea of a human-figure Jesus who became a celestial Jesus.

              • mike
                2019-04-26 04:35:07 GMT+0000 - 04:35 | Permalink

                that’s not Carrier’s argument. Carrier makes clear that the crucifixion happens not on earth but in some heavenly realm. Somebody else posted the quote from Carrier above:

                “Christianity, as a Jewish sect, began when someone (most likely Cephas, perhaps backed by his closest devotees) claimed this “Jesus” had at last revealed that he had tricked the Devil by becoming incarnate and being crucified by the Devil (in the region of the heavens ruled by Devil), thereby atoning for all of Israel’s sins, so the Jerusalem temple cult no longer mattered, the sins of Israel could no longer hold back God’s promise, and the end of the world could soon begin.”

                Carrier, Richard (2014). “The Bible and Interpretation – Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt: Should We Still Be Looking for a Historical Jesus?”. bibleinterp.com.

                More from Carrier

                According to Paul “Jesus came to be (genomenos) from the sperm of David”(God manufactured Jesus directly from the sperm of David). When Paul says Jesus “came to be” (genomenos) “from a woman” does he mean literally, or allegorically (as in Gal. 4:24).”

                Where is all this fantastical Fronkensteen stuff happening? Why does Paul not mention Mary or Joseph?

  • mike
    2019-04-26 03:58:25 GMT+0000 - 03:58 | Permalink

    remembering of course that Marcion’s jesus was not born of woman but came down fully formed at Capernaum

    which isn’t in the history books either, but like previous worship of mythical gods the practitioners and converts would have accepted all that as allegory

    the gospel of Mark doesn’t have the birth of jesus either. At Mark IV the author alludes that his story is an ALLEGORY with a secret meaning

  • mike
    2019-04-26 04:22:51 GMT+0000 - 04:22 | Permalink

    also (sorry for the long string but thoughts keep occurring) ideas such as Marcion’s must have been at least partially in vogue especially if Carrier is right, Paul existed, and the preceding celestial-only Jesus schools were eventually shut down by the Pharisees. After the Roman war ending 73 AD, and no more Pharisees around, these celestial-only Jesus schools would have naturally started up again.

    Thus it’s literally impossible that Marcionism could have been so instantly popular if Marcion had made it all up by himself in 145 AD or whenever (and in his New Testament the first published canon Marcion backed himself up with 10 Pauline epistles he claimed to have found at the Jesus School in Antioch).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-04-26 04:34:58 GMT+0000 - 04:34 | Permalink

      The evidence we have about the Pharisees is that they did not have the sort of power you are attributing to them. Besides, if some Jews believed in a celestial-only Logos or figure who was some sort of emanation of or assistant to God then that would have been quite in line with other first century Jewish beliefs and speculations that were held by different sects at that time.

      After 73 there were still Pharisees. Many of them moved to Galilee from Judea.

      Sorry, but I don’t know off hand what evidence we have that Marcion claimed to have found ten Pauline epistles at Antioch. Marcion, according to our records of him, did not claim to have made it all up but acknowledged Christianity before he converted to it.

      • mike
        2019-04-26 04:43:18 GMT+0000 - 04:43 | Permalink

        well my assumption was pharisees but certainly there was somebody shutting down the jesus schools.

        “Besides, if some Jews believed in a celestial-only Logos or figure who was some sort of emanation of or assistant to God then that would have been quite in line with other first century Jewish beliefs and speculations that were held by different sects at that time.”

        well yeah isn’t that what we’re talking about? one of them said they got visions along those lines from Jesus

        the Marcion/Antioch reference might be apocrypha (though it’s interesting Paul refers to the school at Antioch, in the incident at Antioch with Peter and James) but however Marcion got them, certainly the Pauline epistles went out of circulation or underground for nearly a century. Then somehow Marcion gets his hands on them.

        • mike
          2019-04-26 04:49:48 GMT+0000 - 04:49 | Permalink

          I mean, isn’t the standard story that Paul was shutting down the Jesus schools (persecuting Christians) until he converted himself? I confess I didn’t pay much attention for the brief period I was a Catholic. Was he working for someone, or on his own?

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-04-26 09:03:00 GMT+0000 - 09:03 | Permalink

            certainly there was somebody shutting down the jesus schools

            There is no reason to think so. The evidence we have that Paul or any other Jews in the early or mid first century “persecuted” Christians is all very late and contradictory.

            Some points to consider: https://vridar.org/2014/12/15/paul-the-persecutor/

        • mike
          2019-04-26 04:57:54 GMT+0000 - 04:57 | Permalink

          also you are not understanding or mischaracterizing Marcion and “made it all up.” My reference was that if Marcion made it up out of whole cloth himself there was no way his version could have been instantly popular. He had to have been building on previous ideas and movements and fairly confident of his ensuing success, in order to have bothered at all.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-04-26 09:09:46 GMT+0000 - 09:09 | Permalink

            Apologties for getting your meaning wrong.

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