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

Here is an annotated list of Vridar posts addressing Daniel Gullotta’s review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus.

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

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

(2017-12-13)

My first-thoughts on reading the review. An overview and plans for the following posts.

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2. Gullotta’s Review of Carrier’s OHJ: A Brief Comment

(2017-12-14)

My overall assessment of Gullotta’s review, noting in particular his serious failure to address the historical methodology of Carrier.

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3. How Bayes’ Theorem Proves the Resurrection (Gullotta on Carrier once more)

(2017-12-15)

This post addresses Gullotta’s fallacy when he writes

Yet I cannot help but compare Carrier’s approach to the work of Richard Swinburne, who likewise uses Bayes’ theorem to demonstrate the high probability of Jesus’ resurrection, and wonder if it is not fatally telling that Bayes’ theorem can be used to both prove the reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection and prove that he had no existence as a historical person.

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4. What’s the Matter with Biblical Scholarship? Part 3

(Tim Widowfield – 2017-12-27)

Tim addresses Daniel Gullotta’s use of the Gish Gallop in his review of Carrier, drawing attention to yet another instance of a biblical scholar demonstrating shallow yet tendentious knowledge of classical sources.

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5. Who Depoliticized Early Christianity?

(Tim Widowfield – 2018-01-02)

Tim addresses Daniel Gullotta’s complaint that

Simply put, [Richard] Carrier inadvertently depoliticizes early Christianity. (Daniel N. Gullotta 2016, “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts“, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, p. 333)

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6. Gullotta, Homer, and the Training of a Correct Scholar

(2018-01-05)

Nicholas Covington of Hume’s Apprentice has posted an excellent analysis of a section of Daniel Gullotta’s review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Homer, the Gospels, Gullotta and Mythicism. . . . . Nicholas, like Tim, demonstrates that Gullotta is being trained well at Yale to become a well-respected scholar of the Bible and early Christianity.

Unfortunately that is not a compliment, as the post demonstrates.

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7. The Function of the Term: “Born of a Woman”

(Tim Widowfield – 2018-01-15)

Have we, after all, been making too much of Galatians 4:4? That’s the question I keep asking myself. After much reflection, I believe yes, we have, but perhaps not for the reason you would expect.

In Daniel Gullotta’s “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts,” he writes:

Furthermore, while Paul does use the word γενόμενον [genómenon] (to be made/to become)  [see: γίνομαι (ginomai)] instead of the typical γεννάω [gennáō] (to be born), γενόμενον does appear in relation to human births in other pieces of ancient literature, such as Plato’s Republic and Josephus’ Antiquities [of the Jews].61 It is also noteworthy that the similarly worded phrase ‘born of a woman’ is also found within the Book of Job, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Thomas, as well as in other early Christian texts, each time indicating a human birth.62 With this convention in mind then, Paul’s expression, ‘born of a woman’, is fitting and certainly not exceptional. Thus, when Paul writes of Jesus’ coming into the world (Gal 4.4-6; cf. Phil 2.5-8; 2 Cor 8.9; Rom 8.3-4), it is apparent that it should be taken at face value to indicate Jesus being born like any other ordinary Jewish human being, that is, ‘born of a woman, born under the law.’ (Gullotta 2016, p. 329)

61 Josephus Ant., 1.303; 7.154; Plato, Rep., 8.553.

62 Cf. Job 14.1; 15.14; 25.4; 1 qs 11.20-21; 1 qh 13.14; 18.12-13; Matt 11.11; GThom 15; Origen, Against Celsus 1.70; Ps.-Clem., Homily 3.52.

I have preserved Gullotta’s footnotes above, because we’re going to take a look at all of his references to see if his assertions hold up. We’ll see whether the phrase “born of a woman” is (1) fitting and (2) certainly not exceptional. Ultimately, we’ll try to determine the function of the phrase in its context in Galatians.

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8. Daniel Gullotta’s Review of Richard Carrier’s “On the Historicity of Jesus”: that “born of a woman” passage (again)

(2018-01-16)

I draw attention to Tim’s post above.

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9. Continuing Gullotta’s Review of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

(2018-08-09)

I resume the series in order to ensure its completion. After addressing the ironical bias in Gullotta’s choice of assistants in writing his review I direct my attention the first of the six points to which Gullotta turns his focus:

The focus of my response will center on Carrier’s

  1. claim that a pre-Christian angel named Jesus existed,
  2. his understanding of Jesus as a non-human and celestial figure within the Pauline corpus,
  3. his argument that Paul understood Jesus to be crucified by demons and not by earthly forces,
  4. his claim that James, the brother of the Lord, was not a relative of Jesus but just a generic Christian within the Jerusalem community,
  5. his assertion that the Gospels represent Homeric myths,
  6. and his employment of the Rank-Raglan heroic arche-type as a means of comparison.

(Gullotta, p. 325. my formatting/numbering for quick reference)

I show that Gullotta has misunderstood the place of Carrier’s interpretation of Philo’s view of a pre-celestial angel named Jesus in his larger argument.

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10. Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s argument #2: relating to Jesus’ birth and humanity

(2018-08-10)

The focus of my response will center on Carrier’s

  1. claim that a pre-Christian angel named Jesus existed,
  2. his understanding of Jesus as a non-human and celestial figure within the Pauline corpus,
  3. his argument that Paul understood Jesus to be crucified by demons and not by earthly forces,
  4. his claim that James, the brother of the Lord, was not a relative of Jesus but just a generic Christian within the Jerusalem community,
  5. his assertion that the Gospels represent Homeric myths,
  6. and his employment of the Rank-Raglan heroic arche-type as a means of comparison.

(Gullotta, p. 325. my formatting/numbering for quick reference)

Once more on Gullotta’s criticism of Carrier’s treatment of “born of a woman” and other arguments for the celestial nature of Jesus in the Pauline corpus. That is, #2 in the above list.

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11. Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s argument #3: crucified by demons or Romans?

(2018-08-11)

Addressing Gullotta’s third point of focus, his rebuttal to Carrier’s his argument that Paul understood Jesus to be crucified by demons and not by earthly forces.

I link to another series in which I have addressed a wide range of historical and contemporary scholarly views on the passage in 1 Corinthians stating that “rulers of this age crucified the lord of glory.”

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12. Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus, point #4, “James, the brother of the Lord”

(2018-08-12)

Gullotta disputes Carrier’s argument that the “brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19 was not a relative of Jesus but just a generic Christian within the Jerusalem community. I, too, am sceptical of Carrier’s argument but I attempt to show that Gullotta’s particular objections are fallacious even if conventional.

This post responds to Gullotta’s fourth point of focus (see above).

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13. Gullotta’s Misleading Portrayal of Carrier’s Argument (Gospels Myth or Remembered History? – Part 1)

(2018-08-13)

This post begins to demonstrate that Gullotta’s portrayal of Carrier’s argument is misleading in the extreme, overlooking the bulk of Carrier’s detailed analysis supported with scholarly citations in order to convey Carrier’s views as idiosyncratic and perversely contrary to scholarly conventions.

This is the most difficult of my posts so far discussing Daniel Gullotta’s treatment of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. On pages 336 to 340 of his review Gullotta conveys the clear impression that Carrier has relied primarily, even perhaps entirely, on Dennis MacDonald’s thesis that the Gospel of Mark was based on Homer’s Odyssey and last two books of the Iliad and has consequently concluded that the gospel is primarily myth rather than remembered history. Gullotta further leads readers to understand that Carrier claimed Jesus was essentially based on Homer’s character Odysseus and that criticisms of MacDonald’s entire thesis equally applied to Carrier’s treatment of the Gospel of Mark. I will demonstrate that all of this representation of Carrier’s argument is grossly misleading. One scarcely knows where to begin.

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14. Gullotta’s Misleading Portrayal of Carrier’s claims…. Part 2

(2018-08-14)

I demonstrate that Gullotta’s attempt to argue that Carrier has relied predominantly on Dennis MacDonald’s Homeric thesis to make his case for the mythical character of gospel narratives is false, overlooking a full 40 pages of detailed arguments Carrier draws from mainstream scholarship.

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15. Gullotta’s Dysrepresentation of Carrier’s Case for the Gospels as Myth … Part 3

(2018-08-16)

I ended my previous post with these words:

From this point Gullotta loses sight of Carrier’s own line of reasoning, sometimes erroneously conflating MacDonald’s and Carrier’s views, and even at one point distorting the meaning of MacDonald’s words in order to fire a salvo at “mythicists” in general.

As I said, trying to get a complete handle on Gullotta’s fifth point is a long haul. I’ll set out the evidence for the assertions in the previous paragraph in my next post.

So from that point I continue.

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

(2018-08-18)

Gullotta’s suggestion that Carrier should have compared Jesus with biblical figures or Romulus is misplaced given that Carrier in fact did so, in depth. The criticism that Carrier “cannot explain” mimesis of Odysseus is further misplaced given that Carrier does offer an explanation (not mentioned by Gullotta) and in fact dwells far more at length on explanations of other figures such as those from the Jewish bible.

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17. Rank-Raglan hero types and Gullotta’s criticism of Carrier’s use of them

(2018-08-20)

The post demonstrates Gullotta’s failure to understand how folklorists use and interpret archetypes. It also addresses the evidence in Carrier’s work that belies Gullotta’s ad hominem attack on Carrier’s motives and what amounts to an accusation of intellectual dishonesty.

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18. Continuing Gullotta’s Criticism of Carrier’s Use of the Rank-Raglan Archetypes

(2018-08-21)

Quotations from folklorists whom Gullotta cites in other contexts that further show that Carrier has used the archetypes according to the ways folklorists themselves use and understand them. The same quotations demonstrate that Gullotta’s criticisms are based on misunderstandings among biblical scholars that the folklorists have sought to correct.

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19. Gullotta, Carrier and the point of the Rank-Raglan classification (Or, Can Carrier’s RR reference class be justified?)

(2018-08-22)

This post addresses the question: If the Rank-Raglan mythotypes do not prove or disprove historicity (as both Gullotta ironically concedes and as Carrier has made clear from the outset) then what is their point in a debate about the historicity of Jesus?

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20. Gullotta’s Concluding Comments on Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus

(2018-08-29)

This post reviews Gullotta’s claim to have addressed “fundamental problems” with Carrier’s argument; the irony of Gullotta citing scholars as if to disarm Carrier’s criticisms seemingly unaware that Carrier discussed those same scholars making the same point; and Gullotta’s gratuitous ad hominem in his final paragraph.

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21. Gullotta on Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: One Final Irony (or Misunderstanding? or…?)

(2018-08-30)

We look at Gullotta’s apparent confusion between the question of whether Jesus existed and the question of what the (assumed to exist) historical Jesus was like, and how Gullotta attempts to argue that Carrier has failed to appreciate that modern scholars have moved on in their methods. We see that when it comes to the question of historicity the methods used are still the same, even according to Gullotta’s own cited references, and that he has forgotten the starting point of Carrier that was to address a “minimal Jesus”. Hence Gullotta’s criticism that Carrier is targeting an “idealistic” or “absolutely known” figure is misinformed.

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22. Just a small point

(2018-09-04)

An afterthought, post. An addendum. A look at a disappointing footnote but with the observation that such things seem to be par for the course among so many publications in this field.

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