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Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

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Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus
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CollecemallPosts: 344Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

I was curious if anyone here had read this? I couldn't find anyone discussing it other than in passing when I used the search function. He's going to be speaking close by in a few weeks and I was considering going. If the book is worthwhile I'd like to read it between now and then. While I don't base my beliefs on if there was or was not a man named Jesus the topic interests me. I'm just not sure at 700 pages it's worth the effort.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:56 am
he_who_is_nobodyBloggerUser avatarPosts: 3333Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:36 amLocation: Albuquerque, New Mexico Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Collecemall wrote:I was curious if anyone here had read this? I couldn't find anyone discussing it other than in passing when I used the search function. He's going to be speaking close by in a few weeks and I was considering going. If the book is worthwhile I'd like to read it between now and then. While I don't base my beliefs on if there was or was not a man named Jesus the topic interests me. I'm just not sure at 700 pages it's worth the effort.


I have not read it, but it is on my wish list, however, it will probably be years before I get to it. I read Carrier’s blog regularly and feel that he does lay out a great case for mythosism. I also agree with him that this topic is not worth bringing up when talking to Christians. I think it is something interesting to discuss, but also in the end does not matter too much. Whether the stories were actually based on a man named Yeshua or invented later has no bearing on my thoughts as a whole when it comes to religion and Christianity in particular.

If I knew Carrier was speaking where I lived, I would try to make it (especially if it were free). I have seen a few of his lectures on YouTube. The man knows how to give a good talk. Plus, you can pick his brain in person.
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Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:33 am
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VisakiUser avatarPosts: 774Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:26 pmLocation: Helsinki, Finland Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

There wasn't a man called Jesus. Yeshua, maybe, Jesus defenetly not.

I find myself agreeing with nwin. The question of Biblical Jesus' historicity is somewhat interesting, but also pretty much moot when it comes to religion. Even if we admit that Jesus existed it doesn't say anything about his devine side, teaching. Only times I really discuss it is when christians claim that unlike Mohammad or Buddha Jesus was defenetly a historical figure (yes, I'd read that more than once).

Personally, without reading Carriers book, I think there was some real teacher behind the Biblical Jesus character. I admit that there is very little real evidence for him, even less about his real teachings, but I find it unlikely that he was made wholecloth out of thin air.
Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:59 am
ProlescumWebhamsterUser avatarPosts: 5002Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:41 pmLocation: Peptone-upon-Sores

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Here's a good overview of his opinions on the matter.



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Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:34 am
Dragan GlasContributorUser avatarPosts: 2956Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:55 amLocation: Ireland Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Greetings,

I've bought it recently but have yet to get to read it - I've got so many books to read!

He's been posting his responses to various reviews of it on his FTB website, so between the reviews and his responses you should have a fairly good idea of its content and how it's been received.

[I'm with Visaki on Jesus.]

Kindest regards,

James
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"The Word of God is the Creation we behold and it is in this Word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man."
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Mon Sep 01, 2014 9:53 am
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

I haven't read his book and at 700 pages, it sounds rather a task. However, I have perused this topic a little previously and am pretty convinced that there was indeed a historical Jesus. It seems far more unlikely that the character and the narrative was confected wholesale, rather than based on at least something historical.
Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:43 pm
CollecemallPosts: 344Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

I watched a few of his videos over the past few days and it sounds like he makes a pretty compelling case. Especially given how he demonstrates how much that is considered "consensus" that is very much not what people think. He's certainly right that things need to be looked at with fresh eyes rather than just assuming the work of the Church was done without bias in regard to proving historicity. Carrier says he originally rejected that it was possible that there wasn't a historical Jesus. His book is supposedly just to show the theory is plausible and to encourage scholars to look at things in an unbiased way. It's unfortunate it requires that many experts to figure out what the truth is. It's pretty clear that even if there was some man named Jesus that people followed and was even crucified that the stories are myth and were chosen to fit an agenda. Which makes it impossible to dig out any truth if there is any. The Christianity of today isn't what it was 200 years ago and certainly not what it was 2000 years ago. That any of them can think they have the "truth" is rather laughable.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:50 am
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

The broad idea that I generally got from the handful of videos of his that I have watched, was that he argued against the existence of Jesus even being historical. It's possible that there was no actual historical Jesus, but it just seems to me to be so unlikely as to be a real stretch. Whether Jesus performed miracles or not, is probably a separate issue to determining the existence of a historical character upon whom the New Testament was based and it is this latter issue, that appears to be more the focus here. There are various good arguments in favour of the historicity of a figure called Jesus, or Yeshua or some other derivative of that name, some of which are even supported by anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens. So, it seems to me almost an extreme position to hold that Jesus was entirely fictional, if that's the position that Carrier holds. Yes it's possible that Jesus was entirely fictional, but perhaps very good cases can be made that several other characters of history too were fictional, with enough effort.
Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:24 am
he_who_is_nobodyBloggerUser avatarPosts: 3333Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:36 amLocation: Albuquerque, New Mexico Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Engelbert wrote:There are various good arguments in favour of the historicity of a figure called Jesus, or Yeshua or some other derivative of that name, some of which are even supported by anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens.


Apparently, in Carrier’s latest book, he claims to address the argument that Hitches uses for believing in the historicity of Jesus. That is actually the main reason I want to read his book.
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Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:30 am
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SpecialFrogUser avatarPosts: 827Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:13 pmLocation: Great White North Gender: Tree

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

I find Carrier's arguments compelling. Even more so because the arguments made against his claims seem to be universally poor. However, I haven't seen any evaluation of his work -- positive or negative -- from someone with relevant expertise. Since I certainly don't have that myself I think he has justified agnosticism on the subject but not necessarily conviction.
"Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest" -- Albert Szent-Gyrgyi
Last edited by SpecialFrog on Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:43 am
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

SpecialFrog wrote:I find Carrier's arguments compelling. Even more so because the arguments against made against his claims seem to be universally poor. However, I haven't seen any evaluation of his work -- positive or negative -- from someone with relevant expertise. Since I certainly don't have that myself I think he has justified agnosticism on the subject but not necessarily conviction.


It can be an interesting subject to consider and it might inform how we think about history in a wider sense.

I can understand how Carrier's arguments can be compelling. He does raise some points that deserve answers and seemed quite passionate in his talks when I watched him. There are responses from credible historians though. Bart Ehrman is the foremost one in my mind and the two have exchanged arguments in books and speeches (certainly worth checking out as a respondent to Carrier). Ehrman is an agnostic and a Biblical historian and he makes, in my view, a very strong case that Christ was indeed a historical figure. He was part of an organised attempt to discern what is and is not historical about the life of Jesus, called the Jesus Seminar. There were an array of opinions about the events of Jesus' life, but there seemed to be almost unanimous consensus on his existence and crucifixion. The thoughts of the Jesus Seminar are the kind of credible and academic responses that exist to many of the arguments made by Carrier.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Semi ... l_Jesus.22

It can also be argued that the methodology of Carrier can be applied to almost all characters from history. We can cast doubt on the existence of all figures if we like. If Carrier can make a compelling case in the instance of Jesus, then why shouldn't we also consider the existences of Julius Ceaser, Genghis Khan, The prophet Muhammad, Ramses the Great or perhaps the authorship of the plays of William Shakespeare?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringo ... kdown.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of ... p_question

Cases can be made against the mainstream positions in all of these, yet in most of them we don't think twice about accepting the mainstream views from academia. We could say that actually Caeser was a political construct to inspire the expanse of Rome. There are busts and coins portraying Gods. That doesn't mean the Gods existed, so why should we think differently with Caesar, a supposed deific emperor? etc. etc. There seems to be a special difference with Jesus, because of the size and the effects of Christianity, thus there is perhaps more interest and the issue is under more scrutiny, but the methods to defend the existence of historical characters are the same across the board, so why shouldn't we be arguing equally fervently against the existence of someone like Alexander the Great, or perhaps Socrates?

It's not to say that we discard doubt entirely or the possibility of a mainstream position being overturned, but to say that we are usually convinced by the more persuasive view, or at least give respect to academic consensus since it is brought about by many people who spend their lives in earnest study of these matters. The Wikipedia article about the historicity of Jesus offers some interesting links and insights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicit ... oric_facts

Wikipedia wrote:Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.
Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:25 pm
SpecialFrogUser avatarPosts: 827Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:13 pmLocation: Great White North Gender: Tree

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Thanks for the reply, Engelbert.

I generally agree that you need very good reasons to challenge the historical consensus. However, in this case, the consensus on Jesus consists of a very bare set of agreed facts with almost everything else in dispute. Combined with the broad agreement that there are no contemporary sources that document his existence it makes me see this consensus as less robust than many.

I have read the exchanges between Ehrman and Carrier and didn't find Ehrman convincing. I also note that your own Wikipedia link mentions that many scholars disagreed with the conclusions and methods of the Jesus Seminar, which makes claims far beyond the bare-bones consensus.

I'd be interested to see if more experts weigh in on Carrier's book and will continue to follow this. However, in the interim I am far from certain that he is right but I am also far from convinced that he is wrong.
"Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest" -- Albert Szent-Gyrgyi
Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:40 pm
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Fair play. It's an interesting topic. You are right about the disputes with regards to the seminar's various conclusions, but they do not hold a monopoly on research into the historical Jesus, with many others considering this issue too, although they seem to have made valuable contributions. Whilst there is disagreement on the details of the life and times of Jesus, there does seem to be one area of real consensus in the seminar (with one or two exceptions) and it was that which I was really referencing. Simply the existence and crucifixion of Jesus. The other issues are often hotly debated as you mention.
Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:04 pm
CollecemallPosts: 344Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

From what I could tell Ehrman refuses to really engage in any sort of debate with Carrier. One of his lackeys attempted a few replies but from what I could tell never addressed the issues Carrier presented. He explains the method in a whole other book about Proving History and explains how and why it works. Also peer reviewed. If you are interested in why you can't use it to just try and disprove anyone in history I think that's the place to start. I believe he uses examples like Alexander the Great and the Roswell incident at least in some parts to demonstrate. I'm way below being able to argue the mechanics of it all but what I have read made sense to me. I also like that Carrier doesn't just write his book and leave it at that. He has since on his blog addressed most major critics and their points. While I can't comment on that since I haven't read the book nor have the education to know who is right or wrong I find that pretty remarkable that he even does that. I'm no expert on arguments and logic but from what I do know his for the most part appear sound. Who else has been willing to go to those lengths? Nobody I can find at least. I have seen him concede where he is wrong and make corrections. I think that's all any of us can ask for and one reason I have interest in reading his work. I'm sure some apologist can point to SOMETHING and say he's unreasonable about one point or another but I've found on the whole he seems open to legitimate discourse about any point that can be debated and doesn't make any wildly fallacious claims.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:42 am
CollecemallPosts: 344Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

he_who_is_nobody wrote:
If I knew Carrier was speaking where I lived, I would try to make it (especially if it were free). I have seen a few of his lectures on YouTube. The man knows how to give a good talk. Plus, you can pick his brain in person.


Unfortunately he's going to be like a 4.5 hr drive from me and the topic is actually about the "Teaching the controversy" debate regarding evolution and creationism. I live in Alabama and I'm not real sure why they are choosing that topic other than there are probably a lot of Bio teachers here who are cretards. But I've never seen it being pushed for the classroom. I was willing to drive that far to see something about his books but I'm not sure I care enough to go now that I know why he's coming. I guess I can hope someone records and youtube's it.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:40 am
Dragan GlasContributorUser avatarPosts: 2956Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:55 amLocation: Ireland Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Greetings,

Collecemall wrote:From what I could tell Ehrman refuses to really engage in any sort of debate with Carrier. One of his lackeys attempted a few replies but from what I could tell never addressed the issues Carrier presented. He explains the method in a whole other book about Proving History and explains how and why it works. Also peer reviewed. If you are interested in why you can't use it to just try and disprove anyone in history I think that's the place to start. I believe he uses examples like Alexander the Great and the Roswell incident at least in some parts to demonstrate. I'm way below being able to argue the mechanics of it all but what I have read made sense to me. I also like that Carrier doesn't just write his book and leave it at that. He has since on his blog addressed most major critics and their points. While I can't comment on that since I haven't read the book nor have the education to know who is right or wrong I find that pretty remarkable that he even does that. I'm no expert on arguments and logic but from what I do know his for the most part appear sound. Who else has been willing to go to those lengths? Nobody I can find at least. I have seen him concede where he is wrong and make corrections. I think that's all any of us can ask for and one reason I have interest in reading his work. I'm sure some apologist can point to SOMETHING and say he's unreasonable about one point or another but I've found on the whole he seems open to legitimate discourse about any point that can be debated and doesn't make any wildly fallacious claims.

Carrier documented his back-and-forth argument with Ehrman following his review of the latter's book, Did Jesus Exist? - a recent post of Carrier's gives the latest information on, and links to, the saga.

I'd recommend reading Carrier's Proving History first since he explains and applies Bayes Theorem: it's effectively a prequel to his latest book as it touches on the existence - or not - of Jesus.

Kindest regards,

James
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"The Word of God is the Creation we behold and it is in this Word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man."
The Age Of Reason
Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:12 am
CollecemallPosts: 344Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Yeah, those were what I was talking about. Ehrman himself pretty much just dismissed what Carrier says and refuses to really talk about the critiques or Carrier's work. Basically he says Carrier isn't worth talking about because he says stuff like "sucks". Some guy named James McGrath tried to cover for Ehrman but his attempts were rather weak in my opinion. It goes on and on for several pages and perhaps I'm wrong and McGrath has the right of it but my opinion was he didn't do a very good job of dealing with the issues Carrier had brought up about Ehrman's work. Carrier has mentioned several places that he generally thinks Ehrman does good work and even recommends several of Ehrman's books but he hammered this piece pretty hard. Like I said I'm a nobody with only a basic college degree in business. I'm not smart enough to argue the finer points of biblical studies with two guys sporting PhDs attached to their names.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:16 pm
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Collecemall wrote:Yeah, those were what I was talking about. Ehrman himself pretty much just dismissed what Carrier says and refuses to really talk about the critiques or Carrier's work. Basically he says Carrier isn't worth talking about because he says stuff like "sucks". Carrier has mentioned several places that he generally thinks Ehrman does good work and even recommends several of Ehrman's books but he hammered this piece pretty hard. Like I said I'm a nobody with only a basic college degree in business. I'm not smart enough to argue the finer points of biblical studies with two guys sporting PhDs attached to their names.


Here are two blog posts, one by Ehrman and one by Carrier. One seems to be in response to the other and you may even be referencing them in your comment here. The arguments themselves are the key issue really so rhetoric, style and approach are not necessarily focal in discerning the truth about the historicity of Jesus, but for someone attempting to be heard, I find Carrier's general approach to be a little unpleasant, shrill and aggressive. If he's right, then surely his arguments will speak for themselves and a wider acceptance might begin to gather pace, not in the amateur demographic, but amongst those who actually study these matters for a living. He's obviously intelligent, but his works seem to be in relative isolation amongst those in his field. There appears to be little support and the impression given, from a cursory view is one of a man promoting his own thoughts, deriding and disrespecting those of others and shouting so that he may be heard, because they don't seem to be finding sufficient traction amongst his academic peers.

Of course, I fall into the casual reader category, if that, without the knowledge even to call myself an amateur. But general approach and general impressions are things that anybody might be able to evaluate to some extent, scholar or not. Ehrman's sincerity and integrity seem to hold quite strong in the disagreement between these two individuals. Even if Carrier were to prove the victor and to convince historians to revise their views, it seems as though Ehrman is at least deserving of respect for proper interaction and response, rather than to be viewed as entirely dismissive and evasive. Maybe these two posts will be helpful in evaluating further, if you haven't already read them.


http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/


http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026
Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:13 am
he_who_is_nobodyBloggerUser avatarPosts: 3333Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:36 amLocation: Albuquerque, New Mexico Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

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MugnutsBloggerUser avatarPosts: 383Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:13 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus

Before going at the new book, you really need to get through "Proving History: Bayes Theorem". My lizard brain is reeling but it's the explicit explanation of how he came to the conclusions he did and why. You may notice that he refers to his books many, many times in his lectures and debates. He was criticized by a questioner that he was just pushing his books for $$$, but the reality is there is no way to explain everything put into the research in a 20-60 min debate or discussion.

I would love to hear Carrier destroy Sye Ten Bruggencate.
"In the end theologians are jealous of science, for they are aware that it has greater authority than do their own ways of finding “truth”: dogma, authority, and revelation. Science does find truth, faith does not. " - Jerry Coyne
Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:51 am
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