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Why the “Mythical Jesus” Claim Has No Traction with Scholars

December 2, 2017

The overwhelming body of scholars, in New Testament, Christian Origins, Ancient History, Ancient Judaism, Roman-era Religion, Archaeology/History of Roman Judea, and a good many related fields as well, hold that there was a first-century Jewish man known as Jesus of Nazareth, that he engaged in an itinerant preaching/prophetic activity in Galilee, that he drew to himself a band of close followers, and that he was executed by the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.

These same scholars typically recognize also that very quickly after Jesus’ execution there arose among Jesus’ followers the strong conviction that God (the Jewish deity) had raised Jesus from death (based on claims that some of them had seen the risen Jesus).  These followers also claimed that God had exalted Jesus to heavenly glory as the validated Messiah, the unique “Son of God,” and “Lord” to whom all creation was now to give obeisance.[i]  Whatever they make of these claims, scholars tend to grant that they were made, and were the basis for pretty much all else that followed in the origins of what became Christianity.

The “mythical Jesus” view doesn’t have any traction among the overwhelming number of scholars working in these fields, whether they be declared Christians, Jewish, atheists, or undeclared as to their personal stance.  Advocates of the “mythical Jesus” may dismiss this statement, but it ought to count for something if, after some 250 years of critical investigation of the historical figure of Jesus and of Christian Origins, and the due consideration of “mythical Jesus” claims over the last century or more, this spectrum of scholars have judged them unpersuasive (to put it mildly).

The reasons are that advocates of the “mythical Jesus” have failed to demonstrate expertise in the relevant data, and sufficient acquaintance with the methods involved in the analysis of the relevant data, and have failed to show that the dominant scholarly view (that Jesus of Nazareth was a real first-century figure) is incompatible with the data or less secure than the “mythical Jesus” claim.  This is true, even of Richard Carrier’s recent mammoth (700+ pages) book, advertised as the first “refereed” book advocating this view.[ii]  Advertisements for his book refer to the “assumption” that Jesus lived, but among scholars it’s not an assumption—it’s the fairly settled judgement of scholars based on 250 years of hard work on that and related questions.

You don’t have to read the 700+ pages of Carrier’s book, however, to see if it’s persuasive.  To cite an ancient saying, you don’t have to drink the whole of the ocean to judge that it’s salty.  Let’s take Carrier’s own summary of his key claims as illustrative of the recent “mythical Jesus” view.  I cite from one of his blog-postings in which he states concisely his claims:

“that Christianity may have been started by a revealed [i.e., “mythical”] Jesus rather than a historical Jesus is corroborated by at least three things: the sequence of evidence shows precisely that development (from celestial, revealed Jesus in the Epistles, to a historical ministry in the Gospels decades later), all similar savior cults from the period have the same backstory (a cosmic savior, later historicized), and the original Christian Jesus (in the Epistles of Paul) sounds exactly like the Jewish archangel Jesus, who certainly did not exist. So when it comes to a historical Jesus, maybe we no longer need that hypothesis.”[iii]

Carrier’s three claims actually illustrate his lack of expertise in the relevant field, and show why his “mythical Jesus” doesn’t get much traction among scholars.  Let’s start with the third claim.  There is no evidence whatsoever of a “Jewish archangel Jesus” in any of the second-temple Jewish evidence.  We have references to archangels, to be sure, and with various names such as Michael, Raphael, Yahoel, and Ouriel.  We have references to other heavenly beings too, such as the mysterious Melchizedek in the Qumran texts.  Indeed, in second-temple Jewish texts and (later) rabbinic texts there is a whole galaxy of named angels and angel ranks.[iv]  But, I repeat, there is no such being named “Jesus.”  Instead, all second-temple instances of the name are for historical figures.[v]  So, the supposed “background” figure for Carrier’s “mythical” Jesus is a chimaera, an illusion in Carrier’s mind based on a lack of first-hand familiarity with the ancient Jewish evidence.[vi]

Now let’s consider his second claim, that “all similar savior cults from the period” feature “a cosmic savior, later historicized.”  All? That’s quite a claim!  So, for example, Isis?  She began as a local Egyptian deity and her cult grew in popularity and distribution across the Roman world in the first century or so AD, but she never came to be treated as a historical woman.  How about her Egyptian consort Osiris?  Again, a deity who remained . . . a deity, and didn’t get “historicized” as a man of a given date.  Mithras?  Ditto.  Cybele?  Ditto.  Artemis?  Ditto.  We could go on, but it would get tedious to do so.   Carrier’s cavalier claim is so blatantly fallacious as to astonish anyone acquainted with ancient Roman-era religion.[vii]  There is in fact no instance known to me (or to other experts in Roman-era religion) in “all the savior cults of the period” of a deity that across time got transformed into a mortal figure of a specific time and place, such as is alleged happened in the case of Jesus.[viii]

OK, so two strikes already, and one claim yet to consider:  a supposed shift from Jesus as “a celestial being” (with no earthly/human existence) in Paul’s letters to “a historical ministry in the Gospels decades later.”  The claim reflects a curiously distorted (and simplistic) reading of both bodies of texts.  Let’s first look at the NT Gospels.

It’s commonly accepted that the Gospel of John is the latest of them (with differences of scholarly opinion on the literary relationship of GJohn to the others), and that perhaps as much as a decade or more separates the earliest (usually thought to be GMark) from GJohn.  So, on Carrier’s claim, we might expect a progressively greater “historicization” of Jesus, and less emphasis on him as “a celestial being,” in GJohn.  Which is precisely not the case—actually, the opposite.  Most readers of GJohn readily note that, in comparison with the “Synopic” Gospels, the text makes much more explicit and emphatic Jesus’ heavenly origins, his share in divine glory, etc., right from the opening chapter onward with its reference to the “Logos” as agent of creation and who “became flesh” and “dwelt among us” (1:1-5, 14).

In contrast, GMark simply narrates an account of Jesus’ itinerant ministry of teaching, performing exorcisms and healings, conflicts with critics, and then a lengthy account of his fateful final trip to Jerusalem.  There are allusions or hints in GMark that Jesus’ larger identity and significance surpass what the other characters in the account realize, as, e.g., in the cries of recognition by the various demoniacs.  But Jesus has a mother, brothers and sisters (3:31-32; 6:3), is portrayed as  known local boy in his hometown (6:1-6), and to all the other human characters in the narrative Jesus is variously a prophet, teacher, blasphemer, Messiah, or criminal.  Most indicative that the Jesus of GMark is a genuine mortal is the account of his crucifixion, his death, and burial of his “corpse” (Mark’s clinically precise term, 15:45).  Whatever his higher significance or transcendent identity, in GMark Jesus is at least quite evidently a real mortal man.[ix]  Now, to be sure, GMark (as all the NT Gospels) presupposes that intended readers also regard Jesus as the exalted “Lord”.  But the story the Gospels tell emphasizes his historic activity.

As far as the other “Synoptic” Gospels are concerned (GMatthew and GLuke), it’s commonly accepted that they took GMark as inspiration, pattern and key source, each of them, however, producing a distinctive “rendition” (to use a musical term) of the basic narrative.  GMatthew, for example, emphasizes Jesus’ Jewishness, adds a birth narrative with lots of allusions/connections to OT texts, and gathers up traditions of Jesus’ teachings into five large discourse blocks.  GLuke, writing, it appears, more for a Gentile readership and with more of a nod to generic features of Greek history and biography of the time, inserts dates (3:1-2), and has his own birth narrative and genealogy that links Jesus more to world history.

But the overall point here is that across the years in which the Gospels were composed, there isn’t a trajectory from a “celestial being” with no earthly existence to a “historicized” man.  If anything, the emphasis goes in the opposite direction.[x]  Certainly, it appears to most scholars that the Gospels reflect the growth of legendary material about Jesus, the birth narratives being a prime example.  But legendary embellishment is what happens to high-impact historical figures, and doesn’t signal that the figures are “mythical”.

One further point about the Gospels.  Yes, a few decades separate them from the time of Jesus’ execution under Pontius Pilate and from the commonly accepted dates of Paul’s undisputed letters.  The NT Gospels, with their bios-shaped narratives do mark a noteworthy development in the history of earliest Christian literature.[xi]  But it’s dubious to posit that they mark some major departure theologically from earlier Christian beliefs about Jesus.[xii]  Instead, they echo and develop the crucifixion-resurrection focus that we see in our earliest texts, drawing upon the emergent biographical genre to produce a noteworthy “literaturization” of the gospel message.

And some 250 years of critical study of the Gospels has continued to show that they draw upon various earlier sources, both written and oral that had been circulating for decades, including collections of sayings and disputations of Jesus, likely also a body of miracle stories, and narratives of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Indeed, the Gospels (especially their variations in their respective accounts) reflect multiple and varied stories and traditions about Jesus that were taught and transmitted across the decades between Jesus’ execution and the composition of these texts.  Which means that treating Jesus as the Messiah and exalted Lord whose teachings and earthly actions were significant did not begin with the Gospel writers, but has its roots deeply back into the earlier decades.  The earmarks of the traditions on which the Gospel writers drew are there and have been readily perceived by scholars for a long time, whatever differences there are among scholars about precisely the form and extent of these traditions.  Treating Jesus as a historical figure didn’t commence late or with the authors of the Gospels.

But, in a sense, the “mythical Jesus” focus on the Gospels is a bit of a red-herring.  For the far earlier references to an earthly/mortal Jesus are in the earliest Christian texts extant:  the several letters that are commonly undisputed as composed by the Apostle Paul.[xiii]  These take us back much earlier, typically dated sometime between the late 40s and the early 60s of the first century.  So Carrier’s final claim to consider is whether Paul’s letters reflect a view of Jesus as simply an angelic, “celestial” being with no real historical existence.

Unquestionably, Paul affirms and reflects a “high” view of Jesus, as the true Messiah, the unique Son of God, and the exalted Lord to whom now God requires obeisance by all creation.[xiv]  After his initially vigorous opposition to the young Jesus-movement, he had an experience that he regarded a divine revelation, which confirmed to him Jesus’ exalted status and validity as God’s unique “Son” (Galatians 1:14-16), after which he became a trans-national exponent of the claims about Jesus.  Corresponding to this, and still more remarkable in light of Paul’s firm Jewish heritage and continuing self-identity, his letters reflect a developed devotional pattern in which the resurrected and exalted Jesus features programmatically along with God as recipient and focus.[xv]

But for Paul and those previous Jesus-followers whom he had initially opposed prior to the “revelation” that turned him in a new direction, Jesus was initially a Jewish male contemporary.  It was what they took to be God’s resurrection and exaltation of the crucified Jesus that generated their view of him as having a heavenly status.  And, in keeping with ancient apocalyptic logic (final things = first things), God’s heavenly exaltation of him as Messiah and Lord generated the conviction that he had been “there” with God from creation, as “pre-existent”.[xvi]  So, there are two major corrections to make to the claim espoused by Carrier.

First, Paul never refers to Jesus as an angel or archangel.[xvii] Indeed, a text such as Romans 8:38-39 seems to make a sharp distinction between angelic powers and the exalted Kyrios Jesus.  Moreover, although Paul shares the early Christian notion that the historical figure, Jesus had a heavenly back-story or divine “pre-existence” (e.g., Philippians 2:6-8), this in no way worked against Paul’s view of Jesus as also a real, historical human being.

And, secondly, there is abundant confirmation that for Paul Jesus real historical existence was even crucial.  Perhaps the most obvious text to cite is 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, where Paul recites a tradition handed to him and then handed by him to the Corinthians, that recounts Jesus’ death (v. 3), his burial (v. 4), and then also his resurrection and appearances to several named people and a host of unnamed people.  Now, whatever one makes of the references to Jesus’ resurrection and post-resurrection appearances, it’s clear that a death and burial requires a mortal person.  It would be simply special pleading to try to convert the reference to Jesus’ death and burial into some sort of event in the heavens or such.

Indeed, Paul repeatedly refers, not simply to Jesus’ death, but specifically to his crucifixion, which in Paul’s time was a particular form of execution conducted by Roman authorities against particular types of individuals found guilty of particular crimes.   Crucifixion requires a historical figure, executed by historical authorities.  Jesus’ historical death by crucifixion was crucial and central to Paul’s religious life and thought.[xviii]  To cite one text from many, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

Or consider Paul’s explicit reference to Jesus as “born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4).  Paul here clearly declares Jesus to have been born, as mortals are, from a mother, and, further, born of a Jewish mother “under the Law.”[xix]  Birth from a mother, and death and burial—surely the two clearest indicators of mortal existence!  Moreover, Paul considered Jesus to be specifically of Davidic descent (Romans 1:3), and likewise knew that Jesus’ activities were directed to his own Jewish people (Romans 15:8).[xx]

Paul refers to Jesus’ physical brothers (1 Corinthians 9:5) and to Jesus’ brother James in particular (Galatians 1:19).  Contrary to mythicist advocates, the expression “brothers of the Lord” is never used for Jesus-followers in general, but in each case rather clearly designates a specific subset of individuals identified by their family relationship to Jesus.[xxi]  Note particularly that in Paul’s uses, the expression “brothers of the Lord” distinguishes these individuals from other apostles and leading figures.  The mythicist claim about the expression is a rather desperate stratagem.

Paul knows of a body of teachings ascribed to Jesus, and uses them on several occasions, as in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, where he both invokes a specific teaching discouraging divorce, and also acknowledges that he has no saying of Jesus at other points and so has to give his own advice (e.g., 7:12).  Rather clearly, the source of the sayings of Jesus was not some ready-to-hand revelation that could be generated, but instead a body of tradition that Paul had inherited.  Certainly, Paul refers to his many visions and revelations (2 Corinthians 12:1), and even recounts one at length (vv. 2-10).  But he also refers to a finite body of teachings of “the Lord” that derived from the earthly Jesus and were passed to him.

It would be tedious to prolong the matter.  In Paul’s undisputed letters, written decades earlier than the Gospels we have clear evidence that the “Jesus” referred to is a historical figure who lived among fellow Jews in Roman Judea/Palestine, and was crucified by the Roman authority.  There is no shift from a purely “celestial being” in Paul’s letters to a fictionalized historical figure in the Gospels.  For both Paul and the Gospels, Jesus is both a historical figure and (now) the “celestial” figure exalted to God’s “right hand” in heaven.  Whatever you make of him, the Jesus in all these texts is never less than a historical mortal (although in the light of the experiences of the risen Jesus he became much more).

We have examined each of Carrier’s three claims and found each of them readily falsified.  It’s “three strikes you’re out” time.  Game over.

There are much better reasons offered by people for finding Christian faith (or any kind of belief in God) too much of a stretch.  The attempts to deny Jesus’ historical existence are, for anyone acquainted with the relevant evidence, blatantly silly.  So, let those who want to argue for or against Christian faith do so on more serious grounds, and let those of us who do historical investigation of Jesus and Christian Origins practice our craft without having to deal with the strategems-masquerading-as-history represented by the mythical Jesus advocates.

[i] The validity of the claim that God resurrected Jesus and exalted him is beyond historical investigation to determine.  But the early eruption of these claims is a historical datum not typically disputed.

[ii] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus:  Why We May Have Reason for Doubt (Sheffield Academic Press, 2014).

[iii] From a posting by Carrier:  http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/08/car388028.shtml#sdfootnote1sym.

[iv] See, e.g., Saul M. Olyan, A Thousand Thousands Served Him:  Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism (TSAJ 36; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1993); and Michael Mach, Entwicklungsstadien des jüdischen Engelglaubens in vorrabinischer Zeit (TSAJ 34; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1992); Maxwell J. Davidson, Angels At Qumran:  A Comparative Study of 1 Enoch 1-36, 72-108 and Sectarian Writings From Qumran (JSPSup 11; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992); L. W. Hurtado, “Monotheism, Principal Angels, and the Background of Christology,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Timothy H. Lim and John J. Collins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 546-64; Paul J. Kobelski, Melchizedek and Melchiresa (CBQMS 10; Washington: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1981).  Carrier refers to Philo, but Philo never mentions an archangel named “Jesus”.  Philo makes a theological/conceptual distinction between the ineffable God and God revealed, and calls the latter God’s “Logos,” but he makes it clear that they don’t really comprise two separate beings.

[v] Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part 1:  Palestine 300 BCE – 200 CE, TSAJ 91 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), gives a list of male and female Jewish names in second-temple evidence.  Note also Margaret H. Williams, “Palestinian Jewish Personal Names in Acts,” in The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting, Volume 4:  The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, ed. Richard Bauckham (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 79-113, who notes numerous instances of the name for figures referred to by Josephus, and on ossuaries (sometimes the Aramaic form, Yeshua, sometimes the Greek form, Iesous).  The name “Jesus” is an anglicized form of the Greek, Iesous, which in turn is a Graecized form of the Hebrew name, Yehoshua (“Joshua”), its Aramaic/shortened form, Yeshua.  There are about ten individuals with the name in the Hebrew OT (usually translated “Joshua”), and others with the name “Jesus” in the Greek NT (Matt. 27:16; Col. 4:11; Luke 3:29).  And note also the Jesus, the grandfather of the author of Ecclesiasticus (or the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach).

[vi] For a survey of the various types of “chief agent” figures in second-temple Jewish tradition, including high angels, see my book, One God, One Lord:  Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (3rd ed.; London:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015; original edition, 1988).  None of these figures, however, gives a full analogy for the programmatic place of Jesus in the devotional practices of earliest Christian circles.

[vii] See, e.g., Mary Beard, John North and Simon Price, Religions of Rome (2 vols; Cambridge University Press, 1998); Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire, trans. Antonia Nevill (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).  On the many “mystery cults,” see now Jan N. Bremmer, Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014).

[viii] Carrier seems to misconstrue the classic Euhemerist theory, which postulated that the various gods derive from ancient human heroes who across time developed into gods, not the opposite.

[ix] Among many studies of Mark’s presentation of Jesus, e.g., Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Mark’s Jesus:  Characterization as Narrative Christology (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009).

[x] Perhaps the authors of the Gospels were concerned to re-assert the importance of the historical ministry of Jesus as indispensable.  See Larry W. Hurtado, “Resurrection-Faith and the ‘Historical’ Jesus,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11.1 (2013): 35-52; and my discussion of the Gospels as literary expressions of Jesus-devotion in my book, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2003), 259-347.

[xi] E.g., Larry W. Hurtado, “Gospel (Genre),” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. J. B. Green, S McKnight and I. H. Marshall (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 276-82; David E. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987); and more fully on the Gospels, R. A. Burridge, What Are the Gospels?  A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, SNTSMS 70 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

[xii] Larry W. Hurtado, “The Gospel of Mark:  Evolutionary or Revolutionary Document?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 40 (1990): 15-32.

[xiii] These are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  The other Pauline letters in the NT are judged by most scholars to be either posthumously produced in Paul’s name (especially Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), or are disputed as to authorship (especially Colossians and 2 Thessalonians).

[xiv] Matthew V. Novenson, Christ Among the Messiahs:  Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), shows persuasively that in Paul’s usage “Christ” (Greek:  Christos) retained the sense of “Messiah,” correcting an earlier scholarly view that the term had become an empty name for Jesus.

[xv] See my discussion of Pauline Christianity in my book, Lord Jesus Christ, 79-153; and my more concise treatment, L. W. Hurtado, “Paul’s Christology,” in The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul, ed. James D. G. Dunn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 185-98.

[xvi] Larry W. Hurtado, “Pre-Existence,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993), 743-46.

[xvii] Charles A. Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology:  Antecedents and Early Evidence, Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums, no. 42 (Leiden: Brill, 1998), argued that early Christians appropriated “angelomorphic” language and motifs in articulating the heavenly status and glory of the risen Jesus, but, he emphasizes, this did not amount to treating Jesus as an angelic being.  Cf. Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God:  The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (San Francisco:  HarperOne, 2014), e.g., 250-51, who gives a confused representation of matters.

[xviii] The mythicist attempt to make Paul’s reference to Jesus’ crucifixion by “the rulers of this age” (1 Cor 2:7-8) into some kind of heavenly event is bizarre.  All else in Paul’s letters confirms that he knew Jesus’ crucifixion as an earthly, historical event, and the “rulers” here are likely those under whose authority it was carried out.  If, however, “the rulers” (archontes tou aiwnos toutou) designate spiritual beings, the statement would reflect the view (well attested in Jewish and early Christian sources) that spiritual forces are behind the earthly rulers, acting through them.  But there is no basis for making the event something that took place solely in some spiritual realm apart from earthly history.

[xix] Contra Carrier’s ill-informed claim, the Greek verb ginomai is frequently used in various Christian and non-Christian texts to mean “born.”  There is nothing in Paul’s statement to justify Carrier’s strange claim that it portrays something other than a normal birth.  Any lexicon will confirm this:  e.g., The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, ed. Franco Montonari (Leiden:  Brill, 2016), s.v. γινομαι.

[xx] As a devout believer in the one God, in Paul’s view, Jesus’ death was for redemptive purposes, and Paul could therefore also refer to God having sent Jesus for redemptive death, or having “handed him over” for redemptive death, as in Romans 3:21-26; 4:24-25.

[xxi] The term “brothers” (of fellow Christians) is a frequent intra-group designation in the NT, but “brothers of the Lord” is not.  For a thorough study of this and other terms, see now Paul Trebilco, Self-Designations and Group Identity in the New Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

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79 Comments
  1. Iain Lovejoy permalink

    There seems to be a lot of discussion about whether Paul met Jesus in person during Jesus’s lifetime, centered around Paul not saying he had done so. I am unclear why this is relevant, since Paul is stated to be from Tarsus in Turkey, and Jesus never went there, nor would there be any reason for Paul to visit Galilee. Obviously if Paul did say he had met Jesus in person, this would stymie the mythicist case still further (or rather they would just do a quick handbrake turn and say it proved their case since such a meeting was unlikely and therefore proved Paul a liar) but if Paul indeed never met Jesus in person, how does this tell us anything at all?

    • Whether (prior to his turn-about experience) Paul (or Saul) met Jesus in person is not entirely clear. The intriguing statement in 2 Cor 5:16 about knowing Christ “kata sarka (lit: “according to flesh”) has been written about much. It probably contrasts knowledge of a person from a human estimation with knowledge enlightened by the Spirit.
      But the more central question is whether Paul reflects a knowledge that Jesus had an earthly and mortal existence, and that’s pretty clearly the case.

      • Iain Lovejoy permalink

        Thanks. I’d always assumed Paul never met Jesus in the flesh, and it never bothered me in the slightest. I was a bit intrigued by the surprising (at least to me) suggestion that he did.

  2. I’d like to also make note of this in Paul’s letters, where he documents, as he does a few other times in his letters, unequivocally historical events that Jesus partook in:

    1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

    Paul clearly records Jesus’ betrayal on the Passover here, as it is documented in the Gospels. He even tells us about the “night” when Jesus was betrayed. How Carrier and other mythicists address this is truly bizarre and I’m not able to make any sense out of it, and I’m guessing scholars aren’t able to either.

    • Oh, Carrier has his on “ingenious” way of handling this, just as he proposes esoteric (known only to him) ways of interpreting other texts that the rest of us, poor “liars” that we are, stupidly interpret as if they referred to the life and death of a first-century Jew from Galilee named Jesus. Sigh!

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        Some have claimed the 1 Cor 10:23-11:29 is a later interpolation. This includes the verses forbidding women to speak in church.

      • Someone has claimed almost anything. Critical judgement assesses claims. This one hasn’t caught on, except for the textual evidence that 14:34-35 is quite possibly an interpolation.

      • The verses about women not speaking in the church are in 1 Cor. 14 and not 1 Cor. 11. That being said, I have not heard anyone claim that the long section you mentioned is an interpolation and if they have, they are in a far far far minority much like Robert Price is with thinking the creedal material in 1 Cor. 15 is an interpolation.

    • Scientific Christian. Carrier says that Paul says he received it from the Lord, which means personal revelation. Not at all. Keener in his “The Historical Jesus” tells about rabbis at the time who claimed to receive something from Sinai. It wasn’t that they had a revelation, but their statement was to go back to Moses on Sinai. In this chapter then, Paul is giving a message that goes back to Jesus. Why does he not do that in 1 Cor. 15? Because Jesus isn’t the source of the material in 1 Cor. 15. The material is about Jesus, but the source is from the apostles themselves.

      • Whether or not he received the betrayal thing from revelation doesn’t change that it’s unequivocally incompatible with a celestial Jesus. I agree that 1 Corinthians 15 goes to the Jerusalem apostles.

  3. David hill permalink

    So mythicists can’t use an argument from silence, but if Paul is silent on meeting Jesus, or ‘historical’ vignettes from the much later gospels aren,t mentioned by him, then we can’t assume he didn’t meet him or know these things because something something high-context?

    • David Hill: Paul isn’t “silent” on meeting Jesus etc. He doesn’t make the claim to have met Jesus. But he doesn’t deny it either, at least in the letters that we have. We don’t know what all he conveyed in his mission-teaching. We have a few citations of Jesus’ teaching and ministry in the letters. Are they all that Paul knew or only a tip of a larger iceberg?
      In any case, Paul clearly thought of Jesus as a real historical figure who was born, worked among his fellow Jews, was crucified, buried, and then (so Paul and fellow Jesus-believers held) was raised uniquely from the dead by God and exalted to regal status as Lord. That’s clear. Stay on topic.

  4. josenrael permalink

    An ancient mythicist accusation is found in Recognitions 8:62:

    He is indeed within him, because He is everywhere, and is found within the minds of all men; but, as we have said before, He is dormant to the unbelieving, and is held to be absent from those by whom His existence is not believed.

    Giuseppe

    • I think you’re confusing things. The Clementine Recognitions is a body of text that grew over a few centuries, and reflects a complex body of teaching. So, what you quote is a “mythicist Jesus” but a complex view of the divine emanation linked with him.

  5. Paxton Marshall permalink

    There may have been no archangel Jesus, but it seems very plausible that Paul’s Jesus was based on the suffering servant of second Isaiah, esp ch 53. Paul’s revelation on the road to Damascus may have created the religion out of whole cloth?

    • Paxton: Gee whiz! If you want to engage a historical issue you need to acquaint yourself with the data and procedures for doing historical analysis. Sure, early Christians saw Jesus as fulfilling Isaiah 53’s “suffering servant”. And, yes, Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience convinced him that the Jesus-movement was valid (and Jesus was). That’s a country mile from any basis for a “mythical Jesus” view.

      • Paxton: I am tiring of your obstinate refusal to consider the evidence offered, and at your wild claims. I’ve given the evidence that for earliest believers Jesus of Nazareth was a real, historical contemporary. These included people with “eyewitness” experiences of him . . . such as his siblings for heaven’s sake. And your amateurish assertion of the old “burden of proof” trick doesn’t work. The “mythicist Jesus” claim is as much an affirmation as the opposite. If all you want to do is cavil and snipe, let’s end this here.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        Sorry to seem to cavil and snipe, Larry, but could you give more detail on the first-hand eyewitness accounts? Do we really have first-hand accounts of Jesus from his brother’s, or are these second hand accounts related by Mark, or Paul or someone else? None of the gospel writers claim to have seen Jesus. Paul does, but only as a vision, not in the flesh. I believe maybe the epistle of John 1 makes such a claim, but it is ambiguous. None of the earliest non-Christian witnesses to Christianity, Josephus, Pliny etc either claim to, or can plausibly have seen Jesus in the flesh. Did any of Jesus’ sibling really leave an account of him? Just because the earliest Christians believe he existed is not really evidence if none of them claims to have seen him.
        ………….
        All of the scholars of planetary motion, and there were many brilliant ones from the Mesopotamians forward, thought the sun travelled around the earth, until Copernicus demonstrated otherwise. A consensus of scholars in itself doesn’t establish truth.

      • Paxton: Yet again (this really gets tiring), you’re ignoring the issue in my posting, which was whether Carrier was correct to claim that for Paul Jesus was simply a celestial being, which is clearly not the case. And yet again (can this please be the last time?) I note that Paul knew Jesus’ siblings, spent two weeks with Kephas/Peter (one of Jesus’ close historical followers) making inquiries (Gal 1:18, note the verb, “historesai). So, what is the reason for denying all this?
        And, no, a consensus of scholars doesn’t establish the truth. But unless there is VERY strong evidence against the consensus (and there ain’t none), you ignore it at your intellectual peril.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        Larry, do all the scholars agree that Adam was a real person? Noah? Abraham? Jacob? Moses? Joshua? David? All presumably had a long oral history before they were written down, and those who wrote about them, and many others believed they were real people. Yet modern scholarship finds little to confirm any of them. How is Jesus different?

      • Paxton: The figures you name are all figures of “long ago” in the texts that name them. Whereas Jesus of Nazareth is dated as a contemporary of the very recent past (e.g., for Paul). It is exactly the critical principles that produce doubts about Noah etc., that produce the positive view on the historicity of Jesus. You need to study historiography, Paxton.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        Larry, when you consider the truth-value of someone’s testimony, whether in a court of law or an historical investigation, you consider not only the words but the circumstances and motivations of the testafier. Did he observe the actions he affirmed, or get the information from another source? And is he a disinterested observer or does he have a motive or underlying bias for his report? In Paul’s case, not only does he not have first hand knowledge, but he has strong motivations to Confirm an historical Jesus. As you and several commenters have pointed out, Paul had a need for a human Jesus, who died and was resurrected, to support his theory of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. The purpose and meaning of Paul’s life was bound up in his attempt to convince people of the good news of Jesus. If anyone should not be considered an objective witness to the earthly existence of Jesus, it would be Paul.

      • Paxton: MY God, you’re missing the point yet again. Carrier’s claim (and the standard mythicist claim) is that Paul thought of Jesus as a celestial being, not a human, historical figure. THAT’S THE ISSUE, not whether Paul was right or not. Most scholars judge that he was. But the fallacious mythicist claim is that Paul didn’t regard Jesus as a historical figure. I think you should go do something else other than comment on this site.

      • Paxton. In the Ancient Greco-Roman world of the Mediterranean, when people died, they were buried.

        Let’s all try to think and figure out why that was so.

  6. You state that the the GMatthew and GLuke used “GMark as inspiration, pattern and key source”. A more succinct term would be plagarised. Given your knowledge of ancient sources you will know that even in the 1st century their method was deemed unethical. Surely the reader should therefore approach the content with a healthy degree of scepticism.

    • “Focusonfocusblog” (REAL NAMES PLEASE!); Your comment indicates that you don’t at all understand either what the authors of GMatthew and GLuke did or ancient literary practices. GMatt and GLuke don’t simply copy GMark, but make their own adaptations, just the way artists and musicians also down the ages have done the same.

    • Even if they had does some copying like that, it wouldn’t be that because that material was the property of the church and other members of the church could use it if they so intended. Modern copyright law does not apply.

      • It was perfectly normal for ancient writers to take over material from other authors without acknowledgement. Plutarch in his biographies does it all the time.

      • Yes. I think you and I both know someone who knows that very well.

    • Paxton Marshall permalink

      I think that not only the concept of intellectual property was different back then, but so was the concept of truth. Our concept of a sharp division between truth and fiction is a product of the enlightenment and scientific methods. Ancient writers, correct me if I’m wrong, thought it ok to not only borrow without attribution, but to elaborate their sense of the truth with fictional examples. They also lived in a world populated with devils, miracles, omens and other superstitious beliefs. Virtually no one believes the dead can come back to life today, Making exceptions for Jesus and a couple of others mentioned in the Bible. In ancient times it was commonly believed.

      • Paxton: Your characterization of people in the Roman era is patronizing and ill-informed. Intellectuals then denied miracles, the dead rising, etc., just as now. In any case, I don’t see the relevance to the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was a first-century Galilean Jew. Please, please, try to attend to the issues!

  7. Paxton Marshall permalink

    Did Paul ever mention John the Baptist? Did Paul know anything of the Jesus of the gospels, except that he was crucified and resurrected? Rather curious isn’t it?

    • Paxton: You gotta remember that Paul’s letters weren’t his vehicle for preaching his gospel, but were sent to groups already taught and converted, and simply to deal with the particular issues that had arisen and demanded him to write. You can’t take a measure of what Paul did or didn’t know about Jesus from them.

    • Also, Jesus and Paul lived in what is called a high-context society. An enormous amount of background knowledge is assumed and does not need to be repeated. For instance, here in America, I have read the Federalist Papers. When you read those, the authors talk about Greek and Roman battles and events, but they never explain them. Why? They assume their audience already knew about this. Paul did the same. You don’t go over the basics again and again. Every word cost time and money so they had to be made to last.

      Too many people read the text and culture like a modern.

  8. josenrael permalink

    Hurtado: There is no evidence in support of the conspiracy-theory approach you moot. There was no mechanism such as you imagine until the 4th century or later.

    If the (many) books of the anti-Christian Porphyry (or of Hierocles) weren’t preserved (not even in framments à la Celsus), it is surely for a Christian “conspiracy”, isn’t it so? So, why don’t you expect something of similar also for a hypothetical “mythicist” evidence (if it existed)? Why woud the winners have preserved (even partially) it, if it went against their beliefs so strongly?

    My point is not that that evidence existed. My point is that the his total destruction has to be expected if we assume the myth theory as true. Therefore the simple absence of survived evidence for an archangel Jesus would be not ipso facto evidence against mythicism per se.

    Clear?

    • “Josenrael” (PLEASE, names real names!): There was no systematic destruction of books by Christians. There were ad hoc attempts to suppress “heretical” texts, but only in/after the 4th century. Even so, we know of many of these writings, because “orthodox” writers (e.g., Irenaeus, etc.) mention them, and quote from them.
      Among all the many versions of “heresies” that they catalogue, there is no “mythicist Jesus”. Clear??

      • josenrael permalink

        My real name is Giuseppe but I am linked in wordpress as ‘JosenRael’.

        I have found only this ”mythicist” evidence (from Dark Age!):

        Pierre de Vaux-de-Cernay, Historia Albigensis:


        Giuseppe

      • Giuseppe: The Albigensians are waaaaay too late to qualify for the study of Christian origins. You make my case for me

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        “Among many versions of heresies…there is no mythicist Jesus”.

        Marcion?

      • Marcion didn’t teach a “mythical Jesus.” He taught that the deity revealed/spoken of by Jesus wasn’t the OT deity.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        Gnostics? Didn’t they believe Jesus was purely God, not man?

      • No. “Gnostics” (not their term) tended to believe that the man Jesus was inhabited by a divine emanation.

    • Josen. Why do we not have the works of Papias then? Did the Christians want to destroy them? Why are we missing books of Livy? Did the Christians destroy them? The thing is even if we didn’t have these books still, we know about them because the Christians wrote about them, yet we don’t even have any mention of a mythicist heresy and Porphyry and Celsus never once denied that Jesus existed. Celsus even affirmed that Jesus did miracles. Odds are these people were considered answered and there was no need to share their books. Keep in mind other groups also did go and destroy books.

      But this is the problem with the mythicist approach. They always assume it had to be someone deliberately doing something to destroy these texts instead of just what happens to texts in the ancient world. I don’t get it. Why do they always seem to go with intelligent design instead of chance?

  9. Larry, I find the arguments around the mythical Jesus boring, and a waste of time. The word ‘myth’ conjures up a story that may or may not be based on fact, like a tradition. Either Jesus existed or he did not. As no manuscript exists from before the end of the first century the case for the existence of Jesus is weakened. Second there is no complete manuscript covering Roman history from before the fifth century. That has left the field of Roman and hence Christian history wide open to abuse. So we are left with archaeology. There the picture is quite different, and enables other conclusions to be drawn that contradicts conventional views of both histories.

    • Geoff: Your comment only shows your amateurish approach to historical questions. The *copies* of Paul’s letters that we have date from the late 2nd/early 3rd century, but they are *copies* of texts that are readily seen as early lst-century compositions, using the same methods used for all other ancient literary texts. No original of any literary texts exists from antiquity, Geoff. Archaeology gives us nothing direct on the historical Jesus question, but does show that the Gospel narratives reflect the cultural and geographical situation of early lst-century Roman Judea.
      I should also note, for example, that archaeology (e.g., burial inscriptions) shows that “Jesus” was always a name of a historical/mortal figure, and never an angelic one.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        “No original of any texts exists from antiquity”. Dead Sea scrolls? Nag Hammadi?

      • Nope. Paxton. The DSS and Nag Hammadi texts are all COPIES of their originals.

  10. John Mitrosky permalink

    I was wondering how John the Baptist figures in in your thinking about Jesus as a historical figure? What I find interesting is comparing Josephus (Antiquities 18.5.2, 117) with Mark 1:4. According to Josephus, John understood that immersion in water could not be used for the forgiveness of sins. According to Mark, John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Do you think Mark is right and Josephus is wrong?

    • John: All I can say is that there is the remarkably consistent tradition in the Gospels that links Jesus with the Baptizer and has Jesus expressing strong affirmation of him.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        “Consistent tradition in the gospels that links Jesus with the Baptizer”.

        But not in Paul, right? Why would Paul never mention him?

      • Paxton: YOu keep making the same error (argument from silence) and I keep pointing it out.

      • Griffin permalink

        In 1 Corin. 15:8, Paul notes that Jesus appeared to him as to one “untimely born,” etc.. This passage, like most in the New Testament, is open to more than one interpretation. But one often accepted reading, is that Paul was born too late to have met Jesus in person. And so he only saw him in a spiritual vision.

      • No, Griffin. The statement “as to one untimely born” is an obvious figure of speech, and refers to Paul not being one of the Jesus’ followers during his ministry, and not one of the original witnesses to his resurrection.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        In Ignatius’ epistle to the Romans, he refers to himself as “one born out of due time”. Like Paul, Ignatius seems to have no knowledge of Jesus’ ministry as portrayed in the gospels. No championing of the poor or warnings to the rich. No driving money lenders out of the temple. No “suffer little children”. It’s all crucifixion, resurrection, eat his flesh, drink his blood. No evidence that Jesus had a real life. Or have I missed something?

      • Paxton: Do learn to read things in context. Ignatius (EpRomans 9:2) appropriates Paul’s self-descriptive language from 1 Cor 15:8-9 to portray himself as likewise “an untimely birth” because he was “the last of them [bishops]”. I.e., Ignatius, like Paul, felt an inferiority of time in comparison to other/prior leaders. Got nothing to do with whether either of them saw events narrated in the gospels. I’m finding your piddly and ill-informed attempts at badgering rather tedious. Don’t you have something better to do with your time?

  11. John Mitrosky permalink

    Great summary Larry. It saddens me that folks like you still have to even engage the topic. The only thing I wonder about in your summary is did some of the first Christians think of Jesus as the unique “Son of God”, or is this an early interpretation made by Paul? I recall here what might be the remains of an earlier manuscript of Mark, where the phrase “Son of God” is missing from the opening line, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”….period. “Son of God”, like the soldiers confession later in Mark affirming same, may be a later addition to an unknown proto-Mark. How I would love to see a proto-Mark turn up, before we pass on from this amazing world!!!

    • No, John. The textual variant in Mark doesn’t amount to anything as to the Markan emphasis on Jesus’ unique sonship: e.g., Mark1:11. Note the definite article. The Centurion’s “acclamation” is deliberately phrased as appropriate for a pagan ignorant of Jesus’ true status.

  12. Have you read Neil Godfrey’s analysis and reply regarding your blog entry on Carrier? If so, I would very much like to read your reply, either here or there.
    http://vridar.org/2017/12/02/reply-to-larry-hurtado-why-the-mythical-jesus-claim-has-no-traction-with-scholars/
    Al Cannistraro

    • I’m afraid that dear old Neil Godfrey’s posting is a failure, involving distortion of what I wrote and ignorance on other matters. E.g., the “scholars” that I refer to in the opening sentence are specifically identified as to the several relevant fields, not “scholars” in general. As for the “archangel Jesus”, Carrier specifically claims one such, so my refutation is spot on. There is no archangel Jesus and Jesus isn’t labelled an archangel in early Christian texts. As for the pagan gods, none of them transforms from god to historical person, which is what Carrier claims for “all savior cults” of the Roman period. Godfrey simply misrepresents me and Carrier here.
      Carrier is not trained in the necessary evidence or field–another fact.
      Godfrey is a bit too cutsy-coy, pretending to be indifferent to the whole issue, while working like mad to defend the mythicist stance. He should “come out” and be honest at being an apologist for his cause.

  13. Tyler V permalink

    Dr. Hurtado,

    Thank you for the article. I’m curios about Carrier’s “refereed” book. Is this the same as peer review? Do we know who refereed it for him – experts in the field? I know peer review is more data fact checking and correcting/checking for strawmen and not affirming a thesis as true, but if he is so wildly off (which I agree he is) then how did his book make it through to such an academic publisher?

    • I’m told that CArrier was allowed to select those who reviewed the work. So he would naturally have chosen people already supportive of his view. Who they were? Only the publisher and CArrier know.

  14. Excellent argument, excellent explanation. I love your various books. You have helped me greatly to understand earliest Christianity. Thanks for your scholarship and labors.

  15. Robert permalink

    Dear Larry,
    Good to see you have moved beyond the ad hominem in your previous post. Again, not for want of defending Carrier, but I’m wondering if your point about “no evidence for a Jesus archangel” misrepresents Carrier somewhat. From my understanding (which could be wrong), Carrier is saying that the Jesus of the NT IS an archangel like those other Jewish figures (i.e. there is precedent within Second Temple Judaism). In which case, the evidence for a Jesus archangel would be a reconstruction based on the letters of Paul themselves. Sometimes simply ignoring these folk can be more effective than a superficial engagement…
    Regards,
    Robert

    • My posting shows that Carrier was incorrect however you understand him: There was no archangel-Jesus, and there is no basis for claiming that earliest believers thought Jesus was an archangel. Wrong on both counts. Clear??

      • josenrael permalink

        Not even if the winners – the Proto-Catholics – had any interest to destroy that evidence of a Jesus archangel, if it existed?

        Not even if, per prof Ehrman, Jesus was an ‘angel’ for Paul ?

      • There is no evidence in support of the conspiracy-theory approach you moot. There was no mechanism such as you imagine until the 4th century or later.
        And I’ve indicated in my review of Ehrman that there is no “angel-christology” in Paul. Ehrman misrepresented the findings of those (Gieschen, Stuckenbruck, et al.) that he cited. Simple mistake on his part.

      • Gotta love mythicists. If there is no evidence of their position, well their position is still true because obviously the Christians destroyed it all! It’s the same kind of thinking as any conspiracy theorist.

  16. Timothy Knowlton permalink

    Thank you for this, Professor Hurtado! It is greatly appreciated!

    • GPG permalink

      Paul never met Jesus – except he says, in a vision. He sometimes seems to accept (earlier?) accounts of Jesus as convenationally real. But in 1) admitting that he himself only met Jesus in vision, a voice, Paul himself seems therefore to 2) consciously remove himself for consideration as a first-person witness to any historical Jesus. And 3) when he confesses he saw him only in a rather immaterial – visionary, spiritual? – state? That suggests that might be all we have full evidence for there.

      If we take Mark as genuine and true, and in every respect earlier than Paul, then that might seem to firm up parts in Paul. But many say Paul wrote first. And there, in any case, Jesus is very spirit like. And spirits are sometimes pictured as human-like figures, with wings.

      So John’s idea of Jesus descending from the heavens as a spirit, may be found not just later, but also earlier as well.

      • “GPG” (PLEASE! Use your name on this site or stop commenting!): Paul doesn’t deny any meeting of Jesus. He simply says that it was a divine revelation (Gal 1:24-16) that changed him from opponent to proponent of the Jesus movement. He also relates direct acquaintance with Jesus’ siblings, and recounts traditions about Jesus related from predecessor believers. Paul’s vigorous opposition to the Jesus movement obviously presupposes such a movement prior to his own involvement. And remember that Paul’s “conversion” is typically dated ca. 30-35 CE, only a few months or years at most after the date of Jesus’ crucifixion.
        Of course, Paul’s letters are earlier than GMark. That’s not an issue. As for the rest of your comment, I have no idea what you’re trying to say! e.g., John doesn’t refer to Jesus “descending from the heavens as a spirit”.
        Please take the trouble to inform yourself about things before attempting comments.

      • Paul never says he met Jesus in person. Conclusion. Paul never met Jesus.

        This is really not convincing. Just because no physical meeting is described doesn’t mean it took place. If Paul had been in Jerusalem for Passover and had seen Jesus being crucified, there was no need to mention that. Jesus’s existence wasn’t being disputed and 1 Cor. 15 isn’t about a list of people who saw Jesus crucified. This is a mundane claim and in a high context society, pointless.

        It also has to assume that Paul was an idiot. He never went and checked to see if this person actually existed or not? What about the other apostles?

        The reference to Jesus descending I think is in reference to John 1 or John 3. None of these describe Jesus in angelic terms. Instead, Jesus is seen as superior to the angels.

      • Paxton Marshall permalink

        “Paul doesn’t deny any meeting of Jesus”.

        Surely if Paul had met the man/god on whom the salvation of all of humanity depended, he would have mentioned it, wouldn’t he?

      • Paxton: I repeat–you’re presuming that Paul’s 7 undisputed letters contain everything Paul knew and could say. There each situationally shaped, and (I repeat) written to people who’ve already been converted, taught, etc. It’s a lousy argument from silence.

  17. Hugh Scott permalink

    Professor Hurtado,
    I have just read your most convincing blog here, “Why the ‘Mythical Jesus’ Claim Has No Traction With Scholars’.

    I whole-heartedly and gratefully agree with every word of your essay.

    May I raise one consideration, which continues to puzzle me, and which I’ve commented on more than once before, with regard to other books too: how is it that in spite of such thorough demolition jobs as yours here,,indicating a general scholarly agreement that Carrier is just about as wrong as he can be, yet the UK ‘amazon’ advertisement for Carrier’s book “On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt”, today shows that of the 27 customer reviews, 25 give Carrier’s book a 5-star rating, one a 4-star rating, and only one gives the wholly negative 1-star rating..

    Is there no system, either by the publisher of such a book, or from the theological faculties of such universities as Edinburgh, Oxford, etc., perhaps by PhD students writing reviews for ‘amazon’, or whatever, to make the buying public aware that the proposed purchase is a corruption of scholarship and a waste of their money?,

    • Amazon is in the business of selling books, not public education.

    • Hugh. It’s really quite simple. Amazon is the court of public opinion and not scholarly opinion. What the public believes can be radically different from the academy. For instance, for biologists, the debate on if evolution is a fact or not is a done deal. In the public world, it isn’t. Debates the academy no longer has are still held in the public.

      Carrier is reaching the public. He is not reaching the scholars. Most books by scholars even written for the layman have endorsements on the back of the book or somewhere. Carrier’s has none. Who is giving his book five stars? His fanboys. Carrier is practically a rock star to internet mythicists who want a scholarly voice and they find one in Carrier and will salivate over everything he writes.

  18. Paul calls Jesus the “first fruits” of the general resurrection of souls at the end of the age (1 Corinthians 15:23). This would seem to imply Jesus was “of the same kind” as the rest of the upcoming harvest of souls, not just some celestial being unrelated to the rest of humanity.

  19. Your article shows that the historicist reconstruction of the Christian Origins is possible and it’s cool. But how can you determine that it is also probable?
    At least, differently from you, dr. Carrier explains in the his book why the evidence is more expected on the myth theory (in addition to be simply possible on that hypothesis).

    Hence I would like a review by you of the Carrier’s book to learn *where* precisely the author has failed in proving his case.

    • Josenrael: My blog posting DID show where Carrier failed to make his case. Sorry you missed that!

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