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Gee, Dr. Carrier, You’re Really Upset!

December 7, 2017

If you want to read a blogger going ape-shit, troll through Richard Carrier’s recent belligerent, intemperate response (here) to my posting in which I showed that his three claims that supposedly corroborate his “mythical Jesus” view are all incorrect.  It’s really quite amusing, or maybe sad.

In this long, long rant, Carrier’s repeated mantra is that his book calling into question the commonly shared scholarly judgement that Jesus of Nazareth was a first-century Galilean Jew has been largely ignored by scholars.  He seems to want scholars to go through the 700 pages of that tome and engage closely every one of his claims and assertions.  He repeatedly states that he spent six years on the book on what he calls a “post-doctoral” award (which was really a fund put together by his “fans,” to use his own term).  It must be frustrating.  But Carrier doesn’t seem to handle frustration well.

And he doesn’t play nice at all.  In Carrier’s language, scholars who don’t share his view and who criticize it don’t just make errors, they “lie.”  They aren’t just wrong, they’re “liars.”  And his further use of similar insulting language only shows him to be a rather sad figure.

He accuses me particularly of ignoring his arguments and committing gross errors in the handling of relevant evidence.  Well, to test this, let’s return to one of his key claims and arguments, the one where he says that Philo of Alexandria mentions an archangel named “Jesus”.  I have read those pages of his book (200-205) where he discusses the relevant passage in Philo (De Confusione Linguarum, 62-63; Philo citing and allegorizing a passage in the OT book, Zechariah 6:11-12).  This example will adequately serve to illustrate why Carrier’s work hasn’t had any impact in scholarly circles.  He gets himself into a muddle.

To begin, Carrier claims that the Zechariah passage mentions a figure named “Jesus Rising,” but that’s obviously incorrect.  The text (Zech 6:11-12) actually mentions a priest figure named “Joshua” (Greek:  “Iesous” = “Jesus”) who is addressed about another figure, a royal personage who is named “Sprout” or “East” or “Rising” (the Greek:  anatole has a number of connotations).  There are two figures in the scene.  And there’s no “Jesus Rising” in the text of Zechariah.  Carrier has confused the two figures mentioned there:  One is a priest (Joshua/Jesus), and the other is a predicted royal figure called anatole who is to appear.

And Philo doesn’t call the figure named Anatole “Jesus” either, because Philo read the Zechariah text more carefully than Carrier.  So, at an elementary level of accuracy, Carrier is mistaken:  No “Jesus Rising” guy anywhere, either in Zechariah or in Philo.  Furthermore, Philo doesn’t designate this figure in Zechariah an “archangel.”

Instead, Philo here is in the midst of an extended allegorical play of sorts on forms of the word “anatole” (“rising,” or “east) that he begins much earlier in De Confusione 60.  And Philo’s larger intent in this writing is to offer an allegorical interpretation of OT stories, to defend them against pagan claims that they are derivative and crude.  One of theses stories is of God planting a garden “in Eden towards the sun-rise” (Greek: kata anatolas).  Philo urges, however, that the garden wasn’t a literal one (to dodge the ridicule of saying that God planted an earthly garden, something far beneath him in Philo’s view).  And then, he goes into a kind of free-association of biblical texts that have the word anatole and cognates, one of these being the Zechariah passage (and other texts follow).  In short, Philo mentions the Zechariah passage solely because it gives him another instance of the word anatole that he can allegorize.

In that Zechariah text, Philo allegorically treats the figure called anatole as one of many representations of what he elsewhere labels God’s “Logos,” to which Philo attaches various other labels as well.  Now in Philo’s thought (which, it appears, Carrier hasn’t researched adequately in the six years he devoted to his project), the Logos is not really a separate ontological being, not really an “archangel.”  Instead, for Philo the “Logos” designates the form in which God engages creation, and that of God which can be perceived by the creation.  As one scholar put it, the Logos is the side of God turned toward the creation.  Philo wanted to affirm the reality of God’s creation and governance of the world, while also avoiding accusations that the Bible portrays a crude anthropomorphic view of its deity.

In short, in De Confusione, Philo wasn’t positing or developing any “archangel named Jesus.”  Philo wasn’t talking about archangels at all there, and neither he nor the Zechariah text calls the anatole figure “Jesus.”

Carrier has simply muddled things.  He’s incorrect.  His claim is fallacious.  These aren’t the sort of risible ad hominem terms that he prefers to dish out, but they will do quite well to make my point.

I could go on to other Carrier fallacies, such as his repeated misconstrual of the Euhemerist view that the gods derive from ancient heroic figures.  Carrier amusingly gets it backwards, as if it has to do with gods becoming historical figures.  He cites Romulus as a supposed example of a god becoming a mortal, whereas Romulus and Remus are mythical figures as far back as we have any reference to them.  They don’t become mortals.  If, as some have speculated, the myth was based on some real instance of children suckled by a wolf (a view rejected by most scholars), then we would have an instance of historical figures becoming mythical figures, exactly the opposite of what Carrier claims.

Surely, surely, one doesn’t have to go through the 700 pages of Carrier’s tome treating every one of his various arguments.  The one key claim that I’ve treated here is sufficient to show that he bases his larger zealous claim about a “mythical Jesus” on specious arguments, resulting from a lack of adequate expertise in the relevant sources.  This will likely generate another rude rant from him. But, unlike Carrier, I have a number of other things to do.  So, in the words of the Psalmist, “Selah.”

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  1. Dadgum! Carrier’s angry retort post is nearly 10,000 words! Now, while that does at first seem a little overkill, let’s be fair – it’s actually only about 500 words worth of content repeated 20 times. If he used the same method (Ctrl-V x 20) in his book, then that means he managed to cram about 35 pages worth of material into 700 pages. Quite an accomplishment for a six year (!?) post-doc.

  2. Have you heard that Daniel Gullotta has an upcoming article in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus in an extensive critique of Carrier’s thesis? Since Carrier so greatly wants academics to actually engage his claim in peer-review, I suppose he’ll finally get what he wants, even though it might come at the expense of his entire career. I also don’t yet know how Carrier is going to actually get into the academic debate style, since any actual response to this paper would require him to publish his response instead of posting it on his blog. I don’t know if Carrier is capable of that given that he’s only ever published like 6 papers.

    “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts: A Response to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15.2 [forthcoming].

  3. Sam: This is tiring. There are two James. One was Jesus’ sibling (mentioned in Gal 1-2). There was another James (James Zebedee, one of the 12). Jesus’ sibling = Jesus was a historical figure.

  4. Julian permalink

    Prof. Hurtado,

    Neil Godfrey tries to make the case that “the brother of the Lord” was an interpolation. I suggest that there is good reason why Paul would have included that phrase: to distinguish which James he was referring to, and to distinguish which Jesus.

    • Godfrey’s claim is only another example of the twisting and turning mythicists must do to avoid inconvenient evidence for their faith-claim.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        How come Paul doesn’t make it clear that “brother of the Lord” means a BIOLOGICAL brother?

      • Sam; Paul does make it clear. That’s what “the brother of the Lord” means.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Paul mentions “brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9:5.

        Are these also biological brothers of Jesus?

      • Yes. That appears what he means. As he distinguishes them from Kephas, for example.

  5. Robert G permalink

    Carrier’s ‘method’ seems to be some kind of ‘imagined intertextuality’. He put’s himself in the mind of Philo and imagines how Philo might have misread the text of Zechariah and then is amazed at the astounding coincidence that this imagined misreading of Zechariah attributed to Philo just happens to coincide with his own ideas of Jesus mythicism some 2,400 years later. What are the odds! Intertextuality is indeed a very interesting way to explore creative avenues of potential meaningfulness to readers, but it requires some discipline, attention to actual texts, to keep from becoming just wild imaginings with the eisegetical elasticity of numerology.

  6. Don Gakusei permalink

    Thanks for the interesting post, Dr Hurtado. You write that for Philo, the Logos is ‘not really an “archangel.”’ However, Philo does indeed call the Logos an “archangel”. Philo writes:

    “And even if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son of God, nevertheless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his first-born word, the ****eldest of his angels****, as the great ****archangel***** of many names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel.”

    Can you explain what you mean by Philo not really calling the Logos an archangel?

    • Don: Yes, in another of his writings (NB: contra Carrier, not in the De Confusione passage), Philo can refer to the Logos by the labels you cite. Indeed, he can even refer to the Logos as “a second god” (deuteros theos), but then quickly qualifies this with “so to speak.” The Logos is an “archangel” (remembering that for ancient Greek speakers the word “angelos” = messenger, or spokesman), for the Logos is the expression of the ineffable biblical deity toward the world/creation. One has to study carefully the multitude of Philo’s references to the Logos to put it all together, for he was a complex writer. But the Logos isn’t really a separate ontological being, like we imagine an “angel/archangel”. And, contra Carrier, nowhere does Philo refer to an archangel named “Jesus”.

      • Craig Mack permalink

        Dr Hurtado, The passage Don has cited is from ‘De Confusione’ –

        “.. (146) And even if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son of God, nevertheless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his first-born word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel ..”

        Sure, nowhere does Philo specifically refer to an archangel named “Jesus”, but it is that passage along with passages 62, 63 in ‘De Confusione’, and the Zechariah passages they allude to, that are used to induce and infer that Philo might have at least contemplated an archangel with a name similar to Jesus.

      • Craig: Yes, yes, but it’s composing a view and ascribing it to Philo, a view that he never expressed. That isn’t good history work.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Maybe you missed it, but Carrier wrote an entirely new article regarding you:

      • Not interested.

      • Craig Mack permalink

        Hi Larry, I agree Carrier is not doing history in or on this issue. I think his commentary on this is exegesis (or perhaps eisegesis). Regards.

      • Dr. Hurtado; But Philo did say this; “is God’s “firstborn Logos, the eldest of his angels, the ruling archangel of many names.” is that correct?

      • Yes, Jerry, as any reader of Philo’s works knows, he refers to the Logos in this and related manners. But that’s not the central claim of Carrier’s case. He claims that Philo knew of an archangel named Jesus, and this was the jumpoff point supposedly for early belief in Jesus. This claim is false.

      • Jon permalink

        Dr. Hurtado,

        You affirm that Philo refers to the Logos as “the eldest of his angels, the ruling archangel of many names”, but then you also say, “the Logos is not really a separate ontological being, not really an ‘archangel'” and “Philo doesn’t designate this figure in Zechariah an ‘archangel'”. Can you please reconcile these statements? On the surface, it looks like Philo very well could have considered the Logos figure in Zechariah to be an archangel (regardless of whether or not Carrier is correct about this applying to Jesus). Thank you.

      • Jon: Philo refers to the Logos a few thousand times, so forming a view of what the Logos is requires some extended study, not the citation of a couple of isolated texts. I refer you to my discussion of the matter in my book, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, pp. 44-9. Philo engages in the “personification” of the mode in which the biblical deity engages with the world. But in any case, Philo’s use of “angelomorphic” language for his Logos isn’t the issue. The issue is whether Philo (or other Jewish texts) give us an archangel named Jesus that accounts for the Jesus of Paul–not!

      • Jon permalink

        Dr. Hurtado,

        Ok, I am trying to follow this. You affirm that Philo refers to the Logos as “the eldest of his angels, the ruling archangel of many names”, but you also come out guns blazing saying, “Now in Philo’s thought (which, it appears, Carrier hasn’t researched adequately in the six years he devoted to his project), the Logos is not really a separate ontological being, not really an ‘archangel.’” However, this statement seems of a different tone than in your book (OGOL) where you say, “The personification of God’s attributes is of course often vivid….Such language would seem to justify the conclusion of some scholars that divine attributes…were seen as actual beings in God’s service…” (pg. 46). You then go on to say that you disagree with the position of these scholars, but acknowledge that your position puts you “in conflict with other major studies” (pg. 46). So it looks to me like there is legitimate disagreement among scholars on this topic and that Carrier is not alone. Is there any chance you accidently overstated your case against Carrier, suggesting that if he had just researched Philo enough he would come to your conclusion that Philo does not think the Logos is a separate archangel being and, if you feel you did not overstate your case against Carrier, how do you account for other scholars apparently agreeing with Carrier on this point?

        Also, even if everyone agreed that in Philo’s mind the Logos was never an actual archangel being, wouldn’t one expect a fair amount of the normal Jewish population to get lost in these sorts of personification imagery and think there really was a separate archangel being that was the Logos?

        (BTW, none of my questions have anything to do with Carrier’s attempt to connect Jesus to the Logos; I am just interested in the one little part of the conversation about the Logos/archangel, so no need to repeat your view that there is no archangel named Jesus,)

      • Jon: In my One God One Lord book I both note that some earlier studies treated the Logos (and also personified Wisdom) as “hypostases”, semi-independent beings, and I then indicate why I think that this is incorrect. For the record, in the subsequent decades I think that the “hypostasis” view has declined and is now not so much asserted. Part of its problem was that advocates could never agree on what they meant. The key exegetical question is whether to take isolated statements by Philo literally or to read them in the larger context of his references to the Logos.

  7. Dr. Hurtado: Personally I think it was a mistake for you to debate Carrier. (Though I have done so twice.) As an acknowledged expert in the field, you give him too much legitimacy. And it is not worthwhile debating merely Jesus’ existence, IMO — his identity is far more interesting.

    But don’t feel bad about Carrier’s subsequent outbursts. After our last debate, over my Jesus is No Myth book, Carrier not only called me a “liar” a couple dozen times or so, he also fantasized about my death by fire. By contrast, I think he was rather temperate with you. (He also got pretty much every factual statement he made about my book dead wrong – I counted 120 or so errors in a single “review,” including the very theme of the book.) That despite the fact that I did take the time to read (and refute) most of Carrier’s books on the subject.

    By comparison, you might take Carrier’s recent posts as a sort of extended fan letter.

    • Indeed. Take it as a compliment. Every time Carrier goes after someone else, he more than anything else ends up embarrassing himself further to the scholars. His fan boys will never see any wrong in him, of course, but oh well. He’s gone after me before. I took it as a compliment.

  8. Rick Hannon permalink

    Dr. Hurtado,

    Dr. Carrier quotes you from your book “How on Earth Did Jesus Become God” as saying “So, for a variety of reasons it seems more likely that vv. 6-7 refer to Jesus as being in some way “divine” in status or mode, and then becoming a human being.” He suggests that this quote of yours proves you actually agree with his assertion that Jesus started as a mythological deity and later a history was developed for him.
    To me, he seems to be conflating a theological belief of early Christians (that Jesus came from God and existed before his incarnation) with the belief/knowledge of early Christians, from the beginning of what came to be known as Christianity, that Jesus was a historical figure. Can’t both be true?

    • Rick: This is another example of one of two things: either (1) Carrier’s inability to read texts (in this case, mine and Philippians 2:6-11), or (2) a willful misrepresentation of matters. Your choice.

  9. Eventually you will learn that you really, really, really need to read the book you claim to be criticizing, before continuing to make arguments already refuted in it, though I’ll grant the book assumes things are more obvious than you do, so here’s a spell-out:

    • No, Dr. Carrier. You sloppily misread things again! The claim I addressed was that Philo calls the “anatole” figure “Jesus” and saw him as an angel. Of course, there are other texts where Philo calls the Logos other terms, but that’s another matter. Do try to use your evidence more carefully. You won’t then get taken to the woodshed so easily!

    • John Mitrosky permalink

      Dr. Carrier, I have two simple questions for you. When you read the letter to the Galatians in the NT, do you think that Paul,, Barnabas, Peter, James and John are just mythical characters also? If not, does it not follow that Jesus was also a real person too?….lol.

    • This exchange reminds me again of how little is known about the Apostle Paul and his letters. Even if one only accepts the core seven as authentic (can be debated), it is abundantly clear that Paul’s mission is defined by a confrontation with the followers of a historical Jesus including his own brother James, head of the Jerusalem church. Paul visits James at least three times, and James’ legacy is confirmed by Josephus and other sources. The link from Paul to the Apostles to Jesus forms a clear chain of historical testimony. In light of that fact, scholars might argue that mythical characteristics were later attributed to Jesus, but the notion that there was no historical Jesus, is indefensible and a bit naive. I don’t know Carrier or his work, but my assumption would be that he is not a NT scholar.

    • Your thesis is toast, homeboy.

    • Mark Shapiro permalink

      I can affirm that I learned absolutely nothing about early Christianity, Paul or the 2nd Temple matrix of these ideas from reading the 618 pages of Carrier’s book. The bizarre epistemological framing relieves him of the necessity of propounding any actual theory of events. It is clear that the authentic letters of Paul are what should be decisive. But there is no serious attempt to give an account of what Paul’s teaching is, why he is teaching it to gentiles, how someone educated in Jerusalem could come by these ideas, etc. Even when we seem to be focussing on Paul in the chapter on ‘the epistles’ we are soon enough distracted by discussion of Hebrews before returning to the collection of epicycles used to finesse the fairly obvious facts that a messiah is a human being, crucifixion is of human beings and by the Roman Empire, and on and on. It doesn’t occur to him that ‘the epistles’ is an ecclesiastical, not historical category, and that we must find what is authentically Pauline and interpret and explain it. The 2nd Temple element of Paul’s thought, the pharisaical and even proto-rabbinical character of some it, is completely alien to Carrier who seems to have no knowledge of Hebrew or Aramaic.

  10. Is this still an argument over whether Jesus was a historical figure?

    • Yup! Believe it or not, Robert.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Where does Paul indicate Cephas or anyone else was a disciple of Jesus?

        Paul only ever indicates two sources of Jesus info, Scripture (the LXX) and dream teachings.

        Jesus is the same Jesus from the LXX version of Zechariah.

      • Sam: Wrong on both silly assertions. Paul explicitly indicates that he made inquires of Kephas over two weeks and that he also met Jesus’ brother, James (Gal 1:18-19). The technical term “historeo” indicates a serious inquiry or exploration of things. So, did Paul simply inquire about the fishing business on Lake Galilee? And the “Joshua/Jesus” of Zechariah is a 5th century Jewish priest, not an archangel, and not the first-century Jesus of Nazareth. Do join this planet!

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Cephas was an important early Christian. That doesn’t mean he was a disciple of Jesus. This is the leap in logic, you “scholars” are making. Cephas merely had dreams of Jesus like everyone else (1 Cor. 15).

        In Galatians 1:18, Paul is distinguishing James the ordinary Christian from the James the mentions elsewhere in his letters.

      • No, Sam. You’re PRESUMING the very thing you want to prove. Kephas was “an important early Christian” (actually, Paul granted that Kephas and Jesus’ brother, James, and John Zebedee were regarded as “pillars”, foundational figures). And the most likely reason is that he was who he is made out to be in the Gospel narratives, a follower of the earthly Jesus. The James of Galatians 1–2 is explicitly identified as Jesus’ sibling. Mortals have siblings. QED. Carrier rather consistently muddles things. Read more widely.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Yes, James was a cultic sibling like any Christian. Not a biological sibling.

        The reason why the Greek phrasing is odd in Galatians 1:19 is that Paul is distinguishing 2 different James.

      • No, Sam. It’s really most unfortunate when ignorance conducts itself with unjustified confidence. James is a “brother of the Lord,” whereas Christians are addressed as “brothers” (of one another). If all believers are “brothers of the Lord,” then why ascribe this term to James alone here? There aren’t two different James’s either. Where on earth do you (and Carrier) get such ideas?

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Is this first time you are hearing that there are atleast 2 different James?

        Shouldn’t you be aware of Carrier’s argument regarding Galatians 1:19 before refuting it?

      • Sam: That there are two figures named “James/Jacob” among early Jesus-followers isn’t the issue. James Zebedee (brother of John Zebedee, not brother of Jesus) was executed by Herod ca. 44 CE, so dead long before Galatians was written. And in Galatians it’s entirely clear that the James cited is Jesus’ sibling. I know the primary texts, Sam, so I don’t need Carrier’s exotic attempts to foist on them novel interpretations.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        When I say there are 2 different James, I mean the James of Galatians 1:19 is not the apostle James.

        Carrier says there are SEVERAL Jameses.

      • No, Sam. Of course the James of Gal 1:19 is not James Zebedee. The James of Gal 1:19 is Jesus’ sibling. That’s never been in doubt.

      • István Pásztori-Kupán permalink

        Dear Mr. Hoff, I am happy to learn that based on Dr. Carrier’s “peer-reviewed” scholarship, you also became aware that there were several Jameses. That is not yesterday’s news, it is in fact almost two millennia old news. One only needs to read the otherwise non-peer-reviewed writings in the New Testament to realise it. Yet you wrote “When I say there are 2 different James, I mean the James of Galatians 1:19 is not the apostle James.” Let us be a little more precise on that point, because as the names of the 12 first disciples go, there were already two Jameses, who can be subsequently regarded as “apostles”: James, the son of Zebedee, and James the son of Alphaeus (see e.g. Mark 3:18), who was also called Levi (Mark 2:14). So, the James of Galatians is not simply “not the apostle James”, but rather “not either of the two apostles/disciples called James”. The James of Gal 1:19 is neither of these two, but a third one, “the brother of the Lord”, i.e. Jesus’ sibling. Dr. Carrier tries to argue that the distinguishing term “the brother of the Lord” used by Paul in Galatians 1:19 refers to the fact that “Paul means he met only the apostle Peter and only one other Judean Christian, a certain ‘brother James’. By calling him a brother of the Lord instead of an apostle, Paul is thus distinguishing this James from any apostles of the same name—just as we saw he used ‘brothers of the Lord’ to distinguish regular Christians from apostles in 1 Cor. 9.5.” I quoted Dr. Carrier (see The problem of his argument is that this third James, called “the brother of the Lord”, was no “regular” Christian. Despite not having been among the twelve, he became the leader of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, most likely also because of his biological ties with Jesus. The fact that this James is not an ordinary Christian is reinforced – curiously enough – by Paul himself, even more curiously: in the very same Epistle to the Galatians, when he recalls his argument with Peter saying that “until certain people came from James, he (i.e. Cephas/Peter) used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.” (Galatians 2:12). This is the actual extent how “ordinary” and “regular” a Christian “James, the brother of the Lord” was, that even “Peter, the Apostle” was careful, so that James’s delegates in Syrian Antioch would not report back to him anything “Gentilish” about his (Peter’s) behaviour there after their return to Jerusalem. For the authority and importance of this same James see e.g. Acts 15:13–21, where he is undoubtedly the spokesperson of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and in fact has the final word concerning the formulation and content of the letter addressed to Gentile Christians in ca. 49-50 AD. So, again, the argument that he is called “the brother of the Lord” by Paul simply because he is just a regular Christian, not a leader of any sort, whose “asset” is his biological connection to Jesus, simply falls flat.

  11. While I certainly agree that Carrier is mischaracterizing Philo in his claim (and have written as much on my own blog) I’m curious about one thing you’ve written here, Dr. Hurtado. You say that the “Anatole” in Zechariah 6:11-12 is not a reference to Joshua son of Jehozadak. However, it certainly seems to be referencing him, when I read the text:

    “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak; say to him: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch out in his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.” (NRSV)

    Earlier, in Zechariah 3, we are treated to the vision of Joshua son of Jehozadak, where Zechariah relays to Joshua that God says he will bring forth his servant, Anatole. This all seems like an elevation of Joshua, to me, raising him to the role of Anatole. Am I misunderstanding something?

    • No, “Boxing Pythagoras” (please use your real name on this site), you’ve mis-read the Zechariah text. There are two figures, one (Joshua the priest) and another (the royal, anatole/branch) figure. So, e.g., in 6:13, Joshua is told that “he” (NB: another figure) shall build the temple and “bear royal honor”, and have “a priest by his throne.” Two figures. Read more carefully.

      • Kenneth permalink

        I don’t see how Zech 6 makes sense with two figures. The crown is placed on Joshua’s head, then another figure “branch” is shown to be king? What is the point of Joshua’s crown, then?

        Also, Zechariah is speaking as “the Lord” in the passage, and it is not clear “the Lord” is addressing Joshua directly, event though Zechariah may be. It seems more likely “the Lord” is addressing the gathered exiles, showing them his combined king + high priest figure.

      • Kenneth: Zech 6:112-13 refers to a “Branch” who is a royal/Davidic figure who “shall build the house of the Lord; he shall bear the royal honor, and shall sit a rule on his throne. THERE SHALL BE A PRIEST BY HIS THRONE, WITH A PEACEFUL UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM.” Clear??

      • Griffin permalink

        Try this reading? The 1) main human character is Zechariah himself (Zech 5.1; 6.1; 6.8-9 NRSV).

        Then Zech is told by an angel (6.4-9-14) to make a crown and put it 2) on the priest Joshua/Jesus’s head (6.9-14). In speaking, since they are memoralizing Joshua to others, the angel in effect instructs Zech not to address Joshua himself as “you.” But speaks of him, to others, as “he.” As “a man” at a crowning. Being given the title of “Branch.” (6.12 NRSV).

      • Griffin: Doesn’t work. Read the text carefully, which projects both a royal figure and a priest at his side.

      • Dr. Hurtado, I apologize for the confusion regarding my name. My WordPress account defaults to my blog’s title. My real name is Joe Marino.

        My confusion stems from the fact that Joshua is crowned. In my reading, I had presumed that the coronation implies the elevation of Joshua to a royal position and that the other, priestly presence refers to a different priest– presumably whomever takes the role of High Priest subsequent to Joshua.

        However, after reading some commentaries on Zechariah– including the one posted by Jason, below– I can certainly understand the position that Anatole is not a reference to Joshua, himself.

      • Julian permalink


        In your reply to Sam Hoff, you said there weren’t two people named James. Actually, I think there would have been. The first James was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, who had been put to death by King Herod. The second James would be one of Jesus’s brothers. Thus, there would have been a need for Paul to let his readers know which James he was referring to.

        Likewise, there might have been two people named Jesus. The first was the one that Paul usually talks about and identifies as the Messiah, the Son of God. The second might have been Justus of Colossians 4:11. Thus it might have been necessary to refer to the brother of the Lord, rather than the brother of Jesus, for the sake of clarity. Though it is unlikely that Paul would have used “Jesus” instead of “the Lord” in that context.

      • Julian, yes, of course there was Jesus’ sibling named “James” (Jacob), and also James Zebedee, the brother of John Zebedee. But in Galatians there’s only the one James, Jesus’ brother.
        And there were many other Jews of the time named “James/Jacob” (just as now), and many named “Jesus/Yeshua” too. That’s both true, and irrelevant to the issue on discussion. Paul refers to “the Lord’s brother” because in early Christian devotion, Jesus had been resurrected, exalted to heavenly glory, and conferred the title “Lord” (a la Philippians 2:9-11).

    • Jason permalink

      Boxing Pythagoras, it appears that the translation you’re working from may not be the most accurate. Drawing from Mark Boda’s commentary on Zechariah, a better translation is probably:

      “Take from the exiles, from Heldai, and from Tobiah, and from Yeda’yah, and go, yourself, on the same day, and enter into the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah where they will have arrived from Babylon, and take silver and gold and make crowns and set on the head of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the great priest, and say to him, saying,
      ‘Thus has said Yahweh of hosts, saying,
      Take note, a man, whose name is Sprout,
      from his place he will sprout.
      He himself will build the temple of Yahweh.
      He himself will bear majesty.
      He will sit and rule on his throne
      A priest will be on his throne,
      and there will be peaceful counsel between the two of them.'”

      Boda goes on to explain why Joshua is distinct from Sprout in this passage,

      “The address to Joshua draws the priest’s attention to a man named Sprout (ṣemaḥ), who is associated in the speech with building the temple, bearing majesty, and sitting and ruling on a throne. Some have interpreted this reference to Sprout as identifying Joshua, especially since the prophetic sign-act involved placing a crown on the head of Joshua in 6:11 and the continuation of the speech refers to a priest on his throne (6:13). Mention of the royal figure Sprout (ṣemaḥ), an image linked to the Davidic line (Jeremiah 23, 33; see below), however, brings to mind the Davidide Zerubbabel, who, according to the oracles in 4:6b-10a, as well as Haggai and Ezra 1—6, was involved in the building of the temple and, according to Hag. 2:20-23, was destined for royal rule. This competing evidence has prompted several solutions in the history of scholarship.

      Some have suggested that various parts of the speech are directed towards different audiences, including Joshua and Zerubbabel. However, the speech is clearly addressed to Joshua according to 6:12, and no mention is made of Zerubbabel’s presence as is the case in 4:6b-10a. Wellhausen solved this apparent tension by suggesting that the act and speech were originally focused on Zerubbabel, but later, after his demise as leader and rise of priestly control, Joshua’s name replaced Zerubbabel’s. Others have argued that the oracle is a later insertion into a prophetic sign-act depicting the crowning of Joshua. However, there is no need to appeal to these speculative developmental theories. A similar speech was addressed to Joshua in 3:8, and there as here the speech followed the placement of articles of clothing, including a headpiece on the high priest. In 3:8 Joshua and his priestly associates are identified as men of a sign. Someone or something that is a sign is never the same as the thing which they signify. So there in 3:8 Joshua and his priestly associates are not Sprout (ṣemaḥ), but somehow symbolic of this other figure. The same symbolic logic is in play here in 6:12.

      The view that Sprout (ṣemaḥ) is distinguished from Joshua is bolstered by other evidence in the speech. First is the reference to ‘the two of them’ (šə-nê-hem) at the close of 6:13. This phrase usually refers to two people (e.g., Gen. 2:25; 3:7; 9:23), but in a few instances indicates two inanimate objects (Num. 7:13; Ezek. 21:24; Prov. 27:3), activities (Prov. 17:15; 20:10), or body parts (Prov. 20:12). In two cases this phrase is used abstractly. In Eccl. 4:3, it distinguishes between the dead and the living, and in Isa. 1:31, between a man and his work. These two instances would allow for the interpretations that ‘peaceful counsel between the two of them’ is an allusion to the combining of the two offices of priest and king, thus indicating that the speech was directed to Joshua, who is addressed as Sprout (ṣemaḥ) (see NASB). However, key here is the preposition bên (between), which when used with ‘the two of them’ (šə-nê-hem) refers to two distinct people (Exod. 22:10; 2 Kgs. 2:11).

      Second is the opening expression of the speech to Joshua in 6:11, ‘Take note, a man’ (hin-nêh-’îš). This phrase is often employed in narratives to introduce a scene (1 Kgs. 13:1) or to signal a sudden turning point (Gen. 42:35; Num. 25:6; Josh. 7:13; Judg. 19:16, 22; 1 Sam. 17:23; 2 Sam. 1:2; 18:24; 1 Kgs. 13:23; cf. 1 Kgs. 20:29). It functions similarly in prophetic or apocalyptic visionary materials (Ezek. 9:11; 40:3; Dan. 10:5; Zech. 1:8; 2:5[1]). When used in a speech, however, it always refers to someone distinguished from the one being addressed in the speech (1 Sam. 9:6, 17; 2 Sam. 18:26; cf. Josh. 2:2). In 1 Sam. 9:6, the person is absent from the scene but is nearby and accessible. In 2 Sam. 18:26, the person is approaching. Joshua 2:2 uses the plural (‘men’), and then men are in the vicinity but not in the immediate context of the speech. In 1 Sam. 9:17, the person is present, but in that case the definite article is used on ‘man’ (hinnêh hā’îš). This evidence shows that Joshua is not the Sprout figure, that the Sprout figure is not present in the scene, and also that the Sprout figure is accessible or approaching.”

      Boda goes on and gives a number of other reasons we must distinguish Joshua from Sprout, and why the plural for “crown” should be preferred over the singular.

  12. The point of Carrier is that the occurrence of a “Joshua” as a possibile candidate to the title of anatole (hence, via anatole, possibly identified by Philo with the Logos) is too much an impossible coincidence to be really a mere coincidence, and therefore not a coincidence. How do you consider this argument from the extreme improbability of a coincidence?


  13. Professor Hurtado,

    You recently referred to the work of Tim O’Neill who, rather amusingly and with very surgical precision, has dissected the offerings of Carrier (and others of his ilk) over a long period. I have only a lay person’s interest but for just one example, as O’Neill pointed out in a web posting – ‘Jesus Mythicism 1: The Tacitus Reference to Jesus’ ( when referring to an article by Carrier – “The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44″ (Vigiliae Christianae, 68, 2014, 264-283):

    “But Carrier’s conviction is that Pliny’s letter shows he knew nothing much about Christians when he first encountered them as governor of Bithynia-Pontus, saying “Pliny the Younger tells us he had never attended a trial of Christians and knew nothing of what they believed or what crimes they were guilty of” (p. 267,). If we turn to the letter Carrier is drawing on here, however, we find no such thing.”

    The last sentence (accurately) tells us a lot about Carrier. He seems to have no knowledge of context and seems to barely take note of what original sources say (even in translation). Apparently, anything or anyone who contradicts his own beliefs (should one say ‘faith’) is wrong or a liar. And original sources must be re-arranged to support his viewpoint.

    I think you (like O’Neill) do sterling work in dissecting nonsense masquerading as scholarship.

    • timoneill007 permalink

      Thanks for the kind words Michael. I’m pleased that I’ve got under Carrier’s skin enough to be included in his (long) list of alleged “liars”, though I have yet to get to the level he reserves for the critics that really annoy him, who he declares to be actually insane (e.g. Maurice Casey, Stephanie Fisher, R. Joseph Hoffman, Robert Eisenman and others). I’m even more pleased he has finally worked out how to spell my surname.

      His attempted critique of my Tacitus article shows, yet again, that his main talent is for seeing things in texts that aren’t there. He claims “Pliny goes on to say he only just learned of their beliefs after interrogating the very Christians he’s talking about”, except Pliny actually says nothing of the sort. He simply says that he interrogated them and then details what they said about their practices and ideas. Nowhere does he say he was “only just [learning] of their beliefs” when they did so – this is entirely in Carrier’s imagination. Which is why, despite his usual bluster, he fails to actually quote Pliny saying what he claims Pliny is saying.

      This kind of clumsy eisegesis permeates Carrier’s work and he can’t seem to understand why, as a result, others don’t find Richard Carrier as impressive as he does. As for the bizarre blog post about the “asscrankery” of myself and that other well-known idiot, Bart Ehrman, that he links to: I’ve replied to that in some detail here:

  14. Julian permalink

    Thanks for talking about Philo’s supposed Jesus archangel, Prof. Hurtado. I had bought one of Carrier’s previous books (at $40 or so), because it was supposed to show that Philo referred to a Jesus archangel, but it didn’t. I really didn’t want to shell out more money on this.

  15. Justin permalink

    Greetings Larry

    I was aware that Carrier had responded to the various people you had mentioned (McNeill, McGrath, Pettersen, Tucker) and that sooner or later he would come out fighting. He does get rather nasty. A couple of times in his response he refers to his own book as “the only peer reviewed book ever published” without seeming to realise that that itself is telling. You are right to think that your post will generate another rude rant. I note your comment that unlike Carrier you have a number of other things to do. I appreciate you have not the time to respond to every point he makes in his book. But if I could politely encourage you to continue to monitor his comments and from time to time to pick up on significant issues. I realise that would be at a cost to you but there are lot of readers who would benefit.

    • Ross Macdonald permalink

      Justin said: “I realise that would be at a cost to you but there are lot of readers who would benefit.”

      Hear, hear! I can only imagine the irritation of responding to the antiquities equivalent of ‘flat-earthers’ but your effortless dismantling of the assumptions, fallacies, and otherwise malicious distortions is one of the most entertaining features of this blog in recent memory. At the same time, I can appreciate more serious engagements that would keep you away from Carrier and his ilk, and with that the saying goes: “don’t feed the trolls”! I suppose too much attention in response might give the unwitting observer the impression that, somehow, such claims are to be engaged as serious historical research! Nonetheless it has been an entertaining demolition, cheers Dr. Hurtado!

  16. Bryant Williams III permalink

    It seems that Dr. Carrier does not know how to interpret “allegorical” interpretation especially that of Philo.

  17. Peter Turnill permalink

    That archangel called Jesus was enough to show me Carrier doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s shame you have to spend any time at all refuting such ideas, but such is the power of the internet to fuel nonsense.

  18. Carrier played his usual rant that he often does. James McGrath has shown this well on his own blog. Everyone who disagrees is a liar, hasn’t read the book, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, etc.

    • Sam Hoff permalink

      Mark Goodacre invented a line of Paul in a radio debate with Richard Carrier:

      Isn’t that lying?

      • No, Sam. Lying is when you know that something is false and assert it as false. On this occasion, Goodacre appears to have mis-remembered the exact wording of 1 Cor 15:1. But Carrier reads into the text something not there too. Paul doesn’t say in 1 Cor 15 that the following points came by “revelation” directly from the risen Jesus. And the whole thrust of the passage is stated in v. 11, that these are things taught by the other apostles as well as him, a shared body of teaching. And, most importantly, Jesus’ death and burial aren’t events in some cosmic plane (as in Carrier’s weird assertion). “Burial” = a real corpse interred in the ground.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        You just prove that you don’t understand Carrier’s POV.

        The burial location isn’t important at all. It could be even Earth.

        The important part is that the info comes from Scripture (the LXX), as confirmed by DREAMS.

        Not real life.

      • Oh, Sam, I understand Carrier’s bizarre views very well. They’re just baseless. It won’t do simply to assert them as if they were gospel truth!

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Why would Carrier’s view be bizarre?

        In 1 Cor. 15, Paul explicitly says Jesus died “according to the Scriptures”.

        Not what we modern people would consider real life.

      • Sam: “According to the scriptures” is simply a formula claiming that Jesus’ death fulfilled OT prophecies. You really must learn before you assert things.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        Thats the Christian interpretation. Why are you subscribing to the Christian interpretation instead of being a scholar?

      • Sam: I’m “subscribing” to what the text says, and what practically everyone on the planet (except for the ingenious Dr. Carrier) thinks.

      • Sam: Your comments tend to be not just wrong, but to nuance that finely tuned mixture of ignorant and arrogant that tells us all we’re in the presence of a Carrier disciple. There are also the logical gaps — your question, “Why are you subscribing to the Christian interpretation instead of being a scholar” involves a false dichotomy by means of begging the question with a hint of personal attack and an underlay of ignorance, nicely done.

        I doubt anything Dr. Hurtado or anyone else says here will satisfy you, though my Christian interpretation of history in general is that miracles do happen, so we’ll see.

      • István Pásztori-Kupán permalink

        Dear Mr. Hoff, I have listened to the one-hour debate very carefully. At one point Mark Goodacre brings up 1Thessalonians 2, but then the discussion takes another turn, so he does not manage to mention 1Thess 2:14-15, where ‘the Jews’ are meant to have ‘killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets’. Not Satan, not Satan’s angels, not some other extra-terrestrial agents, but ‘Jews’, i.e. human beings, who had killed ‘prophets’ on earth before, so they would probably not go to the trouble of trying to kill ‘the Lord Jesus’ in some higher realm of the ‘lower heavens’ to appease Dr. Carrier. I assume that this passage (1Thess 2:14-15) must be an interpolation, of course, otherwise the mythicist presumption that whatever Paul had written about Jesus had absolutely nothing to do with actual earthly events would collapse. You see, sometimes the evidence has to be taken as evidence. The desperate attempt to explain away every proof that supports the contrary of one’s theory is not necessarily best scholarship. But perhaps I am wrong, and Dr. Carrier is right on pp. 567-70 of his peer-reviewed book.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        larryhurtado, yes Jesus’ death fulfilled the Scriptures.

        But that confirmation was only known by DREAMS i.e. the list of appearances in 1 Cor. 15.

        Because Jesus never actually existed.

      • Ok. Sam. You’ve indicated abundantly (1) that you’re not a scholar in Christian origins, and so not really competent in the sources or methods, and(2) have your mind made up against any amount of contrary argument or evidence. So, we’ve got your number. I think it’s useless for you to continue your comments. Let it go.

      • Sam Hoff permalink

        I’ll let if go if you explain what the list of appearances are in 1 Cor. 15, if not dreams. Thanks.

      • Well, Sam, it’s not really essential to the issue (which was whether Paul gives references to Jesus as a real historical figure), but a quick response. The list of appearances in 1 Cor 15 are what the recipients understood as that–appearances of the risen Christ. What you make of them is your choice. Not dreams. They claim to have been awake.

      • Seeing mythicists argue about how to do history is kind of like watching too many Christians argue against evolution without knowing how to do a Punnett Square.

  19. It seems hard for Dr Carrier to speak briefly. Everything he says is couched in extensive verbiage that prevents even his fans from seeing things clearly. Ask him sometime for a summary of how Christianity started and developed through the writing of the gospels. He doesn’t spell out his hypothesis because he knows it is implausible.

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