A reply to Richard Carriers review of my blog article: “41 Reasons Why Scholars Know Jesus Existed.”
“Richard [Carrier] takes the extremist position that Jesus of Nazareth never even existed, that there was no such person in history. This is a position that is so extreme that to call it marginal would be an understatement; it doesn’t even appear on the map of contemporary New Testament scholarship.”
-William Lane Craig (In a debate with Richard Carrier: ‘Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?’)
First things first: (*At the time of completing this rebuttal I am near completion of my revised edition of my initial list. Once done I will link it HERE for further reading*)
A couple of disclaimers I wish to make, but before that let me briefly touch on some interesting things that Carrier says in his opening paragraph that I find revealing. First, who is Carrier?
Carrier, an ancient historian, is a proponent of a totally ignored, long since buried in its grave (with big capitals RIP), theory known as Jesus mythicism; that is to say that no man called Jesus, made of flesh and blood, ever really existed or walked planet Earth as a historical figure in 1st century Palestine. This is far from the scholarly consensus, and is largely ignored. I know this because I am really interested in the person of Jesus, and thus have spent thousands of hours sifting through material (as well as writing on it as an amateur) authored on him by scholars from all backgrounds. One thing underpins every one of these scholars: Jesus really existed, and we can know a lot about him. These scholars may disagree on certain aspects about Jesus’ life, that is obvious by my research, but none of them claim that Jesus never existed, or that there is even a possibility that such could be on the cards. So, already Carrier, a well-educated historian might I add, has to strenuously paddle upstream against informed consensus. I do not doubt his effort nor do I take away anything from Carrier’s ability as a historian (after all, I am not a historian, nor a scholar at this present moment as Carrier makes known in his introduction), but I just cannot fathom why some people deny the existence of Jesus when, to the overwhelming majority (99% +), the evidence seems sufficient, more than sufficient. I shall attempt to answer this as we go along.
Nevertheless, I’ve engaged with some of the mythicist work. I’ve read some of Carrier’s books and articles at his ‘Freethought’ blog as well as seen him in debates against the likes of William Lane Craig, and that of Mike Licona. I’ve read up on Murdock (pen name Archaya S), a despiser of religion, and just as vehement Jesus mythicist as Richard Carrier is. I am aware of what they stand for.
Furthermore, I think straight from the get go we see the card that Carrier seems to be playing. He briefly introduces me (that my blog article has caused a stir among some atheists who have inquired of him) and then, subsequently, downplays my approach because I am a Christian. We see that as he accuses my piece of being a “bubble of Christian distortion.” That is a cheap trick that I could apply to Carrier himself who is an avid atheist. I could equally downplay him by saying something like: “Well, you know, Carrier is just another atheist and we ought not to take his word on anything he writes about religious figures of the past, or anything religious at all.”
Truth be told Carrier is no benchmark of neutrality, in fact neutrality is a myth. We all have agendas that skew our interpretation; atheists and theists are the same over, but to greater and lesser degrees.
SOME IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:
1) Regarding the death of Jesus’ disciples. I mistakenly argued that the majority of Jesus’ disciples were martyred for their faith. This I learnt was false since most of the historical evidence for their deaths are late, legendary, dubious or non-existent. We can, with reasonable certainly, conclude that some of them and their associates (Stephen, Paul, Peter, James (John’s brother), and James (Jesus’ brother)) were martyred – such is derived from Josephus, Acts, 2 Timothy, and Clement. This will be corrected in my revised edition.
2) There are some things I am willing for the sake of this rebuttal to concede, especially since they are debatable at best. I want to stick to the powerful points that guarantee Jesus’ existence, and will ignore the, in my recent judgment, weaker ones. So, for instance, I shall concede reports found in sources that are ambiguous, probably based off of hearsay information & late, or at least unconvincing. This is not to say that these sources are unanimously rejected as some historians still think they have value for certain historical pursuits.
4) Although some points have been relegated in order to strengthen the overall list, I do however add some points that I could have before. This will be available in the second revised edition.
“Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person, a claim virtually no one doubted before because of the vast and varied literary evidence we have for his existence.”
-Darrell Bock & Dan Wallace (‘Dethroning Jesus.’)
POINT 1: “Nothing to the contrary.”
In point 1 I argued that no-one, except for modern day mythcists, ever denied Jesus existing, and that even Christianity’s ancient critics always assumed that he did. On this Carrier writes: “But alas, all the records of what was happening in Christian history between Paul and the early second century have been erased. Gone. Completely. So we don’t know what any critics of Christianity were saying in those fifty to eighty years.”
First off, this is not true. All of the non-Pauline books of the New Testament, plus much of the Apostolic Fathers, are from the period between Paul and the early-2nd century. Nevertheless, much of these works reveal a significant amount about what those who opposed and persecuted their authors, and disciples, were saying with the non-existence of Jesus never being among them. In the case of Paul, his letters indicate that he himself persecuted Christians during a period of time that, if Jesus did exist, would have to have been within just a few years of his crucifixion. And yet the denial that Jesus existed was never a factor in that. Neither was it a factor of any of his opponents. What about Tacitus? He writes his Annals around 115 AD and dies in 117 AD. Tacitus speaks of Jesus as a real historical figure who was crucified by Pontius Pilate. He is also critical of Christianity calling it a “pernicious superstition.” He never called Jesus a pernicious superstition, in fact he corroborates Jesus’ existence. Tacitus presents a negative view of Christianity, and that’s hardly late enough to call “100 years after Paul.” Furthermore, Josephus Flavius also corroborates what early critics thought of Christianity, he writes that the Jewish authorities: “had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law,” and then James, Jesus’ brother, was stoned. Justin Martyr, also writing within 100 years of Jesus, also tells us that the Jews accused the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body in his Dialogue with Trypho: “Instead, you sent men into to the world to proclaim that a godless heresy had sprung from Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom was crucified and that His disciples stole His body from the tomb in order to deceive men by claiming He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.”
Again, it is worth mentioning that it would have been just so easy to challenge the alleged historical fact of Jesus’ existence if it weren’t true. Never does this feature, and never was it an issue for the early Christian writers to address. It seems implausible to try and argue such a theory when Christianity’s earliest critics never proposed it, nor had heard of it.
POINT 2: “Scholars know that Jesus existed.”
At least Carrier admits that scholars do claim that of which he chooses to dispute. But does, as he puts it, the evidence “suck”?
Hardly, I wonder what Carrier would make of the existence of others like Confucius and Buddha. For them we rely on a handful of sources 400 + years removed from their lives, but scholars don’t dispute their existence. They are aware that mythological embellishments impugned the texts as time went by, and that those who authored biographies on these characters probably used dubious sources, of which they consulted, for doing so. The evidence for the historical Jesus far outweighs that of these figures in its abundance and earliness, and to say that this evidence “sucks” is just disingenuous (I wonder how Carrier approaches other historical figures because after scrutinizing his claims on Jesus I’d never trust anything he writes on history). Scholars aren’t stupid, they know how to review historical evidences via historical methodology, and when it comes to Jesus their opinion is ubiquitous, and antithetical to the thesis that Carrier propounds.
Carrier then downplays a quote that I provided by the ancient historian Paul Maier as “hyperbolic”, hence “suspicious”. This is silly, because I could quote many others who speak on the same lines. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic and certainly no Christian, writes in an article for the Huffington Post:
“These views [Jesus mythicism] are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.”
Is that too extreme? Probably, because it undermines Carrier’s position. Subsequently, Carrier opines that the debate over Jesus’ existence is on the table for discussion. He then continues to provide a link to “seven fully qualified experts” who admit that the historicity of Jesus is uncertain, though this link seems to be a debate between him and Ehrman.
We all know of Young Earth Creationists (YEC). They are a Christian camp that hold dogmatically to a literal reading of Genesis, thus they conclude that the universe/Earth is just a mere 6000 – 10 000 years old. They then interpret contemporary science to support this view when just about everything revealed in nature, according to scientists, counteracts it. But guess what? The YEC camp even has PhD scientists in its ranks, quite a few in fact. I know this because I am currently (before writing this rebuttal) putting together a mini-encyclopedia of scientists professing the Christian faith and have thus chronicled over 300 PhD scientists so far, and many of which are YEC. There seems to be over two dozen of them ranging from the specializations of nuclear physics, biophysics, astronomy, astrophysics and so on. They are clearly educated, but hardly taken seriously by anyone else within the mainstream of biology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, and henceforth. So, in order for the YEC adherent to make it sound like their position holds authority to their followers (think of Answers in Genesis) they will cite some of these YEC scientists. This is what Carrier is doing except within the realms of history. He cites scholars no-one takes seriously, and if they are taken seriously it is minimal at best.
I can name 20 or so PhD YEC scientists and Carrier can name seven or so PhD historians who deny Jesus existed, or that the evidence is questionable. Truth be told these few radical scholars make a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of scholars, and when this is considered it looks like Carrier is clutching at straws.
So, in reply to Carrier on this point, the notion of the historicity of Jesus is not up to debate within the scholarly community. It is only up to debate within fringe atheistic camps (I say fringe because most atheists don’t adhere to the mythicist position). Just because Carrier has debated some Christian apologists does not mean that it is up to debate in the mainstream scholarly community.
“I think the evidence is just so overwhelming that Jesus existed, that it’s silly to talk about him not existing.”
–Bart Ehrman (In an interview with David Barrett, ‘The Gospel According to Bart.’)
POINT 3: “Jesus’s crucifixion is historically certain”
I argue, like every other historian, that on historical grounds Jesus was really crucified. Mike Licona is a leading New Testament scholar and in his article ‘Can We Be Certain that Jesus Died On A Cross? A Look at the Ancient Practice of Crucifixion’ he writes:
“In summary, the historical evidence is very strong that Jesus died by crucifixion. It is attested to by a number of ancient sources, some of which are non-Christian and, thus, not biased toward a Christian interpretation of events.”
Even the atheist scholar Gerd Lüdemann opines that: “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” (Lüdemann, Gerd. ‘The Resurrection of Christ’)
But obviously Carrier disagrees since to him Jesus never existed. He, nonetheless, claims that all of the independent sources are dependent on one source. He says that: “They all derive, directly or indirectly, from the same single source,” and that being the our Gospel of Mark.
On the face Carriers assertion that all the sources rely on Mark is false since at least four sources from the New Testament independently attest to the crucifixion, namely: Mark, Pauline epistles, Hebrews, John.
But regarding Paul, Carrier asserts that: “When Paul mentions the crucifixion of Jesus, he never places that event on earth.”
This sounds silly to me, and I have heard it voiced before by Carrier and co. Well, does Paul refer to a blood and flesh Jesus that actually walked the Earth, and was crucified on it? The answer to that is yes, he certainly does.
In fact, Paul mentions Jesus 218 times in his writing and many of which would not make sense if he were not referring to a physical Jesus. Those 218 times exclude other names for Jesus, such as Christ or Lord. In Philippians 2:5 Paul writes that Jesus: “…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (emp. added) Paul also writes that Jesus really was born, as a human, and that in his human existence he was a Jew: “God sent his son, born from a woman, born under the law.” We also find that Paul mentions Jesus’ human nature (Romans 1:3). In fact, I will quote scholar Mike Bird. In this reply he is refuting another mythicist by the surname Lataster:
“Paul knows that Jesus was born into a Jewish family (Galatians 4:4), he taught about divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-11), he had a final meal with his followers (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and he was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 3:1). While Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus as far as we know, he certainly met eyewitnesses to Jesus in the persons of James, John, and Peter (Galatians 2:1-10). Lataster [replace with Carrier] seems to regard Paul as historically spurious because he did not write a biography of Jesus. An odd reason to dismiss him as an authentic source.”
Furthermore, it is worth quoting the atheist historian Tim O’Niell:
“While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn’t giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus’ earthly life in many places. He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a “human nature” and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans1:3). He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10), on preachers (1 Corinthians 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thessalonians. 4:15). He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Corinthians. 2:8) and that he died and was buried (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).”
From these two historians we can see that, at best, Carrier’s theory sits at the bottom of the lake sunk and riddled with holes. It is abundantly clear that Paul refers to an Earthly Jesus that really walked 1st century Palestine. Those to whom Paul had written already knew that Jesus existed and they took that for granted. Either way Paul references an Earthly Jesus on several occasions, and on top of that it just defies sense to say that he was crucified in some heavenly realm. What does that even mean?
Carrier subsequently goes on about me citing the Talmud as evidence for the crucifixion. There is no doubt that scholars agree it Jesus is being referred to in the passages (he is referred to eight or so times) and that it supports the mode of his crucifixion. Carrier disagrees, obviously, with that. However, I shall concede that the Talmud is at best too late and an unreliable source (see disclaimer 2).
“Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation.”
-Rudolph Bultmann (‘Jesus and the Word.’)
POINT 4: “The Gospels.”
In point 4 I argue that the Gospels should count as additional reasons for the historicity of Jesus. To this Carrier doesn’t really say anything except to respond to a quote I provided by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman in support of my position. He calls this quote a “ridiculous fabrication of several sources that don’t exist and aren’t even plausible to propose.” He also calls it a “dead horse.”
Although I disagree with some conclusions Ehrman draws regarding other details on the historical Jesus, I would still take his word, and many others, over Carrier’s any day. Although some of the canonical Gospel narratives and recordings may be debatable, they are still our primary historical sources (classified as ancient Greco-Roman biography) for Jesus.
“No one. No one in scholarly circles dealing with ancient Judaism and early Christianity, of any religious or non-religious persuasion holds the view that Jesus never existed. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own truth.”
-Larry Hurtado (New Testament specialist in a comment at his blog.)
POINT 5: “The disciples deaths.”
Carrier comments: “There are no reliable sources for the disciples’ deaths. We have, at most, some ridiculous and late legends, based on no identifiable sources. We do not in fact know why or when they died. Or what they died for. This whole argument is therefore hosed from top to bottom.”
It is true that some legendary accounts exist detailing the disciples deaths, but not for all of them and their associates. (See disclaimer 1) We also have some evidence for other early Christians that never recanted their faith in their Lord Jesus even in the face of death. This would be unlikely if Jesus had not existed. These early Christians had lived close enough to the time of Jesus and his contempories to be sure of this basic fact – this basic fact we must review.
In chapter 5 of a ‘Letter to the Corinthians’ authored by the early church father Clement, writing around 95 – 97 AD, we see that he attests to Paul’s martyrdom. According to him Paul “suffered martyrdom under the prefects.” This is probably reliable since we know, from his own epistles, that Paul suffered willingly for Jesus and faced the prospects of death many times throughout his voyages (2 Corinthians 6:5). Clement is obviously knowledgeable about the events of the early church and can be trusted on that end. Clement was also an associate of Peter, and Paul met both Peter and James – this indicates the possibility of inside information. To that extent we can trust his account, an account written very early (probably at the same time as our latest book of the New Testament, Revelation) which again gives it credence.
Another piece of evidence for Paul’s death as a martyr is found in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
Now, 2 Timothy is not held by scholars to be a genuine Pauline epistle, but rather a letter written by someone else other than Paul. In the above verse we see that whoever authored it had knowledge of Paul’s death. If one holds that someone other than Paul wrote this after the fact, I then think that makes it more reliable as a reference to his martyrdom. By the time a pseudo-Pauline author would have written that, they would open themselves up to being discovered if what they wrote didn’t fit with the facts of Paul’s demise. On that end we can be sure that Paul died for his belief in a flesh and blood Jesus. A common reply here would be that Paul doesn’t count because he never met Jesus in person. Again, Paul knew of the historical Jesus (see point 3), and even met his brother James (see point 11) and closest disciple Peter. Paul clearly knew what he was willing to suffer for, and that wasn’t a non-existent mythical figure as mythicists claim.
Another important piece of evidence is the martyrdom of Stephen recorded in Acts 7:58-60. Stephen is thought to have died around 34 AD, a few years after Jesus’ death, and on that note he would have known, like Paul, for what he was dying for. It strains one to think that he would die for a non-existent being of whom he would likely have had eyewitness and first hand knowledge about. No-one knowingly dies for a lie.
Thirdly, we have an account of Jesus’ brother, James, being martyred in the work of Josephus. Josephus writes: “and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.” (Antiquities 20 v.9) This is an important reference since Josephus must have obtained this information from a source outside that of the New Testament since no-where within the New Testament does it refer to James’ death. Another interesting point must be made that Jesus’ own family thought he was out of his mind. In Mark 3:21: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” This is particularly striking since James, who doubted Jesus’ self claims, was willing to lead the early church after he witnessed the risen Jesus (Acts 15). This is something that, according to Josephus, he was martyred for. Such would hardly be the case if Jesus never existed. What could have so drastically changed this man’s heart and mind from a skeptic of Jesus to someone who would lead the church, and of which only to die for?
The apostle Peter’s death was also seemingly foretold by Jesus in John 21:18-19. Peter’s death is also reported very early by Clement in his Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 5, written around 95 – 98 AD). Later Peter’s death is attested to by Tertullian (lived 155 – 240 AD) at the end of the 2nd century, and by Origen in Eusebius, Church History III.1 (4th century). Lastly, we are also told that James, the brother of John, was put to death by Herod in Acts 12:2.
Historically, we can be confident of the martyrdom of Paul, Stephen, Peter, James (brother of John) and James (brother of Jesus). This makes a powerful apologetic for the very basic fact that Jesus actually existed since it strains belief to believe that these men would die for a non-existent being of whom they would have seen, or at least inquired of from others who had witnessed Jesus. However, another crucial point must follow, and this is the willingness of the disciples to face death for what they proclaimed to be true.
The disicples were sent to jail (Acts 5:21, 5:18), flogged and jailed (Acts 16:23), beaten (Acts 5:40), and received no help from pagans in times of distress (3 John 1:7). Depsite being thrown in jail and beaten they still spread the Gospel (Acts 5:17–42). Many early Christian homes were invaded and the occupants were dragged to prison (Acts 8:3), some were stoned as in the case of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). They suffered hardships for their services (1 Corinthians 4:9-13), and the church in Jerusalem suffered intense persecution (Acts 8:1-3). As mentioned above and reported by Josephus, Jesus’ brother James was martyred for his belief. Christians were told to take joy in their sufferings for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 4:16), and even James, the brother of John, was put to death by Herod (Acts 12:2). We are also told that the first statewide persecution of Christians was under Nero (AD 64), as reported by Tacitus (Annals 15.44:2–5) and Suetonius (Nero 16.2).
On top of this Paul tells us he was, for the sake of Jesus, whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, near starved to death and in danger from various people and places (2 Corinthians 6:5). Before Paul dramatically converted to belief in Christ, and in the period that he persecuted Christians, he self admittedly claims a hand in this persecution of the early Christians and their Church of God (Galatians 1:13, Acts 9:1–2). Yet after his conversion Paul, and other early Christians, rejoiced in their sufferings (Romans 5:3–4, James 1:2–4). Jesus warned his followers that they would be hated (Luke 6:22, John 15:18-20), and that they would be imprisoned (Luke 21:12, Matthew 10:19). However, they will be blessed for their perseverance (Matthew 5:10–12).
It must appear absurd for any of us to conclude that all of this was done at such an early time by the disciples, associates of the disciples and many other early Christians for someone who never even existed.
“Some skeptics have maintained that the best account of the biblical and historical evidence is the theory that Jesus never existed; that is, that Jesus’ existence is a myth (Well 1999). Such a view is controversial and not widely held even by anti-Christian thinkers.”
-Michael Martin (Atheist, ‘Skeptical Perspectives on Jesus’ Resurrection.’)
POINT 6: “The minimal facts approach.”
Carrier asserts that I am being lied to by Habermas. Gary Habermas is a prominent New Testament scholar who has, over the last half century or so, sifted through over 3400 articles written by many scholars in the fields of New Testament studies, Jesus studies, and ancient history. Having tallied them he has found out that all these scholars agree on four basic facts regarding Jesus (read my initial blog article to find out more).
Again, just like with Ehrman, I must choose between the world Carrier or that of Habermas. I choose Habermas’ word since he has put the hard yards into his research (not that Carrier hasn’t put the long yards into skewing his research to suit his purposes), contributed greatly to scholarly journals, and is much more in line with mainstream scholarship and consensus than Carrier could ever dream of being.
“None of them [specialists in the field], to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed. …The view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet.”
-Bart Ehrman (‘Did Jesus Exist?’)
POINT 7: “Creeds.”
I quote a very early creed found within 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 that scholars have unanimously dated to within just five years of Jesus’ death. This creed was a teaching that Paul received from an earlier time and is a very good piece of evidence that tells us how the earliest Christians viewed Jesus. However, Carrier writes: “By which he means the gospel kerygmas reported in Paul’s letters. None of which ever mention Jesus ever being on earth. Ooops.”
In point 3 above we saw that Paul does reference and Earthly Jesus, hence Carrier’s assertion is false. He continues “It certainly appears that as far as Paul and these creeds knew, Jesus never had a ministry on earth.”
In fact, Paul mentions a command given by Jesus during his Earthly ministry: “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband.” (emp. added) To that end Paul was certainly aware of Jesus’ ministry.
Carrier is correct in noting that Paul receives his revelations, as described in Galatians 1, after the resurrection via supernatural means, but that hardly disqualifies the several occasions where Paul does mention an Earthly Jesus. It is not an either-or decision that Carrier seems to suggest precisely because Paul mentions an Earthly Jesus as well as his revelations that he received from him after his death – such two things are not mutually exclusive.
Nevertheless, as Hans von Campenhausen opines on this early creed found in 1 Corinthians 15: “This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text.” (‘The Events of Easter and the Empty Tomb’)
“To doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all… was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worthwhile to enter in here.”
-Gunther Bornkamm (‘Jesus of Nazareth.’)
POINT 8: “The short time gap between the events of Jesus’ life, and when they were penned down in the form of the Gospels.”
Carrier writes: “Fact is, wild legends grow and win converts very quickly. Even in the face of conclusive debunking! So there is no argument to be had here. Not least because the Gospels only appear forty years after the fact, then almost an average human lifespan (OHJ, pp. 148-52). Which is not rapid. At all.”
In the words of Mike Bird (from the same article I linked in point 3):
“Second, Mr. Lataster (again replace with Mr. Carrier – their arguments are all the same) complains about the lack of early sources. Well, what do you mean by “early”? Paul’s letters are written about 20-30 years after Jesus’ death, and the Gospels about 50-70 years after his death. Our oldest piece of papyrus with a fragment of John 18 is P25 and is dated to about 125-150 CE. Authors like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Tacitus from the late first and early second century wrote about Jesus too. That sounds pretty early to me, at least in comparison to other historical figures.”
In fact, historian Sherwin White, in his book Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, was able to track the level of myth making by using Herodotus as an example, he writes:
“In his history, written in mid-fifth century B.C., we have a fund of comparable material in the tales of the period of the Persian Wars and the preceding generation. These are retold by Herodotus from forty to seventy years later, after they had been remodeled by at least one generation of oral transmission.
“The material of Herodotus presents no intractable difficulty to a critical historian. The material has not been transformed out of all recognition under the influence of moral and patriotic fervour, in a period of time as long, if not longer, than can be allowed for the gestation of the form-myths of the synoptic gospels.”
And in conclusion Sherwin notes: “Herodotus enables us to test the tempo of myth-making, and the tests suggest that even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition.”
This (the earliness of the New Testament accounts) is in the favour of the historical Jesus, and on those grounds it becomes downright dishonest for Carrier and co. to say myth could develop in such a small time period to corrupt the text (Again, how are we to trust anything Carrier writes about history if this is his argument?). When we look at the principal sources for some historical figures, such as Alexander the Great, we rely on a handful of textual sources to piece together in order to learn about their lives. For Alexander the Great we rely on five sources written by Diodorus Siculus (100 BC), Quintus Curtius Rufus (50 – 100 AD), Arrian (100 – 200 AD), the biographer Plutarch (100 – 200 AD), and finally the Roman historian Justin (300+ AD). Alexander died in 323 BC, hence making our earliest source to learn about him four centuries after his life. For Jesus the entire New Testament was completed less than 70 years later and that is, as Bird succinctly put it, remarkably early.
I think of all the places that an atheistic agenda against religion/Christianity can be seen on the part of Carrier it is most conspicuously visible here. This is disheartening, because Carrier is a more than competent historian and his work doesn’t need to be marred by such a bias methodology.
“This view [that Jesus didn’t exist] is demonstrably false. It is fuelled by a regrettable form of atheist prejudice, which holds all the main primary sources, and Christian people, in contempt. …. Most of its proponents are also extraordinarily incompetent.”
-Maurice Casey (‘Jesus of Nazareth.’)
POINT 9: “The rise of early Christianity.”
Here I argued that if Jesus did not exist then Christianity would not have taken off. Yet in reply Carrier writes: “If Hercules did not exist then we would not have Hercules cult in the first place.” Or “If the angel Moroni did not exist then we would not have Mormonism in the first place.” Or “If the angel Gabriel did not exist and dictate the Koran to Mohammed then we would not have Islam in the first place.” Etc. Obviously this argument is down the drain.”
There is, however, more to take into account than just a surface reading Carrier espouses by comparing Jesus to mythical beings like Hercules, or other religious narratives of beings such as Moroni, or the angel Gabriel.
Firstly, we need to look at other evidence for the life of Jesus of which we do have, namely the biographical Gospels, Pauline epistles, non-Pauline epistles and general epistles (of which constitutes the New Testament). Taking that into account we can already confidently assert Jesus’ existence without even having to look at point 9. Where, may I ask, is this evidence for Hercules in its earliness, and abundance? Carrier, yet again, is belaboring the point about Paul referring to a spiritual Jesus of which we saw was false (see point 3), hence I need not refute that again. He goes on:
“We don’t need a historical Moroni or Gabriel to explain Mormonism or Islam. We don’t need a historical Jesus to explain Christianity.”
But we have a historical Muhammad and a historical Joseph Smith, don’t we? Yes we do, and we need them to explain Islam and Mormonism. We need Muhammad to explain Islam because he dictated the Koran; we need Smith to explain Mormonism because he claimed to have found a set of golden tablets. But no-one is claiming, as Carrier is alleging, that Jesus’ existence is based off some interaction with a divine, supernatural being (even though he allegedly encounters Satan some times). We don’t even need to know about the angel Gabriel’s episode with Muhammad to affirm Muhammad’s existence because we look at that question using other methods, namely our textual data from the Koran, Hadith/Sira literature, and biographies. Historians don’t affirm or disconfirm Jesus’ existence based on a supernatural event, hence Carrier’s comparison is false, and fallacious. I would like to know of any other accredited historians, at reputable institutions, that think comparing the historical Jesus to the likes of Hercules, Gabriel, or Moroni is even remotely appropriate in its context. It’s probably, yet again, only Carrier, and other mythicists, propounding this as an argument.
Secondly, it is true that anyone can form a community around anything (in this case Carrier references Hercules, but this is possible with other things like certain card games, modern technologies, hobbies etc.), but were those in that community willing to suffer every day for the cause that they professed as the sole arbiter of truth (as Paul, the disciples, the early church fathers, and many other early Christians did)? Were they too willing to die in the most barbaric of ways for the cause of belief in Jesus that they professed? Were they willing to do this with the knowledge of never having any Earthly reward in sight? The early Christians had no fame, no money or wealth; in fact the Romans and Jews despised them yet they stood strong. They were loathed just as the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus made abundantly clear when he reported that: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.” He also calls Christianity a “mischievous superstition” that “again broke out not only in Judea” like a rash, or a bout of pimples.
In all, I think it strains credulity to believe, as Carrier would have us, that these earliest Christians were anything comparable to a community based on a mythological character Hercules. I think his comparison falls short, as Craig comments:
“But in the same way, Jesus must have existed because of the first-century Christian movement left in his wake. Attempts to explain this movement away mythologically have failed.”(Craig, William. ‘Stephen Law on the Non-existence of Jesus of Nazareth’)
“If you’re dealing with real scholars, historians that teach at the best universities in the world, they don’t have any doubt that there was a real person in the first century known as Jesus of Nazareth.”
-Craig Evans (In an interview at Apologetics315.)
POINT 10: “The Apostle Paul’s epistles.”
“Bishop’s only use of these is that Paul mentions Jesus was buried (Paul actually does not specify a tomb burial, although the type of burial doesn’t matter). But people got buried in outer space (OHJ, pp. 194-97 & 563) in the Jewish cosmology Paul adopted (e.g. 2 Cor. 12). So where was this burial? Paul never says.”
Although it is true that Paul does not specify exactly the manner of burial he did not need to, because such knowledge was commonly known by early Christians and to those to whom he was writing. None of his epistles were aimed at giving a biographical account of the events of Jesus’ life because he knew that such things were common knowledge (see point 3 where Paul does provide historical information concerning Jesus, although it was not his primary intent). Instead, Paul is writing letters to churches and communities about doctrine, encouragement, disputes, roles in the church and so forth (let us remember this from here on because Carrier repeatedly argues in this fallacious way that Paul never mentions Jesus existing on Earth). But what we do have is Paul mentioning a burial that is corroborated by the four biographical Gospels. Now we are pitted against Carrier’s word, or that of Paul who actually met Jesus’ brother James and his closest disciple Peter (Galatians 1:18-19). I choose Paul and I think his testimony lines up well with the later Gospel writings.
In all honesty I’ve never heard of or read of any scholar, from any background or worldview, that argues for or against Carrier’s assertion that “people got buried in outer space in the Jewish cosmology Paul adopted.” I suspect this is so because it is contrived, farfetched, hence ignored. He then goes on to ask: “So where was this burial? Paul never says,” in support of his galactic Jewish cosmology and burial theory.
This to me is argumentum ex silentio. Just because Paul doesn’t explicity state the details of Jesus’ burial, or where it exactly occurred on Earth like the Gospel accounts do it just doesn’t therefore follow or allow Carrier to believe that Jesus was buried in space, or some other realm. What does being buried in space even mean?
Carrier goes on: “The first time anyone ever heard of it occurring on earth, is that same one source: Mark. Written a lifetime after the fact. By authors unknown. Crafting a patently mythical hagiography (OHJ, ch. 10.4).”
So, we have already seen that Paul (before the Gospels, and around 50-55 AD) refers to an Earthly Jesus on various occasions. If Paul refers to an Earthly, flesh and blood, Jesus then he would refer to an Earthly burial, since people who live on this planet die on this planet. That is independently corroborated in our Gospel narratives, and there is no reason to think Paul means something different.
Now, this is something I should have mentioned earlier, but I guess the opportunity has arisen yet again. Mythicists, like Carrier, try to minimize the amount of independent sources that we have on the historical Jesus. For instance, they try to claim that all our biographical sources are dependent on Mark, hence that Mark is our only source on Jesus. But this is simply false, and even a non-scholar such I know that. For instance, we have Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. John (95 AD) is considered independent of the other Gospels because of the way it explains and recalls the same narratives differently. Mark is our first Gospel (70 AD) followed by Matthew and Luke (Both 80-90 AD). Mark, Matthew, and Luke are known as the synoptics because they narrate stories and events in similar ways. It is also true that Matthew and Luke got some of their content from Mark, but it is widely known that they hold independent accounts that neither got from Mark, or Matthew/Luke. It is also widely held, although debated in circles, that Matthew and Mark consulted an additional source known as Q (which comes from the German word Quelle). The reason for believing this is that Matthew and Mark both record events using the exact, if not almost the exact, wording and descriptions. This has led, and rightly in my view, scholars to conclude that there must have been an additional source, Q, of which they consulted for their source material. Furthermore, it is also thought that Matthew and Luke consulted other sources dubbed M (Matthew’s special material), and L (Luke’s special material). It’s likely that the author of Luke combined Mark, Q source, and L source to produce his Gospel. So, in that sense Luke did not derive solely from Mark, although he did consult it. There are some parables that we think Matthew got from his M source, for instance, the parable of the weeds among the wheat, of the treasure, of the pearl, of the net, of the unforgiving servant, of the labourers in the vineyard, of the two sons, and of the ten virgins (Daniel Scholz, Jesus in the Gospels and Acts: Introducing the New Testament). So, similarly to Luke, Matthew’s Gospel derives from Q source, M source, and Mark. Again, it is not solely reliant on Mark. It is also widely held that Mark, our earliest Gospel, used a pre-Markan passion source that goes back even earlier than his Gospel, as William Lane Craig explains: “That Mark was using and relied upon a pre-Markan passion story is one that is widely accepted by most scholars today, and because it goes back so early it is probably based upon eyewitness testimony.”
Furthermore, it is also thought that the author of John’s Gospel used an earlier pre-Johannine source, as Bart Ehrman explains:
“But scholars have long suspected that John had at his disposal an earlier written account of Jesus’ miracles (the so-called Signs Source), at least two accounts of Jesus’s long speeches (the Discourse Sources), and possibly another passion source as well.” (Ehrman, Bart. ‘Did Jesus Exist?’)
Well, what does all this go to show? It shows us that Carrier is, probably intentionally, being disingenuous by claiming that Mark is our sole source for the historical Jesus that all the other Gospel accounts are derived from. That is not true since we have four independent accounts (with some cross collaboration), as well as the Pauline epistles. Furthermore, the vast majority of our New Testament literature (27 books) written by +10 authors all back the basic fact of Jesus’ existence. Again, in his same book mentioned above, Ehrman writes:
“That Jesus lived recently is affirmed not only in all four of our canonical Gospels…. It is also the view of all of the Gospel Sources – Q…M, L – and of the non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus.”
Subsequently, Carrier claims that Mark was “Written a lifetime after the fact.” In other words, he is trying to downplay the historical veracity of the text. Again, 40 years is an extremely short time-gap between the time the events occurred in history and the time they were penned down, especially when we consider other historical figures. The fact of the matter is that by the time Mark was written eyewitnesses, and contemporaries of these eyewitnesses would still have been around to fact check the writing or bring to a head their objections should there have been. 40 years is just too shorter time period to allow for Carrier to draw his intended conclusion.
“Mythicism isn’t about treating historical sources in the same way across the board. It is entirely the purview of people with a vendetta against Christianity, although even in such circles there are plenty who do not find it persuasive. And it must be emphasized that it is taken no more seriously among mainstream historians than in Biblical studies.”
-James F. McGrath (‘Exploring Our Matrix.’)
POINT 11: “Paul met Jesus’ brother James, and Jesus’ disciple Peter”.
To this Carrier writes that: “Paul never mentions anyone being a disciple. The word “disciple” is unknown to Paul. He only knows Peter as an apostle, and only knows apostles as those who received revelations of Jesus (Gal. 1; 1 Cor. 9:1; Rom. 16:25-26). And Paul only ever refers to baptized Christians as brothers of the Lord (Rom. 8:29). He shows no awareness of Jesus having biological brothers (OHJ, pp. 108 and ch. 11.10).”
Is it true that Paul “shows no awareness of Jesus having biological brothers”? According to Bart Ehrman, in his book ‘Did Jesus Exist?’, the need to divorce the, as Carrier puts it, biological status of James from Jesus is crucial to the mythicist case. As Ehrman outlines it:
“Mythicists have long realized that the fact that Paul knew Jesus’ brother creates enormous problems for their view, that in fact the convincing (to them) case against Jesus’ existence is more or less sunk by the fact that Paul was acquainted with his blood relations. And so they have tried, with some futility in my view, to explain away Paul’s statement so that even though he called James the brother of the Lord, he didn’t really mean it that way.”
The reason for this futility is that we have several traditions of Jesus actually having blood brothers, namely from independent sources such as Mark, John, Paul, and Josephus. From this one of Jesus’ brothers happens to be named James. As Ehrman comments: “Surely the most obvious, straightforward, and compelling interpretation is the one held by every scholar of Galatians that, so far as I know, walks the planet. Paul is referring to Jesus’ own brother.”
There have been some clearly contrived theories to explain this away by some mythicists, such as that of Robert Price, that are not needed to be highlighted here. Either way, Jesus is independently attested to have had a brother called James, such was widely associated with Jesus in the earliest Christian communities, and is the consensus regarding experts in the field.
Regarding the idea of Paul being unaware of disciples because he never mentions anyone as a disciple is equatable to him never mentioning anyone ever eating an apple. The word “apple” (μήλο) was unknown to Paul, therefore Paul knew human beings only as non-apple-eaters. What is wrong with this line of reasoning? It’s an argument from silence and can be dismissed.
“Thus, since scholars have totally rejected the Jesus myth hypothesis again and again and little new information is offered, we are under no obligation to give it new consideration.”
-Mike Licona (‘The God Who Wasn’t There.’)
POINT 12: “Paul might have even seen and heard Jesus.”
I think Carrier misrepresents this point in his rebuttal. He writes that Paul saw Jesus: “In visions (Gal. 1). Just like Mohammed claimed to have seen and heard Gabriel. That no more proves Gabriel exists than that Jesus exists. This is a dead argument.”
I don’t deny that Paul claims to have had supernatural encounters of Jesus, but in this case I argue that Paul, being a Pharisee, might have actually seen Jesus. We can’t say this with complete certainty, but I think it may be reasonable to conclude. Why do I think this?
First, Acts records that Paul had been a resident of Jerusalem as a child (22:3) and he visited Jerusalem often; one occasion is when he consents to the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. The presence of Paul’s nephew in Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion (Acts 23:16) suggests that Paul and his family had resided there. Jesus was known to have visited Jerusalem (Mark 11:11; John 2:13; 5:1), and from that it is possible that Paul could have seen Jesus or heard him speak during one of his several trips there.
Another reason is that Paul, being a Pharisee, in devotion to the Law would have been in Jerusalem during the Passover festival. In that case he and Jesus may have been close to each other. Paul also says that the things Jesus did were “not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26) meaning that the things he did were probably noticeable (entry into the city on a donkey in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, overturning money tables in the temple, and debating religious Jewish leaders).
This is not conclusive but is possible. I think it is possible that Paul may have seen or heard Jesus. To that end Carrier didn’t reply to it at all.
“Nevertheless, any informed and rational investigation into it will lead the reasonable person to conclude that if this is the best that the Jesus Myth has to offer, there is little to commend the theory.”
-Christopher Price (‘A Short Review of the Jesus Puzzle.’)
POINT 13: “Paul was familiar with Jesus’ sayings.”
“By revelation (and hidden messages in the Jewish scriptures). Paul knew of no other way one could learn the teachings of Jesus (Rom. 16:25-26; OHJ, ch. 11.6-7). Just like Mohammed knew of no other way one could learn the teachings of Gabriel—which teachings the Koran is a record of. The existence of the Koran no more proves the angel Gabriel exists than Paul’s commands from the Lord prove that Jesus exists. This is a dead argument.”
Nowhere does Paul claim that there is no other way to know the teachings of Christ apart from revelation and hidden messages in the scriptures. When it comes to his reporting of the words of the Lord, every indication is that he is talking about words Jesus spoke when he walked the Earth that were passed on by those who heard them. This is what makes these words of the Lord different from everything else Paul said, which he always believed to have been inspired by the Lord and written on his authority. This is normal and the most straightforward way of reading Paul’s reports of words of the Lord. It is the way almost everyone in history has taken them. Carrier is taking what could possibly be an alternative way to understand them, and putting it forward as the one and only way to understand them.
“Now you can argue about whether he was the Son of God or not, you can argue about the supernatural aspects of his life, but in terms of the historical character there is absolutely no evidence to the contrary and all the evidence is in the favor.”
-Paul Maier (‘In the Fullness of Time.’)
POINT 14: “Paul knew of the tradition of Jesus.”
“By which Bishop means the Eucharist ritual. Which Paul says he learned not from witnesses, but by revelation (OHJ, ch. 11.7). And accordingly, Paul mentions no one being present at the event.”
Here is yet another argumentum ex silentio. A constituent of Carrier’s argument hinges on, as he puts it, that “Paul mentions no one being present at the event.” But does that mean Paul wasn’t aware of people being present at the event with Jesus? Of course not, and Paul took such for granted himself, and those to whom he was writing were aware of what occurred at the Eucharist. And if no-one was present then who was Jesus betrayed by then? Paul writes, “that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it…” (1 Corinthians 11:23) It is obvious that Paul is mentioning a real event situated here on Earth, and that the one who betrayed him, as the Gospels record, was with him at the Last Supper. What about when Paul writes that Jesus said: “this is my body broken for you”? Was Jesus talking to himself? Certainly not.
In response to the part where Carrier, regarding the Eucharist, comments: “Which Paul says he learned not from witnesses, but by revelation (OHJ, ch. 11.7).” In this text in question Paul says that he received from the Lord what he delivered. Why can’t “receiving from The Lord” refer to the Lord’s agency through people? Why can’t it indicate that the tradition originated from Jesus? Why can’t it be all off these possibilities combined with direct supernatural revelation? Even if Paul received this via revelation it does nothing to discredit the subsequent Gospel accounts that corroborate his writings on this specific event. Again, what Paul mentions independent of the Gospel narratives is again corroborated within them. I see no reason to doubt this.
“But anyone who dips into the thousands of secular monographs and journal articles on the historical Jesus will quickly discover that mythicists are regarded by 99.9% of the scholarly community as complete “outliers,” the fringe of the fringe.”
-John Dickson (‘It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas… Mythicism’s in the Air.’)
POINT 15: “Luke’s mentioning of other accounts on Jesus.”
From Luke 1 I argued that the author makes known other written materials in circulation on Jesus that had motivated him somewhat to pen his account, or to at least mention them in passing. Luke writes the following:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
These other accounts that Luke mentions in his opening to his Gospel, according to Carrier, were just “previous redactions of Mark.”
Again we see Carrier trying his utmost to narrow down all the sources we have on Jesus to just one (that of Mark) in order to support his mythicist theory. This is simply false (see point 10), and totally ignores the fact that Luke writes that: “many have undertaken to draw up an account.” Unless Mark, and its single author, counts as many then Carrier cannot be correct, or why would many simply copy from a single source of Mark? In fact, it could be the case that Luke is mentioning what we call Q source which may have been many written texts, or a combination of texts and oral traditions. However we cannot know for certain and of which only causes me to question Carrier’s certainty on the subject of these other sources, mentioned by Luke, being “previous redactions of Mark.” How does he know that they were previous redactions of Mark? To me that seems like hopeful conjecture and speculation. Furthermore, according to Barnes commentary we read what Luke may have meant when he wrote “many”:
“It seems clear that it could not be the other evangelists, for the gospel by “John” was not yet written, and the word “many” denotes clearly more than “two.” Besides, it is said that they undertook to record what the “eye-witnesses” had delivered to them, so that the writers did not pretend to be eye-witnesses themselves. It is clear, therefore, that other writings are meant than the gospels which we now have, but what they were is a matter of conjecture.”
So, although we cannot be certain of what sources or accounts Luke is referring to, my point still stands that there were probably multiple sources to which Luke was referring that were not redactions of Mark. We know, with some certainty, of some pre-New Testament accounts, or very early accounts, such as Q source, special sources for Luke and Matthew, as well as a pre-Markan passion narrative. It could be to some of these sources or even others (that we do not know of) that Luke draws attention to in his opening paragraph by the use of the word “many.” To that end this evidence is not “useless” as Carrier put it.
“Bishop also tries to insist here that Luke wouldn’t lie. In fact, we have conclusively documented the fact that Luke lies repeatedly (OHJ, chs. 10.6 and 9.1).”
I would have liked for Carrier to have demonstrated this succinctly in his reply rather than just to assert it and provide a reference. So, I stick with my initial words that: “If Luke is trying to impress someone he won’t make his core reason for writing based on a fictional and imaginary character that was conjured up in his fellow disciples imagination.”
Now, I could still conclude, in agreement with Carrier (which I don’t), that Luke could have lied repeatedly on other less important subjects, but I could still be rational to hold that he was telling the truth in his writing to Theophilus. Why would Luke lie about such an obvious thing, such as that of Jesus’ existence on whom many others before him had written? Luke could possibly sneak a lie in on some occasions, but to think he would do so on such a major and obvious facet (that being Jesus’ existence or non-existence) of early Christianity stretches credulity. However, many historians have concluded that Luke is actually a capable and reliable historian, as Robert Van Voorst remarks: “Research into the historical Jesus has found the distinctive contents of Luke, both teaching and narrative, to have a high degree of authenticity.” (‘Jesus Outside of the New Testament’)
“There is a reason why this view is the sole possession of an energetic bunch of fringe atheists and has never been entertained as a possibility by experienced and respected scholars working in the field of Christian Origins.”
-Mike Bird (‘Yes, Jesus existed … but relax, you can still be an atheist if you want to.’)
POINT 16: “The Gnostic Gospels.”
In this point I argued that some sayings of of Jesus are thought, or at least might, be independent of the traditional Gospels. But on this possibility Carrier writes that these would be: “Just more redactions of Mark. Useless.”
This is presumptuous. Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock write in their book Dethroning Jesus that: “In our view, there is a good chance that many of the sayings of Jesus in Thomas may well be authentic. The great majority of these, of course, find parallels in the canonical gospels.” According to Wallace and Bock a minority of authentic sayings from Thomas may go back to Jesus. German New Testament scholar Otfried Hofius believes that some sayings, although very rare, found in the Gnostic literature might really go back to the original Jesus (saying 82 of the Gospel of Thomas, a phrase in the Gospel of the Hebrews, a fragment in the Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1224). On the other hand some scholars don’t believe there to be sufficient reason for concluding that authentic sayings exist in the Gnostic literature, in this case notably the historian John Meier argues against it. Either way this is debatable, and the assertion that it is just based off a redaction of Mark seems presumptuous.
“In the academic mind, there can be no more doubt whatsoever that Jesus existed than did Augustus and Tiberius, the emperors of his lifetime. Even if we assume for a moment that the accounts of non-biblical authors who mention him – Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger and others – had not survived, the outstanding quality of the Gospels, Paul’s letters and other New Testament writings is more than good enough for the historian.”
-Carsten Peter Thiede (‘Jesus, Man or Myth?’)
POINT 17: “Historical ripple.”
Carrier writes that: “This is just a duplication of point 9. Worse, this time Bishop essentially says you can’t explain the ridiculous fictions like the Infancy Gospels without a real Jesus. He may as well insist Hercules and Zeus existed by this point. There is just no valid argument here at all.”
From this I argue that many groups/communities of people, several within 100 years of Jesus’ existence, assumed he lived and their writings based on him show this. This is not just one group but a few including Jewish, Gnostic, and, of course, Christian (New Testament, apostolic fathers). Basically, I am dubious of multiple communities (even excluding New Testament communities) writing on a historical figure that did not exist. What this goes to show is that Jesus’ non-existence was never assumed by any of the earlier ancient communities both before and after the 1st century. This shows that mythicism is but a modern convention.
“Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.”
-F. F. Bruce (‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’)
POINT 18: “Josephus refers to Jesus, twice.”
Carrier: “No, he almost certainly did not (OHJ, ch. 8.9). And even if he did, he used the Gospels as his source. So he can provide no independent evidence.”
Please read my initial point again in my blog article. I’ve provided more than sufficient reasons, in accordance to leading scholars of history as well as Josephus/Jewish scholars, for believing that Josephus did refer to Jesus twice both in his disputed and undisputed passages. But Carrier says that he provides no independent evidence for Jesus but merely used the Gospels as his source. According to the historian Van Voorst this is not the case as “…the wording of almost every element indicates that Josephus did not draw it, directly or indirectly, from first-century Christian writings.” (Van Voorst, Robert. ‘Jesus outside the New Testament’) Another reason for suspecting this is that Josephus mentions the death of Jesus’ brother James of which is not mentioned anywhere in our New Testament literature.
“But the claim that Jesus was a figment of religious imagination and not a figure of first-century history is, quite frankly, amateur hour. It deserves to be as ignored in the public sphere as much as it is in historical circles.”
-John Dickson (‘The Irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus.’)
POINT 19. “Cornelius Tacitus refers to Jesus.”
Carrier: “Actually, he probably didn’t (OHJ, ch. 8.10). And even if he did, he used Christians repeating the Gospels as his source (ibid.). So, he can provide no independent evidence.”
Firstly, he did. On the authenticity of the passage it is readily accepted by the majority of scholars ( Van Voorst, Robert. ‘Jesus Outside the New Testament’ & Portier, William. ‘Tradition and Incarnation: Foundations of Christian Theology’). There is, however, still debate surrounding this reference even though the majority of historians agree that Tacitus provides a unique account of Jesus.
Now, why should we be skeptical of Carrier saying that he used “Christians repeating the Gospels as his source”? Firstly, we don’t have definitive proof that Tacitus did not consult Christians, nor do we have, as Carrier chooses to believe, proof that he did.
However, what has convinced many of his significance is that Tacitus was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a council of priests whose duty it was to supervise foreign religious cults in Rome. According to Van Voorst this makes it reasonable to suppose that he would have acquired knowledge of Christian origins through his work with that body, and not based off hearsay and gossip. We also know that Tacitus distinguishes between confirmed and hearsay accounts almost 70 times in his History. If he so readily confirmed things to be hearsay or genuine then why didn’t he gives this disclaimer that his account was unverified? According to the prominent New Testament scholar Crossan, he writes: “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus… agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.” (Crossan, John. ‘Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography’)
But in conclusion regarding both Tacitus and Josephus we would still need to establish Jesus’ existence on other grounds (which I have in other articles, and what we are undertaking here). To this end both these historians provide valuable corroboration of events in the life of Jesus and early Christians, and are worth mentioning. Some scholars view these ancient historians as pivotal in the case of establishing the life of Jesus while others are more cautioned, yet non are so hyper-skeptical as Carrier is. I also believe that the basic fact that these two historians mention Jesus, whether based on investigative research or on hearsay information, show us that Jesus’ existence was never disputed by his earliest followers or by his enemies. Such is antithetical to the mythicist case and is, by my judgment, a knockdown blow against it.
“This may seem silly to stress, but through the years some have denied that Jesus ever lived. The non-biblical sources put such nonsense to rest.”
–Robert Stein (‘Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ’)
POINT 20: “Suetonius mentions Jesus.”
I shall concede this point to Carrier as over time I have come to agree with Ehrman’s view on the matter, Ehrman writes: “At the end of the day, I think we can discount Suetonius as too ambiguous to be of much use.” (Ehrman, Bart. ‘Did Jesus Exist?’) Likewise, I agree, thus I shall amend my list in the revised edition.
“An extreme instance of pseudo-history of this kind is the “explanation” of the whole story of Jesus as a myth.”
Emil Brunner (‘The Mediator: A Study of the Central Doctrine of the Christian Faith.’)
POINT 21: “Serapion mentions Jesus.”
Carrier: “That’s both disputed and irrelevant. We cannot prove this source was written before even the mid-second century or that it is independent of the Gospels. It is therefore useless.”
It is true that: “We cannot prove this source was written before even the mid-second century,” but nor can we prove that it wasn’t (we only see that Carrier doesn’t want it to be). According to Robert Van Voorst most scholars date the letter to shortly after 73 AD (‘Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence’). If that were so then it would mean that it is a rather early source written very near to the time that the Gospels of Mark and Luke were authored.
However, regarding it being irrelevant I must disagree. According to Van Voorst he sees little doubt that the reference to the execution of the “king of the Jews” is about the death of Jesus. Bruce Chilton, a scholar of early Christianity and Judaism states that Bar-Serapion reference to the “king of Jews” may be related to the inscription on the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark (15:26). Although Serapion does not mention Jesus by name it is much more likely that he is being referred to here as opposed to someone else since he specifically states just “after that their kingdom was abolished,” and only Jesus fits into the appropriate timeline as Titus destroyed Jerusalem a mere 36 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Any other likely figures lived approximately 170-250 years prior to the desolation.
So, although we cannot be certain of its date Serapion is by no means “useless” and “irrelevant.”
“[The non-Christian references to Jesus from the first two centuries] render highly implausible any farfetched theories that even Jesus’ very existence was a Christian invention. The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (for whatever reason) and that he had a band of followers who continued to support his cause, seems to be the part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score.”
-Christopher Tuckett (‘The Cambridge Companion to Jesus.’)
POINT 22: Pliny the Younger mentions Jesus.”
Carrier: “Only as a deity some people worshiped. He says nothing that places him in earth history as a man.”
Why think this when we have already established that Paul and the Gospels place Jesus on the Earth as a flesh and blood human being? To that end it seems quite normal that Pliny would be referencing an Earthly and historical Jesus. But, nevertheless, as a late source probably based of hearsay information I shall exclude it from my revised edition.
“The proposition has been questioned, but the alternative explanations proposed—the theories of the “Christ myth school,” etc.—have been thoroughly discredited.”
-Morton Smith (‘Jesus the Magician.’)
POINTS 23/24/25. (Refer to disclaimer 2.)
POINT 26: “Clement of Rome writes on Jesus’ existence.”
Carrier: “Not on earth (OHJ, ch. 8.5). Clement seems only to know of a Jesus as a revelatory being who communicates through visions and having planted hidden messages in the Jewish scriptures. Just like Paul. So Clement’s letter actually counts against historicity.”
Regarding the value of these early church fathers Ehrman writes: “There are also important independent sources among Christian writers from about the same time as Tacitus, writers who convey information about the historical Jesus and certainly attest to his existence. They do so without deriving, or even most, of their information from the Gospel sources.” (Ehrman, Bart. ‘Did Jesus Exist?’)
Clement wrote his letter early. According to ‘Encounters with Hellenism: Studies on the First Letter of Clement’ by Leiden and Boston many scholars believe 1 Clement was written around the same time as the Book of Revelation (95 – 97 AD). In his letter Clement makes no reference to the New Testament Gospels yet at the same time quotes sayings of Jesus independent of them. Ehrman continues: “It’s all the more impressive that the author of 1 Clement, like Ignatius and the Papius, not only assumes that Jesus lived but that much of his life was well known.”
But, what are some of these things? Bear in mind Carrier’s claim that Clement only knows of Jesus as a “revelatory being.” From Clement’s letter we learn that Christ spoke words to be headed (1 Clement 2.1), that his sufferings were “before your eyes” (2.1), that Jesus taught gentleness and patience (13. 1-2), that Jesus came humbly (16.2), and that he came from Jacob “according to the flesh” (32.2). These teachings listed here that Clement wrote are not exhaustive, but certainly more than exhaustive enough to put a hole in Carrier’s assertion that Clement only talks about a spiritual, non-physical Jesus. Such is far from the truth.
“These claims have long since been exposed as historical nonsense. There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine in the first three decades of our era, probably from 6-7 BC to 30 AD. That is a fact.”
-Walter Kasper (‘Jesus the Christ.’)
POINT 27: “Ignatius of Antioch writes on Jesus’ existence.”
Carrier: “Using only Gospels as his source. And nearly a century after the fact. Therefore, useless (OHJ, ch. 8.6).”
The first issue is that Ignatius did not write “nearly a century after the fact” (which would be 130 AD). In fact, Ignatius wrote in the early 2nd century somewhere between 105 – 115 AD. Now, before Carrier tries to play his card that Ignatius was not referring to a blood and flesh Jesus, let me dispel that possibility. Ignatius, in Ignatius to the Smyrneans, refers to Jesus as “from the family of David according to the flesh,” “truly born of a virgin,” “baptized by John,” “nailed for us in the flesh,” and was “in the flesh even after the resurrection.” In Ignatius to the Trallians he refers to Jesus as “from the race of David and from Mary,” that he “was truly born, both ate and drank, was truly crucified.” The physicality of Jesus is seen all over so let no-one come with the nonsense that he was referring to some spiritual being.
According to Ehrman we see his importance in our quest for the historical Jesus: “He cannot be shown to have been relying on the Gospels. And he was bishop in Antioch, the city where both Peter and Paul spent considerable time in the preceding generation, as Paul himself tells us in Galatians 2.”
Therefore, Ignatius is a further independent account for the historical Jesus. Another crucial point that negates the mythicist view is that Ignatius wished to die as martyr via a gory death in order to emulate Jesus. Why would he do such a thing for someone that did not exist?
“Of course, only a lunatic fringe has ever thought that Jesus did not exist at all.”
-Bernard McGinn (‘Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil.’)
POINT 29/30/31: (Refer to disclaimer 2.)
POINT 32: “Q Document/Source”.
Carrier asserts that Q: “Doesn’t exist.”
To which many scholars (Ehrman, Bock, Wallace, Dunn, Price and others) say that it did. Why? Because we can see that even though Matthew and Luke both consult the Gospel of Mark we can also see that they consulted another source alongside them, but of which does not exist anymore. This is the best explanation for why Matthew and Mark quote verbatim or quote narratives and events in almost identical words (Ehrman, Bart. ‘The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings’). Some scholars have suggested that Q is, or constitutes, multiple textual sources itself. (Mournet, Terence. ‘Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q.’). In opposition to what Carrier asserts the existence of Q is widely supported (Cross, F. ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian church.’). As Ehrman comments:
“[Q document is] a source that must at one time have existed (since Matthew and Luke appear both to have had access to it), that was written in Greek (otherwise Matthew and Luke could not agree word-for-word in places – in Greek — in their non-Markan sayings material), and that contained almost exclusively (or exclusively) sayings of Jesus.” (Ehrman, Bart. ‘Q and the Passion Narrative.’)
Carrier goes on to say that: “Contrary to what Bishop claims, there is absolutely no evidence whatever that Q was written before Mark, or even that it didn’t use Mark as a source—that Q was separate from Mark is based solely on a circular argument.”
I actually mentioned why some scholars have dated Q source before that of Mark. Some have date to as early as the 30’s AD based off it containing six wisdom speeches (40 years before Mark). Either way, Q source must have been composed before Matthew and Luke, and most place it in the 40s or 50s AD. (Dunn, James. ‘Christianity in the Making Volume’) Again, the only dissenter is Carrier.
“If one were able to survey the members of the major learned societies dealing with antiquity, it would be difficult to find more than a handful who believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not walk the dusty roads of Palestine in the first three decades of the Common Era. Evidence for Jesus as a historical personage is incontrovertible.”
-Ward Gasque (‘The Leading Religion Writer in Canada… Does He Know What He’s Talking About?’)
POINTS 33 (L Document/Source) and 34 (M Document/Source”) Carrier simply asserts that both L and M: “Doesn’t exist.”
Again, Carrier is perched on his own branch. Scholar Price writes that: “It seems that a majority of scholars believe that Luke was relying on a substantial source of pre existing source material known as “L” that is distinct from Q and Mark. But few modern scholars have written on the subject or attempted to outline “L”‘s parameters.” (Price, Christopher. ‘The Story of Jesus in Luke’s Unique Material.’) There are six reasons why scholars agree to L (Van Voorst, Robert ‘Jesus Outside the Gospels.’), namely:
(1) L has analogies to sections for which we have external control in Mark and Q;
(2) Luke refers in his preface to ‘many’ written predecessors;
(3) shared linguistic materials are notable within the proposed source;
(4) the source has unifying themes such as women, the poor, and divine grace;
(5) L has changes in the order of some of its material in comparison with Mark, and agreements with Matthew against Mark; and,
(6) tensions in Luke point to different layers of tradition beyond the use of Mark and Q.
One scholar, Paffenroth, has done a thorough investigation of L source, she writes:
“Nine specific thematic groupings have been examined in the L material. The L material begins and ends with stories about tax collectors, widows, and lepers. The first half of the L material seems to be concerned with stories of love, hospitality, and finally, watchful. This final group is the most noticeably different from Lukan theology, in that its eschatology is more imminent than Luke’s own. The second half of the L material, while also echoing some of the same themes, includes many specific references to honor and shame in its stories; it also contains several stories about children of Abraham and the finding of the lost.” (Paffenroth, Kim. ‘The Story of Jesus According to L.’) Paffenroth also dates L source between 40 – 60 AD which is before Mark written in 70 AD. She gives four main reasons:
“As for the date, L should be dated to before 60 CE, perhaps even earlier than 50 CE because 1) it does not hint to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, 2) it lacks most of the Christological titles more common in later Christian literature, 3) it has a high level of residual orality, and 4) its preservation of a large number of sayings, especially parables, that are most often judged as origination from the historical Jesus.”
Like L source, M which is Matthew’s special material continues to be a widely accepted theory among biblical scholars. (Hengel, Martin. ‘The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ.’ & Burkett, Delbert. ‘Rethinking the Gospel Sources.’)
POINT 35: “Pre-Markan source.”
Carrier: “Doesn’t exist (OHJ, ch. 10.4). This is nothing but a speculative invention of Christian apologetics.”
Carrier is yet again perched on his own branch, and it’s about to snap and send him tumbling down. According to Exploring Biblical Greek: “The idea of a pre-Markan passion narrative continues to seem probable to a majority of scholars.” Along the same lines Craig comments that: “Most scholars today agree with this (that Mark had a source he used). Any reconstruction of this source is controversial, and not widely accepted. That is to say, did verse 5 of chapter 15 belong to the pre contents of the pre-Markan passion source may be in debate, the actual existence of this source is readily accepted.” Even the atheist scholar James Crossley dates the pre-Markan narrative some time in the 40s. Paul Meier says we can learn things about Jesus from this source such as his miracles, and that “There are “individual miracles embedded in the pre-Marcan passion narrative (10:46-52).” (Meier, Paul. ‘A Marginal Jew.’)
But, why do scholars think that this pre-Markan source is very early? This is because the pre-Markan passion story never refers to the high priest by name. It is as when I say “The President is hosting a dinner at the White House” and everyone knows whom I am speaking of because it is the man currently in office. Similarly the pre-Markan passion narrative refers to the “high priest” as if he were still in power. Since Caiaphas held office from AD 18-37, this means at the latest the pre-Markan source must come from within seven years after Jesus’ death. This source thus goes back to within the first few years of the Jerusalem fellowship and is therefore an ancient and reliable source of historical information. As the scholar Thiessen opines:
“The date could also be pinpointed: parts of the Passion account would have to have been composed within the generation of the eyewitnesses and their contemporaries, that is, somewhere between 30 and 60 C.E.” (Theissen, Gerd. ‘The Gospels in Context.’)
As of yet the majority of scholars accept this source, but that does not mean things are not debated or that no difficulties exist.
“It is no surprise then that there is no New Testament scholar drawing pay from a post who doubts the existence of Jesus. I know not one. His birth, life, and death in first-century Palestine have never been subject to serious question and, in all likelihood, never will be among those who are experts in the field. The existence of Jesus is a given.”
-Nicholas Perrin (‘Lost in Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus.’)
POINT 36: “Q, L, M, pre-Mark were likely multiple sources themselves.”
Carrier: “There is absolutely no reason to believe this. Or that any of these sources even existed in the first place.”
We have seen that scholars accept the existence of these early sources, and I gave some reasons why such is the case. According to those scholars there is a possibility that these early sources could have been multiple oral and/or textual sources themselves. Again, we cannot say with 100% certainty, but the certainty that Carrier seems to espouse when he claims that these sources never “existed in the first place” makes one ask question his approach to historical evidence, or his attempt at objectivity.
“Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ – the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming.”
-Graeme Clarke (Quoted in ‘Facts and friction of Easter.’)
POINT 37: “Pre-John source(s).”
Carrier: “Doesn’t exist (OHJ. ch. 10.7). John is a free redaction of Mark and Luke. With even more ridiculous embellishments than were attempted by Matthew.”
Again, John is not a redaction of any other New Testament literature as it is entirely independent. Nevertheless, concluded by the likes of Ehrman, Brown, Funk, Theissen and others is that the author of John probably did use a source (or sources) consisting of lengthy discourses for his Gospel (Funk, Robert. ‘Glossary.’). A reason why this is not a redaction of any earlier Gospel is that the hypothetical “Signs Gospel” listing Jesus’ miracles is independent of, and not used by, any of the synoptics. This pre-John source is believed to have been circulating before the year 70 AD which likely dates it before Mark. In current scholarship it is widely agreed that the Gospel of John draws upon a tradition of miracles of Jesus which are substantially independent of the three synoptic gospels, and such is held even by the controversial Jesus Seminar (who are explicity anti-supernaturalists, hence approach history with bias). According to the Jesus Seminar these include the miracles of Jesus turning water into wine, catching of the 153 fish, feeding of the 5000, walking on water, raising Lazarus, the healing of an officials son, and many other events.
Even though some scholars agree with John using an earlier source, according to Theissen, it has not been clarified. (Theissen, Gerd. ‘Christian sources about Jesus.’) However, that does not give Carrier grounds to brashly claim that it doesn’t exist without any substantiation whatsoever.
“There’s no serious question for historians that Jesus actually lived. There’s real issues about whether he is really the way the Bible described him. There’s real issues about particular incidents in his life. But no serious ancient historian doubts that Jesus was a real person, really living in Galilee in the first century.”
-Chris Forbes (In an interview: ‘Zeitgeist: Time to Discard the Christian Story?’)
POINT 38: “The Gospel of Thomas” (See disclaimer 2.)
POINT 39: “Papyrus Egerton 2.″
Carrier: “This is just a redaction of John (or vice versa), which is a redaction of Mark and Luke (OHJ, p. 492, n. 217).”
Firstly, John is not a redaction of Mark and Luke, it is independent of the synoptics (point 10). Secondly, the Papyrus Egerton 2 is not a redaction of John precisely because it presents a parallel but independent tradition to John’s Gospel. In fact, it presents a narrative that is not found in any of the four Gospels, or in the New Testament as a whole. As one scholar explains:
“On the one hand, some scholars have maintained that Egerton’s unknown author composed by borrowing from the canonical gospels. This solution has not proved satisfactory for several reasons: The Egerton Gospel’s parallels to the synoptic gospels lack editorial language peculiar to the synoptic authors, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They also lack features that are common to the synoptic gospels, a difficult fact to explain if those gospels were Egerton’s source.” (Daniels, Jon. ‘The Complete Gospels’)
Another narrative entirely independent of the canonical Gospels is found in Egerton 2. It is a description of Jesus performing a miracle on the Jordan River bank. This has convinced some that it probably holds an independent, therefore, additional account of the historical Jesus.
“From time to time people try to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, but virtually all historians of whatever background now agree that he did, and most agree that he did and said a significant amount at least of what the four gospels say he did and said.”
-N. T. Wright (‘The Resurrection Was as Shocking Then as It Is Now.’)
POINT 40. “Mentioned in 75 sources”
Carrier: “Useless data. None of them are independent of Mark (all derive directly from and embellish Mark, or indirectly from Mark through embellishing intermediaries). Or they don’t ever place Jesus as a man on earth (e.g. Paul, 1 Peter, Hebrews, etc.; OHJ, ch. 11.3, 11.5, etc.).”
I outlay many sources that discuss Jesus within 100 – 150 years of his life. Although I could dismiss many of those sources (see disclaimer 2), a great many still stand (those sources that come from the New Testament, early apostolic fathers, some extra-biblical accounts, Gnostic literature etc.). Many, if not most, of these sources are independent of Mark, and of which place Jesus as a figure that walked the planet. To that end much on this list is certainly “not useless” data.
“The data we have are certainly adequate to confute the view that Jesus never lived, a view that no one holds in any case.”
-Charles E. Carlston (In Bruce Chilton & Craig A. Evans ‘Studying the Historical Jesus.’)
POINT 41. “This topic is not even up for debate.”
“The debate has been published under peer review multiple times. I’ve debated it multiple times. Including at the Society of Biblical Literature this very year. Clearly, it is up for debate.”
I shall draw an analogy. There was a popular debate between Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham and Neo-Darwinist Bill Nye (known as the Science Guy). Does this suggest that Young Earth Creationism is up for debate in the community of evolutionary biology or within any scientific faculty for that matter? No, it isn’t, but part of understanding one’s opponent is allowing them the freedom of expression, and that would entail inviting them to give a talk if that desire came about (as we see Christian agencies regularly do, for instance, Campus Crusade, Fixed Point Foundation, Veritas Forum etc.). Think of Intelligent Design (ID). ID is a think tank of scientists who claim a creative intelligence is the best explanation for certain appearances and features in nature. The literature on the subject is abundant and accessible as ID scientists regularly write up articles for their sites, but very rarely do they ever get published in mainstream science journals because the mainstream community view the ID hypothesis as unscientific or as pseudoscience. Say, for instance, that there are a couple of their articles that got peer reviewed in science journals (Jesus mythicists aren’t even this lucky in historical journals), would that suggest ID theory is up for debate, or that it is going to reshape the specializations of biology or geology? No. The same applies for Jesus mythicism because their hypothesis has been effectively refuted by scholars. Carrier also fails to mention that his debate at the Society of Biblical Literature was merely a regional meeting of the society, and that really doesn’t mean much. Anyone who’s a member can get a paper accepted to be read at a regional meeting.
Carrier should also bear in mind that just because he debates Christians on certain theological, historical subjects regarding Jesus does not mean that those same things are in debate within the scholarly community. Jesus’ existence being one of those things.
“Although it is held by Marxist propaganda writers that Jesus never lived and that the Gospels are pure creations of the imagination, this is not the view of even the most radical Gospel critics.”
-Bernard Ramm (‘An Evangelical Christology: Ecumenic and Historic.’)
In this rebuttal we have seen, in abundance, that Carrier’s theory falls significantly short, but where do we see this most illustrated? Namely in the following:
- That Paul attests to a non-Earthly, physical, flesh and blood Jesus. We saw that this is false, and that he knew of Jesus’ ministry, traditions, events among other things.
- That Clement (writing around 98 AD) refers to a non-Earthly Jesus. This is falsified by numerous references from his epistles.
- That all our sources on Jesus are redactions of our earliest Mark. This is absurdly false.
- That the very short timeframe in which the New Testament was completed after Jesus’ death allowed myth to impugn the historical core. Sherwin White showed Carrier to be woefully mistaken.
- That the earliest forms of criticism on the historical Jesus never existed until 100 years after Paul’s writings (150 AD). Recordings in the Gospels, by Josephus, Justin, and Tacitus prove this false.
- That Josephus and Tacitus do not mention Jesus in their writings. We saw that they certainly did. Never in their writings did they mention, or even hint at, critics claiming Jesus never existed.
- That no historical evidence suggests that the earliest Christians and some of the apostles were martyred. This is false. James (Jesus’ brother), James (John’s brother), Stephen, Paul, and Peter can be established, on historical grounds, to have died for their belief in Jesus. On top of this we saw their, and other very early Christians, willingness to suffer for Jesus is abundantly attested.
- That James was not Jesus’ blood brother. We saw that four independent traditions say that he was, hence Carrier, on historical grounds, is mistaken.
- That early 1st century Christianity is able to spawn so quickly on a mythical figure. This is impossible to defend. Without Jesus there is no Christianity.
- That pre-New Testament sources and materials Q, L, M, pre-Mark, pre-John never existed. Such a view is antithetical to the consensus of scholarship, and we saw that there are rational reasons for believing that they once did.
- That the notion of Jesus’ existence is up for debate in contemporary scholarship. Such is absurdly false, and little attention is given to the mythicist’s theory.
I think just for those reasons, let alone others, it can be rationally concluded that the mythicist theory is anything but defensible. Carrier has to stretch all sorts of evidences we have for Jesus in unnatural ways in order to disqualify it, and in doing so his hypotheses just seems downright implausible, and invalid.
Please make sure to read my revised edition of my initial blog article.