Carrier review on Einhorn's 'Shift in Time'

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Jerry Russell, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Carrier makes his usual drive-by attacks against Atwill in this essay, and also continues with a somewhat condescending attitude against anyone he considers 'amateur'. This is ironic in view of the fact that Carrier's pretensions to being a bona fide professional are shaky at best. And I'm not saying that he isn't well-trained or hard-working. But, being a professional usually includes being paid a living wage by a respected institution, and Carrier has been somewhat challenged in that regard. He does subject 'professionals' to some criticism as well, but I think he'd be well served if he'd just drop the ad hominems and deal with the issues without being so snarky.

    Einhorn's book is based on her earlier paper Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet. The paper argues that Gospel Jesus has many parallels to 'The Egyptian Prophet' character in Josephus. The Amazon preview indicates that in addition to the earlier material, she adds an argument that 'the Egyptian' actually is Jesus, and she gives her thoughts about the motivation for the differences between the accounts in Josephus vs. the Gospels.

    As a review of Einhorn's book, Carrier's blog post does a barely adequate job. Carrier provides a minimal description of her thesis, and offers a few specific criticisms. What's more revealing in the post, is how it describes Carrier's own position on the writing of the Gospels. Carrier says:

    My overall objection to her paper’s thesis matches my overall conclusion regarding her book, which aims to extend the same thesis more broadly. In her paper she argued that Jesus of Nazareth is actually The Egyptian in the narrative of Josephus (see OHJ, p. 70), and that the Gospel authors were just erasing the militaristic aspects of the truth of their would-be savior and relocating him in time to conceal that fact. Neat idea. And not implausible. But the similarities between Jesus and The Egyptian are too few and too generic to be that telling, and in fact they sooner suggest the Gospel authors were just borrowing “modern” ideas with which to construct their stories of Jesus.


    The best competing hypothesis is simply: the Gospel authors are making Jesus up. That is, there was no historical Jesus. He didn’t walk anywhere or do anything on earth (in belief there was still a historical Jesus, undergoing historical events in outer space according to ancient cosmology, but not as a part of human history, which is the Doherty Thesis, and the thesis of my book On the Historicity of Jesus). So he didn’t “actually” or “originally” belong to any decade of history. And indeed, there were Christians dating him even to the 70’s B.C., so variable could they be with where to put him (OHJ, Ch. 8.1). So when the Gospel authors created a historical Jesus out of other heroes and prophets (from Moses to Elijah to Jesus ben Ananias and, we may even suppose, John the Baptist), they were not particularly concerned with chronological precision. They saw the whole period from the 30s to the 60s as simply one and the same time, and borrowed from all those decades whatever resonated for them the most. And for this they all drew on Josephus (particularly Mark on the Jewish War and Luke on the Jewish Antiquities), who is also Einhorn’s only source for comparison, thus explaining all the convenient agreements. The end result would be exactly the same evidence Einhorn points to.
    The remark that "similarities between Jesus and The Egyptian are too few and too generic to be that telling" is all too typical of Carrier's cynicism regarding striking parallels. But in this case, aside from the snide insinuations that Einhorn's work is too amateur to be bothered with, Carrier really doesn't try very hard to deny the parallels. Instead, his response is based on the claim that this 'Egyptian' is no historical Jesus.

    In his book 'On the Historicity of Jesus', Carrier defines what he means by a 'historical Jesus':

    This gets us down to just three minimal facts on which historicity rests:

    1. An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.

    2. This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.

    3. This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod). That all three propositions are true shall be my minimal theory of historicity.​

    As Tim Hendrix pointed out, there are huge mathematical problems with doing a Bayesian analysis comparing one carefully designed hypothesis against another equally elaborate compound hypothesis, ignoring an entire universe of other possibilities. For example, what if someone met all the criteria in the list, except that his name was not Jesus? Or, what if the movement was not identifiable as such on a continuous basis both before and after his death? In either case, wouldn't we feel that we had found 'historical Jesus' in spite of those minor problems?

    Also, the definition contains many weasel words: how many followers does Carrier mean by "some"? What does he mean by "identifiable"? How much time is allowed for "soon"? And, how is this "identifiable movement" supposed to connect with Christianity?

    Putting mathematical concerns aside -- if we interpret these open questions fairly liberally, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that 'The Egyptian' probably does meet Carrier's requirements for a 'Historical Jesus'. Regarding the three criteria:

    1) We have no reason to doubt Josephus in the claim that 'the Egyptian' was a real man. Josephus doesn't tell us his name, but we can't rule out that it was Jesus. Josephus says he acquired some 30,000 followers in life. There's no evidence that his movement was self-conscious as such (holding meetings, choosing officers, etc.) but these people were, in general, nationalist Jews who would have belonged to various sects including Zealots, Essenes, and so forth. Among the membership of all these various groups, 'The Egyptian' would have been remembered as a historical character, and some traditions about his teachings must have survived. It's highly likely that at least some followers of 'the Egyptian' recognized him as the Jewish Messiah.

    2) Josephus' account is clear, that 'The Egyptian' escaped. But considering the circumstances, his followers certainly would have had cause to be concerned, and 'some' probably thought the worst, that he must have been killed.

    3) At the time the Gospels were first written and publicized, it seems reasonable that some of its audience would have recognized that 'The Egyptian' (that is, a historical Jewish messiah candidate) was being represented or caricatured in the Gospels. But, many of those same people didn't know much about the details of the Egyptian's life; possibly not even as much as Josephus described. Surely at least 'some' would accept the Gospel version of events, and thus worship this person, who they understood to be 'The Egyptian', as a living God. They were inclined to respect any Messianic candidate as a sort of divine being, anyhow.

    QED. By his own definition, Carrier really ought to accept 'The Egyptian' as a Historical Jesus. For that matter, there's absolutely no reason why there couldn't be more than one such person.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2016
  2. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    This is a rather ironic issue since the Jesus described in the gospels and his gospel 'brethren' would not be able to recognize Nicene Christianity and its Roman precursor as anything resembling their own movement.
  3. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    The Jesus of the gospels is quite a mixed bag, at least when it comes to his political & economic views. One minute he is not bringing peace but a sword, or he's overturning tables at the temple. The next minute he is blathering on about lilies in the field, and the meek inheriting the earth.

    The parts about rendering unto Caesar seem compatible enough with the later Roman church.

    Maybe what you mean is, that 'The Egyptian' wouldn't recognize much about Constantine's Jesus?
  4. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    No, I simply mean that the Jesus depicted, and his disciples and brothers, were part of the Jewish nationalist movement. That was the whole point of Paul in persuading the Jerusalem 'church' to allow him to minister to the gentiles. So, per Carrier's own criteria, would that Jesus have been able to recognize his own movement, much less anybody else 2,000 years later?
  5. I think some of these things are plays on words which may make them seem more congruent when considered in that light. For example, "meek" inheriting "earth" at first blush seems like a pretty good deal for the timid (and quite in contrast with the modern consumer-focussed "prosperity gospel"), but if we assume that Jesus is talking about matters of the Spirit, then I think He is saying that those who are "meek" in their faith are like those who have passed on and are buried in their "inherited" home in the earth
  6. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    If I remember correctly from Fideler, that Posidonius(?) led to the general gnostic school of thought that our existence on Earth was the same as Hell and the successful graduation from was the reaching of Heaven (or one of the heavens?). In this case, then if we are not bold enough to break with conventional fears then were doomed to be stuck here.

    Of course, it was also in the elites' interest to have the hoi polloi believe that being meek relative to them was the best option.
  7. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    They were definitely depicted as Jewish. But would you agree with Joe's point, that they were not depicted with the attitudes you would expect for a group of zealous nationalists? They seem entirely too otherworldly for that, they hate Pharisees beyond all reason, and sometimes show very unlikely sympathies with the Romans.
  8. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    Agreed, and the odd mashup tends to lend for contrivance in my view. The Jerusalem church was hung up on Jewish practices, such as circumcision and communally eating separate from goys. How does one equivocally keep one foot firmly in the door and the other out, especially if one is making such a big deal about doing the correct thing spiritually, and upholding the Judaic Law?
  9. So then the Lord has found a way to satisfy everyone. Those with the boldness of Spirit to remain materially meek will inherit the Heavens, while the spiritually meek who are the elite in the realm of their father Satan get to cover themselves with more of the material dust from whence they came and to which they shall return

    "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." -- Romans 13:10 (NRSV)
  10. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    If you want to accept such, but remember it is all metaphor - which requires even further iterpretation.
    Whose law?
  11. People who boldly follow the path of the Spirit, who place the teachings of the Scripture before the quotes on the stock page, they may not be so blessed in worldly matters - material things, money, etc - but they will reap the fruit of the Spirit - "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" - things of greater value which cannot be purchased for any amount of money without the bold effort of the individual. Those who meekly shy away from pursuit of the Spirit in order to chase worldly things which they can materially possess will find that in the end, no material treasure is so vast that it can fill the void left by the withering of the Spirit within.

    The pagan Hellenist, Horace, had already said it previously like this: "He lives well on little, whose meagre table gleams with his father’s salt-cellar, whose soft sleep isn’t driven away by anxiety, or by sordid greed Why do we struggle so hard in our brief lives for possessions? Why do we exchange our land for a burning foreign soil? What exile flees from himself as well?"

    If I may be excused for returning to this question, assuming Josephus wrote or was on the committee who wrote this line about the meek inheriting the earth, I can't help but think of who in his immediate circle would have had to have come to mind as having inherited (the better part of) the (known) earth. If Josephus was really a Benedict Arnold, his fellow tories certainly had a sense of humor about how the fictitious peasant messiah characterized them in his famous sermon

    I'm certain this is a trick question, but, "the Lord"?
  12. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    While I almost perfectly agree with your sentiment. However, your bringing up the suspected Jew, Horace (as with Livy - the "law maker"), demonstrates a contradiction to the standard Christian claim for being the one and only way to salvation (aka knowledge). Especially if you believe that Horace was indeed a pagan.

    I reassert that one needs both spiritual blessings and material blessings, aka balance. Other-wise, you agree (don't you?) that you would be ... unbalanced. How can one claim to be balanced if they have not had enough tacos and donuts? You agreed before that singing 24/7 in the choir was going to get pretty boring PDQ.

    You are wanting to project an interpretation that reflects your 'wants' for what Reality should conform to, rather than being open to the fact that there are certain deceitful ones who regularly use the contextual holes that all languages inherently provide - especially when ambiguity is present, to Lord it over the rest of their kind who are programmatically conditioned for Meek conformity.

    Indeed ....

    Read my prior last line.

    Isn't it ironic that in such a discussion about "the Law" that there is such ambiguity there. What kind of lawyer leaves such ambiguity in place, unless that was intended for some purpose? He came to uphold the law, or did he mean to undo the law (supercede)? Before the Law, what was the Law? He is the prince of peace, who came to sow strife. Well, how can one one appreciate 'peace' if they don't know some 'strife'?

    So I ask you again, "Whose law"?
  13. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    At a risk of bringing the discussion back to the original topic -- I'd just like to point out to Marcilla that 'The Egyptian' would make a great character to include in the 'Sons of the Fathers' movie; and that author Lena Einhorn is a very well-known documentary film-maker. As such, it might be worthwhile to reach out and get her thoughts about the project.
  14. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    If I remember correctly, her first book on the topic had a very unique premise, that Jesus 'the (gnostic) Egyptian' then morphed into (gnostic) Paul, taking advantage of the time shift. But this would require some 'actors' to be operating on false premises, having themselves on the realstage as portraying some other entity and agenda. Hmmm, how could that be? Humans were not so deviously clever back then.
  15. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    I guess we'll just have to buy the new book, and find out if she's still supporting the older premise. Detering, Price and Eisenman all identify 'Simon Magus' as the original Gnostic Paul, but he seems to be a Samaritan rather than an Egyptian, and I don't think there's any record of him attracting a huge following.
  16. Please excuse my mischaracterization if Horace is not pagan. However, as he spoke true testimony aka logos, therefore I submit that he did have "the way, the truth, and the light" of Jesus within him

    "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." -- Matthew 6:28b-33

    Please excuse my ignorance, but I am at a loss for what you are saying here. If I may ask, to what contextual hole are you referring?

    :: turning to Jerry :: Objection, Your Honor. Assumes facts not in evidence. Counsel has not established what the ambiguity is, let alone whether or not it exists

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17 (NRSV)

    I'm not certain what you mean, but prior to the Mosaic Law was the Noahide Law

    :: turning back to Jerry :: Objection, Your Honor. Asked and answered. If counsel desires a different answer, he needs to pose a different question


    While I'm certainly not ready to scrap it, I think SotF suffers from lack of a pre-existing documentary which deals more broadly with the various theories and how they maybe align with one another, as well as my placing Josephus as the central character, when it seems people want to know "why" the Flavians would have been interested in such a thing. Therefore, I am leaning towards a documentary, and replacing SotF with something more focussed specifically on Titus, and trying to explain how producing the Gospels fulfilled his needs
  17. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    "Your Honor"?? You look for honor among us wolves? Well, I'm flattered, let me see if I can pull some robes on...

    I believe the ambiguity Richard is referring to, is how Jesus can be portrayed both as 'prince of peace' and as one who 'brings a sword', and who in fact brings such strife. And don't try to wriggle out of it by trying to move into some spiritual realm, we're talking about textual criticism here.

    Perhaps I can re-state the question again. What Lord are you talking about? Do you mean some supernatural being, the Creator of the Universe, who you claim has provided The Law by means of His privileged Word, the Holy Bible?

    Or do you mean the earthly Lords, Titus and Vespasian, who wrote down The Law in their Holy Bible by way of their servant, Josephus; superseding the earlier version of the Law, the Mosaic, which had been created by Egyptian Pharaohs and redacted by the Achaemenid Persians? And their successors, human beings all?

    In that case, I would be curious what improvements you're hoping to make vis-a-vis the existing documentary by Heede & Sparke? Besides, isn't the audience for sword & sandal dramas a lot bigger than the audience for documentaries?
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  18. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    Hmmm, did Jesus consider the Sadducees as being 'Genteel' or 'Jew'?

    So I say that the person writing for this Jesus almost got it correct. One should strive for balance in all things.

    It seems fairly clear to me, but maybe not. It's also highly possible that I mistook your initiating comment about Josephus backwards, as that you are still questioning that he was a traitor to the nationalists that he was supposedly fighting (not too hard) for.

    So, in my initial assumption I'll proceed, and if my interpretation of your statement was wrong then one can still take the following for what it is worth. And my misunderstanding can also be applied to the communication problem discussed below.

    The process of using languages, verbally and textually, is fraught with numerous problems, and when one spends time reading those who study such issues, including antiquarians, they all seem to agree that this is the inherent case. Fideler addresses such, and the correctly perceived needs of the wise ones to utilize other media to attempt to fill in the gaps. One problem is the issue of the multiple contextual meanings any word might have, and secondly there is the problem of imprecision of usage (and comprehension) that can be caused for various reasons, witting or unwitting. There is also the related problem of translations, that, for witting or unwitting purposes, have strayed far from the original. My favorite being Isaiah 45:7. To reframe the original: "If you (the Creator) really made it, you Own it."

    So, whenever you appeal to the canon, are you so sure that you understand the author'(s) contexts (esoteric and exoteric), or conversely that you aren't instead using a different context that both the culture and its corrupt institutions have adopted over time?

    Why are you turning to Jerry?

    The facts are in evidence. Jesus essentially left the interpretation of "the Law" up in the air. The Jews supposed they were to take the Mosaic Law literally, like: 'don't cook your kid goat in its mother's milk'. Whereas Jesus said obey the spirit of the law. Does this mean become a vegetarian, or what? The supercessionist goy Church took this to mean: 'When in the Roman empire, do what the Romans do (except for leaving your unwanted babies out in the street, that is, albeit that this practice did not make Augustus happy either)'.

    So does this mean you are a Kosher Methodist?

    Why couldn't He get it right the first time? Maybe He eventually realized that condemning an entire tribe of people to slavery for eternity simply because their patriarch witnessed his drunken and naked father laying on the floor wasn't indicative of merit. And these laws were named after the first Post-Diluvian winemaker/wino?

    But what was the law before that?
  19. "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17 (NRSV)

    In any event, I am unaware of anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus is referred to as "Prince of Peace"
    Jesus says He fulfills the law, which His audience would have interpreted as the Mosaic Law, but He seems to me to be making reference to Holy Law in a more general "laws of G-d's nature" sense than in a "specific laws created within a particular religious context" sense.

    Two things I feel compelled to mention: 1) do we need a different font color for discussing ideas as theo-philosophical aspects of the Scriptural story versus things we think have some basis in historical material reality? and 2) for the record, I am only offering my personal perspectives as a student of the Scriptures, and not as a representative of the UMC or any other religious body, thus they should be taken as "spiritual talk" only, and do not constitute "spiritual advice"

    The audience for a drama will be bigger, yes. For this reason, it will need a bigger budget, which I can't realistically command just yet.

    I would not presume to improve upon CM. It is what it is, and I would think that it brought me from church to here says more than anything I could add. What I am considering would be something broader, and consequently less focussed. A directory that would point the way to CM and other docs which go into further detail, once the curious are hooked

    All I can say with certainty is that they are often mentioned in the same breath as the Pharisees

    May I ask where to find the evidence for this "not fighting too hard" accusation that continues to resurface?

    My context is only prayerful consideration. I am just saying what seems reasonable to me, not quoting real theologians

    His website? Good question, as he seems more like co-counsel for the prosecution!

    What does your heart say?

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that. I am vegetarian, however, and I do try to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, as well as to love my neighbor as myself

    And here I thought the question was, "why couldn't we"

    IDK that there is any codified law before that in the Torah

    Incidentally, does Mr. Carrier have a theory on the origin of the Gospel story to which he subscribes?
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
  20. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Counsel is trying to win on a technicality, everybody knows who Isaiah 9:6 is talking about.

    I probably should give up talking about theology, and restrict myself entirely to things I think might have basis in historical reality. That way I can continue to write in monochrome.

    Jesus is a fictional character. Some real historical person wrote those lines and put them in Jesus' mouth. Are you with us on that?

    Well, you can see what he said in the passage quoted above, "the Gospel authors are making Jesus up." He believes that Christianity originated within some Jewish sect that was expecting a Messiah, and that early Christianity was a mystery religion based on Hellenistic-Judaic syncretism. So, I think he would say that the Gospels must have been written by members of that sect. In his article on Atwill, he wrote:

    Christianity was probably constructed to “divert Jewish hostility and aggressiveness into a pacifist religion, supportive of–and subservient to–Roman rule,” but not by Romans, but exasperated Jews like Paul, who saw Jewish militarism as unacceptably disastrous in contrast with the obvious advantages of retooling their messianic expectations to produce the peaceful moral reform of society.​

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