Richard Carrier replies!

Discussion in 'Richard Carrier, meet Barnum & Bailey' started by Jerry Russell, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Killing Crankery with Bayesian Reasoning: The Kooky & Illogical Postflaviana Review

    But I'll begin by admitting where I was clearly, flagrantly and undeniably wrong. Carrier's description of his peer review process was here (updated link):

    I sought four peer review reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity, and two have returned their reports, approving with revisions, and those revisions have been made. Since two peers is the standard number for academic publications, we can proceed. And Sheffield’s own peer reviewers have approved the text. Two others missed the assigned deadline, but I’m still hoping to get their reports and I’ll do my best to meet any revisions they require as well.

    I missed where Carrier said that "Sheffield's own peer reviewers have approved the text", these being anonymous reviewers. So it was what I consider a "standard academic peer review process". Or, much more so than a "pal review" process.

    In his reply, Carrier supplies a link to a Wiley page with further information on typical review processes for academic books. And here's what it says:

    There are normally three distinct stages in a book’s life when the services of a peer reviewer may be called upon. The first is in assessing an initial book proposal (and perhaps sample chapter), which may either have arrived on the Commissioning Editor’s desk unsolicited, or be a project the editor was actively looking for. The second instance the peer review process can be used is once a book project has been contracted with the publisher, and the author submits a batch of chapters or even a complete manuscript to be checked. While this is not necessary for most books, it can be invaluable when the author or publisher need specific content checked for accuracy or readability. The final time the peer review process is most frequently employed is after a book has published, which is especially useful when considering improvements that could be made for a potential new edition.
    The "second instance" is the only pre-publication step that even might involve a careful review of most or all chapters of a book. And Wiley clearly states it is not necessary for most books. That corresponds perfectly to my very limited experience with preparing chapters for academic books: authors simply didn't worry much about the peer review process for most of the content, once the book proposal had been accepted. But as to this "second instance", I was indeed ignorant that it even existed, and I stand corrected.

    And more importantly, in the case of Carrier's book: considering the highly controversial nature of the contents, it's no small achievement that the book was approved by Sheffield's anonymous reviewers.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  2. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Now, getting on to a point where I think Carrier is just as wrong as I was about his book's peer review status...

    We have disputed whether Carrier's two hypotheses of "minimal historicity" vs. "minimal mythicism" are mutually exclusive. Carrier insists that they are indeed mutually exclusive, by definition, because:

    A Jesus who communicated with his followers “only” through dreams and visions, clearly cannot have been “an actual man at some point named Jesus [who] acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.” These are literally mutually exclusive propositions.
    But, Carrier's definition of the mythicist Jesus has nothing to do with the actual properties of Jesus. As rationalists, we should all be able to agree that there was no such thing as a Jesus who communicated with his followers "only" through dreams and visions. According to the minimal mythicist view, this is all happening in the believers' imaginations. And it is entirely possible that one sect believed in a "mythical" (purely spiritual, incorporeal) Jesus, and another sect believed in a Jesus who was a historical human being. And both of these sects were later subsumed into the early medieval Roman church.

    And I'm speaking of "possibility" in two senses here. Logically, it's necessary to save a place in the statistical contingency chart for every possibility, even if the historical probability is close to zero. But I also added that I consider this explanation highly likely. Historically, there were at least two major sects of early Christianity: the Jewish Messianic sect of James, and the Roman "Chrestian" sect of Paul. Many readers see this conflict implicitly described in Acts and the Epistles. I don't understand why Carrier sees this as tinfoil hat speculation; although one major exponent of this view is Robert Eisenman, who Carrier tends to dismiss as another tinfoil hat nutter.

    And I wish I had been the first to see that Carrier's two hypotheses are overlapping. But, I'm not. I provided a link to a critical review by Thomas Colignatus (Thomas Cool), who explained the problem by using a contingency table. Perhaps Carrier's mathematical concerns will be better satisfied by this more formal analysis:

    Minimal theoretical versions h and m
    Carrier presents hypotheses of the historical (h) or mythical (m) Jesus, but in minimal versions. This allows him to argue:

    1. All relevant (larger) historical or mythical theories should satisfy at least one of those minima.
    2. Relevant is the comparison of the marginal probabilities, with μ = Pr[m] and η = Pr[h].
    3. When both events would occur, i.e. that there was both a sect with a myth of some redeemer (Yehoshua means “saviour”) and at the same time a historical Joshua being crucified, with later perhaps some merger, then the joint probability ε would not be relevant for one’s view, and may be regarded as zero. (I am not sure yet whether I correctly interprete Carrier’s view on this.)
    4. When both events would not occur, i.e. no mythical sect and no crucified Jesus, then there would be no reasonable explanation for the rise of Christianity, and the joint probability (δ) would be zero. For example, the deliberate political creation by the Romans in the theory by Joseph Atwill (see below) might be argued to fall in this category. However, the latter would still fit m and thus let us indeed take δ = 0. (Adapted 2015-01-29.)
    5. From the latter two zero’s it indeed is a matter of μ versus η (see OHJ:55).
    6. His estimate is that μ = Pr[m] ≥ 67% and η = Pr[h] ≤ 33%, so that the evidence makes it twice more likely that Jesus was a mythical than a historical figure.
    Probability h (historical Jesus)not-hsum
    m (mythical Jesus)εμ – ε μ = Pr[m]
    not-mη – ε δ = 0 1 – μ
    sumη = Pr[h] 1 – η1

    The joint case with ε is an issue. Are h and m defined sufficiently sharp to prevent an overlap ? Perhaps ε is actually quite large, so that it dominates the outcomes for μ and η, so that the distinction between the latter is rather meaningless. Both groups would be right, somehow. There might be various Jesuses, also called Brian. Consider the Egyptian, below. Or consider some person like Flavius Josephus who saved some people from the destruction of Jerusalem, and got a story going that he was a saviour. Perhaps some stories of such remarkable persons got mingled with existing stories about angels and other mythical beings. One might argue that only the existence of such a myth story would allow the absorption of such stories about real people. Others might find joy in being able to point to such an inspiring person. So that the distinction somewhat evaporates. Crucifixion is important, and let us look at how many preaching Jesuses might have been crucified in that period: which is the proper one ? (My calculation is a bit more complex than OHJ:31.) Carrier is right that the methodology causes us to focus on the arguments around ε. But it seems that researchers did so already before. The real problem is that they have not been willing to take a scientific attitude and allow that there is no historical Jesus.

    Carrier's error is that he rejects (assigns a probability zero) to the very hypothesis which (IMHO) best explains all the historical evidence. This historical background is beyond the scope of my original review, but is covered in my article "Christianity is Flavian Vanity" (an introduction to the Flavian Origins Theory of Christianity.)
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  3. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Regarding the Jewish Messianic sect of James, here is the relevant passage from my article. Note that the key source for my argument is Robert Eisenman, a scholar whose central claims Carrier dismisses as "no less fringe.... than Joseph Atwill". This in spite of the fact that Eisenman's academic standing is far more prestigious than Carrier's. Carrier says that Eisenman's book "The New Testament Code" was "practically impossible for me to follow or understand." Now, on the one hand, I'd suggest perhaps Carrier should refrain from criticizing that which he can't understand; and on the other hand, I admit that this is a problem. That's why I recommend reading Andrew Gould's summary.

    I wrote:

    In his book Did Jesus Exist, Bart Ehrman gave the following summary of scholarly opinion about the ‘historical Jesus’:

    … there are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree. Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.[vi]

    If such a person did exist, he was certainly living within the historical milieu of that time, and interacting with the forces that were prevalent. To understand that environment, I recommend the works of Robert Eisenman, and also the highly readable summary and review of his work written by Andrew Gould, who wrote:

    By careful distillation, Eisenman is able to exhume the lost voice of the defeated rebellion, which, while it did leave some traces in the New Testament, now speaks directly and forcefully to us through the Dead Sea Scrolls. …. many scholars recognize that the ideological conflict between James and Paul is the engine that drives the entire New Testament. But Eisenman is able to show that this conflict is identical to the one between Jewish nationalists and the Roman-backed Herodian state, which erupted into the conflagration of the Jewish War over exactly the same issues debated by James and Paul.[vi]

    Gould’s review goes on to identify the driving issues behind this ideological conflict, which encompassed not only Judea, but also the entire Mediterranean region, wherever far-flung trading networks controlled by prosperous Jewish merchants and tradesmen of the diaspora competed with their Hellenistic counterparts. On the one side, the Zealots, Sicarii and radical Essenes of the rebellion, rooted in the nationalist tradition of the Maccabees, were concerned about circumcision; the purity of sacrifices and the presence or absence of foreign idols in the Temple; the Hellenistic elite’s practices of niece marriage and sister marriage and intercourse during menstruation, all of which the Zealots viewed as fornication; the purity of dietary practices; the plight of the poor, pitted against the predations of the rich; and the doctrine of salvation by works as well as by faith. On the other side, the Herodians and their allies sought to develop tolerant, cosmopolitan attitudes, in order to facilitate the greatest possible integration with the broader Roman and Hellenistic world.

    Eisenman recognized several episodes in the New Testament that appear to be parodies of historical incidents as they were described in Josephus and other sources. From this, he concludes that the Biblical characters of James and Simon Peter are also likely to be parodies of the real leaders of the Jewish rebellion. In Caesar’s Messiah, Atwill reaches a similar conclusion, and also offers the view that another important rebel leader, and possibly a messiah figure to the rebels, was the character Eleazar.

    The interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls is highly speculative because the scrolls were written as a sort of underground samizdat literature. All references to individuals were done using code words, and allegorical formulations were generally used for political commentary. However, based on a finely woven tapestry of comparisons to other sources, Eisenman argues that the Scrolls are also referring to the events leading up to the Jewish War, and that the colorful depictions of the Righteous Teacher and the Spouter of Lying are referring to James and Paul, respectively.

    In some aspects, we might recognize the religion of the Jewish rebels as a sort of embryonic Christianity. The representations of the earliest Christian ‘koinonia’ community in Jerusalem in the book of Acts may very well be a parody of James’s church of rebels. Some of the wildly self-contradictory aspects of the New Testament may reflect the survival of the rebels’ literature, which was too popular and well-known at the time to be denied or suppressed, but could be incorporated into the Flavian version of the Gospels alongside newer materials promoting the Roman viewpoint.

    However, it would certainly be a mistake to view the Jewish rebel coalition as a purely populist, spiritually and economically progressive movement. Josephus pointed out that they received substantial leadership and economic and political support from the royalty of ‘Adiabene’, consisting of the family of King Monobazus, Queen Helena, and their son Izates. Eisenman noticed that the realms of ‘Adiabene’ and the land of the ‘Edessenes’ seem to be overlapping, and Ralph Ellis has argued that Monobazus, Helena and Izates should be identified as the royal family of the city of Edessa, who were covertly affiliated with the Parthians. According to Ellis, this Izates (who he identifies as the historical King Manu VI) saw himself not only as a messiah to the Jews, but also as a contender for the throne of Rome. If this is the case, then the Jewish rebels were pawns in a vast dynastic struggle being played out between the Parthians and the Romans; and Izates himself was another of (possibly several) rebel leaders parodied as Jesus in the New Testament.[vii] Ellis argues that Izates was, quite simply, the ‘historical Jesus’; but I would have to disagree, based simply on Ehrman’s criterion that ‘historical Jesus’ should be defined as a Jewish man who was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

    Both Ellis[viii] and another self-taught Biblical scholar, Lena Einhorn,[ix] have noticed extensive parallels between Josephus’s narrative of events occurring between the years 44 and 56 CE, and a similar series of events and circumstances in the New Testament narrative covering the years 24 to 36 CE. A central figure in Josephus’s account is the ‘Egyptian prophet’, whose story matches Biblical Jesus in many respects, except that his fate following his arrest at the Mount of Olives is not described by Josephus. Later on, according to Acts (21:38), the Apostle Paul was asked if he was the troublemaking ‘Egyptian’ who stirred up a revolt among the Zealots. Einhorn speculates that the New Testament authors told their story with a 20-year time shift, and that Jesus, Paul and ‘The Egyptian prophet’ may have all been the same individual;[x] or, I would add, perhaps ‘The Egyptian’ was indeed a rebel leader of the Zealots, and was the true (but, contrary to Ehrman, time-transposed) ‘historical Jesus’; and that after his execution, Paul the Herodian stepped into his place and tried to lead his movement in a different direction.

    [v] Bart D Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2013), p. 12.

    [vi] Andrew Gould, ‘Robert Eisenman’s “New Testament Code”’ <> [accessed 14 March 2014].

    [vii] R Ellis, Jesus, King of Edessa (Cheshire; Kempton, Ill.: Edfu Books ; Adventures Unlimited, 2012).

    [viii] R Ellis, King Jesus: From Kam (Egypt) to Camelot (Cheshire; Kempton, Ill.: Edfu Books ; Adventures Unlimited, 2008).

    [ix] Lena Einhorn, ‘Jesus and the “Egyptian Prophet”’, 2012 <> [accessed 15 March 2014].

    [x] Lena Einhorn and Rodney Bradbury, The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2007).
  4. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Carrier wrote:

    There is no evidence of there being those two versions of Christianity in Paul’s day, one with and one without an earthly Jesus. There were certainly many competing sects, about which we aren’t told details. But there is no evidence of that particular divergence existing then, anywhere. To the contrary, the evidence that is in Paul (and all other potentially early sources, e.g. 1 Clement, 1 Peter, Hebrews: OHJ pp. 308-15, 529-31, 538-52, respectively) is wholly incongruent with there having been the earthly creed alongside Paul’s celestial creed. Precisely for the reasons I explain in OHJ (e.g. Chs. 11.1, 11.2, 11.4, 11.6, 11.8): had that been the case, Paul would constantly be confronted with it and have to address it; and Paul could not have argued his gospel was congruent with the first apostles’ to so many congregations who well knew those apostles and their preaching (and they did; that’s precisely why Paul claims he was in alignment with them, and confesses only one incongruence—regarding the requirements of conversion—that he argues they allowed him: see Element 20, Ch. 4).

    In effect, Russell wants to argue for historicity (ironically for an Atwillian) by conceding that all the evidence of Paul confirms mythicism, “but” there “must” have been evidence of historicity from some other people in Paul’s day, even though we have no evidence of that ever having been the case. This wild speculation, contrary to all evidence and based on no evidence, then becomes Russell’s “evidence for” historicity. See how that works? That’s what making a tinfoil hat looks like.
    You can point Carrier to entire books full of evidence that there were two competing versions of Christianity, including the Jamesian sect. Carrier produces a highly tenuous argument based on a dubious interpretation of Paul, who was obviously involved in some sort of conflict with James; Carrier assumes that the Pauline sources are entirely reliable in their accounts of the dispute. In order to maintain his "no evidence" position, Carrier needs to dismiss these books by prestigious academics and diligent non-academics alike (some of which he admits he doesn't understand) as tin foil hat nuttery.

    Oh by the way, Carrier's list of "all other potentially early sources" doesn't include the Dead Sea Scrolls, or for that matter any other non-biblical sources.

    And what is ironic about an Atwillian arguing for historicity? Atwill believes there was a historical Jesus (at least by Carrier's "minimal historicity" definition), and that historical Jesus' name was Titus.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018 at 8:34 PM
  5. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Regarding the idea that a primitive form of Roman Christianity existed before Paul's time, and that Paul stepped into a role as the leader of that cult: in my earlier introductory article, I cited and quoted extensively from "Jesus was Caesar" by Francesco Carotta, "Et Tu Judas? Then Fall Jesus" by Gary Courtney, and "The Real Messiah" by Stephen Huller. But I have since realized that a better source is John Bartram. He somewhat idiosyncratically claims that there was no Christianity in the earlier centuries AD. But, he demonstrates, there was something called "Chrestianity" that was clearly a predecessor. See:

    Bartram's comments on peer review are also well worth reading:

    ...peer review in this field cannot work, for it is owned by Christian institutions, managed by Christians whose work is to support the (false) textual tradition and the New Testament as a sacred, god-given collection of work. I do not respect their qualifications - they might as well be experts in Lord of the Rings, pretending it is all historical.


    There is no real peer-review in the field I study; having a degree in unicorns farting rainbows, writing in support of magic and a false textual tradition carry no weight, but rather repel me. So this irks some - as it should, especially all those who bow to authority (in religion, or - frankly - in any field).

    While I apologize for my claim that Carrier's book did not get a true peer review, I do not apologize for citing and relying on materials that have not been peer reviewed.
  6. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Richard Carrier has a lot more to say against me. But, he states in his opening paragraphs, that some patron has paid him to attack me.

    Well, I feel that somebody ought to pay me too, if they want me to respond on a blow-by-blow basis.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  7. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    Jerry, how do we not know whether or not it is you yourself who have been paying Carrier to attack you, in some crass attempt to drum up traffic for Postflaviana? :rolleyes:

    It should also be noted that Bartram, via epigraphy, points the finger at the Flavians as central players in the "Chrestian" cult, and that Valliant and Fahy (Creating Christ) discuss the importance of the Flavians' anchor and fish symbology, the iconic 'Christian' symbol before the cross. Bartram has also discussed the erasures of the Chrestian 'E' into the Christian 'I' (Codex Sinaiticus) allowing for another 'graft' allowing for a convenient conflation generations once when politically expedient.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  8. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    A key aspect is 'when?'. When were there two competing versions of Christianity?

    I doubt there were other well-defined versions when Paul's letter first circulated.​

    Another aspect is what non-Pauline types of 'Christianity' were there first?

    Sethians? Essenes?? Simeonians? Hermeticism? Valentinians?​

    Another thing is we don't really know when the Pauline epistles were written, or how well or how widely known they were (or how those things have changed over time)

    Paul was also in dispute with Peter. And none of the 'pillars' give accounts of about Jesus as one would expect from companions of such a revered man.

    There is little doubt there are aspects of the Roman-Jewish War in the New Testament books, but there's still a question of why and how?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  9. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Hello GrayMac,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I'd agree that the radical, messianic and militant Jewish sects of 1st century Palestine, probably were not "well-defined versions" of Christianity. I advocate for a "mergers and acquisitions" model of the growth of early Christianity. The Roman church grew by co-opting themes from various religions into their own literature, and by recruiting followers from other religions, when they could not directly co-opt the leadership of competing sects.

    Our argument is essentially literary, that Biblical Jesus seems to be typologically related to the various Jewish messianic figures mentioned in Josephus, such as Judas the Galilean, The Egyptian, and the Woe-Saying Jesus. These, in turn, also seem to resemble characters found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. So, I conclude that these messianic figures probably did exist, and that the Roman religion strongly appealed to followers of those various messianic figures.

    Peter and James seem to have been Essene messianic radicals, at least if Eisenman's reading of the DSS is correct. Josephus' depiction of James is also consistent with the idea that James was an Essene radical. So, one might suppose that the church of Peter and James was an Essene sect. And, their sect is depicted as a proto-Christian church in the book of Acts.

    The Sethians and Simonians first appear in the historical record in the 2nd century, as heterodox Jewish-Hellenistic Christian sects. So they might very possibly be connected to the 1st century Essene radical sects, though I'm sure Carrier would complain that there's no real evidence of that. The Mandaeans (possibly aka Nazarenes, Nasoreans and Sabians) also seem related, although again there's no accepted evidence or proof of their status or existence in the 1st century AD or before.

    Yes, and I raised this issue in my original review of Carrier's book. Robert M. Price thinks that the Pauline corpus is mostly, or perhaps entirely, a late forgery. I wasn't meaning to say I'm sure Price is correct, only that it deserves consideration. Carrier's concept of describing the possibilities with a Bayesian probability distribution could be useful here, and I suppose my review could have been clearer.
  10. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    From pages 72-73 of Eric Laupot's The Founding of Christianity by Roman Counterintelligence:

    9. What Did the Early Christian Church Think of the Nazoreans?

    The leaders of the early Christian church hated Nazoreans, as a certain early letter from the
    Church in Rome tells us. Dated about 96 A.D. it was written in Greek to the Pauline Church in
    Corinth, Greece. The letter is commonly referred to as 1 Clement. A translation of the first section
    (1.1) is given here:

    Owing to the sudden and repeated misfortunes and calamities which have
    befallen us, we consider that our attention has been somewhat delayed in turning
    to the questions disputed among you, beloved, and especially the bloody and
    unholy [Greek, anosios, a word sometimes used to describe the Jewish
    resistance] uprising, alien and foreign to God’s chosen [that is, Pauline
    Christians], which a few [see Chapter 1 on the small size of the Nazorean
    movement after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.] rash and stubborn
    people have sparked [literally, “set on fire”; compare this to the parallels in the
    endnote to chapter 1: “Burning down villages in Israel”] to such a frenzy that
    your name [Christiani], venerable and famous and worthy as it is of all men’s
    love, has been much slandered [presumably because it was shared by the
    subversive Nazoreans]. (translation based on Kirsopp Lake, Apostolic Fathers I,
    Loeb Classical Library)

    [I believe the bracketed annotations above are Laupot's. - rs]

    We see a number of parallels between the language here and that used elsewhere to
    describe the Nazoreans. The main complaint of the author of this letter against the Christiani is
    that their guerrilla actions were causing problems for the reputations of Christians because both
    groups shared the same name.

    1 Clement 4.1–6 apparently goes on to compare the Nazoreans to the homicidal Cain and
    the Christians to Abel (Genesis 4.1–17). See 1 Clement 1.3, 2.6, 3.1–4, 4.7–13. The frequent use
    of the Greek word zelos (meaning both “jealousy” and “zealotry”) in this letter is reminiscent of the
    jealousy that Roman slaves may have felt towards their masters, and the jealously of the Roman
    poor towards those well off. The frequent occurrence of this word is also suggestive of similar
    complaints of Jewish jealousy of the Christians (e.g., Matthew 27.18; Acts 13.45, 17.5–7) and
    also of the zealotry of the Nazoreans. Note 1 Clement 6.4: “Jealousy [or zealotry] and strife have
    overthrown great cities and uprooted [compare Fragment 2; see also Jude 1.4, 12; Matthew
    15.13; Matthew 13.24–30 and its parallel Gospel of Thomas 57] mighty nations [including,
    apparently, Israel].” The views of the Church of Rome thus parallel those of the Roman
    propagandist Josephus in that both engage in diatribes against the Jewish resistance.

    Laupot goes on to comment on the verbose Josephus's refusal to provide the proper name(s) for the Jewish resistance, this despite the fact that he was supposedly one of their leaders prior to his Pauline-esque epiphany, recognizing Vespasian as the next emperor (and god).

    We can see the exact same phenomenon going on in 'modern' times thanks to David Redles's recent (Hitler's Millennial Reich) and others like him have properly contextualized the Nazi (nationalist) movement as a millennial apocalyptic cult where its so-called 'socialism' was much more of a spiritual nature than an economic category. Yet, for decades we have been sold by our various institutions that Nazism was of a totally different nature, an idiosyncratic, "earthly", ex nihilo creature both of pagan esoterica and banal criminality. Yet the numerous Nazi writings that Redles quotes reveal them to be quite driven by a divine mission, with Hitler as their (false) messiah. Yet their movement lives on.

    Like Paul, who is constantly rescued from danger by the Romans, the surviving Nazis fade into the shadows of the 'enemy' camp working for Western counter-intelligence agencies and others, such as fomenting global Islamic jihad. Similarly, Moses Hadas, in his classic, Hellenistic Culture, identifies Josephus's Hasmoneans as being more aligned with Hellenistic interests than with the more popular equation of them as Jewish nationalist heroes of the day.

    The confusion and conflation is profitably baked into the Machiavellian cake. And it is in this context that we should be examining Christian origins rather than being distracted by such as Carrier's false choices. Religious End Times apocalyptic (including Judaic, Christian, Islamic, orthodox or heterodox) is temporally expedient to those elites who want to achieve a new geopolitical 'synthesis', and therefore if there is no convenient antithesis for one's thesis, then they must create it. And create such as a deniable 'front'. Yet such as Carrier wish us to believe that everything must be proved by overt admissions, rather than by a wall of circumstantial inferences. That said, I'm pretty happy with the "anchor and fish".
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  11. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    Hi Jerry. Cheers (sorry, I forgot to say Hi as I was so intent on getting my first post right).

    I agree. I'm not sure much could be described as Christianity in the 1st century. I doubt we have the full story on what was happening with all the different radical, messianic and militant Jewish sects of 1st century Palestine.

    Some Jewish apocalyptists are said to have engaged in visionary exegeses concerning the divine realm and the divine creatures beyond the rabbinic community even though those exegeses were said to be remarkably similar to the rabbinic material.

    It's a question when that started or was happening. And there could be a question of when 'the Roman church' could be identified as such, particularly with issues in the western roman empire after the end of the 2nd century and the eastern empire gaining ascendancy (eventually becoming the Byzantine empire).

    Yes, there is a lot to discern with those characters. Lena Einhorn has done some interesting work there.

    Birger A. Pearson said in Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions And Literature, Fortress Press, 2007, that “The earliest evidence we have for ancient Gnosticism comes from the first century of our era" and “Gnosticism originated in a Jewish environment ... “Sethian” or “Classic” Gnosticism [“one of the two most important manifestations of ancient Gnosticism”] [is] made up of innovative reinterpretations of biblical and Jewish traditions, especially Jewish traditions of biblical interpretation.”

    I have seen commentary that the Mandeans arose out of Merkabah/Merkavah (chariot) mysticism. Although the main corpus of Merkabah literature was composed in the period 200–700 CE it is said it had origins from the end of the 1st century. The earliest Rabbinic merkabah commentaries were exegetical expositions of the prophetic visions of God in the heavens, and the divine retinue of angels, hosts, and heavenly creatures surrounding God. The earliest evidence suggests that merkabah homiletics did not give rise to ascent experiences – as one rabbinic sage states: "Many have expounded upon the merkabah without ever seeing it.

    Apparently some Qumran texts indicate the Dead Sea community also engaged in merkabah exegesis.

    I have heard some recently uncovered Jewish mystical texts also show a deep affinity with the rabbinic merkabah homilies.

    Yes, Dr Price has some interesting propositions and ideas that deserve full and better consideration than they have got so far. But some seem to require a lot of distilling and wider reading, which is a lot of work.
  12. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    Hi GrayMac,

    Perhaps 'the Roman church' could be identified as 'Roman', long before it could be identified as 'Christian'. Francesco Carotta thinks that the Roman emperor cult would have worshipped Julius Caesar in a ceremony much like Easter, with reference to Caesar's betrayal, his untimely sacrificial death, his display as a wax effigy on a cross, and his celestial resurrection as a comet. And, they would have worshipped the virgin birth of Caesar Augustus at christmas time. If such a cult existed, would you consider it recognizably Christian? The religious icons of such a cult have survived, as coins of the Roman Empire.

    Bartram discusses archaeological evidence of a Hellenistic / Roman - Alexandrian, Egyptian, Jewish syncretic cult, dedicated to worship of 'Isis Chrest', mentioned in an inscription of Antonia Minor, the daughter of Mark Antony. The inscription could not be later than 37 CE, but could have been much earlier. So, this Chrestian religion was linked to the highest levels of the Roman imperial government during the 1st century. Of course, further evidence of the early links between Christianity and the Roman government may be deduced from name-dropping references in the Pauline epistles.

    F.F. Bruce wrote a preface to Edwin Yamauchi's "Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidences" which says that when it comes to the origins of Gnosticism, "It all depends what you mean...". That is, "There cannot be rational discussion of any subject unless the participants are agreed on the terms they use."

    For studies of Gnosticism, this is a problem because the manifestations of Gnostic religion evolved over time. In general, I think that the Qumran texts, and Philo, were dualist and gnostic to a similar degree as the NT texts of Paul and John: with references to the powers of Light and Darkness; the Aeons, Dominions, Principalities and Powers of the darkness; and the Pleroma making up the Light.

    On the other hand, the DSS (like the NT) have none of the inversion of Yahweh onto Yaldabaoth of the dark side; none of the inversion of the Genesis myths; and none of the wholesale view that all of the visible and living creation are nothing but manifestations of Darkness. And, of course, early versions of Gnosticism had nothing to say about Jesus Christ, the itinerant preacher. With the introduction of Jesus, as well as the inversion of Yahweh into a demonic figure, late Gnosticism became profoundly anti-Semitic, rather than characteristically Jewish.

    The Mandaeans don't seem to have the virulent anti-Semitic inversion, but the Manicheans who emerged out of the Mandaeans starting from approx. 250 CE arguably do have it; at least they see Adam and Eve as children of Ahriman. Wikipedia says that Manicheism "spread with extraordinary speed through both east and west" during the period from 280 through 350 or thereabouts, until it was suppressed by Theodosius in 382. Maybe it spread so well partly because, unlike Sethians, the Manicheists were very much into enjoyment of pleasures of the flesh? St. Augustine converted from debauchery (er, Manicheism) to orthodoxy in 387.

    Yamauchi does a solid job of undermining all the arguments that have been proposed for an early emergence of the radical version of Gnosticism, which only makes sense as a further development (ad absurdum, perhaps) of trends beginning in the New Testament and Essene DSS.

    In another essay, Berger Pearson advocates for an earlier thesis by Friedlander, "that Gnosticism is a pre-Christian phenomenon which originated in antinomian circles in the Jewish community of Alexandria."

    Friedlander begins his discussion by referring to the cultural and religious situation in the Jewish Diaspora prior to the time of Jesus. It was a situation in which the 'new wine' of Hellenistic culture and philosophy was being put into the 'old wineskins' of Jewish religion.

    The allegorical method of scripture interpretation was one of the manifestations of this trend. The Mosaic law was being interpreted allegorically by Jews who had imbibed of Greek philosophy, and the Law was taken to be a 'revelation' of 'divine philosophy.'

    Indeed, since Moses was more ancient than the Greek philosophers, it was natural to suggest that the latter had learned from the former. Philo is a good example of this trend, but he had forerunners, such as Aristobulus, Pseudo-Aristeas, and Pseudo-Solomon.

    The allegorical interpretation of the Law must have led to divisions in Diaspora Judaism between 'conservative' Jews who observed the letter of the Law and 'philosophizers' who regarded the letter of the Law as peripheral. Such a division is not merely a hypothetical reconstruction, but is well documented in historical sources. Eusebius specifically speaks of two parties in Diaspora Judaism whose differences are precisely delineated along the lines here suggested .

    Philo himself provides clear evidence of such divisions. A key text in Friedlander's argument is On the Migration of Abraham 86-93, which Friedlander quotes in full.

    In this text, wherein Philo polemicizes against allegorists who neglect the letter of the Law and derive from it only spiritual truths, we have reflected a full-blown schism in the Diaspora. An 'antinomian' party of Jews is referred to here.

    The book of Acts clearly depicts Peter & James emphasizing the importance of the Jewish Law, while Paul was siding with the antinomians that Freidlander and Pearson perceived as Gnostic predecessors.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  13. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    If we can believe Tertullian's assertion that the church of Rome was entertaining the gnostic Valentinus as a candidate to be its bishop this should be instructive as to its state of existence at that time. And that it would also be in Rome's interest to encourage the Hellenization of Judaism as to further mitigating against Mosaic exclusivity.

    The following note from Wikipedia's page on Basilides is interesting:

    1. Hort 1911 notes that to prove that the heretical sects were "later than the catholic Church," Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, vii. 17) assigns Christ's own teaching to the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius; that of the apostles, of St. Paul at least, ends, he says, in the time of Nero; whereas "the authors of the sects arose later, about the times of the emperor Hadrian, and continued quite as late as the age of the elder Antoninus." He gives as examples Basilides, Valentinus, and (if the text is sound) Marcion. Yet his language about Carpocrates a few lines further on suggests a doubt whether he had any better evidence than a fallacious inference from their order in Irenaeus.[citation needed] He was acquainted with the refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor; but it is not clear, as is sometimes assumed, that he meant to assign both writers to the same reign. His chronicle (Armenian) at the year 17 of Hadrian (a.d.133) has the note "The heresiarch Basilides appeared at these times". Earliest of all, but vaguest, is the testimony of Justin Martyr. The probable inference that the other great heresiarchs, including Basilides, were by this time dead receives some confirmation from a passage in his Dialogue against Trypho (c. 135).

    The first sentence begs the question of why Clement would feel the need to assign the date of Christ's own teachings when the Gospel accounts would seem to do so already. Same for Paul, whose life so parallels that of Josephus's.
  14. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    Hi Jerry
    Certainly the Roman cult of the emperor being worshipped as a god is noteworthy, and of course that started with the first emperor Augustus either before 1 AD when he was still emperor or short after.

    I wouldn't call it Christian, though I could imagine that variations of 'Christos' ('anointed') or 'Chrestus' ('good', or useful when applied to a slave or servant) might have been used as adjectives or nouns to describe them or their predecessors, as indicated by what you wrote next -
    Even before the rise of the Caesars, there were traces of a "regal spirituality" in Roman society. In earliest Roman times the king was a spiritual and patrician figure and ranked higher than the flamines (priestly order).

    Apparently the appearance of Chrestus in inscriptions was common BCE.

    There was increasing diversity of 'religion' in the Roman Empire in the first century eg. the Egyptian mystery cults were increasingly spreading around the eastern Mediterranean, aided by trading via shipping, and some of them are said to have used 'Chrest' associated with the gods names, as indicated by 'Isis Chrest' as you cited. A Romanised version of Mithracism evolved and grew in popularity. All in addition to the traditional Roman and Greek gods (And Hadrian started the cult of Antinous in 130 AD/CE, which quickly grew in various forms syncretised with the Egyptian gods Osiris and Hermes).

    Yes, there's a lot of interesting commentary around that, and the use of names that imply references to people involved in the the First Roman-Jewish War and the lead up to it. Many of those entities are recorded in Josephus' works which raises the question of whether the Pauline epistles (and Acts of the Apostles) were written first-hand at or shortly after; or used Josephus's works; or used a common source (though one would think Josephus would not have been working from other written sources).

    If the author of the Pauline epistles used Josephus' Antiquities they would have had to do so after they became available late in the first century.
  15. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    I think the terms and concepts around Gnosticism and Gnostics have been better defined since Yamauchi published "Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidences" (in 2003, I think). Birger Pearson, David Brakke, and others have published good discussions in books and articles.

    I think there it's likely that there were a number of scenarios: Gnostic or Gnostic-like sects that started before Christianity, and those that started in parallel with or even after Christianity.

    I think that there was and has been a lot of misrepresentation of Gnostic sects, mostly starting with Irenaeus to set the aside and give the illusion there was an orthodoxy from 'the start' - from a narrated 'start' ie. there was use of strawman fallacies to divide-and-conquer at the time and to give a later illusion.

    They were prepared to use earlier Gnostic or Gnostic-like sages like Valentinus as props - to support the illusion of there having been a well-established earlier church they had supposedly become heretics from - while also casting aside their theology.

    We see that with aspects of Richard Stanley's post -
    I think Clement would have felt the need to assign the date of Christ's teachings because details about the early church history were still unlikely to have been clear in his day.

    In recent years several scholars have proposed and argued that the synoptic gospels as we now know them were mostly formed around the time of Marcion in the 2nd century or later. That implies Christian texts before then - whether primarily Christ-focused or Jesus-focused or a bit of both - would have been proto- or 'ur' texts.

    Such a scenario might account for things like Justin Martyr's vagueness about what texts he knew or was dealing with and other aspects of his commentaries.​

    Others have argued that Mark is a narrative that used the Pauline epistles, the Septuagint and aspects of the Roman-Jewish Wars; mainly the first one, but some have said there seem to be aspects/ shadows of the 2nd Roman-Jewish War in them (which raises the issue of whether there are shadows of Simon bar Kosiba in the NT).

    I think it's likely 'the Gentiles' that Paul is narrated as interacting with would have been from many diverse groups including people from Jewish-Gnostic sects and from Egyptian mystery religions.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  16. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    Agreed. I'm also of the opinion that 'they' would have few complaints about Philo of Alexandria bringing his Platonic gloss to Judaism, just as 'they' apparently had no complaints about Philo's close kin leading a Roman legion in the Jewish War, a war that was claimed to encompass the (Preterist) Second Coming by the Church Fathers, via the destruction of the Temple -- within the disciples' "generation".
    Yes, and I would imagine that if claims were made widespread too early on that some Jesus of Nazareth made such prophecy as the destruction of the Temple 40 years (one generation) before it happened, that there would have been too much pushback from people living close enough to those times.

    The central strength of Atwill's thesis is the intertwined narratives of the canonic gospels with that provided by Josephus's War. They intertwine because they speak to each other, answering cryptic aspects of the other. This strength of Atwill's also seems to be a weakness in terms of the dating considerations. However, the seeming early silence of 'early' gospels might be attributed to their having first been presented as was typical for competing mystery cults of the day. In fact, the gospels present Jesus, his disciples, and their relationship to John the Baptist in such a vein, despite protestations that Xianity is not a mystery cult. Today exoteric Xianity is not a mystery cult, but maybe when it first started this was not the case. Leaving exoteric Xianity aside, once one reads the likes of David Fideler's Jesus Christ, Sun of God one can appreciate better that maybe Xianity still has aspects of such a mystery cult, in this case Platono-Pythagorean in nature. But only for "those with eyes to see and ears to hear".

    The Classical Greeks themselves said that they obtained their knowledge from the Egyptians, and then the question for us and for such as Philo was just who was Moses really? If 'Moses' was a proxy stand-in for historical others, then he can be seen as a model for the creation of the Jesus (Joshua/Yeshua) persona, a deniable and permanent avatar for the Caesars (and then the Popes). The various assets of the imperial cult can be covertly employed to benefit the new 'mystery cult', hence the reason for the 'placement' of the major churches in the same cities.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  17. Jerry Russell

    Jerry Russell Administrator Staff Member

    In his Chapter 7, Carrier discusses dates for the Gospels. He puts Mark in approximately 70-80 AD, because it treats the Jewish War "still in mind as a recent event". He says Matthew draws from Mark, Luke uses both Matthew and Mark, and John is a "polemical redaction of Luke" and therefore written last. Carrier says that scholarly opinions regarding the dating of John range from the early 100's to the 140's, and says he "arbitrarily" prefers earlier dates.

    GrayMac, do you know any more about these scholars who are arguing for a late date? I know that Acharya says so, but her argument was largely or entirely based on a lack of evidence that they existed earlier; there are no references by other authors, and no archaeological discoveries to substantiate them. I don't see that this is a compelling argument, especially since I would suspect that the early Roman version of Christianity was a mystery religion aka "secret society"; and as such, its documents would have been tightly controlled.

    Carrier complains that I didn't read his book carefully enough. I do feel his position is difficult to understand. In OHJ chapter 10 he says:

    ... Christians were originally called Nazorians (Acts 24.5), and the originating sect of Christianity, which remained Torah-observant, continued to be so-named for centuries (see Chapter 8, § 1). ... Matthew reports that scripture said Jesus would be a Nazorian, and Acts says the Christians were called Nazorians, and Epiphanius confirms a Torah-observant Christian sect did exist in Palestine called the Nazorians, and Jesus is frequently called a Nazorian in the Gospels (in John and Matthew, he is only so called).

    So, apparently Carrier is not questioning the existence of this Palestinian, Jewish Torah-observant sect (which I identify with James and Peter) after all. I thought maybe he was doubting it.

    Since Josephus tells us of the existence of several Messianic figures in this milieu, doesn't it seem highly plausible that the members of this Jewish sect would have known of most or all of them? Tales of their sayings and deeds would have been told and re-told? Yet at the same time, Carrier tells us, they didn't object when Paul came around preaching that Jesus Christ was a celestial God. Well, why would they? The members of this Jewish radical sect would not have thought of any of their Messiah figures as a celestial God. So, what was there to disagree about?

    But later on, when the Gospels were written and Paul's celestial Jesus was historicized -- the words of those itinerant preachers were put in his mouth, and the members of this Palestinian, Jewish Torah-observant sect (or at least the more gullible among them) would have believed that one or more of the heroes of the previous generation, was the resurrected and triumphant Son of God.
  18. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    The start of The Gnostic Bible makes quite a few references to John the Baptist in terms of the Gnostics or Gnostic settings, eg. -

    "... according to the Lukan version of Q 7:35, Jesus refers to wisdom (personified) being vindicated by her children (John the baptizer and Jesus), but in the Matthean version, by her deeds. Once more Jesus and wisdom, Sophia, are closely connected to one another. This relationship between Jesus and wisdom continues in gnostic traditions, as can be seen in other texts within the present collection, for example, the Valentinian texts. John the baptizer likewise continues to play a significant role in other works included here (for example, Gospel of Thomas 46), and his place is particularly prominent in Mandaean texts."​
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  19. GrayMac

    GrayMac New Member

    Jason D. BeDuhn (2013) 'The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon' Polebridge Press;

    Vincent M (2014) 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels' (Studia patristica supplement 2) Leuven: Peeters.

    Matthias Klinghardt (2015) 'Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien' (German) Francke a Verlag, publisher

    The April 2017 issue of New Testament Studies [Vol 63, Issue 2] contains a collection of brief essays that touches on their gospels origins theories (all with the same title) -
    • Klinghardt, M. Marcion's Gospel and the New Testament: Catalyst or Consequence? pp. 318-323;
    • Beduhn, J. Marcion's Gospel and the New Testament: Catalyst or Consequence? pp. 324-9; and
    • Lieu, J. Marcion's Gospel and the New Testament: Catalyst or Consequence? pp. 329-334
    There's a summary here

    Jörg Rüpke seems to strongly support Vinzent and Klinghardt in Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion, Feb. 2018 (though he hardly cites them, and even then not directly); going so far as to say -

    "Christianity had thus been invented historiographically [in the 2nd century] by means of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles complemented by collections of letters. There was as yet no actual community."​

    It's hard to know what such a Jewish sect would have known or been able to pass on after the war (the Sadducees seem to have disappeared fairly quickly).

    They may not have known about Paul, especially as a lot of his activity seems to have been outside Judea/Galilee.

    I wonder if the time of Simon bar Kosiba might have helped fuel this.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  20. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    One of my pet H's is that the Nazoreans and/or Nazarenes were followers of those 'worthy' of being Nazarites.

    Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220, Against Marcion, 4:8) records that the Jews called Christians "Nazarenes" from Jesus being a man of Nazareth, though he also makes the connection with Nazarites in Lamentations 4:7.[8]

    While some speculate that from NSR, for such as the Mandaeans, means "to keep", I suggest that more likely the NZR comes from Egyptian roots for "prince". Thus, such as Nazarenes were followers of the 'prince' -- that they expected to return as their earthly and/or spiritual messiah. Keeping in mind that peoples of that time and milieu loved their word play, the "to keep" option might still be viable as in "to keep" their faith in their expected "prince", just like the Muslim's Hidden Mahdi. Perhaps even a prince like ... the Egyptian.

    Queen Helena of Adiabene was such a Nazarite, and she and her son, Izates, had royal Egyptian roots. The Biblical precedent for this comes from Samson, the Nazarite, son of what is implied to be the Danite leaders, hence Samson a prince. And if one traces the sea going Danites back to Mycenae, these earlier Danoi are claimed by legend to have originated in Egypt.

    With the Nazarenes there is a similar curious confusion about their relationship to the Ebionites, the so-called "poor ones". The contrast between the names is rather interesting especially if one excepts the "prince" hypothesis.

    Both the Nazarenes and Ebionites are claimed to have been warned, by whom, to seek refuge from the Roman onslaught of Jerusalem, and thus fled to Pella to ride out the 'tribulation'. It makes me ponder whether one or the other of these camps were indeed counterintelligence spooks for the Romans.

    The Catholic Church has played upon Jesus, not only being "king of the Jews" per the gospels, but that he was also the so-called dual messiah (earthly and spiritual) by keeping the hoary (fake) relic of Jesus' ephod, the seamless robe of a Jewish high priest, at the cathedral in Trier - supposedly Constantine's favorite city.

    I wonder if GrayMac has any opinion on the existence of Nazareth at the supposed time of Jesus, or did it arise from the quantum foam at the time of that other Helena?

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