Saturday, December 22, 2012

Richard Carrier Publishes Peer-Reviewed Paper Arguing Accidental Interpolation of "Christ" in Josephus

Noted mythicist, Richard Carrier, has published a peer-reviewed paper that argues:

 Abstract:

 Analysis of the evidence from the works of Origen, Eusebius, and Hegesippus concludes that the reference to "Christ" in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200 is probably an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that the passage was never originally about Christ or Christians. It referred not to James the brother of Jesus Christ, but probably to James the brother of the Jewish high priest Jesus ben Damneus.

I'll be interested in seeing what if any reaction New Testament historians have.  My guess is that it will be debated, as most things are among scholars.  But I don't think it will have much impact on whether they think it reduces the probability that Jesus existed.   For example, Bart Ehrman's summary of the evidence for Jesus's existence didn't rely upon Josephus's mention of him.

I would guess that in order for mythicists to be taken seriously, they will need to propose what is considered a legitimate theory that explains how it came about that people believed that Jesus actually existed.

HT: Adam Taylor

8 comments:

AdamT. said...

Thanks for the hat tip. I hope this does have an impact among historians. After all, without the Josephus passages, that brings the number of first century secular refernces to Jesus down to zero.

"I would guess that in order for mythicists to be taken seriously, they will need to propose what is considered a legitimate theory that explains how it came about that people believed that Jesus actually existed."

I think scholars like Earl Doherty have done that, in his books "The Jesus Puzzle" and "Jesus: Neither God nor Man." Richard Carrier also summarzies that in his talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XORm2QtR-os

He also lays out a lot of detail in another of his recent posts here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2839/

Point 23 may interest you, as he discusses the issue of the pre-Christian idea of a celestial Jesus that you were curious about a few months ago.

Bilbo said...

Adam: I hope this does have an impact among historians. After all, without the Josephus passages, that brings the number of first century secular refernces to Jesus down to zero.

Again, I think it would only have an impact if there were a credible account of how people came to believe that Jesus existed. I bought Carrier's book that supposedly presented evidence of a pre-Christian celestial Jesus. It seemed extremely flimsy to me. I don't think historians will take it seriously. I haven't read Doherty's books, but I read...I think it was Larry Hurtado's short refutation of them. Again, I don't think mythicists have come up with a credible alternative to an existent Jesus. Until they do, the lack of other first century sources will just be an argument from silence, which is never very strong.

Bilbo said...

I think I would contrast the Mythicist Movement with the 9/11 Truth Movement this way: Mainstream historians are ignoring the positive evidence for 9/11 was an inside job. New Testament historians are saying, "Please give us some evidence that Jesus was a Myth."

Bilbo said...

No, it wasn't Hurtado. I think it was R. Joseph Hoffman:

Here.

AdamT. said...

I don't think it would have been difficult for Christianity to have been created without a real physical Jesus behind it. Any more so than with Horus, Mithras, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, etc. No one thinks these figures ever really existed, yet the religions behind them flourished for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

It's important to establish if Jesus has better evidence for his existence than any of these other figures. And the quality of the early sources documenting Jesus play a big part in that. Take for example Tacitus, who's often brought up as a source for Jesus' existence. A lot of people think he is very good evidence for Jesus. And yet, Tacitus was known to have written about other figures as if they were real people, yet we know that were in fact mythical.

http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=21161#p21161

We would therefore have to conclude that Apollo, Dionysus, and Hercules actually existed.

Of course, we know that religions have started with real figures behind them, like Islam and Buddhism. We're pretty sure there was a Buddha and a Mohammed. The bottom line is this: sometimes religions were started with real figures behind them, and sometimes they weren't. Based on the evidence we have now, I hold that the evidence we have for Jesus is no better than the evidence for Horus, Dionysus, Attis, Apollo, etc.

The fact is that absence of evidence sometimes is evidence of absence, and in the case of Jesus we are certainly missing a lot of evidence that should be there but isn't.

And Doherty and others have responded to Hoffmann and Casey:

http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4144

Bilbo said...

Adam,

Of the gods that you mention, which ones were believed by their worshippers to have been incarnated at a particular time and place in history?

AdamT. said...

As I pointed out, Tacitus recorded that Hercules was real, and the ancients certainly believed so, having told more stories about him than any other.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/bio.html

Another figure that fits that category well is Romulus, who, like Jesus, was thought to be a god incarnate to establish a kingdom on earth.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/crucified.html#12

Bilbo said...

Okay, so people believed that Hercules actually existed. Did they worship him first, and then later make up stories about him existing on earth?

Likewise with Romulus: did people worship him first and then make up stories about him existing on earth?