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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The 100 Best Books?

This morning I ran across a Newsweek list of the supposed 100 best books ever, which they obtained in 2009 by crunching the numbers from several Top Ten lists. 

Don't get me wrong, some of the books placed here do belong.  But others emphatically do not, or probably on any reasonable Top-1000 list.  And all kinds of books which are not merely good, but great, world-changing even, have been left out. 

One of the biggest problems with this list is its over-abundance of second-rate American novels.  (Mind you, I didn't say third rate!)   While American myself, I have a hard time believing any American piece of literature yet produced belongs above any of Charles Dicken's five or ten best novels, for instance, let alone the best of Shakespeare or Tolstoy.  Yet not one single Dickens appears on the list at all.

Here's the list.  It'll be easier to explain which books do NOT belong on it (at least, among those I have read!), than remember which do.  But I'll attempt both.

Order
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy1
1984 by George Orwell2
Ulysses by James Joyce3
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov4
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner5
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison6
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf7
The Iliad by Homer 8
The Odyssey by Homer8
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen9
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
10
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

11
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift 12
Middlemarch by George Eliot 13
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe14
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger15
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell16
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez17
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald18
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller19
Beloved by Toni Morrison20
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck21
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie22
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley23
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf24
Native Son by Richard Wright25
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville26
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin27
The Histories by Herodotus28
On the Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau29
Capital: A Critique of Political Ecomony, Vol. 1: The Process of Production of Capital by Karl Marx30
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli31
The Confessions by Augustine32
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes33
The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides34
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien35
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne36
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis37
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster38
On the Road by Jack Kerouac39
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee40
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) by Zondervan41
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess42
Light in August by William Faulkner43
The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois44
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys45
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert46
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy48
Hamlet by William Shakespeare49
King Lear by William Shakespeare50
Othello by William Shakespeare51
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare52
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman53
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain54
Kim by Rudyard Kipling55
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley56
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison57
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey58
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway59
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr60
Animal Farm by George Orwell61
Lord of the Flies by William Golding62
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote63
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing64
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust65
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler66
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner67
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway68
I, Claudius by Robert Graves69
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers70
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence71
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren72
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin73
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White74
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad75
Night by Elie Wiesel76
Rabbit, Run by John Updike77
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton78
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth79
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser80
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West81
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller82
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett83
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman84
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman84
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman84
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman84
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather85
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud86
The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams87
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung by Mao Tse-Tung88
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James89
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh90
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson91
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes92
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad93
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves94
The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith95
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame96
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X97
Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey98
The Color Purple by Alice Walker99
The Second World War {complete} by Winston S. Churchill


What needs to go:  All the Hemingway and Phillip Pullman books.  They're mildly entertaining and moderately interesting, and Pullman evokes thoughts of some kind or other, but he's ignorant of history as a clam is of geothermals.  Chairman Mao -- good heavens, how did that savage get in there?  Some of his poems are original enough, but let's just set a rule that literature from people who don't mind killing tens of millions of their countrymen is defective in some way.  The same with Karl Marx: he's OK as a writer, but a mere educated cultist as a thinker.  The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe?  We can find something better from Lewis than that.  I haven't read Galbraith or that Freud, but I'm skeptical.  1984 is important, but not that important -- down to 70 or so.  Get rid of Lolita, because pedophilia isn't something to teach kids, sorry.  100 Years of Solitude is over-rated. Rousseau (probably), The Prince (maybe), Leviathan, Charlottes' Web (what's that book doing in that sentence?)  Also Silent Spring (probably), Slaughterhouse 5 (definitely), Invisible Man, Gone With the Wind, Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, Great Gatsby (not that great -- a weak copy-cat pseudo-Victorian novel of manners) and probably Virginia Wolf.  This is supposed to be a book of great literature, not a record of how American high school teachers abuse their lit students.  "Goodbye to All That!" (94)  And Keynes, too, since he was wrong -- substitute Adam Smith. 

And sorry, Bears of Very Little Brain have a hard time making the top-100 list -- though I'll keep Pooh in mind. 

What can stay: War and Peace, Iliad, Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, Divine Comedy, Canterbury Tales, Gulliver, Brave New World (lower), Democracy in America, Origin of Species, Herodotus, Confessions, Night, Varieties of Religious Experience, Lord Jim (maybe), Heart of Darkness, Wind in the Willows (maybe), Huck Finn, Malcolm X.  (See!  I'm not that prejudiced against American writers!) 

What needs to be added:

The Bible first, of course: placing it 41, after To Kill a Mockingbird, a touching novel by a precocious            young woman, looks like a calculated insult.
Analects of Confucius.
Dao De Jing
Tang poems. (Mao over that?  Are you crazy?)
Journey to the West.
Bhagavad Gita.
Bacchae (Euripides)
Medea (Euripides)
The Frogs
Prometheus Bound
The Campaigns of Alexander (Arrian)
City of God
Poetic Edda
Dream of the Rood
Brothers Karamazov (someone thought Catch-22 more deserving than this?)
First Circle (Solzhenitsyn). 
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Gulag Archipelago
Resurrection.  (Tolstoy)
Great Expectations (Dickens)
Tale of Two Cities
Christmas Carol
Nickolas Nicklesby
Wealth of Nations
Reflections on the Revolution in France
Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
The Everlasting Man
Perelandra (C. S. Lewis)
Surprised by Joy
Till We Have Faces
The Last Battle
From Pagan to Christian (Lin Yutang)
Imperial Peking: Seven Centuries of China
The Kite Runner
For the Glory of God (Stark)
Lost in the Cosmos (Percy)
Les Miserables (if there's room)
Peace Child (Richardson)
Life of Johnson
Harry Potter? 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why Jesus, not Sai Baba?

Image result for sai babaJosh Parikh brings my attention to an article by someone calling himself "Counter Apologist."  His basic questions are simple and straightforward: "Even if God, why Jesus?  After all, didn't Sai Baba do miracles far more recently than Jesus, with eyewitnesses you can still query?"   The article is not particularly forceful: at times it reads more like a question than a statement or a very strident challenge. 

Which is great: answering a serious question that has been asked in a serious tone will provide a nice change of pace.  

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Rolling English Road

Image result for happy drunkWho but G. K. Chesterton could write a poem about a drunk, that defines the history and character of England, shines a light on mortality, opens a doorway to heaven, and is alliterative, humorous, war-like, and beautiful? I love the final stanza.


The Rolling English Road
by G.K.Chesterton
Image result for english walking path
Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and nature
Beachy Head: the scenic route to Birmingham.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

Image result for glastonbury
Glastonbury is the Woodstock of England,
well west of London, while Goodwin Sands is
a sand bank known for sinking ships in the channel.
His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

Image result for goodwin sandsMy friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.
Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, grass, cloud, outdoor and nature
Kensal Green

Weather Underground Preaches Hysteria

Jeff Masters, at Weather Underground (a site I go to feed my addiction to winter), just posted a scathing critique of the Trump Administration for climate denial.  Let's follow along, and separate the sunlight from the shade.

"Our planet has just experienced three consecutive warmest years on record—2014, 2015, and 2016—which has made it difficult to find politicians who continue to deny the reality of global warming and climate change.  However, denial of climate science has shifted to a new tactic: to claim that the indisputable heating of the planet is primarily a natural phenomenon, and that there is major uncertainty among scientists on the issue."

Deniers have picked a "new tactic" because of three warm years?  I've been saying this for a decade or so.  

"These assertions are false. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening; scientists’ “best estimate” is that ALL of the global warming since 1950 has been human-caused, primarily through an increase in carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels."

The link Masters gives does not go directly to any survey of climate scientists, but to an Anthropogenic Global Warm cheer-leading page.   That page does, however, provide a link to support that claim, which states:"The number of papers rejecting AGW [Anthropogenic, or human-caused, Global Warming] is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time.  Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.”

Which casts into doubt Jeff Master's credibility as a straight shooter, or as a thinker.  It should be obvious that a survey of published papers "expressing a position on AGW" is quite different from "any survey of climate scientists."  Doesn't Masters recognize the difference?  If not, he shouldn't be talking about science.  If so, well go to Confession this week and tell your priest you've been fooling readers, Mr. Masters.

One simply cannot conclude from the fact that most published papers expressing an opinion support strong AGW (if they do, let us not concede that too readily), that most scientists believe in it.  There may be systematic bias among journal editors.  They may be afraid to publish against the alleged "consensus."  Or most likely of all, the expressing of an opinion is a self-selecting act: scientists who are unsure, are unlikely to express their views in a paper.  

What is certain, it that Master's claim does not follow from his (hidden behind two links) premises.  He has misrepresented his sources.     

"Many prominent members of the Trump administration, who all have ties to the fossil fuel industry, have been making false claims about scientists’ understanding that global warming is human-caused. For example:"

We recognize that as "ad hominem."  These men may have ties to the devil (in fact three of them represented states that produce fossil fuels), that would not disprove their points. 

"During his hearing in January 2017 to become the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt claimed: 'There is a diverse range of views regarding the key drivers of our changing climate among scientists.'” 

And no doubt there is -- 'diversity of opinions" is one of the chief cliches in almost every field of scholarship.  If opinions on so complex a matter were not "diverse," then something rotten would be found in the state of science.

But Pruitt also said, "the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner."  Forgot to quote that part, didn't you, Mr. Masters?  

"Former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is now President Trump’s Secretary of State, claimed in his confirmation hearing: 'I agree with the consensus view that combustion of fossil fuels is a leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I understand these gases to be a factor in rising temperatures, but I do not believe the scientific consensus supports their characterization as the ‘key’ factor.” 

Nor has Pruitt shown otherwise.

"On the February 21, 2014, edition of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd asked future Vice President Mike Pence if he was “convinced that climate change is man-made.” Pence responded: “I don't know that that is a resolved issue in science today.” Pence similarly stated on the May 5, 2009, edition of MSNBC’s Hardball that “I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming.” 
- Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Energy, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee in January: “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it's naturally occurring and some of it is caused by man-made activity.”

Well good!  Sounds like Trump has wisely appointed some people with proper scientific caution to key positions.

What sort of dingbat would say that none of the climate change was caused by natural cycles or events?  That sort of statement really would cast doubt on a public official's good sense.


Figure 1. "Global annual temperatures up to the year 2015 (thin light red, with an 11-year moving average shown as a thick dark red line) have increased steadily, even though the total amount of energy from the sun (the annual Total Solar Irradiance, thin light blue, with an 11-year moving average shown as a thick dark blue line) has decreased slightly. Climate in past eras has seen many instances of global warming, which have been caused by an increase in heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide or an increase in the amount of solar energy being absorbed by the Earth. Since solar energy cannot be to blame for the increase in global temperatures since 1950, scientists are confident that the steadily rising levels of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide due to human activities is causing the observed global warming. Image credit: skepticalscience.com."

This is a kind of ink-blot test, it seems, or the "young and old women" sketch.  I see a young woman -- what do you see?

What I see is a very slight increase in solar radiation -- about one part in 3000 -- from 1880 to 1960.  Then it stays high until about 2000, as warming continues, until it drops over the past few years.

While I am not a climatologist, I would be surprised if solar radiation and CO2 were the only factors in determining atmospheric temperatures.  But if I believed that those were the only factors (and I've seen many scientists name others), then I would say this graph seems to support the theory that solar radiation may be to blame for a good chunk of the warming.  There are often lags between causes and effects, after all -- which is why December 21 is not the middle of winter, to pick an obvious example related to radiation, or why 12 noon is not usually the hottest time of day.

Let us consider some neglected background facts.  Glaciers started melting in much of the world about the mid-1800s.  (Including in the Mendenhall Valley outside of Juneau, where I went to school -- our home there had been covered by glaciers not too many decades before.)  In the 19th Century -- and really, up until World War II -- carbon burning was a tiny fraction of what it is today.  Hardly anyone had cars, and industrial output, even population, were fractional compared to today.  Yet the globe was warming during those years -- years mostly left off this chart.

So clearly there was a lot of warming going on towards the left hand side of this chart, and beyond, little if any of which can be explained by AGW.

Shouldn't Masters have mentioned that?

"The best science says: ALL of the warming since 1950 is human-caused


"Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. 

Masters gives the same fake link, which proves nothing of the sort. 

"That’s about the same certainty with which scientists link smoking cigarettes to lung cancer."

This time Masters links to an article from Scientific American, which offers no such data.  

"The latest 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report—the enormous consensus scientific summary of the science of climate change prepared once every six years--had this to say about the observed warming of Earth since 1950:

“The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” 

"In other words, ALL of the observed warming after 1950 (0.6°C, 1.1°F) is due to humans. A total of 0.85°C (1.5°F) total global warming has been observed since 1880. The IPCC further quantified that human activity is extremely likely (at least 95% chance) to be responsible for more than half of Earth's temperature increase after 1950."

Masters conflates "best estimate" and "is similar to" with "all is."  The IPCC is, to give it credit, rather more cautious.   But even their estimate is consistent with most warming since, say, 1850 when the glaciers started retreating, being due to other causes.

And that has been my view for many years.  Given the longer-term trend not since the 1950s but since the 1850s, and some respect for Occam, it seems to me likely that human activity has contributed between a third and a half of the global warming over the past 170 years.

Three more facts seem worth pondering.

First, the warming effect of CO2 is proportional to the square of its increase.  In other words, the more you add, the less impact each unit of CO2 has in warming the atmosphere.

Second, rapid industrialization and the purchase of cars in the former "Third World" (including China and India) mean that CO2 release may increase rapidly enough to have some impact, despite (1).

Third, at the same time, technology is improving, gas mileage getting better, and the disasters that AGW fear-mongers have predicted, show little sign of materializing, when you look at the facts objectively, and recognize that Al Gore won his Nobel Peace Prize from his friends in Oslo (where Weather Underground says it is snowing right now, by the way), mostly for waving his hands and tricking his viewers with fake claims.  But those claims can all wait until Jeff Master's next scientifically-challenged post, which no doubt will warn of world-wide drought, or hurricanes in Maine, or the return of malaria to Siberia, or some other errant horse of the apocalypse.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

On the Literacy of Richard Carrier Two

I continue my analysis of the first critical "review" of my new book, Jesus is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels, by the radical atheist and mythicist Richard Carrier.   As in the first part of this analysis, I number Carrier's own errors (1, 2, 3), errors ascribed to my book which I cannot immediately confirm or disprove (1b, 2b, 3b), and errors ascribed to my book which I can confirm (1c, 2c, 3c -- but so far this category remains empty).  

Criteria . . . 

RC: "Meanwhile, of his own criteria, most are irrelevant to historicity. (34) He never adduces any data they are ever demonstrative of historicity in any other religious narratives. (35) And they are not specially linked to truth-telling—all of them can be used in fiction(36)  That Jesus acts as a realistic mouthpiece for Christian values (37) (Marshall criteria (7), (9), (15), (17), (18), (19), (23)) is exactly what a fictional Jesus would do, because that’s exactly what the authors of the Gospels want to convey. And those authors were counter-cultural critics of elite values and attitudes, so that’s also exactly what we expect to find in their fictional portrayal of their hero (38) (Marshall criteria (15), (20), (22), (23)).
34.  All my criteria are relevant to history, as I demonstrate.   Ironically, at various points in his criticism, and in his books as I show, Carrier effectively concedes the relevance of several, by bringing them up under different titles and using them himself.  So Carrier's protest here is particularly empty, aside from unsupported.  

35. Actually, I do exactly that in regard to Mohammed and Confucius.  (And spend a whole chapter comparing the Analects to the Gospels in my Jesus Seminar book.)  Furthermore, I also show that the converse of these criteria demonstrate non-historicity in "religious narratives" -- that is what the entire third section of this book is about, if Carrier is right that Greek novels are all religious.

36.  Of course most of my criteria could, in theory, be used in fiction.  The question is whether they were.  And Part III of this book answers that question: "no."  Has Carrier read Part III?  Has he even noticed that it is there? 

37.  This is a complete straw man.  These criteria cannot reasonably be summarized as "Jesus acts as a realistic mouthpiece for Christian values."   

Criteria 7, to give one example, is "Does the voice of the subject stand out stylistically from the voices of other people chronicled?" 

Jesus' voice does usually, clearly and overwhelmingly, stand out.  (With some exceptions in John.)  But the voice of "Jesus" in the Gnostic so-called gospels does not stand out at all, and yet serves as a "mouthpiece for Gnostic values."   So "standing out" and "being a mouthpiece for a religion" are completely unrelated concepts.  Buddha's voice often sounds little different from the narrator of Buddhist texts, Apollonius' words are not that different in tone from other speakers in Philostratus' book, and so on.  That is the contrast, and it tells strongly (though of course not conclusively, by itself) for the general historicity of the gospels. 

The only word I might accept in Carrier's summary of these seven criteria is "realistic."  Yes, these criteria do all describe the consummate realism usually found in the gospels.   And yes, such realism does make it far more likely that the stories they tell are real -- of course.   Which also, of course, does not mean novelists cannot (at least in theory) write realistically as well, as I concede.  But Carrier simply ignores the complexity of my actual argument, the subtle, telling details I describe, and the test to which I put these criteria in Part III, preferring a crude caricature of a straw man.  His critique is, therefore, completely useless.

38.  Criterion 9, which Carrier pretends to critique here, is that Jesus always offers "surprising, non-platitudinous aphorisms."   One would not, in fact, automatically expect these from a fiction-writer, simply because he wishes to express "counter-cultural" values.  G. K. Chesterton surveyed ancient literature in search of someone else, even an historical figure, to whom this one trait could apply, and found no one, not even Plato.  Even the Jesus Seminar often finds the aphorisms of Jesus historically convincing: my argument is not, as Carrier supposes, made in a critical vacuum.   

Or take Criterion 19, "Jesus speaks respectfully to the weak, but without patronizing them, and making strong demands on them."  One might suppose, a priori, that the first part of this would be true of "counter-cultural" teachings.  (Though as I show, it really is not, even of Romulus in his up-and-coming days.)  But even in a revolutionary context, one would not expect - and where does one find? -- the high moral expectations and unflinching refusal to allow excuses with which Jesus "shows compassion for" the marginalized?  Carrier simply ignores even my full definition, never mind my defense of it, heaven forbid considering my testing of it in Part III. 

Carrier is being terminal glib.  He is being glib in exactly the same way he was glib when in our first debate, he claimed Apollonius and the rest shared "all the characteristics" I was describing of the gospels.

RC: "Similarly, the Gospels served as handbooks for missionaries, supplying them with convenient models to use and refer to when evangelizing groups and individuals (39) (e.g., Proving History, pp. 156 and 178: Marshall criteria (6), (9), (10), (11), (15), (21), (23)). And the authors wanted gullible readers to believe their fiction—until they were properly initiated and instructed in its real meaning (40) (e.g., Mark 4:9-13OHJ, “Element 13” and “14,” pp. 108


39.  Odd, then, that Acts, the first account of Christian missions, never mentions how the first missionaries used Jesus' words to evangelize -- even though, by Carrier's account, three gospels had already been written, one by the author of Acts. 

40.  Carrier imagines that early Christianity was a "mystery religion" in which the plain story of the gospels was a surface teaching for new converts, and the celestial Christ what the initiated were taught.  

Again, the contrast with the "gnostic gospels," is sharp and instructive.  Thomas and the other gnostics completely lack the dozens of historically-relevant traits I describe.  Didn't the gnostics wish their audiences to believe their stories?  They really did claim the "higher truth" and "hidden mysteries" that Carrier falsely ascribes to early Christianity.  Or didn't Philostratus, an elite "man of letters" at the court of Julia Domna, know about these strategies?  C. S. Lewis says NOTHING in fiction compares, on some of my criteria, to the Gospel of John alone.  And clearly Carrier's own analogies fail on these criterion.  Spin, spin, spin.  

Also, I challenge Carrier's theory of two levels of meaning and mystery, showing how absurd his interpretation of St. Paul's clear commands to love is.

41.   This is why Carrier's theory is unfalsifiable.  If what the evangelists say is confirmed by other sources, that proves they were copying.  If it is unconfirmed, that proves they were making stuff up.

RC: "Fiction often has accurate geographical, historical, and cultural details.  Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it does and doesn’t(42)  Like the Gospels: Marshall falsely claims the Gospels consistently get the geographic and cultural details right  (43) (Marshall criteria (3), (4), (5)), but that’s only sometimes true.  Mark made several mistakes that Matthew had to correct (OHJ, p. 459); Luke used reference books to get many details right, but still made mistakes in his depiction of Roman census law and procedure, messed up the chronology of Jewish rebellions, and outright falsified numerous historical facts (OHJ, pp. 362-63). Indeed, a lot the Gospels depict is completely contrary to the known facts, (44) from trial law to temple logistics and unrealistic speeches (OHJ, pp. 362-63, 381-82, 402-03, 425, 431-32, etc.).

42. As I point out.  But again, I compare the gospels on these criteria to ancient fiction in Part III of Jesus is No Myth, and it turns out the gospels compare very favorably to such fiction.  

43.  Carrier adds the word "consistently" (meaning "always," or else it would not contrast with "only sometimes true").   I am satisfied with "usually" or "almost always." 

44.  See Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, for rebuttal of some of Carrier's claims about errors.  Some of Carrier's claims I find sufficiently self-rebutting, given a little common sense on the reader's part.

 Marshall is failing at a basic principle of Bayesian logic: if the item in question, even in conjunction with others, is just as expected on fiction as on history, its likelihood ratio favors neither. (45) It’s therefore not indicative of anything. Sometimes, even, the data establishes exactly the opposite of what Marshall thinks. He offers the presence of incidental details in Gospel stories (though actually there aren’t very many (46)) as evidence of historicity (Marshall criterion (8)). But studies of legendary development have confirmed that’s actually exactly what happens to legends: they accumulate more and more incidental details and realistic “color” over time (OHJ, pp. 480-81, n. 195). Contrary to how he thinks this criterion would work. It therefore might even be evidence of fiction, rather than history (47) But even at best, it doesn’t make historicity more likely.

45.  Richard Carrier is failing at a basic principle of book reviewing: read the whole book!  Part III of this book compares the gospels to ancient fiction -- I drew on about 100 fictional texts, and focused on about 20.  So we find out "what is expected on history," empirically, and without cherry-picking texts or criteria to prove a point, unlike Carrier.



46.  The gospels are full of such details, as experienced literary authorities like C. S. Lewis and A. N. Wilson recognize -- or just open the books, and read a few chapters.   


47.   One test case for Carrier's theory is Life of Romulus, which evolved over centuries, and which Carrier claimed has "all the characteristics of the gospels."  In fact, as I show, it lacks hardly any of these historically-relevant characteristics, including this one.  Details in Romulus are generally tied to (a) the story; (b) Plutarch's background knowledge; or (c) myths about names and customs which Plutarch himself mentions.

RC: "Another example is Marshall’s claim that the Gospels are more likely historical because “people exit the story without making improbable reappearances just to tidy up the plot or give curtain calls to popular characters” (Marshall criterion (14)), but he gives no examples of this ever being a practice in any form of ancient fiction. He cites only Dickens as exemplifying this trend.  (89)  Sorry, that’s almost two thousand years too late to be relevant. Trends in modern fiction have no relevance to trends in ancient fiction.  To the contrary, in ancient fiction, what was typical is for characters to pop in out of nowhere, perform their necessary function for the story, and then immediately disappear, never to be heard of again (unless once again important to the storyline: e.g. John the Baptist, Judas, Nicodemus, Lazarus, even though that’s highly unrealistic. The three women in Mark 15-16 are an example (OHJ, pp. 421-22); likewise the mysterious vanishing of all the brothers of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, even Pontius Pilate! (OHJ, pp. 371-75) At worst, disappearing characters who only exist to move the plot is a device of fiction, not history. But even at best, they don’t make historicity more likely. (48-54)

Carrier makes a tangled bosh of what could, were he more attentive, be one of his strongest points, here. 

Let us untangle the webs one by one.

(48)  Carrier misunderstands the purpose of Part II of the present book.  Mainly I am introducing criteria which I find initially plausible, and explaining why I find them plausible.  In Part III, I test both the ancient texts and the criteria, empirically. 

(49) Dickens serves this initial introductory role well, being familiar to many readers.  At other times, I discuss other ancient writings that I do not plan to analyze in Part III, or occasionally, jump forward to that analysis, a little.  

(50) In Part III, pace Carrier, I then do in fact give several examples from ancient fiction: Golden Ass, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Life of Romulus, True Story, and Leucippe and Clitophon.  (Implicitly including other novels in B. P. Reardon's comprehensive anthology.)  So Carrier is just wrong, again.

(51) I had also tested several other ancient works by this criterion in my earlier work on the Jesus Seminar: The Iliad, Epic of Gilgamesh, Hercules, Journey to the West.  

(52) It appears (from these checks) that Carrier is probably wrong: most do not include this element.

(53) However, some do, including Apollonius and Golden Ass.  I therefore recognize this criterion as weaker than any other criterion in the "character" category. 

(54) I recognize, with both supporters and critics, that my works on the historical Jesus offer many original arguments.  They are therefore offered tentatively, and are subject to attenuation or even (should it come to that) disproof.  All most all of my criteria have passed the test with flying colors so far, it appears.   This one, I think, proves of somewhat weaker value.  Probably I would need to apply it to a larger number of ancient fictional texts, to determine exactly how useful it is.  If it fails to pass that test, I have another strong criterion or two to substitute, to avoid the ungainly number of 29. : - )

The point being that I am offering these arguments in an open spirit, welcoming serious critiques.  

RC: "It only gets worse when Marshall seriously cites as historicity-evincing criteria the fact that Gospel miracles are all “realistic” (!) (55) and that Jesus fulfills scripture (!) (56) (Marshall criteria (29) and (30)). These are actually criteria of fiction in actual mainstream history as a professional field (Proving History, pp. 114-17, 177-78).  A hero’s improbably ubiquitous fulfillment of prophecies and oracles is evidence the authors are fabricating the narrative, precisely to have that effect; it’s not accepted anywhere (outside irrational fundamentalism) as evidence that such an improbable conjunction actually happened (see Newman on Prophecy as Miracle).  And there is no such thing as a “realistic miracle.” (57) That’s an oxymoron. A phenomenon never documented to actually exist (58) is by definition unrealistic. And the ubiquitous appearance of scientifically implausible events in a story is accepted by all non-crazy mainstream historians as evidence of fabrication (59). It is not ever accepted as evidence of historicity(60)

Carrier's difficulties with the printed word continue.

55.  Actually, again, this is a caricature of my argument.  I describe five sub-criteria that I argue show that many gospel miracles are historically-credible.   I do not, however, use the word "all," which I am generally leery of.    

56. Carrier's scoffing at fulfillment is even more tedious.  I spend an entire chapter describing some fourteen patterns of motifs into which fulfillment falls in the New Testament.  In my doctoral dissertation, I presented a larger structural pattern into which Christian fulfillment tends to fall.  I also compare those patterns to fulfillment in other scriptures and historical accounts.   

Carrier thinks he can respond to my arguments, and then to the numerous ancient parallels I describe in Part III (but he didn't notice!) with a time-honored, Humean scoff.  Hah!  Doesn't Marshall know that real (sane) historians don't believe in miracles, or Christianity, for that matter? 

57.  Realistic miracles may be ultimately "oxymoronic" if we all begin (a la Hume) by knowing that all reports of them must be untrue.  But of course I, for one, do not begin that way - having read Keener, and Metaxis, and talked to numerous honest, intelligent people who claim (often in private) that they have experienced them. 

But even if we grant that miracles never happen, it would not follow that no reports of them could seem more realistic than others.   Indeed, skeptics themselves recognize this, by the sheer act of comparing gospel miracles to genuinely ridiculous miracles -- and Carrier, by always exaggerating the wildness of any biblical miracle he mentions, and generally mentioning the few that can be so exaggerated.   This is why the so-called "zombies" at the end of Matthew are so popular in skeptical circles.  

58. The gospels are documents.  Therefore, miracles have indeed been documented to occur (not "exist").   And of course, many other highly credible writers have also documented miracles. including two I mentioned during our debate, one a leading scholar in the field we were debating.  

What Carrier really means, and should say, is "I think I can explain away all the miracles that I have heard of."  Which I would admit -- he probably really does think he can explain them all away.   Which is itself not hard to explain away.  

59.  Does Carrier mean that all historians who believe miracles really occur are crazy?  Or merely that supernaturalism is, by itself, a strong marker of fiction?  Is an historian permitted not to be crazy, if he or she stands outside the "mainstream" -- which means, apparently is a Christian?

Since Carrier repeatedly accuses me of "lying," I wonder if his accusation of lunacy might not get me off the first and more common charge?  After all, if you mean someone who is insane, you generally try to calm him down, you don't get mad if he says improbable things and call him names. 

Indeed, who sounds crazier in this debate?  

Anyway, of course Carrier is wrong.  Many sane, and quite productive historians are fully open to the occurrence of the supernatural.   I think that would include the eminent historians at Oxford, Penn State and Washington (perhaps, though he was an Anglican) who have so kindly blurbed my writings.  Since the latter was the head of the Department of History, founder and editor of the Slavic Review, and much-loved, it would be a pity to learn he was a lunatic.     

60.  Of course I never say that miracles per se are evidence of historicity.  Carrier has, yet again, quite misunderstood and 5-year-olded my argument for his audience. 


RC: "The funny thing, of course, is that this means Marshall thinks Jesus withering a fig tree for the illogical reason that it wasn’t bearing figs out of season is realistic.  (61) That Jesus drowning two thousand pigs by casting spirit entities into them is realisticThat Jesus viewing “all the kingdoms of the world” from a mountaintop is realistic (gosh, which mountain would that be?).  (62) That Jesus simultaneously riding both an adult and a baby donkey into Jerusalem is not only realistic, but evidence it’s true!  (63) (Good luck figuring out the logistics of that: OHJ, p. 459).

61.  I don't think I mention that miracle.  But Carrier has obviously missed the clear point of Jesus' object lesson, regardless how often it has been explained "in the literature" for the thick of skull.

62. A vision, as Blomberg explains, again for the thick of skull. 

63. I thought we were talking about miracles, rather than literary devices and saddle sores?  I have often remarked on Matthew's love of doubles, it has nothing to do with my argument for the historicity of Jesus' miracles.  

RC: "The rest of Marshall’s criteria are even outright false (the Gospels actually don’t merit them) as well as irrelevant (even a story that merits them is not thereby more likely historical). For example, he cites as a criterion of increasing historicity that the Gospels are very early (Marshall criterion (2)), but fiction can be written immediately. Time has no bearing on that. By contrast, very late texts can actually be more likely historical than early ones (64-65) Arrian’s history of Alexander (written 500 years later) is far more historically reliable than the inaccurate and legend-riddled account of Callisthenes who was an eyewitness! (On why Arrian is more reliable than the Gospels: OHJ, p. 22.)

64.  So, time is irrelevant to historicity?  "Marshall's criterion" is "outright false" because "time has no bearing" on historicity?

First of all, this is not "Marshall's criterion."  Read any liberal New Testament scholar.  Read Funk, Crossan, Borg, Fredriksen, or Ehrman.

Why did liberal scholars start using "Marshall's criterion" 30 years ago, already?

Take Crossan's The Historical Jesus.  Look at Appendix 1, "An Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by Chronological Stratification and Independent Attestation."  The whole point of that appendix is that time matters, when it comes to accessing historical truth!   And while critics (like NT Wright) have faulted Crossan for placing some texts in the wrong strata, none before Carrier, so far as I know, has faulted him for borrowing the material from me, in 1991, 14 years before I wrote my Jesus Seminar book.  Nor has anyone else I know of faulted him for the notion that time matters for accessing accurate history.

65.  Of course I do not offer so simplistic an account of how time matters, as Carrier evidently wishes his readers to believe.  I point out, on the contrary, that Indian material that made its way into the Rig Veda, was orally transmitted for a thousand years or more, with surprising accuracy.  I describe the nuanced understanding of oral tradition that Kenneth Bailey, James Dunn, and Richard Bauckham develop.  I discuss Q, life expectancies, and much else besides - before coming not to the ridiculous conclusion, "This is early, so it must be true," but "This is early, so certain arguments against the gospels fail, and they are more likely to be accurate than they otherwise would be."

Carrier demonstrates his sheer childishness by 5-year-olding my argument again, then giving it a petulant kick.  And his main point is contradicted by practically every scholar in the field, by common sense, and by experience.   And shortly thereafter -- by himself.

RC: "Thus, nearness in time is not by itself a relevant criterion(66) But the claim is also false. The Gospels were written after even Paul was dead (67), much more any other known witness.  (68) The earliest can’t have been composed any earlier than forty years after the fact(69) by which time any witnesses there may have been would have been in their sixties or seventies(70)and statistically very likely dead by then (71) (average life expectancy for adults was 48; and Christians had to endure persecutions, wars, and famines in those forty years, so their life expectancy was below average(72) OHJ, pp. 148-52).

All of these claims are false.   Many I show to be false in JNM. 

66.  As scholars in general recognize (and Carrier accuses me of ignoring the literature!) nearness in time is highly relevant.  Carrier confuses "relevant" with "sufficient" or "decisive."

67. Paul did not die of old age, so his death is not a clear marker of the passing of a generation, as Carrier seems to imply.  And Mark may have been written before he died.

68.  What does that mean?  Papias claims that John was an eyewitness.  Why could John (or Mark, Peter's disciple) not have lived after Paul's execution?

69.  Of course the gospels could have been written before 70 AD, as many scholars think some were.  The world does not take "convincing Richard Carrier" as its chief standard of proof.

70.  Which assumes that witnesses to Jesus' life could not have been 20 or younger.  Yet we know Jesus encouraged young disciples.  And as I argue, mobile revolutionary movements usually consist of the young.   No doubt this is because the middle-aged are tied down, and the old cannot travel easily.

71.  As I explain at more-than-sufficient length, short life-expectancies are a function mostly of infant mortality.  If adults died so quickly, the human race would die out.

72.  Christians tended not to serve in wars.  The Christian community, Stark shows in The Rise of Christianity (whose figures Carrier cites when they are useful), had the demographic advantage that Christians tended to take better care of one another.  So despite persecutions (which Moss is at pains to say were not all that devastating), many of Jesus' young early followers probably lived well past the time when the gospels were written. 

RC: "Accordingly, we have no evidence any witness was alive when Mark wrote (he refers to none; and no other sources attest to any). (73) And that’s just Mark.  Matthew wrote later still. And Luke, we know, had to have composed no earlier than sixty years after the fact(74) when any witnesses would likely be in their eighties or nineties, and almost certainly dead by then; and John wrote decades after that  (75) (OHJ, pp. 264-70). The Gospels were thus written suspiciously precisely when legends begin to run most rampant. And we have no evidence any witness was alive to gainsay them. (76)

Wow, maybe the count of errors will pass 100!  That's pretty impressive for a mere "book review."  Pity it's all 1,2,3 and no 1b, 2b, 3b, or 1c, 2c, 3c.  Nothing in this second half of the "review" really even challenges anything I say in Jesus is No Myth yetso far as I can see.  

But we soldier on. 

73.  Papias attests to Mark's reliance on the sermons of Peter, and John attests to John being alive shortly before the final shape of his book went to press -- which Carrier says was half a century after Mark.  And it would be a miracle if all the eyewitnesses had died by that time, anyway -- even in 70 AD, some would be just 55, or even 50!

74. We "know" no such thing. 

75.  It is highly problematic and controversial to say John wrote that late.  

76.  So "Marshall's criterion" of time does matter, after all!  I am sure John Crossan and Paula Fredriksen will be relieved to learn their faith in me was not misplaced!

RC: "Similarly, Marshall claims the Gospels depict people and audiences reacting realistically (Marshall criterion (12)), but that’s both irrelevant (fiction can depict that, too) and false.  The behavior of people in the Gospels is highly unrealistic In the real world no one abandons their jobs and families and fanatically follows a total stranger the rest of their lives after hearing him utter two sentences (77-8)  . . (cut) There is actually hardly any scene in the Gospels that realistically depicts the actual complex and nuanced ways real people would actually behave had they seen or heard those things. This is actually evidence the Gospels are fabricated.

77.  The gospels never present everything that happens, of course.  That would be impossible, and paper was extremely expensive, for one thing.  But Jesus' words, and deeds, were such that it is not at all hard to understand the reactions to him, both positive and negative.

The world is full of impulsive people who run off and join the army, or get married in Vegas, or become missionaries, on the spur of the moment.  And we don't know the back-story here - how John and James got along with their Dad, how business had been, what they knew about Jesus already, and so forth.  This is a very uncharitable and unimaginative reading.  

78.  In that mysterious, never-noticed Part III, I compare crowd reactions in ancient Greek fiction.  The difference with the gospels is startling, and I think would convince anyone whose mind was not made up.  Again, one of Carrier's own "all characteristics the same" books furnishes a great control here - The Golden Ass.  The hero is a donkey -- so everything happens to the donkey, even a woman falling in lust with him.  (Don't ask.)  That's Carrier's chosen analogy to the gospels -- a single data point that by itself calls into question his literary sense.  


RC: "Likewise, Marshall claims the Gospels realistically develop the personalities of supporting characters (Marshall (13)), which is again both irrelevant (fiction can do that, too) and false.(79)  The motivations and character of Judas make absolutely no sense as depicted. Peter is a cypher.(80) Why he vacillates as he does, what his aspirations are, pretty much anything we’d want to know about what sort of person he was and why he did what he did, is never revealed. And no one else is even developed enough to assess as a person. Everyone else in the Gospels is always in fact just a cardboard cutout who only ever speaks or acts so as to serve as a lesson for the reader or as a foil for Jesus or to move the plot, even when their behavior makes no sense or is wholly improbable for a real person(81) This is actually evidence the Gospels are fabricated.

79.  Carrier has, as usual, simplified and misrepresented my actual argument.  The analogies I offer here (before testing them in Part III), are Confucius, and my own classrooms.  I point out that teachers meet with a particular pattern, which one finds in the gospels as well.  A few students stand out.  Most follow their classmates, or the class as a whole, speaking up on rarer intervals.  Perhaps Carrier will learn about this some day, if he ever lands a teaching job.  I hope this will happen, preferably after he has learned how to read better himself. 

80.  Peter, a cypher?  Are you kidding?

81.  What, Nicodemus?  The woman who asks for her daughter's healing?  Thomas?

The Gospel story is about Jesus, so the characters of his disciples are sketched in lesser but varying degrees of detail -- as in the earliest accounts of Confucius' life.  That is what one would expect, I argue, from an historical account, and show does not occur in ancient fiction.  Carrier has not even challenged my actual arguments, again.   

RC: "The same thing goes for Marshall’s claim that the Gospels depict its actual historical characters realistically (Marshall criterion (16)). But that’s either not true or not known to be true. We know little about Caiaphas by which to assess his depiction as realistic; likewise for every other known historical person paraded into the narrative(82) Except Pontius Pilate. Who is not depicted realistically at all.  (83)  Marshall tries to explain away the fact that Pilate violates rather than merits the criterion, by inventing reasons why he might do the things he does in the Gospels—but pointedly, it never occurs to the Gospel authors to give those reasons(84) That David Marshall knows how to write a more realistic depiction of Pilate than the authors of the Gospels did is not evidence the authors of the Gospels were writing history. It’s evidence they were writing fiction (OHJ, pp. 371-72, 374, 403).

82. This is, again, simply untrue.  Josephus tells us a great deal about Herod the Great and John the Baptist, which in fact coheres closely with what the gospels say.  If it cohered exactly, of course, Carrier would say the evangelists copied from Josephus, as he claims, too. Can't win with this guy: his theories are unfalsifiably elastic.  

We also know a little about some other characters in the New Testament from outside sources, including Caiaphas: that he was a real person, his position, not great detail, but enough to add a little more credibility to the gospel account. 

Furthermore, we know a great deal about Paul from his own writings, which are verified on dozens of facts from Luke.  Of course Carrier will say Luke copied those facts.  But since Carrier can't even copy my arguments without completely boshing them every single time, we won't look to him for expert testimony about the nature of copying.  

83. See Habermas, 143-145, including details I also bring up.

84. On the contrary, I cite what the gospels themselves say.  In the context of that time and place, Pilate's dream is a highly credible detail, as is Pilate's reaction to it.  And Luke himself describes Pilate's cruelty on another occasion.  

RC: "Apart from his bogus “thirty criteria,” Marshall also relies (X) othe crank “Argument from Undesigned Coincidences” (see Babinski and Ehrman(85), which is based on ignoring that Matthew and Luke are using Mark (and each other) as a source  (86) (just as Acts used the Epistles, and John used Mark and Luke) (87), and rests on illogical premises about how authors and reality work.  (88) He also relies on the bogus claim that the frequency of names in the Gospels matches reality(89) n.b., it doesn’t: very common names (like Jesus, Lazarus, Ishmael and Manahem) are peculiarly less frequent than they should be; and the names that do appear are mentioned too infrequently to produce any statistically significant conclusion, or are disproportionately over-represented (like James and Phillip), or are actually conspicuously unusual for Palestine (like Nicodemus, Stephen, and Bartimaeus). The most typical names in fact all derive from the OT, which is evidence of symbolic emulation of the scriptures, not historical reality. Marshall cherry picks the evidence that conveniently confirms his name frequency hypothesis, while hiding the evidence that contradicts it(90) (And again, he sucks at math.) (91)

(X) Added error:  No, Undesigned Coincidences is not "apart from" my thirty criteria, it is one of them.  

85.  To support his "crank" jibe, Carrier links to a debate between Tim McGrew and Bart Ehrman on the same show we debated on, Unbelievable.  The odd thing is, Ehrman had apparently never heard of Undesigned Coincidences, and didn't seem to know how to respond to Dr. McGrew's argument.  He did the best he can, mainly by changing the subject.  But that, along with a piece by the eccentric Ed Babinski, is enough for Carrier not only to call the debate for Ehrman (whose honesty he has also often blasted), but to declare McGrew's argument (which he shows no hint of understanding, see below) "crank." 

Welcome to the wonderful world of Richard Carrier-style "scholarship."

Here, by the way, is McGrew's response to Ed Babinski

86.  I've read Lydia McGrew's book in advance, and Tim's on-line arguments, and that is simply not what they are based upon.
87.  I doubt these lines of borrowing.  But they wouldn't be relevant, even if true.  
88.  As if Richard Carrier knows more about how authors or reality work, than the rest of us do -- so self-evidently, that we need not bother with any evidence or arguments. 
89.  I rely on data for both the gospels and for 1st Century Palestine that Richard Bauckham furnishes in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - you know, the peer-reviewed research that Carrier was on about, earlier in this paper. 
90.   No I do not "cherry-pick" or "hide" evidence.  I cite Bauckham, then provide the data from a table put together by Neil Shenvi, without deleting any of it, or adding anything else.
91.  And again, no examples of any mathematical errors that I have committed are given.   

RC: "Of course, trying to get a different frequency from actual pertinent evidence is hard work, and Marshall is lazy (93); it’s also impossible, because guess what, even before you look at the list of persons as mythologized as Jesus, you can probably already predict the frequency of historical persons on that list isn’t going to be that high. vSo Marshall needs Jesus to not be in the Rank Raglan class.  So he slews a slaw of ridiculous apologetic bullshit to try and get him out of there.  (94)  But even outside the RR Class, Jesus sits at almost the most extreme degree of mythification that anyone claimed to be historical can even undergo; it’s thus not possible to argue against the conclusion that he should be among the least likely to be historical of almost anyone there is, totally regardless of whether he belongs to the RR Class.

93. I may indeed be lazy in some ways, but not in this one.

94.  Refuting Carrier's pet Rank-Raglan theory was painfully easy, like shooting fish in a barrel.  That, no doubt, is why the sport has become so popular.   Maybe it will be an Olympic event in 2020.

RC: "I’ve discussed the facts and mathematical logic of the Rank-Raglan trope several times already, beyond what’s already covered in OHJ (see McGrath on the Rank-Raglan MythotypeThe Covington ReviewThe Tim Hendrix CritiqueThe Hallquist Review; and Two Lessons Bart Ehrman Needs to Learn).  Here I’ll just quickly make fun of Marshall’s attempt to escape reality on this point (Jesus, pp. 28-37):
  • Marshall claims the Gospels never declare Jesus the heir of a king.  Apparently David wasn’t a king.(95)
95.  Of course that isn't what I say.   I point out the obvious fact that "king," in the gospels, is a metaphor, not a literal description of Jesus' mundane occupation.  And anyway, being the "son of David" in the sense of physical descendant would not make one his heir -else David would have tens of thousands of heirs.  Some say one hundred million Asians are descended from that busiest of Khans, Genghis.  Does that mean Mongolia has 100 million emperors?  
  • Marshall claims the Gospels never declare Jesus the Son of God. [Roll laugh track.] (95)

95.   Completely false.  Here is what I actually say, in black and white (but putting key words in red and enlarging a few of them, to help the illiterate at least notice the big red words): 

"'He is reputed to be the son of a god.'  Technically we should probably reject this quality to retain rigor, since Jesus was not the son of 'a god' --- that is, the physical offspring of a Greek superhero, an exalted man who was limited in space, knowledge, and virtue, one of a 'pack of spoiled brats' as Oxford historian of science Allan Chapman described the crowd on Olympus.  Rather, Jesus is described as Son of God, the transcendent and morally perfect Creator of all things.  His sonship is not physical (it did not involve Zeus or Poseidon chasing a maiden) but metaphorical."

Even so, I generously give this item half a point, to give Carrier's theory every chance. 

And then Carrier opens up on all banks, and simply fabricates phony arguments for me right and left, to save his Rank Raglan argument: 
  • Marshall claims Jesus is never said to be reared by one or more foster parents(96) Because Joseph was actually the biological father of Je…oh no, wait.
  • Marshall claims we are told all about Jesus’s childhood(97) Because we are told about him as a baby and a young adult. Neither of which is his childhood. (98)
  • Marshall claims Jesus never returned to his future kingdom. Apparently David didn’t rule Judea. And this didn’t happen(99)
  • Marshall claims the Gospels never declare Jesus King of the Jews. [Roll laugh track.](100)
  • Marshall claims Jesus’s ministry included wars and natural catastrophes. Because, Marshall insists with a straight face, drama is the same thing as wars and natural catastrophes(101)
  • Marshall claims Jesus did not proclaim any laws. Because, you know, his Sermon on the Mount was never enacted by a legislature.(102)
  • Marshall claims Jesus was never forsaken by God(103) Even though Jesus said he was forsaken by God.
  • Marshall claims Jesus was never abandoned by the people(104) Apparently this didn’t happenOr this.
  • Marshall claims Jesus was never driven “from the throne or city.” Because he doesn’t know what the word “or” means. Or that Jerusalem is a city(105)
  • Marshall claims Jesus’s rapid death was no surprise.  (106) Pontius Pilate was more experienced with crucifixion death rates.
  • Marshall claims nothing mysterious happened at Jesus’s death(107) Just the sun going out for three hours, an eighty-foot-high curtain magically tearing in two, a rock-shattering earthquake, and a horde of zombies descending on the city. Roman centurions were apparently more experienced with mysterious events.
  • Marshall claims Jesus’s children not succeeding him doesn’t count because Jesus “wasn’t a king” (right, Jesus totally wasn’t declared the King of the Jews…but his children didn’t even succeed him in running the church, either). And because he didn’t have any kids(108)  Even though not having kids is one of the ways kids don’t succeed you.
  • Marshall claims Jesus has no tomb(109)  Hmm.
  • Marshall claims defeating Satan in the desert doesn’t count as battling a great adversary(110) Even though Satan literally means “the adversary” and there was literally none greater.
  • Marshall claims that this contest didn’t happen before Jesus entered his future kingdom. Because he sucks at math, so he doesn’t know that Mark 4 comes before Mark 10.  (111)

(96-111)  I don't think I say a single one of these, which is why Carrier doesn't quote what I actually do say, but "paraphrases" all my actual arguments to hell.  

What is the surest sign of a lost argument?  When you don't dare quote your opponent's actual words.  When, instead, you rely entirely on caricature, distortion, simplification, and when all else fails, flat-out making crap up. 

This entire "review" thus reveals itself as a long, tattered flag of surrender by Richard Carrier.

Image result for surrender flagI dare anyone to read my actual arguments, pages 33-37, and compare them to the grotesque, blatant, and frankly cringing, falsification that Richard Carrier feels compelled to engage in, in the sentences above.  I don't think he accurately describes a single one of my arguments.

I accept your surrender, Richard.

RC: "If you aren’t laughing your ass off by now, you haven’t been paying attention.

I actually sort of agree with this sentence.  Though I feel a bit sorry for Richard and his fans, at the same time. 

RC: "As usual Marshall also lies, claiming for instance I only score Jesus on Matthew, not Mark (false: I note Mark scores Jesus at 14 out of 22 in OHJ, p. 232).  (112)  And, again, he sucks at math (mistakenly claiming we need to know how many historical people don’t score above 11 in order to know how many who do are historical).  (113) But his attempts to downscore Jesus just make him look ridiculous.  I hardly need any further argument.

(112)  Once again, just when Carrier most directly accuses me of lying, I directly and in so many words contradict the claims he tries to stuff into my mouth.  Once again, I put the most relevant words in big red, because unlike Jesus, or Dr. Margaret Brand, I can't heal the blind: 

"Third, why does Carrier focus on Matthew, which he sees as later, and not Mark, which he thinks presents an earlier stratus of the Christian myth?  Apparently because Matthew's Jesus seems to fit this pattern better than Mark's Jesus, especially if you concentrate on infancy narratives On Carrier's own account, Jesus only meets 14 of these criteria in Mark."

Need glasses much, Honest Richard? 

(113)  Again Carrier's representation of my argument makes it a bit hard to recognize.  What I claim is that we don't know how many RR grads have actually lived. 

RC: "The saddest thing here is that Marshall is totally fucking freaked out over this 1 in 3 prior chance of being historical derived from the Rank Raglan trend.  It horrifies and terrifies him. He has to run screaming from it, or thrash at it with wild irrational pummeling(114) And yet that’s an extremely weak prior against historicity.  It would be easily and quickly overwhelmed by any good evidence. Good evidence is something that’s, say, five times more likely to exist if the person existed than if they didn’t. A 5/1 Bayes’ Factor times a 1/3 Prior Odds gives you a 5/3 result in favor of historicity. Just from a single piece of relatively mild evidence (really good evidence has a Bayes’ Factor of hundreds or thousands or even millions to one; like the evidence we have for Julius Caesar). That defenders of historicity can’t even find enough evidence for Jesus to overwhelm a feeble 1/3 prior odds against it is what should be scaring them.  (115) The prior itself is so weak it’s not even scary at all.

(114) Who looks freaked, horrified, terrified, and irrational to you, in this exchange?   The person who quotes his opponent's words at length and calmly refutes them?  Or the person whose favorite word is "liar," who almost never dares quote what he is attacking directly, whose vitriol spills over into the obscene, and who wishes the other person's death?  

You decide.  

(115) I believe the evidence offered in Jesus is No Myth, not just that Jesus existed (never my point), but that the gospels are largely accurate, could overcome astronomical priors, sucky at math as Carrier keeps claiming that I am.   Sorry, but this book really is not about you, Richard.  You are so vain. 

Conclusion (116)

(116) Hallelujah!  But Carrier still has not mentioned Part III of my book, where so much of the material he claims the book does not contain, is in fact located. 

RC: "You will never learn from David Marshall’s book what the peer reviewed case against historicity actually consists of, or what facts and arguments it actually rests on. You will never see any engagement with any of the independent peer reviewed literature that supports that case. You will never hear what the alternative explanations of all the evidence are (including the origination of Christianity as a sect and dogma), much less find any coherent explanation of why it’s wrong.  You will have tons of evidence hidden from you. You will be lied to(117-8) And you will be distracted by irrelevant methodologies that have no basis or support in any professional field.

(117) You have already had tons of evidence hidden from you, in this so-called "review" of Jesus is No Myth.  Carrier never quotes directly when he can make crap up.  He essentially overlooks or misreads the entire book: its purpose, its outline, the data I rely upon, and every single argument he pretends to attend to. 

By contrast, I quote people directly, and I quote them accurately, having no fear of anything Reza Aslan, Matthew Ferguson, Bart Ehrman, or Richard Carrier say.  I see them as wayward friends to the Gospel, inside moles who betray the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance.  They set the ball up over the net, so Christian apologists can slam it back and win the game not merely for the historicity of Jesus, but for the truth of the Gospel, which drives skeptics to arguments as bad as the ones we have witnessed above.

(118) You have already been lied to, repeatedly.  But not by me.   

RC: "Indeed, Marshall’s entire approach rests on assuming miracle claims have the same probability of being true as mundane stories  (119) (e.g. Jesus, pp. 162-81). Of course his reasoning to that conclusion is totally illogical, and only betrays his unprofessional bias (see, by contrast, why real historians—even when believers like Raymond Brown—don’t act like that: Proving History, pp. 114-17).  His book is thus just so much Christian apologetics, and not even good apologetics at that.  It is not serious scholarship that would pass peer review, at least anywhere with respectable academic standards. It’s all smoke and mirrors, a continuous thread of handwaving with a bankrupt methodology, wanton dishonesty, and the concealing of evidence. I don’t recommend it.  Other than perhaps for amusement. Or cooking hamburgers. Oh, wait, no. It’s probably toxic.

(119)  More Carrier-gesis.  Again, that simply is not my argument, or my assumption.  Which is why, again, Richard Carrier is unable to directly quote me saying anything of the sort, before tossing off his last, and lamest (given what has gone before) accusation of "dishonesty." 

I can't even call it ironic.  It's just pathetic, and extremely disappointing from a man with a PhD in ancient history from so great an institution as Columbia University.  

Conclusions:

I am grateful that my books have warm reviews from many scholars for whom I feel the deepest respect, including leading historians, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists and theologians from around the world.  (Some of whom have taught at some of the best universities on the planet.)  I treasure the encouragement of thinkers who have contributed so much to human knowledge, and who in many cases are greatly my superiors in deeply important and relevant fields. 

     
Certainly my arguments are rather original, and therefore like any other novel hypotheses, merit serious, sober, and informed criticism.   Some of my major arguments may, in major respects, be flawed and in need of revision.  It is likely that I am patently wrong on some minor points, though I do believe the major theses of this book will prove sound. 


I had generally thought of Richard Carrier as an intelligent and well-informed individual, even if prone to fits of emotional hysteria, and to building castles in the air for his solitary and imaginary sovereignty. 

I am surprised that even in such an enraged state, Dr. Carrier seems unable to critique Jesus is No Myth with more intelligence or insight, or even basic understanding, than he exhibits in the review above.  Surely, to get a PhD at Columbia University, one has to be able to put on a better show than this!

Nevertheless, sadly, this review is almost utterly bereft of anything for me, the author, to learn, besides perhaps compassion.  I may rework a few sentences to make them a bit clearer.  But Carrier does not seem to miss-read by accident.  The errors he makes always fit into the same pattern, protecting his own arguments, and utterly obscuring (not really challenging, ever) mine.  Carrier does not quote my exact words, because his own caricature of them -- while invariably inaccurate to the nth power -- works better for his retributive purposes.  

I shall have to wait for serious criticism from someone else.