The assumption that Jesus existed as a historical person has occasionally been questioned in the course of the last hundred years or so, but any doubts that have been raised have usually been put to rest in favor of imagining a blend of the historical, the mythical, and the theological in the surviving records of Jesus. Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier reexamines the whole question and finds compelling reasons to suspect the more daring assumption is correct. He lays out extensive research on the evidence for Jesus and the origins of Christianity and poses the key questions that must now be answered if the historicity of Jesus is to survive as a dominant paradigm. Carrier contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Such a theory posits that the Jesus figure was originally conceived of as a celestial being known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture; then stories placing this being in earthly history were crafted to communicate allegorically the claims of the gospel. Such stories eventually came to be believed or promoted in the struggle for control of the Christian churches that survived the tribulations of the first century. Carrier finds this theory more credible than has been previously imagined. He explains why it offers a better explanation for all the disparate evidence surviving from the first two centuries of the Christian era. He argues that we need a more careful and robust theory of cultural syncretism between Jewish theology and politics of the second-temple period and the most popular features of pagan religion and philosophy of the time. For everyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge them.
©2014 Sheffield Phoenix Press (P)2015 Pitchstone Publishing
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"Very detailed analysis with a clear conclusion"
As an Information Technology Engineer, I am regularly tasked with assessing a problem, identifying the cause, providing and implementing a solution to that problem, and finally, performing a root-cause-analysis which typically results in implementing other changes that will prevent that type of problem from re-occurring given our current environment.For each incident, that process involves analyzing 10's to 100's of details and variables, considering the effect on any one system in our highly complicated environment when changing any one of those, as well as considering the cause and effect of one variable on one another.
Simply put, this process is called "troubleshooting". In simple environments and implementations, it can be very simple. The more complex the environment, with multiple system in place and the less you know about each one of those, the more and more complicated this process becomes... My point is that the question of Jesus' Historicity is an extremely complex question and just the process of finding any kind of reasonable answer is an enormously complex undertaking. This is exactly what Richard Carrier has done.
Every one of the most popular, oldest, most obscure, and even the irrelevant, arguments and defenses to the claims of Jesus having been a real person have been analyzed in depth by Richard Carrier, who is well versed an educated in the language, history and culture surrounding the origins of Christianity. You don't want me (an IT Engineer) working on your car, and you don't want a mechanic fixing your computer. You also don't want a preacher giving you advise about history, they are trained in interpretation of allegory, get your history from an expert.
Each point of argument is torn apart piece by piece, approached from every angle, and compared both individually and along with other arguments of consequence and then given a percentage of probability "for" the historicity in a fashion that NO Christian apologist would ever allow to be assigned to the position of mysticism.
In other words, Carrier is VERY generous toward the Christian claims with his position on each point.Even after all of that, the absolute BEST possibility of Jesus having been a real person only has about 33% chance of probability, which is not very probable at all. And that probability is calculated with the most generous allowances toward the Christian position, even leaving certain factors out of the equation that would bring it down further. Ultimately the realistic level of probability that Jesus was a real person is less than one percent given our current knowledge and all elements there in.
"Could" there have been a guy named Yeshua (Jesus) who was identified as a leader of one of the earliest cults that eventually evolved into what we identify as modern day Christianity??? Sure. Given the popularity of the name Yeshua and the vast number of early Christian cults, chance ALONE gives that a fairly significant probability. But in absolutely no way does that lean any amount of probability that the Jesus of Christianity existed. "That" Jesus not only lead an early cult, but also worked miracles while alove and preaching, as well as having returned from the dead after being crucified. In all fairness, those are the bare minimum requirements the "Jesus" claimed by Christianity to have existed historically. And any Christian with an apologetic response which does not require the supernatural act of returning from the dead... this means that you accept that "IF" some guy named Jesus who lead an early Christian cult actually existed, then you are also accepting that he was a regular human being and not the supernatural deity claimed by Christian Doctrine. And at that point, what argument do you have left to make your claim that Christianity is true? (I'll not argue about the esoteric idea of "truth" that religious people love to use, it's simply a cop-out)
Bayes' Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus - Highly recommended to truly understand the pain staking process that Richard Carrier employed in order to give as most accurate as possible probability to the existence of an historical Jesus. And why the field of History in general really needs a method that is more scientific than our current system of inference, induction and bias.
Two parts actually... I forget which chapters these are but.... First, the in depth analysis of the Testimonium Flavianum, claimed to be written by Josephus. Richard clearly shows that this is an interpolation given all other factors known about Josephus and his writings. And that the Jesus mentioned later in his writings was in reference to somebody completely different for whom we do have evidence and can easily correlate with that passage in question. And Second, the analysis of Paul's letters in which Jesus is ONLY ever mentioned being known "through revelation", never being mentioned in any manner that clearly identifies him as having been a real live human being (or, for you apologists, at least in human form on Earth).
If you are on the fence and really want to understand what we actually have as "evidence" for the reality of the core of the Christian claim... this is the book to read that will help you understand that it's all just myth, just like every other religion that has ever existed. If you are still deep in your convictions of faith for Christianity, I wish you the best of luck on your way through life in hopes that one day, your doubt becomes strong enough to actually allow real knowledge of real truth and the reality of our world to penetrate the protected areas of your mind where your religious faith resides. There is so much more to our natural world than religion lets on, so much to be amazed by. Breaking free from from the mental binds of religion is the first step, and education is the key.
"Well thought out argument."
Being a long-time casual student of religion, legend, mythology and the such, as well as theology from a scholar point of view, I must admit that Mr. Carrier made a well thought out argument for a mythical Jesus. I've always wanted to delve deeper into this matter but dreaded the work. Mr Carrier did most of it for me. Although sometimes he explains things with dizzying analogical intellect, which can get a bit confusing, such as explaining probability equations and numbers, I managed to keep up. I would recommend this title to people with an open mind (religious or not). At the very least, it will spark a hearty repsectful debate, which Mr Carries advocates.
I was very interested to listen to this book because it had never occurred to me that Jesus hadn’t existed as a historical figure and I was keen to find out what the evidence might be – for and against.
The first problem I encountered was that this book is actually a sequel. It builds on a first book in which the author describes a method of establishing the historicity (or lack of) of people (or myths) whose names have come down to us in ancient texts and by word of mouth. So this book assumes a bit of prior knowledge, but it is still reasonably intelligible without this.
The other difficulty with the book is that it is pitched at a pretty high academic level, and it refers to lots of material from scriptures etc. that I’ve never heard of.
However, despite both of these disadvantages it is possible to get the general gist of what the author is trying to discuss, although I would have to say that if he was talking a load of rubbish it might be difficult to recognise this, because he is an expert on the evidence which I know nothing about, and so I had to take his word for it.
Most of the arguments do make sense, but his method includes quantifying the probabilities of all the aspects of assessing whether Christ actually existed as a historical person, and these mathematical probabilities are a bit confusing. It isn’t easy to follow how he derives these figures and presumably this is explained more fully in the earlier book, which I haven’t read.
I won’t be a spoiler and tell you his conclusion, but I will say that despite the difficulty in following some of the very scholarly academic material in the book, it is nevertheless an interesting and worthwhile listen.
"Leading Argument on the Topic"
Well formulated argument and armed with a litany of information and sourced scholarship, Carrier has laid the groundwork for the way all historical and biblical scholarship should approach this and all topics of contention. The only downside is that as I'm writing this review there is no comparable scholarship arguing for a Historical Jesus and therefore nothing worthy of me offering as a recommendation for the alternative view. That is kind of sad and telling about the state of historical and biblical scholarship, when the consensus view does not have comparable source of scholarly argumentation. Hopefully this level of scholarship is contagious and catches on quickly.
"Very well done"
Well and exhaustively reasoned as well as engagingly narrated. The historicity of Jesus is expertly called into question.
"Exactly what we've been looking for"
Very well laid out book- for those that agree with Carrier's position it provides a clear roadmap to the conclusion, and for those who are inclined to disagree it should be very straightforward to knock it down. Can't recommend this read highly enough for all who are interested in the debate, and I can't wait for the rebuttals.
This audiobook was simply amazing! How can anybody argue with Dr. Richard Carrier?! I am now absolutely convinced that Jesus Christ is a mythological character after having experienced this comprehensive assessment.
"The Most intelligence, down to earth book"
His calm demeanor while shredding his opponents with the evidence
A vast intelligence and steady voice
Both. This book is deep, and informative, just like I like it
Carrier is the new Galileo for religion today. His immense intelligence shines through his work. I love reading and I love hearing his books.
"A true scholarly effort."
This is a very well researched scholarly writing and requires multiple readings to be able to retain so much information. The author does a great job of examining the scriptures and historicity of the Jesus "cult" from all angles including mathematical probabilities and is more than well worth the read. Well done!
"Brilliant. Can’t wait for a worthy rebuttal!"
This is exactly what those interested in this period of history have been waiting for.
Carrier appears to address all the relevant evidence. He has an honest and logical approach, a seemingly unique quality for an author on this subject. Never claiming certainty where there is none but giving evidence its fair evaluation. He puts fallacious arguments in their place and has the wisdom of Solomon when laying judgement on the unknowable. Why does this feel like the exception when it should be the rule.
I only hope Carrier’s call for a response doesn’t go unanswered. Officially you will want to remain on the fence until we hear a qualified critique - but its an understatement to say Carrier is convincing. He seems fair and unbiased (albeit convinced of his position) so if he does turn out to be manipulating the data I will lay the blame on other academics in the field and thank Carrier for a very well narrated, thoroughly entertaining 41 hours of 'what if?’.
This laymen’s final verdict; Carrier might just have written the most influential book in history, on the most influential book in history. No wonder he needed two volumes.
"The definitive work on the subject"
A challenging topic that's masterfully and rigorously tackled by RC a must for all true history buffs
"Even more convincing than I thought it would be!"
Superb in all respects... looking forward to the debate that should ensue.
Bravo Dr Carrier.
"Oh my lord"
He's such a dweeb (said with affection)
Be ye warned, this is a really scholarly book. The gist of the book is as much an exercise in historical method as it is in historical content.
"Rational, logical, open-ended"
A bit heavy with references to scripture (probably easier to understand in book form) but still possible to understand. Some parts are very reference heavy, so it may be hard to understand what is said, but otherwise well paced look into the history of christianity and it's surrounding culture of that time.
"Thorough explanation of the Christ myth"
Beautifully written explanation of the argument that Christ was a mythical being who did not have an earthly life.
Dr Carrier looks at a wide range of evidence; the cultural background; other parallel religious practice; non Christian historical sources; New Testament evidence to bring forward this case.
Using Bayes Theorem to create a rigorous method for assessing each piece of evidence Dr Carrier comes to the conclusion that Christ is most probably a myth.
Throughout the book Dr Carrier attempts to be as accommodating to the opposite case (historical Christ). Actually, it seemed fairly obvious to me that the actual case for historicity was even less strong. I certainly learned a great deal more about the ideas and concerns of early Christians and why they chose to write stories about a person who never existed.
Dr Carrier reads his own book very well. This certainly added to the experience for me.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who has a genuine interest in finding out about the origins of Christianity. Be prepared to listen to it more than once!
"Hugely important! "
I love this book. In audible it is narrated by the author Richard Carrier so one gets even more of the sentiment and nature of the man. I didn't start reading with a view either way on the Historicity of Jesus but I now agree with the author that an historical Jesus is extremely unlikely. I like how, in conclusion, Richard Carrier guides the reader on how to reassess the conclusion if she decides on different probabilities.
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