I’m keeping up researching arguments for and against the resurrection. Can anyone refute this?
Cringe boy Richard Carrier.
As David Hume once said, why do such things not happen now? Is it a coincidence that the very time when these things no longer happen is the same time that we have the means and methods to check them in the light of science and careful investigation? I’ve never seen monsters spring from a tree, and I don’t know anyone who has, and there are no women touring the country transmuting matter or levitating ships. These events look like tall tales, sound like tall tales, and smell like tall tales. Odds are, they’re tall tales.
This is the nonsense argument that assumes that these miracles coincidentally happened in the time where we can’t “check” them. In fact, resurrections weren’t happening in 1000 AD or 1000 BC, it was just specific events set near the beginning of humanity (less than 2% of all humans were born in the age of Christ) that were meant to continue and spread to the world. This … isn’t “common sense”, as Carrier claims (who of course, as we know, is a crackpot mythicist, common sense doesn’t jibe with the fellow).
Carrier goes on to try to compare the biographies of Jesus with Genevieve, positioning the idea that they’re the same and no reason to believe one over the other. As such, he says at one point;
Both contain fabulous miracles supposedly witnessed by numerous people. Both belong to the same genre of literature: what we call a “hagiography,” a sacred account of a holy person regarded as representing a moral and divine ideal.
Except the Gospels … aren’t hagiographies. Their genre is ancient biography, as has been thoroughly demonstrated by Richard Burridge in his enormously influential monograph (see this paper on that) What Are the Gospels?, where he essentially demonstrates that the Gospels either are absolutely ancient biography, or just enormously similar. So the comparison falls flat on its face right away, the work on Genevieve is a hagiographical account whereas the Gospels are ancient biography. And herein is why one is better than the other. The funny thing is Carrier goes on to claim that both writings try to set up the “perfection” (or something) of the main figure. Yet in the Gospels, we’re told Jesus drinks and says on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Not exactly something someone would leave in if they were trying to set up an absolute perfection, not least among other things.
Carrier goes on to say nonsense about no non-Christian mentioning the resurrection until Lucian. Of course, this is irrelevant, since the belief and sources about the resurrection were already available. Is Carrier implying no one believed in the resurrection until Lucian? Of course not, only a boneheaded quack would claim that, and yet that’s the only type of relevance such a detail would have. Would Carrier think the evidence is a figment better if Josephus said there were Christians believing in the resurrection? Of course not, it’s utterly irrelevant. But this is something that the kook does, piling on irrelevant (and sometimes false, see genre discussion above) points as if they boost his position. At this point, he’s offered the equivalent of nothing. So, when will he go on to address the actual resurrection argument made by the Christians?
Carrier goes on to claim that the evidence for the resurrection is nothing “but the very worst kind of evidence–a handful of biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses.” This is obviously ridiculous and requires to pay very far attention away from the actual sources. “Biased” can be ignored, since all ancient writers are biased. These sources reveal to us, especially from Paul, that the very earliest Christians already accepted the resurrection. Indeed, the creed in 1 Corinthians 15, going back to the first few years, if not months of the crucifixion, already attests to various appearance accounts, it has been demonstrated that the original disciples had come to the belief that they had experienced the risen Jesus, virtually right after the death happened. That, itself, is one of our pieces of evidences – a number of independent people having this experience, even enemies of Christianity who had never met Jesus, like Paul himself. I think Carrier is a proponent of the crackpot hallucination hypothesis, which is an obvious impossibility to anyone with half a brain and acquaintance with the scholarly literate. Group hallucinations have never been medically documented, and the idea that multiple people, independently, even enemies like Paul would magically come to these hallucinations (especially since hallucinations are a projection of ones own mind) is fanciful at best, dangerously stupid at worst.
Carrier then reveals some superstitious aspects of ancient society, such as with the flutes or something. But Carrier never mentions these are exclusively pagan rituals and ideologies that were so superstitious, the witches, the magic, the flutes, the etc. Where is this comparable superstition among mainstream Jewish society in the 1st century? There isn’t. They’d have their prayers, bathe in their nice ritual baths and try to not do unholy things, a warlord that tries to bring about the end of the world would come every few decades, and … that’s about it. No flutes in the traditions that conceived of the death of Jesus. This is another irrelevancy Carrier tries to prop up.
Carrier claims another nonsensical thing, that on the evidence of the resurrection, we’d have to believe in things like talking dogs (or something). Of course, he never relates how such evidence is comparable. Jesus died, was buried, there was an empty tomb (most scholars accept this and such can easily be argued), there were appearances, etc. And compare the situation of Jesus to the other half Messiah claimants of his age, like Bar Khoba and the like. After they died … no one alleged to have seen an appearance of them. Or to have found an empty tomb. Or anything like Jesus. Literally, zero comparison. The only thing we find when we compare the story of Jesus and the resurrection to other accounts, we don’t find it part of the wider superstition. Seriously. Carrier’s footnote 14 claims to have events with comparable evidence or something – one of them is the ancient work called the Acts of Peter. Yet this work is centuries later from its events, not an ancient biography, and Carrier would have to explain how it even begins to compare with the arguments already outlined with the resurrection. Carrier the kook is just playing on his readers ignorance in this part of the footnote (as the rest of it)
Anyways, Carrier goes on to argue that there are really no early martyrs for the resurrection who claimed to have experienced it (or something). Ugh, there are. Clement of Rome, anybody, who mentions the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul? Historians mostly date this text to 90 AD, but Carrier goes even earlier – 70. In it, he clearly records both Paul and Peter dying for their faith. That’s enough to demonstrate that, they actually, genuinely believed it. Again, only the most boneheaded of people think these people were actually lying about their experiences.
Carrier, of course, props up the spiritual resurrection nonsense which is on a slow way out of academia as we speak. As far as I’m concerned, the evidence is so overwhelming against this thesis (see this and this paper) that, on that point, it can be dismissed. To be fair to Carrier, the two papers I referenced are from 2014 and 2016, whereas Carrier made his comments in that blog or whatever it came from in 2006, so he couldn’t have known its total bunk back then (which ironically also makes this little post outdated).
Carrier goes on to mention the nonsense of development in the resurrection accounts. Let’s take the following chronological order that Carrier accepts here, which I also think is correct, first Paul wrote, then Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Any perusal through the accounts and what we’re told reveal Matthew is leagues and beyonds more detailed and extraordinary than any of the other accounts, with what atheists falsely call a “zombie apocalypse” and a huge earthquake and whatnot. Then, I’d place Paul – in Paul, literally hundreds of people experience the raised Christ. After that, it’s hard whether or not Luke or John are more into the entire event, and the least detailed is Mark. So there’s absolutely no line of development at all, especially considering how one might want to actually define development.
Carrier goes on to mention more irrelevancies, the pagan deity Asclepius who raised people from the dead. Again, another pagan deity that Jews flat out didn’t care about. If Carrier’s words had a hint of veracity to them, Carrier would be able to point to fantastic resurrection accounts permeating Jewish literature. I can think of a single isolated comparison, Gabriel’s Revelation, but many scholars think this is a terrible comparison (based on the translation) and some scholarship argues the text is an outright forgery (it was found very recently, but no one knows where it came from, i.e. its unprovenanced, among some other things noted in this paper). Or he would be able to show other Messiah claimaints were believed to be resurrected. He can’t, Jesus was never a competitor with Asclepius until a significant amount of time had passed. And Jesus wasn’t a “healing deity” like Asclepius. In fact, the Messiah was expected to do a few things. In the dead sea scroll 4Q521, it is “heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor”. So you can’t isolate one aspect of Jesus’ ministry and scream the name of the most similar pagan god you can think of, these things were intricately connected in Jewish expectation and Jesus in the NT had nothing to do with Asclepius. I mean, obviously. Carrier goes on to mention more irrelevant pagan stories (including Zalmoxis, who never was resurrected but actually just disappeared for a period). Carrier seems to have forgotten about the last half century of NT scholarship and the fact that the NT writings must be read in 1st century Jewish, not pagan lenses.
At this point, there’s no point going further. Carrier’s ideas are something that many would cringe to engage with (this poor reasoning on his part is another reason why he failed to attain an academic career and has a dismally small publishing record). For anyone interested, Tim O’Neill has recently destroyed Carrier’s spiritual Jesus in Paul (and promise is that more is on the way). O’Neill was originally accused of “a–crankery” by Carrier, to which Carrier was destroyed in a follow up (which Carrier still has been unable to address, two years later despite the fact that he has the willingness to respond to less relevant people and even a tiny comment O’Neill made on Ehrman’s blog years prior).
EDIT: Apparently, Reggie has also asked:
Which denomination is best?
I belong in an Orthodox family, but I don’t identify with any denominations. The Bible, on three occasions, mentions the word “Christians”. Never mentions Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Mormons, etc. In my view, anything piled on top of this is a needless division of the Church. This is why we have tens of thousands of denominations today. Peter was a “Christian”. Paul was a “Christian”. James was a “Christian”. I am a “Christian”. Anything beyond this is something that Jesus wouldn’t have approved of, if the radical leftist ideology theories have any relevance anywhere, denominations truly are a “social construct”. So I’d say don’t belong yourself to any denomination. Just being a Christian is enough, and that’s what I think matters.