Why I don't buy Carrier's "why I don't buy the Resurrection"

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 I'm going against advice and deal with arguments by carm atheists because I think it's important to remember that certain things have been answered. Dealing with an old article by Richard Carrier that was sighted recently on CARM. Even though it's old these guys are rallying around it like its new and the same bunck is being noised about by atheists all the time.

Carrier's article is here:


this is prompted by Fleetmouse's statement that:

"You have no answers to Carrier's essay. "

He seems the most worked up over the idea that since carrier proves the superstitious nature of the folks of Jesus day, like he never considered that. That's something I knew about as a kid. I used it in highschool to justify my own atheism (1973).  I can't imagine anyone being impressed by it. Be that as it may that's not an argument so examine it.

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My first reaction to reading  the beginning is it's an argument from analogy based upon ideological assumptions. the argument itself assumes what all atheists assume "anything that tells us a SN event can happen must be wrong a priori" they always jump the track form that (the SN itself must be wrong) to "the historicity must be wrong as well.That's really nothing but good old fashioned doubt. This is something in which I refuse to believe, therefore, it can't be true.

To reinforce it he uses argument from analogy. He shows the story about some saint in the 500s which is ridiculous. Then asserts that because that story is false then the NT stories are false. That is argument from analogy that is not proof. There's a huge difference in the level of evidential understanding, claim and documentation in first century and sixth. Sixth century story is European and not Mid eastern. They had an even more tenuous grasp of proof and testimony than did the Mediterranean folk who had the Greeks to teach them. From point on the answers to his essay are just the regular arguments one finds in any argument about the res. I'll have more on it latter.

Te then asserts Hume's foolishness that "why doesn't this happen today. it does. In fact he's begging the question. We have tons of miracle claims from the current era and some good science that shows they are unexplained. The only factor that is different is the prayer, so prayer is the logical candidate to explain it. In addition to the Lourdes stuff (above link) there is also the Casdroph evidence. While not as systematic or rigorous it does have the evaluation of a medical staff of a hospital in the 70s.

Carrier is using an example from the time of legends in the dark ages which is not backed by anything like the kind of testimonial support of the Gospels.In making that argument he's just begging the question and asserting the ideology of naturalism. He evoking doubt as a fact rather than proving facts. again, he is privileging doubt. Doubt privileged means doubt becomes proof. The dark age European stuff has nothing like the eight levels of verification that I've demonstrated back the Gospels.

Let's examine his specific arguments. Carrier states:

But we should try to be more specific in our reasons, and not rely solely on common sense impressions. And there are specific reasons to disbelieve the story of Genevieve, and they are the same reasons we have to doubt the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus. For the parallel is clear: the Gospels were written no sooner to the death of their main character--and more likely many decades later--than was the case for the account of Genevieve; and like that account, the Gospels were also originally anonymous--the names now attached to them were added by speculation and oral tradition half a century after they were actually written. 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. Such a genre had as its principal aim the glorification of the religion itself and of the example set by the perfect holy person represented as its central focus. Such literature was also a tool of propaganda, used to promote certain moral or religious views, and to oppose different points of view. The life of Genevieve, for example, was written to combat Arianism. The canonical Gospels, on the other hand, appear to combat various forms of proto-Gnosticism. So being skeptical of what they say is sensible from the start.[1]

That's exactly why we can't compare that story to the resurrection. Not only is it from a different time and different culture but it was written for different reasons. The Gospels were primarily written to answer concerns of given communities of the early chruch. Their concerns revolved around securing the testimony of their cloud of witnesses as they began dying off. They were making the transition from oral culture to written culture. They were deal with the original testimony of eye witnesses. The European guys were dealing with a palimpsest [2] of  legend that never had that kind of eye witness support. Thus they are not analogous and the argument from analogy fails.

Carrier asserts the typical atheist pechant for 19th century dating of the Gospels.

It is certainly reasonable to doubt the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh, an event placed some time between 26 and 36 A.D. For this we have only a few written sources near the event, all of it sacred writing, and entirely pro-Christian. Pliny the Younger was the first non-Christian to even mention the religion, in 110 A.D., but he doesn't mention the resurrection. No non-Christian mentions the resurrection until many decades later--Lucian, a critic of superstition, was the first, writing in the mid-2nd century, and likely getting his information from Christian sources. So the evidence is not what any historian would consider good.
Note he stresses that it's all "sacred" that means in atheist speak we can't trust it because anything religious people write must be a lie and propaganda. Of course any testimony in favor of the resurrection would be sacred so there can't be any such thing as pro res evidence that is not a lie and can be trusted. He implies that the resurrection was not part of the faith until early second century or there about. That's an old fashioned view that was disproved a long time ago. Now the consensus in the field is Koester's notion of the pre Mark Passion narrative with empty tomb emerging in  mid first century. "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" [3]

 Now we find one of the more ridiculous tactics to which Carrier resorts. He pulls a bait and switch between historian's standard of evidence and the atheists own standard.

Nevertheless, Christian apologist Douglas Geivett has declared that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus meets, and I quote, "the highest standards of historical inquiry" and "if one takes the historian's own criteria for assessing the historicity of ancient events, the resurrection passes muster as a historically well-attested event of the ancient world," as well-attested, he says, as Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C.[5] Well, it is common in Christian apologetics, throughout history, to make absurdly exaggerated claims, and this is no exception. Let's look at Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon for a minute:
He's going to through a list of things where the documentation for Caesar is supposedly so much better than the Gospels. First of all, this is a total the reality of the issues. In setting up the idea that Caesar is better documented the notion of an atheist victory is looming. The problem is we should really expect that because Cesar was the ruler of the known world at that time. Jesus was an itinerant prophet form the sticks who did not even interest the historians or men of letters. That we have any testimony of Jesus is a miracle. The idea that Caesar is better documented is not proof that Jesus is badly documented. Moreover, it may be overstated that Jesus' evidence is better (he did quote a perhaps rash comment to that effect) yet let's examine the aspects of the statement and see they are using two different sets of criteria.

First he argues that we have Caesar's writings, we have no writings of Jesus. He asserts that this equates to not knowing what Jesus said or believed. We actually more about Jesus beliefs than Caesar's becuase while Caesar express some ideas Jesus is quoted by his followers in a full body of teaching that covers many aspects. Since the Jews had an oral culture in which they memoirs the words of their teachers and spit them back ver batiam we probalby do have a good accurate understanding of Jesus' teachings, at least as they were applied by his first follows a few years after the communities were established. Oral tradition was not just wild random rummer but actuate reflection of the teacher through the student's memorization. It worked and there is a great deal of evidence to that effect.

Secondly he records the fact that at least one of Caesar's enemies documented his crossing the Rubicon, that is Cicero. While he argues that there are no such records of Jesus enemies or neural particles that is not the case. There's good documentation that Jesus was written about in the Talmudist writings, some of those date to first century.MICHAEL L. RODKINSON in his translation of the Babylonian Talmud says:

Thus the study of the Talmud flourished after the destruction of the Temple, although beset with great difficulties and desperate struggles. All his days, R. Johanan b. Zakkai was obliged to dispute with Sadducees and Bathueians and, no doubt, with the Messiahists also; for although these last were Pharisees, they differed in many points from the teaching of the Talmud after their master, Jesus, had broken with the Pharisees...[4]

 Moreover the fact that Talmudic sources talked about Jesus is born out by Celsus. The points that he says the Jews gave him are things the Talmud says about the alleged "Jesus figure." See my pages on Jesus in the Talmud for good documentation.

 He also includes inscriptions on coins. That's not a good source and it doesn't prove much. We had a dime with Mercury on it. That doesn't mean Mercury was a real guy. Coins documented legends and mythology.

He tires to use mulitiple sources to establish Caesar's crossing the Rubicon:
    Fourth, we have the story of the "Rubicon Crossing" in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian,Cassius Dio,  Plutarch. Moreover, these scholars have a measure of proven reliability, since a great many of their reports on other matters have been confirmed in material evidence and in other sources. In addition, they often quote and name many different sources, showing a wide reading of the witnesses and documents, and they show a desire to critically examine claims for which there is any dispute. If that wasn't enough, all of them cite or quote sources written by witnesses, hostile and friendly, of the Rubicon crossing and its repercussions.

 Just having good sources, or even better vetting than the Gospels, is not proof that the Gosples have no historical basis. It may or may not be true that the statement by Douglas Geivett  might be a bit of an exaggeration in being as well attested as the crossing of the Rubicon. Nevertheless that is not proof that the Gospels don't hold up. I also say we can give Carrier a good run for his money. He only names three sources that back the crossing, they are not eye witnesses. We have four sources that are eye witnesses. Although in reality it's all coming form the pre Mark Passion narrative. Yet the veracity of it is attested to by it's use in other sources. So in using in four Gospels the communities produces those Gospels are saying "this source is correct." That's not counting non canonical gospels that agree with it. one I now of is GPete (Gospel of Peter). That's at least five attestations. Moreover, the sources Carrier sites for backing the crossing were not eye witnesses and were not contemporary, probably got their information from Caesar's writings.[5] That is not even verification.

At this point Carrier makes several absurd statements: "Compare this with the resurrection: we have not even a single established historian mentioning the event until the 3rd and 4th centuries, and then only by Christian historians." That's not true first of all. We have the attestation of Papias, his writings dated bewteen 95 and 120 AD. That he sure was before the third century. Clement of Rome is said to have been writing around 94 AD. Polycarp's death is attributed to 155 AD..The point is all of these guys attest to the resurrection and all of them claim to have had ties with actual disciples and Apostles who Knew Jesus. One might argue that they are not established historians but the historians of that era were not academically trained social scientists they were just any educated person who wrote about what hapepned in the past these guys have a link to the eye witness testimony that has to outweigh the onus of being "chruch historians." The historians writing about Caesar probalby got their information form Caesar. Carrier goes on, "And of those few others who do mention it within a century of the event, none of them show any wide reading, never cite any other sources, show no sign of a skilled or critical examination..."That's just not true. All of the afore mentioned chruch father attribute their knowledge to eye witnesses, within whom they had personal contact. None of the historians Carrier sites can do that for the crossing. He says they dont' show wide reading or skill as historians. That is nonsense. Clement of Rome (who seems to have known both Peter and Paul) seems to be widely read. His letter is elpqunt and shows a vast learning as a complex concept of the Gospel is presented. Carrier might refuse to accept because the content is Christians but no oen can deny the complexity. Moreover that's just not necessary to the honesty and knowledge level of the witnesses. So what if they are not great writers compared to Plutarch, that doesn't negate the first hand nature of their evidence.

Here he makes an argument that is quite fallacious. It's so telling that all the CARM atheist acted like it's a big proof:
    Fifth, the history of Rome could not have proceeded as it did had Caesar not physically moved an army into Italy. Even if Caesar could have somehow cultivated the mere belief that he had done this, he could not have captured Rome or conscripted Italian men against Pompey's forces in Greece. On the other hand, all that is needed to explain the rise of Christianity is a belief--a belief that the resurrection happened. There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection. Thus, an actual resurrection is not necessary to explain all subsequent history, unlike Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon.

That's just shifting arguments. In effect he's saying if this event had no happened historian would be different so therefore we know it happen. That is a silly way for any historian to think.The fact is yes some group of solider moves across teh river to fight Pompey and that changed Roman history. That means they got men across the river. that in no way proves that Caesar led them or that any  other things Caesar says really happened the way he says it. That's like saying we know that JFK was shot by a lone gunman becuase had he not been shot he would have ran for re-election. History would be different, so therefore it was a lone gunman. The same fallacy works with the claim that it proves is that the assassination was a conspiracy. All it proves is that the President was assassinated.

Moreover, he asserts: "There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection." That's really a red herring because there would be no belief without an empty tomb, and they could not have gotten the body past the guards had he not risen from the dead. To answer that this could be held by mere bleief and didn't require a real resurrection is nothing but begging the question. We can't assert that we know there was true resurrection just because bleief in resurrection might have flourished without an actual event. We don't really know that it did, and there is a possibility that the belief would not be possible with an actual event. That is rather a moot point and it is no way to do history!

The big historian's brilliant knowledge fails to impress. There is one other major issue that the CARM folks were so taken with. he argues that superstition was  so rampant in that day they would bleieve anything. That's supposed that prove it didn't happen.  Some of the CARM atheists seemed to think this is some big innovative to show the superstition level of the day. I knew about that as a child. I sued that argument in my pro atheism arguments when I was a junior in high school.

But reasons to be skeptical do not stop there. We must consider the setting--the place and time in which these stories spread. This was an age of fables and wonder. Magic and miracles and ghosts were everywhere, and almost never doubted. I'll give one example that illustrates this: we have several accounts of what the common people thought about lunar eclipses. They apparently had no doubt that this horrible event was the result of witches calling the moon down with diabolical spells. So when an eclipse occurred, everyone would frantically start banging pots and blowing brass horns furiously, to confuse the witches' spells. So tremendous was this din that many better-educated authors complain of how the racket filled entire cities and countrysides. This was a superstitious people.

the sources he footnotes are an article by himself and his Masters thesis. In those articles he quotes other source but does not document with standard method of FN. He never shows that the superstitions about eclipse were prevalent in Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, nor does he show that people were so set on them that they could be convinced to see things that weren't there.

He talks at length about how people in that day were certain that an eclipse was a witch stealing the moon or a Dragon easting the sun. the idea that they would believe an eclipse was special dragon eating the sun or witch stealing the moon or something. That doesn't prove that they would believe in a resurrection just because they are told about it. Carrier would assert this but it's the opposite: the eclipse is a real event that is very dramatic. It's rarity and its' encompassing nature, it seem terrifying and mysterious. It's really happening, the sun really goes away for a bit. That doesn't prove they would believe something just becuase they are told about it. That proves the opposite really that there has to be a real event that's terrifying and out of the ordinary to trigger such belief. A real resurrection would fill the fill the bill,I don't know what else would.

Another problem is that he doesn't even bother to document the time or place of Jesus day. He's not quoting evdience about how Jews of Jesus time thought. He's asserting that all ancinet world people thought the same. that's an old atheist assumption that all ancient people are stupid.

Only a small class of elite well-educated men adopted more skeptical points of view, and because they belonged to the upper class, both them and their arrogant skepticism were scorned by the common people, rather than respected. Plutarch laments how doctors were willing to attend to the sick among the poor for little or no fee, but they were usually sent away, in preference for the local wizard.[10] By modern standards, almost no one had any sort of education at all, and there were no mass media disseminating scientific facts in any form. By the estimates of William Harris, author of Ancient Literacy [1989], only 20% of the population could read anything at all, fewer than 10% could read well, and far fewer still had any access to books. He found that in comparative terms, even a single page of blank papyrus cost the equivalent of thirty dollars--ink, and the labor to hand copy every word, cost many times more. We find that books could run to the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Consequently, only the rich had books, and only elite scholars had access to libraries, of which there were few. The result was that the masses had no understanding of science or critical thought. They were neither equipped nor skilled, nor even interested, in challenging an inspiring story, especially a story like that of the Gospels: utopian, wonderful, critical of upper class society--even more a story that, if believed, secured eternal life. Who wouldn't have bought a ticket to that lottery? Opposition arose mainly from prior commitments to other dogmas, not reason or evidence.

He's talking about Europe in the middle ages.He has some application to first century meridian. That's a long way from proving that a whole popular would up and believe in resurrection just become people started saying someone rose form the dead. Some of the advocates of resurrection were those educated men who were not carried by superstition. Paul and Luke fall into that category. Some of the Romans Paul was talking to in his letter to the Romans would fall into it. Priscilla,Paul's friend the wife of Aquila probalby, since her name is a Patrician name.

End notes

[1] Carrier FN at this point:

Besides my summary of Metzger on The New Testament Canon, cf. R. Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (1992); H. Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (1990); W. Lane's New London Commentary on the New Testament (1974); and also Bart Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1993).

[2] palimpsest:
noun: palimpsest; plural noun: palimpsests
  1. a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
    • something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
      "Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners"
[3] Helmutt Koester. Ancient Christian Gospels:Their History and Development.
Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. 1990, 218.
[4] Babylonian Talmud, Book 10: History of the Talmud, tr. Vol 1 Chapter 2
by Michael L. Rodkinson, [1918], at sacred-texts.com accessed 9/6/14
 The Talmud was written in second century on, but the works it used were passed on orally and date much earlier. Rodkinson states:
 "The Talmud is a combination of Mishna and Gemara, the latter is a collection of Mishnayoth, Tosephtas, Mechilta, Siphra, Siphre and Boraithas, all of these, interpreted and discussed by the Amoraim, Saboraim, and also Gaonim at a later period. "The Mishna is the authorized codification of the oral or unwritten law, which on the basis of the written law contained in Pentateuch, developed during the second Temple, and down to the end of the second century of the common era." The author of which was R. Jehuda, the prince named "Rabbi" (flourishing toward the end of the second century), taking the unfinished work of R. Akiba and R. Meir as basis."
[5] Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 AD. Suetonius wasn't born until 70 AD! Appian was bron in 95 AD  Cassius Dio born in 155,
Plutarch born in 45 AD. so he could have been there if he had been taken along as a two year old historian.

On CARM HRG says: " It is mentioned in De bello civile, Cicero's Philipplicae and Velleius Paterculus. " http://forums.carm.org/vbb/showthread.php?200585-why-I-don-t-buy-Carrier-s-article-about-not-buying-the-Res

Interesting that Carrier didn't use those guys becuase he has a Ph.D. in world history, so he surely would have known they were contemporary with the event. He must know of them. But one might well wonder were they there or did they know if  from reading Caesar? Sure they knew the crossing was alleged to have existed, that doesn't mean they were there.


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