Monday, October 27, 2008

"On the Historicity of Jesus Christ"

Richard Carrier is writing a book titled "On the Historicity of Jesus Christ". Richard Carrier has a PhD in Ancient History and a Bachelors in History (minor Classical Civ). He is a very prolific writer:

Back in April he asked that people interested in seeing his work on Jesus completed donate so that he would be able to stay afloat financially:

Anyway, I think this is a project that is worth contributing to and I have donated, will be donating more, and will be encouraging others to donate, even if it is only a few dollars. You may donate via Paypal sent to rcarrier AT


James F. McGrath said...

There's significant discussion surrounding a recent post of mine on this subject that you may find interesting.

Baconeater said...

James, I'll post here what I posted on your blog:
I find it impossible to believe that Jesus ever existed.
Zero contemporary evidence, and there should have been tons.
It took over 50 "after the fact" for anyone (Josephus) to even acknowledge Christians. There were Messianic cults throughout the Holy land at the time, it makes sense that one would finally make news.
Especially after the Jews were having a crappy time of it while buying into their mean vengeful God who was ambiguous of an afterlife.
For the apologists, how can nobody write about the magical man while he was here, yet write about many many years after the fact as if he was the most important person ever?

I used to assume Jesus existed, until I started to do a search of what he looked like. This led me where I am now.
Jesus was just a usurped story (most Dionysus), and probably invented in a dream (possibly Paul, if he existed, or someone like Paul).

I found this article by Bidstrup enlightening btw when I was doing the searches.

AIGBusted said...

Hi you guys,

I have responses to both of your comments:

BEAJ, I think that the fact that Philo and others did not record any of the miraculous gospel events is evidence that the gospels lie somewhere between gross exaggeration and complete falsehood. However, this does not mean that there wasn't a wandering rabbi named Jesus who gained some followers and had his name blown out of proportion later.

AIGBusted said...


I think that the scholarly consensus on this issue is something to take very, very seriously. I think anyone interested in the topic should sit up and pay attention when we have a scholarly consensus, and we should especially listen to their arguments and always ask them quesitons when we have them instead of assuming that we (I or anyone else) are smarter than they.

However, I am still agnostic about Jesus' existence. You mention that no one would want to follow a crucified messiah. I am not so sure. Inanna was a Sumerian goddess who was stripped naked in the underworld, killed, and hung on a hook for 3 days and 3 nights and then resurrected. The ancient Hebrews would have certainly known about this and perhaps some even worshipped her (the bible records numerous instances of the Hebrews going off to worship false gods).
I will continue this in a comment below:

AIGBusted said...

On the point of the gospels being fictional: I am not sure if they were intended as fiction or not. But there are somethings which suggest to me that they were intended as allegorical fiction, namely:

Barabbas, who was set to be put to death and is allowed free. Barabbas means "Son of the Father" and suggests that this was an allegotical story (we all see the symbolism).

The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree makes no sense interpreted literally (and it is presented that way, much like the rest of the things in the gospels) yet it makes more sense if one understands it as a parable.

"The Homeric Epics and Mark" - A book which builds the case that Mark relied heavily on Homer's Odyssey for constructing his gospel. Why would someone do this if they were writing history?

There is a much deeper case to be made for this, perhaps we can have our own blog battle sometime.

P.S. I can send you a reference for my claim about Inanna if you need it.

Baconeater said...

I think that by the time the Gospels were written, the story was believed by many. But they were written long "after the fact."
The same thing happened with the Exodus. The Jews of 450 BC believed the whole Exodus and Ark stories to be completely true, even the writers believed them.
Now we know there is no evidence to support the Exodus, and in fact, there is much evidence that makes the Exodus an impossibility, as shown in The Bible Unearthed videos.

AIG, I think that there were enough end of world predicting Messiahs and other wannabe Messiahs hanging around Jerusalem at the time, that it was very believable that someone like Jesus could have existed, just like many of the elements of the characters in the James Frey story were believable enough to suck in Oprah's millions of viewers. But it is easier for a myth to be believed if all the main characters are made up, because there is no one there to refute the story.

James F. McGrath said...

I've responded to baconeater in detail on my blog, and I'm uploading a video onto YouTube about this subject too.

The parallels with dying and rising gods are interesting, and may have been in Christians' minds as they thought about Jesus. But there are two problems. First, the earliest Christians didn't think of Jesus as a divine figure, weakening the parallel. Second, they did claim he was the Messiah, and unlike fertility gods, the Messiah was not supposed to be killed, especially at the hands of the foreign overlords.

One can always claim that it "could have" happened the way you suggest. Alternatives will always be possible. But the existence of a figure whom some believed to be the Messiah, with developments to explain why he doesn't do all the things the Messiah was expected to, makes for a more natural reading of the evidence.

Baconeater said...

Sorry for the following cut and paste, but it is relevant here:
Life events shared by Osiris, Dionysus and Jesus
The following stories appear both in the Gospels and in the myths of many of the god-men:
bullet Conception:
bullet God was his father. This was believed to be literally true in the case of Osiris-Dionysus; their God came to earth and engaged in sexual intercourse with a human. The father of Jesus is God in the form of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).
bullet A human woman, a virgin, was his mother.
bullet Birth:
bullet He was born in a cave or cowshed. Luke 2:7 mentions that Jesus was placed in a manger - an eating trough for animals. One early Christian tradition said that the manger was in a cave.
bullet His birth was prophesized by a star in the heavens.
bullet Ministry:
bullet At a marriage ceremony, he performed the miracle of converting water into wine.
bullet He was powerless to perform miracles in his home town.
bullet His followers were born-again through baptism in water.
bullet He rode triumphantly into a city on a donkey. Tradition records that the inhabitants waved palm leaves.
bullet He had 12 disciples.
bullet He was accused of licentious behavior.
bullet Execution, resurrection, etc:
bullet He was killed near the time of the Vernal Equinox, about MAR-21.
bullet He died "as a sacrifice for the sins of the world." 1
bullet He was hung on a tree, stake, or cross.
bullet After death, he descended into hell.
bullet On the third day after his death, he returned to life.
bullet The cave where he was laid was visited by three of his female followers
bullet He later ascended to heaven.
bullet His titles:
bullet God made flesh.
bullet Savior of the world.
bullet Son of God.
bullet Beliefs about the God-man:
bullet He is "God made man," and equal to the Father.
bullet He will return in the last days.
bullet He will judge the human race at that time.
bullet Humans are separated from God by original sin. The god-man's sacrificial death reunites the believer with God and atones for the original sin.

All of the Pagan myths had been circulating for centuries before Jesus birth (circa 4 to 7 BCE). It is obvious that if any copying occurred, it was the followers of Jesus incorporating into his biography the myths and legends of Osiris-Dionysus, not vice-versa.

James F. McGrath said...

Certainly this list makes it possible that elements from stories about other figures influenced depictions of Jesus. But notice how many of the details you mention are absent from our earliest sources: miraculous birth (the cave comes in even later), divinity, etc. Also please note that there are almost no references to primary sources that would support the claims being made.

What is it that makes Freke seem a more credible source for understanding the historical study of Jesus than the vast majority of professors of history and/or religion with PhDs and peer-reviewed publications on the subject?

AIGBusted said...

Just wanted to throw in a comment here:

BEAJ, I have learned over the years to be super, super skeptical of claims about pagan parallels. You need to not only check the ancient documents which are referenced (and they should be referenced unless they are fabricated) but also make sure that the ancient source was written prior to whichever story it parallels.

AIGBusted said...

One more thing:

There are pagan parallels to Christianity, and I am currently working on article to show that. Hopefully I will be able to publish it at

I will be referencing the ancient sources and also giving links to websites which host these ancient documents.

If you like I can let you know when I am done with it.