Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am

Og3 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 7:37 am

Part 2 of Many

The Foundation as a Proof of the House:

As anyone in the building trades will tell you, a bad foundation is a certain sign of a bad house. If the foundation is poorly laid, the concrete uncertain, the soil too loose – any of these can lead to disaster.
I couldn't agree with you more on this. The foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings, and that came from the writings of Paul. He never mentions "Jesus of Nazareth", the town of Nazareth, or even Bethlehem. He makes no mention of any of the Gospel stories including the virgin birth or any of the miracles. He never even mentions the disciples and rarely mentions a Jesus Christ, preferring to use "Christ Jesus" or "Christ" which was a title used a hundred years earlier than the biblical Christ. In fact the Gospels may have been written as a response from Marcion's first Bible, written in the middle of the second century. Indeed, this is a very shaky foundation.
We have a biblical remark on this subject, from the mouth of none other than Jesus Himself, but to provide it here will do nothing for our purpose except send to the anti-theists into a seething rage.
Whose an anti-theist? Some of my best friends are Christians and believing Muslims, as I am sure is true for the other atheists here.
Let us then begin by examining the foundation that Carrier lays for his argument. He starts by introducing Bayes Theorem. He even provides it, at great length, in the form of an equation. He then proposes that by examining prior probabilities as modified by new evidence, he will be able to analyze the likelihood that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. He makes a few obvious observations, such as that “Christ” is a title, and that the first century was a time rife with Messianic pretensions.
No probs there.
We could learn as much from the gospels themselves. When Peter calls Jesus “The Christ, the Son of the Living God,” we should get a clue from the definite article preceding Christ, among many similar references.

It doesn't sound very historical of an Earthly man does it? Peter and Paul don't ever refer to Jesus as being in any location on Earth, but as a spirit.
Jesus himself cites David, in Psalm 110:3, and then asks the scribes and pharisees how it can be that the Christ will be both David’s son and David’s Lord.
Why not the son of Joseph?
We also see references to uprisings that occurred during this time. Among other references, a Roman official asks Paul, in Acts 21:38, if he is not a certain revolutionary who led a murderous rebellion some years prior. These are nothing new to the dialog, but Carrier reveals them as if he expects his audience to be ignorant of such details. This fact reveals something to us about the foundation of the argument to follow.
Carrier himself was raised as a nominal Christian. That is to say, he was an attender of church, and heard the messages taught therein, but paid them little attention. He states that by comparison with his secular reading, he found the New Testament dry and boring. He also states that his parents showed no particular devotion to the church or to its teachings.
Carrier is writing for the layman and for the serious scholars, I don't think you are seeing this very well.
We can imagine then that he was himself surprised to discover that Christ is a title; the Anglicized form of the Latinized Christus or Chrestus, meaning “Anointed one.”
I don't know why you imagine that he was surprised to discover that it was a title, he's an ancient historian with many years experience and qualifications. I think you are jumping the gun with Chrestus. That certainly isn't a given to most scholars. According to Wiki:
Edwin M. Yamauchi states that "A growing number of scholars, however, have accepted the argument that the "Chrestus" mentioned in Suetonius was simply a Jewish agitator with a common name, and that he had no association with Christianity
This is a translation of the Aramaic and Hebrew Maschiah. Carrier correctly points out – a bit breathlessly, it seems to the reader – that “Anointed” merely meant someone who had had oil poured on his head by a priest! Why, that could be anyone, but still, the title came to be attached to Jesus.
Now you are imagining "a bit breathlessly, it seems to the reader" This imagination of yours is similar to your hero, Lewis.
He also points out – again, a bit two breathlessly – that Jesus, which like Joshua derives from the Hebrew name Y’shua (YHWH Saves), was a very common name.
He must be out of breath now, lol!
Now, to a 20th century American with only a nominal understanding of the New Testament, one can imagine such a revelation coming as a lightning bolt. But not to anyone familiar with the New Testament outside of Sunday School.
This is a blatant mis-characterisation of Carrier, have you read his bio?
Will Durant, in Volume III of his Story of Civilization, titled “Caesar and Christ,” remarks that at one point in the Roman Empire, there may have been as few as six given names. He attributes to this lack of nomenclative imagination the fact that five names are required to distinguish two heroes of the Punic Wars, Scipio Marius Africanus Majorus, and his grandson, Scipio Marius Amellianus Africanus Minorus. That it should be no different in Judea seems not at all surprising.
There were lots of Jesus's around that time and location as well:
Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus, Jesus ben Gamaliel, Jesus ben Sirach, Jesus ben Pandira, Jesus ben Ananias, Jesus ben Saphat, Jesus ben Gamala, and Jesus ben Thebuth. The "ben" means "son of", so you would expect that Jesus of Nazareth had a moniker of Yeshua ben Josef or Jesus ben Joseph. Sadly, this is not the case.
One need merely count the number of first century persons in the New Testament who are named Joseph, Joses, Hosea, or some other such variant in order to see the scope of the issue. But again, Carrier announces such things as if they were revelations.
Hardly. This is your imagination working overtime again.
I am reminded of a time in my teens, when the mother of a friend turned to me one day and began to lecture me on the fact that vanity means futility. She declared that she was shocked to learn this, and that it completely changed the meaning of Solomon’s declaration, “Vanity of Vanities.” I politely nodded and excused myself when I was able, and to this day, I cannot imagine why she suddenly chose to blurt such a thing at me. Had she perhaps previously thought that Solomon was speaking of a prized bit of furniture; a low dresser with a mirror?

Carrier has this same sort of approach: “Allow me to shock you with this fact,” he seems to be saying, while giving us facts that are not the least bit surprising.
Could you stick with the main issues and not go off making stuff up?
In this, I see an issue with the foundation. This sort of thing seems to imply that either Carrier is not familiar with the Bible, or else expects his readers not to be familiar with the Bible. One expects something a bit different from a scholarly work. One expects a scholar to approach the subject expecting the reader to have some knowledge of what has gone before. But Carrier expects the reader to have as shallow an understanding as he had when he was a youth.
:roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:
This is only the first crack to note in the footings, and it by itself may not be fatal to the structure. But there are others. Carrier denigrates any disagreeing voice, shooting back at them before they can even challenge him.
Where does it say that in his book? These ad Homs are making you look silly.
He states that his conclusions are “Beyond any reasonable doubt” or “impossible to deny” “Beyond any reasonable possibility” “irrational to conclude [otherwise]” and “undeniable.”
Wrong. He only uses “Beyond any reasonable doubt” in Chapter 4 when he says at Element 11:
The earliest known form of Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion. This is also beyond any reasonable doubt
...and then he lays out a very well argued case for it.
“impossible to deny” was used when he said
If we expand that definition to include a set of specific features held in common by all mystery religions of the early Roman era, then Christianity becomes even more demonstrably a mystery religion, so much so, in fact, that it is impossible to deny it was deliberately constructed as such
“Beyond any reasonable possibility” he writes
Even the earliest discernible form of Christianity emulates numerous cultic features and concepts that were unique to the Hellenistic mystery cults that it is statistically beyond any reasonable possibility that they all found their way into Christianity.
“irrational to conclude" was used here:
They formed a coherent, logical and repeatedly replicated system of ideas in every other mystery cult. It would irrational to conclude the same wasn't so of Christianity.

He used "undeniable a few times throughout the book in a meaningful and correct way. The first instance was here;
Whether you share that conclusoin or not, what is undeniable is that this text provides all the elements of a plausible theory.
What makes you think that it was not plausible?
This kind of dogmatic declaration is, again, not the sort of thing one finds in scholarly histories; it is the sort of thing one finds in polemics and apologetics. It casts any dissenting voice as unreasonable and irrational. It is far more common for a historian to write that there may be a dissenting voice, but that he is confident of his facts, or that the mainstream view is such and so, or that there are few dissenters to this point. It is uncommon for a serious academic to implicitly call his detractors irrational and unreasonable.
Unsubstantiated polemic rhetoric doesn't advance your case.
A third crack in the foundation shows in how Carrier treats other historians and sources. In introducing his Bayesian approach, he implies or even outright states that the view of other historians are simple wrong and shortsighted;
Where does he say that? More lapses of imagination?
they should all, long ago, have adopted his methods.
Citation?
But despite lambasting men such as Ehrman in the beginning of his work, he uses Ehrman later to support his theory that most of the New Testament is inauthentic. He even goes so far as to adopt Ehrman’s list of “authentic” New Testament epistles as the only such reasonable list.
Nothing wrong with that. Ehrman makes errors and most of the time does some good work. I feel the same way about him.
He is no kinder to the ancients. When Flavius Josephus disagrees with him, Josephus has been tampered with.

Most serious scholars don't doubt that Josephus has been fiddled with by Christians to suit their agendas.
When Josephus agrees with him, he cites him as a source. you should find this disquieting, were you hoping to find in Carrier a once-forever answer to those pesky Christians. Because these small cracks point to a serious instability.
I don't know what you mean here.
Carrier is writing a polemic.
Says the kettle to the pot!
The defender of Carrier will at this point jump to his defense by asking that we look at the introductory chapters, in which Carrier says that while the historicity of Jesus is important to the Christian worldview, it makes no difference to his own. This, the fan of Carrier will declare, shows that Carrier is neutral, and approaches the matter with no bias, as a historian rightly should.
He is mainly neutral, that's his job to be.
But we should not shy away from what appears to be a large crack in the central pillar. There seems to be some poor scholarship. On page 88, Carrier declares that the sepaugint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) had no clear canon until the second century CE. This is absolutely incorrect. The Septaugint was translated in the BCE period no later than the beginning of the first century BCE, at least 300 years before Carrier’s date, and the given dates are ca. 240 BCE, some 450 years bfore Carrier’s date.

We find the following in the Wikipedia entry for the Septaugint:
The full title in Ancient Greek: τν βδομήκοντα μετάφρασις, literally "The Translation of the Seventy", derives from the story recorded in the Letter of Aristeas that the Septuagint was translated at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus(285–247 BCE) by 70 Jewish scholars (or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel) who independently produced identical translations.


Note the provenance that the septaugint was translated into Greek in the mid-third century BCE: Aristeas and Josephus say so directly; there are citations from the LXX as early as the second century BCE, and the LXX is written in Koine Greek, a form of Greek only coming into prominence in about the 2nd Century BCE.

But Carrier, on page 88., tells us that there was no such canon until the 2nd century CE. I read the paragraph three times to make certain that my eyes were no deceiving me. This is an error on the order of stating that Willem Janszoon first discovered Australia in 2006, instead of 1606. It is the sort of error that would have been immediately caught by editors or by peer-reviewers were this a scholarly work, or even a peer-reviewed work in a periodical.

Is this simply a typographical error? Did Carrier omit a B? No. The entire context in which we find this remark is a polemic concerning the alleged unreliability of the Jewish and therefore the Christian scripture. It is fodder for Carrier to claim that the Bible was “fixed” in later centuries, to comply with Christian expectations and doctrines. So, contextually, we must assume that Carrier truly wants us to believe that the Tanakh (those writings that Christians call the Old Testament) was not composed until nearly 500 years later than the true date.

This one fact undermines Carrier’s entire foundation, for the simple reason that we can no longer trust any of his dates, nor any of his other facts. He is not writing to reveal history, but to support his position, and he will, as demonstrated here, twist any source, any date, or any meaning to fit the bed of Procrustes that he has laid out.

Please note that I am not drawing things out of Carrier that he did not say. I am merely explaining why the things that he did say should make us fear for this foundation, and because of it, for the remainder of the house he has built.

Selah.
Um, I am pretty sure that he is speaking of the early Christian version of the canon from 2 CE. Regarding the "Septuagint canon” Josephus claimed that all Jews everywhere have “only 22 books” (Ag. Ap. 1.37–42).

P.S. Regarding your own scholarship Og, I wouldn't be spelling Septuagint as "Septaugint" in your new ecclesiastical role. Congrats btw (SEG hides face and cringes)
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am

SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
Og3 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 7:37 am

Part 2 of Many

The Foundation as a Proof of the House:

As anyone in the building trades will tell you, a bad foundation is a certain sign of a bad house. If the foundation is poorly laid, the concrete uncertain, the soil too loose – any of these can lead to disaster.
I couldn't agree with you more on this.
Excellent. I'm glad to see it.
The foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings, and that came from the writings of Paul.
Well, now that begs the question, doesn't it? Of course, I was pointing to the cracks in the foundation of the book I read, OHJ, but I see that you've jumped straight into Carrier's poor scholarship.
He never mentions "Jesus of Nazareth", the town of Nazareth, or even Bethlehem. He makes no mention of any of the Gospel stories including the virgin birth or any of the miracles.
He didn't need to; the Pre-Pauline doctrine was sufficient.
He never even mentions the disciples
Except Peter, James, and John, as three examples, whom we see teaching him the Pre-Pauline doctrine in 1 Cor. 15.
and rarely mentions a Jesus Christ, preferring to use "Christ Jesus" or "Christ" which was a title used a hundred years earlier than the biblical Christ.
Again, breathlessly telling us that "Christ" is a title. Also, the phone book is alphabetical. And 814 < 4278.
In fact the Gospels may have been written as a response from Marcion's first Bible, written in the middle of the second century.
May have been? Actually, there two theories are that either Marcion redacted ten passages from Luke to make his Evangelikon, or else Luke copied Marcion's Evangelikon to make the Gospel according to Luke. The former is tradition; the latter is a minority view. Obviously, these rely on very different assumptions about the dating of Luke. And of course, the fact that there is no Historikon in Marcion to match Luke's second work, Acts of the Apostles, speaks rather strongly for the priority of Luke over Marcion.

But we don't actually need Luke in order to make our case for the truth of the pre-Pauline doctrine, even if we take Marcion's view of the authentic scriptures.

Not to mention that Marcion's gospel (Evangelikon) directly contradicts his view of the OT... But we'll get back to that.
Indeed, this is a very shaky foundation.
If you mean Carrier's, you have no idea how shaky it truly is. But even you, a layman, should be able to see that there are serious issues in Carrier's methodology.
We have a biblical remark on this subject, from the mouth of none other than Jesus Himself, but to provide it here will do nothing for our purpose except send to the anti-theists into a seething rage.
Who's an anti-theist? Some of my best friends are Christians and believing Muslims, as I am sure is true for the other atheists here.
Then it's a good thing I didn't cite that verse. It would be a pity if it didn't upset anyone.
Let us then begin by examining the foundation that Carrier lays for his argument. He starts by introducing Bayes Theorem. He even provides it, at great length, in the form of an equation. He then proposes that by examining prior probabilities as modified by new evidence, he will be able to analyze the likelihood that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. He makes a few obvious observations, such as that “Christ” is a title, and that the first century was a time rife with Messianic pretensions.
No probs there.
We could learn as much from the gospels themselves. When Peter calls Jesus “The Christ, the Son of the Living God,” we should get a clue from the definite article preceding Christ, among many similar references.

It doesn't sound very historical of an Earthly man does it?
I assure you that Carrier, telling us about how "Christ" is a title and means "anointed," is very much an earthly man. And on those points, he is being historical. Remedial, but historical.
Peter and Paul don't ever refer to Jesus as being in any location on Earth, but as a spirit.
Thus it is fitting and proper for Carrier to recite facts that are pretty obvious? Sure, let's go with that ...
Jesus himself cites David, in Psalm 110:3, and then asks the scribes and pharisees how it can be that the Christ will be both David’s son and David’s Lord.
Why not the son of Joseph?
Because "Son of David" was a title, meaning that the Maschiah would be of the line of Judah through the house of King David. The passage cited says,
Matthew 22:42-46 wrote: [Mat 22:42-46 KJV] 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, [The Son] of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any [man] from that day forth ask him any more [questions].
So we see clearly that "the Christ" was a title for a coming Maschiah. Thus from passages such as this it should be obvious to anyone versed in the Bible that "Christ" is a title.

Do you agree that it is obvious from scripture that Christ is a title? And that therefore Carrier need not tell us so?
We also see references to uprisings that occurred during this time. Among other references, a Roman official asks Paul, in Acts 21:38, if he is not a certain revolutionary who led a murderous rebellion some years prior. These are nothing new to the dialog, but Carrier reveals them as if he expects his audience to be ignorant of such details. This fact reveals something to us about the foundation of the argument to follow.
Carrier himself was raised as a nominal Christian. That is to say, he was an attender of church, and heard the messages taught therein, but paid them little attention. He states that by comparison with his secular reading, he found the New Testament dry and boring. He also states that his parents showed no particular devotion to the church or to its teachings.
Carrier is writing for the layman and for the serious scholars, I don't think you are seeing this very well.
Informal style is no excuse for sloppy scholarship. Besides, that Carrier was nominally a Christian, yet had no belief, comes from his own mouth. Why do you protest against what your own prophet has said?
We can imagine then that he was himself surprised to discover that Christ is a title; the Anglicized form of the Latinized Christus or Chrestus, meaning “Anointed one.”
I don't know why you imagine that he was surprised to discover that it was a title,
Because he expects us, the readers, to be surprised. No one says, "Hey, guys, guess what? The phone book is alphabetical!" because we honestly expect everyone to know that. If someone did say that, and wasn't being sarcastic, we would think it was something that he had just been surprised by; not that it should surprise us.
he's an ancient historian
Ancient? the man's barely fifty!
with many years experience and qualifications. I think you are jumping the gun with Chrestus. That certainly isn't a given to most scholars. According to Wiki:
Edwin M. Yamauchi states that "A growing number of scholars, however, have accepted the argument that the "Chrestus" mentioned in Suetonius was simply a Jewish agitator with a common name, and that he had no association with Christianity
Very well, argue that when we come to it.
This is a translation of the Aramaic and Hebrew Maschiah. Carrier correctly points out – a bit breathlessly, it seems to the reader – that “Anointed” merely meant someone who had had oil poured on his head by a priest! Why, that could be anyone, but still, the title came to be attached to Jesus.
Now you are imagining "a bit breathlessly, it seems to the reader"
You must admit that he's paying a lot of attention to a trivial point that everyone else already knows.
This imagination of yours is similar to your hero, Lewis.
Thank you.
He also points out – again, a bit two breathlessly – that Jesus, which like Joshua derives from the Hebrew name Y’shua (YHWH Saves), was a very common name.
He must be out of breath now, lol!
No, he drones on another 600 pages.
Now, to a 20th century American with only a nominal understanding of the New Testament, one can imagine such a revelation coming as a lightning bolt. But not to anyone familiar with the New Testament outside of Sunday School.
This is a blatant mis-characterisation of Carrier, have you read his bio?
Yes. And he says that he was a nominal Christian -- he doesn't use that term, but he states clearly that he didn't believe -- and that he read the NT, was appalled by it, and found other books more interesting. I don't see why you're protesting. I haven't even begun to blaspheme your prophet yet.
Will Durant, in Volume III of his Story of Civilization, titled “Caesar and Christ,” remarks that at one point in the Roman Empire, there may have been as few as six given names. He attributes to this lack of nomenclative imagination the fact that five names are required to distinguish two heroes of the Punic Wars, Scipio Marius Africanus Majorus, and his grandson, Scipio Marius Amellianus Africanus Minorus. That it should be no different in Judea seems not at all surprising.
There were lots of Jesus's around that time and location as well:
Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus, Jesus ben Gamaliel, Jesus ben Sirach, Jesus ben Pandira, Jesus ben Ananias, Jesus ben Saphat, Jesus ben Gamala, and Jesus ben Thebuth.
So you agree that it was obvious, even to you, a layman.
The "ben" means "son of",
Really, Sherlock? What was the first clue?
so you would expect that Jesus of Nazareth had a moniker of Yeshua ben Josef or Jesus ben Joseph. Sadly, this is not the case.
Surnames in the first century were hap-hazardly applied; more nicknames than true surnames as we use them. Ehrman loves to make meat of this by giving students a pretest with the question: "What was Paul's last name?" The answer is that he didn't have one. Very few families did, and then only the famous and the patricians. The Scipios had a name: It came from valor in the Punic Wars. The Maccabees had a name, but it was not universally applied. The Antonines had a name, but it was lessened over time as every late emperor adopted it to try to associate himself with the age of the Antonines. And very few others.
One need merely count the number of first century persons in the New Testament who are named Joseph, Joses, Hosea, or some other such variant in order to see the scope of the issue. But again, Carrier announces such things as if they were revelations.
Hardly. This is your imagination working overtime again.
Nope. He's telling us obvious facts with great fanfare. Go back and read those opening chapters. It's enough to make your eyes roll.
I am reminded of a time in my teens, when the mother of a friend turned to me one day and began to lecture me on the fact that vanity means futility. She declared that she was shocked to learn this, and that it completely changed the meaning of Solomon’s declaration, “Vanity of Vanities.” I politely nodded and excused myself when I was able, and to this day, I cannot imagine why she suddenly chose to blurt such a thing at me. Had she perhaps previously thought that Solomon was speaking of a prized bit of furniture; a low dresser with a mirror?

Carrier has this same sort of approach: “Allow me to shock you with this fact,” he seems to be saying, while giving us facts that are not the least bit surprising.
Could you stick with the main issues and not go off making stuff up?
Physician, heal thyself! :lol: :lol: :lol:
In this, I see an issue with the foundation. This sort of thing seems to imply that either Carrier is not familiar with the Bible, or else expects his readers not to be familiar with the Bible. One expects something a bit different from a scholarly work. One expects a scholar to approach the subject expecting the reader to have some knowledge of what has gone before. But Carrier expects the reader to have as shallow an understanding as he had when he was a youth.
:roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:
This is only the first crack to note in the footings, and it by itself may not be fatal to the structure. But there are others. Carrier denigrates any disagreeing voice, shooting back at them before they can even challenge him.
Where does it say that in his book? These ad Homs are making you look silly.
See below: you've done a good bit of the homework already.
He states that his conclusions are “Beyond any reasonable doubt” or “impossible to deny” “Beyond any reasonable possibility” “irrational to conclude [otherwise]” and “undeniable.”
Wrong.
"Wrong?" but you're about to prove me right:
He only uses “Beyond any reasonable doubt” in Chapter 4 when he says at Element 11:
The earliest known form of Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion. This is also beyond any reasonable doubt
...and then he lays out a very well argued case for it.
“impossible to deny” was used when he said
If we expand that definition to include a set of specific features held in common by all mystery religions of the early Roman era, then Christianity becomes even more demonstrably a mystery religion, so much so, in fact, that it is impossible to deny it was deliberately constructed as such
“Beyond any reasonable possibility” he writes
Even the earliest discernible form of Christianity emulates numerous cultic features and concepts that were unique to the Hellenistic mystery cults that it is statistically beyond any reasonable possibility that they all found their way into Christianity.
“irrational to conclude" was used here:
They formed a coherent, logical and repeatedly replicated system of ideas in every other mystery cult. It would irrational to conclude the same wasn't so of Christianity.

He used "undeniable a few times throughout the book in a meaningful and correct way. The first instance was here;
Whether you share that conclusion or not, what is undeniable is that this text provides all the elements of a plausible theory.
So the fact that he said EXACTLY what I told you that he said means that I am wrong? We may need to review some definitions here...
What makes you think that it was not plausible?
we're not within 100 miles of that yet, SEG. I'm still checking his footings, and that right there is definite dry-rot.
This kind of dogmatic declaration is, again, not the sort of thing one finds in scholarly histories; it is the sort of thing one finds in polemics and apologetics. It casts any dissenting voice as unreasonable and irrational. It is far more common for a historian to write that there may be a dissenting voice, but that he is confident of his facts, or that the mainstream view is such and so, or that there are few dissenters to this point. It is uncommon for a serious academic to implicitly call his detractors irrational and unreasonable.
Unsubstantiated polemic rhetoric doesn't advance your case.
You yourself quoted the very passages; and you immediately knew what I was talking about. I think that's fairly solid substantiation. Am I polarized? Certainly. Is this a polemic? Well, it that it takes a polar view of Carrier's work, certainly. But does that mean that it is wrong? No. So why do I object to it in Carrier? Because he pretends neutrality -- you yourself remarked on it above. And in that case -- pretending to be writing a neutral study while writing a polemic -- he is dishonest; at least as dishonest as Reza Aslan's claim that Jesus was a zealot.
A third crack in the foundation shows in how Carrier treats other historians and sources. In introducing his Bayesian approach, he implies or even outright states that the view of other historians are simple wrong and shortsighted;
Where does he say that? More lapses of imagination?
In his opening chapters. And those would be flights of imagination; lapses would mean that I was being very literal and pedestrian.
they should all, long ago, have adopted his methods.
Citation?
It's in the opening passages. You really want me to look it up for you?
But despite lambasting men such as Ehrman in the beginning of his work, he uses Ehrman later to support his theory that most of the New Testament is inauthentic. He even goes so far as to adopt Ehrman’s list of “authentic” New Testament epistles as the only such reasonable list.
Nothing wrong with that. Ehrman makes errors and most of the time does some good work.
Yeah, and my surgeon makes errors and most of the time does some good work. So sometimes I pat him on the head, and other times I throw him under the bus. Are you serious?
I feel the same way about him.
Just to clarify: so at this moment, you feel qualified to judge that question, even though Ehrman's got a PhD and you don't? You don't think that you shouldn't tell him how to do his work, as you also shouldn't tell your doctor or your lawyer?
He is no kinder to the ancients. When Flavius Josephus disagrees with him, Josephus has been tampered with.

Most serious scholars don't doubt that Josephus has been fiddled with by Christians to suit their agendas.
While that is a consensus on the Flavian Confession, it is not anyone's viewpoint on the JTB passage nor the James passage. And we will return to the Flavian Confession.
When Josephus agrees with him, he cites him as a source. you should find this disquieting, were you hoping to find in Carrier a once-forever answer to those pesky Christians. Because these small cracks point to a serious instability.
I don't know what you mean here.
I mean that like Reza Aslan before him, Carrier's opus magnus will, within a couple of years from now, be widely disregarded by scholars as yet another polemic screed.
Carrier is writing a polemic.
Says the kettle to the pot!
But I do so openly, and don't pretend otherwise.
The defender of Carrier will at this point jump to his defense by asking that we look at the introductory chapters, in which Carrier says that while the historicity of Jesus is important to the Christian worldview, it makes no difference to his own. This, the fan of Carrier will declare, shows that Carrier is neutral, and approaches the matter with no bias, as a historian rightly should.
He is mainly neutral, that's his job to be. [/quote] If that's your view of neutral, please tell me you've never run for a magistrate's office.
But we should not shy away from what appears to be a large crack in the central pillar. There seems to be some poor scholarship. On page 88, Carrier declares that the sepaugint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) had no clear canon until the second century CE. This is absolutely incorrect. The Septaugint was translated in the BCE period no later than the beginning of the first century BCE, at least 300 years before Carrier’s date, and the given dates are ca. 240 BCE, some 450 years bfore Carrier’s date.

We find the following in the Wikipedia entry for the Septaugint:
The full title in Ancient Greek: τν βδομήκοντα μετάφρασις, literally "The Translation of the Seventy", derives from the story recorded in the Letter of Aristeas that the Septuagint was translated at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus(285–247 BCE) by 70 Jewish scholars (or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel) who independently produced identical translations.


Note the provenance that the septaugint was translated into Greek in the mid-third century BCE: Aristeas and Josephus say so directly; there are citations from the LXX as early as the second century BCE, and the LXX is written in Koine Greek, a form of Greek only coming into prominence in about the 2nd Century BCE.

But Carrier, on page 88., tells us that there was no such canon until the 2nd century CE. I read the paragraph three times to make certain that my eyes were no deceiving me. This is an error on the order of stating that Willem Janszoon first discovered Australia in 2006, instead of 1606. It is the sort of error that would have been immediately caught by editors or by peer-reviewers were this a scholarly work, or even a peer-reviewed work in a periodical.

Is this simply a typographical error? Did Carrier omit a B? No. The entire context in which we find this remark is a polemic concerning the alleged unreliability of the Jewish and therefore the Christian scripture. It is fodder for Carrier to claim that the Bible was “fixed” in later centuries, to comply with Christian expectations and doctrines. So, contextually, we must assume that Carrier truly wants us to believe that the Tanakh (those writings that Christians call the Old Testament) was not composed until nearly 500 years later than the true date.

This one fact undermines Carrier’s entire foundation, for the simple reason that we can no longer trust any of his dates, nor any of his other facts. He is not writing to reveal history, but to support his position, and he will, as demonstrated here, twist any source, any date, or any meaning to fit the bed of Procrustes that he has laid out.

Please note that I am not drawing things out of Carrier that he did not say. I am merely explaining why the things that he did say should make us fear for this foundation, and because of it, for the remainder of the house he has built.

Selah.
Um, I am pretty sure that he is speaking of the early Christian version of the canon from 2 CE. Regarding the "Septuagint canon” Josephus claimed that all Jews everywhere have “only 22 books” (Ag. Ap. 1.37–42).
That is because various books divided in the Christian canon are considered one book in the Jewish canon.
P.S. Regarding your own scholarship Og, I wouldn't be spelling Septuagint as "Septaugint" in your new ecclesiastical role.
If I could type I'd be dangerous.
Congrats btw (SEG hides face and cringes)
Thanks, but I have merely become a waiter on tables.

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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Wed May 08, 2019 2:12 pm

SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
The foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings, and that came from the writings of Paul.
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
Well, now that begs the question, doesn't it? Of course, I was pointing to the cracks in the foundation of the book I read, OHJ, but I see that you've jumped straight into Carrier's poor scholarship.
I'm not begging the question, the premise is sound that the foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings. It's not just Carrier that supports Paul being the earliest source, so how is it poor scholarship?
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
He never mentions "Jesus of Nazareth", the town of Nazareth, or even Bethlehem. He makes no mention of any of the Gospel stories including the virgin birth or any of the miracles.
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
He didn't need to; the Pre-Pauline doctrine was sufficient.
It would have made more sense to talk about anythingin his ministry or to the important miracles in the gospel accounts. It seems if the letters and the gospels are back to front in presentation and chronology.
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
He never even mentions the disciples
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
Except Peter, James, and John, as three examples, whom we see teaching him the Pre-Pauline doctrine in 1 Cor. 15.
I meant he doesn't use the word "disciples", not once! It's like he had never heard of the term and uses another term, apostles.
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
and rarely mentions a Jesus Christ, preferring to use "Christ Jesus" or "Christ" which was a title used a hundred years earlier than the biblical Christ.
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
Again, breathlessly telling us that "Christ" is a title. Also, the phone book is alphabetical. And 814 < 4278.
Again he doesn't ever use the term "Jesus of Nazareth". He is only ever called that in the Gospels. The only secular historian in the entire first century never calls him that and he isn't called that in historical sources for centuries after he died.
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
In fact the Gospels may have been written as a response from Marcion's first Bible, written in the middle of the second century.
May have been? Actually, there two theories are that either Marcion redacted ten passages from Luke to make his Evangelikon, or else Luke copied Marcion's Evangelikon to make the Gospel according to Luke. The former is tradition; the latter is a minority view. Obviously, these rely on very different assumptions about the dating of Luke. And of course, the fact that there is no Historikon in Marcion to match Luke's second work, Acts of the Apostles, speaks rather strongly for the priority of Luke over Marcion.
Who knows for sure? No gospel is mentioned by the Church Fathers before the appearance of Marcion’s “gospel”. I think that is very damning.
We have a biblical remark on this subject, from the mouth of none other than Jesus Himself, but to provide it here will do nothing for our purpose except send to the anti-theists into a seething rage.
What did you mean by this? I never get into seething rages, so I'll be ok, promise!
It doesn't sound very historical of an Earthly man does it?
I assure you that Carrier, telling us about how "Christ" is a title and means "anointed," is very much an earthly man. And on those points, he is being historical. Remedial, but historical.
You don't think that a mythical person could be called Christ and anointed?
Why not the son of Joseph?
Because "Son of David" was a title, meaning that the Maschiah would be of the line of Judah through the house of King David.
That still doesn't explain why he wasn't ever called the son of Joseph.
Do you agree that it is obvious from scripture that Christ is a title? And that therefore Carrier need not tell us so?
I would like to know who else was called Christ before him and where the term originated. Carrier doesn't know either.
Um, I am pretty sure that he is speaking of the early Christian version of the canon from 2 CE. Regarding the "Septuagint canon” Josephus claimed that all Jews everywhere have “only 22 books” (Ag. Ap. 1.37–42).
That is because various books divided in the Christian canon are considered one book in the Jewish canon.
I think the inference is that there are books missing. See: https://academic.logos.com/was-there-a- ... int-canon/
...one challenge remains: Neither Jews nor Christians know of this “Septuagint canon” from 1 BCE to 4 CE. Josephus claims that all Jews everywhere have “only 22 books” (Ag. Ap. 1.37–42). Philo of Alexandria cites as Scripture only from the books of the Law and the Prophets—not the deuterocanonical books. The New Testament authors and early Christian writers in the second century cite only books contained in the Hebrew canon.6 Furthermore, the early Christian canon lists from 2 CE and many lists from 4 CE closely cohere with the books of the Hebrew canon and do not include the deuterocanonical books; that is, the authors of these early lists do not know of a “Septuagint canon.”7
Thanks, but I have merely become a waiter on tables.
Are you being allegorical?
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Wed May 08, 2019 7:40 pm

Not in the least. The office is called diakoneo trapeza -- waiter of tables. It is an ancient office dating back to the first century, and the first named holder of the office was almost immediately murdered. Over an argument arising from his defense of the gospel message, curiously enough. In one of the letters that Ehrman recognizes as authenthic, Paul admits to being an accessory to that murder.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Wed May 08, 2019 8:01 pm

SEG wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 2:12 pm
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
The foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings, and that came from the writings of Paul.
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
Well, now that begs the question, doesn't it? Of course, I was pointing to the cracks in the foundation of the book I read, OHJ, but I see that you've jumped straight into Carrier's poor scholarship.
I'm not begging the question, the premise is sound that the foundation rests on the earliest source of the Christian writings.
The foundation of Carrier's book rests on soft sand and a few major faults. And his book IS what we're talking about here. Now, he argues that we can't trust anything the gospels tell us -- he makes it a throwaway line in his introduction, in chapter one, and I've already cited it, pages ago. But that is part of his actual framing and structure, not his foundation per se.

We'll talk about his techniques here in a moment. But we don't want to gloss over the glaring faults that precede even the framing.
It's not just Carrier that supports Paul being the earliest source, so how is it poor scholarship?
Paul did write before any other NT writer, likely in the 40s and 50s CE, and possibly as early as the late 30s. That's not the problem.
SEG wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 10:46 am
He never mentions "Jesus of Nazareth", the town of Nazareth, or even Bethlehem. He makes no mention of any of the Gospel stories including the virgin birth or any of the miracles.
Og3 wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 4:18 am
He didn't need to; the Pre-Pauline doctrine was sufficient.
It would have made more sense to talk about anythingin his ministry or to the important miracles in the gospel accounts. It seems if the letters and the gospels are back to front in presentation and chronology.
Keep in mind that he primarily addressed himself to Jewish expatriates, thus his foundation (The Mosaic Law] was already laid. When he presented the pre-Pauline doctrine -- the key to Christianity -- those who believed on Jesus believed on those five elements. An example of the sort of sermon Paul would have preached is recorded in Acts 2, where Peter addresses the crowd at the day of Pentecost.

I meant he doesn't use the word "disciples", not once! It's like he had never heard of the term and uses another term, apostles.
When he met them, they were no longer disciples; they were masters of the teachings and were more commonly apostles, senders-forth of a message. To call them "disciples" at that stage would be to imply that they were still under discipline, that is, undergrad students.
Again he doesn't ever use the term "Jesus of Nazareth". He is only ever called that in the Gospels. The only secular historian in the entire first century never calls him that and he isn't called that in historical sources for centuries after he died.
I only use it to keep people from saying, "Jesus who? There were thousands of people named Jesus!"
Who knows for sure? No gospel is mentioned by the Church Fathers before the appearance of Marcion’s “gospel”. I think that is very damning.
Really? Curious indeed. Of course, there's Origen, who quotes extensively from John, giving him attribution, and John is not one of the books cited in Marcion at all. So clearly, at least, John was not written based on Marcion.
What did you mean by this? I never get into seething rages, so I'll be ok, promise!

You don't think that a mythical person could be called Christ and anointed?
Could and was are two different points, and I'm merely pointing out that Carrier thinks we don't know what Christ means. We'll get back to his "slain in the spirit" theory.
That still doesn't explain why he wasn't ever called the son of Joseph.
Which...wasn't the question...
I would like to know who else was called Christ before him and where the term originated. Carrier doesn't know either.
Move to strike as non-responsive.

I think the inference is that there are books missing. See: https://academic.logos.com/was-there-a- ... int-canon/
Deuterocanonical books are the "Apochrypha." Some Christian denominations use them, others don't.
Are you being allegorical?
That is the literal title.

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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Fri May 10, 2019 4:09 am

********************************************************************
I certify and declare that that which follows is my own
work, done by my own hand, on my own keyboard, and
without reliance upon Cut-n-paste from the arguments
of others. If it were not so, I would have told you.
********************************************************************

Part 3 of many

The Plans for the House:

Before a building can be built, or even significantly modified, a set of plans must be made and these must be submitted for approval to the local building inspector. The analogy here would be Carrier describing what he intends to prove, and by what method.

And here we depart somewhat from a construction analogy. In a building, Carrier would not be allowed to proceed unless the methods he proposed were proven techniques or were recognized by his peers as a valid method. Carrier, on the other hand, has the option of contemptuously defying technique and established method in favor of plunging on ahead.

The new technique that he proposes – using Bayes theorem to prove or disprove a historical claim to a degree of reasonable doubt – is not a proven method for this purpose. It is not something that his peers have gone in for, and used reliably in the past to answer historical questions. It would not be admitted into evidence in court, because it is not in the mainstream of his profession.

Carrier, by using Bayes, seems to be attempting to make an art into a science. History is an art; that is, a student of history will be awarded a BA or an MA before receiving a PhD. In the division between Arts and Sciences, the field of History falls firmly into the former. Sciences concern themselves with measurements, comparisons, and the formation of rules by which we may know how the given subject will react. History has no such rules, no such measurements, and no such predictions.

If we can turn Bayes into a formula for making a science out of history, then we can plug in this number here, that number there, and out will come a very precise number telling us how likely it is that a certain event happened in a certain year. When we have a method, and when that method proves to be both predictive and repeatable (within a certain reasonable degree of precision), then History will be a science.

And we immediately hit a problem. The method proposed is not repeatable. We do not have an objective method to decide the prior probability of an event, unless we rely upon the other method of probability, which is frequency. And we cannot apply that to a single event. We cannot ask how likely it is that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death during the ides of March, 44 BC. And that is because either it happened, and the frequency is 1 occurrence out of 1 opportunity, or else it did not, and the frequency is 0 occurrences out of 0 opportunities.

The prior probability of this event is either 1, that is, it certainly did happen; or else 0, that is, it certainly did not. Carrier gets around this by making up a class of events, and then applying the rubric of how many times within that class of events a thing actually happened as opposed to actually not happening. So if we make the class of events something like Caesar interacting with groups of people, then we see that in one event out of tens of thousands, he was stabbed to death. Therefore the odds of it having happened to him as described are tens of thousands to one against, or <.0001, which thus means that he almost certainly was not stabbed to death.

Wait, that really doesn’t work, does it? Well then, let’s take all of the Roman Caesars, not counting Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, and count how many were murdered. Well, out of some 84 or so until the fall of the empire in the West, it seems as if about 40 were murdered in office by various means. So 40/84 = 10/21, or slightly less than half. So the odds – excuse me, Prior Probability – of Julius Caesar (that is, Gaius Julius Caesar, the hero of the Gallic Wars) having been stabbed in office are about 49.5%.

So the number we’re supposed to input could be anywhere from .0001 to .495 with no real way for us to choose between them. We could use some other index – Men named Gaius who were stabbed, Men who were stabbed in a senate meeting, men who died in a public place – but choosing which group is where all the magic happens. We can change the priors for this event by as 50% just by picking one group over another.

And that’s not science, because it’s not repeatable.

Let me give an example: There’s an infamous equation, called the Drake equation, and it is used to calculate the probability of life on other planets. The Drake equation is:

Number of civilizations with whom we might communicate =
Average rate of star creation in our galaxy, times
The fraction of those stars that have planets, times
Average number of planets that could support life per star, times
fraction of planets that could which do develop life, times
fraction of planets that support life which develop intelligent life, times
fraction of intelligent civilizations that broadcast signals into space, times
length of time such civilizations broadcast.

Now, in fairness to Dr. Drake, the formula was not intended to produce a number or a prediction; it was intended as a basis for understanding and discussing the factors involved in finding a signal from space (“WOW!”). But you can clearly see why this problem, aside from its role as a conversation starter, is inherently useless – all of the factors are unknown to us.

We could take guesses, and plug in numbers that we happen to like, but that will merely give us the answer that we happen to like. We can use the Drake equation, with different starting assumptions, to reach any conclusion we like. And that is why the Drake equation, while a serious tool for discussing possibilities, is useless for discussing probabilities.

And we came to the same problem when we try to calculate a prior probability for Julius Caesar into a Bayesian formula: Garbage in yields garbage out. We do nothing more than restate our assumptions after filtering them through maths.

That’s not to say that Bayesian reasoning has no place in History. Bayesian reasoning in its core – using our initial estimate, modified by future experience – could help us to imagine a better model for how Roman households obtained daily bread. Or it could help us to guess the reason that the Pompeiians were caught unawares. But we cannot plug in numbers and get meaningful numbers out, because we don’t know what numbers to plug in.

Carrier glosses over this point. He says, very patronizingly, that others may choose to use different assumptions, but that to do so they must make more assumptions, which will only reduce the prior probabilities. That is to say, instead of showing that his estimates are correct, he demands that others show that his estimates are not correct.

And that, again, goes against science. Dr. Richard Feynman, in one of his essays that have been collected as books, tell us that the entire point of science is to be more than fair to the other guy. In science, we try to prove our own theories wrong. We look for the holes in our theories, and we keep asking what we’ve missed. And when no one can suggest what we’ve missed, then we start to think that maybe our theory is right.

Carrier is doing the opposite. He’s insisting that he’s right, and demanding to be proven wrong; playing “king of the hill” with the facts, and defying all comers to challenge his hilltop, his chosen theories.

We come back to the simple fact: History is an art, not a science, and an attempt to make it into a science can only come to grief.

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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Fri May 10, 2019 3:05 pm

Og3 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 4:09 am
********************************************************************
I certify and declare that that which follows is my own
work, done by my own hand, on my own keyboard, and
without reliance upon Cut-n-paste from the arguments
of others. If it were not so, I would have told you.
********************************************************************

Part 3 of many

The Plans for the House:

Before a building can be built, or even significantly modified, a set of plans must be made and these must be submitted for approval to the local building inspector. The analogy here would be Carrier describing what he intends to prove, and by what method.

And here we depart somewhat from a construction analogy. In a building, Carrier would not be allowed to proceed unless the methods he proposed were proven techniques or were recognized by his peers as a valid method. Carrier, on the other hand, has the option of contemptuously defying technique and established method in favor of plunging on ahead.

The new technique that he proposes – using Bayes theorem to prove or disprove a historical claim to a degree of reasonable doubt – is not a proven method for this purpose. It is not something that his peers have gone in for, and used reliably in the past to answer historical questions. It would not be admitted into evidence in court, because it is not in the mainstream of his profession.

Carrier, by using Bayes, seems to be attempting to make an art into a science. History is an art; that is, a student of history will be awarded a BA or an MA before receiving a PhD. In the division between Arts and Sciences, the field of History falls firmly into the former. Sciences concern themselves with measurements, comparisons, and the formation of rules by which we may know how the given subject will react. History has no such rules, no such measurements, and no such predictions.

If we can turn Bayes into a formula for making a science out of history, then we can plug in this number here, that number there, and out will come a very precise number telling us how likely it is that a certain event happened in a certain year. When we have a method, and when that method proves to be both predictive and repeatable (within a certain reasonable degree of precision), then History will be a science.

And we immediately hit a problem. The method proposed is not repeatable. We do not have an objective method to decide the prior probability of an event, unless we rely upon the other method of probability, which is frequency. And we cannot apply that to a single event. We cannot ask how likely it is that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death during the ides of March, 44 BC. And that is because either it happened, and the frequency is 1 occurrence out of 1 opportunity, or else it did not, and the frequency is 0 occurrences out of 0 opportunities.

The prior probability of this event is either 1, that is, it certainly did happen; or else 0, that is, it certainly did not. Carrier gets around this by making up a class of events, and then applying the rubric of how many times within that class of events a thing actually happened as opposed to actually not happening. So if we make the class of events something like Caesar interacting with groups of people, then we see that in one event out of tens of thousands, he was stabbed to death. Therefore the odds of it having happened to him as described are tens of thousands to one against, or <.0001, which thus means that he almost certainly was not stabbed to death.

Wait, that really doesn’t work, does it? Well then, let’s take all of the Roman Caesars, not counting Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, and count how many were murdered. Well, out of some 84 or so until the fall of the empire in the West, it seems as if about 40 were murdered in office by various means. So 40/84 = 10/21, or slightly less than half. So the odds – excuse me, Prior Probability – of Julius Caesar (that is, Gaius Julius Caesar, the hero of the Gallic Wars) having been stabbed in office are about 49.5%.

So the number we’re supposed to input could be anywhere from .0001 to .495 with no real way for us to choose between them. We could use some other index – Men named Gaius who were stabbed, Men who were stabbed in a senate meeting, men who died in a public place – but choosing which group is where all the magic happens. We can change the priors for this event by as 50% just by picking one group over another.

And that’s not science, because it’s not repeatable.

Let me give an example: There’s an infamous equation, called the Drake equation, and it is used to calculate the probability of life on other planets. The Drake equation is:

Number of civilizations with whom we might communicate =
Average rate of star creation in our galaxy, times
The fraction of those stars that have planets, times
Average number of planets that could support life per star, times
fraction of planets that could which do develop life, times
fraction of planets that support life which develop intelligent life, times
fraction of intelligent civilizations that broadcast signals into space, times
length of time such civilizations broadcast.

Now, in fairness to Dr. Drake, the formula was not intended to produce a number or a prediction; it was intended as a basis for understanding and discussing the factors involved in finding a signal from space (“WOW!”). But you can clearly see why this problem, aside from its role as a conversation starter, is inherently useless – all of the factors are unknown to us.

We could take guesses, and plug in numbers that we happen to like, but that will merely give us the answer that we happen to like. We can use the Drake equation, with different starting assumptions, to reach any conclusion we like. And that is why the Drake equation, while a serious tool for discussing possibilities, is useless for discussing probabilities.

And we came to the same problem when we try to calculate a prior probability for Julius Caesar into a Bayesian formula: Garbage in yields garbage out. We do nothing more than restate our assumptions after filtering them through maths.

That’s not to say that Bayesian reasoning has no place in History. Bayesian reasoning in its core – using our initial estimate, modified by future experience – could help us to imagine a better model for how Roman households obtained daily bread. Or it could help us to guess the reason that the Pompeiians were caught unawares. But we cannot plug in numbers and get meaningful numbers out, because we don’t know what numbers to plug in.

Carrier glosses over this point. He says, very patronizingly, that others may choose to use different assumptions, but that to do so they must make more assumptions, which will only reduce the prior probabilities. That is to say, instead of showing that his estimates are correct, he demands that others show that his estimates are not correct.

And that, again, goes against science. Dr. Richard Feynman, in one of his essays that have been collected as books, tell us that the entire point of science is to be more than fair to the other guy. In science, we try to prove our own theories wrong. We look for the holes in our theories, and we keep asking what we’ve missed. And when no one can suggest what we’ve missed, then we start to think that maybe our theory is right.

Carrier is doing the opposite. He’s insisting that he’s right, and demanding to be proven wrong; playing “king of the hill” with the facts, and defying all comers to challenge his hilltop, his chosen theories.

We come back to the simple fact: History is an art, not a science, and an attempt to make it into a science can only come to grief.
********************************************************************
I certify and declare that that which follows is my own
work, done by my own hand, on my own keyboard, and
without reliance upon Cut-n-paste from the arguments
of others. If it were not so, I would have told you.
********************************************************************
Me too, from now on (crosses fingers behind back).

Og, you are assuming that Carrier is only relying upon Bayesian means to work out the plausibility of all characters in history, including people like the Roman Caesars. I agree with you, that would be a very silly thing to do if he was trying to get all historians to do that. I assure you that he doesn't need to do that at all. There is a plethora of evidence for well known historical people like Julius Caesar,with many lines of converging evidence and you would know that without a doubt. That is being very deceptive, especially coming from a Deacon!

I would like you to try that out on him on his blog, he would rip you to pieces! Actually you should post each one of your essays in front of him and let us see how you fare instead of trying to impress members trying to outwit silly old me.

What he is suggesting is that we should consider using something like Bayes to work out prior probabilities of stuff like supernatural events that are thought be some to be historical. Heck, if you read his article that I posted previously, he even spells it out for you. See it here again with my emphasis: https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12742
Bayesian Reasoning about the Past
This is why I use Bayes’ Theorem to analyze highly uncertain problems in history. All historians use it, unknowingly, to generate every claim they make about history. But by not examining whether they are using it correctly (often because they don’t even know they are using it at all), they are highly susceptible to being wrong, when the data is not overwhelmingly clear.

Of course, when the data is overwhelmingly clear, you don’t need to do the math anyway. You could. But it’s a needless waste of headache and time.
Or if you want to just argue it here (instead of using straw man analogies), post your objections to each part of his argument and we can discuss it that way.
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
Posts: 863
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2018 6:41 am

Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Fri May 10, 2019 8:04 pm

SEG wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 3:05 pm
Og3 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 4:09 am
***********************************************************************
I certify and declare that that which follows is my own
work, done by my own hand, on my own keyboard, and
without reliance upon Cut-n-paste from the arguments
of others. If it were not so, I would have told you.
***********************************************************************

Part 3 of many

The Plans for the House:

Before a building can be built, or even significantly modified, a set of plans must be made and these must be submitted for approval to the local building inspector. The analogy here would be Carrier describing what he intends to prove, and by what method.

And here we depart somewhat from a construction analogy. In a building, Carrier would not be allowed to proceed unless the methods he proposed were proven techniques or were recognized by his peers as a valid method. Carrier, on the other hand, has the option of contemptuously defying technique and established method in favor of plunging on ahead.

The new technique that he proposes – using Bayes theorem to prove or disprove a historical claim to a degree of reasonable doubt – is not a proven method for this purpose. It is not something that his peers have gone in for, and used reliably in the past to answer historical questions. It would not be admitted into evidence in court, because it is not in the mainstream of his profession.

Carrier, by using Bayes, seems to be attempting to make an art into a science. History is an art; that is, a student of history will be awarded a BA or an MA before receiving a PhD. In the division between Arts and Sciences, the field of History falls firmly into the former. Sciences concern themselves with measurements, comparisons, and the formation of rules by which we may know how the given subject will react. History has no such rules, no such measurements, and no such predictions.

If we can turn Bayes into a formula for making a science out of history, then we can plug in this number here, that number there, and out will come a very precise number telling us how likely it is that a certain event happened in a certain year. When we have a method, and when that method proves to be both predictive and repeatable (within a certain reasonable degree of precision), then History will be a science.

And we immediately hit a problem. The method proposed is not repeatable. We do not have an objective method to decide the prior probability of an event, unless we rely upon the other method of probability, which is frequency. And we cannot apply that to a single event. We cannot ask how likely it is that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death during the ides of March, 44 BC. And that is because either it happened, and the frequency is 1 occurrence out of 1 opportunity, or else it did not, and the frequency is 0 occurrences out of 0 opportunities.

The prior probability of this event is either 1, that is, it certainly did happen; or else 0, that is, it certainly did not. Carrier gets around this by making up a class of events, and then applying the rubric of how many times within that class of events a thing actually happened as opposed to actually not happening. So if we make the class of events something like Caesar interacting with groups of people, then we see that in one event out of tens of thousands, he was stabbed to death. Therefore the odds of it having happened to him as described are tens of thousands to one against, or <.0001, which thus means that he almost certainly was not stabbed to death.

Wait, that really doesn’t work, does it? Well then, let’s take all of the Roman Caesars, not counting Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, and count how many were murdered. Well, out of some 84 or so until the fall of the empire in the West, it seems as if about 40 were murdered in office by various means. So 40/84 = 10/21, or slightly less than half. So the odds – excuse me, Prior Probability – of Julius Caesar (that is, Gaius Julius Caesar, the hero of the Gallic Wars) having been stabbed in office are about 49.5%.

So the number we’re supposed to input could be anywhere from .0001 to .495 with no real way for us to choose between them. We could use some other index – Men named Gaius who were stabbed, Men who were stabbed in a senate meeting, men who died in a public place – but choosing which group is where all the magic happens. We can change the priors for this event by as 50% just by picking one group over another.

And that’s not science, because it’s not repeatable.

Let me give an example: There’s an infamous equation, called the Drake equation, and it is used to calculate the probability of life on other planets. The Drake equation is:

Number of civilizations with whom we might communicate =
Average rate of star creation in our galaxy, times
The fraction of those stars that have planets, times
Average number of planets that could support life per star, times
fraction of planets that could which do develop life, times
fraction of planets that support life which develop intelligent life, times
fraction of intelligent civilizations that broadcast signals into space, times
length of time such civilizations broadcast.

Now, in fairness to Dr. Drake, the formula was not intended to produce a number or a prediction; it was intended as a basis for understanding and discussing the factors involved in finding a signal from space (“WOW!”). But you can clearly see why this problem, aside from its role as a conversation starter, is inherently useless – all of the factors are unknown to us.

We could take guesses, and plug in numbers that we happen to like, but that will merely give us the answer that we happen to like. We can use the Drake equation, with different starting assumptions, to reach any conclusion we like. And that is why the Drake equation, while a serious tool for discussing possibilities, is useless for discussing probabilities.

And we came to the same problem when we try to calculate a prior probability for Julius Caesar into a Bayesian formula: Garbage in yields garbage out. We do nothing more than restate our assumptions after filtering them through maths.

That’s not to say that Bayesian reasoning has no place in History. Bayesian reasoning in its core – using our initial estimate, modified by future experience – could help us to imagine a better model for how Roman households obtained daily bread. Or it could help us to guess the reason that the Pompeiians were caught unawares. But we cannot plug in numbers and get meaningful numbers out, because we don’t know what numbers to plug in.

Carrier glosses over this point. He says, very patronizingly, that others may choose to use different assumptions, but that to do so they must make more assumptions, which will only reduce the prior probabilities. That is to say, instead of showing that his estimates are correct, he demands that others show that his estimates are not correct.

And that, again, goes against science. Dr. Richard Feynman, in one of his essays that have been collected as books, tell us that the entire point of science is to be more than fair to the other guy. In science, we try to prove our own theories wrong. We look for the holes in our theories, and we keep asking what we’ve missed. And when no one can suggest what we’ve missed, then we start to think that maybe our theory is right.

Carrier is doing the opposite. He’s insisting that he’s right, and demanding to be proven wrong; playing “king of the hill” with the facts, and defying all comers to challenge his hilltop, his chosen theories.

We come back to the simple fact: History is an art, not a science, and an attempt to make it into a science can only come to grief.
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I certify and declare that that which follows is my own
work, done by my own hand, on my own keyboard, and
without reliance upon Cut-n-paste from the arguments
of others. If it were not so, I would have told you.
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Me too, from now on (crosses fingers behind back).
You realize that you just cut-n-pasted... Oh, never mind. :)
Og, you are assuming that Carrier is only relying upon Bayesian means to work out the plausibility of all characters in history, including people like the Roman Caesars. I agree with you, that would be a very silly thing to do if he was trying to get all historians to do that.
Actually, I didn't assume that it is his only tool. But it is the primary tool, or the power tool, that he is trying to use.
I assure you that he doesn't need to do that at all. There is a plethora of evidence for well known historical people like Julius Caesar,with many lines of converging evidence and you would know that without a doubt.
I have no doubts that G. Julius Caesar existed and was stabbed to death by the senate in 44 BCE. I have my doubts about whether he said, "Et tu, Brute? Then die, Caesar!" and a few things like that. I only used Caesar's stabbing to show how
1. An individual event in itself has no Prior Probability (it is quantized: 1 or 0), and
2. If we class an event into a group to show probability, our choices of parameters determine the outcome.
That is being very deceptive, especially coming from a Deacon!
I would think it transparent, and congratulations on figuring out what a table waiter is.
I would like you to try that out on him on his blog, he would rip you to pieces!
I'm sure that he would. In his own blog, he is all powerful, and of necessity sets the rules and gets the last word. He can do the justification shuffle to his heart's content there:
1. I didn't say that.
2. I did, but you don't understand it.
3. So what, you haven't answered 230 random questions that don't apply to this argument.
Actually you should post each one of your essays in front of him and let us see how you fare instead of trying to impress members and trying to outwit silly old me.
What he is suggesting is that we should consider using something like Bayes to work out prior probabilities of stuff like supernatural events that are thought be some to be historical. Heck, if you read his article that I posted previously, he even spells it out for you. See it here again with my emphasis: https://www.richardcarier.info/archives/12742
But that's what I was pointing out with the Caesars. Once a thing has happened, it has a Prior of 1, or else it did not happen and has a Prior of 0.

Let me give you an example. Twelve people played a dice game called bunco. Out of 24 games, one of them won 10 games and lost 14. Use Bayesian analysis to tell me how many times he rolled a "bunco" (all three dice showing the number currently being sought). For a distribution pattern, the highest number of buncos was 4 (n=1), and the others were 2(n=3) and 1 (n=5). A total of 9 buncos.

So there are the facts: Model them to show how many buncos were thrown by the fellow with 10 losses and 14 wins.
Or if you want to just argue it here (instead of using straw man analogies), post your objections to each part of his argument and we can discuss it that way.
The problem here is that he's doing the math.

Let me give you an example more from the world of pumps and boilers, where you and I have common ground. The equation for the power of a heat engine or heat exchanger is

Power=Mass flow rate x Heat coefficient of the fluid x difference in temperature.

So I know that if colder water goes in, the difference is bigger, so the power goes up. If I change from distilled water, at C=1 to seawater at C=1.1, the power goes up (and I'll have to scrape salt out of the exchanger later. If the mass flow rate goes down -- the pump slows, or we throttle a valve -- the power goes down. And so on.

But if I start plugging numbers into that, I'm going to have a mess. I have to guess at the temperature of the cold water going in and the hot water coming out, the purity of the water (tastes a bit brackish... 1.06? ) and so on. How dense is my water, times the CFM of the pump...

Well, yes, all historians use Bayes the first way; does this new fact increase or decrease likelihood. But when we start plugging in numbers, we've gone on a fool's errand. I posted a couple of videos above about how Julia Galef uses Bayes in daily life.

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SEG
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Wed May 15, 2019 8:04 am

I get how you don't like his use of Bayes. What do you think of his elements?
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Thu May 16, 2019 12:47 am

SEG wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 8:04 am
I get how you don't like his use of Bayes. What do you think of his elements?
That will be in the next section. I am working on the wording, and should have time to write it out this evening.

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