James McGrath's article is here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/201 ... 8028.shtml
Ricahrd Carrier's response is here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/6817
My comments below. Comments enclosed in Quotes are from Carrier's blog post.
I'm not sure why Carrier thinks "any mythic realm will do" is relevant to an article entitled 'Did Jesus Die in Outer Space? Evaluating a Key Claim in Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus'. Carrier doesn't actually quote McGrath stating that the mythic death "needs" to occur in outer space. Obviously a crucifixion in Sheol is as useful for mythicism as crucifixion in outer space, but McGrath is clear about what he is examining.Carrier wrote:But note also (to add to Godfrey’s point) the observation I make on pp. 530-31 (in ch. 11), especially including n. 34 (which I also noted earlier, in ch. 3, on p.55, n. 18, and later, on p. 563, n. 67), as it illustrates a confusion in McGrath’s thinking: that we need the mythic death to occur in outer space rather than any other mythic realm, when in fact any mythic realm will do, including Sheol.
Reading OHJ, pp. 318-20, I don't see how that answers the issues that McGrath raises in his article. McGrath makes this point:Carrier wrote:I should also remind readers that McGrath evidently did not read my discussion in OHJ of Docetism, on pp. 318-20, even though the word “Docetism” is in the index. Because he never mentions what I said about it, even when it answers the very things he says about it. This is significant, because it means readers are not being told how my book, the book McGrath claims to be reviewing, actually responds already to the very things he is saying in this review, giving the impression that I didn’t already think of the things he is now coming up with, and that I did not address them, and have no response to them, even though I did, and as a reader of my book, he should know that, and honestly tell his readers about it.
- The forms of Docetism of which we are aware – unless the Ascension of Isaiah is an exception – do not deny that Jesus appeared in the world, but merely deny that he was genuinely human. Is Ascension of Isaiah an exception?...
And so Ascension of Isaiah seems not only to fit the otherwise-attested Docetic view of Jesus (that the life and crucifixion of the terrestrial Jesus was a revelation of a spiritual reality which was made known in the world but did not become part of the world), but to do so much better than the mythicist interpretation, otherwise unattested in ancient times.
Again, a strange miss by Carrier. Carrier claims that he said 'this is the same time the "canonical Gospels" (plural) were "being written". But Carrier leaves out some important words here!Carrier wrote:Godfrey does miss one point, which is that McGrath actually falsely claims I said “that the [Ascension of Isaiah] ought to be dated contemporaneous with the Gospel of Mark.” This disturbs me because on the very first page of my discussion of this document I say “it was originally composed sometime in the first or second century” (p. 36), and that this is the same time the “canonical Gospels” (plural) were “being written.” McGrath has somehow confused a reference to the period of time all the canonicals were being written, with the specific date only Mark was written (the first of them).
This is what McGrath claimed:
- That is at odds with Carrier’s claim that the work ought to be dated contemporaneous with the Gospel of Mark.
- The earliest version in fact was probably composed around the very same time as the earliest canonical Gospels were being written.
Compare the full quote from Carrier above -- "the very same time as the earliest canonical Gospels" -- to what Carrier claims he wrote. Quite a different emphasis! Is it equivalent to "contemporaneous with the Gospel of Mark"? Maybe Carrier doesn't think so. But Carrier leaving out the underlined words in the phrases "very same time" and "earliest canonical Gospels" looks sloppy if not deceptive.
McGrath doesn't see the dating that Carrier provides itself as the problem, but believes that the dates 'creates difficulties for the trajectory which mythicists envisage'. From his article:Carrier wrote:Moreover, I nowhere base any argument on the Ascension dating as early as the 70s, or any earlier in fact than the 130s. So why does McGrath think my dating of it is a problem? I cannot fathom.
- While a matter of decades might seem of little importance, according to mythicists, the time period between Paul and Mark witnessed the conversion of a purely celestial Jesus into the Jesus of the Gospels who lived on earth as a human being. Indeed, the attempt to place a purely celestial Jesus at the beginning of the process is at the heart of mythicism. And so a dating of Ascension of Isaiah to around the time of the Gospel of John, when mainstream historical study concludes that the earthly Jesus of the earlier Gospels had begun to be transformed into an earthly Jesus who embodies a pre-existent divine entity, creates difficulties for the trajectory which mythicists envisage.
In fact, McGrath does give the reason: even if Carrier's arguments are granted, it doesn't matter. McGrath writes:Carrier wrote:McGrath devotes a single paragraph to rebutting my reading of the location of the crucifixion in the earliest reconstructed text of the Ascension of Isaiah…in which he does not mention or respond to any of my arguments for that reading. Let me repeat that so you get my meaning: he does not mention or respond to any of my arguments for that reading. I devote several pages to this (pp. 41-44). Yet he doesn’t even mention what my arguments are. He certainly does not rebut them. Why? And what use is a critique of a conclusion that doesn’t even address the arguments for it?
- But as we have shown here, even if Ascension of Isaiah does have this view, that the celestial Beloved descends from the highest heaven to the firmament and no further, then that still does not support mythicism. Ascension of Isaiah emphasizes that what happens on the firmament is mirrored in the terrestrial realm. We should not treat the crucifixion of the Beloved to be an exception.
- Doherty interprets these passages [in Paul] from the Platonic premiss (sic) that things on Earth have their 'counterparts' in the heavens. Thus 'within the spirit realm' Christ could be of David's stock, etc. But, if the 'spiritual' reality was believed to correspond in some way to a material equivalent on Earth, then the existence of the latter is conceded.
I suppose Carrier is correct that McGrath could have spent more time in rebutting the location of the crucifixion. But since Carrier is certainly wrong in his analysis on the AoI (see my comment in the comment section of the BibInterp article) that would be easy to do.
I'm not sure what Carrier is trying to say here, in terms of the content of AoI. Perhaps someone can help me on this?Carrier wrote:Godfrey does point out evidence that McGrath isn’t actually reading my book—not only by missing my entire extensive discussion about what the dead would be doing in outer space, but also by missing my explicit discussion of how the earthly copy of Jesus’ sacrifice in heaven is the Yom Kippur ritual, as in fact the book of Hebrews explicitly says (in Heb. 9; see my discussion in ch. 11.5)—so here this isn’t even my theory, it is a fact of Christian belief plainly stated in the canonical New Testament. And McGrath doesn’t even know this. How is that possible? This is disturbing to me as well, especially as someone who read my book could not still be ignorant of it. But if he only skimmed my book and didn’t actually read it, that would also explain how he missed all my arguments for interpreting the Ascension as describing a celestial crucifixion, and thus didn’t realize he was suppose to rebut them.
If Carrier is referring to what McGrath writes in his BibInterp article, then this is what McGrath writes (my bolding):Carrier wrote:One last point Godfrey exposes McGrath on well bears further summary, and I will close with this, because it gets to the core of this whole debate:
McGrath gives the impression that my conclusion in favor of mythicism is “based on” the Ascension of Isaiah and things like the Talmud. This is strange, because I am hyper-clear and specific in the book that the effect of these documents on my conclusion is actually rather small, and I even explicitly state how small in mathematical terms.
- Thus, while there is a place for standard-length reviews and review articles, this article will not try to provide an overview of the volume as a whole, but will instead seek to interact with one key element, and a central one at that - a core part of what Carrier calls the “basic myth hypothesis” or the “minimal Jesus myth theory.” The first tenet Carrier lists is this: “At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.” Carrier’s chapter summarizing that mythicist core begins with the Ascension of Isaiah, a text which was central to Earl Doherty’s mythicist case, and in turn has played a key role in Richard Carrier’s. If their interpretation of the work is correct, Ascension of Isaiah provides an example of an ancient mythicist work. Unsurprisingly, Carrier continues to refer back to Ascension of Isaiah throughout his book, using it as evidence to interpret post-NT works, such as the letters of Ignatius, as well as earlier works, such as Paul’s letters, in a manner favorable to his mythicist case. It therefore seems appropriate to take a close look at the relevant parts of Ascension of Isaiah. Doing so will not in and of itself either decisively prove or disprove either mythicism or historicity, nor even determine the overall usefulness of Carrier’s volume as a whole. But it may, once other details are given similarly close attention, affect the way the probability of Carrier’s case for mythicism is evaluated.
Finally, Carrier concludes:
But McGrath is very clear that he is only looking at the claim of a celestial Jesus being crucified in AoI. So Carrier's conclusion is a little unfair.Carrier wrote:But McGrath doesn’t do that. He doesn’t say what weight he would assign the evidence in the Ascension and the Talmud. He doesn’t explain why that weighting is to be preferred to mine. And above all, he doesn’t show what effect his weighting of this evidence has on the conclusion. That is, he doesn’t show what the probability of historicity then is, if we grant his weights instead of mine. And that renders his critique essentially useless.
In short, McGrath gives no indication of how he knows historicity is highly probable (he certainly never ventures to say how probable it is). He doesn’t even seem capable of figuring out how one ever knows that.
All-in-all, the article on Carrier's blog seems to be another example of sloppy writing and unfair reading of his critics.