My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Adam
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Je

Post by Adam » Tue May 03, 2016 7:21 am

Great rejoinders lately, Ben,
But this one was a little TOO obvious!

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GakuseiDon
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Je

Post by GakuseiDon » Tue May 03, 2016 6:48 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote:The Ethiopic text (written in Greek)....
Written in Greek? Or do you mean originally written in Greek (before being translated into Ethiopic)?

https://archive.org/stream/cu3192401459 ... 1/mode/2up.
Er... yes, that's what I meant... (walks away quickly, hoping no-one notices I thought the Ethiopic text was written in funny looking Greek!) This is why I emphasize I'm just an amateur, and no-one should assume I know what I'm talking about! (though I think I am usually more right than wrong) Thanks for the correction, Ben.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

timhendrix
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Je

Post by timhendrix » Wed May 04, 2016 4:48 am

I think the thread on Vridar (http://vridar.org/2016/04/15/what-does- ... ment-77885) has finally died but perhaps the last interaction with Neil is worth repeating since I think it illustrates a misunderstanding of Carriers argument:
Neil: The way I take it the Jesus we know of today is a cultural composite that by and large fits the R-R classification of a hero. I think few persons in the R-R list would have all their background information conforming to the different classification facets. They figures that are included by Raglan in his book are very diverse. The question as I see it is: “How likely is it that a figure who by and large fits the RR class is explained by (a) h or (b) ~h?” I don’t know if this is adding anything to our discussion — perhaps I’m repeating myself.

As for your last question, I am not sure what you mean by “this hypothesis with all its properties”. There are properties that belong to the RR class of person but they are not the same properties as found in Carrier’s mythicist hypothesis. The properties of the latter serve to explain the properties of the former.

Added later:

Classification does not rely upon all things being similar among respective objects but only selected similarities. A kangaroo and a koala have very few obvious features in common but both are classified as marsupials — a useful classification for addressing scientific questions. Ditto for classifying the platypus with the echinda as monotremes, despite their apparent differences. Classification is about identifying certain points of commonality for specific purposes, to help us address and think about certain questions. Members of the R-R class can be as diverse as koalas are from kangaroos yet be classified together to enable useful questions to be explored.
To which I responded:

wow 135 posts, this is getting unhealthy. I really think we are close to coming to a kind of agreement. I think the most important point is that I agree with nearly everything you write, I just think it is different on a few but important counts from what Carrier is doing in OHJ:
the way I take it the Jesus we know of today is a cultural composite that by and large fits the R-R classification of a hero. I think few persons in the R-R list would have all their background information conforming to the different classification facets. They figures that are included by Raglan in his book are very diverse.
I absolutely agree.
The question as I see it is: “How likely is it that a figure who by and large fits the RR class is explained by (a) h or (b) ~h?” I don’t know if this is adding anything to our discussion — perhaps I’m repeating myself.
I think we are repeating ourselves a bit here but it is the central issue so perhaps it is okay. :-). So first off I 100% agree with that statement, I do think it is the central issue.

But if that’s the case there is a problem: When I say ‘How well is A explained by B’ (and I am talking in terms of probabilities), then I am talking about the probability P(A|B).

Suppose for instance that I say: “That Susi bought a new roof is very well explained by the fact a Tornado removed their roof last month”. This statement is implying that P(“bought a new roof” | “Tornado removed the roof of the house”) is high.

What the statement is not implying is that P(“Tornado removed the roof of the house” | “bought a new roof”) is high. In this example it is not for instance. Are you with me so far at least as this example is concerned?

Here is the point: when you are writing: The question as I see it is:“How likely is it that a figure who by and large fits the RR class is explained by (a) h or (b) ~h?”
this is (by direct analogy) a statement about the probability:

P(“Figure that by and large fits the RR class” | h)

(or ~h). But we are not at the core of the problem: Just as in the case of the tornado-example, this probability is not

P(h | “by and large fits the RR class”)

which is what Carrier uses as his prior probability (see for instance the last chapter of OHJ). Is this making sense so far?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that what you are doing is asking exactly the right question: That what’s important here is how easily h (or ~h) explains the fact Jesus fits the Rank-Raglan hero class in terms of the Gospels. I also think the RR information is important: for starters it must mean the Gospels can’t be considered very reliable history. An additional advantage of phrasing the question in this way is that, after we have dealt with the RR hero class information, we can move on to the other pieces of evidence and so you avoid all that talk about the difference between the various RR hero characters.
But my point is that in a very basic way what you are doing is dramatically different than what Carrier is doing exactly because we shouldn’t confuse P(A|B) with P(B|A). I think that’s why a lot of the stuff I am saying (“bla bla, Jesus is different than moses, etc. etc.”) doesn’t make a lot of sense to you because in *your* way of phrasing the problem it really does not matter and you are simply noticing that. Is any of this making sense?

So does this difference between P(A|B) and P(B|A) matter? I think there are very good reasons to think that it does and most of my review focuses on that point. But this is another 135 post topic. I have tried to illustrate it with some examples, just to take the last:

As for your last question, I am not sure what you mean by “this hypothesis with all its properties”. There are properties that belong to the RR class of person but they are not the same properties as found in Carrier’s mythicist hypothesis. The properties of the latter serve to explain the properties of the former

What I mean by “all it’s [Carriers myth hypothesis] properties” I mean the 5 properties in Carriers minimal myth hypothesis ~h. They are for instance that Jesus died in the supernatural realm and that stories told about Jesus was later believed to be historical. So to re-state my question again: If you again look at Carriers prior in OHJ it is the computation:

P(~h|”Rank-Raglan information”) = (1+#Number of RR heros who did not exist)/(2+#Number of RR heros)

This computation is not using the properties of Carriers hypothesis ~h to explain the RR characteristics: that would be p(RR | ~h) and I again 100% agree that makes a lot of sense.
What Carrier is doing here is to say that the mere non-existence of a RR hero counts TOWARDS his specific hypothesis even if the heros does not match the 5 properties of his hypothesis. It goes right back to the example with the man who is bald. Suppose I computed:

P(“Is bald and likes RnB” | “Is a man”) = (1 + #Number of men who are bald)/(2 + #Number of men)

Clearly this is asking for troubles because I am ignoring the extra element of “likes RnB” (compare to the 5 elements of Carriers hypothesis). Again I am aware Carrier presents reasons for why what he does is sensible, but I think they fall apart when they are put under scrutiny.

lpetrich
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by lpetrich » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:36 am

Lord Raglan's hero profile | Atheism | FANDOM powered by Wikia -- written mostly by me, as far as I can tell. Likewise, most of the evaluations in List of Lord Raglan evaluations | Atheism | FANDOM powered by Wikia were done by me.

Richard Carrier proposes adding:
  • Prophecy fulfillment
  • Supernatural features
    • Miracle-working
    • Pre-existing before conception
    • Being worshipped as a savior god
Several legendary heroes had fulfilled prophecies: Jesus Christ, Krishna, the Buddha, Zeus, Oedipus, Perseus, Romulus, King Arthur, Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Anakin Skywalker, and Harry Potter. Supernatural features are not as common, but some heroes have them. Krishna and the Buddha both pre-existed, for instance.

archibald
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by archibald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:45 am

It's always a good idea, if one wants to bolster one's case, to add in new inputs or criteria that will bolster one's case. ;)

lpetrich
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by lpetrich » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:21 am

I've collected enough scores to do statistics on them, and I've found some interesting results.

Jesus Christ is way up there, at about 18 1/2, comparable to the likes of Moses and Krishna and Hercules and Romulus and King Arthur. However, King David is 4, comparable to most of the well-documented heroes of recent centuries whom I've scored: George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, WInston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Muammar Gaddafi. Tsar Nicholas II is exceptional at 14, and overall, the recent ones have a median score of 6.

I checked on how the items are correlated with overall scores. The big winner is being threatened in infancy. Lots of people seem to have it in for baby heroes, while that doesn't happen with well-documented people.

King Herod vs. Jesus Christ
Pharaoh vs. Moses
King Kamsa vs. Krishna
King Amulius vs. Romulus
King Laius vs. Oedipus
King Acrisius vs. Perseus
Pelias vs. Jason
Tantalus vs. Pelops
Hera vs. Hercules
Hera vs. Dionysus
Hera vs. Apollo
Kronos vs. Zeus
The Roman Senate vs. Augustus Caesar
Lord Voldemort vs. Harry Potter

So why don't we see any of these?

Southern plantation owners vs. Abraham Lincoln
Fundamentalists vs. Charles Darwin
Rabbis, Jewish bankers, and Jewish Marxists vs. Adolf Hitler
Psychiatrists vs. L. Ron Hubbard
Oil-company executives vs. Muammar Gaddafi

lpetrich
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by lpetrich » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:32 am

archibald wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:45 am
It's always a good idea, if one wants to bolster one's case, to add in new inputs or criteria that will bolster one's case. ;)
So what?

Prophecy fulfillment is something that never happens to well-documented people in modern times. The closest that anyone ever comes is interpretations of Nostradamus's works, and that often requires a lot of imagination. However, many legendary heroes had fulfilled prophecies, and Jesus Christ is thus like them in that respect.

I propose a kind of counterargument. What does Jesus Christ have in common with well-documented people that he does not have in common with legendary heroes?

archibald
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by archibald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:45 am

I was just remarking on how a biased approach works.

archibald
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by archibald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:51 am

lpetrich wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:32 am
What does Jesus Christ have in common with well-documented people that he does not have in common with legendary heroes?
Since you ask, Markan Jesus scores lower than Zeus, Hercules, Oedipus, Moses, Theseus, Dionysus, Romulus and Perseus. :)

Or should I say 'can be scored' since there's a lot of leeway to skew the scores in one's preferred direction. Not looking at Richard Carrier in Particular. Wink wink.

It's arguably a daft tool to measure historicity with in the first place. See also, Markan Jesus scores lower than ...etc.

Don't even get me started on bayseian probabilities, because I'm likely to say similar about its suitability as any sort of reliable tool for ancient history and also use the phrase 'garbage in, garbage out' and repeat my comment about the usefulness to bolstering a theory of selecting suitably bolstering inputs.
Last edited by archibald on Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

archibald
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by archibald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:03 am

lpetrich wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:32 am
Prophecy fulfillment is something that never happens to well-documented people in modern times.
I don't think you are following cults all that well. Which is probably a good idea for you, because if you did you might find that as well as prophecies being not unusual, most cults who say they have or had a charismatic founder usually do or did, as is generally the case in world history too. It's what sheeple whoops I mean people in new cults generally do. They follow spechul people. Google sociology and psychology of cults. Analyse that and consider putting it into your prior bayseian probabilities maybe. :)
Last edited by archibald on Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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