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

Post by archibald » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:03 am

lpetrich wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:46 pm
Yes, prophecies of the coming of leaders and heroes. Where are the prophecies of the coming of George Washington or Charles Darwin? To name only
Honestly, I'm not sure what your point was.

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

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:54 am

archibald wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:03 am
lpetrich wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:46 pm
Yes, prophecies of the coming of leaders and heroes. Where are the prophecies of the coming of George Washington or Charles Darwin? To name only
Honestly, I'm not sure what your point was.
Here is what I mean.

King Laius and Queen Jocasta learn from the Oracle of Delphi that their baby son will grow up to kill his father and marry his mother, so they leave him out in the wilderness to die. But a shepherd took him in and raised him. Oedipus himself learned of the prophecy, so he moved away from his parents. But one day, at an intersection, he got into a fight with some gentleman over whose vehicle had the right of way there. A fight where he killed that man. He then married a middle-aged widow. He later discovered that it was his father that he killed and that it was his mother that he married.

Zeus's father Kronos learned from his parents Ouranos and Gaia that one of his sons would overthrow him, just as he had overthrown those two. So Kronos gulped down all of his partner Rhea's children as the two had them. But when Rhea gave birth to their sixth child, she got tired of this, so she wrapped a stone with swaddling clothes and gave it to Kronos. He then gulped it down. Zeus was then raised by some foster parents, and when he grew up, he made Kronos vomit up the stone and his brothers and sisters. They then fought, with Zeus and his friends defeating Kronos and his friends, thus overthrowing Kronos.

There are similar prophecy-fulfillment stories about Romulus, Krishna, and the Buddha, of prophecies fulfilled despite efforts to thwart that fulfillment.

Are there any similar stories about George Washington, Charles Darwin, or other recent people?

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

Post by archibald » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:44 pm

lpetrich wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:54 am
archibald wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:03 am
lpetrich wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:46 pm
Yes, prophecies of the coming of leaders and heroes. Where are the prophecies of the coming of George Washington or Charles Darwin? To name only
Honestly, I'm not sure what your point was.
Here is what I mean.

King Laius and Queen Jocasta learn from the Oracle of Delphi that their baby son will grow up to kill his father and marry his mother, so they leave him out in the wilderness to die. But a shepherd took him in and raised him. Oedipus himself learned of the prophecy, so he moved away from his parents. But one day, at an intersection, he got into a fight with some gentleman over whose vehicle had the right of way there. A fight where he killed that man. He then married a middle-aged widow. He later discovered that it was his father that he killed and that it was his mother that he married.

Zeus's father Kronos learned from his parents Ouranos and Gaia that one of his sons would overthrow him, just as he had overthrown those two. So Kronos gulped down all of his partner Rhea's children as the two had them. But when Rhea gave birth to their sixth child, she got tired of this, so she wrapped a stone with swaddling clothes and gave it to Kronos. He then gulped it down. Zeus was then raised by some foster parents, and when he grew up, he made Kronos vomit up the stone and his brothers and sisters. They then fought, with Zeus and his friends defeating Kronos and his friends, thus overthrowing Kronos.

There are similar prophecy-fulfillment stories about Romulus, Krishna, and the Buddha, of prophecies fulfilled despite efforts to thwart that fulfillment.

Are there any similar stories about George Washington, Charles Darwin, or other recent people?
I'm sorry but that makes me clear on what you were saying, but not on what your point was, in relation to either the OP or the issue of Jesus' historicity. Maybe you weren't making a point about those.

I mean, the prophecies you mention.....were there actually any prophecies? It seems to me that in the stories about the characters you mention, parts of the story say that prophecies were involved beforehand, whereas in the case of the Jewish messiah there were actually prophecies, including at the supposedly relevant time and prior. You can go to Jewish texts and find them. You can find Jews who still believe in them (and Christians who believe in slightly different ones, also written down in texts you can read).

Also, I'm not sure why you're asking about George Washington and Charles Darwin.
Last edited by archibald on Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:56 pm, 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 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:57 pm

If I were to guess what you were meaning, or what your point was, it might be something like, "mythological figures tend to have prophecies about them but real people don't". But in the case of mythological characters, there are only stories that there were supposed to have been prophecies about them, not actual prophecies. So you might be better saying (and in fact might be saying), "mythological figures (from the dim-and-distant-past) tend to be in stories involving prophecies about them, but real people don't".

But (a) that's not comparing like with like and (b) it isn't the case for real religious leaders, especially those who are or were the founders of cults, who are supposed to have been or are the fulfilment of prophecies. Those people are a dime a dozen and have been throughout the world history of superstitions. This imo is one reason among others as to why the Raglan Scale (or bayseian probability) is/are a poor way to measure or estimate ahistoricity, and may help to explain why Darwin wasn't apparently supposed to have been the fulfilment of a prophecy.

Try this instead: "most cults who say they had a charismatic founder in the fairly recent past usually did or are reasonably taken to have had". Then google Sociology of Cults or Psychology of Cults or History of Cults and see if human group-behaviour (especially when it comes to religion) tends to be more that way or not. Then consider applying it to the supposed founder of a religious cult which appeared to emerge in 1st C Judea. Such a tendency would, if it is the case (as a generality) arguably be a much more relevant consideration in this case than comparisons with either mythical figures from the dim and distant past or real people such as Charles Darwin who have nothing to do with cults or religion.

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

Post by lpetrich » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:57 pm

Back to my regression analysis of the scores.

Around being targeted in infancy is being the son of a god. Why aren't there any notable recent people who are sons and daughters of gods? Where did all those horny gods go?

Being raised by foster parents in a distant land -- that seems rather unmotivated. I can't tell what the significance of that is in heroes' biographies.

Around that is losing favor with the gods or their followers. That is curiously common among legendary heroes, and rare among well-documented ones in recent centuries. Tsar Nicholas II, Richard Nixon, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Muammar Gaddafi are the main examples that I know of. Sometimes one finds the opposite, as with Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, who both had followers who followed them to the bitter end.

Lower are father being a king, an unusual conception, mother being a royal virgin, reigning uneventfully, having a mysterious death, and coming to power with a victory over some big enemy. These have slopes around 1, while being targeted in infancy has a slope of around 1.6.

Parents being near relatives has a slope of about 0.5, and making notable laws, dying atop a hill, having no family successors, and marrying a princess score even lower, with the latter having a slope of 0.06 - 0.07.

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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:18 pm

lpetrich wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:57 pm
Why aren't there any notable recent people who are sons and daughters of gods?
Vissarion? Yahweh ben Yahweh? Apollo Quiboloy?

(I have no stake in this discussion, and you may feel free to discount from your consideration all of the modern claimants to the title of "son of God" or even God incarnate, of which there are rather many, however you see fit; but you asked a question that does have an answer.)
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archibald
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Re: My review of Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus"

Post by archibald » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:08 am

I'd like to add something to 'losing favour with their subjects/followers' supposedly being rare for real people (even well-documented ones in recent centuries). It isn't even remotely rare. I can think of six from recent 'Arab Spring' uprisings alone (leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain).

Ethiopia (Heile Selassie), Romania (Nicolae Ceausescu) and France (Louis 15th) also spring immediately to mind. I'd be very surprised if it wasn't commonplace during regime changes generally, even in democracies (landslide defeats etc). And for example there are about 300-400 people listed on the wiki page for 'Leaders ousted in a coup' and skimming these, popular uprisings seem to be a common reason, even if not the only one. You could look at this at any level, from national down to lesser organisations of almost any small size.

I admit I haven't googled 'power struggles within The Devon and Cornwall Women's Institute' though.

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

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:48 am

There is a foundational difficulty in using the Raglan scale to form a prior about Jesus' historicity, apart from any deficiencies in the scale itelf, or the usefulness of any of its individual items.

Whatever else Jesus' score is, it is a hash of the canonical Gospels (a datum whose value is determined by the texts and is shorter to encode than the texts themselves). If that datum is introduced into the analysis, then any other simple use of anything from the Gospels that could relate to scale items is impermissibly "using the same evidence twice."

Carrier happens to introduce his terse summary of the Gospels at the very first step of his analysis, but the problem attaches from use of the scale anywhere.

The defect can, in principle, be remedied by ruling out or identifying and accounting for conditional dependency between the information you've used and re-used. However, given that so large a proportion of the evidence here is the Gospels or commentaries based on the Gospels, and given how little the Raglan scale could possibly add to even a cursory waltz through the Gospels looking for "the stuff of legend," Carrier's choice is at best awkward.

There may also be a further difficulty, implicit in a recent comment by lpetrich
That seems to be excessively literal-minded. If one interpreted Lord Raglan's hero profile like that for other legendary heroes, then it would be hard for anyone to have a high score.
If that's so, then Jesus' Raglan score wouldn't even be a hash of the Gospels, i.e. something whose value is determined by them, but rather something determined by the informal combination of the texts with a personal disposition to award points narrowly or broadly (to "single out" Jesus or to view him more like "anyone").

The second factor sounds more like the expression of an already formed prior opinion than a basis for forming one.

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

Post by archibald » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:06 am

Added to which carrier gets a higher score for Jesus than others do.

Individual characteristics are arguably shoehorned to fit.

It is also apparently not difficult to give Jesus a low score, as low as 9, as McGrath says he does. One may argue this is too low, but the point is that it is a matter of personal interpretation, which is another reason among many that the Raglan scale may be considered questionable as regards providing anything reliable.

Ditto for bayseian probabilities. Depending on which prior probabilities you choose to include in the first place, and how you think it is appropriate to score them, you could get almost any probability you want.

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

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:06 am

archibald
Ditto for bayseian probabilities. Depending on which prior probabilities you choose to include in the first place, and how you think it is appropriate to score them, you could get almost any probability you want.
As is perfectly appropriate in a formal representation of coherent personal beliefs. That Carrier thinks they represent something else is a reflection on Carrier, not on Laplace.

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