Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by Peter Kirby » Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:35 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:One criticism by O'Neill is how Dr Carrier ends his article “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200”

O'Neill writes:
  • Carrier is a polemicist and this article shows it. And his final paragraphs where he pompously declares that all future discussion on the topic must now bow before his mighty findings are are hilarious as they are fatuous.
To which Carrier responds:
  • The closing joke is when O’Neil complains of my article’s closing section, concluding “his final paragraphs where he pompously declares that all future discussion on the topic must now bow before his mighty findings are are hilarious as they are fatuous.” This is quite funny. Because it proves O’Neil is an amateur. Many journals require us to write these statements. And indeed this was one such case: the article I submitted had no such section. The peer reviewers insisted that I write it. To oblige them, I did.
This was the pertinent passage at the end of Carrier's article that O'Neill was criticising. Carrier wrote:
  • The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes this passage from the body of reliable evidence for the fate of Jesus’ family, the treatment of Christians in the first century, or Josephus’s attitude toward or knowledge of Christians. Likewise, future commentaries on the relevant texts of Origen and Josephus must take this finding into account, as must any treatments of the evidence for the historical Jesus. Most pressingly, all reference works that treat “James the brother of Jesus” must be emended to reflect this finding, particularly as this passage is the only evidence by which a date for this James’ death has been derived.
Is Carrier's response reasonable? Are such statements framed that way required by peer-reviewers? In peer-reviewed articles, I've seen statements at the end summarizing the impact of the findings in the field, but "All reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' MUST be emended to reflect this finding" (my highlighting) seems over-the-top. But is Carrier's impact statement above typical?
Are we over-interpreting? The "reference works that treat..." being "emended" could imply as little as:

Scholarly texts that purport to provide in-depth coverage on the Ant. 20.200 reference need to footnote this article or reflect its information in its arguments.

(i.e., whether they ultimately agree or not -- which arguably is implied by responsible scholarship taking into account previously-published relevant research...)

Whether it could be worded better is a different question (... most things can be worded better). The question is:

Did Carrier demand that all future discussion "must now bow before his mighty findings"?
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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:03 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
... Carrier ...
  • ... Many journals require us to write these statements. And indeed this was one such case: the article I submitted had no such section. The peer reviewers insisted that I write it. To oblige them, I did.
This [is] the pertinent passage at the end of Carrier's article ...
  • The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes this passage from the body of reliable evidence for the fate of Jesus’ family, the treatment of Christians in the first century, or Josephus’s attitude toward or knowledge of Christians. Likewise, future commentaries on the relevant texts of Origen and Josephus must take this finding into account, as must any treatments of the evidence for the historical Jesus. Most pressingly, all reference works that treat “James the brother of Jesus” must be emended to reflect this finding, particularly as this passage is the only evidence by which a date for this James’ death has been derived.
... "All reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' must be emended to reflect this finding" (my highlighting) seems over-the-top. But is Carrier's impact statement above typical?
'must' may be a bit strong, but Carrier has added a reasonable dimension to the discussion.

Personally, I'd prefer something like "it would be good to emend reference works to add this finding"; or use "ought to be" rather than 'must'.

eta: The thing that justifies the emendation statement is that
Richard Carrier wrote: ... this passage is the only evidence by which a date for this James’ death has been derived.

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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by GakuseiDon » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:06 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote:Is Carrier's response reasonable? Are such statements framed that way required by peer-reviewers? In peer-reviewed articles, I've seen statements at the end summarizing the impact of the findings in the field, but "All reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' MUST be emended to reflect this finding" (my highlighting) seems over-the-top. But is Carrier's impact statement above typical?
Are we over-interpreting? The "reference works that treat..." being "emended" could imply as little as:

Scholarly texts that purport to provide in-depth coverage on the Ant. 20.200 reference need to footnote this article or reflect its information in its arguments.

(i.e., whether they ultimately agree or not -- which arguably is implied by responsible scholarship taking into account previously-published relevant research...)

Whether it could be worded better is a different question (... most things can be worded better). The question is:

Did Carrier demand that all future discussion "must now bow before his mighty findings"?
On that question: No, he didn't. O'Neill's response is obvious hyperbole to what he regards as Carrier's hyperbole. But I'm not defending O'Neill here (though I will defend him in a later post). For example, I agree with Carrier against O'Neill on the question of Ananus.

But I'd still be interested in whether Carrier is correct that "many journals require us to write these statements".
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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by Peter Kirby » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:46 pm

The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes this passage from the body of reliable evidence for the fate of Jesus’ family, the treatment of Christians in the first century, or Josephus’s attitude toward or knowledge of Christians. Likewise, future commentaries on the relevant texts of Origen and Josephus must take this finding into account, as must any treatments of the evidence for the historical Jesus. Most pressingly, all reference works that treat “James the brother of Jesus” must be emended to reflect this finding, particularly as this passage is the only evidence by which a date for this James’ death has been derived.
To what extent is this hyperbole? Is that the best way to characterize it?
hy·per·bo·le
hīˈpərbəlē/Submit
noun
noun: hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles
exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting” is a figure of speech, which involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis.
On the other hand, you seem to have nailed it:
GakuseiDon wrote:O'Neill's response is obvious hyperbole to what he regards as Carrier's hyperbole.
O'Neill uses obvious hyperbole. Whether Carrier went "over the top" in that paragraph seems arguable.
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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by GakuseiDon » Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:15 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:On the other hand, you seem to have nailed it:
GakuseiDon wrote:O'Neill's response is obvious hyperbole to what he regards as Carrier's hyperbole.
O'Neill uses obvious hyperbole. Whether Carrier went "over the top" in that paragraph seems arguable.
Excellent. So that gets us back to my question: whether Carrier is correct that "many journals require us to write these statements", with statements framed that way, i.e. "[m]ost pressingly, all reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' must be emended to reflect this finding".
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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by GakuseiDon » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:59 am

Here is a strange one, where Dr Carrier seems to have misread O'Neill, Mizagaki, or both. It does seem another example of Carrier getting some impression from a passage, and nothing can get him to change his mind about that impression of the passage, including the contents of the passage itself. The saying that comes to mind is "Often wrong, never in doubt."

This revolves around Origen's comment about Josephus putting the cause of the fall of Jerusalem on the death of James. Carrier writes in his blog:
  • O’Neil then says Origen wasn’t mistaken, because “Origen definitely could have read the trope of ‘the fall of Jerusalem as punishment for the execution of James’ into the text, as detailed by Waturu Mizagaki, ‘Origen and Josephus’ in Josephus, Judaism and Christianity.”

    No such argument is in Waturu Mizagaki, ‘Origen and Josephus’ in Josephus, Judaism and Christianity.

    Ooops.

    Literally. Mizagaki never argues for such a thing. At all. Much less in any “detailed” way. He only discusses the remark on two pages (pp. 335-36), and simply describes what Origen says. He makes no case for it being correct. He doesn’t even say it is correct. There is no plausible way to even claim such a thing. So it is to Mizagaki’s credit that he attempted no such thing as O’Neil’s libel against him would have it.
Minor nitpick only: O'Neill doesn't write that Mizagaki "argues" that Origen did that, but rather that Mizagaki "details" that Origen did that.

Now, because from experience I don't trust Carrier's use of his references, I looked up the reference to Mizagaki in Josephus, Judaism and Christianity. As Carrier notes, we find on p. 336 Mizagaki discussing the execution of James in Josephus with the following (my bolding below):
  • Origen does use Josephus' historical explanation of the fall of Jerusalem but expands it. Origen tries to find the real cause of the fall in Jesus Christ's death on the cross. Here Josephus' historical account is theologically interpreted. At this point, Origen's approach is by no means historical. He evaluates and employs Josephus' historical material within certain limitations. But even in this case Origen uses Josephus' historical material only for his theological purpose. To him, the fall of Jerusalem is an incident important within the framework of God's redemptive plan, which has to be related to Jesus' crucifixion. As we have seen, this applies also to Fragmenta in Lamentationes. Josephus' historical account, which has an apologetic trait, is incorporated by Origen in his history of theology, which has the identical trait. Such an attempt of Origen anticipates the "theology of history" that is vastly constructed by Augustine in De civitate Dei.
It seems to me that Mizagaki does indeed detail how Origen could have read the trope of the fall of Jerusalem as punishment for the execution of James into the text, exactly as O'Neill states. Carrier is right in that Mizagaki doesn't explicitly write that "this is the correct explanation", but it certainly reads that way. However Carrier is wrong to describe this as Mizagaki "simply describes what Origen says". There is more to it than that. Mizagaki points out that Origen is theologically interpreting Josephus' historical account, and thus shows how Origen sees Josephus providing the 'evidence' that the death of James led to the fall of Jerusalem.

Does anyone see this differently? Or have I misread Carrier (or O'Neill) on this? Because Carrier believes that Origen was attributing to Josephus passages that were actually in Hegesippus. O'Neill criticized Carrier for not including Mizagaki on this; Carrier writes basically that Mizagaki is irrelevant (and even that O'Neill was libelling Mizagaki! Strange)

The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes the Origen passage from the body of reliable evidence in Carrier's article. Likewise, future commentaries on Carrier's article must take this finding into account. Most pressingly, all reference works that treat Carrier's “James the brother of Jesus” comments must be emended to reflect this finding. (Sorry, I couldn't resist! :) )
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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by GakuseiDon » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:41 am

Another reference by Dr Carrier, another weird reading by Carrier! In the very next paragraph in his blog to the one on Mizagaki in my last post, Carrier writes:
  • What’s weird is that the very next chapter in that same book, after Mizagaki’s completely irrelevant chapter that contains no such argument as O’Neil claims, is specifically on the martyrdom of James, by Zvi Baras. He discusses the passage in question on pp. 341-46. Five whole pages! Know what he says? That Origen’s claim that Josephus credited the fall of Jerusalem to the murder of this James is “a statement not supported by the text reproduced above or by any other extant version.” Done.

    Baras goes on to agree with me that Origen can only be confused. Josephus never said any such thing.
So I go back to Josephus, Judaism and Christianity, and I find Baras' statement here (my bolding below):
  • In the hands of Origen and Eusebius, this incident, defined as "the martyrdom of James," became, through Christian historiosophical interpretation, the main cause for the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple. Moreover, they went so far as to say that Josephus regarded this catastrophe as just punishment for the execution of James--a statement not supported by the text reproduced above or by any other extant version. But Origen did not stop there; he not only attributed to Josephus a statement unknown to us from any other source or version but also "corrected" Josephus' alleged statement in a way favorable to the Christian historiosophical point of view.
The text that is reproduced above by Baras is the passage in Josephus concerning the trial and death of James. That the text in question does not support that the destruction of Jerusalem was in consequence of the execution of James is not controversial. So what is Carrier's "Done" comment in relation to? I have no idea how that helps him. I suspect that he thinks that Baras means there is nothing in Josephus at all to support Origen's reading, but that is wrong, since Baras later claims to find where Origen gets this idea from Josephus (see below).

Carrier goes on to write:
  • And BTW, Baras makes no argument. He just states an assertion. And peer reviewers do not require us to cite undefended assertions.
But Baras does make an argument. He argues contra Carrier that it is unlikely that Origen would mistake Josephus for Hegesippus. And he does believe that Origen derived his view from Josephus. Baras writes on page 344:
  • In fact, I believe that we can now point to a specific place, or incident, in Josephus' own writings--unnoticed so far by scholars in this context--which led Origen to say that Josephus should have corrected his historical interpretation.
For those interested, the full text of Baras' article on Origen and the death of James can be found on Google books here. You can decide for yourself how accurate Carrier is in his references to Mizagaki and Baras. Personally I have found him wrong or inaccurate too many times, so user beware!
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by Ulan » Tue Apr 12, 2016 11:00 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:Is Carrier's response reasonable? Are such statements framed that way required by peer-reviewers? In peer-reviewed articles, I've seen statements at the end summarizing the impact of the findings in the field, but "All reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' MUST be emended to reflect this finding" (my highlighting) seems over-the-top. But is Carrier's impact statement above typical?
Although there's no way to check whether Carrier's statement describes the situation correctly, it's certainly within the range what I've experienced myself. The publication process often involves lots of politics. There's a certain pressure to overstate findings from the editors' sides, because stronger statements cause more reader reaction, which usually results in more publicity for the article. Very good journals don't have that problem, but there's basically the hurdle that they won't accept articles that contain only wishy-washy findings, which leads to authors using stronger statements than necessary already when they produce the manuscript.

With reviewers, it's usually a good idea to follow their suggestions if you don't have very strong feelings about a certain point. You want to publish after all. If a reviewer asks for a strong statement in the summary, you will most often follow through, as that will help with the acceptance of your submission and gel with the interests of the section editor. If the reviewer asks you to soften your conclusion, it's more difficult, as this may result in the editor now finding your article too boring. As a result of these processes, articles with stronger statements have a higher probability of being published.

Taken together, I see Carrier's description of the publication process as quite likely. This also means that you should take strong statements in a summary always with some grain of salt. It's an unfortunate side effect of how publication works.

All this doesn't mean that I find this shit-flinging on a personal level necessary. It's unfortunately rather common though. If you have an opinion about something, there will always be people who will hate your guts.

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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by timhendrix » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:23 am

The spring 2014 issue of the journal is available for free if anyone is interested in other impact statements: http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/29544
Personally, I can't remember ever reading in an article or book that authors "must" cite a specific work. The closest thing are results that demonstrate (by way of proof) that something is true, however in that case I can only recall reading that the given result should be taken into account. I heard it said at conferences and in some books that older work which is otherwise forgotten should receive more attention and perhaps be cited in preference to newer work which express the same result, however that's quite different than actually writing other authors must cite ones *own* work.. I got to admit it seems to be a very odd request to make. Perhaps history is different because more focus is on giving an exhaustive bibliography?

I strongly doubt a reviewer wrote to Carrier he should include the statement as reviewers are normally asked to evaluate work based on 1) originality 2) correctness 3) clarity and 4) if it is of sufficient interest to other scientists to warrant publication. That a work is so important all must cite it would be the reviewers personal view and the reviewer should not say that an article should be re-written to express his personal views in that manner.

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Re: Carrier on Ehrman and Tim O'Neill

Post by Peter Kirby » Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:54 pm

Ulan wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote:Is Carrier's response reasonable? Are such statements framed that way required by peer-reviewers? In peer-reviewed articles, I've seen statements at the end summarizing the impact of the findings in the field, but "All reference works that treat 'James the brother of Jesus' MUST be emended to reflect this finding" (my highlighting) seems over-the-top. But is Carrier's impact statement above typical?
Although there's no way to check whether Carrier's statement describes the situation correctly, it's certainly within the range what I've experienced myself. The publication process often involves lots of politics. There's a certain pressure to overstate findings from the editors' sides, because stronger statements cause more reader reaction, which usually results in more publicity for the article. Very good journals don't have that problem, but there's basically the hurdle that they won't accept articles that contain only wishy-washy findings, which leads to authors using stronger statements than necessary already when they produce the manuscript.

With reviewers, it's usually a good idea to follow their suggestions if you don't have very strong feelings about a certain point. You want to publish after all. If a reviewer asks for a strong statement in the summary, you will most often follow through, as that will help with the acceptance of your submission and gel with the interests of the section editor. If the reviewer asks you to soften your conclusion, it's more difficult, as this may result in the editor now finding your article too boring. As a result of these processes, articles with stronger statements have a higher probability of being published.

Taken together, I see Carrier's description of the publication process as quite likely. This also means that you should take strong statements in a summary always with some grain of salt. It's an unfortunate side effect of how publication works.

All this doesn't mean that I find this shit-flinging on a personal level necessary. It's unfortunately rather common though. If you have an opinion about something, there will always be people who will hate your guts.
In my reading, I have come across some other "conclusions" that seem oddly disconnected (and vastly overstated) compared to the rest of the piece, almost like someone else didn't want the kind of hedged conclusion that the author might have written. I think you can assume that titles, abstracts, introductions, and conclusions are generally the most "politicized" parts of a publication and more open to input from more than just the author himself.

Side note: Some wag once suggested putting a few typos in the first few paragraphs of anything needing consensus approval just so that the wombats can get their "input" in and bugger off...

PS-- Carrier didn't say that someone asked him to write "the" statement he did, just an impact statement ("it")... if I were in his shoes, I'd probably approach it similarly and write something that easily satisfies whatever they're asking for... being ticked off a bit already at having to fit in their box.

I find it curious that we're now basically discussing whether Carrier is fabricating in the crudest fashion (making stuff up) about what the publisher told him. Is this fact checking or closer to spite?
GakuseiDon wrote: So that gets us back to my question: whether Carrier is correct that "many journals require us to write these statements", with statements framed that way, i.e.
Oh, is that the question? Carrier didn't say that the publisher demanded the particular wording, with statements framed that way.

So the question isn't whether Carrier lied; the question is whether publishers demanded statements with this particular wording? Obviously not, right? The wording was left to the writer (at least, if the first draft passed muster...). The publisher demanded an impact statement, not the offending sentence.

As to the sentence itself, does it really concern anyone other than a strange sort of Carrier inerrantist or something? Or someone who wants to defend the honor of O'Neill and his obvious hyperbole regarding the same? How is this discussion not ridiculous?

Apparently it isn't enough that Carrier wrote the paragraph to satisfy the publisher; he must be held to account if his sentences seem in any way exaggerated so as to offend some readers in the way that they are worded in said paragraph, unless the publisher demanded that wording. Again, how is this not ridiculous?
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