This is my first post on the “Biblical Criticism & History Forum”. I’m a historicist who has read some of Richard Carrier’s books. I read Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus in July/August 2014. In the following months, I followed up on quite a few of the end notes and footnotes in both books. I learned a lot in the process, but did not come away convinced by Carrier's case.
I think that the best case for historicity is the case that is found in a book that was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.
The book that I am referring to is:
Humphreys, Colin J. The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Humphreys' argument is lengthy and detailed. It would go beyond the reasonable scope of a single post to go into the details here. The best way to get a quick idea of what this book is about is to read two relatively short scholarly reviews that are available at:
On pages 423-25 of OHJ, Carrier gives the Markan Passion Narrative a good thrashing. Towards the end of the main text on page 425, he writes, “So as history, Mark’s narrative makes zero sense.” In footnote #75 (on the same page), he writes, “That John felt free to change the date (and thus the year), again for symbolic reasons, only goes to prove further how irrelevant historical facts were to constructing the Gospel narratives.”
However, if Humphreys’ theory is correct, then the most important objections that Carrier lodges on page 425 of OHJ are undercut and it becomes very likely that Carrier's conclusions are invalid.
I think the considerations above are important because even Carrier’s minimal theory of historicity (on page 34 of OHJ) is centered on the events that are narrated as having happened at the time of Jesus’ execution. If the accounts of the execution make “zero sense”, then it is possible that even minimalistic theories of historicity are in trouble. But, if Carrier’s most important objections to the Markan Passion Narrative are invalid and the accounts of the execution do make good historical sense, then I think that there may be more warrant for a minimal theory of historicity than Carrier would like us to believe.
For anyone that is interested in finding the best possible arguments for historicity, I think that Humphreys’ book is one of the best places to go.
In the last sentence of his response to Peter’s original article (http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 686#p28686
), Neil Godfrey writes, "A best case scenario might attempt to apply memory theory to the literary evidence without any assumptions that need to be supported by logically fallacious criteria."
In the last ten minutes of his inaugural lecture at St. Mary's University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrESSC-w4Ig
), Chris Keith said, "Since social memory theory seeks primarily to understand continuity and discontinuity in the formation of collective memory, it is most advantageous to historical Jesus scholars in instances of multiple particularly conflicting interpretations of Jesus. From these one can, in Le Donne’s words, triangulate a possible past reality that could have led to them. It is then the Jesus scholar’s responsibility to forward convincing arguments about precisely how a proposed past led to those early Christian interpretations. I should stop here just to comment. Historically these [points] where the gospels have contradictions or disagreements over Jesus ... One says he died on, you know, the Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus died on the day of Passover and the Gospel of John says Jesus died on the Day of Preparation and none of them say that he died twice and that would be a big theological problem if [they] did. But, historically, in Jesus studies these have kind of been a problem. ... But from this perspective [of social memory theory], this is great for the historian. It is these instances where we primarily have an opportunity to actually theorize something, because we have multiple interpretations and we can ask what led to both or all of those interpretations."
Colin Humphreys' book is basically a book-length attempt to answer the specific challenge that Chris Keith raises in the quotation above. As such, I think it counts as a valid (already existing) attempt to respond to Neil's challenge. Whether it is successful or not is open for discussion.