Sunday, January 18, 2015

Undermining Richard Carrier's version of the Christ Myth Hypothesis

(last updated 2/12/16)

With minor editing, I posted the following in a YouTube video where Richard Carrier discussed reasons for why he thinks it's possible there was no historical Jesus. Additional material not included in the YouTube comments are in RED. [My comments might eventually be deleted because the YouTube channel is named  UNCG Atheists]

Minimally, Carrier's version of the Christ Myth hypothesis requires that there be no evidence for a historical/physical Jesus in the undisputed Pauline epistles. Here are some evidences/reasons from the core Pauline corpus to suggest Jesus' historicity which Carrier missed. Like Carrier, I'm excluding the contested Deutero-Pauline epistles in this survey. If I did include them in the survey, there would be EVEN MORE evidence for a historical Jesus [and the physicality of Christ's resurrection].
- Rom. 9:5 states that Jesus was physically from the Jewish (i.e. Israelite) race.
"To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen."- Rom. 9:5. If this is a proper translation, then this verse is affirming Christ's dual nature and contrasting Jesus' human nature with His divine nature. See THIS LINK for the evidence of this being properly translated. Notice too that Paul refers to his fellow Jews as his kinsmen "according to the flesh" two verses earlier in verse 3. It is unlikely that Paul's use of the phrase "according to the flesh" has a different sense or meaning in verse 5 than in verse 3. Therefore, Paul is intimating that Jesus was a real historical human being.
- Rom. 1:3 Christ was made/born of the seed of David ACCORDING TO THE FLESH

- 1 Thess. 2:14-15 states that the Jews/Judeans killed Jesus like they did the other prophets. Possibly Carrier missed 1 Thess. 2:14-15 because he mixes it up with 1 Tim. 6:13. First Thessalonians is one of the (if not THE) earliest uncontested Pauline book unlike 1 Timothy which is contested/disputed by liberal scholars. Some claim this is an interpolation. I may be wrong, but I'm not aware of any manuscripts that omit it or have major textual variants comparable to the interpolation in Josephus regarding Christ. Some have said, "the final sentence contains a virtually unmistakable reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred after Paul's death" and therefore must be an interpolation. But this is merely a manifestation of an anti-supernaturalistic bias. It reasons (even if only tacitly) that since the supernatural doesn't exist, the seeming prophetic statement must not be an authentic statement by Paul.

- Rom. 8:3 states that God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful FLESH and for sin, and that God condemned sin IN THE FLESH. This likely refers to Jesus physical and bodily death. Therefore implying the physicality and historicity of Jesus.

- Gal. 1:19 mentions the apostle James as "the Lord's brother" in distinction from the "other apostles." Carrier did cite 1 Cor. 9:5 which mentions the brothers of the Lord, but his response doesn't address Gal. 1:19. Hence Paul likely believed in a historical/physical Jesus. And that's excluding the siblings mentioned in the Gospels and Acts (e.g. Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3, Acts 1:14).

- 1 Cor. 15:4 states Jesus was buried. The most plausible interpretation is that this refers to a literal physical burial. Hence, an indication that Jesus was a historical and physical person.

- In Galatians when Paul states his gospel was received as a revelation from Christ Paul is CONTRASTING that with how the other apostles received their gospel message (i.e. it was directly by the physical historical Jesus). Later Paul says he compared his gospel with theirs to make sure they were in harmony, and they were (Gal. 2:1-2; 2:7-10). Because of the contrast in the way the rest of the apostles received their Gospel when compared with Paul, the implication is that Jesus was a historical human being.

- Gal. 4:4 states Jesus was born/made UNDER THE LAW. Clearly intimating Jesus' physical and historical reality (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-20 which uses the same phrase). The whole point of saying Jesus was born/made of a woman is to indicate Jesus' historicity (cf. 1 Cor. 11:12). How else is one made/born of a woman than physically and historically? Notice, how Gal. 4:4 talks about "the fullness of time" which further corroborates historicity and physicality. Being under the law (of Moses) was understood to be something literal human Jews were under.

The repeated reference to the "cross" of Christ suggests a physical cross and hence a historical/physical Jesus. 1 Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil. 2:8; 3:18.

 - When Paul rhetorically asks whether he was crucified for the Corinthians rather than Jesus (1 Cor. 1:13) he's talking about a physical crucifixion. Hence, Jesus' crucifixion was physical.

- When Paul says (1 Cor. 1:23) that a crucified Messiah is a stumbling block to the Jews its because a physically suffering, dying and apparently defeated Messiah is the exact opposite of what the Jews expected. Besides, most Jews believed in a human messiah. [I take this back. I'm not sure what percentage of Jews at that time believed in a human, or divine, or spiritual or a dual natured messiah during the 1st century. However, many did believe in a human messiah].

- 1 Cor. 15:20 states that Jesus' resurrection is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Falling asleep refers to physical death including the death of believers (verse 18). Therefore, Jesus' resurrection was a literal physical resurrection. Which presupposes a literal physical death as well. And a physical death presupposes a bodily historical Jesus who lived as a human being.

- 1 Cor. 2:8 shouldn't automatically be dismissed as heavenly/spiritual rulers rather than human rulers. Especially in light of
1 Thess. 2:14-15. It's possible it refers to both human and angelic rulers. If it does include human rulers, then that presupposes a physical and historical Jesus.

- If the resurrection of Christians is physical, and if Christ's return sets off the resurrection, then the return of Christ is physical. If Christ's return is physical, then his leaving would have been physical as well. That's especially true since the resurrection of the saints is supposed to be similar to Christ's resurrection (cf. Rom. 8:11, 23; Phil. 3:20-21).

- When Paul states (1 Cor. 5:7) that Christ was sacrificed as our Passover, that makes most sense if Jesus was physically slain like the Passover lambs.

- The communion elements of bread and wine as symbolic of Christ's body and blood (1 Cor. 11:27; 10:16) suggests physicality/historicity.

- Phil. 2:7-8 states that Jesus was "born/made in the likeness of men" and found "in human form" and died on a cross. A physical cross makes most sense in context.

- In Phil. 3:10-11 Paul states he wants to SHARE in Christ's sufferings, becoming like Christ in His death in order that he (Paul) might attain the resurrection from the dead. This makes most sense if Paul believed in Jesus' physicality/historicity since Paul's sufferings and persecutions were physical and earthly.

- The centrality and importance of the city of Jerusalem to the early Christians and the Christian community is best consistent with a historical/physical Jesus (cf. Rom. 15:19, 25-26, 31; 1 Cor. 16:3; Gal. 1:17-18; 2:1). Especially since Jesus' physical half-brother James was the main apostle in Jerusalem.

These are just SOME of the evidences and reasons.

2nd comment

In the video Carrier includes Hebrews as an early Christian text. But not as a Pauline epistle (as most scholars, whether conservative or liberal, reject Paul's authorship). 

I commend Carrier for including Hebrews. But he misses the important phrase in Heb. 5:7 which talks about "in THE DAYS OF HIS [i.e. Jesus'] FLESH." Meaning his earthly life before the resurrection and ascension to heaven (without implying Christ no longer has a physical body). There's a contrast being made between Christ's current mediatorial activity in heaven and his previous activity IN THE FLESH on earth.

As well as Heb. 2:14 which specifically states Jesus partook/shared in "flesh and blood" like believers. The whole point of this passage is that Jesus didn't take the nature of angels but of humans (see verses 16-17 just two verses later). Notice earlier that verse 9 states Jesus was, for a while, made lower than the angels. Suggesting a historical and physical incarnation.

As well as Heb. 10:19-20 which mentions Jesus' blood and identifies the curtain of the heavenly temple as Jesus' flesh. The idea being that the sacrifice of Jesus' physical body is the gateway or curtain by which we on earth can enter the spiritual temple and God's presence.

Heb. 2:3-4 states, "...It [i.e. the gospel] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." This verses suggests that Jesus first preached the gospel on earth physically in the same way human ministers and apostles later did.

"For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests."- Heb. 7:14. This verses suggests Jesus was a literal physical descendant of the tribe of Judah.

I don't know how Carrier could miss such passages.
3rd comment

Carrier also missed 2 Cor. 5:16 which states, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer." This verse contrasts regarding Christ according to the flesh and no longer doing so. It suggests and seems to presuppose a historical and physical Jesus.

Here's a link to an article by a Mythcist which lists 20 arguable references to the Gospel Jesus in the New Testament epistles. Some of the passages should be included in this blog. I'll add them if I find the time. Nevertheless, it's interesting how the writer has to do a lot of work to explain away the natural senses of many of the verses. Sometimes such verses are the only way the New Testament author could refer to Jesus as being a historical human being. That's why many mythicist arguments are unfalsifiable, ad hoc, and implausible.


  1. AP, Wasn't sure where to put this comment, but I was interested in your feedback as well on a question I posted on T-blog under the We're Marching to Zion post (3/15/15). I know you have more of a background in the Charismatic movement, so I would like to hear your thoughts. Anyway, my question was as follows:

    {{Speaking of charismatic guidance, this is slightly off-topic, but I would appreciate some feedback. The church I attend (C&MA) has recently begun to become more charismatic than in recent past years. A newer pastor feels that God wants the church to be a healing church—where people come for physical healing. Last week he started saying stuff from the pulpit like, “There may be somebody here with a child suffering from night tremors [edited: meant to say night terrors], there may be somebody here who has a pain in the back of their leg...” Stuff like that. Stuff you see on television. I believe it may be what is sometimes referred to as a “word of knowledge.”

    Anyway, my question is, Should I be concerned about this? Is this acceptable practice?}}

    1. I'm no expert myself. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. I recommend browsing my other blog dedicated to the topic.
      Charismata Matters

      1. I used to go to a C&MA church, so I have some affection for that denomination even now as a Calvinist. Though, A.B. Simpson himself rejected his Calvinistic upbringing. My understanding is that when the C&MA was started, people were free to believe in conditional or unconditional election. Also, believe it or not, the C&MA was originally a denomination that had physical healing as an important part of it's teaching. Though, they all believed that the priority was the Gospel. Only later did they downplay its importance. Especially when the results weren't always consistent.

      For example, see this website:
      Notice how A.B. Simpson (the main founder of the C&MA) wrote on the topic of divine healing. Two of which are entire books.
      1. The Gospel of Healing
      2. The Lord for the Body

      Regarding the words of knowledge, words of wisdom and prophecies, I'm not sure we can clearly identify which Biblical gifts correspond to modern day phenomena. Though, for pragmatic purposes I accept the identifications commonly used by charismatics.

      I like how your pastor doesn't say "Thus saith the Lord," since, there are various views among continuationists regarding whether all such manifestations must be infallible or whether they can be fallible. For example, Wayne Grudem (also a Calvinistic Continuationist) argues for the possibility of fallible prophecies. Personally, I think it's best not to use statements like "Thus saith the Lord." They're unnecessary and are stumbling blocks to many Christians. I believe that universally binding public inspired revelation ceased with the apostles. Otherwise, the canon wouldn't be closed and there'd be the possibility of adding new books to Scripture. No, modern apostles have the prerogatives The Twelve Apostles and Paul had. Though, I do believe in private revelations that are not universally binding and which must be judged by the higher authority of infallible Scripture (e.g. 1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:20-21; Acts 17:11; Rev. 2:2; 1 Cor. 2:15; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:10 etc.). I believe claimed modern revelations may be true or false. Even those that are true can be misinterpreted and/or misapplied by the person who received it from God or from God via an angel. I also believe that pastors should be accountable to elders to prevent cultic tendencies from developing. I recommend Wayne Grudem's book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today.

    2. I'm still learning about the various views on church government, I recommend the books:
      Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity
      Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government
      I haven't read the books. But since I'm Baptistic in my views of the sacraments, when I get around to reading those books I'll pay special attention to James White's sections in the first book, and Sam Waldron's sections in the second book.

      Also, my (evolving) personal views on the charismatic gifts are summed up in the following link:
      My Tentative Views on the Charismata

    3. In my opinion, your new pastor's phrase "There may be somebody here with....[some physical condition]" is a good way to invite people for prayer. If no one has the said condition, then no one will come forward for healing of that condition. That's the worse that can happen. It should also be said by the pastor that he could be wrong and that no one should come up claiming to have the condition if they don't have it (feeling sympathy for him so that he saves face and isn't embarrassed).

      If someone does have the condition, then the worse that can happen is that that person isn't immediate/instantly healed. There's nothing wrong with that. IMO, pastors and elders should be regularly praying for the sick (with or without "words of knowledge"). That's a Biblical command.

      13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.- James 5:13-16

      Even if no one is healed, at least they are being obedient without results. That's better than DISobedient without results. Though, I suspect that in time there will be results. See for example this testimony by apologist and astrophysicist Hugh Ross:

      More Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders

  2. FYI: here is a list of 205 texts which references Jesus dating from pre 70 AD to 200-250 AD: