• Hurtado’s Horrible Happening

    Oh dear. New Testament author Larry Hurtado recently published a blog post reviewing a book he’s never read (yes, really): On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier. Ironically, every criticism Hurtado lists is addressed within that book, and he, in his deep ignorance, never refutes any of the counter-arguments that Carrier offers to what he is saying. Hurtado’s claim that there was no pre-Christian angelic being named Jesus is false, as is basically everything else he wrote. So, I left a well-deserved arse-blistering in the comments section of Hurtado’s blog, which he, (of course!) did not publish. First, a brief recap: In the ancient world, there were some people who thought that the gods were personal embodied beings that lived up in the sky (heaven) and interacted there. Sometimes they even told stories about these heavenly gods placing them in an earthly setting for the sake of the story only. Carrier argues that Jesus Christ was one of these: Jesus was believed to have taken on a body in the lower heavens, been killed by demonic powers, and resurrected, all in the heavenly realm and not on Earth. Later on someone we now call “Mark” wrote a deliberate myth placing Jesus on Earth. And at some point probably a few decades after that some group began believing in a historical man. Here is the comment I left:

    Hurtado: “You don’t have to read the 700+ pages of Carrier’s book, however, to see if it’s persuasive.”

    This is the most contemptible, unscholarly statement I’ve ever read in my life. A real scholar approaches every question with an open and exploratory mind, and with epistemic humility. Meaning you should actually, you know, give a fair and thorough hearing to claims you may disagree with, because, *duh* you could be wrong, and the only way to find out is to actually take the time to hear someone else’s view, allow them to make their case. How someone can be both be a scholar and not understand and practice epistemic humility, or have a sense of intellectual curiosity is beyond me. Where did you get your PhD from? A close-minded religious school with a statement of faith I’m guessing.

    “it’s the fairly settled judgement of scholars based on 250 years of hard work on that and related questions”

    As Robert M. Price put it, mythicists were never refuted as much as they were “harrumphed”! In other words, the past 250 years of NT scholarship largely consists of the same close minded, intellectually lazy approach Mr. Hurtado has demonstrated.

    Mr. Hurtado, I’m sure you think all the arguments you’ve put forward for a historical Jesus are just brilliant. I’m not impressed. In fact, pretty much every biblical passage you cite is addressed by Carrier at length, and you don’t adequately address his interpretations. Here is where we can see the importance of having an open mind: Even false claims must be listened to and understood in order to be responded to effectively. Even if everything in Carrier’s book was completely wrong, in order to produce a convincing response you’d need to read and fully address his counterarguments to demonstrate it was wrong to me (or anyone else considering mythicism), for example. Know thy enemy is the first rule of war fare, and likewise any point of view must be studied *before* any attempt at refutation is given.

    Hurtado: “There is in fact no instance known to me (or to other experts in Roman-era religion) in “all the savior cults of the period” of a deity that across time got transformed into a mortal figure of a specific time and place, such as is alleged happened in the case of Jesus.”

    Hercules is mentioned in a particular historical context by Josephus, though its well-known that Hercules originated as a solar deity (at bare minimum, Hercules is not historical). In “On Isis and Osiris” Plutarch spells out how the gods were not beings who existed on earth (though Plutarch says some people mistakenly believe they were), but instead resided in the heavens (the circumambient air).

    Hurtado: “Crucifixion requires a historical figure”

    Nonsense. The ancients pictured many things in the heavens. Philo talks about celestial plants (see here). The cherubim who guarded the Garden of Eden carried a sword. Closer to home, Hebrews 8-9 pictures a temple in the heavens and a sacrificial offering taking place in the heavens. Do you mean to tell me that it was possible for ancients picture heavenly plants, heavenly swords, heavenly temples, heavenly sacrificial offerings, but impossible for them to picture a heavenly crucifixion?

    Note: Vridar has also covered Hurtado’s gaffes here and here.

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."