Friday, January 20, 2017

Marshall vs. Carrier II: Fact-Check

Richard Carrier and I just shared a contentious debate on the Unbelievable radio program over the historical credibility of the gospels.  Pots and pans flew!  Fur hit the fan!  This is normal with Richard's public discourse: he has a long record of calling people who disagree with him, whether Christian or skeptic, popular writer or eminent scholar, "liars," "delusional," "incompetent" and other such terms of endearment.  Indeed, in this debate, when Carrier said "I will stop short of calling him a liar on this," I laughed and respond, "Why not, Richard?  You have before!"  Indeed, in the past his fans have had to remind him that even if Marshall is wrong (as they assume I am), I might still be telling what I ignorantly perceive to be the truth.  

Which for students of the human condition, may be amusing, if you like a little drama served on the side with your search for truth.

Also amusing is Carrier's repeated criticism that not all of the 30 characteristics of the gospels which I claim support their historicity (and which he has consistently overlooked), are "used by historians in the peer-reviewed literature."  One is permitted to discover new things in history, Richard.  One is even permitted to write things you have never read before.  

But since both Richard and I called one another on errors of fact many times in this debate, let us check the claims which are in dispute, and see who is right about what.  Since I think people can be mistaken, even tendentious, without being "liars" or mad (unless you're claiming, say, to be the divine Son of God), I do not intend to employ either word when I find Carrier in error.  And when I am mistaken (it has happened!), I will submit to correction, and gladly set the record straight, as I provisionally did in one instance during the debate itself.

So let the Wizards of Spin take their marks!  

Claim #1: Did Richard Carrier compare the gospels to The Life of Apollonius of Tyana

I claimed that Richard Carrier is one of many skeptical scholars who help prove the gospels by searching long and hard for parallels, then help show that there is nothing like Jesus or the gospels anywhere in the ancient world, by pointing to far-fetched parallels like (most popularly) Apollonius of Tyana.  I cited Carrier as claiming that three ancient works, Book of Tobit, Life of Romulus, and Life of Apollonius of Tyana, share "all the characteristics" of the gospels.  And then I pointed out that when analyzed according to pre-set criteria, none of these works shares even five of thirty historically-significant qualities that define the canonical gospels.  

Carrier denied he had offered any such analogy:

"I don't use Apollonius of Tyana anywhere in On The Historicity of Jesus.  I don't use that as a parallel.  So imputing that to me is also incorrect." 

Fact-check:  I didn't say Carrier had offered the Apollonius analogy in his new book.  I said he had offered it during our earlier debate.  And he did.  The transcript from our first debate reads as follows:

"Now everything he says about the gospels is true of all kinds of faith literature in all religions.  He picks on certain kinds of examples that look different from the gospels. But that's special pleading.  He's picking certain examples through selection bias to make his argument. 

"There are other examples that look more like the gospels, for example, the Book of Tobit. Or Plutarch's biography of Romulus. Or Philostratus' biography of Apollonius of Tyana. There are a lot of these examples of faith literature that look more like the gospels.  And if you wanted me to sit down and research and find the most similar example, I could.  But it's not necessary. There's plenty of examples like this that have all the characteristics of the gospels."

So imputing the analogy to Carrier is spot-on. 

Upshot: Richard Carrier had apparently forgotten his own past claim, or wished to disavow it.  Like other anti-Christian writers from the 3rd Century to Bart Ehrman in the 21st Century, he did indeed publicly make the egregious error of comparing Life of Apollonius of Tyana to the gospels, which I dismantle, point by delighted point, in Jesus is No Myth.   (I had, indeed, already disproved it in Why the Jesus Seminar Can't Find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could, which Richard could have read before our first debate.)  According to Carrier, "everything (Marshall) says about the gospels" is true of "all kinds of faith literature in all religions," including the three texts he named.  But I show in Jesus is No Myth that practically none of the historically-significant traits I describe can be found in the books Carrier once claimed "have all the characteristics of the gospels."

Far from being guilty of "selection bias," which is a serious problem with many analyses of the gospels, when I wrote Why the Jesus Seminar Can't Find Jesus in 2005, I began by analyzing the gospels directly, finding that they share 50 characteristics.  I then analyzed some ancient books of different genres which have been compared to the gospels: the so-called "Gospel of Thomas," Life of Apollonius of TyanaThe Iliad, legends of Hercules, and Epic of Gilgamesh, among others. to see if they share the same qualities.  When writing Jesus is No Myth, I whittled the list of traits defining the gospels down to 25 which also bear on their historicity.  I then added five traits from the work of other scholars, defending two of them against Richard Carrier's attacks.  

It was, for the most part, only after I had developed these lists of traits which the gospels share, that I applied them to purported analogies.  I selected the texts for comparison, not by "special pleading" or cherry-picking as Carrier claimed, but mainly by reading scholars like Carrier, Ehrman, Ferguson, and the Jesus Seminar, and taking the analogies they repeatedly propose seriously enough to examine them systematically according to pre-set criteria.  

How is that methodology illegitimate?  It seems a common enough procedure.  If you want to know what is or is not a "dog," you may list traits that dogs share: social, teeth equipped for ripping meat, tales that wag, able to bark, domesticated, descended from wolves, etc.  Then you check to see if a proposed analogy does or does not share these traits.  A "dog-fish," for instance, doesn't bark, isn't very social, is seldom domesticated -- in short, is not a true dog.  

With the gospels, to be thorough, I also read all the extant Gnostic literature I could find (boring as most of it was), along with extant Greek novels, and Herodotus, in all of which Carrier also finds analogies to Jesus, as well as any other analogies I could find proposed.  And then I checked to see if any shared the characteristics -- especially those traits that bear on historicity -- that make the gospels what they are.  

Significance: Maybe Richard Carrier has come to recognize now how inapt his earlier analogies were, and how easy it is to refute claims about such popular supposed "parallels" as Apollonius of Tyana.  (When debating Timothy McGrew, Bart Ehrman also set aside Apollonius, which McGrew told me he had prepared to respond to, and brought up an obscure 17th Century Polish rabbi, instead.  I also deal with that analogy, Baal Shem Tov, in Jesus is No Myth.)  

So perhaps Richard is slowly making progress.  Maybe after time goes by, he will come to realize how hopeless his present analogies are, too.   But one is troubled by how stridently Carrier makes such claims, then how merrily he dances off to even more far-fetched analogies, without a backward glance.  Even in that earlier debate, Carrier complained when I brought up an absurd analogy he had formerly offered between briskly frying fish in Herodotus and the resurrection of Jesus.

Anyway, the fact remains that no one can point to any "Jesus double" in the ancient world, or any fiction that shares the historically tell-tale characteristics of the gospels.  I believe Richard Carrier serves the Christian community well by helping to demonstrate that, including when he asks us to forget analogies he had previously offered.  

Claim #2: To which Aesop was Carrier Referring?

My mistake, as I admit during the debate.  Carrier said "Life of Aesop," and I heard "Aesop's Fables."

Claim #3: Did Scholars Pan Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus?

Carrier having repeatedly dissed my scholarship (see below), I returned the favor by saying that while my books get universally good reviews from scholars, I had seen his On the Historicity of Jesus "panned by scholars on-line," including Butler University's James McGrath.

Carrier said no, McGrath was the only one, and Carrier had proven him a teller of lies:

"In point of fact, my book hasn't been panned by any mainstream qualified scholar . . . There's only one mainstream qualified scholar who has any relevant qualifications whose panned it and that's James McGrath."

Furthermore, McGrath was merely writing on his blog, his criticism had not been "peer-reviewed," and worse yet he was telling lies, which Carrier has demonstrated on HIS blog. 

Carrier described my comment as "extremely disingenuous" and "fallacious."  (The first hint in this debate of the later [but also frequent earlier] accusation that I am a "liar.")  

Fact-check:  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  But actually, at least two other highly critical reviews of Carrier's book by scholars have appeared.  (Whether or not they are "mainstream" or "qualified" may be in the eye of the beholder.  And I didn't make any claims about "peer-reviewed" reviews, so that's just irrelevant.)   One is by Christina Petterson of the University of Newcastle, in the journal Relegare: Studies in Religion and Reception.  That makes my use of the plural accurate. 

The other scholar who panned Carrier's book is myself.  Carrier may not wish to count my review, or admit me as a "mainstream" or "qualified" scholar, but that is not up to him.  I hold roughly the same qualifications in this field as does Carrier himself. 

It is odd that Carrier keeps on objecting that such critiques have not been "peer reviewed."  Critical book reviews, even if only on a blog, ARE peer review.  I have peer-reviewed journal articles myself.  There is nothing magical about the review process.  It is unlikely that an editor would go to the trouble of reading the book he has asked someone else to review, to check to see if his review was sound!  Farming our such work is the point.  

And of course, Bart Ehrman has also criticized many of Carrier's arguments related to the historical Jesus, though so far as I know, never reviewed either of Carrier's recent books.   

Upshot: I have yet to see a warmly enthusiastic review of Carrier's book by a scholar, but perhaps one or two are also out there.   It interesting that he didn't name any. 

Claim #4: In what capacity did Carrier cite The Sophia of Jesus Christ?

I claimed that Carrier had compared The Wisdom of Jesus Christ to the gospels.  I did not claim, as with Tobit, Romulus, and Apollonius, that Carrier said the book shared "all the characteristics" of the gospels.  But I did suggest that the analogy was ludicrous, and an act of desperation on the part of skeptics grasping onto ever-more wild analogies to the gospels:

"Dr. Carrier often recommends that people go back and read the literature that he's talking about.  I would make the same recommendation.  When you actually read, for example, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, which Carrier also compares to the gospels, it is basically empty prattling, inane material that is not interesting at all.  I recommend that listeners actually read the works that Carrier compares to the gospels.  And I think you'll laugh.  (Life of) Apollonius of Tyana was, I believe, the original script for Saturday Night Live." 

Carrier denied using Sophia as I allegedly portrayed:

"I don't use that text as a parallel to the gospels in general.  I use that text as an example of how Christians fabricated literature.  I use it in a very different way from how David Marshall has characterized.  I find that very disengen-- "

(Justin interrupted part-way into that final word, again suggesting dishonesty on my part.) 

Fact-check: This issue is a little more complex, but Carrier's citation of Sophia bears important implications for the "Search for an Alternative Jesus."  So let's look at Carrier's claims about Sophia in detail.  Here are Carrier's own words in On the Historicity of Jesus, with my emphasis added to phrases I find problematic: 

"The peculiar thing about these two texts is that they pull away the curtain and reveal a key pathway by which Jesus tradition was invented . . .

"The Wisdom of Jesus Christ then takes direct quotations from this epistle and puts them on the lips of Jesus, and expands on them, to fabricate a post-resurrection narrative scene with dialogue between Jesus and his disciples.  So here we see whole sayings of Jesus being invented by fabricating a historical conversation (a Gospel-style narrative), borrowing things said by Eugnostos and representing them as things said by Jesus in conversation with his disciples.  This could be how much of the canonical Gospels were composed: things said by other people, in other texts, being 'lifted' and adapted and placed on the lips of Jesus.  Certainly these two texts proved that this was being done.  And we have no a priori reason to believe this isn't how it was always done."  (On the Historicity of Jesus, 387)

"If historical settings could be invented to make Jesus say what Eugnostos said, certainly historical settings could be invented to make Jesus say what he was believed to have said in revelations . . .

"So the question is: Are the Gospels fictional constructs, like the Wisdom of Jesus Christ and Plutarch's Life of Romulus?  In other words, are they just myths?  Or are they some kind of historical records we can rely on to prove Jesus existed?" (Ibid, 388)

It seems to me there are numerous problems with Carrier's arguments here:

(a) Carrier assumes there is something one can call "Jesus tradition," which equally describes the canonical gospels and Sophia, even though the former are orthodox Christian, the latter Gnostic.  But Sophia is not "Jesus tradition," it is not tradition at all.  It is just an instance of taking the name "Jesus" and a few other names, and fixing them into a Gnostic text to make it more popular, like paying Harrison Ford to advertise a Japanese beer. 

As Carrier said, that the "author" of Sophia has done this, is clear to everyone.  I wrote about Sophia and its Gnostic original in The Truth About Jesus and the 'Lost Gospels,;' a decade ago, already.

(b) Carrier also assumes there is one "curtain" behind which one can find both Christians and Gnostics working in the same cottage industry of manufacturing "Jesus tradition."  That assumes that Christians cared no more about historical truth than the Gnostics.  In theory that might be true, but one can't just assume it.   The two faiths were distinct "traditions," which relate to history in ways that appear, at least, quite different.

(c) Carrier describes the result, in Sophia, as a "Gospel-style narrative."  But it is no such thing, which is why Carrier ought to have paid closer attention to my 30 traits.  Sophia contains dramatically un-Gospel-style narrative.  (Actually monologues punctuated by wooden prompts - a very common style in Gnostic writings, unlike anything in the gospels.)

(d) "This was being done."  Yes, but not by Christians, and probably not in the 1st Century.  We're talking about two different communities belonging to different faiths, times, and probably places.  It is anachronistic and question-begging to assume their identity.

(e) We do have numerous reasons "to believe that this isn't how it was always done," which I and other have given -- that is the point of the whole middle third of my book. 

True, Carrier uses this analogy for limited purposes, to argue (in effect) that "Some people some time in the ancient world put words in Jesus' mouth, so maybe the evangelists did, too."  But in describing the resulting account as "Gospel-style narrative," and even in assuming that the real gospels could have been invented the same way, Carrier assume enough of an analogy to make his mythopoetic engine sputter and stop.  If Sophia is utterly unlike the canonical gospels, if there is no serious analogy in style, tone, teaching, or personification, then no, even Carrier's limited analogy doesn't work.

And I show here that there is no credible analogy whatsoever, aside from the mere name "Jesus" and those of few disciples.  When compared to the canonical gospels, Sophia fares worst of all texts which I have examined to date, even worse than Epic of Gilgamesh and Golden Ass: it shares not a single one of the thirty traits that mark the gospels as both special and historically-credible.

Suppose you stroll through a dry stream bed, and find two objects: a rounded rock, and William Paley's old watch.   You ask, "How did this watch get here?"  And your companion, who happens to be Richard Carrier, replies, "Probably by the same process that brought this rock here!  Are they not both subject to the Law of Gravitation?  Could not both have tumbled down from the cliffs above and then been rounded by the stream?"

Well no.   Because what an object consists of, is evidence for how it came into being. 

The words of Jesus in the gospels astound, and utterly transform, the world.  Just today, I find Tom Wolfe, no slouch with words himself, writing in his fascinating The Kingdom of Words:

"This, from the Sermon on the Mount, is the most radical social and political doctrine ever promulgated." (166)

Wolfe quoted three culturally-transcendent aphorisms of Jesus, which reflect Jesus' care for the marginalized -- two of the thirty traits that demonstrate that no mere anonymous fanatic could have invented Jesus of Nazareth.  To quote some glib, commonplace Gnostic blather about "the defect in the female," "the great aeons," or the "Son of man consorting with Sophia," and claim you have explained the most powerful teachings in the world, or even just how they came to be, is like thinking the pebble in the stream bed explains the watch, or Salvador Dali's ingenious painting, Melting Watch.  It is to argue oneself blind to the actual nature of the gospels.   Which I am afraid Richard Carrier is.   

And so while this point may seem a less straightforward error on Carrier's side than some of the others, it carries profound implications for his (mis) understanding of the gospels, and failure to find Jesus.  So my criticism, while somewhat vague (I did not specify how Carrier compared Sophia to the gospels), was just.

Claim #5: Are Most of the "Fingerprints" I describe Stylistic or Literary?

Carrier claimed that aside from a few traits that really do have to do with historicity, most of the thirty I cite are quite irrelevant to whether the gospels are telling the truth, and that no historian appeals to them.  Apart from a few like the Criteria of Embarrassment, the 30 characteristics which I argue in Jesus is No Myth support the historicity of the gospels, are mostly stylistic or literary.

"The criteria that David invents . . . almost all relate to stylistic and literary qualities . . . But those are not the criteria used by any actual historian." 

Fact-check:  Only seven of the 30 characteristics in I described in Jesus is No Myth are literary or stylistic.  Those seven traits are described in Chapter Ten: "Stylistic and Literary Qualities," pages 123-138.  That is just one of ten chapters in which I describe traits in the gospels which support their historicity.  So Carrier appears to have completely overlooked nine of the ten chapters at the heart of my book, before concluding that it has nothing to offer scholarship.

And Carrier gets that chapter wrong, too.  As I said, with every one of those seven traits, I explain why and to what degree it supports the historicity of the gospels.  Two of the traits, in fact, I admit are among the weakest such characteristics -- that the gospels are stories, and that they include parables.  But several others, I argue, citing various literary parallels and authorities, prove to powerfully support the historicity of the gospels.  

Not noticing those arguments, Carrier does nothing to challenge them.  

In addition, since I am an "actual historian," Carrier is, shall we say, mistaken to claim no "actual historian" uses my other criteria.  All of them are historically-relevant, for reasons I give in Jesus is No Myth.  Carrier wishes to render them invalid, without bothering to overthrow my arguments, by simply declaring me a non-historian, and claiming that other historians never use them -- as if that mattered.  Am I not allowed to think for myself, and argue for something new?

One is allowed to be original, in history.  One is even allowed to make points that Richard Carrier has never thought of, or read before.  Again, so much the worse for Richard Carrier.

Anyway, historians do use some of those traits -- and in the future, I hope will use them all.  Many are implicitly recognized by readers of the gospels who hold other forms of expertise -- great novelists like Dickens, Tolstoy or Wolfe, eminent psychologists like Robert Coles or M. Scott Peck, or ingenious literary scholars like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  In approaching the gospels, one should not be so foolish as to assume one can learn nothing from the collective literary or psychological genius of the human race.

Upshot:  It is ironic that Richard Carrier accuses me of dishonesty and shoddy scholarship, because I forgot about one of the works that he cited, out of hundreds, in more than a thousand pages of published writing on this subject.  Yet he appears to almost entirely overlook the entire middle third of my book, the heart and soul of my book and its central arguments: most of the 30 criteria which I claim demonstrate the historicity of the gospels.  Nor did he lay a glove on the remaining seven stylistic arguments for the historicity of the gospels.  Maybe he didn't have time to deal with them seriously in a short debate.  Fair enough.  But one should resist the temptation to glibly dismiss arguments one cannot even accurately summarize, and appear not to have even read, while decrying "dishonesty" and failure to seriously engage relatively minor points in one's own work, by one's opponent. 

By contrast, I believe my critique goes to the heart of Carrier's thesis, and puts it to death.  In Jesus is No Myth, I describe numerous fatal problems with his Rank Raglan argument (though that didn't come up in our second debate), his characterization of the gospels as myth, his comparison of Acts of the Apostles to Greek novels, and many of his other chief arguments.  (All without once calling him a "liar."  I happen to think people often hear better when you don't shout.)

Claim #6  Is is true that I failed to interact with New Testament scholars, so my work is therefore of (at best) marginal scholarly importance?

Richard Carrier repeatedly faults me for not citing "peer-reviewed literature," both in general and in particular.  For example, I think talking about the traits that supposedly mark the gospels as mythology, Carrier complains:

"He doesn't deal with the peer-reviewed literature hardly at all on these issues and doesn't deal with a lot of the evidence regarding what these parallels consist of."

Fact-check: There is an element of truth to Carrier's premise here.  But his conclusion does not follow from it at all, because his understanding of how literary scholarship should be done is defective, or more accurately, he has forgotten one of his own correct historical principles.

It is true that in Jesus is No Myth, I cite a relative handful of modern New Testament scholars. Scanning all my published works, I find I have cited about 150 scholarly and (in a few cases) pseudo-scholarly works in this field.  But that number includes many leading scholars -- Bauckham, Blomberg, Borg, Crossan, Downing, Dunn, Ehrman, Fredriksen, Funk, Hays, Luke Johnson, King, Mack, Malherbe, Meier, Pagels, Robinson, Sander, Wink, Witherington, N.T. Wright -- whose work I have read in many cases at length and with care.  And of course I have read others without explicitly citing them.  So while I do not claim New Testament studies as my primary field (Blomberg notes that the expertise I bring from other fields greatly strengthens the value of my analysis, and I think he is right), neither am I sailing blind even when it comes to modern scholarship, in general.  

But this book is not merely a survey of modern scholarship.  I am shooting higher than that, and therefore choose an entirely different methodology. 

I strongly believe (and I seem to recall Carrier suggesting this himself in the past) that primary sources are the most important texts when evaluating ancient literary works.  Second most-valuable are parallel texts which help set primary sources in context.    

Dr. Wallace Marshall (no relation) grasped the methodology I follow in Jesus is No Myth much more clearly: 

"By the time Marshall finishes his tour, you find yourself wondering how it could have ever occurred to scholars that either Philostratus' work, or his subject, Apollonius, could have been identified as legitimate parallels to the historical Jesus and the Gospels, and especially the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  You wonder the same thing after the chapter on "In Praise of Baal Shem Tov," the eighteenth-century Polish rabbi who's recently been brought forward as a contestant on what Marshall amusingly calls "Celebrity Apprentice Messiah" (262). And indeed, a point Marshall returns to again and again---and it's difficult to disagree with it after reading his book---is this: 'It is stunning that such are the closest parallels skeptics can find, after so epic a canvassing of ancient records' (214). He thinks skeptics have actually paid a tremendous compliment to Christianity by unwittingly underscoring this point.

"But the "compliment" only emerges clearly when one turns from the modern presentations of these ancient sources/figures, to the sources themselves.  Marshall shows how scholars like Matthew Ferguson and even Bart Ehrman (who comes in for a particularly sharp rebuke on p. 204) have been guilty of gross misrepresentation.  But it's impossible to do justice to this book in a review. The strength of "Jesus is No Myth" (which establishes far more than that bare historical fact) emerges from its wealth of comparative details and the insightful analysis Marshall applies to them.  I went away from this book freshly reminded of the importance of the maxim, 'Ad Fontes.'" (emphasis added) 

Ad Fontes means "to the fountains" or "back to the sources."  That is indeed the thrust not only of Jesus is No Myth, but of most my work.  I love to read old sources, and have consistently found that they speak for themselves far more clearly than many of their modern interpreters.  (Though I have also gained much from other interpreters -- even Richard Carrier's work contains some valuable insights.)  I argue that scholars like Carrier, even Bart Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar, often lose sight of the gospels themselves, in the face of their own theories.  C. S. Lewis said the same about an earlier generation of skeptical scholars in his wonderful essay, "Fernseed and Elephants:" 

"They claim to see fern-seed, yet can't spot an elephant ten paces away in broad daylight."  

In increasingly Rube Goldbergian attempts to manipulate the historical data by means of fanciful tools dredged out of the dungeons of their ivory towers, and an ever-expanding repertoire of bogus "parallels" that few readers will ever check, they attempt to marginalize or debunk the earliest Christian texts.  But in the process, such skeptics often show they fail to clearly see the gospels for what they plainly are.  (And that is not "myth.") 

Reading is my gig.  I read incessantly, in several languages, on many subjects, and have done so for decades.  And frankly, I think the eclecticism of that approach is one of the strengths of Jesus is No Myth.  Of course I may prove wrong about some important points.  Perhaps one day better scholars will demonstrate my errors, to my embarrassment, but long-term good.  But Richard Carrier has not even begun to deal with the facts I uncover in Jesus is No Myth: he has not got within sight of them.

Meanwhile, I make no apologies for concentrating on original sources.  I believe that is the proper procedure -- though keeping modern scholarship in view as well, for correction and insight.  (Two chapters draw out interesting and oft-overlooked traits within the gospels, as described by Tim and Lydia McGrew, and by N. T. Wright.)  

The central section of Jesus is No Myth , which Carrier seems to have overlooked (see above, Claim #5) consists of a direct analysis of characteristics that the gospels share, which I argue demonstrate that they are telling the truth about Jesus' life.  The final part of the book analyzes the texts Carrier and others have cited as "parallel gospels" in detail.  It shows that when we set criteria reasonably in advance, and eschew ad hoc cherry-picking of criteria that catch our eye, no ancient novel is anything at all like the gospels.  Nor is any myth.  Nor any hagiography.  In short, C. S. Lewis ("the best-read man of his generation") was correct when he wrote: 

"Nothing else in all literature was just like this.  Myths were like it in one way.  Histories were like it in another.  But nothing was simply like it.  And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognizable, through all that depth of time, as Plato's Socrates or Boswell's Johnson . . . yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world."   

The unique and luminous character of the gospels is obvious to many who read the gospels for the first time, as well.  Yet it is often overlooked by people who have blinded themselves with the various obfuscations I describe.  (And in earlier books on the Jesus Seminar and Gnostics -- again, concentrating on original texts, which speak so eloquently for themselves.)  

Of course it does not follow, from the fact that I most often cite primary rather than secondary sources, and that I sometimes cite eminent psychologists, novelists, and literary scholars on points related to their fields, rather than less-accomplished New Testament scholars, that my book can be of no value to other scholars.  That is simply a non sequitur, betraying Carrier's own rather crabbed conception of how scholarship is best pursued.  

Summary: Despite his snide remarks about my honesty and / or competence, then, it turns out that on five of six points on which we differ, and that I have been able to check so far, my claim was arguable, in some cases clearly, correct.   Carrier is right about Aesop, as I admitted in the debate.  

I still have about twenty-five minutes of the debate to fact-check, and will try to do that early next week. 


Joyce Bergen said...

I live in Canada, and checked for your latest book, but it's not listed. Will it be available there sometime soon?
I listened to your debate with R. Carrier on Unbelievable and know you have much more to say in your book than what you were able to present during the limited debate time. Thanks for participating on the comment board. It's rare that guests participate, so hearing from you there was appreciated by all, I think.


David B Marshall said...

Hi, Joyce. Thank you. And thanks for reminding folks of that C. S. Lewis quote which I was just about to use. I need better glasses!

I may be motoring up to Vancouver for Missionsfest this weekend. If so, I could probably slip a book in the mail to you, and you could send me a check. That's save us both a few dollars - and I don't know when orders books. Otherwise, I'll check and let you know.

Joyce Bergen said...

Hi David,
I would like to purchase one copy of each of these two books -- Jesus is no Myth and True Son of Heaven. If you're coming up to Missionsfest in Vancouver this weekend, I have a suggestion. My sister and her husband, Grace and Gene Fox, will be hosting at the International Messengers booth. Would it be possible for you to put the books (and invoice with your address) in a bag marked with their names and leave it at their booth? We live not far from Vancouver and can get the books from my sister.

Thanks so much!

David B Marshall said...

I think I could probably do that!

Joyce Bergen said...

I contacted my sister so she knows you'll be dropping off the books at their booth.
Thank you,

David B Marshall said...

Joyce: Sorry, but I need to finish writing an article which is due tomorrow, so I can't visit Vancouver for Missionsfest this year as I hoped. However, looking at postage rates, if I mailed you those two books at the Amazon prices ($32 US), and charged you half cost on postage, say $7, I'd still come out ahead, and you wouldn't break the bank. Looks like that would be about $50 Canadian. If that sounds OK, I'll slip the books into the mail on Monday -- and maybe add another little book on the Gnostics.

Joyce Bergen said...

That's fine, David. Here's my address: 2027 Kugler Ave. Coquitlam, BC. V3K 2S5

Thanks so much!
Joyce Bergen

Joyce Bergen said...

Your books arrived today. I noticed the postage was substantial, and I think the total cost must be more than the stated $50. Canadian. Please tell me much I owe you for the price of books plus postage.

Can't wait to start reading, by the way!


David B Marshall said...

Well that was fast! Good, someone in Calgary asked for a couple books too.

The postage was pretty high, but a deal is a deal.