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xiv + 696 pp.

£60 / $95 / €70
List Price
Hardback


£25 / $35 / €29.50
Paperback





On the Historicity of Jesus
Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt
Richard Carrier

The assumption that Jesus existed as a historical person has occasionally been questioned in the course of the last hundred years or so, but any doubts that have been raised have usually been put to rest in favor of imagining a blend of the historical, the mythical and the theological in the surviving records of Jesus.

Carrier re-examines the whole question and finds compelling reasons to suspect the more daring assumption is correct. He lays out extensive research on the evidence for Jesus and the origins of Christianity and poses the key questions that must now be answered if the historicity of Jesus is to survive as a dominant paradigm.

Carrier contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Such a theory would posit that the Jesus figure was originally conceived of as a celestial being known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture; then stories placing this being in earth history were crafted to communicate the claims of the gospel allegorically; such stories eventually came to be believed or promoted in the struggle for control of the Christian churches that survived the tribulations of the first century.

Carrier finds the latter theory more credible than has been previously imagined. He explains why it offers a better explanation for all the disparate evidence surviving from the first two centuries of the Christian era. He argues that we need a more careful and robust theory of cultural syncretism between Jewish theology and politics of the second-temple period and the most popular features of pagan religion and philosophy of the time.

For anyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge.


Richard Carrier (PhD Columbia in ancient history) lives in the San Francisco area. His previous book is
Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (2012).

978-1-909697-35-5 hardback / 978-1-909697-49-2 paperback
Publication June 2014

Contents
1. The Problem

    Isn’t This Just Bunk?
    The Debate Today
    Myth vs. History
    Mythicists vs. Historicists
    The Aim of This Book
    Summary of Remaining Chapters
    Applying Bayes’ Theorem
    Elements and Axioms

2. The Hypothesis of Historicity

    Myth from History
    The Basic Problem
    Hypothesis Formation and Prior Probability
    The Minimal Theory of Historicity

3. The Hypothesis of Myth

    From Inanna to Christ
    The Basic Problem
    The Minimal Jesus Myth Theory

4. Background Knowledge (Christianity)

    A Romulan Tale
    Background Knowledge
    Elemental Definitions
    Elemental Background Knowledge
    Elements of Christian Origin
    Elements of Christian Religion
    Elements of Christian Development

5. Background Knowledge (Context)

    Elements of Political Context
    Elements of Religious & Philosophical Context
    Elements of Literary Context
    Conclusion

6. The Prior Probability

    Heroes Who Never Existed
    Determining Prior Probability
    Using the Rank-Raglan Reference Class
    The Causal Objection
    The Alternative Class Objection
    The Complexity Objection
    Rapid Legendary Development
    Conclusion

7. Primary Sources

    What Counts as Evidence?
    Breaking Down the Evidence
    The Epistles
    The Gospels
    Acts
    Extra-Biblical Evidence
    The Problem of Compromised Evidence
    The Role of Consequent Probabilities
    Conclusion

8. Extrabiblical Evidence

    Jesus When?
    The Socrates Analogy
    Missing Evidence
    Missing Christian Evidence
    Clement of Rome
    Ignatius of Antioch
    Papias of Hierapolis
    Hegesippus
    Josephus and the Testimonia Flaviana
    Pliny & Tacitus
    Suetonius & Thallus
    Missing Evidence: Contra Myth
    Weighing the Evidence

9. The Evidence of Acts

    Acts as Historical Fiction
    What Happened to the Body?
    The Mysterious Vanishing Acts
    The ‘Trial Transcripts’ of Paul
    Stephen’s Trial Speech
    The Possibility of ‘Aramaic’ Sources
    Weighing the Evidence

10. The Evidence of the Gospels

    How to Invent a Gospel
    What Is Myth?
    Examining the Gospels
    The Mythology of Mark
    The Mythology of Matthew
    The Mythology of Luke
    The Mythology of John
    Weighing the Evidence

11. The Evidence of the Epistles

    The Passion of Pliny the Elder
    The Peculiar Indifference of Paul and His Christians
    Epistles from the Pillars
    The Earliest Gospels
    The Gospel in Hebrews
    Things Jesus Said
    The Eucharist
    Things Jesus Did
    Women and Sperm
    Brothers of the Lord
    Weighing the Evidence

12. Conclusion

    The Final Calculation
    On Trying to Avoid the Conclusion
    What We Should Conclude
    The Last Desperate Objection
    What Now?