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Thread: Richard Carrier vs. the Flavian and Constantinian Jesus-Myth Theories

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Richard Carrier vs. the Flavian and Constantinian Jesus-Myth Theories

    Richard Carrier is an advocate of Jesus mythicism, and he considers Earl Doherty's theory the most plausible version. In it, Jesus Christ was originally an archangel or sort-of god, and he later became reinterpreted as having an earthly existence.

    But he criticizes mythicists who go even farther than he and ED do.

    Atwill's Cranked-up Jesus • Richard Carrier
    Joseph Atwill, author of "Caesar's Messiah", advocates what I call the Flavian theory.
    Historically, Atwill’s thesis is more or less a retooled version of the old Pisonian Conspiracy Theory, by which is not meant the actual Pisonian conspiracy (to assassinate Nero), but a wildly fictitious one in which the Piso family invented Christianity (and fabricated all its documents) through its contacts with the Flavian family, and thence Josephus (who indeed adopted that family’s name when they made him a Roman citizen, after he had tricked his officer corps into committing suicide and then surrendered to the Romans during the War…oh, and conveniently declaring Vespasian the Messiah).

    This pseudo-historical nonsense is over a century old by now, first having been proposed (in a somewhat different form) by Bruno Bauer in Christ and the Caesars in 1877 (Christus und Caesaren). It has been revamped a dozen times since. Atwill is simply the latest iteration (or almost–there is a bonkers Rabbi still going around with an even wilder version). Atwill’s is very much like Bible Code crankery, where he looks for all kinds of multiple comparisons fallacies and sees conspiracies in all of them, rather than the inevitable coincidences (or often outright non-correspondences) that they really are. Everything confirms his thesis, because nothing could ever fail to. Classic nonfalsifiability. He just cherry picks and interprets anything to fit, any way he wants.
    RC then continues with a list of 8 big problems:
    1. The Roman aristocracy was nowhere near as clever as Atwill’s theory requires. ...
    2. We know there were over forty Gospels, yet the four chosen for the canon were not selected until well into the 2nd century, and not by anyone in the Roman aristocracy. Likewise which Epistles were selected.
    3. The Gospels and the Epistles all contradict each other far too much to have been composed with a systematic aim in mind. Indeed, they contradict each other in ways that often demonstrate they are deliberately arguing with each other. ...
    4. The Gospels and the Epistles differ far too much in style to have come from the same hand, and many show signs of later doctoring that would problematize attempts to confirm any theory like Atwill’s. ...
    5. Christianity was probably constructed to “divert Jewish hostility and aggressiveness into a pacifist religion, supportive of–and subservient to–Roman rule,” but not by Romans, but exasperated Jews like Paul, who saw Jewish militarism as unacceptably disastrous in contrast with the obvious advantages of retooling their messianic expectations to produce the peaceful moral reform of society. ...
    6. Pacifying Jews would not have been possible with a cult that eliminated Jewish law and accepted Gentiles as equals, and in actual fact Christianity was pretty much a failure in Palestine. ...
    7. If the Roman elite’s aim was to “pacify” Palestinian Jews by inventing new scriptures, they were certainly smart and informed enough to know that that wouldn’t succeed by using the language the Judean elite despised as foreign (Greek).
    8. The Romans knew one thing well: War. Social ideology they were never very good at. That’s why Rome always had such problems keeping its empire together, and why social discontent and other malfunctions continued to escalate until the empire started dissolving. ...

    RC then continued with detailed discussion of some of the big flaws in Atwill's theory.

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    No, Christianity Was Not Invented in the 4th Century • Richard Carrier
    What I call the Constantinian theory.

    The theory that Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned the invention of Christianity, complete with commissioning the fabrication of all its literature, and not just the New Testament. RC then discusses the logistical difficulties of fabricating all that literature.
    There is a vast (and I mean vast) pre-4th century Christian literature. Though not all the dates given at the Early Christian Writings website are correct, and some of the items listed there as pre-4th might not be, the vast majority indeed are. Take a look. And that’s just a list by author, not work. Collected in print, the Ante-Nicene Fathers series isn’t even complete, yet consumes ten large volumes (its content is currently digitally available at the Catholic lay site New Advent). For Constantine’s government (or Eusebius, Constantine’s actual agent most of these conspiracy theorists peg as their shooter on the grassy knoll) to “fabricate” a preceding three hundred years of Christian history, they had to literally forge all of this voluminous, diverse literature (fabricating over a hundred different authorial styles, reliably matching dozens of peculiar past historical contexts, and generating interminable schizophrenic arguments with itself) and somehow convince millions of people that this vast body of literature had “always existed” before then. And I mean millions: even if 5% of the Empire was fully literate, that’s three million people; with fully-stocked public libraries in every city (see my discussions of literacy and libraries in Science Education in the Early Roman Empire). This is effectively impossible. Its probability is millions to one against even at our most charitable.
    RC notes four types of dating:
    • Carbon Dating. ... as RC notes, usually good to within +-50 years, enough to establish that some manuscripts are pre-Constantine.
    • Paleographic Dating. Still, the most common method used to date ancient manuscripts is scribal hand. ...
    • In Situ Dating. ... that's dating by dating the location where the items were found.
    • Contextual Dating ... from what the texts' authors were familiar with.

    RC also notes levels of competence in document copying. Remember than this was centuries before the invention of movable-type printing, and the only way to make copes of a book was to copy that book by hand.
    t should also be noted that Christian manuscripts before the 4th century are substantially less competently constructed, marking a notable chronological distinction between the professionalization of Christian manuscript production after 300 and the more amateur document production we find them engaging in in the previous century and a half (see Three Things to Know about New Testament Manuscripts).
    He then notes the survival of a sizable number of heretical and other non-canonical Xian writings before Constantine.

    Also the sizable number of pagans' references to early Xianity. Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Apuleius, Galen, ...
    Yes, Christians were shameless liars, and ancient Christian forgery (and document meddling) was rampant (see OHJ, Chapters 7 and 8, and Chapter 5, Element 44; see also the example of The Rain Miracle of Marcus Aurelius: A Case Study in Christian Lies), but it extended across three whole centuries, had no coherent agenda, and was demonstrably too incompetent to fool us. That’s why even the New Testament (even more so the rest of Christian literature in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries) is so self-contradictory, representing competing points of view, evolving over time. Indeed, we can prove the usual “culprit” pegged, Eusebius, clearly could not, and thus did not, even know how to forge three centuries of requisite literary history.

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    There is someone who has shown up quite a lot in TFT predecessors advocating the Constantinian theory. That person is likely the author of this article:
    Revisionist ideas in Ancient History: the Gnostic Gospels were authored as a reaction to Nicaea
    • Idea (1) - The Gnostic Gospels and Acts were authored 325-336 CE as a reaction to the Constantine Bible
    • Idea (2) - Evidence of systematic Christian identify theft suggests Arius may not have been a Christian, but in fact a Platonic theologian, and may be identified with the Gnostic Leucius Charinus
    • Idea (3) - Constantine commissioned the fabrication of the New Testament and its history 312-324 CE



    Richard Carrier mentioned a conspiracy theory that goes even farther than the Constantinian theory.
    New chronology (Fomenko)
    The new chronology is a pseudohistorical conspiracy theory proposed by Anatoly Fomenko who argues that events of antiquity generally attributed to the civilizations of the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, actually occurred during the Middle Ages, more than a thousand years later.

    The theory further proposes that world history prior to 1600 AD has been widely falsified to suit the interests of a number of different conspirators including the Vatican, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Russian House of Romanov, all working to obscure the "true" history of the world centered around a global empire called the "Russian Horde".
    All he says about it is that "years ago one guy tried interrupting a talk I was giving by insisting the entirety of ancient literature was invented in the Renaissance!"

    Here is what Anatoly Fomenko says about the historical Jesus Christ:
    Fomenko claims that the most probable prototype of the historical Jesus was Andronikos I Komnenos (allegedly AD 1152 to 1185), the emperor of Byzantium, known for his failed reforms, his traits and deeds reflected in 'biographies' of many real and imaginary persons.[18] The historical Jesus is a composite figure and reflection of the Old-Testament prophet Elisha (850–800 BC?), Pope Gregory VII (1020?–1085), Saint Basil of Caesarea (330–379), and even Li Yuanhao (also known as Emperor Jingzong or "Son of Heaven" – emperor of Western Xia, who reigned in 1032–1048), Euclides, Bacchus and Dionysius[citation needed]. Fomenko explains the seemingly vast differences in the biographies of these figures as resulting from difference in languages, points of view and time-frame of the authors of said accounts and biographies. He claims that the historical Jesus was born in Cape Fiolent, Crimea, on December 25, 1152 A.D. and was crucified on March 20, 1185 A.D., on Joshua's Hill, overlooking the Bosphorus.[19]

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    I'll make some broader notes as to why one might be interested in such things.

    Bertrand Russell: An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish
    "There are infinite possibilities of error, and more cranks take up unfashionable errors than unfashionable truths."

    "False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, | Smithsonian American Art Museum
    “False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”–Charles Darwin on false facts vs. false views, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    There is someone who has shown up quite a lot in TFT predecessors advocating the Constantinian theory. That person is likely the author of this article:
    Revisionist ideas in Ancient History: the Gnostic Gospels were authored as a reaction to Nicaea
    • Idea (1) - The Gnostic Gospels and Acts were authored 325-336 CE as a reaction to the Constantine Bible
    • Idea (2) - Evidence of systematic Christian identify theft suggests Arius may not have been a Christian, but in fact a Platonic theologian, and may be identified with the Gnostic Leucius Charinus
    • Idea (3) - Constantine commissioned the fabrication of the New Testament and its history 312-324 CE

    ...
    Back when this forum was FRDB, Mountainman constantly pushed this theory in the Biblical Criticism & History section. And he would sometimes try to hijack topics which didn't directly deal with his ludicrous theory. I found it disruptive. Seems like it went on for a couple years. I wish they could've banned him off the board.

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    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    OTOH, the Flavian Christ yarn makes as much sense as the Biblical Christ yarn. Both are pretty far-fetched... but one doesn't depend on violations of the laws of physics to make it interesting, only gullibility like the other one.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by couch_sloth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    There is someone who has shown up quite a lot in TFT predecessors advocating the Constantinian theory. That person is likely the author of this article:
    Revisionist ideas in Ancient History: the Gnostic Gospels were authored as a reaction to Nicaea
    • Idea (1) - The Gnostic Gospels and Acts were authored 325-336 CE as a reaction to the Constantine Bible
    • Idea (2) - Evidence of systematic Christian identify theft suggests Arius may not have been a Christian, but in fact a Platonic theologian, and may be identified with the Gnostic Leucius Charinus
    • Idea (3) - Constantine commissioned the fabrication of the New Testament and its history 312-324 CE

    ...
    Back when this forum was FRDB, Mountainman constantly pushed this theory in the Biblical Criticism & History section. And he would sometimes try to hijack topics which didn't directly deal with his ludicrous theory. I found it disruptive. Seems like it went on for a couple years. I wish they could've banned him off the board.
    He appeared elsewhere with usernames Arius and Leucius Charinus.

    He seemed very glib about the logistical difficulties of creating the large amount of forgery that his theory requires.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    There has been plenty of literary fakery over the centuries, like claiming that one's works are authored by someone very notable - pseudepigraphy, a sort of inverse plagiarism. Like claiming that one's works were written by Homer or Aristotle or Moses or Solomon or Paul or whatever (Pseudo-Aristotle, Pseudepigrapha, etc.). But nothing on the massive scale that the Constantinian theory requires.

    As to rewriting existing books, we find a warning against doing so in Revelation 22:18-19:
    I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.
    (NET)

    For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
    (KJV)

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by couch_sloth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    There is someone who has shown up quite a lot in TFT predecessors advocating the Constantinian theory. That person is likely the author of this article:
    Revisionist ideas in Ancient History: the Gnostic Gospels were authored as a reaction to Nicaea
    • Idea (1) - The Gnostic Gospels and Acts were authored 325-336 CE as a reaction to the Constantine Bible
    • Idea (2) - Evidence of systematic Christian identify theft suggests Arius may not have been a Christian, but in fact a Platonic theologian, and may be identified with the Gnostic Leucius Charinus
    • Idea (3) - Constantine commissioned the fabrication of the New Testament and its history 312-324 CE

    ...
    Back when this forum was FRDB, Mountainman constantly pushed this theory in the Biblical Criticism & History section. And he would sometimes try to hijack topics which didn't directly deal with his ludicrous theory. I found it disruptive. Seems like it went on for a couple years. I wish they could've banned him off the board.
    He appeared elsewhere with usernames Arius and Leucius Charinus.

    He seemed very glib about the logistical difficulties of creating the large amount of forgery that his theory requires.
    I could never quite make him understand just how large and various the corpus of works he was lightly dismissing actually was, not for lack of trying. Once a conspiracy theory roots itself in someone's mind, they never meet an argument they can't think of some answer for, and they seldom notice how many and increasingly far-fetched answers they're having to come up with to defend their core concept.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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